245 posts categorized "Community"

Mamas: Finding your BFF

January 13, 2014

Moving to Portland was scary and exciting all at the same time.  We heard rave reviews of the city, we were thrilled at the opportunity to try it out for a spin.  We arrived, 7 months pregnant with 3-year old in tow, and we knew just one or two other people, my partners' colleagues.

The rest is almost history.  That was over ten years ago, and I met my mama BFF within months of moving to Portland.  When we first moved, I was eager to hit the mama-dating circuit, to meet other like-minded families, to share fun & adventures with new-found friends.  We gave birth to urbanMamas.com where countless other mamas & papas have made connections - found life-long friends, care providers, jobs, support through transitions like moves or divorce - all through the urbanMamas community.  Needless to say, I found my mama BFF plus so many other dear, close friends.  

And, then: we moved.  

Two years after the move, I have to say: I am still seeking a new partner-in-crime, a new best mama pal.  I am still seeking that special someone(s) who will make me laugh so hard I pee, who will talk to me about peeing when I run and how to deal with it, who will talk through career issues like working part-time or trailblazing mamahood in the workplace.

Maybe when you find your mama BFF, it's one and only.  Maybe it just takes a bit more time.  Maybe it requires being even more outgoing than ever.

When you move to a new place or start at a new school and start afresh: how do you make friends?  What are you looking for?  Candlelit dinners & walks on the beach?  Similar-aged kids, similar lifestyles, similar family structures or values?  What have you found was the absolute thing that draws you to another mama?

 

Adopt a Family 2013 - from mine to yours

December 08, 2013

The urbanMamas community has a long history of adopting a family, pooling resources to be able to offer another family the brightest of holidays.  This year, my own family decided to adopt a small family, and I cannot tell you how powerful it has been from the beginning.

Our school district serves hundreds of children who are homeless.  My kids and I went to the district office to adopt a small family - a mom, her 4-year old daughter and her 9-year old son.  They don't have a wish list, but there are some suggestions on what to get them.  Toiletries in a portable bag for mom including deodorant and bath gels.  Compact blankets or sleeping bags that fit into a backpack for the kids, as sometimes there aren't enough blankets at the shelters.  Speaking of backpacks: a pack or duffle bag that can easily fit all of these items for easy transport.  Warm pants, coat, gloves, as the wintery season is now upon us.

The kids are putting love into thinking practically and sensibly about what the kids might love most.  Toys with many pieces might be frivolous.  Paperbacks instead of hardbacks?  They are value shopping, thinking what can we get more for less?  3 pairs of socks for $3.99 versus 2 pairs of socks for $2.99.

As they write their own wish lists to send to family who ask for them, they start to think of how superfluous their requests might be.  We live charmed lives, even if we feel like we cannot have everything we want.  We do, basically, have everything we need.  For this, we are so grateful.

This year, urbanMamas isn't hosting a family as a community, but there are many other opportunities to join other groups in their adopt-a-family efforts and wrapping parties.  If you have a group looking for more participants, please post below!

For a glimpse on our adopt-a-family achievements in the past:

Throwback Thursday: Trick or Treating, Pumpkins, Candy

October 17, 2013

I am sure our Search for the Great Pumpkin could use some updating!  Old haunts, new faves, please share.  

See what else families around town do for Outdoor Autumn Fun: apples, salmon, and - of course - the pumpkins.

And, always so much to talk about as it relates to Halloween:

The Door-to-Door Saleperson

October 14, 2013

It was a no-school/no-work day in our family.  It was a great day to sleep in and catch up on more intensive chores like digging out the depths from under the bed.  I had unearthed a lot of dust with all the tidying and I was just starting my detailed vacuum job when I heard a knock on our door.

In our new house in a new neighborhood, we get a lot more knocks on our door than before.  We have a lot more foot traffic.  When I opened the door, a youngish man in a tie stood with a slip of paper with the statement "We will Deep Clean & Dry Foam one room - NO CHARGE".  He explained he was showcasing the Kirby, that he wanted to demonstrate what it could do.  

He caught me at the right moment, just as I had been sweating for a couple of hours already cleaning and vacuuming, just as I was lamenting the condition of our carpet in the entryway and just as I was getting ready to ask a neighbor to borrow (again) her industrial carpet shampoo machine to deep clean the entryway.  When this man, with his trainee, offered a free deep clean in 30 minutes, no obligation to buy, I was sold.

Continue reading "The Door-to-Door Saleperson" »

Mamas: We are NOT supernatural

August 27, 2013

I have always had this tendency to overcommit.  Back in college, I recall getting involved in so many campus activities, in addition to taking a full academic load, plus working.  One day, I just crashed.  I went to bed, exhausted, at maybe 7pm one night, and I did not wake up until 9 or 10pm the following day.  I literally slept for over 24 hours.  I also had a moment in college when I was so overcommitted, I had to drop half of my courseload part-way into the semester.  I had gotten so far behind that I knew I couldn't pull myself back.

As a mama, I struggle with similar tendencies.  I watch fellow mamas struggle with the same.  What is the right balance, how much should I volunteer even if I am working a full-time out-of-the-house job?  As school is ramping up once again, I am already receiving requests to coordinate an event or lead another initiative and - "oh, by the way" - could I also pick up the donated pastries for the first-day-of-school coffee social?

I had to stop and remind myself: Mama, you are not supernatural.  I am starting this school year with a cold, disorganized from a late summer vacation, and overwhelmed returning to a full load at work.  There is no way I can take on much more than I had originally committed to at the end of the last school year.  So: my goal.  Say "no" to a commitment, but say "yes" to another one, one that serves a grounding or self-preserving function.  So: say "no" to picking up those pastries, but say "yes" to a yoga class this week.  Say "no" to heading another committee, but say "yes" to taking a 30 minute walk with a neighbor.

We have enough to manage with our kids' extracurriculars.  We should keep it simple for ourselves.  How *much* do you do?  Where do you draw the line?  How much is too much, and what is on your "no" list?

WEEKEND WARRIORS - AUGUST 16-18, 2013

August 14, 2013

Here’s the scoop for the weekend. For more ideas on what to do this weekend, check the Events Calendar on Metro Parent's PDX Kids Calendar and the urbanMamas calendar page.

Clackamas County Fair in Canby. A classic county fair filled with amazing BBQ, a rodeo, rides, and entertainment for the whole family. Runs through August 18th.

Ladybug Nature Walk: Irving Park. Naturalist led stroll. Ages 2-5, with grown-up. Stroller-accessible. Friday 10-11am. $4/child.

Once on This Island at Broadway Rose Theater. The Broadway Rose summer teen workshop participants present an enchanting, calypso-flavored musical fable that tells the story of forbidden love between people from two different worlds. Thursday - Saturday performances. $8.

Continue reading "WEEKEND WARRIORS - AUGUST 16-18, 2013" »

Northeast Sunday Parkways

June 20, 2013

PicFrameCome see us this Sunday, June 23rd, at Fernhill Park (near the playground) as a part of Sunday Parkways- an 8 mile loop that is closed off to cars and wide open to bicyclists, skateboarders, scooter riders, walkers, runners, hula hoopers...!

We have some yummy treats provided by Saint Cupcake and Dry Soda as well as fresh-off-the-press uM stickers and Stealing Time subscriptions, tattoos and stickers!

Be sure to drop off a business card in our raffle jar too- one lucky winner will be drawn at random to get a free month of advertising on uM! 

So... pump up those bike tires, grab your helmet and rally the kids! We cannot wait to meet you! Want to coordinate a group ride? Let's chat about it on our FB page!

Click here to view the NE Sunday Parkways map and highlights. The route opens at 11am and closes at 4pm.

The END is coming!

June 06, 2013

Yesterday, my kids told me that they were having parties in their respective classrooms. I interpreted that to mean that I didn't need to pack them lunches. They report they ate chips and cookies for lunch (one of them ate five cookies). *shrug*

Nine months ago, we were up at the crack of dawn each morning. I was baking a fresh loaf of bread (in a machine) almost every morning. We had fresh ground nut butters for sandwiches, assorted fruit for smoothies, mom's homemade hummus. The fridge was stocked. Today, the fridge is empty. We don't even have beer.

Nine months ago, when the classroom parents emailed announcements, I reviewed every word and made sure to make note of every calendar item. Yesterday at 10pm, I realized that today was the end-of-year picnic and I had to send my child to school with a potluck item to share.

The list goes on and on, and I had to chuckle and snort as I read "Worst End of School Year Mom Ever" because: isn't it so true?

Aren't we all waiting with bated breath for that last day of school?

The Aftermath of the Boston Marathon

April 24, 2013

On Monday, April 15th, I woke up in a tizzy.  First, I was late for a meeting for which I had to commute an hour.  Second, we hadn't finished up our taxes.  Third, the funnest thing of the morning, it was the Boston Marathon, and the last Facebook status I saw was from a former PDX urbanMama, suited up in compression socks and bib number, ready to race.

I thought about our friend all morning wondering how she was feeling and how she was doing (undoubetdly strong, she always runs strong!).  After a busy day of meetings, I settled into another hour commute home and was horrified to hear the news.

"Late breaking news from the Boston Marathon finish line...."  and "....reports of two deaths, one of whom was a child of eight years old..." - the audio was unbearable.  As a "survivor" of sorts of what happened on September 11, 2001, I felt pangs of trauma resurfacing.  My heart beat mimicked how it behaved back then.  Every other moment, I let out tears.  And, as I drove, my hand covered my mouth in disbelief.

Our urbanMama friend was safe, though she was just picking up her warming blanket as the first impact set off.  Luck would also have it that her spouse and three children were running a little late to greet her, still a few blocks away from finish.  After hearing the comotion, the family re-routed to meet at another pre-determined location.

We have stories of friends who were there, stories of friends of friends.  Many of us, runners ourselves, can only imagine the confusion of feelings: the high of completing such a huge feat like a marathon and the low of realizing that something so awful had happened.

How is your family dealing with this current event, this tragedy?  Does it feel close?  Does it feel far?  For another former PDX urbanMama, it hits close to home.  Her 9-year old has nightmares, feeling so disempowered and depressed.  So, this mama has decided to organize an event, a worldwide run, on May 15, 2013, to honor those that ran the Boston Marathon and to honor the goodness in our world.  "MILES to teach GOODNESS" encourages us all to organize a run in our neighborhood, at the same time, to run 26.2 minutes to celebrate our communities and support one another.

Care to join?  Read more about the EmPOWERed Kids Run here or join the Facebook event here.

In our household, it still feels a little unreal.  We talk about it, we watch the news.  The event dampens our spirit.  We think we will join in on the EmPOWERed Kids Run to help us join in with the rest of the community to lift our spirits.

Minimalist Parenting

March 20, 2013

We are happy to announce that friend of urbanMamas and local mama Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks is a published author. Her book Minimalist Parenting written with Christine Koh of BostonMamas is at your local book store right now. Or you can order from Amazon.

Not only did they publish a book, but they also lead a free fourteen day Minimalist Parenting Camp with tasks and activities to start implementing the ideas and concepts from the book. I signed up and give myself five badges. I still need to do some of the tasks, but they set it up so well that I can go back and do them when I have time.  

My mother and mother in-law were unclear about my badges (which I posted on FaceBook) and the ideas in general. Was it let your child do everything? So you do a minimal amount; therefore a ‘minimal parent’? Where were the ‘hands on’ parenting tasks? How did Self Care, Decluttering, and 20 Minutes of Style fit into parenting? I explained that the idea is to give parents more space (physical, mental, emotional) and more confidence (in our appearance, abilities, and knowledge) in order to give more to parenting, not less. I think they got it. And after they read the book, they will really get it. I know I got a lot out of my camp tasks and look forward to finishing them over spring break.  

So let’s celebrate. We are proud to be a sponsor of the Minimalist Parenting Portland Book Launch Party on Saturday, April 20. Just click and register. Hope to see you then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mama lunch: Thurs., Jan 17

January 03, 2013

Let's meet for lunch and chat about the holidays, winter, kids, work, or whatever is on your mind.

date: Thurs., Jan 17th

time: 12:30

location: Brasserie Monmartre at  626 SW Park Avenue.

Please RSVP in the comments and I will make a reservation.

 

Volunteering Opportunities with the kids

November 20, 2012

A couple of years ago, we hoped to amass a list of volunteering opportunities for families with their children.  It is around this time every year that many of us start to think about how we can involve our children in contributing time, effort, and money toward causes important to us.  An urbanMama recently emailed: 

I don't know if it's the impending holidays or coming out from the fog of my third child's early childhood years, I've been thinking more about volunteering as a family or with my oldest child (age 8).  Service to others has always been an important part of my personal and professional lives, but most of my energy has been focused on my kids for several years.  My husband and I donate money regularly to many organizations, but those donations are not necessarily tangible to my kids.   I'd like to do better at communicating to my kids the importance of helping individuals in need and the wider community.  I'd like to find ways for us all to help.  Any suggestions?

Dear Mr. Charlie Hales upon your mayoral win

November 07, 2012

An open letter to Charlie Hales:

written by Sarah Gilbert, who has not run these opinions by the other mamas who run the site yet but hopes they agree.

I don't know if we trust you. Let's be upfront here: we were not particularly thrilled with the choices we had for mayor. That's probably already clear to you by the 8% of us who chose to write-in our vote. After much agonizing and largely because of your rather wishy-washy stance on transportation, as well as the quite clear disingenuity of your income tax history, I voted for Jefferson Smith. I didn't like his personal history much, but I thought his policies would better reflect the non-powerful. I loved that he was from outer east Portland, a historically vastly under-represented part of the city.

Urbanmamas_cityhall

I -- and I think I am safe in saying, "we," -- didn't love the way Sam Adams did things. He was clearly invested with too much of a sense of personal and political mandate. He made his own way. He did not seek consensus. He gave off the scent of backroom dealings. Don't do that. Don't let your personal life get in the way of your mayoral business. Please please don't let us find out you've lied to us. (Or, if you have, come clean now, let's get it out of the way before you take office.)

This is very much a city divided. Sure, we look good from the outside and lot of people worldwide hold us up as an example. Everyone I know outside Portland is jealous of where I live. We have a very vibrant arts scene -- the writers! the musicians! -- we celebrate counter-culturism, we love to Do It Ourselves, we have backyard chickens and front yard kale gardens. We are the U.S. leader in family biking! (I made that up, but it's probably true.) We affirm natural medicine and rights for people no matter their disabilities or incomes or races or whatever, we have more doulas and birth centers here than just about anywhere else, we have so many farmer's markets it's almost silly (but silly-good!).

Continue reading "Dear Mr. Charlie Hales upon your mayoral win" »

Best Advice for First-Time, New Parents

November 02, 2012

A colleague of mine has a two-month old daughter.  Back at work while his wife enjoys another month at home, he still looked a little foggy and fuzzy as we caught up last week.  Beyond what baby gear essentials they needed, he wondered: what piece of advice did I (parent to three, eldest being 12) have for him?

My answer, which I learned from watching my own mother (full-time bread-winning, bread-making mama like me): ask for help when you need it, offer help when you can.

Continue reading "Best Advice for First-Time, New Parents" »

Halloween: stay in your 'hood or commute to another?

October 15, 2012

On our neighborhood yahoo-group, I recently asked the question: "how many trick-or-treaters should we plan for?"  As I am one year new to this neighborhood, I didn't want to be left with a million bags of extra Twix (what will YOU give out this year?).  Goodness knows I still have a few baskets of candy from last year.

Schools might ban costumes, but many families will still head out into the night to enjoy the fright of the ghouls and gobblins begging for candy.  A neighborhood long-timer emailed: "do your kids a favor, take them to the other nearby neighborhoods to enjoy the decorations and sights!"  Last year, our first in our new neighborhood, indeed we went out-of-bounds.  We went to the neighborhood about a mile away (maybe less), which is well-known to be the place to go for any holiday.  Every single home on that street invests countless hours of planning and concocting the most elaborate displays.  Many, many families commute to that area to gawk.  Lines from the front door trail to the street, just to see first-hand the great work of those residents.  It was stressful.

To me?  The crowds are not worth it.  What's wrong with our own neighborhood?  So what if our houses aren't as big or decked out?  Residents who have been around for a few years say: "no one has come by in the past three years" or "a bowl of my jumbo Snickers were untouched all night".

There's still something to be said for staying in your own neighborhood, though, right?  In the name of getting to know others, in the name of community building, in the name of building momentum?

I just asked the kids, "Do you want to stay in our neighborhood to trick or treat this year?"  They didn't respond right away.  They thought hard about it, but they ended up saying: "No."

Your take?

Etiquette on Multi-Use Paths

June 22, 2012

Now that summer is out and outdoor recreating is in (not that it was ever "out"), we find multi-use paths packed with walkers, runners, bikers, starting-to-bikers, toddlers, roller-bladers, skateboarders, dogs, squirrels, birds, and many other users.  There are clusters of middle- and high-schoolers, there are amblers with headphones on, there are darting animals, children.  Bodies travel at different paces - fast, slow, medium, stopped.  On a warm weekend day, the multi-use path can be an obstacle course.

Even the widest of paths aren't as wide as a car lane (11-12 feet across).  More typically, the path might be 7 or 8 feet across, just enough for two way cross traffic in single file.  Collisions and brushes with others can be frequent if you are walking/riding/skuuting 2+ abreast.  Weaving in and out of bodies takes skill, whether on foot or wheels.

How do we encourage the kids to "share the path" responsibly, reasonable?  My tips include:

  • walk/ride to the right, always.
  • 2+ abreast is ok, so long as there is no oncoming traffic
  • "single file!" is what I utter loudly when we spot oncoming traffic, and my kids immediately pull ahead of me and I drop to the rear position, and we will go in single file to allow enough width for passing
  • use the bell!  whether on a scooter, bike, jogger: we ring, ring from a distance behind and call "on your left" as we pass
  • ride straight, as much as possible, unless you are on a super-wide path.  
  • for the learning pedalers, learning scooters: walk/ride behind, to be able to call out and ask the little ones ahead to stop, pull to the side, or ride as straight as possible.
  • be defensive.  as with driving, we have to anticipate the unexpected: a dog on a long leash speeding ahead crosswise along the path, leash obstructing; a toddler darting out from one side of the path to the other, maybe chasing a leaf, squirrel, bird; an early bike-rider swerving considerably as you try to overtake/pass.

With a few close calls in just the past couple of days, I thought I'd collect your thoughts on how we can manage the multi-use paths safely, responsibly, and teach our kids to do the same?

Summer Street Fairs: sometimes just a pain?

June 04, 2012

A sign of the summer approaching is when you start to see event listings of street fairs or other al fresca fetes occuring on a more regular basis.  Among my favorites in Portland include the Mississippi Street Fair and the Hawthorne Street Fair.  With the advent of Portland's Sunday Parkways, now in its fifth year (wahoo!), some street fairs coincide with the neighborhood's street closure to corroborate the energy and excitement of a street fair coupled with a Sunday Parkway route.

In our new neighborhoods in the East Bay Area, one way we've been started to get to know our new environs is to spend some time at some of our local street fairs.  In the past month, we've gone to the East Bay Bike Coalition's Happy Hour (a street party in Old Oakland celebrating Bike to Work Day), the 12th Annual Park Street Spring Festival (right in our own Alameda's downtown), and First Friday at Jack London Square (a collection of performances, food vendors, artisans, pop-up boutiques on the waterfront, an event that coincides with Oakland's First Friday Art Murmur).

What I love about street fairs is seeing the people in my neighborhood, other families, shop owners, performers, food purveyors.  I love to support craft producers; I love to mingle with others in a dense, closed-off area, let the kids do a little exploring on their own.  The energy is real: other people in the crowd welcome meeting and making a new friend; there is an air of community spirit and comaraderie.  

There are, however, some trends in our street fair experiences that I do not enjoy.  Perhaps it takes us a while to mobilize, leave the house, and make it out to said street fair.  Once there, kids and adults alike might be irritatingly hungry.  Perhaps I haven't packed enough snack food to hold us over to find a proper meal or to wait the long lines at the food vendors.  The food vendor selection might not offer something everyone might want, and there might be complaints as a result.  There may or may not be easily accessible restrooms for our toddler who - when he has to pee - HAS TO GO right then and there.  Perhaps there are just too many people, that results in taking forever to make decisions on what to eat, what booth to visit, or where to situate.  There might be no water fountain in plain sight to refill the water bottles we emptied on the hot bike ride over.  The sun might be going down and suddenly our tank tops leave us shivering with goosebumps on our arms.

Street fairs are a summer right of passage, they are a beacon of the warm days to come, they are a sign of the long days of sunlight that are here.  We all love them.  But: do some of us hate them, too?

Walk and Bike to School: Know Your Way Around *and* Be Happy

May 20, 2012

Urbanmamas_walking_sidewalk
A new study illuminates why pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets are so important, not just for the health and environmental impact of neighborhood residents but also for kids' fear and sense of overall well-being. As the post in The Atlantic points out, "Automobile collisions disproportionately kill kids, for starters. Heavy traffic also prevents them from playing on their neighborhood streets. And communities with limited opportunities for walking and playing outside have been shown to have higher rates of childhood obesity, which can lead to serious health complications in later life."

But the new study by Bruce Appleyard, a Portland-based urban planner and designer (and son of an urbanist who famously showed how heavy traffic in a neighborhood increases disconnection, disatisfaction and loneliness) talks about ground-level concerns, the ones I have a lot with my own kids: knowing their way around and being happy in the place where they live.

Bruce showed that kids in low-traffic, walkable neighborhoods remembered more features of their neighborhoods and remembered playing in more parts of their neighborhood than kids in high-traffic neighborhoods where they spent more time in cars. What's more, they simply liked their neighborhoods more and felt safer (according to the "cognitive mapping" techniques he used). He wrote, "In sum, as exposure to auto traffic volumes and speed decreases, a child’s sense of threat goes down, and his/her ability to establish a richer connection and appreciation for the community rises."

Later, he went back to the high-traffic neighborhood after it had undergone improvements in walkability and bike infrastructure. They knew more about their neighborhoods, and, he wrote, "Before the improvements were made in the heavy-traffic-exposure neighborhood, many children drew expressions of dislike and danger associated with automobiles and were unable to represent any detail of the surrounding environment -- possibly feeling overwhelmed by the threats posed by the automobiles. After the improvements alleviated the exposure to these threats, there were indeed fewer expressions of danger and dislike, indicating a greater sense of comfort and well-being."

I've thought about trying this experiment on my own kids, having them draw maps of the neighborhood (without scientific rigor, given that I know next to nothing about cognitive mapping). I think it would be a great way to celebrate Walk and Bike to School month.

And May Day Flowers Bring...

May 03, 2012

Monroe_mayday
"You made my day!" said the woman at the doctor's office, grinning. I'd brought Monroe with me, carrying a little jar of simple flowers from my garden, tied with twine. I needed a tetanus shot and it was May Day and I was overcome on April 30 with a sudden urge to Do It.

We started with the next-door neighbor and we went bonkers; several neighbors on our block, including a few we've never met. The receptionists at the doctor's office. Truman's teacher. A friend. Drunk on our gratuitous gifting, my two younger boys ran away from two of the houses in full giggle and victory. "This is the best May Day EVER!" said Monroe (and the only one we've ever celebrated, making it a low bar).

It was such a joy to me, even more than the recipients of our random secret gifting. It was so easy; picking a few of the volunteer flowers and tulips from our yard, fill in with mint and herbs, put in old canning jars, tie with kitchen twine and a little May Day greeting, deliver as quietly as possible. To see the faces light up -- not just of the recipients, but my boys in victory after our "missions" -- was a thrill. So much fun, in fact, that I might do it again before next May 1.

Have you celebrated May Day the old-fashioned way? If you haven't, have you found unexpected joy in some simple and secret act of small generosity? Any other ideas? I need another mission.

Just Between Friends Sale is Coming Up!

April 20, 2012

175x175 50-90 off adThe organizers of Just Between Friends, two N/NE mamas, are passionate about offering Portland's community of parents an opportunity to save not only natural resources, but also financial resources.  Items at JBF are priced at 50-90% off retail, which means you can save major moolah and get everything you need for your kids for the upcoming season under one roof.  Why waste gas and time driving around to a bunch of yard sales?  "I appreciate the great savings that shopping JBF provides,” wrote Fara, a consignor and shopper. “I value knowing that everyone who participates is doing their part to save the environment...recycling gently-used baby and kid wear and decreasing the environmental impact of creating new items.”

JBF embraces many shades of living green through its semi-annual sales events. The next event is right around the corner... April 27-29 at the Portland Expo Center (free admission).  Do even more to save our planet and save gas by taking the Max! 

Just Between Friends Children's & Maternity Resale Event
Portland Expo Center (Free Admission!)
Friday, April 27-Sunday, April 29
www.portland.jbfsale.com

Single Motherhood: so many different circumstances

March 19, 2012

One mama friend has two children, both under the age of 2.  She was never married to their father and - it looks like - she never will be.

Another mama friend has two children, a bit older, again never married to their father, but really, really, REALLY tried.  It didn't work, and she has been single-mama-ing it since the beginning.

Some mamas make the choice, from the beginning, to single parent.  

In every one of these case, so much moreso than our partnered-parent counterparts, "it takes a village".  The recent Portland Tribune article  says "a growing percentage of Multnomah County's new moms are unwed", with about half of the women younger than 30 are having babies out of wedlock.  Considering moms of all ages, in Multnomah and Clackamas counties, about 1 in 4 babies are born to unwed mothers.

Continue reading "Single Motherhood: so many different circumstances" »

Of Place and Space: urbanMamas & California

March 12, 2012

 For my family, it is a tale of four cities... so far.

Photo_75994AD8-AC83-F7EE-DCC1-43A7FC64E1C2 (1)

Almost exactly one year ago, I received a call while I was away for a work trip (I was in Memphis.  With our toddler.)  My husband had bittersweet news.  He was accepted into a doctoral program at UC Berkeley.  They were offering him a complete scholarship.

My heart skipped many beats in that phone conversation.  I might have cried.  Whether they were tears of joy for my partner's accomplishments or whether they were tears of sadness knowing I had to leave, I am still not sure.

What ensued (what still ensues) were (are) weeks of intense planning for the transition: changing schools, selling our home, finding a new one, preparing ourselves financially, setting up a new home, starting at new schools (for the 4 of 5 of us in our family), making new friends.  The most difficult part: hugging our community goodbye.

Continue reading "Of Place and Space: urbanMamas & California" »

The Lorax & Earthy-Day Activities at School

March 06, 2012

We have always loved the Lorax, the wonderful tale of Truffula Trees and Bar-ba-loots, the tale of how we all live in an interconnected ecosystem, and the tale of how we all have an important part of protecting all parts of our web of life.  The Lorax Movie  comes at an interesting time, when were are kicking off efforts at school to start thinking about how we can celebrate Earth Day at our school.

When I asked the kids at assembly: "what can we do?!" Lots of kids suggested picking up trash.  One kid suggested that we have a No-Waste Lunch Challenge.  Others suggested planting trees.

The Lorax, who speaks for the trees, could live in all of us.  How will you harness your inner Lorax to celebrate Earth Day upcoming in April this year?  Please share, I am looking for ideas!

Will future city leaders make Portland a truly family-friendly city?

February 28, 2012

Forum Thumbnail - 1Guest Post by Erin Barone: When you hear the words family-friendly, what comes to mind? Changing tables in bathrooms? Play areas in coffee shops? Tolerant wait staff?

I know that I, for one, am very thankful for the little things that make parents’ lives easier. I know the joys of a clean place to change a diaper. I’ve silently blessed the restaurant owner who brought my toddler pizza dough to play with so my husband and I could actually talk for three minutes straight. I’ve spent untold hours at OMSI feeling lucky that there’s a fun, educational, indoor place for my kids to run around in during Portland’s rainy winters. I rode my bike to work while pregnant and safely toted two kids around behind it thanks to the great network of bike routes and the (mostly) bike-savvy drivers we have in this city. And I’ve watched my kids learn about bugs and trees and birds in our amazing parks through the city’s summer education programs.

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Mama's Clothing Exchange: Come One, Come (Sat. Feb. 25)

February 21, 2012

1862304113_f5788f0682_bThere's still time to RSVP! We have between 50-75 mamas coming! It's been awhile since we've organized an event of epic proportions and we have a feeling this is one of those events. Back in 2007, we held one our biggest clothing exchanges and it was where I befriended Brooke. Brooke had a special passion for the Goodwill Bins and a knack for seeing a diamond in the rough. So when the opportunity arose, she started the Just Between Friends franchise here in Portland. We have been so busy in the past few years rearing our third children and juggling work that community gatherings have been sparse. If you haven't been to one, here's your chance! We are teaming with Just Between Friends to host the clothing exchange of the year. 

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Once obese, always obese: Can we prevent it in the first place?

January 19, 2012

At the turn of the year, we love to make resolutions.  Many might like to make resolutions of the health variety: I resolve to eat better, I resolve to exercise more, I resolve to lose weight.  A few weeks might go by, and our resolutions might slip.  In fact, over a third of resolutions are broken by the end of January.

Then, there is a twist.  On January 1st, the NYT ran an article discussing new studies in the realm of obesity: once obese, are we always obese?  Some studies show that we can get stuck in a fat trap, once fat.  Obese individuals who successfully lose weight will only regain all that weight (and more, possibly) in due time.

Depressing?  Yes.

What can we do about it?  Well.  There is much focus now on "upstream public health", tackling the root of the cause, preventing the fatness before we even enter (and get stuck) in the "fat trap".  This got us thinking about programs that affect our children, making sure that programs are designed to keep them active, to make sure they have access to healthy food, to help them be safe when active.

We live in a busy, complex world.  Our lives can be overwhelming.  How can make living a healthy lifestyle easy for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, etc in our modern world?  Our lives are complex, and the environments that shape our health behaviors are too.  Work, school, urban or rural infrastructure all of these these can attract us to or deter us from eating more fruits and vegetables and moderate exercise.  How can we make this utopia of walkable/bikable cities with access to affordable fresh produce for all a reality for all?  What do we, as parents, see to be barriers to that reality?  What do the experts think we can do to change?  What are your top priorities for change?  What do you do in your day-to-day life as small steps toward keeping the family healthful?

* Keep the conversation going at a screening & panel discussion of "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead", next Monday, January 23, 6-9pm at Living Room Theaters.  100% of proceeds of the $35 ticket go towards EcoTrust's Farm to School program.

urbanMamas 11: Charities we think are worth the endless emails

December 31, 2011

Urbanmamas_portland_fruit_tree_project
You know what I mean: the organizations one supports these days bombard you in new and different ways. Gone, for the most part, are the address labels and thank-you cards showing up every month in your mailbox. Today, it's emails (sometimes two or three a day!) and the pledge drives. I was surprised to hear the one-day pledge drive NPR put on this week; reinforced with, yep, daily emails reminding one that the December 31 tax deadline was fast approaching. I've even been getting emails this afternoon. The political campaigns are almost there!

In the spirit of end-of-the-year lists, the urbanMamas team put our heads together and picked 11 favorite local (and a few with lots of local impact) non-profits that are worth the endless communication and begs for just-five-more-dollars...

1.Portland Fruit Tree Project. It makes us sad to see a sidewalk or a front yard littered with spoiling fruit from perfectly good fruit trees. It makes us even sadder if that's our own fruit tree and, due to babies or work or the craziness of family life, we haven't gotten to picking it. Portland Fruit Tree Project to the rescue -- the organization matches volunteer pickers with volunteer tree owners, and half of all the fruit picked goes to the Oregon Food Bank. It's the Biblical concept of gleaning, gone 21st century.

2. OPB. Say what you will about pledge drives and stereotypes of Northwest denizens, most of us get all of our news from OPB. As local television has become more and more sensationalist, fear-creating and celebrity-focused (no, I don't care to know what's going on with the latest reality TV star), OPB and its NPR affiliates are doing the kind of in-depth investigate news and serious journalism that explores topics we really care about -- from autism to breastfeeding to those beautiful stories about families that make us cry (I cried twice today already!).

3. Community Cycling Center. OK, so we love a good bike nonprofit, but this one's particularly great: in addition to being a great neighborhood bike shop for its Northeast Portland community, the nonprofit gives camps, classes, and ongoing support for low-income young people to "broaden access to bicycling and its benefits" and "bikes accessible to people of all ages, abilities, and incomes."

4. Morrison Child & Family Services. A lot of us have gotten services for our children through the county or the school district, and those of us who've been through it know how little they can provide due to budget restrictions and enormous needs of our children. Morrison Child & Family Services fills a gap with "a comprehensive continuum of mental health, substance abuse and prevention services for children from birth through age 21."

5. Growing Gardens. We're all passionate about how life-changing access to good, local, organic food can be; but not all of us have the money or bandwidth to get the good stuff. That's why we support Growing Gardens: the nonprofit organizes "hundreds of volunteers to build organic, raised bed vegetable gardens in backyards, front yards, side yards and even on balconies," supports "low income households for three years with seeds, plants, classes, mentors and more." The "Youth Grow" and "Learn & Grow" workshops and work parties help teach all ages of community members about eating and growing good whole food in backyards, porches and community gardens.

6. SMART (Start Making a Reader Today). Love the library but have a hard time with returning books or making time in a work day to get there before closing time? Wish your kids had better access to a variety of new and classic picture books? And for the low income families among us, it's even harder. SMART sends red book bags filled with books home every week to a bunch of preschoolers who are in early intervention programs and selected day care and preschool programs; kids just bring the bags back every week or two and get a new one. No hassle and kids and parents get lovely new books to share together. I've found many of my now-favorite picture books through SMART bags, and I love how simple it is to impact families with this program.

7. Playworks. I've seen Playworks in action so many times that it brings tears to my eyes just typing this. I shake my head at the "it gets better" campaign which seeks to bring "awareness" to bullying. I firmly believe that bullies are not criminals just waiting to turn 18 and go to jail, but real kids who just are dealing badly with anything from a developmental delay to learning disability to a difficult home life. Playworks is a much better approach to playground problems; whether it be leaving children out of games or aggressive behavior; by teaching older kids to be "junior coaches" that have skills to help younger kids work out problems. I've seen junior coaches negotiate arguments about rules for tag that were about to escalate into shoving and fists; I've seen them start new games to involve all the kids on the playground. Playworks, works, and I'd like to see it at every school.

8. Wordstock Festival. As a writer, I love Wordstock for the access to fantastic authors and workshops cheaper than just about anything but the occasional reading at Powell's. But Wordstock isn't just for writers; it's for readers, too, and kids of all ages get in free. With all the high-cost conventions and festivals and museums and camps, Wordstock makes me giddy -- for $7 to $12 for adults, or even free for volunteers, Wordstock gives free books and author readings and access to interactive storytelling activities for a blissful weekend.

9. Bicycle Transportation Alliance. After many years of believing that the BTA didn't spend much of its advocacy time on child and family biking issues, that has been changing and I, for one, have been keeping my membership up to date. The BTA is one of the hardest-working advocacy groups in Oregon, and we believe this kind of advocacy makes streets safer, not just for bicycling families, but for all of us (especially pedestrians -- and our kids are all pedestrians sometimes).

10. Oregon Environmental Council. As I struggle with three boys, each with a different sort of developmental disorder that challenges my everyday, I look more and more to blame environmental toxins -- much research lately supports this, from data that living near high-traffic areas increases attention disorders to research linking autism to high maternal and infant pesticide exposure. And really? Don't we all want our kids to enjoy rivers teeming with salmon and lakes that are swimmable? This nomination comes from urbanMamas reader Brenna Burke, who says: "Oregon Environmental Council is on the forefront of making sure that our families stay healthy and our state's resources remain sustainable."

11. The Dougy Center. This is also a nomination from Burke, who's very passionate about The Dougy Center, which "provides support in a safe place where children, teens, young adults, and their families grieving a death can share their experiences." Burke writes, "the Dougy Center has helped families grieve the loss of a loved one for more than 25 years. It is free for families and provides a service to those it helps that means more than anything. It has personally been a great place of support for great friends of mine."

 (Apologies: this list was later than I intended, and, as I compiled it, discovered was insufficient to the task of representing the many wonderful nonprofits in our community. I've already thought of a half-dozen I'd like to include had I chosen a higher number -- but it's almost the end of the year! Please include your favorites in the comments.)

urbanMamas Adopt-a-Family 2011

December 05, 2011

UPDATED: 12/9! This effort is headed by a great uM volunteer -- we're so thrilled to have her help!

Last year, the urbanMama community adopted a family in need for the holidays. The response from so many urbanMama families was overwhelming - we managed to give our adopted family everything that they needed and wanted on their wish list! So this year, we're sponsoring another family for Christmas 2011 -the S. family.

The S. family has 5 children, ages 10, 7, and 4 months. (The father has two other children, 5 and 7 year old boys, who come to visit every other weekend. According to the caseworker, as the two boys won't be celebrating Christmas at their house, the primary focus will be on the other three children, although they would appreciate a few gifts for the two other boys as well. Currently, we don't have wish lists for these two boys, but we'll post that information when we find out.) They are supported solely by Shantae's part-time position as a breastfeeding peer counselor and unfortunately, budget cuts have reduced her hours. Arthur works in construction, but has been struggling to find work in this economy. The ability to provide Christmas gifts will be particularly difficult this year given the mom's reduced work hours and with the addition of a new baby. Also, Rico's 11th birthday is only 2 days after Christmas, so if possible, it would be a lovely surprise if we are able to provide him with a few birthday presents. The family's wish lists are listed below.

Continue reading "urbanMamas Adopt-a-Family 2011" »

A note on civility and community

October 05, 2011

When we met in 2004, the foundresses of urbanMamas were all seeking a central place on the 'net to get together with other likeminded mamas; to find and share reviews of kid-friendly businesses, events and things to do; to get advice on the issues that were especially pertinent to mothers living here in Portland. We came up with the name "urbanMamas" and we all loved it -- it represented who were were then and still are now. Women who love the opportunity to raise children in a city, who are proud of our identity as mothers. At the time, we were all working full-time in office-type jobs; now, we have a variety of working situations.

We have put in a lot of work here, and we don't do it for the free wine and antipasti at our w[h]ine nights. We do this because we still believe it's something our community needs. A place without a corporate agenda. A place that's not selling anything but our admittedly passionate ideas. A place where we can be honest -- and you can, too, without fear of being censored or attacked.

That last bit is causing problems lately. Our honesty has often been getting us, not support and advice and community, but personal -- and often hurtful -- attacks. We are called "elitist" with such regularity that it's become a caricature. Sometimes our commenters are attacked by other commenters, which at worst becomes an ugly east/west or working mama/at-home mama showdown.

What we're going to do is this: start enforcing our community standards. No personal attacks will be left published, even if the comment is half-helpful.  Arguments among commenters will not be tolerated, unless they are civil and constructive. There is never -- ever -- a reason to tell another parent she is being a bad parent. As they say in therapy, label the behavior, not the person. And even then! Let's please not label! If someone comes here for advice, give it in love, or keep your thoughts to yourself.

If there are volunteers to help moderate the community, please leave a comment to this post and we'll get in touch.

Pedal-Friendly: only for the privileged?

September 29, 2011

Today I read an article in Bicycling Magazine, not because I subscribe to the publication but because friends tipped me off that they'd seen my picture in it.  The piece: all about cargo bikes, the lifestyle of those cycle-oriented that want to tread lightly on the earth.

Here on urbanMamas, we have often talked about our mamabikeoramama machines, hauling kids, their gear, our gear, all our wholesome foodstuffs, from this place to that, all on our two-wheelers.  Amazing, right?  In theory, this is all a low-cost venture when compared to the cost of gas, a car, insurance.  The $700 I spent to outfit an Xtracycle (done on a 'tight' budget) has paid for itself many times over in past years.

In reality, though, there are many, many factors why lower-income families can't pedal in suit, as much as I dream that they can.

There is affordable housing: often not located just a pedal away from school, daycare or work.   Many times, the housing isn't adjacent to safe infrastructure for biking.  And, the housing might not be well served by public transit.  So, when it comes down to it, that household is still going to need a car, and that $700 to outfit an Xtracycle suddenly becomes a luxury, not a necessity, not a primary mode of transportation.  Also, the housing: will it have bike-friendly accommodation - safe parking, easy access the like?  There are so many other factors that go into housing, it is likely bike-related needs are trumped for other priorities.

There are jobs: many times, hourly wage earning, at hours that don't allow for longer transit time or at times of day not conducive to biking (say, middle of night? graveyard shift?).  And, again, compare the affordable housing location of where the job epicenters might be.  Are they separated by miles and miles and miles?  Likely.  Are their accommodations for changing or showering? 

The thought of promoting bicycling as an earth-friendly and cost-effective means to transport our families is romantic.  It is a romantic story that I personally have the privilege to live.  I realize, though, that there are those out there that cannot.  That reality is painful for me; I like romantic stories.  There is an organization out there, the Community Cycling Center, that is working on these very issues that I often wonder about:  how can cycling really become accessible to all (and by "all" we mean *all*)?

We urbanMamas never mean to be righteous about our velo love.  While we want you all to join us in our pedal frenzy, we know that is not possible.  But really: how can cycling be accessible for all, across socioeconomic and ethnic divides?

Mama vs. Papa: How our standards differ on volunteerism

September 27, 2011

I had already decided what to do when I posted my (I hoped) thought-provoking piece on "neglecting" my children to coach cross country -- for free! I've been volunteer coaching for several years, and even though my husband has just left for his second tour overseas, I spend all of my waking and sleeping hours with the boys save about 10 a week for cross country and Thursday night writer's group. I am comfortable with my decision; though some commenters pointed out that, with only one parent on the ground, I was depriving my boys, I have to disagree. The boys enjoy time with their babysitters, who frankly have lots more focus to give than I do. I struggle with being on duty 24/7; I end up so, so tired by Sunday evening that I can rarely stay up long enough to finish packing school lunch; the time away from the boys is life-giving. After a few charged discussions about it and chatting with some of the officers with whom he deployed, my husband agreed that my cross country time and babysitting expense was something we could afford.

OK: so that's my personal story. Let's chat about the universal. Today, a commenter chimed in about her experiences feeling resentful when her husband volunteered for basketball coaching. Another commenter said she, too, had felt frustrated at other dads doing similar things -- those that benefited other people's kids. While no one said quite this, the message is very much that dads don't have the time to spare. Any free time, the sentiment seems to be (and I can think of times I've thought this, from an outsider's perspective and not in my own family): dads need to give all available free time to their own children. Why should moms get a break?

I wonder if this sentiment stems from those 80's-sitcom-style family makeup: dad working 60-hour weeks, mom doing lots of volunteering at school and keeping the home spic-and-span and oven full of casseroles. This dad should not be leaving work early to coach middle school sports across town when he has grade schoolers watching He-man, neglected, at home.

I know a bunch of dads who volunteer, but I know way more moms and childless uncles who keep the youth sports machine churning and staff the fundraisers and political phone banks and non-profit events. Do we not give dads a break to follow their volunteer passions because we see them -- collectively -- as already spending enough time away from home? Is this a classic Freudian issue; those of us whose own dads were absent are the quickest to judge? Or is this just "the truth": dads should not, no how no way, be spending precious hours coaching or coding websites or organizing conferences or building bikes unless their own kids are being directly benefited? What do you think? Are dads and moms judged alike in their use/abuse of me time? Should they be?

Benign 'Neglect' of Our Children?

September 19, 2011

Urbanmamas_chs_trackteam
For six years now, I've been volunteering as a high school coach at Cleveland High School. For the first two years, the head track coach coordinated some sort of honorarium for me -- a lot less than the salaried assistant coaches make (somewhere around $1,000 a month for roughly 20 hours a week of work, plus more for some weekend meets), but it was something! In the past few years, I've been coaching cross country, and the booster club hasn't seen it in their mission to bestow funds upon we running volunteers. I don't go every day -- last year it was only two or three days a week, because I was parenting my three boys solo and often didn't get home from school pickup until it was almost too late to catch the kids before they were off on their run.

My husband just left again last week for more overseas Army duty, and I have somehow wangled a great babysitter who can watch the boys for me -- I'll be able to go almost every day and meets too, and since the season only has six weeks left in it, I estimate it will cost me $500 or $600 in child care. Yes, to volunteer, for no pay whatsoever.

This has been a big point of contention for my husband. He has never been very supportive of my coaching; as an abstract thing, it seems great, but in reality he sees it as "ignoring my family" "for strangers." If I have to pay for the privilege? All the worse! We're locked in an unwinnable battle of wills. The way I see it: I'm giving back to the community that brought me into the running world (I ran track for Cleveland in the early 90s, and was nurtured by a wonderful woman, a mother herself, who even bought shoes for me when my cheerleading shoes gave me shin splints -- her son is a lead designer for Nike, so it was a bargain, but still!). I'm doing something I love -- working with high schoolers -- that I don't have the patience to do for a career (I would have gone into teaching if investment banking hadn't come along and stolen me; I have little patience, though, with school bureaucracy, and would likely have lasted this long as a public school teacher). I get to run four or five days a week; something I never do without the support of daily practice, and makes me happy, fit, and healthy. Most of all, I feel that I'm making a difference for these kids. Most of the coaches are men, and it's a co-ed sport; the girls tell me often that they appreciate my support and my conversation. It feels like the right thing to do and I always come home from practice and meets in a glow.

That glow does not extend to my husband's point of view on the matter: in his perspective, I'm leaving my children with a babysitter, spending family money unwisely, and neglecting my duty as their primary caregiver to do something that's benefiting other people's kids. Of course, I'm the parent on the ground, to use a militarism, and I get my way. But leaving aside the personal details of our argument, how do you negotiate this sort of balancing act? Is it ok (in your opinion and situation) to "neglect" your children if you're doing good work for the community -- volunteering for the neighborhood organization, the PTA, a blog that supports a needy community that perhaps doesn't directly help your children? How about support groups and church outreach? Political causes and extremely low-paid non-profit work? Co-operative projects and buying clubs and knitting circles? When you're doing something that doesn't directly, immediately benefit your own children, how do you suss out the justification for this benign "neglect"?

Inspiration From Mama Feats at Fiets of Parenthood

August 22, 2011

I thought I was speedy and skilled on my mamabikeorama. Two of my boys and I careened around the course Shetha designed for this summer's Fiets of Parenthood PDX yesterday at Clever Cycles, sure with Everett's jousting skills (which earned him first place in the Kindercross race) and my well-honed riding ability, I'd be at least in the top three.

While my time wasn't that bad, my skill level was nothing near the top of the Portland heap. I had earlier been watching a mom test out a huge platform-style box bike. She had her husband and a bunch of kids in it; Monroe hopped in, too, and she gleefully steered the passel of kids around the blocked-off street. "Is there a weight limit on this?" she asked, peddling in her dress, one hand on the handlebars.

Other inspirational biking parents were there, like Katie, who biked to the birthing center to deliver her infant daughter Kestrel -- she and her husband were pedaled home with the baby in a Pedicab. Kestrel, tiny still, was there after a jaunt with big brother Jasper and her parents to and from North Portland. A mom who had just picked up her longtail mama bike on Saturday stopped by with her two children. Travis and his family -- three boys, mom in stripey knee socks -- had made themselves matching tees, because you know, they were bringing it, their all to the competition.

I went first in the competition, and was quickly knocked out in both speed and overall skill. With a 10-second bonus for each child aboard, Emily -- with six kids of her own aboard one bicycling contraption (for the record: Bakfiets with four littles in the box, one in a rear-mounted bike seat behind that looked like it was vintage or European, and one attached via a Follow-Me tandem coupling -- a neat import that allows a parent to hook the child's bike to the parent's rear wheel) -- had most of us beat. Here's how this looks:

It's proof that my competitive spirit can be easily quelled by the wow-factor of an inspirational mama feat or two. I'm so inspired that I want to tell everyone -- did you see the mom with the six kids bike jousting? -- but it's not a one-time sight. She's bicycling Southeast Portland every day with her family, and she's not the only inspiration on the streets. Keep an eye out, and prepare to find wow-factor every day. Smile and wave when you see them, and tell everyone about the ordinary, extraordinary, Fiets of Parenthood around us.

(For the record, Travis was one of those who tied for first thanks to his three boys and four rings jousted -- and blazing speed! And next year, I think we should give extra bonuses for parents who pedal their co-parent around -- I think our winning lineup may have been different if we did.)

BlogHer '11 Conference: A Report on Mommyblogging, 2011

August 18, 2011

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I have been a "professional blogger" since before that was really a thing, starting out making $3 a post in 2004 at BloggingBaby.com. I wanted to go to the Very First Blogher conference, in 2005, but was a bit hampered by an infant baby (Truman) and no money. In 2006, I managed to get a spot on one of the panels and a roommate -- Asha from Parenthacks -- and brought my infant along. Jonathan and Everett drove down to San Jose in a Flexcar minivan and the boys hung by the pool with other daddybloggers while we women browsed the casual panels. Arianna Huffington was there. Dooce was there! So were all the OMB's, Original MommyBloggers. Even then, though I knew almost everyone, I felt like a bit of an outsider, not as famous as Dooce or even Melissa Summers; not as commercial, not as edgy as just about anyone. Since then, Blogher either didn't fit into my career (the finance management I was working for by then at Aol wasn't really interesting in me writing about a bunch of women bloggers) or my family.

This year, I knew it was time to reinvest. I bought my ticket back in February when I had extra cash and was planning my year. I booked a room at a hostel and, after much debate, a flight by myself, no family at all, to San Diego for Blogher '11. As both an insider and a decided outsider -- I don't really get involved in the same communities as the OMBs, even though I do enjoy reading their work and think they're brilliant and lovely women, I don't do giveaways or participate in the more commercial social networks of the new crop of MBaB (MommyBloggers as Businesses) -- I wasn't sure. Would I have a blast? Would I feel left out? Would I learn a lot? Would I roll my eyes?

As with anything, it's all about who you spend your time with. On the second day, I walked past a woman in the hall on her phone. It was in the middle of a panel session -- I'd ducked out in the middle to switch sessions -- so it was quiet. "It's like being with 3,000 babies who only want to talk about themselves," she said. I thought about some of the questioners at the sessions -- those who preambled their queries with a 60-second (or more) bio in which they list their dotcoms and economic interests. Yes, some of them just wanted to talk about themselves and their own unique concerns (I'm sure I've said things that could be construed as such). But most of the women I was encountering were just as eager to talk about us. Issues we have in common; how we can make a difference using social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of it); who we are and how sharing that is making our lives better.

Urbanmamas_jessica_charlene
the wonderful Jessica and the lovely Charlene. you know, they're both lovely AND wonderful.

The first two sessions I attended had me in tears, rolling-down-my-face sniffling tears. The first one, Blogging Your Way to Self-Acceptance, talked about so many things I feel that the OMBs were all about: finding your own truth, telling a story that speaks to the universal, being true to yourself. Brené Brown started, taking us all outside the hustle and bustle of sponsors and products for a beautiful hour-and-a-half. She said, "one of the things that I have come to learn is that our worthiness, our ability to really engage with the world from a place of I am enough, that worthiness lives inside of our story. ...we have two choices and that's own our story and share our story or stay outside of your story and kind of hustle for our worthiness, which I have done a lot of in my own life, perfecting, pleasing, performing, proving, and it's just exhausting and I don't think it's sustainable." The way I heard her was this: believing that our own truth is worth sharing -- and doing so in a personal, authentic way -- is not just an exercise in self-worth but also a necessary and world-changing act.

Shauna James Ahern, the Gluten-Free Girl, was someone I already knew I loved through Twitter. I wasn't sure if I knew what she was doing on this panel, though -- until she started talking (oh!).

Continue reading "BlogHer '11 Conference: A Report on Mommyblogging, 2011" »

Japan Aftermath: Host Families, Supporters Needed for Japanese Mamas, Children

June 05, 2011

Umamas_japanese_mama
My neighbor, who has a lot of connections, friends and family in Japan, has been doing all she could to help with the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, and resultant nuclear disaster there. She asked me to post this and my hope is the urbanMamas community may have resources to help.

My name is Camellia Nieh, and I am a Portland mama and a Japanese translator-interpreter. Since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that struck Japan in March, I have been involved in various relief efforts. 

Our family recently enrolled with a group that helps families with small children or pregnant mothers seek refuge away from the disaster zone. The families seeking refuge may be currently living in shelters because their homes have been destroyed, or their homes may be intact but they are fearful of the radiation risks and are facing a difficult summer of keeping their children indoors during the summer heat to mitigate radiation exposure.

Some families seeking a placement are from the disaster zone or areas close to the nuclear accident, but even mothers in Tokyo are looking to get out of the country. Though radiation levels are lower in the Tokyo area, mothers there too are worried about the effects on their small children. Trace amounts of radiation have been detected in Tokyo mothers' breast milk, and reassurances that those levels are below the established limits for infants' exposure are of little confort. (Would you trust the government to tell you how much radiation intake is safe for a newborn?) 

Our family is currently in correspondence with a mother in Fukushima with a 5-year-old boy. We are discussing having them stay with us in late summer, so that the child can play outdoors and get some fresh air. He has a skin condition that is worsened by having to remain constantly indoors, and outdoor activities for children in the area where they live are restricted to one hour per day to mitigate radiation exposure. 

Continue reading "Japan Aftermath: Host Families, Supporters Needed for Japanese Mamas, Children" »

Compare & Contrast: Portland's various farmer's markets

June 03, 2011

The growing season is here!  And, farmer's markets will soon be in full swing.  Portland Farmers Market is the big daddy of markets around here.  In ther 9th year, they have grown to a location on every single day of the week: Saturday at PSU (the OG), Sundays at King School, Mondays/Tuesdays/Thursdyas at Pioneer Courthouse Square, Wednesdays in the lower South Park Blocks, Thursdays at Buckman and in NW (EcoTrust bldg parking lot).  I guess nothing queued up for Fridays.

There are many, many  more markets beyond these main ones.  OEC has a comprehensive listing of Portland-area farmers markets: Tigard, Beaverton, Interstate, Lents, Montavilla, Hollywood, Hillsdale, Lloyd, OHSU, Moreland, Parkrose.  There are so many to chose from; it's a little dizzying.

An urbanMama recently emailed:

I know lots of the area farmer's markets are starting back up and I would love to hear people's thoughts about the different ones, i.e., price differences between them, quality and diversity of the vendors and items offered for sale, etc. I am familiar with the big one downtown, and the one in Hollywood, and I have to say that they have started to seem pretty expensive in the past few years. Are any of the other ones (Lents, Montavilla, Beaverton) any less expensive?

It Starts Here: Multnomah County's Healthy Living Initiative

April 01, 2011

A recent report on the healthiest counties in Oregon shows Multnomah county ranking in the middle.  Not all of us are fit and mindful of our sugar intake.  The Multnomah County Health Department recently launched the “It Starts Here” Campaign for a healthy, active Multnomah County.  “We are promoting healthy eating and active living as a means to combat obesity and its many associated health consequences. You can learn more about our campaign at our website multco-itstartshere.org.”

Mc billboard kid 030211

How does this image make you feel?  16 packets of sugar?  WOW, is that how much is in a bottle of soda?  The County is working on an outdoor advertising campaign to raise community awareness about the health burden of obesity and the effects of hidden sugar, particularly in sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks, and sugar-sweetened juices.  Care to share your input?  Click on the image <above> to complete an anonymous survey.  The county appreciates the input!

Do you or your kids drink soda?

 

TriMet Trekkers: our newest, youngest commuters

March 29, 2011

Our kids' public charter school is in central Portland, drawing students from all quadrants of the city.  Part of its charter is to be located in that part of the city to be accessible to transit lines. Families commute to school using a variety of transportation options: personal vehicle, carpools, bike, foot, bus, train. 

Our school was one of 25 schools nationwide to be awarded a mini-grant from the National Center for Safe Routes to School.  Our $1,000 award would be used toward safety gear (reflective vests or blinky lights or first aid kids for groups of families walking or biking to school).  But, a large portion of our grant would fund - what we coined - the "TriMet Trekkers".

The intent would be to gather children in convenient clusters, who lived near one another, and have one adult chaperon a group of children on the bus or train together.  Our grant would pay for the transit tickets for the adult leader and any children in the group.  The idea was similar to "bike trains" or a walking school bus: traveling in groups can be safer and funner.

We launched our TriMet Trekker groups a couple of months ago, and my husband leads the one from our neighborhood.  Every Friday morning, at a specified intersection at a specified time, there are usually 7 children that he corals onto the bus, off the bus, and walks in to school.  Parents love being able to walk/drop off their kids down the street; the kids love being able to ride the bus to school with friends.  It's a small thing, but I love that there are 7 less mamas & papas having to drive their kids into school.  I love that the kids all clump in the back of the bus and chatter about schoolmates.  I love that the kids become confident getting on the bus and walking four blocks to their school.  

The Community that is urbanMamas

March 14, 2011

I moved to Portland in the Autumn of 2003.  At the time, I had a three year-old, and I was 7 months pregnant.  Our family made wonderful fast friends in those first few months, but - postpartum - I knew I needed something more.  That need took me to the yahoo-group, which took me to Hau, Sarah, and Shetha.  With this longing for community and support (and cherishing these qualities as societal ideals), we started urbanMamas.

Our families have grown, and so has our community.  I hear many stories from mamas, whom I may not even know, who have made their closest friends through playgroups  or playdates posted on urbanMamas.  There is one amazing success story I will never forget: a mama connecting with several families in order to weave a complex schedule of a nanny share at her house, all using urbanMamas as the community that connects.

Now, I find myself in Memphis, TN.  A Facebook plea led to several introductions to friends in Memphis, to friends of friends.  Tonight, I visited a friend of an urbanMama who I know personally.  She, her partner, and their four children welcomed me into their home, a complete stranger!  They were all so doting and loving.  They will be host-family to my little toddler while I work in the next couple of days; and I feel completely comfortable leaving him there, even if we just met.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in Tucson, dropping off the little one at a former PDX-dwelling urbanMama, who adopted our boy for a long afternoon into nighttime.

It is testament of the power of this community.  I feel so fortunate to be a part of it, and I feel so fortunate that our community reaches so far beyond Portland.  I will be honest: it exhausts me  to continue to invest in the urbanMamas community.  It takes so much out of me.  On the other hand: it really is so rewarding to be the recipient of so much support from mamas far and wide, when I really do need it.

To everyone in my expanded urbanMamas community (yes, that means YOU), to those who have respectfully weighed in on my personal dilemmas in a non-judgmental way, to those of you who listen even if you do not share my circumstance, and especially to everyone who has watched RJ in the past 1.5 years, thank you.

And, just a little plug: for those of you who want to continue connecting on Facebook, hit us up on our new "PDX urbanMamas" page.  ("UrbanMamas PDX", the person, will be going defunct soon.)

How to help: planning for meals & care

March 12, 2011

Have meal-trains become more and more popular or has our community just become more tight? Perhaps a bit of both.  When my last child was born about 1.5 years ago, I was absolutely floored by the generousity of friends, life with a newborn and the gift of meals was so abundant!  

There are quite a few babies entering our lives soon and there are also families in help due to serious health conditions.  I have come across several different tools to help plan out meals: MealBaby seems to be popular, but there is also Lots of Helping Hands (which can also help with coordinating care), Take Them A Meal, and MealTrain.  Which meal train websites have you used?  Which do you like and why?

The Motherhood-Project: have you participated?

February 17, 2011

It was only after I had endured a most angst-ridden adolescence that I had read "Reviving Ophelia", a collection of anecdotes of a psychologist's work with adolescent women coming of age.  Granted, as the daughter of two immigrants not fully accepting of "American ways", I didn't have the same experiences as the examples.  Still, something resonated.  When "Ophelia Speaks" came out, I was equally drawn to the stories, written by teenage girls themselves, reliving many feelings and emotions of being a young woman, in search of self, questioning and wondering, struggling and exploring (though I recall feeling the same sense of homogeneity in this book, telling myself I had to one day edit a book that would be more representative of the experiences of girls of color).

That was before I was a mother.  Now, I have a daughter named Ophelia (can you believe?), aged 10.  Roughly two years ago, we started to notice changes in our daughter's mood, behavior.  She was becoming more assertive with us, of the annoying variety, and oh-so emotional.  Tears were abundant, seemingly about mundane things.  But, it all meant the world to her.  We, as her parents, had a hard time dealing with these changes. Rebanal_women

More than anything, I want to have strong, passionate, and confident daughters.  I want them to feel comfortable in their skin, even if they are unlike the images we see on billboards or in the movies.  I want them to speak, loudly and strongly, in public, with elders, with peers, with youngers.  I want them to find their voice, know it and use it.  I want them to dance and perform, for the love of it all, with little self-consciousness.

I think we have our jobs cut out for us.  Raising conscientious and confident girls (or boys - saved for another post) is not easy.  

On thing I have heard about is the Mother-Daughter Project.  Groups of mothers and daughters have come together to support one another through the adolescent period and beyond, providing that important sense of community and sense of belonging, deepening mother-daughter relationship, while also forming strong peer relationships, all in the name of support and camaraderie during difficult times.

Have you participated in a Mother-Daughter Project group?  How have you tried to strengthen your relationship with your pre-adolescent or adolescent daughter?  What were memorable, meaningful relationships for you when you were an adolescent that you hope to replicate for your daughter?

In an emergency, contact... who?

January 31, 2011

Halfway through my memoir class this morning, I got a phone call from an unfamiliar number. Not school, at least, I thought, only to answer the phone to hear the 'hello' of my sister, Hannah. "Truman's school called," she said. "He's really sick and needs to be picked up." Luckily, I was relatively close to school -- only 2.5 miles away -- and headed out, making apologies to the other students and myself. Yet another sickness (strep throat, this time) has hit the kinders.

Emergency
My two local sisters are the emergency contacts on just about every form I complete: they're nearby, they're usually easy to reach, I know they'd be there for me in an emergency. Of course, in a really non-emergency like this -- a coughing kid who has to be taken home -- it would be crazy to ask them to leave work, driving three times as far as I have to bike to pick up my children (and then what?). Hannah has two little girls, one an infant who recently underwent heart surgery; Abby is pregnant. Both are teachers and it would be a real hardship to leave class suddenly in the middle of the day, not to mention, I don't want to expose them to my kids' kindergarten germs.

Unless it is really an emergency, then, the emergency contacts are just there to help get in touch with me -- and sometimes I feel a bit panicked about how little backup there is. My closest friends have jobs and kids of their own; I'd hardly want to add their names to the form. Their own provide enough in the way of emergencies. And I'm relatively lucky: I have my sisters both within a 25-minute drive, my parents just an hour away. I have to wonder about the many mamas I know whose families are unavailable, either across the continent, or gone physically or emotionally from their lives.

Do you, too, ever roll your eyes at those emergency contact lines and think, --I'm all they've got if you want to be honest about it. --Good luck with that. --Let's just keep my cell phone batteries juiced and call it a day? Do you ever panic about it? Or have you found a creative solution, made your own community, or put a nanny or other paid caregiver on the form?

Are you, will you, 'Portlandia'?

January 21, 2011

I've only watched the prior-to-premiere videos, but from what I've seen, urbanMamas resembles Portlandia very much. The new short IFC series -- six 30-minute episodes -- skewers everything we know, love, hate, and are in Portland: even our very own logos (yep, we've got a bird on it, several in fact!). Tonight's episode, up at 7:30, evidently will poke fun at the very Portland practice of knowing very very very much about where our food comes from.

So_portlandia_market
Can I talk? I've got spaghetti sauce on the stove; the pork comes from Tails and Trotters, whose butchers-in-chief I've chatted with on many occasions. The mushrooms come from a buying club and they are definitely local. I canned the tomatoes, and they're heirloom, and from a nearby farm, and I grew the garlic. I'm wearing a thrifted apron and awesome brand-new pants from a free pile (brand-new to me, anyway). I just cut my boys' hair, not too short, in my living room. I'm treading on thin ice, though, by eating spaghetti from a package, avec gluten... it's whole wheat and organic though!

It's fun to make fun of ourselves sometimes, and I'll surely take the first opportunity to watch it (on Hulu?). The ironic thing (or one of them) is that it's really not very Portland to have cable, and even regular cable packages don't include IFC. And I have to admit, I wish a tiny bit that someone who is actually from Portland had written this. [Note, edited: Carrie, as I learned, has lived in Portland for several years, though the rest of the show's writers haven't.] Will Fred & Carrie miss all the truly Portland things to laugh at? Will the comedy hurt? Are they stealing "that's so Portland," the thing we always say to ourselves when we see two guys on tall bikes dressed in hipster-thrift store-Santa suits giving big cans of Pabst to homeless guys on Christmas afternoon, and turn it into "that's so Portlandia"? Will we, as one person who posted on the Facebook page suggests, be truly Portland by already being "over" the show after two episodes?

So_portlandia

note: that first picture is amazingly, everything Portlandia pokes fun at. That's at the farmer's market on a Saturday last fall before Thanskgiving. That woman has an appliqued bird on her sweatshirt. No one is using an umbrella. And they all have their locally-roasted direct trade drip-on-demand artisan coffee in hand...

2010 Holiday Adopt-A-Family: Can you help?

December 14, 2010

An urbanMama contacted us recently on helping to coordinate adopting a family this year. She has done all the legwork and now we need your help with donations.  It is a tough year for many, but every little bit counts! If you'd like to donate, please mention what item(s) you would like to contribute and we will cross it off the list.

We are adopting a family through Family Assistance Foundation, is a stand alone 501(c)(3) organization, which is not affiliated with any religious organization, etc.  The families are all nominated by organizations, such as housing authorities, Clackamas and Multnomah County Developmental Disabilities, Head Start, etc.  They do not accept self-nominated families.

 Head Start nominated this family of 4 and according to their case worker, they have "virtually nothing."  The mother is not working, but is attending school part-time.  Currently, the father is only working part-time.  They are in need of household items and are appreciative of anything that they will receive.

 *** Note:  Second hand items in good condition are welcome. ***

Family Holiday Meal Grocery Gift Cards:  approx. $50 more worth of grocery gift cards - Safeway is their nearest grocery store, but any would work.  (Family Assistance Foundation asks that donors donate grocery gift cards for the family's holiday meal, in case they have some traditional food items that they serve at holiday meals.)

Note:  Donated food items are also much appreciated in addition to the grocery gift cards.  (Safeway giftcard - Mary ($20) Michele)

Family Wish List:

  • Pots and pan set (DONE, Trina)
  • silverware (DONE)
  • queen sheet set (DONE, Jen and Aimee)
  • towels (DONE, Sylvia and Melissa)
  • desk/small table and chair for the 5 year old to do homework

Mother's Wish List (Name - Ana) 

  • watch (DONE, Kelly)
  • purse (DONE, Mary)
  • makeup (DONE, Joan)
  • Coat size - L (DONE, Sharai)
  • Pants size - 11 (DONE, Sharai)
  • Shirt size - L (DONE, Sharai)
  • Pajama size - L (DONE, Susie)
  • Shoe size - 7

Father's Wish List (Name - Rick) -

  • wallet (DONE, Kelly)
  • belt
  • knife set
  • Coat size - XL
  • Pant size - 36X30 (DONE, Jen and Heather)
  • Jeans - 36X30
  • Shirt size - XL (DONE, Jen)
  • Pajama size - XL (DONE, Susie)
  • Shoe size - 9 1/2

1st Child's Wish List (Name - Eric.  Male.  Age - 5) -

  • games (in Spanish)
  • games (in English)
  • blocks (Done, Anna)
  • cars (DONE, Trina)
  • Coat size - 7 (DONE, Sylvia)
  • Pant size - 7 (DONE, Rhonda)
  • Shirt size - 7 (DONE, Rhonda)
  • Pajama size - 7 (DONE, Susie)
  • Shoe size - 13 1/2(DONE, Sara)

2nd Child's Wish List (Name - Adrian.  Male.  Age - approx. 9 months)

  • learning toys (Done, Anna)
  • soft books (in Spanish)(DONE, Sharai)
  • soft books (in English) (DONE, Sharai)
  • Coat size - 12 months (DONE, Sylvia)
  • Pants size - 12 months (DONE, Rhonda)
  • Shirt size - 12 months (DONE, Rhonda)
  • Shoe size - 5 1/2 (infant sizing) (DONE, Sara)

NEED HELP WITH TRANSPORTATION OF GIFTS:

I keep on forgetting to request help with transporting the gifts. I have a 4 door car, but won't have enough room to transport all of the gifts in it, especially with my daughter in the car with me.  I also need someone to help transport gifts to the family on Thursday in SE Portland (around SE 82nd) sometime b/w the hours of 11:30-1:30.

Donation Gathering/Gift Wrapping Event:  Urban Grind NE has generously donated after hours time in order for a drop off and/or gift wrap gathering.  It is on Tues, Dec. 21st starting around 5 pm and ending around 6 pm.  (urbanMamas will pick up the tab for pastries and refreshements.)  Donated items can either be gift wrapped before drop off or during our gathering.  We will provide gift wrapping supplies, but please bring extra supplies (gift bags, wrapping paper, ribbon, scissors, tape, etc.) if you are able.

If you are unable to drop off your gifts during this event, please contact me in order to arrange a drop off date/time at my house in close-in North Portland.  I can accept donations until the 22nd. Tax donation forms will provided.

To volunteer & To give, as a urbanMamas Family

November 21, 2010

The Willamette Week's Give Guide is out and got us thinking about the giving season, which usually coincides with the wintertime.  The urbanMamas community is generous and giving, but it surprised me to find only one conversation in our archives about volunteering opportunities and we have an occasional suggestion of opportunities on the uM exchange.  We have adopted-a-family in 2007  and 2008.  (Anyone want to spearhead that effort this year?  email us!)  A good number of us volunteer at our children's schools and have little time for much else.  

This year, the urbanMamas want to give back.  We are hoping to coordinate opportunities at anywhere from 1 to 3 area community-based organizations where mamas, papas, and children can contribute their time together, as a group, as a family.  We're also hoping to provide financial support to those chosen organizations as well, on behalf of all of us.  Do you have giving and volunteering traditions?  We would love your suggestions.  

Lunch-Pooling: Making Friends and Swapping Muffins

September 30, 2010

My neighbor Camellia posted on Facebook about her lunch pool -- something I fell in love with briefly once years ago but never executed. When she offered to write a post about her new experiences, I said, "yes!"

Camellia_lunch_pool
I was nervous about my almost-Three starting Montessori school. I was worried about him adjusting, about drop-off, and about…it seems silly, but packing lunches. After reading the recent posts about kids leaving their lunches uneaten and Sunday night insanity I was nervous about being prepared each morning with balanced, nutritious lunches he would actually eat. Even at home, I don’t feel like we always do a very good job of coming up with good little guy meals day after day. We fall back on quesadillas and Cheerios far more often that I’d like.

A woman overheard me discussing the topic at the gym and approached me with a suggestion: lunch-pooling. You find a parent in your kid’s class with compatible lunch-styles and take turns making lunch for both kids, one week on, one week off.

I love it. It’s actually easier to pack two lunches because you can use up your ingredients faster, packing fresher lunches with more variety. I feel like the challenge of coming up with a week’s lunches is much more manageable than the prospect of packing lunches every day. And so far, the kids are eating nearly everything! My kid actually eats better than he does at home, because I have to plan better, and he has to eat what he gets instead of demanding Cheerios. Arranging it in a cute little box helps, too.

Of course, the challenge is finding a friend who eats more or less the same stuff your kid eats. This could be harder if your kid has dietary issues. But even if you don’t find a lunchbox buddy right off the bat, there are other ways to lunch pool. Even if your friends’ kids go to different schools, you can swap home-made lunchbox staples for the freezer. Mini-muffins, meatballs, soups, and pot-stickers are a few our kids like.

In general, I love the ideal of “pooling,” be it transportation, lunches, or what-have-you… I love that the same effort goes twice as far, and it’s more fun, too. As the old saying goes, many hands make work light. I have friends who even pool soup dinners through their kids’ classroom: several families rotate cooking duty on Soup Night, making a savory soup that’s substantial enough for a meal with salad and bread. They exchange soups at school when they pick up their kids. I’m also part of a carpool for picking up our raw milk and fresh eggs from the farm. What do you pool? What are the pros and cons? And what are your favorite freezable lunchbox staples?

"perfect parents": what are their best features?

September 21, 2010

We all know that parents are not perfect.  I really do strive to parent to the best of my ability, but there are times I do yell and scream, and sometimes I do the grip and shake.  This weekend, there was another family visiting with us, and I admire them so much.  These two parents are each working full-time, each in their own separate careers in social justice and nonprofit work.  They are passionate about their work.  Add to that, they have three children, one of whom shares a home with his other parent.  Add to that still, they have an immense social network, and they are found almost any given night canvassing the community, facilitating community conversations, outreaching in parts of the city where information is least likely to touch, phone-banking.  It amazes me to track them each on Facebook and hear about the issues, groups, and causes they actively support.  I am so thankful for this couple - despite being parents with three children aged 2 to 10- they are able to support one another in their various endeavors to allow them to be such meaningful, vital members of our Portland community at large.

I know there are no "perfect parents", but there are parents out there that we admire, respect, and want to embody, all to the fullest.  We all have our own priorities and will admire, respect, and want to embody different qualities in other parents.  In the bath this morning, I thought to myself, what do I respect most in other parents?  What qualities would I love to embody as a parent?

For Sale: Lemonade! Cookies!

August 06, 2010

Lemonade_girls
This afternoon, my girls had a few friends over.  Yes, I said "a few".  All of them, the whole lot, were looking forward to this day for a while, as they had agreed to have their annual lemonade stand today.  Three of them hunkered down and worked on their signage.  A couple of them worked on perfecting the recipe. We had walked by a neighbor's garage sale earlier, and the neighbors agreed to lend us their electric juicer for the day. Tomorrow, we'll return the the juicer, and they'll sell it off as originally intended.  My husband, two days ago, bought the girls six organic lemons for use today.  And, good thing I just stocked up on agave sweetener, as we were all fresh out of sugar.  A few taste-tests later, the kids were stocked with two pitchers of lemonade. Bonus: the girls had also found my emergency stash of homemade cookie dough; they made a couple dozen bite-sized cookies to add to the sale.

Continue reading "For Sale: Lemonade! Cookies!" »

Breastfeeding setting records at the Big Latch On August 6

July 26, 2010

Baby_latch_on
Oregon is already leading the country in its rates of breastfeeding, and length of breastfeeding; for children born in 2006, 91.4% of babies were breastfed at some point, and 37.0% were breastfed still at 12 months, significantly higher than the U.S. average and a little higher than other progressive, breastfeeding-friendly states like Washington and California. In order to promote breastfeeding and "show everyone just how great Portland is and how much we all value breastfeeding," a group in Portland is organizing the Big Latch On the morning of Friday, August 6.

With a goal of setting the world record for 'most women breastfeeding at once,' mothers will be asked to latch their breastfeeding child on and, evidently, on-site monitors will make sure there is a firm latch. The Big Latch On has already registered a few dozen venues in every part of town, and there will be prizes and treats and, hopefully, lots of other nursing mamas. (I'm a little unclear as to whether everyone is supposed to latch on at 10:30, or at 11, but you're being asked to arrive at 10 a.m.) Even WIC offices are registered, demonstrating the wide community support for breastfeeding in Portland.

I'll admit that, when I considered how hard to push the weaning of my now-three-year-old son, I had this in the back of my mind. Right after the Big Latch On, maybe?

The revolution will be put into glass jars

July 05, 2010

Plums_jars
Last year, I was invited to join a group of amazing women, mostly food writers or bloggers, but a few simply passionate about preservation, in Seattle, Philadelphia and a few other locales to help promote the Canvolution -- a celebration of Canning Across America all year long that culminated in a weekend Can-a-rama. In cities across the country, canners were invited to host events in which beginning and experienced putter-uppers would join together in something like the harvest parties of old.

The inaugural event was scheduled for the weekend of Hood-to-Coast; much though I wanted to host something, it was a little more than I could juggle. I canned alone on Sunday when I returned home from a lot of mostly-sleepless running. I was lucky enough, though, to be invited to a tomato canning party in September, giving me the community canning fix to get me through the winter (and, for the record, I canned enough tomatoes! -- with my solo jars and the product of our canning party, 70 pints were more than my family needed). I've been inviting a few friends over for strawberry jam-making on Wednesdays, and though it's been a bit chaotic, it's been lovely, too. And the jam has been delicious!

This year I was thrilled to see the Can-a-rama scheduled for the weekend of July 24 and 25. Immediately, I knew I'd host a canning party; every time I've mentioned food preservation here, I've had at least one commenter wonder, how can I learn to can food? This will be just a bit of a lesson, and it will be hands-on and messy and probably hot, but it should be fun.

I'm planning to book a solid day of harvesting and preserving on Saturday, July 24; we'll begin by harvesting some plums from a neighbor's tree, then make a number of preserves based on those plums (including jam, a savory sauce and perhaps plum pickles), and probably some other preserves -- blueberry, apricot, zucchini? -- based on what's bountiful and cheap that week. I'll demonstrate both water-bath canning and lacto-fermentation; but no pressure canning. I think my Southeast Portland home can fit about a dozen mamas and papas; I'd love to see parties clustered around neighborhoods so that you all could use this as a community-building as well as a teaching/learning/food-securing opportunity. (If you want to host but aren't into the coordination, leave a comment and I'll help.)