Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I have been playing catch up with work that I have not had time to upload the pictures from our trip to Hawaii, which was fabulous, by the way. I promise, pictures are coming!

In the meantime, I am in Minneapolis and preparing for my sessions at the Netroots Nation Convention. Here are some important reminders: DH and I will be co-hosting the parents caucus tomorrow in room L100E. The session is from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m..

Also that day, MotherTalkers is having a meet-up at Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis. Here is the address: 1110 Nicollet Mall. We plan to meet at 5 p.m..

Finally, I am co-hosting a roundtable discussion on education at 1 p.m. on Friday. This is an invitation-only event that will include food, coffee and a candid discussion about education with the National Education Association’s Lily Eskelsen. Please let me know if you would like to attend.

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


Saturday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Here are some nuggets from Netroots Nation yesterday: the Parents Caucus was well-attended with between 30 and 35 people. Afterwards I talked with our Christina (“San Diego Dem” on Daily Kos), and we agreed that this was one of the better attended caucuses, including more men and even a couple of vocal dads. It was thrilling.

What did we discuss? First, we had everyone in the room introduce themselves. We had parents obviously, and they were writers, educators, lawyers, accountants, school board members and folks running for office. I was inspired by Krystal Ball — “yes, my parents did that to me,” she joked — a mom to a two-year-old girl who is running for Congress in Virginia. Her husband, Jonathan, was one of our outspoken dads, who, you could tell was so supportive of his wife. He made a book suggestion about a family-friendly workplace, which I plan to read: Maverick by Ricardo Semler.

We then had our trivia challenge, which among the winners, included our Christina. We were able to use the trivia data on (the lack of) paid parental leave, paid sick days and a social safety net for families in our country to launch a discussion. One of our moms very eloquently pointed out that there are moms out there who don’t even have the luxury of thinking about it, yet, we must not forget them when we fight for policy change. (Amen!)

We ended our talk by exchanging resources and business cards. I urged the women in the room to sign up for MomsRising’s online action alerts, MotherTalkers — of course! — and my co-host’s blog Momocrats. Also, the White House has an initiative to bring flextime to workers, including working with businesses to implement it.

Other great resources mentioned at the caucus were the Center for Health, Environment &  Justice, Women and Work, Center for Working Families, and the National Education Association, which has a Facebook page speaking out against school budget cuts and informing the public on education bills.

The National Education Association and unions, in general, had a strong presence at Netroots Nation. I laughed my ass off at a video that aired Thursday night before the speakers. It was put together by AFSCME and opened with right-wing millionaire pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly going after union workers. It compared the salaries of the pundits — millions of dollars — with that of city employees. The video then ended with bold green lettering (paraphrased): “Let’s Stop the Bullshit.” It received mad applause.

The speakers that night, by the way, included Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, MSNBC pundit Ed Schultz, and Daily Show co-founder Lizz Winstead.

On Friday, I attended the education caucus, which was moderated by Daily Kos diarist Deborah Mayer (“Annie Em”) and National Education Association Vice President Lily Eskelsen. Next week, I plan to run a question and answer interview I conducted with Eskelsen. In the meantime, here are some quotes and tidbits that came out of the meeting:

Eskelsen on budget cuts: We have worked to save up to 300,000 teaching jobs. We keep hearing that times are tough, but you only get one year to be a high school senior. If they have cut your French teacher, and you need that foreign language to get into college, you are going to be hurting….They (legislators) think we can be leaner, and it is the kids who are suffering.

Eskelsen on No Child Left Behind: No Child Left Untested…this is bigger to me than the jobs….What’s at stake is what it means to teach and what it means to learn. People will refer to themselves as “reformers” but it’s a corporate term….The only thing that matters is you privatize and you deregulate. This is the model that has brought us to the economic crisis we are at right now….We want whole child reform. (By “whole child reform,” she meant a rich curriculum that went beyond multiple-choice tests and helped build children’s knowledge and character.)

Eskelsen on the importance of teacher unions: (She asked her students to “build your perfect teacher.”) (My students tell) me that person is caring, fun, smart. They wanted someone who can care about their interests, and someone who doesn’t assume they know everything about them. A learner. “I don’t want a teacher who thinks she knows everything,” one student says…I asked my students to “pretend you are a laywer and have to defend (NCLB)….”A standarized test doesn’t measure everything,” one student says. “I bet you could cheat on the test.” One guy says, “My least favorite teacher was my AP teacher, but I was smart enough to do well in spite of the teacher. Why should that teacher get rewarded?” They got it. Why can’t the Senate, the Congress, the Secretary of Education get it? This is not rocket science.

Other tidbits from the education caucus: Many parents stood up and complained about school budget cuts that have affected all aspects of student life, like, the lack of buses to go to school, scrapped breakfasts, which for low-income students, is the only way they can eat breakfast, and lack of technology for students and technology training for teachers.

Educators in the classroom decried the “corporatization” of education in the way of running schools like private businesses with mass firings and re-hirings of teachers, standardized testing, and the creation of for-profit charter schools that carefully select their students and do so at the expense of traditional public schools. Our Shenanigans, who serves on a school board in a small rural district in California, expressed dismay at the way companies are making money off standardized tests and their accompanying textbooks.

In terms of important education bills, Eskelsen urged everyone in the room to call their representatives in support of a bill that would save teaching jobs. She said that No Child Left Behind needed to be reformed so that teachers did not have to kill all joy in education by non-stop drilling and teaching to the test. She was also critical of President Obama’s “Race to the Top” plan to raise student achievement, which is detailed on NEA’s website. Unlike President Obama, Eskelsen said she supports a cap on the number of charter schools so that they are run by qualified educators and held accountable.  

Stay tuned for my interview with Eskelsen next week…

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


Thursday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

This is sad. Thirty-two U.S. soldiers killed themselves last month, the highest number in a single month since the Vietnam era, according to CNN. Also in CNN: some parents in Helena, Montana, are peeved at a proposed health education curriculum they say are teaching their children about sex too young. I was proud of this mom defending it: “It sounds like they are teaching body parts and things that are facts of life,” (Cathy) Areu said. “I feel more comfortable with my daughter learning about this in a classroom than from a boy in the hallway.” Amen.

This is brave. Unlike their parents’ generation, undocumented college students are standing up, protesting and letting everyone (including the police) know that they are undocumented, according to the Washington Post. They are drawing awareness to the proposed Dream Act, which would give undocumented students — brought to this country as babies or young children — a temporary work visa.

The Texas Board of Education will decide this week whether to allot money for charter school facilities, according to the Austin American-Statesman. And whoa: four in 10 Texas teachers held second jobs to make ends meet, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Doctors in the UK are trying to link childhood obesity with neglect, according to the Guardian.

Sorry I have been quiet in the threads lately. But I have been preparing for the Parents Caucus, which is tomorrow, by the way, at 10:30 a.m. in the Miranda 5 room of the Rio Hotel & Casino.

Also, DH and I have had some much-needed alone time. What did we do with our time? We went to lots of restaurants, went to the movies and fit in a show, Jersey Boys, which was incredible.

I admit, that initially Jersey Boys was a back-up as we couldn’t find anything better. I wanted to see Cher and DH wanted to see Jerry Seinfeld — but they are off right now. So Jersey Boys it was, and I was enthralled. I found myself bobbing my head, kicking my leg and eventually standing up to cheer for the actors who played Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It was great music, good plot, excellent acting that I didn’t even notice the time go by. Afterwards, I had to google “Frankie Valli” and the other members of the group to see what they were up to nowadays and find out their reaction to the musical. (They actually helped promote it.)

Now it’s time for work, although I always enjoy Netroots Nation because it is basically a reunion of friends. I will definitely keep you guys in the loop on what’s happening.

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


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Here is a friendly reminder that I am co-hosting the Netroots Nation Parents Caucus this Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Rio Hotel & Casino “Miranda 5” room. I have among other prizes, an iTunes gift card, a Target card, and chocolates, to give away to the winners of our parenting trivia challenge. (Hint: brush up on your reading of the Motherhood Manifesto,, and MotherTalkers.) All are welcome!

Here is more evidence of that disconnect between Catholics on the ground and the Vatican in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. There are more than 100 ordained women priests, including the chaplain at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She said she has received nothing but support from fellow parishioners and “many people I didn’t even know were Catholic” after the Vatican issued a “clarification” calling the ordination of women priests a “grave sin” and akin to pedophilia. Oy vey.

Again, I don’t know how I get on all these lists, but the FedEx newsletter had an article of all its offerings for college students, like, specific boxes and packaging for video game consoles, laptop computers, picture frames, and other items that college-aged students tend to own. Just FYI.

Here is a frightening article in the Washington Post by a retired journalist who has no money, urging people under the age of 40 to save — and save big.

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


Best Parents Caucus Ever!

What is the pay disparity between a single mother and a man? What percentage of fathers are primary caregivers? Think you know the answers to these questions and more, then come to this year’s Netroots Nation Parents Caucus in Las Vegas!

Unlike previous years, Sarah Granger from MOMocrats and I will be co-hosting the caucus onsite at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Friday, July 23, at 10:30 a.m.. Room number to be announced.

Plus, we will be giving away prizes to the winners of our parenting trivia challenge. Think gift cards and other goodies. Worth playing for? Please do come!

As in previous years, children, spouses and non-parents are welcome to join us.


Thursday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I have the date of the Netroots Nation Parents Caucus, which will be co-hosted by moi. It is on Friday, July 23, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. I will be co-hosting with Momocrats’s Sarah Granger and we will be cooking up ideas in the next week to make it the biggest and baddest caucus ever. Please mark your calendars if you will be in Las Vegas that day. It will be at the Rio.

Mamapedia ran a thoughtful and funny column on the home study, which understandably makes many adoptive parents nervous. (You must subscribe to read the story.)

Hybrid Mom magazine covered the pitfalls of working from home. I found myself nodding in agreement. I, too, rely on the virtual babysitter (TV) and “multi-tasking madness.”

I love our president. The Obama Administration has filed a lawsuit challenging Arizona’s anti-Latino anti-illegal immigrant law on the grounds that, “The Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country.”

This story gave me the willies. To achieve the wide-eyed anime look in a Lady Gaga video, young people are purchasing these contacts imported from Asia. These contact lenses have not been approved by the FDA.

Young women are addicted to Facebook as evident by the fact that as many as one-third of ladies between the ages of 18 and 34 check for updates before they use the bathroom in the morning, according to a study covered by Mashable. For the record, this 33-year-old doesn’t check Facebook until later in the day. And I only have two accounts. What about you? Are you addicted to Facebook?

In other health news reported by Parents magazine: A glass or two of red wine a day increases lubrication and makes women more interested in sex, according to a study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. But more than one glass a day can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

A new study in the Journal of Food Science says dark leafy greens like spinach and kale can help reduce discomfort caused by the glare of a computer monitor. Good to know!

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


Late-Night Liberty: Leftover NetRoots Nation Tidbits

At Netroots Nation, I watched the most compelling documentary on the economic effect an anti-immigrant crusade had on a county in Virginia. We saw only a 45 minute version of the movie and I couldn’t get enough of it. I was angry, moved, inspired. Here is a clip of the documentary, which was called 9500 Liberty.

I attended two panel discussions, one by MOMocrats on how to get more parents involved politically. (Hint: Give us some childcare!) The other was on how online grassroots activism can work hand-in-hand with the think tanks. The questions — especially to the think tanks on the panel — were hard-hitting and interesting. The first five questioners were given beers to boot! (Isn’t that a good idea?)

On Saturday night — the last night of NN — I went out with the MOMocrats to a fabulous Cuban tapas restaurant called Seviche, which leads me to an important point I must make: Pittsburgh is a beautiful and culturally vibrant city. If there is one ongoing line of commentary I heard at the convention was that the city shattered our expectations. Personally, since my father, brother and grandfather all worked in mills, I thought it would look like the industrial Lawrence, Massachusetts. Instead, I got my fill of Cuban sandwiches at Seviche and at this other Caribbean joint, Kaya. There were Greek, Italian, Thai and a lot of fusion restaurants as well. The Andy Warhol Museum is there as well as a healthy arts scene. There is even a Mister Rogers Children’s Museum, which I plan to take the kids to one of these years.

The Netroots Nation party, which was SO much fun, was held at the Altar Night Club in Pittsburgh. The club literally looks like a church. We enjoyed a live band, DJ and stand-up comedy. One of the comedians from Laughing Liberally, Katie Halper, joked (paraphrased), “Jesus died for your sins. So there are no consequences for tonight.” There was a lot of whooping, hollering and drunken cheers.

Here is a photo of (from left to right) Katie, me and April Pederson, co-founder and executive director of the technology platform Democracy in Action.

Here is another one of DH and I:

Finally, I must show you a photo of the fabulous gold stilettos I wrote about yesterday:

Now you can see why I stubbornly wear them with everything from jeans to fancy dresses.

Next year NN will be held at Las Vegas. You can pre-register at a discount rate. I am thinking we have to plan ahead of time — including provide childcare — to plan the best parents caucus ever. It would be awesome to see as many of you in Vegas as possible. What do you think? Any suggestions to improve on the parents caucus?


Saturday Morning Parenting Diary

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Hello fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here are some topics we recently discussed here at MotherTalkers:

Little Tykes Co. just issued a recall of about 1.6 million toy workshops and trucks after an 11-month-old boy got a plastic nail lodged into his throat, according to the Associated Press. The boy thankfully has recovered.

Gloria, the queen at finding weird stories, posted one about a breastfeeding doll. Would you buy your daughter this toy?

With just as much work but less childcare in the summer, I admitted to allowing my children to watch a lot more TV than I’d like. I was wondering how — especially those of you who work from home — limit screen time in the summer?

Healthcare reform has been on our minds lately. We have been discussing them in the open threads as well as here, here and here.

It has been great seeing some of you at the Netroots Nation Convention in Pittsburgh. Here is an update and photos from the parents caucus I held at the Hard Rock Cafe as well as President Bill Clinton’s opening keynote address. What have been some convention highlights for you?

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


Late-Night Liberty: Parents Caucus Edition

As you can see we had a decent mix of people show up to the parents caucus at the Hard Rock Cafe. Thank you to those of you who made the trek!

From left to right starting in the front row, they were “bakerbaker” and her adorable son Matthew, Elisa, Daily Kos’s “sober mom,” Daily Kos’s “Blue Jersey Mom,” Kossack Bill, MOMocrats’s Stephanie, Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Cohen — yes, we even had a state rep there! — “Stephanie’s husband” Trey and the rest of the ladies were from MOMocrats as well. They were (from left to right) Cynthia, Julie and Glennia. If you have not checked out MOMocrats, please do. They do good work over there.

I made sure to get another photo of fellow MTer Kat — aka “bakerbaker” — as she helped select the venue for the event and even drove me to and from my hotel. Many thanks, chica!

So what did we talk about? Health insurance reform, of course. After introductions, I opened up the discussion with how frustrated and helpless I feel watching and reading coverage of those town hall meetings, in which legislators are being shouted down by protesters for discussing the topic.

We covered a lot of ground, but agreed that it was not worth responding to every critic of healthcare reform on the comments section of blogs. Actually, we thought the way the president and Democrats were playing defense on this issue was bad. We need to get on the offense with five talking points., by the way, is doing a good job circulating a list of 5 talking points, which can easily be put on your twitter or Facebook page at the click of a mouse.

Nonetheless, we parsed through some of the details of the plan like the advantages people with health insurance coverage would receive. For example, I like the fact the health insurance companies would not be allowed to discriminate people with pre-existing conditions and there would actually be a cap on costs. Since private health insurance companies have a monopoly on healthy, able-bodied people, it would be nice knowing they cannot continue to charge whatever they want for basic services and then drop us when we get sick.

As for provisions that would expand on publicly-funded care for the uninsured, Julie Pippert of MOMocrats offered a lot of wonderful information about the Massachusetts’s healthcare system. (Julie lives in Massachusetts, by the way.) There was a lot I did not know about it, like it includes dental care. Personally, that is more than I have had on private health insurance. Right now I pay cash for cleanings for me and my kids. Who knew?

We ended our wonderful lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe on the note that we not only need an offensive grassroots effort to push for healthcare reform, but also more coordination from the top — the White House. If you are interested in direct action on this front, both online and offline, please do consider subscribing to The organization, which was co-founded by’s founder Joan Blades, is set up just like MoveOn in that they do all the technical work and all you have to do is click to sign a petition or forward the message to your friends. You can also post at MOMocrats as Julie is part of a group that advises the White House on such issues.

At the lunch, I collected people’s e-mail addresses to see if we can continue this dialogue and even share with each other healthcare story ideas. MOMocrats, by the way, is already running regular stories on people’s personal health insurance nightmares. A lot of us had those at this lunch.

Overall, it was a positive and, I hope, helpful discussion in this ongoing and explosive debate. Hopefully, there will be some positive developments when we meet again at Netroots Nation ’10.


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Today is the first day of the Netroots Nation Convention. I am hosting the parents caucus at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pittsburgh today at 1:30 p.m. I will post pictures later today!

Also, I will be hearing Bill Clinton speak tonight as he is giving the opening keynote. I will definitely fill you in — and take pics!

In celebrity gossip: Kate Gosselin went on the Live With Regis and Kelly Show and told host Regis Philbin that her marriage is definitely over, according to Salon Wires.

What’s up with you?