Friday, March 24, 2006

How much do I owe? Part II

The long awaited PART TWO....

At the end of part one I was pondering the question "how much do I owe?" I decided that it was time for me to be proactive about my feelings. I was directed to the charity called Stay Alive by my father (who helps them out). Boy howdy did they need help and I jumped right in. I even recruited a fellow blogger. I found out that at that exact time I was pondering what to do with myself, they had been praying (literally) for someone to magically appear who had the skill, or at least desire and willingness, to help them start fundraising in ernest. I can do that. I will be writing grants, soliciting funds from rich people and encouraging business to become a part of this program. Good times. I got lots of practice begging people for money as a teenager and all those years of waitressing. I knew it would come in handy (now if I can just make that useless History degree work for me).

A little bit more info on the Stay Alive program. We focus on children aged 8-10. That makes it unique. The other unique thing about Stay Alive is that we don't say "use a condom when you have sex" but we say "DON'T HAVE SEX". We actually explain how the immune system works, teach the children to possibilities that are out there and how great their life can be if they stay alive long enough. Many of these kids have lost either parents or family members to disease. They get it. They just don't know how to make things different. The program has a workbook that the students take home to their families who are required to do exercises with them and have discussion questions. The parents play a huge role in this program. In many cases the "parent" is the oldest living child. Some are only 12 or 13. This can help us understand why there are so many misconceptions out there. In the poor and/or rural parts of Africa surprisingly little is understood about the disease that is killing so many of them. There are still many misconceptions about how it is contracted and misconceptions about how it can be cured (that it CAN be cured is the biggest one). Parents who haven't been taught cannot teach their children. Children who are empowered with the right information at a time in their life when they aren't sexually active are able to make better choices. Studies have been done and statistics have been gathered. It is working. It is working as good as, or better then, any other HIV prevention program out there. Knowlege is power. We have all heard that, right? So very, very true. As a matter of fact, the results have been so good and Stay Alive is able to do this for such a small amount of money, governments are asking for us to bring the program to their country ASAP. All that is holding us back is the funding. We are working on getting UN funding and grants from our government, but politics are a long and complicated process. It will take years. These children don't have years. So, we fundraise.

I will be going to Africa in June to do some administration work. I will be involved in teaching new schools/health officials the program. We have a big convention planned in Nairobi. We will also be going to rural Kenya where the program has been the longest and taking some statistics (and pictures...I am also the unofficial photographer), then it is off to Mozambique where were will meet with the charity that helps us implement the program on the ground there. More training, more statistics gathering, more pictures. A few side trips to Uganda and Swaziland to meet w/ education officials to get the program started there. There is a lot to do in just a few weeks.

I am very excited and very scared. It is scary to spend time and money doing something new. It is scary to think about getting on a small plane in Africa (I HATE flying...). It is scary to decide to open my life and my emotions to an area of the world that has more sad stories then happy ones. I am afraid of shots and have to get about 8 million of them to go. It is scary meet and get to know and love people who will die, soon. I am terrified that I will come out of this with more more damage to my heart and soul then I have going into it. Mostly I am afraid that what I have to offer won't be right or won't be enough. One tiny drop in the bucket of such enormous need. Is there a point? Before I pull out the story about the kid walking along the beach throwing starfish back into the water (email me if you haven't heard this delightful Mormon talk filler......ahhh, Mormon urban legends) but it has a certain point. It makes a difference to someone. If nothing else, it makes a difference to me and to my kids to be a part of something bigger then ourselves. It is still scary.

P.S. As part of my fundraising effort, I sent the following letter to everyone I know. Take a read and see if you can think of anyone that might want to help out. I have enough appointments right now to reach half of my fundraising goal. That is very exciting.

Get family pictures, help a great cause...

Greetings blog world,

Have you been dying to get family photos taken but it is too expensive? Do I have a deal for you!! I have spent many years taking pictures of friends and family as a hobby and have enjoyed it very much. I am trying to reach a fund raising goal by offering to take family portraits for a small donation (25$) to a really wonderful and important cause. This way you can get some fun pictures of your family and make a big difference in the life of many children at the same time. Win-win.

This summer I will be traveling to East Africa with Stay Alive, a great non-profit that teaches abstinence and HIV prevention to 8-12 year olds ( This program has proven to be highly effective in helping reduce the contact rate of HIV among young people. We are reaching the children at a critical age through the school systems and various youth programs. At just 25 cents per child for the cost of materials and training teachers, we have the opportunity to make an enormous difference in many lives for just a small amount of money. Stay Alive has been asked by several governments to come and teach this program to their school children. We have more requests then we can handle right now and hope to be able to accommodate all of them. This is why volunteers, like me, are going over to train new teachers, meet with new governments and distribute new materials.

This is a very "mom" driven volunteer program. Everyone involved, from the conception, to the writing of the curriculum, fund raising to administration has kids at home and donates their time and energy. We feel so blessed to be able to have this opportunity to make a positive change and especially grateful to our families that support us. This year I have a goal to raise enough money to teach 10,000 children by the time I leave for Africa. I know that between my friends and family and THEIR friends and family, there are enough people that will want family portraits to help me reach my goal. That is just 100 appointments. I really feel that this is an attainable goal. Come on can help me. I can do appointments in the Bay Area or Northern Utah. If you know of anyone that want pictures...this might be just the deal for them......

Here is how it will work. You can make an appointment with me and we will do the photo shoot. I will upload all your photos to KodakGallery so you can view them. You can order directly from there or use the CD that I will send you with all of your proofs. For an additional small fee, I can also do Photoshop touch ups and edits. It is preferable that the payments be made directly to me in cash or check and I will make the large lump donation. The reason for this is that the law states that a donation to a charity (you send the check directly to the charity) that is claimed for the tax deduction cannot be made in exchange for something else. Basically, if you want to deduct this, I can't offer you pictures. But, if you really want to make the check out to the charity and not me (which is fine), you need to either not plan on deducting it or you send the check to them and someday I just might bump into you and we just might take pictures, but it will out of the goodness of my heart, not for a donation. You decide what you are most comfortable with. Oh, and I will also take donations that require me to do absolutely no work! I will even let you give me more than $25! :-)

If you would like to see a portfolio please email me and I can send you the link. I am including everything from weddings to candids to give you a feel for my style and ability. I specialize in children, but have done pretty much everything. I don't claim to be the best photographer in the world, but I am $25 good, FOR SURE! Also, if you are able to recruit 4 appointments for me I will do yours for FREE. So forward this to anyone who might be interested in getting pictures taken. You just have to make sure the person mentions your name when they contact me.

I will be in Utah April 8-16 and will do as many appointments as I can then. I will also be out at the end of May for a week (dates TBD...depending on demand). In the Bay Area I can do it anytime. I will even go to the beach at Half Moon Bay, as long as I have at least three appointments there for the same day. I already have one appointment at the beach for April hurry and book if you want beach shots.

If you are interested, please send me an email at I can answer additional questions there. Also, feel free to check out the Stay Alive website ( to learn more about what we are doing. It is pretty amazing.

I hope to hear from you soon,


Proud Mamma Moment...

There are many first's in a child's life. First steps, first word,
but nothing touched my heart quite as much as capturing THIS
first on film. My heart is practically bursting with pride right now.
I call this one "Baby's First Diet Coke"
or, I just upgraded my ticket to FIRST CLASS bad parent jail.
I am not sure which is worse, the fact that he drank it or the fact that I wasn't too bothered by it. Lauren could say "brown juice" by this age. In fact, the way we realized that she could drink out of a straw was when I found her squatting over my Baja Fresh cup (the same black and white checked cup that had mezmerized her as a baby...she had no chance, really). She was sucking up that "brown juice" as fast as her little cheeks would let her. To be fair, Jacob is much more obsessed with ice (not unlike his mamma) then he is with the soda. The soda is an added, sugar filled, caffeine loaded, sodium fortified bonus. Notice how he there is no hesitation or tentative is like Diet Coke shots for him. Once I left a cup of soda in reaching distance and he had that thing back so took a few seconds for him to realize that he covered in Diet Coke. His clothes, his hair, my couch...everywhere but his mouth. Poor novice. He will learn.
Before my mom has a heart attack, this was at Disneyland while the kids were running in the sprinklers. I don't regularly feed my child soda. Just at Disneyland, and the grocery store, in the car and occasionally in church........Breathe Mom. I am kidding.
Or am I?

Can't you almost see him thinking..."whaaaaa?"

"There must be more in here...there has to be....."

Welcome to my world, little addict!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The trauma of the green....

Am I the only mom that had NO IDEA it was St. Patrick's Day last Friday until about 10 minutes before school? Gulp. My mom and dad always did fun things on the holidays and I remember more then one green meal on St. Patrick's day. I decided to make a green dinner and start the tradition in our home. I have seen other blogs where the moms serve actual green food....broccoli, grapes, peas and the like. I just did it the lazy way and used food coloring.

Lauren fell asleep during the afternoon (my first clue) and didn't wake up until I had our dinner on the table. She came up to the table to see her green macaroni and cheese with peas, toast w/ green butter and of course, shamrock milk. There was even a note from O'Malley, the classroom leprechaun, telling her that he had sprinkled lucky leprechaun dust on her food. Cool mom, right? I ran upstairs to get the baby up (what can I say...he naps until 5:30....) and by the time I got downstairs she was quietly sobbing at the table. She wouldn't tell me what was wrong but kept crying. Her cheeks were bright red and she was clearly not well. I plopped Jacob in his high chair (but didn't do the straps....) and went to figure out what was wrong with Lulu. It seems that she didn't want to eat her green food because LAST time she ate green food, she threw up. She has eaten green food before? I may not be the most observant mom, but I am pretty sure that I haven't served green bread or cheese anytime recently, had I?

It turns out that Lauren had experience with green food. Last year, Derek and I went to NYC for a long weekend and Lulu stayed with my good friend Suzi. Suzi and Gordon have the cool parent thing down. Last year they made green waffles for the kids for dinner. Apparently, Lauren threw up all night. I tried to explain to Lauren that she threw up because she was sick, not because the waffles were green, but she wasn't buying it. She was not going to be eating that green meal (but she was mildly concerned that she would offend the leprechaun). Back to the drawing board. I went to the kitchen to make something new and realized that it was too quiet. I hadn't said "SIT DOWN JACOB" for at least 30 seconds.

Sure enough, the high chair was empty. This was not a surprise at all, because Houdini can escape from anything. More then once I have been driving down the road only to feel a small hand on my shoulder and "hiiiiii" in my ear. The boy can escape from his 5 point Britax carseat with the straps so tight they almost cut off circulation. A high chair is nothing. I have posted before about Cubby's propensity to hide in small spaces. Finding him usually involves some aggressive searching. An impromptu game of hide and seek wasn't exactly in my schedule. The good news is that it didn't take me long to find him. This is the perfect small space for him. He still feels like he is squished in somewhere AND he is in plain view. Oh, and the fact that he hadn't been fed before the great escape was no problem. By the time I found him, he was chewing on an old banana peel and some cold french fries FROM THE GARBAGE. Whatever, at least it was food.

The boy was returned to the high chair, tied down this time, and I gave HIM the green dinner. He wouldn't eat it either. This is a child that I have actually caught gnawing candy off the bottom of my shoe. This is the child that not 5 minutes before was foraging in the trash for tasty tidbits. Green macaroni was not edible to him?

Two very important lessons were learned on St. Paddy's Day at this year. The first, that we will never be having green food at our house again. The second is that toddlerhood has officially begun at our house. Excuse me while I hide all the remotes, the car keys, my wallet, the plunger...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Part two is coming I promise....

I have been working on a project about African adoption and it has been keeping me up late every night and taking every spare minute of the day!! Part two is on its way.

In the meantime...if you want to read a few really amazing stories about the people who started the programs that I work with and why they did it, here are a few links. Very interesting and moving stuff.

Loosing Rogerio. This is the story of a young man in Africa that was supporting his family after his parents died of AIDS. He served a mission and helped the program start. He was the reason that the Packard's started the charity Care for Life.

Some of the interesting things that Care for Life is doing. Plus the story of Linda Packard..a 6 year old adoptee from Mozambique--the first ever from the country. It is reading these kinds of articles that fuel the question...should I do more?

I'll be back in a few days.....

Saturday, March 11, 2006

How much do I owe? Part 1

I wrote this a month many things have happened since then, but that is the next post.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how good the world is to me and how lucky I am to have the life that I do. I didn't think that I would ever think that again. It was exactly one year ago that I got pregnant. That was the first event in a long series of events that would challenge my sanity, my testimony and my faith in humans. If you don't know what I am talking about, go to the first few entries, it is all in there. I still have my hard days (don't we all?) but I really didn't believe that I would get to a place where I could think that world was good again. I didn't think that I would ever have a day when the first sensation that greeted me every morning was something other then despair and grief. I have come a long way. I still have a long way to go, but at least now I know that I am on the right path. But, that is not the point.

Sometimes when bad things happen or our life gets really hard, it can be a window into other things. Yeah, yeah, I know that there is a proverb that says something to that effect. It feels like I just heard it for the very first time. I feel like I am suddenly aware of things that I didn't notice before. Like my eyes have been literally opened. Now I know why that phrase is used too. I feel like the cocoon of safety and obliviousness that I got to experience has been stripped away a little bit. In the grand scheme of things, what I have had this year is nothing compared to what others deal with. I know that and I don't pretend that it is better or worse then anyone else's life. But it's mine. So I can only talk for myself.

I am glad that I got to have those oblivious years. I can only liken it to how I relate to my body. I don't think about it until it is sick or something hurts. Then I think about it all the time. The absence of "thinking about it" is a wonderful thing. I had a great childhood, wonderful friends and family and a divine husband. I had a few ups and downs, but mostly I just got to enjoy my life and didn't have to think about it too much. I was kind of aware of how lucky I was, but didn't even think about that too much either. Now, I feel like I owe something to the cosmos to justify and acknowledge the good things in my life. Maybe I always felt this way deep down, but now I am more motivated to do something about it. Who knows?

I had a good talk with my dad about a month ago. He is a social activist and always has his fingers in lots of different things. Most of those things are important issues to him. They are issues that he feels so strongly about, he spends his time and energy working towards a resolution that is acceptable to him. He believes that he can make an impact on the world that he leaves for his kids and grandkids and he works very hard to support these numerous causes. One project that he is working on is called "Save Lives". In a nutshell , it is an educational system that was developed to teach young kids in Africa about HIV and abstinence . There have been studies done on this particular program and they have proven that the rates of HIV in young people in the areas where it is taught, dropped. It is actually saving lives in a very literal and tangible way.

In Zimbabwe, the president's wife has just asked that it be taught to every 10 year old in the country. Congress has praised it and it is growing each year. We are starting to get grants and funding and pretty soon this tiny organization will be so big we won't even recognize it! It costs 25 cents per child to implement this program. Less then the cost of the stamp to mail my utilities check. The amount of money that, at any given time, is in my couch, the bottom of my purse or the floor of my car. My dad was discussing the possibility of me helping raise funds for this program (by doing more then just cleaning out my purse or couch). The weird thing is...I kind of liked the idea. He caught me at the right time.

For the last month or so I have been feeling the desire to help out with something bigger then myself. We call make our impact in different ways and I was ready to find out how to make mine (beyond the relationships that I have and mothering my children, those are a given). I wanted a cause or platform to throw myself into. But, fundraising? Going to Africa? Is this really something that I can do? I have always been interested in Africa. I remember as a child watching the coverage of the Ethiopian famine on TV. That is actually the first time I thought to myself that I wanted to adopt. I was probably 8. I have always been interested in the different cultures and have many, many African friends. As the result of exhaustive research our family has decided that we are going to adopt our next child from Africa (probably Ethiopia) hopefully by this time next year (no, not because of Angelina Jolie...but if you really want to know the reasons, e mail me). Learning more about that country has lead me to do things like sponsor a child (Children of Ethiopia Educational Fund) and become involved in a few programs that offer micro-loans to women (The Gemini Trust). These are just a few of the many worthy programs out there, but this is just money. I am itching to do something more. Is this realistic? I have two small children at home, church callings and a fairly active social life, do I really want to complicate things? Do I have a choice?

And this brings me to the point of all this. What do I owe? Have you ever thought about this question? Has anyone else ever felt this way? And when I say "I", I really do just mean "I" and not "everyone". We are all different and I don't expect anyone's answer to this question to be the same. What do I, Rebecca, owe the world for being lucky enough to be who I am right now? Is this some sort of post traumatic stress disorder, or a savior complex? What is going on? Is it not enough to sit back and raise my children, be a good example and member of my community? I really do believe that parenting is such a big job that if we devoted every waking hour to it, we still wouldn't be doing enough. I also think that raising a family is a huge accomplishment. So, I am not diminishing the importance of the role I currently have or trying to suggest that it isn't enough. It isn't that I am looking for something else to fulfill my life. I have plenty of that. I am talking about a very real sense of obligation, or even compulsion, to do something more. Do I need to do more to make the world a better place for my kiddo's? I wish I had the answer to this question. I feel like it has come to the point where I need to swim or get out of the water. I need to take action and be proactive and do something. We all have different situations, some are married, some are single, some have kids, others don't, most of us have careers and very few are independently wealthy. We all have other times and places for our time a money to go. How did you decide what the right amount was, what the right timing was and what things to support?

I think a lot about things like "where much is given, much is expected" and "knowledge is power". I think about the words to my favorite hymn.

"Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live.
I shall divide my gifts from thee, with every brother that I see
who has the need of help from me.

Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord.
I'll share thy love again, according to Thy word.
I shall give love to those in need;
I'll show that love by word and deed:
Thus shall my thanks be thanks in deed."

Churchy, churchy I know. But the words still make an important point. I feel they capture exactly how I feel. It is up to me to decide what I will "give" and that remains the big question. I love the phrase "divide my gifts from thee". Doesn't it feel like that sometimes? I am afraid that if I divide my gifts too many times there will only be a tiny sliver for everyone. How do I decide who gets what part?

Part of my motivation is that I worry about my kids. I worry about teaching my children about the real world. I once heard someone say "it is easier to raise a child poor then rich...many of the lessons we work to instill in our children (hard work, sacrifice, gratitude) are not optional when money is tight." Sounds kind of true, eh? Want to go to college? Work hard and get a scholarship or no dice (and we have a lesson in hard work). There isn't enough money to send all the kids to summer camp, so each year one child gets a turn (enter sacrifice). You get the idea. My little family lives in a very affluent area and they are exposed to things that are not really normal. We live in a world where people have drivers and limo's that take them to the airport, they socialize at "the club" and private schools and nannies are a given. Vacations are luxurious and "things" are plentiful. We live here because this is where our job is, but we love it here. We are not smack in the center of this lifestyle, but it is all around us every day. People are mostly the same ethnic, educational and financial bracket. Not a ton of diversity (except boy represents). I know that my children will have an education, a loving family, security and all the best that we can give them. How do I teach them to understand how lucky they are? Shouldn't I allow them to live in the cocoon of obliviousness that I enjoyed? Or is it better to expose them to the worst of it and let them make the comparison for themselves? I want to be a good example to them and show them that it is important to work for things besides ourselves...but my involvement in church and local community issues could do that.

Maybe I just need to face it that I am a wanderer. I like my soft bed, western medicine and Diet Coke as much as the next gal, but in my soul I think I could have been a Peace Corp volunteer or something like that. I am pretty sure that I could never get my husband on board at this point, but this could be my chance to fill that part of me. I did move to Russia all by myself when I was 18 to teach English. It sounded fun (duh) . It changed my life but I was too young and stupid to understand how it could have changed my life in a BAD way too.

Decisions, decisions....

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

If you aren't a Project Runway fan then you will not need to keep reading. I (like the rest of America) thought that Daniel would win and that if he didn't, Santino would. Hmmm. All season they punish Santino for being too thematic or artsy but let him stay on because he is good TV. Then, when he creates a collection that is beautiful and soft and thoughtful, they boot him because he is too SAFE? Come on Nina...stand up for the guy!

Chloe??? Really?

All of them did a good job and all deserved to win, but I still would have loved to see Daniel instead of Chole win. I did think that her pieces were the best in terms of color and construction. I also like that she could translate it into serious business opportunity. She knows that no matter how great the clothes are, if you don't know how to market them and keep your doors open, it is no use. Also, I loved her stuff all season. She is very nononsense. This was my favorite.

This outfit you will see at Bananna next season. Oh wait? Maybe we already saw it THIS season. This guy knows his market and he has such clean lines. I love that there is not much extra stuff on his things (besides that strange patch on the brown dress). It is timeless. All of his pieces could have been in several stores this season. Very impressive. This coat is my favorite.

This is the dress that Naomi Watts SHOULD have worn to the Oscars. I actually loved his stuff. I have a feeling we will be seeing Santino on Survior next and on Access Hollywood for the next few months. He is the new reality star we love to hate. Chloe markets her clothes. Santino marketed HIMSELF. Not bad.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A most unusual question...

Lauren's questions are getting better and better. It seems like just yesterday we were dealing with Worship Jamz and which princess was better. That is SO YESTERDAY! We have moved on to far more complex questions.

Today, Lauren came into the kitchen while I was doing the dishes and said "Mom, I have a very unusual question." I was prepared for her to ask "why are you doing the dishes before they smell really bad?" because, lets face it, that is what often gives me that extra push. Instead I got "how do mermaids and mermen go to the bathroom?" She has apparently been thinking about it for awhile because she had a few theory's. Her favorite was that the #1 and #2 get trapped in the tail and stay there till they empty it, but she was perplexed as to how they pull their tail down. Serious 5 year old stuff.

After a few minutes of stumbling around an answer, I told her I would look it up on the computer and tell her later. She has asked me 32 times if I have found the answer yet. I am not sure if I should make up something and risk the "you lied to me" conversation later or if I should just be honest and tell her the truth. That mermaids sit on the potty and mermen, stand up, but they often miss.

P.S. This is Ariel at the Disney Princess lunch a few year ago. Doesn't her costume look totally chintzy? Seriously Disney...make a better Ariel tail then I could buy at a craft store!! Sheesh.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

My newest employee

"Mom, I'm your new upstairs maid"

I don't know if it is all the Cinderella we have been watching, but Lauren has become DETERMINED to be a servant in our house. She puts on her "working" clothes (a Juicy tube dress and kerchief? It must be Paris Hilton working clothes......) and asks me for jobs all day long. One day she begged to wash the car, the day I took these pictures she wanted to wash the cabinets and stairs. I forgot to remind her to wring out the wash cloth and as a result we had water sloshed all over the house. Now we just "clean" with baby wipes. The up side of this is that she really is doing a good job keeping her room clean and is getting pretty good with the man cub. She bosses him around better then I could. She is the best little Gestapo informant ever. "Mom, Jacob is eating garbage again" "Mom, JJ is drinking out of the toilet!" "MOM, Cubby is stuck in the fireplace and I can't get him out!". It's like I don't even have to be in the room anymore. Sweet.

Please don't tell me this is going to end. I didn't realize how much I NEEDED an upstairs maid until she showed up!!!