In less than an hour I’m off to see Rise of Skywalker with the kids.
All the feels.Continue reading Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker & End of an Era
In less than an hour I’m off to see Rise of Skywalker with the kids.
All the feels.Continue reading Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker & End of an Era
Today my family went to the Million Artist Movement rally/protest in downtown Minneapolis. It’s part of #BlackLivesMatter response to the continuing racial injustice in cases like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and others.
It’s interesting. I’ve never really protested before. I’ve been to a few peace protests, mostly in response to 9/11 and the continuing war in Iraq, but I was more there as a journalist/observer than a participant.
Today I was here first and foremost as a dad. Secondly as a protestor myself.
It’s been kind of a bizarre week talking about these cases with our kids.
How do you explain all of this to your kids?
How do you explain what a “die in” is?
How do you explain to your brown-skinned son that police are killing brown-skinned people?
How do you explain that police are still heroes? That while this injustice happens and it’s bad and we want to stop it, not all police officers are bad?
None of it is easy, I can tell you that.
When we told Milo that Michael Brown and Eric Garner were black, he broke down in tears.
His reaction broke my heart. But it also seems like the only appropriate way to respond.
The civil rights movement may have been 50 years ago and we did elect a black president, but that doesn’t mean injustice is over. It’s still all around us, it’s still causing pain, and it’s our time to stop it.
At the rally they led us in a song. I shot a quick video of part of it:
Oh the day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more
The day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more
But while my sister ain’t equal
And my brother can’t breathe
Hand in hand with my family we will fill these streets.
I can’t help but think of the day that will come when we don’t have to march or cry or fight or despair no more. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. It’s a kingdom hope, but it doesn’t have to be an unattainable hope.
This whole thing is hard and complicated and painful and difficult. If you’re feeling those things, I feel them with you. Please listen.
At the end of the rally they had ribbons and asked us to write something on the ribbons. Here’s what we wrote:
Two years ago my son Milo dressed up as Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon for Halloween. This year? Same thing.
It is a pretty great costume. Here he is two years ago:
I kind of love that he’s re-using his costume. It’s only because he’s completely obsessed with dragons and since the sequel came out this summer he’s all over it again.
My wife makes awesome Halloween costumes.
Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow by Nathan Bransford is a boy-friendly space adventure story with plenty of wacky capers. Jacob is a troublemaker at school and he teams up with his best friends Dexter and Sarah for some non-stop fun, initiated when a man in a silver suit trades a spaceship for a corn dog.
Yep, that’s the kind of randomness you can expect from Jacob Wonderbar.
I thought it felt a little too directionless, but I read it aloud to Milo and he loved it. It’s turned into a series and I’m sure I’ll be reading the others to Milo.
Tonight at dinner for some reason he was talking about having children and Abby asked him what he would name his kids.
His answer? Jacob, Dexter and Sarah.
The usual story we hear about Ethiopia is one steeped in poverty and despair. We hear stories of famine and political unrest. That’s the common narrative. It’s unfortunate because stories are powerful. But it’s not the whole story.
There are also Ethiopians doing amazing things. Not just marathon runners, but business leaders, doctors, activists, writers, musicians and more. Flowers of Today, Seeds of Tomorrow is a coffee table book to tell those stories. They’re currently doing a Kickstarter project to fund publishing the book. It’s about 85 percent written, and you can see some of the incredible stories and layouts on the Kickstarter page.
This is an opportunity to reframe the story of Ethiopia.
Doing Good in Ethiopia
I don’t want to contribute to the narrative of despair. I’m wary of providing the kind of international aid that’s merely drops of water on a wildfire. While famine, poverty and despair need to be stopped, I want to address those issues in ways that offer hope and empowerment, not empty charity.
Just last week we celebrated a new well in Ethiopia. I love that the local people in Segalu built their own wall around that well to protect it and are raising their own money to support and maintain that well. I hope this is a project that empowers them, freeing up their time and energy to pursue more productive efforts.
Likewise, I think Flowers of Today, Seeds of Tomorrow is a book that can empower a people. It reframes their story and shifts the focus from nostalgia for the past or despair for the failures of today to a hope in the promise of tomorrow. These are stories of Ethiopian heroes who have overcome that past to find success today.
We need those stories. We need those heroes.
Bring It Home
Four years ago today my son Milo was born in Ethiopia. I wouldn’t see his picture for six weeks and I wouldn’t hold him in my arms for five months. He no longer lives in Ethiopia, but it will always be a part of him, a part of me. These are his stories, and as you can imagine, I have a vested interested in seeing stories of hope and not despair.
Ethiopians, like all of us, are not bound by poverty and famine. They are not limited to political unrest. They have heroes and champions. It’s time for a book that tells those stories. I know my family needs one in our library.
Consider backing this Kickstarter campaign and helping this project come to life. I know it’s a lot of money, but the $50 reward gets you a hardcover version of the book and they’ll donate two softcover Amharic versions to libraries in Ethiopia through Ethiopia Reads. That’s a great way to share these stories with your family and with the people of Ethiopia.
Let’s tell the story of hope.
In 2010 I wrote the book Addition by Adoption. It’s a collection of tweets and essays that tells the story of my son coming home. It’s a story of adoption, clean water and a stay at home dad. I wanted it to be more than just a book, so we pledged to build a clean water well in Ethiopia. Wells cost an average of $5,000, so we had a lot of work to do.
A little over two years ago we met that goal and raised $5,000. Sales of the book (usually $2 from every copy, in some cases more) generated $628, and the incredible generosity of so many people raised the rest—$4,385. It’s yet another reminder that we can do so little on our own, but we can do more than we can imagine together.
I say all this because that money we raised has built a well in Ethiopia. I just got the email from charity: water. You an look at the Google Map, see the pictures and read about the community impacted by the well.
And there, in the picture, are the words: “In celebration of the adoption of Milo Rahimeto Hendricks.”
I saw those words and started cheering and crying.
You did that.
The village of Segalu in Northern Ethiopia now has clean drinking water. Before they had to walk up to two hours to collect dirty water. Now clean water is within a 15-minute walk for most of the community. By giving them water, you have given them time and health.
A shallow bore hole was dug and capped with a hand pump. The community build a wall and a door around the well to protect it, taking ownership of it. We’re also working in partnership with the community as each family made a small donation to fund the well (between 3-6 cents) and will pay 3-6 cents per month going forward to fund maintenance.
The well cost a total of $7,244, proving once again that we can’t do it alone. My Addition by Adoption campaign was pooled with two others to collect the necessary funds.
You can read all this on charity: water’s site, but I just love repeating it.
I showed Milo the pictures today and told him about the project. I probably said too much—I told him about the book and how it’s about adopting him and clean water and all that. I told him about collecting dirty water in Ethiopia, about giardia and how this well would keep people healthy. I tend to way over-explain these things.
“There it is, Milo,” I said. “There’s a well in Ethiopia with your name on it.”
Then in his little boy voice he said, “Thank you for adopting me.”
His gratitude for being adopted is kind of awkward (would you thank your mom for giving birth to you?). I don’t know what to do with that. It’s not an expectation that should ever be placed on a child. You’re my son. You just are. There’s no thanks required. But he said it, unprompted.
“No Milo, thank you for being my boy,” I said. I hugged him and told him I loved him. That seems like a good response to a great many things in life.
Then he spotted a picture of Lexi on my desk and exclaimed, “There’s Lexi when she was adopted!”
I couldn’t help but laugh. How do I explain that Lexi wasn’t adopted, she was, well, born. Just like Milo was born? But. Wait. Um… Nevermind that the picture was Lexi’s first grade school photo, taken last month.
Confusion abounds, I suppose, but I like that Milo clearly feels safe and loved and knows that “being adopted” is in no way less. It’s just different. And that’s OK. We’re all kind of different.
After all, some of us have wells in Ethiopia with our names on them. And others helped pay for that well. We may be different, but we’re very much the same.
I want to say it again: Thank you. While I put my own time and sweat into Addition by Adoption, the numbers above clearly reflect that this didn’t happen because of me. There are at least 80 people who donated to the campaign, others who donated to the campaigns who were pooled together with ours, others who bought books, others who raised funds from their friends and family, and still others who spread the word. To each and every one of you, thank you. I’ll be attempting to send you my personal thanks, but it’s likely I won’t get to everyone (especially the people I don’t even know). So thank you. Thank you.
Milo’s gratitude may have felt awkward for me, but that’s my problem. Let us never shy away from giving thanks. Thank you for helping us help the people of Ethiopia, for giving back to them in a celebration of Milo’s life and heritage. We owe a debt that can never be repaid, but we will try anyway, like drops in the ocean.
(‘thank you’ in Amharic)
By the way, Milo’s birthday is next week. What a birthday present.
So yesterday was the big first day of school. If summer wasn’t already done and gone, now it’s officially over. Gone are the lazy days of summer and now we’re back to a routine. Hopefully. It’s kind of odd. By 7:15 a.m. both Lexi and Abby are gone, we’ve already had breakfast and Milo and are looking at each other asking, “Now what?”
Yesterday Milo literally asked when we could have lunch. At 7:30 in the morning.
Milo starts “three school” next week, two days a week for two and a half hours, our attempt to give him something fun to do now that his playmate is in school all day. And to save my sanity. So far both of our mornings have involved me trying to be productive while Milo lies around. Today we went to the library, which would be a great routine for me. Though when I asked Milo if he wanted to look for books? “Nah.” He was too busy making friends and playing games with the magnetic triangle and circle. Which I guess is good.
It’s kind of hard getting into a new routine. I guess I haven’t thought about it much before, but I’m pretty big on routine. I do certain things in a certain order, whether it’s letting the dogs out or getting breakfast. I like my routine. If I don’t follow my routine or have a good one, things tend to skipped, like brushing your teeth. And that’s not cool. So far I’m floundering, desperately trying to find a routine. Yesterday I let the dogs out at 6:15 only to put them back in their crates when we walked to the bus stop. Today I left them in their crates until we got back from the bus stop. I guess all you can do is try and see what works.
Oddly enough, the routine seemed much more self-evident when there were two kids running amok. Now that there’s only one, it seems too open-ended. I guess I should be enjoying it. I’m just trying to find the rhythm, like a drummer that’s not quite on beat. It feels off.
It’s only the second day of Lexi’s summer vacation and she already needs a project to keep her from being bored. OK, I need her to have a project to keep her from being bored.
A while back we wrote the outline of a book together. I asked Lexi who she wanted the characters to be, what she wanted to happen and kind of made up the rest. She drew one picture and it got filed away for another day.
Today was that day.
We pulled out The Stephanies and started work on our book. I’m the writer and Lexi is the illustrator (apparently on Saturday we’re going to switch roles for her Star Wars book). I had to explain how illustrating works, how you have sketch things and draw them and redraw them and draw them again to get it just right. I explained how she had to practice drawing each Stephanie so they looked the same in each scene. I also explained how this wouldn’t be a quick project that we’d finish up today—it’d take a while. (All of which would probably make me a horrible art teacher)
So I spent the afternoon writing and Lexi spent the afternoon drawing. I have most of the story, though the ending needs some work and it needs lots of polishing (my last children’s book was Mike, The Cat, written when I was a child). Lexi has a lot of good drawings, though I think we need to pick some new colors or figure out what’s wrong with the scanner (the girls should be wearing dresses that are highlighter pink and yellow).
So that’s your preview of The Stephanies. It’s going to be awesome. I’m hoping we can release it later this summer, probably as an ebook and maybe as a full-color, printed book (I’ve been wanting to experiment with that for a while).
What About Milo?
And why isn’t Milo involved in this little project? Mainly because I insisted the kids clean their rooms on the first day of summer vacation and then keep them clean. Lexi finished after an hour or so on the first day. Milo kept procrastinating, not doing it and somehow completely avoiding it. For two days. He finally finished the half hour job tonight, so maybe I’ll have to find a role for him tomorrow.
Maybe he can be our publicist.
That’s what Lexi exclaimed when the credits for Return of the Jedi rolled. It makes a father proud.
We’ve been watching the Star Wars series the last few weeks. It happened by accident. I felt like watching a movie in the basement with the fire going and I decided it’d be Star Wars. I’ve always wanted to watch these movies with my kids, but Lexi is still freaked out about the bad guys in Disney princess movies and if she can’t handle a weird, cartoony sea witch, she’d be no match for Darth Vader. My earliest movie going experience is watching Vader through my hands. The intensity can be pretty scary for a little kid.
So I didn’t expect Lexi to sit down with me and watch the first Star Wars movie. I didn’t expect Milo to sit around either. But they did. They missed parts here and there and I think that helped to break up the intensity, but we watched Star Wars together. There was much hiding under blankets and even a teary goodnight with thoughts of the Rancor, but no matter how many times I suggested we shut it off if it was too scary, they refused.
It helped that Princess Leia is mentioned in the opening crawl of A New Hope. Suddenly it became a princess movie and Lexi was hooked.
And no, there was no consideration of starting with the prequels. That’s not even a question. Though as Lexi talked about watching more Star Wars, I did reluctantly tell her about the prequels. Of course we don’t own them and I’m not rushing out to get them, so she’s safe for now. Besides, I don’t think she’s ready for the intensity of Anakin going bad. Not that she even knows who Anakin is: “Who’s that guy with the thing on his face?” (Darth Vader) “Is that guy Luke’s brother?” (Han Solo) “Where’s the princess?” (during a scene where Han & Leia kiss) “Where’s that Empire guy?” (The Emperor) “Hey! We have a Lego of him! (Yoda).
Though though they did love the Ewoks (Milo: “Look at the teddy bear!”) and Milo thought it was hilarious when the Ewok steals the speeder and spins upside down. Lexi also pointed and laughed during the celebration scene when the Ewoks use stormtrooper helmets as drums (which is frightfully morbid when you think about it). Both of which reminded me how much these movies were made for kids with the necessary humor built in to relieve the tension. I also couldn’t help but feel smug when Lexi was confused by the scenes of galactic celebration that George Lucas added to the end of Return of the Jedi. You shouldn’t muck with a good thing, George.
If you can’t already tell, these movies are deeply ingrained in my psyche and I’m thrilled to finally share them with my kids. I never thought it’d be in such a random, slipshod fashion, but it works. Sometimes it’s better to let these moments sneak up on you.