Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What else are sisters for???

Lacy screamed when she saw me with the face mask on, but a few minutes later she wanted one too!

Forever in My Heart

Our family could use some prayers…My foster brother died of a heart attack last week. Kareem was only 24 years old. He and his brother lived with us for two years when I was in elementary school. I still can’t believe he’s really gone. I read the Bible versus at his memorial service (the burial is going to be in another state where his family lives), and it took every ounce of my will power to keep from breaking down completely in front of all those people. God must have helped me out…

I am especially sad for his younger brother. Kareem was his father figure and the only constant in his life.

My older brother Peter is also struggling a lot. His coping mechanism seems to be keeping busy and focusing on raising money (by selling t-shirts) for the family.

People ARE NOT supposed to have heart attacks when they are 24 years old...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

He's Not Just Anyone...

I'm almost finished reading "There is No Me Without You" by Melissa Faye Green. It tells the story of Haregewoin Teferra, a woman who devoted her life to the AIDS orphans of Ethiopia. It is filled with rich Ethiopian history, staggering statistics regarding orphans and the AIDS crisis, and both heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories of the children who came into Teferra's care. As I read it, I realize that the stories of these children are the same as those of Tekle and Aaron. I've had to just sit and reflect after many of the chapters; it is so much to absorb and a lot for my heart to handle!

The book has already impacted me in a profound way and opened my eyes to the most severe crisis of my time.

This morning my mom was driving me to school, and the Song "He's My Son" came on the radio (Mark Schultz). As I listened I couldn't help but realize how the song seemed to illustrate the pain that millions of moms and dads across the globe must be feeling as they see their children dying of the epidemic. I was in tears...I just can't imagine...

You can listen to the song at

Here are the lyrics:

Down on my knees again tonight,
hoping this prayer will turn out right.
See, there is a boy that needs your help.
I've done all that i can do myself.
His mother is tired,
I'm sure you can understand.
Each night as he sleeps,
she goes in to hold his hand
and she tries not to cry
as the tears fill her eyes.

Can you hear me?
Am I getting trough tonight?
Can you see him?
Can you make him feel alright?
If you can hear me,
let me take his place somehow
See he's not just anyone,
he's my son.

Sometimes late at night i watch him sleep.
I dream of a boy he'd like to be.
I try to be strong and see him through,
but God who he needs right now is you.
Let him grow old, live life without this fear.
What would I be living without him here?
He's so tired and he's scared.
Let him kno that youre there.

Can you hear me?
Am I getting trough tonight?
Can you see him?
Can you make him feel alright?
If you can hear me,
let me take his place somehow
See he's not just anyone,
he's my son.

Can you hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can you see him?
Can you make him feel alright
If you can hear me,
let me take his place somehow
See he's not just anyone
Can you hear me?
Can you see him?
Please don't leave him,
he's my son.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Happy Birthday Aaron Tariku!

All of a sudden my baby is not such a baby anymore!

Aaron turned two years old September 9. He has had a pretty eventful two years, and I am in awe every time I think about how far he has come. He came to the United States too small for American growth charts, and is now perfectly in the 50th percentile for both height and weight. He is the happiest, sweetest, funniest, and most adorable little guy. I hope he stays this sweet throughout the terrible twos! He is at such a fun age--learning to talk, and trying to establish his independence, while still not too old to be cuddly and give lots of hugs and kisses to his family members!


Here is Aaron being restrained from helping himself to the cake...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Back to School

School started up again last Tuesday. I wasn't dreading going back, but neither was I jumping up and down with excitement.

My little brother Isaac is a freshman at my school this year. I told him I have spies all over the place that will be sure he gets to class on time.

I have to admit I am a little worried about what his high school experience will be like. We attend a large public school in the heart of our city. I love it for a lot of reasons. There are many opportunities to challenge yourself academically, and for all the bad teachers I've had, there's been an equal number of teachers who are truly dedicated and passionate about helping their students become successful. However, I know my experience has been sheltered to an extent because I fall into the "privileged category". When teachers look at a blonde haired, green eyed, white girl, they tend to assume "good student", or at least not a trouble-maker. When they look at Isaac they will see a young, African American male, which often brings to the surface a lot of negative connotations (whether they are conscious or sub-conscious). Despite the enormous diversity of our school (or maybe because of it), there are a lot of layers of prejudice, especially based on race and socioeconomics.

When I walk into the media center, the librarian barely glances at my pass and I go about by business. However, I've noticed that this isn't the case for everybody. If you are a student of color and/or dressed a certain way ("ghetto"), I can almost guarantee that not only will your pass be scrutinized, but there's a good chance the librarian will call the teacher who signed it to be sure it wasn't forged. I see this same type of treatment throughout our entire school. Granted, there are kids who have a thug mentality, and have no interest in learning, but there are also students who have a genuine desire to learn, and have been failed by the school system throughout the years.

Up until last year, our school had a program specifically for the kids in the neighborhood. The majority of students in this program were African American, and many came from low-income families. The program was an absolute disaster. Little was expected of the students, and they all knew it and responded accordingly. The graduation rate was terrible, and those who did graduate were sent out into the world without the skills needed to succeed in a post-secondary education. Those who wanted to learn were unable to, because others were allowed to be so disruptive. Challenging courses were virtually non-existent, and little was done to recruit these students into the Advanced Placement courses offered in the other magnets. It was institutionalized racism at its finest. The administration finally woke up this year and the program was eliminated. Now those students will be merged into the other magnets offered at our school. I feel for the juniors and seniors who will have to adjust to a whole new set of standards and expectations. I pray that teachers will be sensitive to their educational history, and work with them instead of against them.

But I digress...

My main concern is Isaac. He has already been accused of stealing and he's only been at school for a week. We have two lunch lines at our school, and after not seeing anything that looked appetizing in one, Isaac tried to leave that line and go in the other. A hall monitor (who is an African American male himself) stopped him and asked "What'd you take man?". Isaac explained his intentions, but was still grilled for another couple of minutes before he was allowed to leave. Poor kid, he was already nervous and vulnerable considering it was only his second day in a school with almost 2,000 people. I have switched lines on numerous occasions, and have never been asked what I stole.

I'm frustrated and concerned. It's gonna be a long year...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

It's the Little Things...

Tekle ran up to me with a huge smile on his face yesterday, exitedly showing me a bag of trail mix he just bought. I was confused because while I like trail mix as much as the next guy, I didn't think it was anything to celebrate. That is until he said "Kels, aren't you so happy I bought the stuff we were eating in Ethiopia??!!".

OH YEAAAAH.........

I had forgotten.

Thinking we may crave American food at some point during our time in Ethiopia, my mom and I had packed candy, juice boxes, crackers, and...trail mix.

It was so sweet to see how special that was to Tekle. My mom later told me that he had picked the trail mix out all by himself and was ecstatic to have found it at the store. Now that I think about it, there are quite a few things from our week in Addis Ababa that are really important to Tekle. He remembers every book and toy we brought, and when he wears one of the outfits we gave him on the trip, he'll say "Don't I look cute? This is what I wore in Ethiopia".

For a long time after coming home, Tekle showed no interest in pictures of himself or his friends before we came to pick him up. He only wanted to look at the pictures from the week my mom and I were with him. It was such a huge time in all of our lives, and it was amazing to witness such a significant part of his transition. In those days he had to try reconcile two completely different worlds, which is a lot to ask of a four year old. I think that he was able to adjust/attatch to our family better because he got to know my mom and I in his own environment. Tekle and I have an extra special bond because we shared a lot of experiences that week.

Before he went to bed last night Tekle gave me a hug and said "You better say thank you to me for finding that stuff!"

Ha ha, thanks buddy.