Monday, May 30, 2011

I AM Kungfu Panda, No I AM Kungfu Panda

One of our boy's favorite movies is Kungfu Panda. Until recently I had never actually seen the movie, but I had "heard" it dozens of times probably. It's one of the kids mainstay travel movies to play in the minivan. Because the wireless headphones are so stinking expensive we've never forked out the $$$ for more than the standard 2 that came with the van. The incessant bickering over tangling over the other "wired" headsets coupled with keeping up with the splitter for 2 or 3 more headsets has just about insured Melissa and I are destined to listen to every movie the kids watch on any road trip any more. We finally just figured it was easier to turn the sound to the back speakers and either talk to each other or sleep. All that being said, for years I had listened to Kungfu Panda many times over. It quickly became one of F's favorite movies once he figured out the entire movie took place in "his" China. As the sequel approached I figured it would be worth my while to actually watch the original. In true "guy" format, E and F just about recited the entire stinking movie line by line! I could hardly watch the movie with the boys sitting on either side of me giving me the play by play like it was the final game of the world series.

So it's no surprise we went to see Kungfu Panda 2 over the long weekend. E woke up Thursday morning letting me know it was opening day and we could go after I got home from work. It was like the always anticipated opening day of Major League baseball to usher in Spring! It was a great movie to say the least, probably as good or better than the first. It was always odd to me in the first movie that there was absolutely no explanation of a panda having a duck as a dad. This awkward and perplexing relationship turned out to be at the crux of the sequel. Po explores his adoption and seeks knowledge regarding his birth parents and his childhood. So the boys are now exclaiming, "hey, I'm just like Po, he's adopted like me!"

At one point in the movie Po tells one of the other characters, almost ashamedly that he has discovered his dad (the duck) isn't his real dad. The other character says, oh you mean the "duck" isn't your "real" dad, as if if to say duh, no secret there. While adoption seems to be more prevalent, we still get amused when people ask us this question, does E and F know they are adopted? I always want to say, you mean does the Guatemalan and Chinaman know that their caucasian blue eyed mom, dad, and three other brothers and sisters are vastly different from them, with a slight smirk? This has never been any secret and is a topic that comes up often regarding where everyone was born where they are from, how God brought us together as a family, etc... F who is 4 will sometimes simply say, I had a China mommy and daddy and now I have a new mommy and daddy with the biggest grin on his face, as if it to say, how cool that I have had more than 1 mommy and daddy, how many have you had? I win! (everything is a competition to him)

Anyway, Po discovers the story of his mommy and daddy and how he came to be orphaned. It was a great story and I believe one that will be like many adopted children's stories, minus the maniacal peacock who uses wolves as henchmen in attempts to kill all of the pandas. While E and F bring this up from time to time, it's like a different conversation each time as their maturity and comprehension gets greater with age. The story told in KP2 is one we can use to explain to our boys how they came to be a part of our family and it appears the writers received good input in addressing this topic.

In the end, the duck dad welcomes Po back from saving China with trepidation. Po says he figured something out in the midst of his adventure and with much worry in his eyes, the duck dad hears the following: "I figured out that YOU are my dad!" As an adoptive dad, I'd have to say that was a touching ending to a great kids movie.

While leaving the movie, E and F began arguing about who was like Po more. F finally trumped E by pointing out that while they are both adopted like Po, that he in fact is from China, just like Po. I think I heard E exclaim, ah man, I wish I was from China too. And then E's creative juices kicked in and said to F, hey there was a KP1 and a KP2, so we can both be like Po, I'll be like Po in KP1 and you can be like Po in KFP2! As long as they both continue to openly discuss their situation and that I am indeed their dad, they can both be like Po for as long as they so choose. Thanks Disney for a great family movie and one that includes such a positive adoption story.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tooth Fairy or Tooth Rat?

It's not his first, but seems to be the most memorable so far; E lost one of his front teeth a few days ago. Given that he is such a tender and weepy boy, it's no less than a miracle in and of itself we got it out.

A little back story... Melissa and I have to be the worst tooth fairy parents on the planet! I can't tell you how many times now going onto child number 4 we've had to pull out the "i'm sure the tooth fairy was just super busy tonight and will surely come tonight"... I'm sure you are on the list or the database given it's 2011, right? All the while feeling like such slouches for not thinking to run out to the ATM or scrounge around for some change in the cushions or something, sheesh!

The good news is the first 3 love their tender hearted little E so much, they can't stand to see him sad or heart broken. So now we have 2 momma birds and a daddy bird nagging at me and Melissa, DON"T FORGET the tooth fairy! Well D had a stroke of genius in the midst of reminding us and he said, hey you should give E some Guatemalan money from the tooth fairy. While we NEVER seem to have dollar bills or enough change to equal $1 (for those of you driving up tooth inflation cost by giving $5, $10, or even presents, please stop it! You are killing those of us with more than 1 kid and your economic model for valuing a tooth is stupid crazy) but we do have a bunch of Quetzales. And besides, it's about Q7.50 per dollar right now, so we are coming out pretty good on this exchange rate for 1 Guat tooth.

E was pretty excited he got something the next morning and when he figured out it was Guat money, he couldn't believe it. He said, "Daddy, the tooth fairy knew I was born in Guatemala!" He had the biggest, toothy grin knowing the tooth fairy knew this about him.
Turns out though, they don't have a tooth fairy in Guatemala, they have a tooth rat! Seriously, a rat? Now my friend in Guatemala says it's a mouse, but they still call him Ratoncito, which according to Google translate is still a rat! I have a little time to figure out what crazy creature will show up at our house when F begins to lose teeth, but I'll be seriously disappointed if it's not seem really cool dragon creature.

What fun cultural traditions do you attempt to bring into your family?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Orphaned in RIO

So I finally took the boys to see the new movie RIO on mother's day. For those of you with multiple children (especially multiple boys below the age of 10) you can understand this is actually a gift to mom! Not to worry, Melissa had already received her share of motherly appreciation from her children, including lunch to her favorite Chinese restaurant, and she had had her fill of "love" from them. Going to a children's movie these days for me is like looking for a needle in a haystack; find a theater NOT showing it in 3D coupled with a time that suits our schedule and is for the matinĂ©e price. I know why the movie companies want to pump all of these kids movies out in 3D, they charge $4 or $5 dollars more for them, cha ching! The little ones end up taking off their glasses or smudging them beyond usability with greasy popcorn fingers anyway, so the extra cost and "experience" is certainly not worth it. I can actually buy the popcorn for the price difference, sheesh!

The movie was cute enough and I'm sure there are plenty of good summaries regarding the story line and the main characters, the animals. I however was keenly focused on one of the non-animal characters playing a key role. You see there was an orphaned street boy that was being paid to steal exotic animals. At one point, the bad men (after paying him 1/2 of what they had promised him for stealing the birds in the first place) told him to get lost, to go home to mom and dad. He told them he didn't have a mom or dad, or no home to return to. To which they slammed the door in his face and the boy makes his way to a lean to overlooking the splendor of Rio. While the boy did play a redemptive part in the movie by helping the good doctor and bird owner rescue their birds, this orphaned street boy was not rescued. In fact, the movie ends with his ongoing daily plight unresolved. While my boys will not have realized this, it stuck with me like a serious case of heartburn (which I did have Monday after too much popcorn). At one point he was asked, why he would do such a thing; steal the birds that is? He replied something about how he knew it was wrong, but he just needed some money. 

I couldn't help but think of E and F and what they might be doing in Guatemala City and Hohhot at some point if God had not brought them to us. We've seen glimpses of what many of the boys end up doing in Guatemala City if left to the streets and it's not a pretty sight. In fact, Melissa and I were just talking about his gentle spirit the other day and how he would struggle mightily on the "streets". Getting to see the movie this week was also timely for me as I'm blessed to be attending the Summit VII conference being put on by Christian Alliance for Orphans this week ( In the midst of all that has been raging around us after the storms, this has helped me begin to focus on what God has in store over the next 3 days regarding His calling of orphan advocacy for me and Melissa. Through conferences and awareness opportunities like this, I can only pray we help find as many redemptive opportunities as we can for the children like the orphaned boy in RIO.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

You have 17 volunteers? No, 70!

Yesterday was a day I'm sure many from our church will not forget. We were allowed the opportunity to help in part of the clean up in Pratt City, one of the worst hit areas in Birmingham. Our church had done a little immediately after the tornado rampage on 4/27 that left so much destruction across a large swath of the Alabama landscape, but this was the first big organized attempt at getting deep into the community.

We had finally been able to get a bit organized and in touch with some relief groups in order to be able to bring a group of willing volunteers into an area in dire need. We didn't want to be one of those groups just showing up and getting in the way. The guys carrying big guns don't seem to care too much for that these days! I just happened to be the lay person asked to be an organizer for this Saturday trip with one of our youth leaders. When we got to the staging area in Pratt City I found the volunteer sign in location and began the process of getting our group signed in. It was chaotic to say the least but everyone was trying to be patient and helpful. Once they understood I had a large group out front they finally just gave me the clip board and asked me to get everyone's name down. I had originally thought we had about 40 people maybe when we lef the church parking lot. After we got everyone to put their information down, I counted 72 people that had caravanned out to help! The ladies attempting to get people signed in about fell out of their chairs when I brought the 2 pages of names back. One of them finally looked at me and exclaimed, "Praise Jesus!"

One of the ministers directing volunteers to head out (usually in groups of 4 or 5) was finally notified I had our group out front and ready. He kept thinking they were saying we had 17 volunteers ready to go. I kept saying, no we have 70. After restating this at least twice, he finally said, "oh crap". Then he asked, "do you have chainsaws?" Once I said yes, we have 4 or 5, his face lit up and said, "follow me"! We then regrouped our 70 folks with chainsaws and tools in hand, and he led us on a car caravan past the police and national guard barricades to the farthest part of the residential area that had not yet been cleared of trees and said "GO"!

We met some wonderfully nice families who expressed heart felt appreciation for the assistance. It was a bit overwhelming at first to see such destruction. We learned that whatever can get cut and hauled to the street will be removed within the next 30 days. After this, anything left will be up to the individuals to deal with. So we worked as diligently as we could with all of the leg work we had to get as much as we could to the street for these people. We got to hear their stories, let them talk, hug on them, and pray with them. It was a good day. Below are some images (click on each for larger versions) from what I have started to call the Covenant Presbyterian axe men.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tornadoes Part Dos

Ok so I never would have dreamed I'd be posting again about tornadoes, and certainly not 2 weeks apart! Unless you've been under a rock for the last week you are fully aware of the massive tornado outbreak last Wednesday.

As can be seen by this Google Maps overlay, it was a busy day to say the least!

It was a looooong day that began at 4 a.m. Melissa and C had to be put on a bus at school for a choir trip to Orlando for 4 days so I took them to school and dropped them off. About 5:30 or so the tornado sirens began blaring again and we lost power around 6 and the first wave of serious winds and weather ripped through an area about 3 or 4 miles from here. It then cleared up and was fairly decent for a large part of the day, until late afternoon. We spent all day on the front porch and playing outside because we had no power and could only get weather updates on the radio in the car. It turned into an entire day of listening to the inevitable headed our direction. Things finally exploded around 5 in Tuscaloosa. We didn't have any way to fix dinner and I knew we had about an hour so we rushed down the road to where they had power and grabbed some Arby's. Just as we were leaving the sirens sounded again and we raced home in time to listen to the massive destruction via the radio skirt by downtown Birmingham. Once I heard the all clear for our neighborhood I threw the gang in the car and drove up to Vestavia drive because I knew we'd be able to see the once in a lifetime tornado over the mountain tops. Here is how wide it was:
We watched it cross the entire way across the Birmingham metro area and out of sight on into Northeast Alabama. It was surreal knowing what was happening under the mile or so wide swath of destruction.

Since then it's been a whirlwind of activity, information, and support for the entire Alabama family. It's been amazing to see the faith based organizations and churches step up to the plate and swing into action. So far it's been a model that when fully exposed will likely dumbfound much of the country and our government as to what is going on between neighbors. Twitter and Facebook have been abuzz with needs, needs being met, mobilization of resources, distribution points, etc... It's been an amazing thing to be a part of as the social media tools have seriously expedited the relief efforts. Even during the storms because we had no power, I could get some cell service and was able to stay abreast of the situation via the constant flurry of Twitter updates as these storms ravaged across the Alabama landscape all throughout the day.

I'm thankful to say the Freeman abode had no further damage in this round, our roof has been repaired from the last tornado whacking, and now we are on to repairing the fences, yard, and storage house. I hope to not be writing about any further tornado events in the near future.