Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Something to think about....

These are two of my favorite quotes from Melissa Fay Greene's book...they have been running through my head over and over this past week....

"So how does it happen that----while most people instinctively try to save themselves and their families from a catastrophe----a few slow down, look back, and suddenly reach out to stragers? Instead of fleeing in the opposite direction, a few wade into the rising waters to try to yank the drowning onto higher land".....

"----just as there is no blood test to identify who will jump into the fray---there is no simple biographical arc either. No Resume can predict why this man or woman, at a safe remove from crisis, suddenly announces,'this is my fight.' "

This weekend we had a wonderful family that we met through temple, over for dinner, Neil and Adria Willenson and their two gorgeous children. Neil is the founder of Camp Heartland, which is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth and their families facing HIV/AIDS, poverty, grief and other significant life challenges.

The thing that struck me was , Neil was a 22 year old college student when he started this camp.

Here is his story...(this is from their website Camp )

In 1991, Neil Willenson, a native of Mequon, Wisconsin, was 20 years old and a senior at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. He was majoring in TV/Film and, upon graduation, had plans to seek a career as a feature film producer in Hollywood. All that changed, however, when Neil read the headline in his hometown newspaper: "AIDS hysteria in Mequon." A young boy with AIDS named Nile Sandeen was entering kindergarten in the small town of Mequon, and the community was up in arms. Fear and prejudice filled the air. At the center of all this controversy was a five-year-old boy who only wanted to go to school, who only wanted a chance to make friends.

When Neil read this story in his hometown paper, he knew he had to get involved. For the next two years, Neil got to know Nile. He got to know Nile's brother, Sean, and his mother, Dawn Wolff; an entire family affected by AIDS in the center of America's heartland. Neil compared his own life-history in Mequon to Nile's. On the sidewalks, streets and in the schools of Mequon, where Neil had found joy and friendship, Nile had found only isolation and despair. Fear, ignorance and prejudice had turned what had been a heartland for Neil Willenson into a wasteland for Nile Sandeen.

In 1993, Nile turned seven years old. Like millions of other children, more than anything, he wanted to go to summer camp. He wanted to run; to play in the sun with kids his own age. He wanted to sit around a campfire at the end of a day filled with fun activities and sing silly summer camp songs in the dancing firelight - to eat breakfast in a dining hall ringing with joy and activities.

And so in 1993, inspired by Nile Sandeen, Neil Willenson founded Camp Heartland - a summer camp program that accepted both children infected with AIDS and children who were affected by the disease. The camp was equipped with state-of-the-art medical facilities able to handle the special needs of immuno-compromised campers. It was a summer camping program where children living with HIV/AIDS could step out of the shadows of secrecy into the light of openness and honesty - a place where they could have the best week of their lives.

Neil, at a safe remove from crisis, instead of fleaing in the opposite direction, jumped into the fray, and pronounced that this was his fight...

I have been so inspired by Neil... he has given me a lot to think about....

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Funny thing happened the other day...

As I was waiting in this tiny little room while Caroline and Jack had piano lessons... I felt myself relax!

In part because usually I have all the kids with and the task of keeping everyone quiet and entertained in this tiny little room leaves me exhausted and sweaty! However this particular Tuesday Jud was home from work a little early, which meant I could go alone!

So, as I sat and enjoyed my hour of quiet, I noticed the woman sitting across from me. After watching her fidget with her phone, her bracelet, her boots...I noticed, hey! I used to have those boots! I wonder what ever happened to those...Then I suddenly realized, this woman sitting across from me, was me a few years ago.

She was pretty, not gorgeous, but pretty. Her hair was beautiful, her makeup was flawless, her nails were perfect and her jewelry sparkled so much I almost had to squint! Ok so maybe she wasn't exactly me, but there were similarities!

Anyway, it got me thinking about how much motherhood has changed me in the last three years!

Three years ago, I rarely left the house without doing my hair and makeup, even just to go to story time.... these days a hat is just fine! and it's a good day if I get a shower!

My once manicured nails are so pathetic and haven't been painted since Emma wanted me to match her hot pink polish she was wearing one day, the remains are still there...

I have two pieces of jewelry that I wear everyday and they are so filthy that the sparkle is lost.

I used to plan out what everyone was wearing each day, because like a complete whacko I liked everyone to coordinate! That one makes me laugh! Because these days it's a battle just to get Sam to wear pants! (one day he refused so I had to take him to Mayfair Mall in his Captain Hook costume)...

Wherever we went, we all looked nice, and put together. Who did I think was watching us? And even if people were watching, why did I care?

A few weeks ago, I literally looked in the mirror and started laughing! Jud came in and asked what I was laughing at...I said "me! look at me, I'm such a mom! turtleneck, short hair, no makeup, what's happened!"

So, this is the part where I start to relax... That whole phony front, looking like you have everything together, when maybe... just maybe... you don't, I'm over it!

I don't notice people watching us, (although, I do hear their often stupid comments..but that's another story) and I'm not worried about what other people think anymore....

I have started to be more honest with myself about what things really matter, and I have never felt happier and more content with myself and my life. I think for the first time in a long time I really feel like myself...and I'm happy with the person that I'm becoming... afterall, I have a husband who digs the mom look, and four fabulous kids, why should it matter that I haven't showered today!

I guess one day, if we ever find a sitter again, I can wear my boots out for dinner!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Well, I've been informed that there is one thing that this blog is lacking...some pictures of Jack! So here you go Grandpa, this post is for you!

This week I was at the kid's school, helping out in Caroline's classroom, so before I left I thought I'd quick stop in Jack's classroom to say I was walking down the hall, a woman stopped me. Turns out she is the school substitute. She asked if I was Jackson's mom....(for those of you who haven't heard, when he started kindergarten Jack decided he wanted to be called Jackson!) I said yes, and then she began to gush about what a wonderful little boy Jackson is. She had been in his classroom helping out the day before, and was very impressed with what a great listener and helper he was! This was a moment I think every mom dreams about...having someone (other than maybe your in-laws) recognize what wonderful little people your kids are!

Jud and I were talking about Jack awhile back, about how much he is like a little Jud! I see so much of Jud in Jack. He is so sensitive and caring...yet very rambunctious and athletic! Just like his dad right? And of course he is obsessed with the Badgers! Now where else would he get that from? Anyway I had jokingly mentioned that maybe we should have named him Judson Jr. (something we had in fact thought about) Well, Jack heard that and was so bummed. He really wanted to be a little Jud! Later he told me that someday when he was a daddy, he would have a little boy and his name was going to be Jud! Can you tell he idolizes his dad?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My little brag!

Our Beautiful Little Girl! Can you believe she is almost three?

Well, thank's to Mrs. Baker, I have figured out how to put together a slide show! Oh now your all in trouble! There's nothing I love more in the whole wide world than bragging about my kids!

This one however is all about Emma! I know, what a horrible mother singling out only one child... believe me, I'll make it up later!

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the whole process of Emma coming home, (I'm sure in a way, to prepare myself for round two) and how this one little girl, this gorgeous perfect little girl changed our family forever! Watching her grow these past two years has felt like we were raising a baby in fast forward. She came home a tiny little peanut who didn't move and days later was rolling over, then sitting up, crawling, laughing, talking , walking...running...and has not stopped yet! Everyday she continues to amaze me!


Friday, Feb.15

Ok, I'm adding this here because I am so proud of the new slideshow and I don't want it to move down...but I wanted to share some very exciting news ...Today, Sam and Emma and I attended our first Obama rally! It was awesome! Right before he came out Emma was yelling "Where's Obama?" Everyone around us was cracking up! Then throughout the speech whenever anyone started to chant "yes we can" Emma yelled it out as loud as she could right along with the crowd! Brainwashing? No, I'd like to think that at the age of 2 she's already a really great judge of character!

It was so exciting to be there, of course in large part to see Obama in person and to hear him speak, but also to witness the reactions of the several hundred people there. It was very touching, (and a little funny) how most of the people standing around me, thought that Obama was talking directly to them! They went on answering every question he posed, and affirming every comment he made! At one point I turned to the woman behind me, thinking she was talking to me, but nope, she was talking to Barack! It was a true sign of how so many people, from so many different backrounds find him and his message both relatable and inspiring!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A little update!

This week has definately been a crazy one! We had our social worker come to our house yesterday for our in home "interview"...the last step before she can put together all of the information for our actual homestudy. She thought it would take her a few weeks to get everything in order, meanwhile Jud and I have the next stack of paperwork to get moving on...the dossier! whew! that's a load of fun!

So, anyone who knows me, knows that I am quite the... oh let's see, how should I put it...anal retentive clean freak! yup that's me! So, with a social worker coming into our house I, in true form went a little nuts! I cleaned and scrubbed, washed and folded, even organized closets! So to my surprise, in the midst of my craziness, my sweet dear little angel Emma, (who has been potty trained for about three months) decides this is the day she wants to pee in the middle of the kitchen floor! Wonderful! We had a little talk about why we don't go potty on the floor, which of course she and Sam thought was hillarious! Then, just a short while later, while I was vacuuming the stairs, I noticed a bad smell....I knew just what it was and who had done it!!! I walked into Emma's room to find that she had gotten a pull-up (normally used for bedtime) out of her closet, pooped in it, and then was trying to get rid of the evidence! The used pull-up was balled up in her closet, there where wipes everywhere, and poop all over her rug! Fabulous! We had another discussion about why we don't go poopy in the pull-ups and try to hide it from mommy! This time even Sam was disgusted! It was a learning experience for all! Emma learned how to get mommy's attention, and mommy learned that perhaps it is not wise to take her eyes off of Emma! And Sam, well he learned that he is not the only one in this family who likes yucky things!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Yes, we can!

I love this video! Jud laughs at me because I listen to it over and over! Watching Obama speak, I can't help but feel like I am witnessing something great and powerful.

Monday, February 4, 2008

There Is No Me Without You!

A few months ago, Rhona, Jud's mom, asked me if I had heard of this book by Melissa Fay Greene. I said that I had, but I hadn't read it yet...Honestly I think I was avoiding reading it. A couple days later the book arrived in the mail. (Thanks Rhona!)

I kept the book on my nightstand for a few weeks, I could feel it staring at me, so I moved it to the coffee table. At last one day about two weeks ago, I finally picked it up and began to read, and read, and read. It was so hard to put down, everytime I had a free minute I'd quick try to get in another chapter. I felt so many emotions while reading the story of Heregewoin Teferra, I felt deep sadness, frustration and anger...I don't remember the last time I cried so hard.

The reason I kept putting off reading the book, was because I had heard so much about it and knowing the nature of the story and knowing myself the way I do, I knew it was going to be difficult to read. I think I feared that the book was going to require me to stand up and make changes in my own life and my own way of thinking.

You know when you're driving in your car and you see an accident, and you think how lucky you were that you didn't leave two minutes earlier, or you could have been the car in the accident? That knot in the stomache is what I felt while I read about the children born in Ethiopia, near Addis Ababa. Over and over I kept thinking, that could've been Emma...I could feel myself changing inside as I read these stories.

I have started looking into organizations commited to bettering the lives of these children who have become orphans because of this devastating disease. I'm not sure exactly how yet but I do belive that this is my fight...

Below is some information from Melissa Fay Greene's website where she mentions specific organizations, there is a link on the right hand side I encourage everyone to check it out.

Life in the shadow of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is brutally difficult for parents and children.

Orphaned healthy children are far less likely to attend school, even to grow up: the mortality rate of children under five spikes when their parents are gone.

Children actually infected with the HIV/AIDS virus will die by the age of two; a small percentage of survivors may live to be ten; but, without medicine, their brief lives are full of suffering.

Fewer than ten percent of adult African HIV/AIDS sufferers -- and an even smaller percentage of children -- have access to the expensive and complicated life-saving medicines.

But, there is hope.

A variety of organizations are importing the miraculous drugs into Africa, helping to build health-care institutions, and saving lives.

Other organizations are nurturing and raising orphaned children; some even facilitate adoptions of HIV-positive orphans to America.

Still other organizations help destitute people find decent work.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

We actually made it!

Last night was the first time in our family's history that we made it through an entire length of Shabbot Services! Jud and I were amazed at how well all four of the kids did! Caroline sang with her sunday school class, she looked so grown up standing up there, and she was so proud of herself! She kept waiving at Emma who was very jealous that she was not up in the front with her.

On the ride home Jud and I were just giddy with the thought that we are finally getting to the point where we can take the beasts out in public again! We have recently been going out for dinner as a family (to actual restaurants rather than McDonald's) again and each time we just beam with pride at how well behaved they are! Then we reminded ourselves not to get too comfortable because just as we get ready to turn this corner we are preparing to add another one (or two!) and start the whole thing over again!