8.24.2015

Get This Book: Sunny Side Up

[image: Light blue book cover
with Sunny Side Up in white text
above an illustration of a blonde
little girl in a pink bathing suit
lying on a pool raft.]
The kids and I are long-time fans of Jennifer and Matt Holm's graphic novels Babymouse and Squish. So we are extra-excited about their new non-Babymouse, non-Squish graphic novel Sunny Side Up, about a ten-year-old girl, Sunny, whose planned idyllic friends-filled summer is upended when she suddenly and without explanation goes instead to stay with her grandfather in a Florida retirement community.

Sunny Side Up is full of the characteristic Holm humor -- with bonus alligators (it does take place in Florida). I actually read it when my kids and I were staying with their own grandparent -- my mother (though she lives in a condo, not a colony). I laughed quite a few times when I read it, as did Mali (who read it several times), and even my mom snorted at several passages, and wondered aloud how the author captured those humorous aspects of retirement culture so well.

But the book is more than humorous. Sunny's simmering bewilderment eventually reveals much more about the complexities and often undiscussed aspects of being a younger sibling to a teen. (To tell you more would be spoiling the ending.) But this is YA territory,  framed thoughtfully and gently for younger kids in similar situations, so they can hopefully better understand their own complex lives, and feel less alone.

But enough about my opinion -- I'm not the target audience. Here's  Mali's review of the book*.



TRANSCRIPTION

"So, this is Jennifer Holm’s new book, she’s in collaboration with her brother Matthew Holm like she always is for everything. Jennifer L. Holm writes the story and Matthew Holm does the art.

"So this story is about a girl who has been shipped off to Florida to spend time with her grandfather, but she doesn’t know why, and the whole story is about her understanding why she was shipped off to Florida instead of going to a beach house in the Bahamas with her best friend.

"Two things I like about this book is …[1)] it was written by Jennifer Holm. and she’s one of my favorite authors, and 2) is it might help people with something that’s at the end … I won’t spoil it …

"And so the reason I think people should read this book is because it’s a great story, and it will help people if they read it, and if they’re in an alien state or country and they need to try to fit in or something … they can learn to be themselves."

----

*Disclosure: Mali is bosom buddies with Jenni's eldest. The first version of this video review recommended that you get the book because her friend's mom wrote it. But we read, and I wrote glowing reviews, of Jenni's books before we even met her.

8.19.2015

This Girl Is a High School Senior

[image: white teen with long dark blonde hair
wearing a black dress and black backpack.
Photo used with express permission]
This girl is a high school senior. As of yesterday.

This girl is going to take her driver's license test tomorrow.

When I first started writing at this site, this girl was in preschool, and her teachers' biggest concern was that she liked to write sentences in maze format instead of linear format.

Currently, this girl is planning to ask her teachers for  recommendation letters for her college applications.

You'll be glad to know that some things have not changed. Here is what this girl had to say about our country's highest ranking GOP member in 2004:
[image: Child's writing, green ink on a white background
reading, "George Bush is, a big fat liar."]
She is more articulate and detailed about her political beliefs eleven years later, but that statement is still pretty much where she is today.

Regardless, this mom is in shock.

8.13.2015

Get Inspired, Donate Vaccines, and Save Lives for Blogust 15!

Blogust is Shot@Life's annual August campaign*, during which each of your social media shares with a #Blogust tag triggers the donation of a life-saving vaccine for a child in need.

Blogust is also one of my favorite times of year. Because it's something I can do. Because as a parent of three kids and a writer, I too often find myself with very little time to make the kind of differences in the world I want to make.

But Blogust makes that so easy. It allows me to do what Malala Yousafzai told me and a group of Bay Area Digital Leaders a few weeks ago, when we attended the ceremony to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter:

"Do not wait for someone else to come and speak for you.
It's you who can change the world."

Malala Yousafzai speaking at the #UN70 Celebration in San Francisco
[image: Teen Pakistani girl wearing a colorful scarf over her head and
shoulders, speaking into a microphone. On her right is white overlaid text
reading "Do not wait for someone else to come and speak for you.
It's you who can change the world."]
My kids were furiously jealous that I got to see Malala in person, but also inspired by what she had to say. Some of those kids are active on social media, so that means that they can invoke Malala's indefatigable drive to make the world a better place, and contribute in this very appropriate way: by liking and sharing #Blogust posts.

I hope you'll participate by liking and sharing #Blogust posts for the rest of the month, too.

Why should you participate? Well, as per the Shot@Life site:
"Vaccines save lives. Millions of children could be spared from measles, pneumonia, diarrhea, polio and other preventable diseases if we could simply get them the vaccines they need. Many children in developing countries lack access to vaccines — often because they live in hard-to-reach communities. The good news is access to vaccines has grown significantly in the last decade. Vaccines currently help save 2.5 million children from preventable diseases every year. With your help, global vaccination programs implemented by our partners can stop the 1.5 million unnecessary deaths that still happen every year, and ensure that all children, no matter where they live, have a shot at a healthy life."
So share, tweet, and like every #Blogust social media post you possibly can. You can also read and share all the participants' original posts, as well as see the vaccines donations ticker -- 37,000 at the time of this writing -- at www.blogust.org.

It's you who can change the world. It's #Blogust that makes it easy to change the world. What are you waiting for?

----

*During Shot@Life's Blogust 2015—a month-long blog relay—some of North America's most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share inspirational quotes for their children. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or take action using the social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, one vaccine will be donated to a child around the world (up to 50,000).

8.03.2015

It's Blogust! Time to Give Kids a Shot@Life!

It's Blogust! That time of year, that annual August period when life-saving advocacy couldn't be easier for good people like you to take part in. When Shot@Life donates a life-saving vaccine to a child in need every time you share the #Blogust tag on public social media (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter).

The tl;dr version?

One #Blogust Comment, One #Blogust Share or One #Blogust Like = One Vaccine 

The just-the-facts version:

  • Humanitarian: A child dies every 20 seconds because they don't have access to life-saving vaccines, and 1 in 5 children lacks access to vaccines. Plus, immunizations save the lives of 2.5 million children, each year.
  • Public Safety: Measles infects 95% of the unvaccinated people who encounter a carrier; polio is only a plane ride away from returning to the United States. And babies can't be vaccinated in against measles in their first year of life. To keep ourselves safe, we must help eradicate vaccine-preventable disease in the rest of the world.
  • Cost-savings: The costs of eradicating smallpox are more than recouped by an annual savings of the one billion dollars that would have been needed for treatment, etc. And we're so close to eliminating polio! The current goal for a polio-free world is 2018, and it's reachable.
The How You Can Help Right Now version:
To kick off #Blogust, the @ShotAtLife team will be hosting a Twitter party on August 3 from 1-2 p.m. ET. We would love to see you there - every tweet with #Blogust or @ShotAtLife during this hour equals one vaccine for a child around the world
And since the subject of autism still (still!) comes up sometimes when we're trying to save lives with vaccines, I've compiled a Pinterest page on Busting Autism-Vaccine Myths. Please feel free to use it as a resource, or let me know about any resources I'm missing.

8.02.2015

At SF City Hall the Day the UN Turned 70, SCOTUS Formalized Marriage Equality, and Malala Spoke

June 26th was a day to be at San Francisco City hall. I was invited to attend the UN70 ceremony to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter as part of the Bay Area Digital Leaders initiative, which was thrilling enough -- I knew we'd get to see UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and SF's own Mayor Ed Lee speak. I was honored to witness such recounting of history, listen to such people, and be present during such a milestone.

And then, the morning of the ceremony, SCOTUS ruled that marriage equality was the new law of our land. Much happy hollering happened at our house, I can assure you. Though I arrived at City Hall after the morning's celebratory rally, I still got to see many jubilant people getting married (or celebrating the ability to get married) without worrying that their marriage might be delegitimized by my fine state -- or any other in our more perfect union.

And then, during the gorgeous UN70 ceremony, Malala Yousafzai made a surprise appearance. It turned out she was actually sitting right next to me, just around a pillar on the balcony overlooking the ceremony. And then Malala came and gave a surprise talk to our Bay Area Digital Leaders crew afterward. I was ten feet away from Malala, twice in one day. I nearly swooned, both times.

As you may imagine if you know me, processing such events took a while, which is why I'm only writing about it now. For full details about UN70, I recommend the official UN70 site. But if you want to see my pictures -- and to see my video and read my transcription of Malala's talk, keep scrolling.

(So much wow.)

The UN70 Ceremony
[image: Atrium of San Francisco City Hall, seen from the second floor balcony,
with floor and balconies full of people of all ages, races, and genders.
An iron-railed staircase is lined with flags of different nations and a boys choir,
and leads to a large light blue draped rectangle featuring the white UN logo.]
The UN70 ceremony featured a number of surprise guests, such as our very own Governor, Jerry Brown, who reminisced about being a child in the audience when the UN Charter was first signed. Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and UN Foundation founder and chairman Ted Turner were also sitting in the front row.

Governor Jerry Brown addressing the crowd
[image: balding white man wearing a suit,
speaking into a microphone at a podium,
to a large audience, next to a collection
of international flags.]
UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon was charming and inspiring, in delivering his message of the importance of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations:
"Every day, the United Nations makes a positive difference for millions of people: vaccinating children; distributing food aid; sheltering refugees; deploying peacekeepers; protecting the environment; seeking the peaceful resolution of disputes and supporting democratic elections, gender equality, human rights and the rule of law."
UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon
[image: Korean man with short black hair
and glasses wearing a dark suit,
speaking into a microphone at a podium,
next to a collectionof international flags.]
And then, the Secretary-General gestured up to near where I was sitting, and said something about welcoming a Very Special Guest. The crowd started roaring. I couldn't hear exactly what he was saying due to the din, so peeked around the pillar to my left -- and this is who I saw:

Malala Yousafzai and entourage
[image: teen Pakistani girl wearing a
colorful headscarf and outfit, seen in profile,
seated at a balcony amidst a row of other people.]
Yes, that is Malala Yousafzai, 2014 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Reader, I nearly fainted.

And if that wasn't enough of an honor, Malala joined UN and UN Foundation officials Cristina Gallach, Maher Nasser, and Aaron Sherinian, in addressing we fortunate attendees of the Bay Area Digital Leaders reception. 

Mr. Nasser, who is Palestinian, spoke to us about how one of the reasons he supports and works for the UN is because he spent part of his childhood as a refugee, and was educated in UN Schools. And Malala spoke about the importance of not waiting for anyone but you to start making a change in the world, as well as on behalf of global human rights and personal responsibility. She also echoed some of the statements I recently made about iPads and like tech, in terms of understanding that such advances are not available to all students, and that life-changing tech needs to adapt and be beneficial under low tech circumstances. My video and transcription of Malala's talk is below.

I hope she will leave you as inspired as she and the entire UN70 day left me.

Cristina Gallach, Maher Nasser, Malala Yousafzai, and Aaron Sherinian
[image and video description: A teen Pakistani girl, wearing a colorful hijab,
talking into a microphone, to a crowd of people recording her with
smart phones. She is accompanied by a Spanish woman with
chin-length brown hair; a Palestinian man with close-shaven dark hair,
and a tall white American man with short black hair]



TRANSCRIPT

AARON SHERINIAN:

We ask for some words from you.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI:

Thank you so much all of you, it’s a great opportunity to be here and meet the young generation with wonderful ideas about how to use technology in this mission of raising voices and speaking up for education, and equality, and human rights. And I think it is important that you are all here, and trying to help, and trying to discover how you can use technology in this process.

Because sometimes people ask me, “Why don’t you speak up for that country, why don’t you raise your voice for this issue.” And the message that I always give is:

You have to do it.

Do not wait for someone else to come and speak for you. It’s you who can change the world.

Nor was Martin Luther King Jr. waiting for someone else to speak against racism and discrimination in society, nor was Nelson Mandela waiting. They did it themselves.  And now we need to believe in ourselves; we need to believe in the power we have — the power of voice. And we need to stand up for our rights, and say that we can bring change in the world.

Unfortunately, there are many truths in the world such as people are being discriminated, women are not being given full rights in many countries, and they are not being given the opportunities to do what many can do. So it’s time we speak up for them, we hear their voices, and we help girls to go to school. And this has been the one thing we have been trying to do — it is my mission to see every child going to school. But for now I am focusing on secondary education, because I believe that secondary education is so important. Our world leaders, they only think about primary education.

[few seconds missing, your inept operator accidentally hit ‘stop’ on the camera.]

We have bigger dreams we can achieve — our achievements can be bigger. And that’s why we’ve set our development goals. We have done our best and are still continuing to try to make sure that families get quality education, and free and compulsory secondary education should be included in that, so that both girls and boys do not get deprived of this opportunity, and the chance to go to college, and to discover their full potential.

So we are hoping that you will support us in this campaign, and technology — again — can play a part in all of it. We all together, joining this movement, can bring change, and you can bring great inspiration, to the whole world. And you might believe it or not, but there are children in the poor countries who are waiting and hoping that someone will help them one day — and that is you, and that is one of us who are studying here, who is going to do something.

It’s the modern age. It’s the Twenty-First Century. But unfortunately there are still those living as though before the 19th century. So it’s important that technology is introduced there. And you might think, “well, how could I help a child there with an iPad or a phone or something like that — but we need to think: does the child know anything about an iPad? Has the child *seen* this technology? So before thinking of technology and how it can be important for education, we need to make sure that children in developing countries know about it, and how it can be powerful in helping them with education, and raising awareness, and spreading the message about equality and human rights.

So I’m hopeful that you will have wonderful ideas, and I support you all, and thank you once again.

—-

AARON SHERINIAN: 

Is there a message that a girl somewhere should hear from you on this day in San Francisco?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI:

A girl in a developing country — or a developed country — should be really proud, and should be really hopeful that there are these people thinking about their future, and trying to help them. Because when it comes to women’s rights, it does not depend on which country you live — there is discrimination in almost every country.

So to that girl, to give them hope, she should know that there’s going to be a campaign for her equality, for her education, for her rights, and she should not lose hope that she’ll be discriminated against in society. Because we are here to study with her and allow her to raise her voice, and have this right to a quality education.

8.01.2015

Things You Should Eat: Nutella on Tortilla Chips

For a very long time -- about twenty years -- I firmly believed a Digestive biscuit with a swipe of Nutella was one of the best things a person could ever hope to eat.

With good reason: back when I lived in Ghana as a college exchange student and factory-made sweets weren't always easy to find, we could usually get Digestive biscuits (and Walker's shortbread, another Achilles heel of mine) from street vendors. While the biscuits were a treat on their own, what my fellow exchange students and I truly lusted was Nutella to put on them. We weren't able to find Nutella easily in 1990, nor was it a reasonable purchase (about $20/jar at specialty import stores, if I recall correctly). But we would occasionally pool our funds, buy a single jar, and huddle in a pack, eating our Digestives with this ambrosia on top.

(Of course once I returned home to the U.S., I lusted after no-longer-available Ghanaian specialties, like kelewele and fufu and kenkey. I should have appreciated them more at the time. And I craved them -- and the company of my Ghanaian friends -- so much I've been back to Ghana twice. But I digress.)
[image: round sweet Digestive biscuit with a swipe of
dark brown chocolate Nutella.]

My current ability to have Nutella around whenever I like has never ceased to delight me. (My family shares this sentiment, thought not for the same reasons.) Nutella on hand also pleases most visiting children.

And sometimes those kids surprise me. Like when when of Mali's friends insisted I try Nutella on tortilla chips. In hindsight, the scrumptiousness of the combination shouldn't have surprised me -- my favorite chocolate bar has cornflakes in it, after all. And it helps that we generally have good, thick chips on hand -- I won't have Doritos or Tostitos or bulk Costco crap in THIS house. (If you have access to good corn tortillas, you can even make your own chips.)


[image: triangular yellow-brown tortilla chip
with a swipe of dark brown Nutella.]
With those good tortilla chips, this combination is pure deliciousness. Even better than Nutella on Digestives, a phrase I previously considered inconceivable. Trust me. Try it. Then come back and tell me what you think.

7.20.2015

Let's Get Away From It All: Local Beach Version

Things have been a bit stress bombish than usual over here lately. Shocker, for a house with two teens and one tween, I know. So I was even more grateful than grateful when Leo and I found ourselves by ourselves a few days ago, with a free afternoon to boot.

We bolted for the Coast, as we do every chance we get. And we went to our favorite beach. And we lolled in the sun-warmed pebbles at our favorite beach. (By "we" I do not mean only Leo. I mean I took the photo below as I was also lolling, alongside Leo.)

[image: white teen boy with curly brown hair lying on
his side on a pebbled beach, seen from the top of his head,
with the ocean, clouds, and blue sky in the background.]
And we ran our hands through the beautiful warm pebbles, marveling at how they felt when they slipped through our fingers, or changed temperature to a surprising coolness a few inches below the surface.

[image: close up of a pinkish thumb and forefinger,
and lots of multi-colored pebbles.]
We stayed until Leo felt it was time to go, as we had nowhere else to be. Nowhere else to be! Such a luxury, for we two typically overscheduled reprentatives of our almost always overscheduled family of five.

[image: White teen boy wearing a blue t-shirt and
beige shorts, seen from behind, walking along a beach
lined by small bluffs.]

Since you weren't there, I got you a souvenir. Here is a sixty-second video of the ocean being lovely and soothing for us. Pull this out of your pocket whenever you need a virtual seashore visit.

[video description: sixty seconds of ocean waves rolling on
and off the beach at a small cove surrounded by bluffs & rocks.]

6.26.2015

Today: The 70th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter

[Image: Dark blue square with an image of the UN headquarters
in the background, white text superimposed, reading:
"United Nations: 70 Years Promoting Peace and Progress
 #UN70" followed by the United Nations Foundation logo]
I am thrilled, delighted, and honored to be on my way to City Hall in San Francisco right now, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter, along with UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and SF's own Mayor Ed Lee.

And I am more than a little bit bowled over to be one of 70 invited Bay Area Digital Leaders. You can witness my being wowed, as well as my coverage of the ceremony, in real time on Twitter @shannonrosa, if you like. And you can follow coverage at #UN70 and #UNdiscovered. See you on the other side.

More information about why the UN matters, this amazing event, and what we're celebrating and commemorating today: 

"On June 26, 1945, representatives of 50 nations gathered in San Francisco and signed the United Nations Charter. From that moment on, the Bay Area has played a critical role in advancing the mission and values of the United Nations. As the UN confronts today’s challenges and seizes tomorrow’s opportunities, each of us can play a role in supporting its work."



See 70 years of UN highlights in photos!
Spring Returns to UN Headquarters in New York
[image: Daffodils in bloom surround the sculpture
“Arrival” by John Behan.]

6.25.2015

Haircuts Both Miraculous and Useful

This is for posterity. Two haircut milestones.

First: Witness what Leo's level of comfort and familiarity with our local hair salon and local stylists means: He, his sister Mali, and I all got our hair cut together. At the same time. When Leo was done his stylist handed him his iPad, and suggested he go sit in a chair and wait for me. Which ... Leo did. Patiently. Like the mature teen dude he is.
[image: hair salon panorama: white tween girl with brown hair getting her hair cut
by an Asian woman with long wavy dark brown hair; Asian woman with
shoulder-length black hair cutting the hair of a white woman with red hair
who is holding a turquoise smart phone in front of her face, and white teen boy with
short dark brown hair getting his hair cut by an Asian man with short black hair.]
And here are the before-and-afters for Mali. I think her new 'do is fetching, but her reasoning for this shortest-ever cut is both practical, and tactical -- she wanted a style that would not catch in her Bo staff during karate practice. A girl's gotta have her priorities.
[image: white tween girl
wearing glasses and a blue
t-shirt that reads "RAWR!!"
in pink letters, with chin-length
dark brown curly hair.]
[image: (same) white tween girl
wearing glasses and a blue
t-shirt that reads "RAWR!!
MEANS I LOVE YOU"
in pink & yellow letters,
with ear-length
dark brown curly hair.]

5.30.2015

Parents New to Autism: Don't Fall for Pseudoscience like DAN! or MAPS.

This is an edited-for-privacy version of an article I posted on an autism parenting board this morning, in response to a parent asking for advice about DAN! doctors.

----

One of the loveliest features of this group is the opportunity for parents who are new to the world of disability and autism is to hear from parents with many years of experience -- so those new parents can avoid some of the mistakes we veterans unwittingly made.

DAN! (or MAPS, or "biomedical" approaches to autism, doesn't really matter) is pseudoscience. That means it is poppycock but sounds "sciencey," so that parents who are given few answers for how to help their autistic child by the mainstream medical establishment, and who are often desperate to "fix" their autistic child because of negative media messages about autism, will grasp at such seemingly authoritative straws. Hence the need for such practitioners to mention Ivy League  credentials, etc., repeatedly.

Note that DAN! doctors don't usually take insurance. So, erm, what are the families who can't afford such treatment supposed to do? Don't you think that if DAN! ideas were truly effective they would be embraced by the mainstream medical establishment and the government so that children of all income backgrounds could benefit, not just those whose families have sufficient income (or houses to mortgage)?

Love my dude.
[Image: Woman with medium-length red hair and sunglasses
sharing an embrace with a boy with short brown hair
Both with beige skin.]
Don't fall for it. Autistic kids need your understanding, not fixing. Yes, they need to learn how to cope with the world. But they also need to you help change the world, make it accommodate them, so they don't become so traumatized by it that they can't learn, or enjoy life.

Here are some guidelines for identifying DAN!/MAPS and other autism pseudoscience:

...all autism approaches should mirror the physicians’ credo “First, do no harm.” But how do you determine when benefits outweigh potential damage? The pseudoscience so often promoted as “autism treatments” has a handful of consistent identifying characteristics. Ask yourself:
  • Does this practitioner or vendor promise miracles that no one else seems to achieve?
  • Is the person promising the outcome also asking me for money?
  • Do I find any scientific research supporting their claims, or are there only individual (often emotional) testimonials of effects?
  • Does the practitioner or vendor promise a blanket “cure” for unrelated disorders, such as grouping together allergies and autism; or autism and ADHD; or autism, diabetes, cancer, and allergies?
  • Does the practitioner or vendor have strong credentials as an expert in the therapies they’re promising, or in the field of autism?
Thinking critically is one of the most important actions we can take for those we love, and for ourselves.

From: http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/p/mission-statement.html
 
Here are some other resources for parents new to autism:
 
Good luck. You are not alone. So don't fall for anyone who tries to isolate you and turn you against the mainstream medical establishment -- while gladly taking your money.

-Shannon

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