Tuesday, December 21, 2010

True Life | I'm An Albino

True Life | I'm An Albino: "Zane, Jennie, and Zack are three young people who suffer from Albinism, a genetic condition where they have no pigment in their skin, hair or eyes."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Happy Birthday Baby

This morning Emerson climbed into bed with me and I whispered, "Happy Birthday - today you are four!" He looked suspicious. "It's not birthday time, it's Christmas time." I tried to explain that it was both his birthday AND Christmas time, but I think he was concerned about missing out on the whole Santa bringing presents thing.

Eventually we got him his favorite breakfast - pancakes at a local Coney - then he got to open a few presents and hear several sweet renditions of the Birthday Song on the phone from relatives and friends. By the end of the day, the reality of his birthday had fully sunk in and the conversation turned to cake. Since we already did a half birthday party complete with cake and candles this past summer, we kept it simple and stuck a single candle in a chocolate cupcake. He helped us sing the song while Fionn watched with a huge grin plastered on his face. (I can't tell if he was just so happy for his big brother, or if he has learned that singing Happy Birthday to anyone is always followed by eating cake.) Emerson announced "I LOVE this cake," ate off all the frosting, and then decided that he was ready for bed.

If you ask him how old he is, he laughs hysterically and says "2." I insist that he's four in public because hauling around two little kids with a giant pregnant belly leads to a lot of raised eyebrows and thinly-veiled disgust as complete strangers constantly ask me, "How far apart are they all?" I've been telling people I have a four and two year old for the past 6 months, so the actual transition to four years old hasn't been a huge leap. But on some level I just can't comprehend that I actually have a four-year-old, so maybe it just hasn't hit me yet.

In any case, his birth seems like a lifetime ago. Here is a gratuitous repost of his birth story, and a few pictures.

It's hard to believe I'm willingly doing it all over again in another month!

40 weeks pregnant. This seemed so big and painful at the time. I look exactly the same at 34 weeks pregnant now.

One of two birthday cakes that the hospital staff gave me while I was in labor on my birthday. It was so sweet - but it's true that hospital food is horrible.

Robbie helping me through a back contraction. I know it looks kinky. Trust me, it wasn't.

His big debut

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Lusse Natt

I'm all about traditions and family heritage and other such sappiness - especially this time of year. Now that the boys are getting old enough to begin to understand traditions, I decided it was time to celebrate the Scandinavian holiday Lusse Natt (Lussinatta, St. Lucia Day, St. Lucy Night - the names are numerous.)

The holiday began as an early Pagan celebration of a witch figure named Lussi who came out at night on December 13 (Winter Solstice according to the Julian calendar at the time). It was thought to be dangerous to be out in the dark between Lussi night and Yule (later called Christmas) because evil spirits like Lussi and her companions were active at this time. Households kept the spirits away by feasting and drinking at night, lighting candles, and finishing holiday preparations early. Children were warned not to be naughty or Lussi would come down the chimney and take them away. (She pre-dates the legend of St. Nicholas in case you're wondering.)

Later on, the Christians adapted the Pagan story of Lussi into the story of the martyr St. Lucia. According to one popular version of her story, she brought food to the persecuted Christians hiding out in the catacombs in Rome. To keep her hands free for carrying food, she wore a crown of candles in her hair.

Traditional St. Lucia Day celebration

No matter which version of the story you focus on, her name means "light" and the celebration represents the eternal struggle between darkness and light. This was a major theme in the brutal northern countries, so I suppose it was fitting that we spent our Lusse Natt trapped inside the house due to snow and below zero temperatures.

Normally the focus of the day is a morning procession led by the eldest daughter, who dresses up as St. Lucia and brings the parents a breakfast of coffee and Lussekater buns. But since we don't have a daughter to dress up yet, and since we are not exactly morning people, we put the focus on dinner. The day is often used to perform good deeds and/or deliver presents, but my plans for that also dissolved when the temperatures plummeted.

Instead, we spent the day baking cookies for Emerson's teachers and bus drivers (he loves to bake cookies almost as much as he loves to eat cookies). I was too lazy to get some saffron for the Lussekater, so instead I tried my hand at making a traditional Swedish cardamom bread. Despite a momentary panic attack when I couldn't remember how to do a simple braid, at least one out of the two loaves turned out looking the way it was supposed to. We gave that one as a gift to neighbors who lived in Sweden for many years and ate the ugly one ourselves.

In the traditional procession, boys dress up as Stjärngossar (Star Boys), so the boys used their creativity to color stars and I relied on Robbie's superior geometry skills to fashion rudimentary cone hats.

Before dinner we had a minor "procession" that mainly consisted of me throwing on their costumes and snapping pictures as quickly as possible before they were destroyed.

Emerson was convinced his hat was a birthday hat and kept singing the birthday song. Fionn ripped his hat and we broke two electric candles in less than 5 minutes, but all I cared about was documenting the moment. I figure at this age they don't remember much, but if I can show them pictures of it in years to come, they will form memories around the images instead. I mean think about it - whenever you look at pictures of vacations and events later on, you have much more positive feelings about it than you did when it was actually happening. At least I hope that's true for other people because I'm going to rely on it heavily during their childhood...

We ate a simple Scandinavian dinner of salmon with dill, cardamon bread, warmed glogg, and Pepparkakor (gingerbread biscuits). I cheated and bought the cookies instead of making them, but the various shapes they come in were a huge hit with the boys. It was a good thing they played with their polar bears and snowmen so much since it prevented them from downing a hundred cookies in one sitting.

I can't wait to make up a tiny candle crown for our daughter next year, and hopefully bring more meaning to the celebration for the boys. In the meantime, my hard work explaining Christmas this year has finally paid off. The boys have showed almost no interest, but then yesterday Emerson announced that "It's Christmas time and Santa brings us presents." When he started throwing balls down the stairs later on, I asked him to please stop. His temper has been atrocious the past couple weeks, so I was bracing for battle. Instead he considered the situation for a moment and then said, "Ok, I can't throw balls down the stairs. Santa brings us presents."

As much as I hate the fact that women do 90% of the work for the holidays and then give all the credit to some fat old white guy, there are times when I appreciate Santa Claus. A lot.

Speaking of holiday preparations, while I have been busy handling cards and shopping and wrapping, Robbie was busy doing this:

Ok, to be fair, he did (begrudgingly) help me put up the tree and decorate it. And he nodded when I would ask his opinion on gifts, but most of his festive energy went into this. His work had an "Ugly Christmas Sweater" contest, so not only did he buy an ugly sweater, he also hot glued ornaments and presents on it to make it 3D. Then he fashioned a portable light system to make the lights he glued on the collar actually glow.

Incidentally, while he was shopping for the sweater in Value World, he saw a woman standing in the aisle without any pants. Then he brought home his goods and made the final product without even washing the sweater first. Pray our family doesn't spend Christmas infested with...something.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nothing Says "Happy Holidays" Like Sunscreen!


We are collecting sunscreen to donate to people with albinism in Tanzania, so if you were thinking of buying our family a gift, please consider a donation of sunscreen instead. We will collect local donations and send in one shipment, or if you aren't local, the direct shipping instructions are below.


Skin cancer is the # 1 killer of persons with albinism (PWA) in Tanzania, most dying between the ages of 30 - 40. There are tens of thousands of PWA in Tanzania alone, and yet it is almost impossible to purchase a bottle of sunscreen there. Even if it could be found, the SPF is inadequate and the cost prohibitive for the average Tanzanian. UTSS is having difficulty keeping up with the need of our 300 plus ESF students, let alone the numerous PWA that regularly visit our office in Dar es Salaam.

- No aerosol containers can be shipped.
- A minimum SPF (sun protection factor) of 35 - higher is better
- All bottles must be new and unopened
- Please seal each bottle in a Ziploc bag before shipping

US mailing address:
Under The Same Sun
c/o Mike's Parcel Pickup
183 W. Stutsman Street
Pembina, ND 58271-4100

NOTE: Once goods arrive at either of the above addresses, they will be shipped via secure transport to the UTSS office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for distribution to people with albinism.


Monday, December 6, 2010

At Least I'm Not Alone

The great name debate has me totally exhausted, but according to this article my mom sent me, apparently I'm not the only neurotic one.

Baby names reveal more about parents than ever before
Did you spend hours obsessing over what to name your child? Time well spent, experts say -- names communicate a wealth of social information, now more than ever