Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Hi all!

I am back from a trip to Chicago. My brother-in-law got married in a unique and beautiful ceremony. You can read all about it and see pictures here and here.

Now onto some parenting news…

Are you a yeller? You are not alone. We discussed a New York Times story about how yelling is the new spanking. A poll cited in the article stated that as many as 88 percent of parents have yelled at their children. But no studies have been conducted to show whether this is harmful to kids.

Our Erika highlighted this MSNBC story about kids getting braces younger and younger. How old were your children when they got braces?

I am sure similar diaries have been posted here, but I thought I would mention to you that the Courage Campaign is seeking a few good volunteers to help fight the anti-gay marriage initiatives in various states and cities.

In somewhat related news, one of our front-page posters, Katie, is wondering whether she should change her last name when she marries her partner Kelly. It sparked a long discussion about women changing their last names — if at all — hyphenated names and everything you can possibly think of when it comes to choosing a last name. Ayayay!

Yet, in other LGBT news: The Scholastic Book Fairs banned books with gay and lesbian relationships, according to our contributing writer Dana. She and other moms on our site, who signed a petition, received a less than satisfying response from the company.  

Our Gloria highlighted this brow-raising article in Jezebel about mothers in their late 30s or early 40s being jealous of their teenaged daughters’ good looks. I am not there yet and found this article surprising and disturbing. What do you all think? Are you jealous of your gorgeous teenagers?

Attention Patrick Swayze fans: I reviewed the book Time of My Life. What a satisfying and quick read!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Like I said earlier today, I did see fellow MotherTalker Jenna and her beautiful family on our Chicago trip. Here is a picture of us with her adorable son Toby.

Here is another one of Ari and Avery. They were wild together! Here they are having a quiet moment.

It was such a great trip that DH and I were not ready to come home. We could have continued to hang out with friends and family the rest of the week.

What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: Bridal Shower Gift Ideas

Hey MotherTalkers,

My sister-in-law is having a bridal shower lunch this Sunday. I am flying to Chicago just for the lunch and then going home.

I am stumped for bridal shower gift ideas and could use some suggestions. Please keep in my mind I am buying two gifts — one from us and one from my mother-in-law.

I favor a gift card or some sexy apparel from Victoria’s Secret since I remember my own bridal shower being dotted by naughty (er) gifts. We do have a Good Vibrations here in Berkeley, but I am not sure this is appropriate for a lunch that will include SIL’s mother and other family.

What do you think? What would you give a hip, 20-something woman for her bridal shower?


One week later

We teetered on the edge for a while.  Should we go to the inauguration?  Should we skip it?  With 2 kids and a busy schedule it seemed nearly impossible to take the time to go, but we didn’t want to regret not going.  About a week before the inauguration pieces started falling into place, and we found tickets, time off, and a place to stay.  Grandma and Grandpa agreed to come and stay with DD1, which meant that we’d only have to drive with, and find babysitters for, DD2.  Yes, we told ourselves, it was meant to be.  We’d go.  

One week later, I am so glad we went.  It was so exciting to be in the middle of it all, but more importantly, perhaps, it brought closure to a big chapter of our lives that I hadn’t realized we needed.  As has been well reported in the media, the logistics of the inauguration were almost all consuming.  But in between picking up tickets, looking for cabs, and getting lost in crowds were moments of introspection and clarity that made it all worthwhile.  

I’m realizing now that what I will remember is not the hassle of going, but those little, emotional moments along the way.

Before we left, all was chaos and uncertainty.  We thought we probably had tickets to one ball.  And maybe dinner reservations with some friends.  We were staying with friends that promised places to stay, but were unclear about how many would be in their house.  Our babysitting plans came and went as the events that we would attend changed.  At the last minute, I stopped at a department store to buy a ball gown and accessories (I never dress up, so this was all new to me) and the sales lady, upon hearing that we were heading to DC, smiled at me and said, “I know that President-Elect Obama has a lot of work to do to get our economy on track.  But his election has already jump started our formalwear department”.  

Just like that, I was reminded that what I was not just checking off another box on an endless to do list.  Instead, I was going to witness and celebrate of the election of a man that I truly believe is the best person to address all this country has in front of it.  

Our drive to DC was plagued with bad weather and snow.  Our car was packed to the rafters as we essentially had to packfor the cold of a ski trip, the glitz and bling of a formal wedding, and added to the mix paraphernalia that goes with traveling with an infant.  We packed the bags that we use for 3 week vacations for the full family, and then piled on canvas bag after canvas bag.  We looked like the Joad family goes to DC.  

What I will remember from the drive was that nearly every vehicle that we passed, or that passed us, was draped in Obama/Biden stickers and signs.  We saw a rental RV with a handmade “Obama 2012” sign in the window, a Honda Fit loaded nearly to the ground with 4 adults packed tightly in among sleeping bags and pillows and Obama signs, a minivan of kids with Kansas plates.  At each rest stop people stopped to compare notes: “where are you from?”  “do you have tickets?”  “where are you staying?”  “how involved were you in the campaign?”.  The answers to the last question was always yes.  In some way, either through phone banking or donations or field office leadership, everyone had pitched in and was heading to DC for closure.  

On the border with PA/WV we stopped at a rural general store about a mile off the highway.  After we exchanged greetings with the other Inauguration pilgrims, a local man leaned in and asked DH, in a very heavy appalachian accent, if we were heading to the inauguration.  “Yes”, DH replied.  “Figgered” said the man, tucking a case of unfiltered cigarettes more tightly under his arm.  Then he nodded at us and said, “well, guess we’re finally getting rid of that dictator and getting ourself a real president.  Yes we are”.  Indeed.  

We got to DC late Sunday and on Monday, tessajp and I met for margaritas (oh, and lunch!).  We walked around the capitol and again, the crowds of people and the energy of the event struck me.  This was a pilgrimage for busloads of people, young and old, of all incomes and races.  The police didn’t quite seem to know what to do — they’ve seen crowds before, but typically they are protesting crowds, or angry crowds, crowds with a point to prove.  Celebratory crowds seemed to confuse everyone and the police expressions varied from confused to amused to outright bored.  

Monday night DH and I went out to dinner with some friends, and then to the Illinois Ball.  The highlight was dinner.  Most of the people at the table had been involved in the campaign in one way or another and initially the conversation centered around who had thought that Senator Obama had a snowballs chance, and when people had started to believe it could happen.  But after a while the conversation changed.  Many of the people at the table were black and had grown up in segregated South Carolina.  Again, the enormity of what was happening — to have friends at the table that had had FBI escorts to school, now to see Obama’s inauguration… wow.  

Tuesday we got up early and headed to the Capitol.  I was nervous as we tucked our phone numbers and details into DD’s snowsuit.  Was this the dumbest thing I’d ever done?  We had tickets to a reception in one of the buildings overlooking the mall, and DH had tickets to the ceremony.  As we walked to the reception I was struck by the orderliness of the crowds.  There were excitement and anticipation in the air, but the snippets of conversation that I heard were all logistics: “where are we meeting them?”, “do you have tickets”, “Have you seen mom?”, “have you spoken to him this morning?”,  “I’ve got the camera in my front pocket”.  Strange, but even now what I remember of that morning was the cold air and the quiet, business-like manner of the thousands of people all intent on being there.  

It wasn’t until the music started that I realized that the moment was upon us.  But even then, as I watched on CNN and from the reception windows, it all seemed surreal.  In part, it seemed like a very routine.  An anti-climactic conclusion to a huge event that we had been hoping to see for years.  But then a moment would come where the enormity of it all struck me.  We did it.  This was it.  He’s President.  

It didn’t really sink in entirely until Tuesday night.  We went to the Midwestern States Ball with a couple of friends, and after taking in the sights ($12 champagne, $75 tote bags, and a pretty good band), we found a place to stand near the empty stage that we hoped would be where the President spoke.  To our surprise, first Sheryl Crow came out (in formalwear, no less) and played for about 45 minutes.  I’ve spoked to people at other balls and I have to say, I’m delighted that we were at this one — Sheryl Crow is a concert I’d willingly get a ticket for, any day.  After that, the Flag People (seriously, there were flag people) came out and fluffed up the American Flag and the VP Flag.  Shortly thereafter, Joe and Jill Biden came out and spoke to the crowd.  And let me just say, Joe may be the happiest guy in DC.  All smiles and jokes and, of course, poetry, followed by a dance with his wife.  

Then, the waiting.  The Flag People returned to switch out the VP Flag for the Presidential Flag.  The military band arrived.  The Color Guard came out.  Some woman sang God Bless America.  And finally, the band struck up Hail to the Chief, and the Obamas came out.  Obama spoke to the crowd, they danced together, and for me, this is where it sunk in.  

Until now, Obama was my Senator.  When I first met him, it was at a fundraiser at a friend’s house, with wine from a box and little cubes of cheese from Costco.  He walked in through the front door like a normal guy, and spoke to us off the back porch.  At other events he mingled with people, shook hands, and listened carefully to what each person had to say.  A little over a year ago I saw him walking around downtown, by himself, with a baseball hat on as camouflage.  Now he travels with full protection at all times, people stand when he enters a room, and Hail to the Chief is played as he walks into a room.  I mean, holy.  cow.  He’s the President.  And I can’t think of a better person for the job.  

If you’ll indulge me, I feel like he’s left the nest.  I’m proud that he’s there, but I’m a little sad, too.  He’s not my Senator anymore.  And as much as I believe that he is the best person for the job, and as hard as we all worked to help get him there, I’m going to miss him a tiny bit.  

I can’t wait to see him in action.  



“Talk to the officers, Mr. Obama-hatin’ Supremacist.”

It’s the rush hour, and I’m muddling my way through traffic in my Subaru to pick up my son from his child care provider. Nobody’s loving their commute, really… especially the guy in the big SUV next to me as we exit the highway off-ramp. He speeds up to reach me, honking angrily.

So I roll down my window to figure out what he’s trying to tell me. This guy is quite angry! At me! He rolls down his window, waves a sign at me that reads OBAMA IS A SOCIALIST.

Okay, I abuptly end my cell phone conversation. This guy’s SCREAMING at me. Yes, all caps. “F— you, you voted for a f–ing socialist! You F—ing b—!” His middle finger is waving wildly at me. “F– you and your F—–ING OBAMA BUMPER STICKER!!!! Good job!! Ain’t that great, you F—ing B—-! Farakahn! FARAKAHN!! White supremacy!!!”

This guy is really unhappy about my bumper sticker! My mass-distributed faded Obama bumper sticker!

I catch his license plate, call 911, and am idling next to the guy now at the stop light. He’s a big guy, wearing a University of Michigan sweatshirt. He’s screaming at me some more…I’m intrigued by his level of rage, really. 911 connects me to the local police, who I must say always seem a bit bored and looking for action. I put them on speakerphone so that they can enjoy this guy’s angry rant at me.

Angry Man assumes it’s my “husband” I’ve called. He waves a pen at me.
“Yeah, that’s right, you b—-! Call your husband! Nice NOSE RING!!!!” And on and on. Yes, sporting the Obama bumper sticker on a Subaru and wearing a nose ring do help build the case that I am indeed from the dark side.

Before the light turns green, we have not one police car, not two, but THREE police pulling over Angry Man. I pull over a good distance from the guy, two police cars between us. Flashing lights, gawkers, show us your license, give us the story, the whole bit! It doesn’t take too long before the angry man has suddenly had a CHANGE OF HEART and tells the officers he’s SO SORRY and wants to apologize to me. WTF?!? Um, no thank you, I tell my three officers. No, I don’t want to press charges or make any official complaint, just give him some grief and put that behavior on his record, thank you very much.

So glad my 5-year old wasn’t in the car to witness.


The view from Grant Park — updated with pics

Right all… this has taken me a while to compile but I hope you enjoy the details of our Chicago Election Night.

As I’ve mentioned here before, DH and I have been fans of Senator Obama’s since his run for the Senate in 2004.  After meeting him then we felt that we’d be proud to have him represent us, as Senator or even, someday, as President.  

When Senator Obama announced his candidacy almost 2 years ago he wasn’t well known across the country, and on paper had a lot of things that made even his nomination seem like a long shot.  But we had been impressed by him and if he had decided that this was the time, we were going to be there with him.

Last night it all came together in the single most inspiring night I’ve ever had in my life.  

Our evening started at some friends’ party, where we watched the first returns come in and began to realize that the pre-election day polls had been pretty accurate — when Pennsylvania was called for Obama, the gnawing worry and anxiety started to melt away.  We toasted the first 100 electoral college votes, and headed downtown to meet some friends at another celebration.  

As we headed downtown you could feel the energy of the city picking up.  Smiles, high fives, and general jubilation abounded, and the very visible police on every street corner looked relaxed but vigilant.  After meeting up with our friends and watching the 9pm (central) polls close, we started to walk down Michigan Avenue.  

For the first half mile the sidewalks were crowded with a diverse mix of people — all ages, all races, some dressed up and some very casual, and all shiningly, blindingly happy.  Euphoric.  Street vendors hawked Obama t-shirts, pins, buttons, posters, stickers, signs, flags, light sticks, you name it, they had it.  Complete strangers high fived each other  just because they could.  The weather was warm, the street was bright, and the energy was fantastic.  Every few yards my friends and I would look at each other and shake our heads in amazement at the experience.  It was beyond words.  

We came to the admission gate.  While the line for ticket holders was short, those without tickets heading to the overflow area were lined up 8-10 people wide, and almost a full mile long.  Even so, the people in that line were talking and joking, families all together, young couples and older folks, everyone patiently waiting for their chance to get into the park.  

Along the line and up and down Michigan Avenue the only source of news was the people looking up results on their phones and then shouting them out to the people around them.  And so at 10 central, when the polls closed in California, we saw a guy lean out his window on the top floor of one of the buildings and shout, “he’s been elected”.  At the same time a roar went up from the crowd already in the park — they had seen the news on CNN on the jumbotron.  

Jubilation ensued.  People crying, hugging complete strangers, whipping out their phones to make or receive calls.  The celebration was widespread, too.  I saw police officers, limo drivers, security workers, sanitation workers, cab drivers all frantically calling and celebrating.  

At this point we got to the staff entrance and I tried to avoid looking like the election-geek that I am while still ogling the parked motorcades, lot full of satellite dishes, parked CNN and other media buses, and even the Governor as he left the celebration early.  We went through metal detectors and pat down, and then followed a long path to the stage area as the television screens switched to McCain preparing to give his speech.  

Following the McCain speech we waited through the prayers, pledges, introductions and dance music until Obama stepped to the microphone.  At that point, across the whole of Grant Park, we were all one, excited, relieved, overwhelmed, teary and unbelievably proud to have played even a small part in this great moment.  

The speech was magical, and watching the Obamas and Bidens on the stage started to make the enormity of it all sink it.  People played out the full range of emotions but at no point during the evening did anything ever feel tense or uncomfortable.  I think that says as much about Obama and the campaign he has led as anything could.  

This diary has gone much longer than I imagine is necessary, and still it doesn’t even begin to do the experience justice.  Thanks to you all for providing me a forum to mark down my thoughts in this moment.  Pictures are now below!


The President Elect:

Obamas and Bidens:

McCain’s speech

Press boxes


Should We Secure Our Schools?

When I read the lead of this story, my initial reaction was to shudder at the thought of sending my kids to a Chicago public school. A record number of students have been killed — largely by gunfire — in Chicago that the city is taking aggressive steps like installing security cameras in the schools, according to the Associated Press.

Since September, 20 Chicago Public Schools students have been killed, 18 by gunfire. Last school year, 24 of the more than 30 students killed were shot to death, compared with between 10 and 15 fatal shootings in the years before…

The number of violent deaths involving students in the nation’s third-largest school district has increased so dramatically in the last two years that police are increasing school patrols and soon will be the first department in the country with live access to thousands of security cameras mounted outside — and inside — schools.

While the students say they feel safe at the school with its beefed up security, I could not help but think they were protected by a false sense of security. As the article later pointed out, none of the murders actually happened at the school. It sounds like the killings are more emblematic of the spike in violent crime in the city rather than lax patrolling of the schools.

Daley recently announced a new resource for police — access to the 4,500 security cameras mounted inside and outside about 200 elementary and high schools.

The real-time video from the cameras once was available only to school officials, but now police and the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications will be able to see it as well. Daley said indoor cameras will be used only in emergencies.

Daley also has rolled back the curfew times for minors by half an hour, to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.

Many observers insist the issue isn’t a school problem but a symptom of overall violence in the city. In fact, students in some of the city’s most violent neighborhoods say school — with metal detectors, private security guards and uniformed police officers — is the one place they feel safe.

Homicide, BTW, is the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eighty-one percent were killed with a firearm in 2004, according to the CDC.

Do you think the city is making the most use of its funds by monitoring the schools? If you were Mayor Daley, how would you handle the increase in violent crime among the city’s youth?


Monday Open Thread

I will close the year with some news briefs.

First, Chicago and New York City will end the year boasting the lowest number of murders in more than 40 years, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Baltimore, Miami and Atlanta have witnessed a spike in murders due to an increase in guns and gangs on the street.

NYC and Chicago officials attribute their lowered homicide rates to a tough stance on guns, gangs and drugs — three areas plaguing the cities with higher murder rates.

Joke of the Year: People listed some “jokes of the year“ by our favorite talk show hosts like Jon Stewart and David Letterman. My favorite crack was by Conan O’Brien:

“Even though Sanjaya has been voted off American Idol, some viewers are organizing fan clubs. They want to be known as ‘Fanjayas.’ Or by their current name, deaf people.“

Happy New Year’s all! Per our tradition with children, we will stay in, which is alright with us since we are jet-lagged from our trip to New Hampshire. BTW, DH and I agreed it was one of our better trips, considering we got to relax, have fun and endure no family dramas.


MotherTalkers Caucus Reminder

UPDATE: We will blog the caucus live for those of you who can’t make it. Thank you, Shenanigans!

Before you board the plane for Chicago, I wanted to remind you that our YearlyKos MotherTalkers Caucus will be held this Thursday, August 2, from 4:30 p.m to 6 p.m.. We will meet in room 106b at the convention center.

What can you expect from our session?

First we will have a 15-minute “speed-dating” icebreaker, in which you will have the opportunity to exchange business cards, introductions, pet issues or just handshakes with the people in the room. We will then discuss how we can catapult so-called “mom’s issues” such as paid family leave and life balance into the national conscience as “labor issues.” This session is open to all, including children, fathers and non-parents. Sound good?

I look forward to seeing as many of you there!