Wednesday, November 26, 2008

All it takes is an egg and...

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. This year, I am particularly thankful for the blessed Friday after, a day my husband gets to spend at home with me and les girls. (Well, he's actually spending it at home installing flooring in our basement, but you know what I mean --) I celebrated the extra whole-family day by making a big hunt breakfast, as my mom and dad like to call it, complete with eggs, soy bacon and homemade pumpkin muffins that I somehow managed to bake while making dinner two nights ago. (Hello? Domestic goddess committee? I'm over here...) As I finished scrambling the eggs and Michael was scooping up Josephine to put her in her highchair, he paused so she could see what I was doing, and said "WOW, look at Mama's nice eggs!" Not a beat (pun intended) went by before we both cracked up (ditto) thinking about how this is the first November in two years that I haven't been pregnant. I told him to get away from me and my eggs -- it's not that I don't like the rapid-fire babies we already have, but I'd like to take a year off!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bad Mama

So we've already determined that I'm a bad mama because I let my almost eighteen-month old watch TV -- just Sesame Street -- but TV nonetheless.

But I've been thinking a lot about the research that says that children shouldn't watch any TV before they're two. What I have noticed is that my daughter's language capabilities have skyrocketed since she started watching it. I don't know if it is the style of talking that is prevalent on the show or her comfort with the characters or just the sheer excitement of the presentation of letters, numbers and words. I haven't noticed that having it on has had any negative impact on my now four-month-old either. If anything, she gurgles and giggles more when she hears her big sister talking. For example, Elmo's World did a segment on bananas, and at the end of it, he sang "The Banana Song" to the tune of "Jingle Bells," and days later, Josephine is still singing it. And every time she does, her little sister cracks up. The day she saw it, Josephine RAN to the kitchen and wanted a banana -- shrieked with perfect diction in perfect rhythm of the song. She learned to count to four in another episode, and now she lines up things and counts them. In fact, I think she may be nursing a major crush on The Count.

So what's so bad about this small TV habit? Are the researchers issuing an overly cautious caution so that dumb parents don't strand their kids in front of COPS or 24 or some other less educational, overly sexual or violent programming? I suppose I should read the research before I go and spout off about it, but done responsibly and in moderation (ummmmmm like everything in life) it seems more than fine to me. Media is a huge part of our culture, and don't we need to show our children how to integrate it into life without becoming a couch potato?

I am an educator, but I can't say that day-to-day life in our home would have taught her the counting -- and certainly not the sheer joy of landing on "FOUR!" the way Sesame Street has. I can't say that I would ever have thought to sing "Jingle Bells" using only the word banana. I'm grateful for the intelligent, timeless programming that is offered by PBS -- it's a great crutch for a Baby Buncher like me -- and it's really fun for my babies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A haircut

has never been one of my favorite things. As a gal with long, curly (read: frizzy) hair, I always dreaded the snips that made my hair curl up, frizz up even more. Until I found Ouidad. I've been having my hair cut by the lovely Vincent at Ouidad for I think 10 years or so -- he, like all the stylists there understands the whys, wherefores and how-tos of curly hair. I had my haircut for the first time since before Josephine was born (yes, that's right, about eighteen months) on Saturday. Vincent was surprised to see me -- not with one baby, but with two, since the last time he saw me I was eight months pregnant with the big one. Vincent and Ouidad and lots of folks in the salon oooohed and aaaaaahed at the babies. It was a nice homecoming, and we laughed at how Josephine's hair seems to be curling up, too. I think I actually enjoyed this haircut. The haircut was a loss of a lot of dead weight.

I haven't been taking care of myself. I mean, obviously, I've been busy, but I mean I really haven't been taking care of myself. I've struggled in the last four months to do the basics: eat well, exercise, get dressed, brush my teeth. None of my pre-first-or-second pregnancy clothes fit, because if you remember, I was only not pregnant for two and a half months between babies. I'm not one of those women for whom the weight just fell off when I started nursing. And if you are, I really don't want to hear about it. I started the week last week by joining a gym -- my friend and birth doula belongs there, and if it is cool enough for her, it is cool enough for me. I've actually been going, and of course I'm still fat, but I feel better.

During both of my pregnancies, my hair grew like crazy. It was coarser, thicker, and it grew long over those eighteen months. But when it all started to fall out for the second time after the second baby, it didn't look or feel good. My hair had atrophied like my sorry limbs, and atop my mushy body I had scraggly -- but very long -- hair. It almost didn't curl it was so tired. Vincent was kind; he didn't lop it all off in one fell snip. He knew that would have made me faint. He gingerly cut off inches -- maybe ten, maybe eleven, I don't know -- until I felt light, light light. It was a wonderful feeling -- better than going to the gym. Better than putting on a real bra after wearing a nursing bra for how long? Yeesh.

It's a trek for me to get into the city for my haircuts now that I have two under two, but I'm not going to put it off from now on. That feeling of buoyancy, that lightness -- it might be the best diet yet.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Are you a buncher?

I am -- as you probably know if you've visited my blog before. My babies are a mere 13-months apart. Since I've been a borderline shut-in since the arrival of the little one, I've stayed sane by reading about other moms with babies close in age. Baby Bunching is a fabulous site written by real moms who have kids all bunched up. There are tips for bunches and links to other mama bloggers like me. If you haven't checked it out, you should. Even if you're one of those moms with 2, 3 , 4 or more years between your kids, you might find some cool tidbit!

And to my fellow bunchers -- cheers! But make it a mocktail if you're still nursing!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Baby Proofing III: Packing Tape

OK, seriously. We haven't done a good job of baby-proofing our home. I often find an outlet cover somewhere other than an outlet, thanks to some 17-month-old smarts. She'll often stand by an outlet -- touching it -- and say "NO!" clearly imitating me. Nice. I'm dreading what I know she will teach her little sister.

But today, I've found an area of baby proofing in which I have apparently excelled: packing tape. I used to keep it -- you know, the kind with its own dispenser/cutting mechanism -- in our hall console, so that I could quickly tape closed the hundreds of returns-by-mail I make from my little online shopping habit. (Oh come on, don't tell me you don't do it -- I don't believe you.) So anyway, when I went to tape up some too-small stuff to send back, it wasn't there, and I remembered that I had moved it because Josephine found it one day. But WHERE? Can I find it anywhere in my mess-of-a home? No. And I've looked in all the obvious and not-so-obvious places. My desk. Michael's desk. The buffet. The pantry. I still can't find it. But Josephine hasn't found it either, so I guess my strategy worked -- baby proofing is as easy as a little forgetting.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Then and Now

Watching the beautiful events of Tuesday night in Grant Park, I thought of my dad covering the 1968 riots that happened in the same place. I asked my dad to write about this juxtaposition; here is what he wrote:

Personal histories are forever and indelibly marked by momentous events.

I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination or when I witnessed man’s first walk on the moon. I hate to admit it, but I even remember where I was when I heard of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death. The event was seared in my mind when I got home and found my mother crying.

I thought of this as hundreds of thousands jammed Grant Park recently to witness the debut of America’s first African-American president-elect. They were mostly young people filled with hope and enthusiasm. They cheered as tears welled in their eyes. It was a time, a place and an event not to be forgotten.

I remember being in a different part of that same Grant Park some 40 years ago. There were plenty of young people in the park that night, too. But they were jeering, not cheering. I was there because it was my job to be there as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News. The Democratic National Convention was being held in Chicago that year and Vietnam anti-war protesters had gathered in the city to make their voices heard.

They were shouting and chanting. National Guard troops were lined up along Grant Park--often called “Chicago’s front yard”--in an effort to contain thousands of protesters. I saw police, wearing light blue helmets, arrive in busses. They started swinging their truncheons as soon as they hit the street and encountered anyone in their paths. A teargas canister came rolling down Michigan Avenue in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel.

The crowd of young people massed in the park across from the fancy hotels, and their voices grew louder. “The whole world is watching. The whole world is watching,” they chanted as television cameras recorded the events for all to see.

Citizens were shocked at the actions of the police. Senator Abraham Ribicoff came to the podium in the convention hall and accused Chicago of using “Gestapo tactics” in trying to silence the protestors. Mayor Richard J. Daley, a delegate to the convention, shook his fist at the senator and shouted profanities at him. A government commission later described the event as a “police riot.”

I will never forget that week of the Democratic National Convention. It was so different from the jubilant scene of the other night.

I have returned to the vicinity of Grant Park dozens of times since 1968, but I wasn’t there to witness this week’s election celebration. Like millions of other people across the world, I was at home watching every minute of it on television.

Although I wasn’t there in person this time, I was able to see the hugs and high-fives, the smiles and the waving of the “yes we can” signs, the absolute joy of it all. It was a totally well organized and planned event that came off without a hitch.

And maybe the best thing about the triumphant celebration was this reality. The whole world was watching. -- Joe Cappo

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To My Daughters

Tonight, as you sleep in your cribs, our country elected Barack Obama as our next President. It is an unprecedented achievement for him and for our country as we take a giant step forward in terms of true equality. I am thrilled to know that our country is changing course, and I am hopeful that this means you have a better chance of growing up in a peaceful, prosperous country. Your father and I supported Barack and worked on his behalf, as we knew how important this election was. I hope you will both be active in working towards a better world when you are old enough to choose to as well. America is beautiful because of the people who live here, work here, dream here; I hope you will be a part of keeping our country beautiful. I pledge to work on your behalf until you are able to do so for yourself, and I will do it with my mother's pride and joy. Although you girls are my world, America is my country, and tonight -- and for at least four years to come --I will be heartily waving my flag.

With all my love,

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Eve

Honestly, I can barely write today. I'm a ball of nerves about tomorrow's election, so I'm looking forward to going to our local Obama office later this afternoon to make some calls to folks in neighboring Pennsylvania. Please, please, please vote -- wherever you are -- especially if you're voting for Obama. This isn't a done deal yet.

Why is this important to me? Why am I so amped up about this election? Is it just my infatuations with Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow? Hardly...

Several years ago, I left my job in publishing to become a high school English teacher. My goal was to inspire kids to learn something -- hopefully something useful. I taught in the Bronx for two years, and I have just recently resigned my position in Newark, NJ to take care of my own babies for a few years. I could write a whole series of blogs about what is wrong with education in America and in particular in our urban areas, but I'll save that for later. To (over)simplify, there are many things that kids need, but mostly they need hope and some dependable people. I found that I was sometimes the only reliable adult in my students' lives. In the classroom -- often without the books or supplies or air conditioning that my students needed to do as well as the ones in the fancy suburbs -- I would find myself telling my students that they could be or do whatever they wanted in life as long as they worked for it. Heck, they could even be President! But was it true? Did I actually believe it? I'm not sure. I've been a progressive pretty much my whole life, I think, but in retrospect, I think my line to my students was mostly wishful thinking. Barack Obama has changed all that, and it makes me tear up just thinking about it. I really can look a student in the eye -- no matter the color of their skin or their gender -- (thank you, too, Hillary Clinton) and tell them that it is possible. I'm looking forward to being in the classroom and having that moment again.

I'm not just supporting Barack Obama because he says he's going to pay teachers more and my union tells me he's the right choice for us. I support him because he has moved our country's civil rights battle to the next level. I support him because he understands how to organize people for action. I support him because he is thoughtful and his speaking reflects that. I support him because he hasn't gotten mean, nasty and negative -- and because he doesn't need to. I support him because he personifies hope for me, my students and my own children. Won't you join me?