Thursday, June 9, 2011

Innocent Determination

There have been so many times when I've questioned my ability as a mother. 

These are the times when I wait until Imani goes to bed and I call my own mom and cry, wishing I could quit this job called motherhood.

And then there are times when I know I've done something right and I wouldn't trade this job for anything else in the world.

My sister's friend Dre is a person who Imani has always really liked.  What's not to like -- she's fun and energetic and a genuinely good person.  She's spent a few holidays with my family, since she's from the West Coast and couldn't always make it home for holidays.  I remember one time Dre came to visit us for Halloween. I was throwing a Halloween party for Imani and Dre dressed as a witch and played games with all of the kids.   She was a big hit.

Imani was sad when Dre moved back to the West Coast several years ago.  But thanks to social networking like Facebook, we can see how Dre is doing. 

Imani was extremely shocked and upset when she read on Facebook that Dre's brother, Matt, was diagnosed with cancer.  She saw that Dre had set up an online drive to raise money to help Matt B. with his expenses. 

She saw that we donated for the cause.

She saw that my sister donated for the cause.

She said nothing.

But instead of using her online time to play "Club Penguin," she began using her online time to check the Matt B vs Cancer website to see if he had reached his goal.  Matt B. needed to raise $83,000 to cover his medical expenses, and although the donations were coming in, Imani was noticing that the donation bar was still far from reaching the goal at the top.

She started mentioning Matt B. almost daily, despite the fact that she'd never met him.  She read his online biography and discovered that he was blind at 22 months old yet still went on to be a music major in college and play the guitar.

Imani wanted to help Matt B reach his goal.  She tried to put together a fundraising effort for her school where each grade would bring in change and compete to fill up a jar.  Whichever grade raised the most money would win a pizza party.

But her principal wouldn't let her hold the fundraiser because no one knew Matt and it wasn't relevant for the whole school.

So Imani went back to the drawing board.  Several of her friends gave her money and she made a jar in her room where she put their donations.  She started putting her own money in the jar too.

Meanwhile, Jason and I were busy preparing for Noah's arrival and we thought maybe Imani's determination would pass.  After all, we had already given a donation and Imani didn't really know Matt B. personally.  It's not that we didn't want to help. We just didn't realize she was all that serious.

But our 10 year old had something to teach us -- that being passionate about helping someone doesn't stop at one donation.  It doesn't stop when someone tells you you cannot conduct a fundraiser in their school.  And it doesn't stop when your parents are preoccupied with a pregnancy.

Imani called Aunt D to find out what she could do to raise money for Matt B.  Aunt D sent a myriad of ideas, most of which involved dance parties, pool parties, or other large groups of kids at my house -- to which I said:

 "Bad Idea."

"Bad idea."

Hmmmmm  . . . . "Bad idea."

But one idea struck Imani and was acceptable to both of her parents:  a benefit concert.

So while Jason and I were busy picking out baby names and putting together a nursery, Imani continued to save her pennies in a jar in her bedroom for Matt B. 

But she also started planning a concert.  She put together a list of songs she'd play on the violin and she asked her violin teacher if she would accompany her on the piano. 

She started creating a program for the concert even though she didn't have a venue at which to play.

Months passed.  The jar continued to get heavier with change.

My belly continued to grow.

On the other side of the country Matt B. continued treatments for cancer.


And the donation bar on Matt B's fundraising website still looked far away from $83,000.

Imani started asking me questions -- serious questions, like what happened to Matt B if he didn't get the money he needed?  Was there any other way she could help him?

I saw her passion and dedication and I knew I had to help her wrap up those final details so that the concert could take place.

I reached out to our church to see if they would allow us to use the sanctuary for the benefit concert.
They generously waived the $700 space rental fee.

I helped Imani finalize the program and we called a local newspaper to get an ad placed to announce the concert.  I was shocked when, instead of an ad, the newspaper decided to do a story on the concert.  It made the front page! You can read about it here.

We sent out emails to the PTA list serv, Imani's violin school list serv, and we created an "event" on Facebook.

Imani asked a couple of her friends to play songs on piano for the concert too.  One little girl agreed and this Saturday, she will join Imani in her concert titled "Healing Through Music" in an effort to raise money for someone they have never met.

  Imani has been practicing every day; she's playing more than a dozen songs at the event.


I know she doesn't feel like practicing every day, especially when the weather is hot and there is a pool in her backyard.

I watch her with the violin held high;

I look at the signs she created by hand that aren't as neat as I'd like but were created with great thought and detail nonetheless

and I look at that jar in her bedroom filling up with change

and I know that as a mom, I've done something right.

For more information on Matt B. or to make a donation, visit and click on the PayPal button.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Learning to Plant

We've been busy here trying to get our landscaping under control.  In the past few years of fixing up this little Cape, we haven't even begun to address the yard until this year (unless you count putting mulch around trees).

Part of the problem is that neither Jason nor I really know what we're doing.  A couple of years ago we went out and bought a whole bunch of shrubs and plants in an effort to give our home a little more curb appeal.

Imagine our horror when we woke up and found nearly all of the plants had been eaten by the deer that roam our neighborhood.

We did learn that deer don't like peonies.

Or Irises

So this year, now that we have our pool fenced in, we figured we could plant some things that aren't deer resistant with the hope that the deer won't jump our small fence.

We enlisted the help of our friend Kelby, who once worked for his father's landscaping company.  Maybe you remember Kelby . . . he's the guy who knows how to do EVERYTHING and has helped teach Jason every step of the way in our remodeling our home. 

We owe him our next child.


Kelby helped us pick out plants and then showed us where we should plant them.  That, to me, is the hardest part of landscaping.  I know what plants I like but then when we plant them, they don't look right.  They look like a bunch of random plants stuck in the ground in no particular order.  I've discovered there is a real art to where and how to arrange plants. 

And we're still not good at it, so anyone with any advice . . . let us have it!

Anyway, Jason's been busy trying to get all of the plants in the ground around the pool and then filling the area with stone. I can't wait to show you all the work when it's finished.

In this quest for landscaping around our pool, we came up short on plants, even though we spent a small fortune . . . as in $1000 on plants . . .

So I did what any logical woman would do . . . I started asking friends for plants and I posted an ad on Freecycle.  (Do you have a where you live?  It's an AMAZING service!)

I've discovered that gardeners are some of the most generous people I've ever come across. I've been amazed by all of the plants people are willing to divide up and donate to our yard.

And although I'm getting a hodgepodge of plants and I have no idea how to arrange any of them, I like knowing that they came from someone else's hands, someone who cared enough to share them with us. They are an extension of strangers and friends whose soil nourished them from seedlings.

And now we will  plant them in our yard for the next journey of their lives and (hopefully) watch them thrive so that we can one day divide them and give life to other barren yards.

I'm still figuring out what must be planted within the fenced area of the pool, and what will be safe outside of the fence where the deer roam freely.

Other than landscaping, Jason is still busy clipping coupons.  For those of you who thought the baby would slow him down, you were incredibly wrong.    I received a text today from Jason that said,
"I figured out the Rite Aid deal and we can get all that stuff for -$3.51!"

Nope, Baby Noah hasn't slowed the Coupon Cowboy down not one little bit.  Can you say name brand diapers for next to nothing?

I have been busy trying to get back into shape and I'm happy to say that my battle with the treadmill has been paying off.  I fit into my skinny jeans again!  Enough said.

Imani has been busy planning a benefit concert for a dear friend's brother who was diagnosed with cancer.  Although Imani's never met our friend's brother (they live on the West Coast), his battle with cancer has touched Imani's young heart so she has been busily preparing flyers, a program and working out other details for her violin concert this Saturday.  I'll post more about that later.

And Noah?  He's busy doing what babies do:  soaking up all that is around him and winning everyone over with his precious smile. 

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