245 posts categorized "Community"

StoryCorps is coming to PDX, August 12-14, 2010

June 30, 2010

Pioneer_square
It was a looooong while ago when StoryCorps' airstream trailer planted in the middle of Pioneer Courthouse Square. Was it 2005?  I remember it.  We were still relatively new to Portland, and the StoryCorps project had *just* launched.  Have you heard StoryCorps?  The program is designed to "provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives." 

Well, five years later, StoryCorps is one of those features that the kids and I love to hear on OPB.  Our ears perk when we hear the StoryCorps jingle.  Well, now, we have the chance to try to record our stories.  StoryCorps is coming to the Central Library on August 12, 13, and 14.

In specific, they are looking for stories "that capture the roles that public libraries have played in people’s lives," a very particular angle on the StoryCorps. I, for one, love retelling stories, commemorating them for later, reading and rereading about moments of our lives that seem like just yesterday. Our lives are one anecdote after another. Sometimes, after listening to a StoryCorps episode, I will think, "if I ever have the opportunity to record via StoryCorps, what story would I share?" Many of my most meaningful and powerful anecdotes are stories of me with my mother, father, grandmother or grandfather. I would love to archive stories of me as mother, too.

If you could share *any* story for the StoryCorps project, what would it be? And, don't forget, be sure to call the Library if you are interested in sharing how libraries have changed *your* life.

Preschools, like Puddletown, often looking for a home

Puddletown_school
A preschool needs a home.

Several friends in my neighborhood have children at Puddletown School; one of the teachers there came to dinner at my house a few weeks ago as part of the Village Building Convergence. Through them, I know it to be a jewel of a Montessori school. Like many preschools, it's been shuttled from church to used-to-be-a-church to senior center through its life, never quite comfortable and permanent. I, too, have worked to find a space for a child's playspace, and I empathize with the community's struggle. I so wish it was easier to find spaces for preschools, who need safe, clean ground floor locations; several rooms; close and easy access to bathrooms; and a nearby outdoor space for active play.

Even through the economy's downturn, though, the sort of real estate appropriate for preschools is expensive and often requires difficult upgrades. Preschools operating in a home's large daylight basement, or ground floor, have it easier, as they need not rely on a landlord's good graces; they do require special approval and licensing, however, which takes precious time.

In this case, as seems to be the concern so frequently, Puddletown is losing its lease because its landlord, the Holgate Center at SE 32nd and Holgate, is using the space for other things. Now, with new families signed up for fall and the older children eager to get back to their teachers, the school is adrift without options. Do you have ideas? Has your preschool been through a similar upheaval? What advice do you have for these families?

Continue reading "Preschools, like Puddletown, often looking for a home" »

Pregnancy support groups?

June 10, 2010

Pregnant_supprt
A friend asked on Twitter if I knew of any pregnancy support groups; and I haven't been able to answer her because I'm out of the loop here! All I have had, if you exclude my first-pregnancy birth prep class, is you (which is plenty :). Have any of you participated in or led pregnancy support classes? Please share!

We last discussed pregnancy support groups about a year ago, and many of you mentioned prenatal yoga (I've had a lovely experience with Shana at Yoga Shala on Division), La Leche League, and hospital-sponsored groups like these at Providence. I feel as if something is missing, though. Is this a hole in the community that needs to be filled; or is it already, and I'm just not finding it?

presenting fiets of parenthood, saturday, june 12

May 16, 2010

Fiets_212
 

This event-to-be has had many names: "Mamabikeorama Xtracyclextravaganza" was one, but that was quite a mouthful and before we firmly decided to make it parent- and brand-neutral. We've been delightedly coming up with possible contests of skill and style, community builders and likely Youtube moments for years; but when Julian at Totcycle posted this fall that he was thinking about a very similar concept -- and with a great name, too (we love the fiets/feats wordplay)-- that we decided it was high time to start our planning engines.

So, working together with Julian, the fine folks at Clever Cycles, and Patrick and Holly of vélocouture and McGuire Barber Design, we're proud to announce that the inaugural Fiets of Parenthood event will be Saturday, June 12th, part of Pedalpalooza 2010. Full details (as they currently stand) are here at the event site; events will include a family biking obstacle course (on each team, at least one parent and child must be in some way connected via integrated bike or trailer hookup, etc.) with winners for both style and speed; a "kindercross" kids' cyclocross race which will award four- to 12-year-olds for fancy riding and lightning fastness; and a parent-child "figure cycling" event in which teams perform a two-to-three minute trick routine. Proceeds from sale of stickers, buttons and such will benefit the Community Cycling Center; donations will also be accepted; food carts like SolPops, Trailhead Coffee Roasters, and other more substantial fare will be on hand.

Saturday, June 12th
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
908 SE Hawthorne
bring your bikes, your kids, your fanciest duds and your skills
free

Let us know if you plan to come in the comments; and if you have any idea for events, skills or other agenda items that aren't already mentioned, please pass those along!

Not mid-life & not quarter-life, but the family-life crisis?

April 07, 2010

The other day, OPB's Think Out Loud discussed the "quarter-life crisis", a situation arising from "upwardly moble, college-educated young professionals" who are "dissatisfied with their careers", leading to feelings of "instability, isolation, frustration, and reassessment."

It made me think - not that I was suffering from mid- or quarter-life crisis - but about moments when I felt that I was ridden with some family-life crisis, the same feelings arising from the pressures, stress, isolation, and expectation that accompanies the role of mama and life partner.  It made me think - when we are caught in an endless juggle, managing calendars, making dinner after dinner, carefully planning so grocery bills are within budget - it only makes sense that some of us would find ourselves in crisis.

I know it's hard.  For all of us.  When you really need help, when you really need a hand, and when you really need another ear to listen, where do you go for support?  How do we meet new moms, make new friends, build community around us?  Time and time again, we receive emails from urbanMamas new to Portland, new to mamahood, or new to unique life challenges, that leaves her in search of more.  What would be your number one suggestion?

A great idea: Cake Pan Library or Exchange

April 05, 2010

In our city, there are tool libraries that have grown into huge resources for our community.  What about a cake pan library?   An urbanMama recently emailed:

What a great idea - I am having a star wars themed party for my son on April 10th and was looking to get an R2D2 cake pan - but they are over $60.  That's when I came across these "cake pan libraries" that are associated with local libraries, like this one in Indiana.  Does Portland have anything similar?  Do any uranMamas have a R2D2 cake pan I could please borrow?

What a great idea!  How can we get a cake pan library started?  Perhaps we could just help to facilitate a cake pan exchange?

What we learned in a cooking lesson: Soup every way

March 07, 2010

Making_cabbage_soup
A nice mama took me up on my offer from the post about Jamie Oliver, and came over Thursday for a cooking lesson. While I'd quizzed her on likes and dislikes before she came (no mushrooms, she said, and her husband wasn't an onion fan), we hadn't really talked about what she wanted to learn. "I feel overwhelmed," she said, with a 14-month-old in the kitchen and a tight budget. "How do people just always have what they need on hand?"

We quickly realized that she didn't need help figuring out how to dice and peel and saute: she needed to be released from the stress of a recipe. She's one of those people (on the other end of the spectrum of home cooks than I) who must absolutely put two teaspoons of thyme into a recipe if it calls for two teaspoons of thyme, and if she can't find thyme or if it's very expensive or if she gets home and realizes she has, after all, no balsamic vinegar (just cider), or whatever: she panics.

What she needed, I said, was to cook without a recipe at all. Just a process. That would save her from the planning, list-making, recipe-checking, budget-busting stress. She could just buy whatever she saw that was in season and inexpensive (or whatever was growing in her garden, arrived in her CSA box, or her mom had given her), and use the process to make it fit.

We made one thing: a cabbage black bean chili, in which I used the beans from the recipe I included in the first post, and I stressed throughout our time that weren't going to talk about quantities or requirements, just procedures, categories and maximums, and ways she could fit this process into her own family's life. One piece of advice I gave her was, I thought, universally useful, and that is to figure out what are your favorite and most versatile spices, and become comfortable enough with them so you'll always know how much to use. Mine are cumin, smoked paprika, dried chiles, cloves, nutmeg and allspice; other good standbys could include ginger, dry mustard, star anise, thyme, dill, cinnamon and cayenne or chipotle pepper. You could only have two or three (cumin and thyme and some sort of pepper, for instance) and still manage to make good food no matter what, I think. Buy the spices in bulk (Limbo has a fantastic fresh spice and herb aisle; many other neighborhoods sport their own super spice sources) and you'll save money and ensure freshness.

Below is the process for bean soup I used. This is an endlessly great way to make soups, and could be vegetarian, vegan, or thoroughly meaty-creamy, depending on which options you picked. The one we made was delicious! And though I'll probably never make it exactly like that again, I'm sure we'll make many more great soups in our day that will best even that.

Continue reading "What we learned in a cooking lesson: Soup every way" »

I've Donated, Now What?

January 16, 2010

It's so easy to open up our pocketbooks in this time of crisis for the victims of the Haiti earthquake, but as a friend recently mentioned "so totally preoccupied by the news from Haiti, and the people I know who have personal connections there. After you donate, then what to do?" 

Do you have any suggestions on what we can do? For one, we can frequent the many awesome local businesses that are organizing to donate more money.  Thanks, Milagros, for putting the list together. 

Have you SMSed a donation? The following organizations are accepting SMS donations in the US only:

  • Text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts
  • Text “YELE” to 501501 to Donate $5 to Yele Haiti’s Earthquake Relief efforts
  • Text "GIVE10" to 20222 to donate $10 to Direct Relief
We'd love to hear of other ways you are helping in this relief effort!

We ask: what can urbanMamas do for YOU?

January 11, 2010

As we enter a new year and a new decade, we enter yet another year of urbanMamas.com.  Started in 2004, a handful of mamas decided to throw this resource together to help mamas connect, share experiences, lend feedback, and more.  There has been SO much we have tackled here on uM: from our varied searches for the right pediatrician, OB/Gyn, midwives or doulas, to finding the right childcare or schools.  We also talk about diversity, papahood, cereal, neighborhoods, and - of course - biking.  We have shared our stories; we're family now.

We are just a handful of mamas trying to grow our little community of sharing.  We are not alone in our quests as [vegan, single, carless, adoptive, lesbian, partnered, (sub)urban] mamas. 

So, we'd like to know: Has urbanMamas served you well?  How can it serve you better?  Different conversations?  Different features?  Different format?  What can we do better?  Do you tweet with us?  Are we friends on facebook?  Do you come out to w(h)ine nights or coffee playdates or clothing/toy/post holiday swaps or working mama lunches?  Should we do more in-person urbanMama gatherings?  Which particular get-togethers are most appealing for you?

Well, we can't promise we can deliver, but we can sure try!  And, please be gentle with your constructive criticism.  I, for one, am a bit sensitive and groggy in my postpartum state.  As always, if you think there is something you can help us with, feel free to volunteer to take on a job or two to help keep our community going and growing.

Warm Clothing Drives 2009

December 15, 2009

In this very, very frigid season, there are many children and families who are struggling to keep warm.  Do you know of a warm clothing/coat drive where some of us could offer additional warmth to families this winter?  From one of our yahoo groups, we have heard of one drive a local mama has organized:

I'd like to get the word out about a Clothing Drive I've organized to benefit Weathered Hands. They are an organization that braves the cold on Christmas Eve to deliver warm clothes, blankets, socks and other necessaties to the Homeless in Portland. Last year they were able to reach 1500 individuals and did 'bulk' drops at 17 local shelters. Of those shelters, 7 were family based (battered women's shelters, single mom's shelters, etc.)

They can use items of all sizes infant to adult, so if you've got stuff in mind taking up room in your closet or storage area, and haven't chosen an organization to donate to this Holiday Season, I ask you to consider Weathered Hands. We have a drop off at Black Wagon (on N. Mississippi).

I couldn't find much info out there about Weathered Hands, so Becca, the urbanMama organizing the drive/pick up, sent more info:

It is that time of year again when we start gearing up for Weathered Hands.  We are going into our ninth year and due to current economic realities the need is at an all time high.  Our goal this year is to deliver gift bags to fifteen hundred homeless citizens and concurrently deliver “bulk drops” to sixteen shelters. If you have not chosen a public benefit organization to support for the holiday season, we would welcome your donations of time, goods (please contact us for specifics), or money. Why is Weathered Hands so unique?

  1. We are a grassroots group that has a primary mission to give back directly to our immediate community
  2. One-hundred percent of all donations reach the people who are in need
  3. We offer opportunities for people of all ages to participate from planning, collection, production to delivery.
  4. We have directly impacted over ten thousand people during our first eight years

If you, your family, friends or organization have a desire to participate please contact me so we can strategize how to maximize your efforts.  If you would prefer to provide merchandise our team is willing to provide a pickup service.  Finally, any financial donations can be sent to the following address: Weathered Hands, 10766 SE Turnberry Loop, Happy Valley, Oregon 97086 or email: cole.chatterton@comcast.net

Feel free to share other clothing drives or ideas on how urbanFamilies can give back during this winter season.

HELP for Marysville School

November 12, 2009

Last Tuesday, Marysville School in SE Portland was heavily damaged by a three-alarm fire.  It is so amazing that all 460 students and 17 teachers of the K-8 school were quickly accounted for soon after the evacuation.  In the past couple of days, PPS has been hurrying to ready another school, Rose City Park Elementary, to accept the relocated Marysville students starting on Monday.

How can we help this community in need?  Schoolhouse Supplies is partnering with Portland Public Schools to provide help:

  • Host a supply drive at your location.  Print a poster here.
  • Donate supplies at Schoolhouse Supplies' location.  Marysville's wish list is rather basic and it includes: paper, crayons, markers, colored pencils, erasers, glue sticks, scissors.
  • Volunteer at Rose City Park Elementary on Saturday from 8am to noon to help prepare the school for Monday.  Help is needed to clean, move furniture and get the school ready for kids!  Sign up here.
  • Donate coats, jackets, sweaters, backpacks, lunch bags/boxes, art supplies, library books, boxes of tissues, construction paper and photocopy paper.  The drop off point is Marshall High School at 3905 SE 91st Ave, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m Monday through Friday.  This donation drop off is being sponsored by The Oregon PTA and Portland Council PTA.

Happy Veterans Day: One mama's story of her service

November 11, 2009

Leading up to today's holiday, I have been telling my girls of the service that both of my grandfathers had provided for our country.  My grandfathers risked so much - their lives, their families, their wives, their children.  Some of their stories not only bring tears to my eyes, but they also make tears flow from my eyes.  Flipping through the latest status updates on Facebook, one of our mama friends said that she:
went to the Veterans Day Assembly at [my daughter's] school today...and cried like a baby. ha! So proud of my baby girl singing her heart out...and she was so proud to tell her teacher her mommy was a Veteran. So sweet.
 
I asked if she would share her story of her service with us, and she writes:
 
I joined the Air Force right out of High School. I wanted to go to college, but my family couldn’t afford it. The Air Force seemed like a good way for me to a.) get the heck out of my small Missouri town and b.) go to college. I was a Personnel Specialist in the Air Force—which in civilian terms is kind of like a Human Resource Specialist. After Basic Training , where I learned how to fold t-shirts and underwear into precise, perfect squares(even using tweezers to make sure all corners were “flushed”), I moved on to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS for my job training. I then received my assignment to Beale AFB in Northern CA, where I would spend four years. It was my first time being on my own and I was thrown into life. I loved it! I made friends for life there and that, in itself, I am truly grateful for. I was a member of the Base Honor Guard and got to perform at a lot of the Base Functions and I also participated in many many funerals. I was one of the service women who stood on the sidelines at Veteran funerals and paid tribute with the 21-gun salute and would help fold the flag and present it to the next of kin. I silently cried every single time. Those were amazing experiences for me.

My goal of going to college didn’t happen in those first four years…so I decided to re-enlist and make going to college a priority during my second enlistment. I received orders to Okinawa Japan and served my remaining four years there. The island of Okinawa is so beautiful and it was so awesome living among the people there. I worked in the Special Operations Squadron there and really enjoyed my job. The good thing about my job, is that it was pretty 9 – 5ish. There were a few times I had to be away for deployments—I spent some time in Guam as well as Hawaii—but for the most part, it was kind of like a normal job. The whole time I was in Okinawa, I worked during the day and went to school in the evenings. The University of Maryland had a campus there and would take over the on- base schools in the evening and offer classes to Military personnel. After my four years there I was able to complete my BS degree from the University of Maryland. I decided then to separate from the military and move on with my life.

I didn’t have children while I was in the Air Force, but so many of my friends did. I remember the sacrifices that they had to go through when having to be away from their families. In the military, you get 6 weeks of maternity leave…I think about that now and can’t even imagine only having 6 weeks with a newborn before having to go back to work full time, sometimes twelve hours a day. It truly is a sacrifice that these men and women make .

I still have so many friends who are still serving this great country of ours. To be honest, there are days where I miss the “family” feeling of being in the Air Force. If I would have stayed in, I could retire next year. Ha! It was truly an amazing experience for me and I look back at that time with so much pride and gratitude.
To the mamas, papas, grandpas, and grandmas among us who have served or who do serve our country, we thank you.  We welcome you to share the stories of your loved ones who have contributed in this way.

meditations on a family biking life

October 25, 2009

I pulled up to the alley behind Olivia's house around 8:15 last Wednesday night, my mamabikeorama loaded down with 15 pounds of pears and quinces (I couldn't help stopping at the People's Co-op farmer's market) and an armful or two of clothes for the spontaneous clothing swap she'd planned. I had to laugh as I clumsily maneuvered my bike among the half-dozen mama bikes + Xtracycle and a trailer or two. Only a few of the dozen or so mamas who'd come had driven; and this despite the fact we were all loaded down with the bounty of new clothing and whatever else we were carting around the city. At the end of the night, around 10 p.m., we all pulled out of the narrow spot on the side of the house, laughing as we counted the BoBike seats. Someone said: 'it's like a clown car!' It was a moment of unusual tired joy.

Monroe_truman_bike_sunset
We've all come to this for different reasons and at different speeds. But we're all equally in love with biking (even most of the mamas who drove have family bike setups at home) and committed to spreading the family biking love. We have different levels of comfort with putting our kids on the road; differing budgets for new biking gear; different commutes, different neighborhoods, different alternatives to biking. I think of us as co-inspirators; we're all the inspiration for one another. And we all see the future of transportation as far, far different than it is today. Will we reach the goal of 25% of Portlanders commuting by bike by 2030? It's hard to say, but it won't happen unless mamas like us -- like you -- hop on their bikes and quietly inspire other mamas, papas and kids to shift to the two-wheel (or three) lifestyle, too.

Today, I'm leading another meditation about riding bikes with families (no, there's no yoga or spirituality: all you have to do is listen and breathe) to help kick off the Family Biking Solutions Workshop, part of Oregon Manifest's Family Bicycle Transportation Day. While the workshop itself isn't really kid-friendly due to the limitations of the facility (a "museum environment," someone said), we hope what comes out of it, really will expand the boundaries.

I've made a poster to go with my meditation [pdf link]. Consider it one more co-inspiration. I look forward to expanding my concept of what makes a more family-friendly transportation future --  more options, more unique bikes that work in tiny budgets, more infrastructure, more community, more joy.

H1N1/Swine Flu: It's HERE

October 19, 2009

Flipping through Facebook updates, I noticed that a mama mentioned that her son was down with the flu.  A few comments later, she also mentioned that H1N1 has been confirmed in students at her son's school as well as at her daughter's daycare.  Later on this evening, my husband said drearily, "It's confirmed."  His colleague's husband and their school-aged son were also afflicted with H1N1.

It looks like H1N1 has made is appearance here in Portland - in schools and in workplaces.  Has H1N1 been confirmed at your school, daycare, workplace, or commuity at large?  For those who have decided to vaccinate for H1N1, have you done so yet?

Be sure to check out DHS' website on H1N1 in Oregon for more resources and information.

Seeking Professionals of Color in Portland

October 15, 2009

Diviersify, diversify, diversify.  That's what they say about investing and we have the same belief when it comes to supporting our community.  We recently received an email from a new Portland urbanMama:

I have a question I'm hoping you can post to the site.  We're a transracial family new to Portland. I try to support people of color in business whenever possible and also like my kids to know adult professional people of color. So, I'm looking for any recommendations for your readers have for dentists, doctors, lawyers, hair cutters/stylists, etc, who are people of color.  Being in close-in N, NE, or SE is especially great.

Life with a newborn: the gift of meals

October 13, 2009

Over the course of the past several years, I been by friends' sides as they have delivered new life into the world.  And, in ensuing weeks after their babies' births, I have delivered meals to their homes and ooh'ed and ahh'ed over their cute little snuggle-bugs.  One such meal was (embarassingly) a Papa Murphy's lasagna that I brought over to Sarah's house after Truman was born.  Alas, life is so busy for us mamas, with or without newborn.  It is a wonder how delicious, nutritious, fresh homemade meals are made by us busy mamas.  But, they are.

Today, my thrid child is three weeks old.  Already, I have been the gracious and humble recipient of meals and treats and even a few hours of donated time as mama's helper from a fellow mama.  There have been cakes, soups, pot pies, cookies, kale, bread, salad, wine, pasta, and chicken verde.  With all the fixin's.  Delivered to my door, which I open, unshowered, unbrushed, unrested and generally smelling of a savory mama milk and baby barf blend.  To you all, I am so grateful.

This is a wonderful gift to a new mama, no matter how many times I have been a mama to a newborn before.  It gives me time to cuddle with my littlest fella.  It gives me time to focus on helping his two big sisters with their homework or reading.  It gives me a little time to fold some laundry, because there is oh. so. much. laundry.  Every day.  And, a supremely lovely part is I don't have to think about it, I don't have to worry, I don't have to plan.  There are so many other things I need to be doing - namely nursing, diapering, sleeping, and putting someone else to sleep.

It all started weeks before our baby's arrival.  I was asked if we had any dietary restrictions (we don't) and whether we'd prefer meal deliveries every day or less frequently (every other day would be great, thank you).  And, voila!, our friends sent us a schedule of days we could expect a meal delivery.

So, now that I'm done oozing with my love and thanks, I ask you: have you been a recipient, participant, or organizer of one of these meal trains to serve the families of newborns?  Anything you would suggest for a seamless flow of food to the recipient family?  Anything else that seem to be "must-have" in-kind contributions for a family of a newborn?

Eat-in for school food, community, and art

September 07, 2009

It seems that each week brings a new bit of evidence or an old-but-new-to-me essay inspiring me to work even harder to ply my children with nutritious, slow, fresh, whole, inconvenient foods. This summer, I've been making progress, involving the kids in the magic of the garden and cooking foods they (supposedly) love in the slow, slow way. A few weeks ago, Everett harvested two pumpkins and brought them inside to me to make his favorite food: pumpkin pie. I did so, in a crust made of whole wheat flour and lard I rendered myself (I believe in high quality animal fats, but that's for another time), using that pumpkin from our front yard garden, eggs from our backyard chickens, and honey from the People's Co-op farmer's market. I worried that it wasn't sweet enough. Was too lumpy. Wouldn't be like that pie at the annual Thanksgiving feast at his school.

He loved it, and offered a piece to a friend who came to visit, saying, "my mom made this, and it's really good!" There were tears, fat and heavy, in my eyes. I'd just finished reading this article about how a young man's diet is the best -- by far, far better than socio-economic class or community or parenting situation or playing violent video games or anything -- the best predictor of criminal behavior. Eat mostly junk food, you're more likely to go to jail. Period.

Green_bean_vine
And yet, here we are, about to head back to school, where the lunchtime fare at most public schools is decidedly junk food. At Everett's school, it's particularly bad, and the teachers there will back me up. The vegetables that are available are so burned by refrigerants, or spoiled, they're inedible. The rare fruits and veggies that survive the weeks (or longer?) from harvest to lunch tray are doused in chemical preservatives and, often, sugar. The meat is from the lowest possible quality sources; the baked goods are thoroughly packed with processed ingredients. Whole foods are cut up and wrapped in plastic. The best thing there is yogurt, and that's full of sugar. Each meal surely exceeds the new recommendation from the American Heart Association that we severely limit our daily added sugar intake. The real food at Everett's school is rare (and he insists on eating school lunches; he's struggling mightily with other kids making fun of him, so I don't dare put my foot down).

It could be better. Slow Food USA is working to to advocate for this. Today, right now (I should have written this earlier!) in conjunction with the awesome Time Based Art festival, is a Slow Food Eat-In picnic as part of the National Day of Action to get real food in schools. I am going. I am bringing a salad I made of green beans (cut in half crosswise and cooked about six minutes in boiling water) sauteed with cherry tomatoes (cut in half) and crushed garlic -- all from my garden -- in a little bacon fat, and tossed with salt and feta cheese. It's real food and I harvested it today. I know this can't be the lunch at Everett's school tomorrow. But it should be, some day.

And I'd love to share some with you if you can make it to this event. There's one in NE Portland, tonight, too. Or tell your real-food-in-schools story, here.

Back to School: When you don't have before-/after-care

September 02, 2009

Operating hours at our public schools, depending on the program and grade, can range from 9:30 to 11:30 AM to a more average schedule of 8AM to 3PM.  For the full-time working parent, especially in single parent households, these schedules would obviously require both before- and after-care.  We've previously listed out the before- and after- daycare providers at PPS schools.  PPS Childcare website states:

The Portland Public Schools Board of Education passed a Childcare Policy in December of 1997 that provides for safe, affordable, educationally appropriate childcare for all elementary school students before and after school hours. Childcare is not only a parenting issue, or a workplace issue, but also an education issue.

We recently received an email from urbanMama Tia, who writes about her challenges with PPS aftercare:

My five-year-old son is about to start kindergarten at our neighborhood school, Peninsula Elementary.  My four-year-old daughter will remain in day care near my office in Hillsboro.  Since I am a divorced mom with a hefty commute, before- and after-school care has been a major concern.  I thought my son had a reserved spot in the on-site day care program at Peninsula, so was pretty well dumbfounded a few weeks ago to learn (mostly by accident) that the program has been terminated.  PPS has made no arrangements to replace it.  This affects nearly all the other schools in the Kenton/St Johns area, because Clarendon/Portsmouth, James John, Ockley Green, and Rosa Parks had all bused children to Peninsula for the child care program.  Sitton apparently has an entirely different provider, and a new provider is launching an on-site program at Chief Joseph -- but there are no plans to transport children from the other Kenton/St Johns schools to those locations.

... Nancy Hauth, the childcare coordinator for PPS, has been sympathetic but unable to remedy this gaping North Portland hole in the before- and after-school program.  When I last contacted her I realized that my list of grievances with PPS is already alarmingly long.

I'm worried that there may be other affected parents in the neighborhood who don't even know yet that there's a problem.  My political hackles are up, too, over the fact that PPS' failure here is localized to a big swath of North Portland.  Can you help me get the word out, and maybe spawn some activism on this issue?  I am a total newbie at dealing with the school district and, if nothing else, would love to identify PPS-veteran mentors.

Have you been in a situation left without before- and after-care at your school?  Have you been affected by this change in the North Portland PPS area?  How do we address this need and lack?

urbanMamas talk Housing & Parks with Nick Fish

July 14, 2009

3605804627_ca3aef479a_m Way back in Spring 2008, we met with city council candidates to talk about the city's policies for families.  We even hosted a mayoral forum to raise consciousness about family issues and hear what candidates were planning to make Portland a family forward city. 

You helped us to create a casual list of priorities that we called "the mamagenda."  We have not forgotten!  Some of the items on that list remain important to us, like: smoke-free parks; affordable, near-work child care; quality after-school programs; support for walking & biking to schools; healthy school lunches at PPS; paid family leave for city employees, and the list (of course) goes on.  Some of these issues have seen progress, others not so much.  It's been a year since all that talk and action.  What's on your list now?  Has it changed?  Is it the same? 

A few urbanMamas have the opportunity to sit down with Commissioner Nick Fish later this week to discuss ways he may be able to help us further a mamagenda.  Commish FIsh (heh!  We just had to ...  it rhymes!) oversees the Portland Housing Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation.  Are there issues within these two realms that are on the forefront for you and your families?

[Thx to Derek Coetzee & FLickr CC for the perfect city hall image]

Save the date: urbanMamas is havin' a garage sale

July 09, 2009

3176604491_8b220d44b1_m Every summer I look forward (yes, it's true) to Portland's neighborhood garage sales because there's so much great used stuff in one place.  Well, if real neighborhoods can hold such great garage sales, why not our virtual neighborhood?  Plus, this one has an excellent twist: it's a benefit. 

Here's how it works: you donate all that stuff you just don't need anymore and we sell it.  Proceeds will be donated to Family Forward Oregon, a budding non-profit that is likely to benefit all Oregon mamas (and papas) in the years to come. 

  • When?  Saturday, August 22nd from 9 till 3
    Where?  Cafe Au Play's excellent parking lot on SE Division & 58th, just across from Atkinson Elementary
  • What: Your donated stuff for sale 
  • Help! You can donate stuff (save it till August or drop it at one of our drop houses sooner), work the sale, or bake for the inevitable kid-run lemonade stand (or all of the above!)
  • Questions?  Leave a comment here and we'll reply, or get in touch directly: activistas@gmail.om

This is just a heads up so you can plan to donate, bake and/or shop.  And of course, help us spread the word in the meantime.  As the date nears we'll provide more details. 

[Thanks to Von Floto & Flickr CC for the plastic sale pic]

'Brain, Child' salon pdx: Summer 2009

July 02, 2009

Mother_talk
Several months ago, a Brain, Child discussion group was hastily thrown together and ended up a (small) series of one-on-one conversations. But as soon as I picked up this season's issue, I was longing to talk to someone about it. So this time, we're doing it right, with two weeks advance notice (ish) and a proper location selected ahead of time!

Date: Tuesday, July 14, 7:30 p.m.
Place: Rimsky-Korsakoffee House, 707 SE 12th (the red house -- there is no sign)
Do I have to read Brain, Child cover-to-cover? No, but the more you read, the more we can talk. If we get enough "yes" responses, I'll order several copies from the publisher.

Respond, s'il vous plait, in the comments, and I look forward to getting all salon with a couple of other urbanMamas. Some of the articles are on the web site; you can purchase the magazine at several local bookstores and grocery stores.

urbanPapas need friends too: Seeking SAHDs

June 30, 2009

For sure, we have many fewer conversations here on urbanMamas dedicated to the papas, which isn't to say that daddyhood isn't important!  But, we know there are dads who are faithful readers of urbanMamas.  An urbanPapa recently emailed seeking paparaderie with other stay-at-home dads (SAHDs):

Are there dads lurking on the urbanMamas site who have advice for a new dad who's at home with his daughter? Do stay at home dads meet up anywhere in Portland?  My partner just happened to be finishing an engineering program just as the economy tanked.  I've been back at work for two months, while he's full time at home with our five month old daughter. We'd love to hear from other dads who by choice or circumstance are taking care of the kids.

If there are papas out there who'd like to get together for a SAHD gathering or a daddy gathering, please let us know!   We can help facilitate getting that group together.

Sunday Parkways 2009: How was it for you?

June 23, 2009

This year's Father's Day coincided with the second annual Sunday Parkways, the first of three.  We started the day by hosting a little pre-ride gathering where families from the neighborhood & beyond came by to check out one another's bike gear, test it out, and let the older kids ride solo on a one block stretch of the parkways near our house.  For me, the most magnificent aspect of this year's Sunday Parkways is how completely comfortable I felt letting our girls, ages 5 and 8, bike alongside their friends, aged 6 to 9, well ahead of us.  We had few worries about oncoming motor vehiclesIMG_1977.  They didn't want to stop!  They kept pedaling and pedaling and pedaling along.   The crowds were not too thick, so they were able to maneuver quite easily.  The route was relatively flat and intersected with just a few major intersections, where the kids knew to stop and wait for direction from the officers directing traffic.  Really - they would have ridden the entire 7.5 mile loop again if we'd've let them!  It was a great exercise in freedom and independence on our neighborhood streets.  It felt wonderful to see the community taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Apparently, with all our riding around, we missed plenty of action, from music and free tune-ups to bike play parks and more.  Check out the complete coverage on bikeportland.org.

Zinemama in a comment on another thread mused:

I'd love to hear other folks reactions to the Parkways. It felt a lot shorter than last year and a lot less crowded. It was fun, but for me some of the excitement about last year's event was missing. Maybe we were there at the wrong time of day (earlier in the day)?

Did you walk, bike, or play at last weekend's Sunday Parkways?  How was your experience?  If you weren't able to make it, there are still two more Sunday Parkways planned: one on July 19th in Northeast Portland and one on August 16th in Southeast Portland.  And, please, consider volunteering for Sunday Parkways.  The event's success relies on the contribution of many, many volunteers.

Down 'n' Dirty Summer 2009

June 09, 2009

As we inch toward the last days of school, everyone in the household is buzzing about the fun in store for us here in Portland.  This year, Portland Parks & Rec has outdone itself with by providing a simplified "Summer Free For All" guide to all the fun.  The highlight on the PP&R site this year: the Free This Week calendar featuring an glimpse of activities at parks and pools citywide.  There are summer concerts, generally running every day in parks citywide from July through mid-August.  Every day!  There is free open swim throughout the summer (check the calendar for locations and times), movies in the park, and drop-in playground programs, including a traveling climbing wall and free lunch programs.

Portland Parks & Rec gives us plenty to keep us busy, but there are so many other fun activities to check out:

  • Pioneer Courthouse Square hosts Noon Tunes (free music and entertainment at noon every Tuesday & Thursday from 7/7 through 8/20) and Flicks on the Bricks (free movies at dusk on select Friday nights from 7/10 to 8/14)
  • Free Films by Regal shows free movies at 10am on Tuesdays (rated G) and Wednesdays (rated PG) from 6/23 to 8/26.  Participating area theaters include Lloyd Mall 8, Bridgeport Village Stadium 18, Sherwood Stadium 10, Tigard Cinemas, Wilsonville Stadium, Movies on TV Stadium in Hillsboro.
  • $1 Movies on Wednesdays - along the same vein - the Century Theater at Clackamas Town Center is showing $1 movies on Wednesdays from 6/10 through 812
  • Then there are street fairs - a great time to get out in the neighborhood, see neighbors and other community members, hear music, visit with local vendors, and eat snow cones.  There are always snow cones.  Schedules aren't out yet, but - in previous years - we've looked forward to the Mississippi Street Fair (Saturday 7/11), Alberta Street Fair, Fremont Fest, Division/Clinton Street Fair (Saturday 7/25), Belmont Street Fair (Saturday after Labor Day), Hawthorne Street Fair (Sunday 8/16), Montavilla Street Fair.

Do you have other summer events that you look forward to that we should add?  Please share!  There is no shortage of fun to be had.

We're working to get all the summer fun activities onto the urbanMamas calendar  Welcome, summer!  Now get on out there & have some fun.

Beyond Goodwill: Worthy Causes for Donation

April 30, 2009

We are a diligently recycling bunch.  There are formerly loved goods that we may pass on to friends or neighbors, consign, or donate to a local organization.  We've talked before about donating children's toys and clothes, but what about other suggestions for clothes that have plenty of use left in them?  An urbanMama emails:

I am hoping to find out what people do with their clothes they want to donate. I have done my rounds to the local resale shops and have lots left over. I hate to take it all to Goodwill when I know there are many other worthy causes out there. The clothes are in good condition, some of which were hardly worn at all. I shop at Goodwill myself and would love to drop them off to a charity that gives the items directly to those in need. Any ideas?

The Coffee Playdate - It's BACK! - 04.24.2009

April 21, 2009

Mamas, I miss getting together with you all, meeting new mamas and seeing old familiar faces.  I'm having a hard time fitting face-time into my calendar, what with the FT job, relationship, two kids, and another one on the way.

With a couple of hot-hot-hot conversations of late, I feel the need to just sit down, shoot the $hit with you, and let you get to know me.  Let's get together, for a good old-fashioned coffee playdate, urbanMamas style.  Bring your kids or not.  I won't have mine; they'll be in school.  I'll be there pretending to work. UM coffee playdate

Coffee Playdate, urbanMamas style
Sydney's Cafe
1800 NW Thurman (corner of 16th and NW Thurman, under the Fremont Bridge)
Friday, April 24, 2009
9:30AM

Feel free to RSVP in the comments or just show up and say "HI".  Let's go build some community and meet new mamas.

Two incomes, can't afford child care: Let's potluck this to a better way

April 19, 2009

I did not have the intended response to the front-page article in the 'O' section of today's Oregonian. The writer meant for me to be sympathetic with the plight of the family depicted; two parents in what seemed a loving, functional marriage with two children under four. I think it was the way the writer approached the story, obvious scrabbling to paint a sad picture of a family left exhausted and strung out, juggling two jobs and only one car.

While I can relate to the stress of the enormous, far-too-dear cost of child care for young children, I came away from the article wishing to share my perspective as a mama of three boys, having drastically changed my work schedule in the past year; though I fear the chasm between the ways we look at life is great. The two parents are working alternate schedules; mom at Costco, dad in sales at a construction and industrial supply company. They pay for only about nine hours of day care a week, or $480 a month, and together make $64,000. They live in a two-bedroom, 800 square foot apartment somewhere in Tigard. No, their schedule doesn't allow for matinees, pedicures, or post-work beer with the guys. Yes, they're "trapped" with one parent, and the car, at work when it rains. The fun for the kids, according to the article: a walk to a toy store, cartoons on 'On Demand,' the shopping mall play area. [The article's writer explained the day she followed the family, it was raining, so they decided not to go to the park; there are parks close by, though the original article wasn't clear on that fact.]

Potluck_urbanmamas
I wish I could fix it for them. What's obvious at first is that we all need a better link to community; to friends who can share childcare providers or swap care for free; to people who can provide that post-work beer experience with the kids; to occasional potluck dinners so each night doesn't seem so harried and lonely. My life today is not perfect (far, far, far!) but thanks to my perspective I can see a number of choices that are worth re-thinking. The sidewalk-less suburb is just one; I know that prices don't vary much from the middle of my neighborhood in inner SE Portland to Tigard, giving the parents far more places to connect and allowing mom & dad to get rid of the car altogether, choosing Tri-Met or the bike for commuting. Then maybe one parent can quit or reduce hours, relieving the pressure and the exhaustion considerably. Harriet calls this concept "householding," and I'm a big fan. (After hearing from the writer who wrote the story, I deleted my comment about food.)

Instead of sitting here frustrated at how isolating, stressful and perhaps more expensive than necessary are the lives we're asked to sympathize with in the Sunday paper, I'll make a challenge. [And judging from the age of the photo illustrating this post, it's a challenge I need badly.] I'll make it easy, because frankly, sharing child care is enormous thing to think about on such a beautiful day. Invite someone over for a potluck dinner -- or invite yourself to their place, if they have more room to set plates and cups. Connect in a simple, relaxed and nonmaterial way. Spend as little money as possible; yes, a carrot and lentil chili and a big salad, with water or homemade iced tea to drink, is perfect. Skip the cartoons and toy stores. Talk about the best place in your neighborhood for nature walks. Make it a regular thing. Start the change small, and see what happens.

Mamas & Blogs & Facebook: is it too much?

April 15, 2009

When we started urbanMamas almost 5 years ago, I was mama to just a teeny little babe who would wake me up at all hours of the night.  After a feeding at 2am, I would sneak downstairs, open up the computer, and check out the feeds I'd read.  I'd devour the stories, gobble them all up along with a middle-of-the-night snack.  Thank goodness Facebook wasn't around then.  I may have never slept.

Through time, I realized it wasn't terribly healthy to be crawling out of bed and catching up on mama blogroll, as it would keep me up for 1-2-3 hours during prime sleeping time.  I went through a period when I forced myself to stay in bed.  I had to resist the urge, that pull into the blogosphere vortex. 

Now that the kids are older, I am on a much more regulated sleep schedule, but I am still drawn to catch up with friends on Facebook or to check out what's the haps on urbanMamas and other favorite mama conversational sites.  I know I'm not the only one!  An urbanMama recently emailed:

I am hooked on Facebook.  I check it 3-4 times a day and love reading updates, new photos, posting status updates and commenting on my friends' walls.  I can't help it, I feel so connected to people miles and miles away.

I also check my blog rounds throughout the day during my breaks from school, our toddler, and all of our responsibilities. I like being a part of these social networks and forum like discussions but I feel like I am contributing to a society more in touch with ourselves, and less in touch with each other.

How do I moderate this habit?  Any suggestions that have worked for you?  When I am not around a computer I am more creative; and when I talk to friends and hang out with them it is so much more fulfilling than messaging or writing comments on their blog or wall.

Is our generation going through a change of communication, what's going on?  How do I balance traditional social etiquette and lifestyle while being modern, wireless, and digital?

Turnoff Week: Ideas to get out and about

April 14, 2009

This year's "turnoff" week is next week, April 20 to 26.  And, instead of being billed as "Turn Off TV Week", the organizers, Center for Screen Time Awareness, is calling the week "Turnoff Week", meaning we unplug from not only TVs, but also videos, games, computers, cell phones, and iPods.

Why turn off?

  • Screen Time cuts into family time and is a leading cause of obesity in both adults and children.
  • In the US and other industrialized nations around the world, screen time use continue to increase every year. 
  • The average daily usage for all screens, in some countries, has reached 9 hours per day.  This is for recreational use of screens and does not include work time.
  • On average, people watch 4 hours of television and then spend another 4 plus hours with computers, games, video, iPods and cell phones

So, what can we do?  Here are some ideas to start:

  • Hit the playground, and invite school/neighborhood friends.  Make it a huge playdate!
  • Find out what activities your school may be hosting.  Better yet, offer to plan and host an activity.
  • Host a session of board game playing at the community center, library, school, or friends house.
  • Check out free or reduced-cost swim sessions at the public pools (Columbia on Wednesdays; Buckman on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; and Dishman on Saturdays.  Call specific pools for details)
  • Gather friends for a short bike ride in the neighborhood.
  • Organize a scavenger or treasure hunt.
  • Check out the urbanMamas calendar for more ideas for fun.  There is something going on every day!

How will you be recognizing Turnoff Week this year?  What activities, if any, are planned at your school?

Need more tips or resources?  Kaiser has a great run down of sample activities, more information, and a screen-time toolkit to learn fun and healthful alternatives.  Check it here.

Veggie Growing 101: Starting Your Kitchen Garden in Portland

April 08, 2009

My neighbor, Camellia Nieh, is a great gardener -- I often admire her skills from my window and have tasted many of her cherry tomatoes and other goodies. She offered to write an introduction to vegetable gardening in Portland, and I said, yes please!

Camellias_gardenAs weather begins to warm, Portland gardeners begin to anticipate the joys of the growing seasons. Waking up on a sunny morning, strolling outside, and harvesting a basket of fresh tomatoes, basil, spinach, and chives for your morning omelet. Sending the kids out into the yard to graze on sugar snap peas, strawberries, and cherry tomatoes when they clamor for a snack. Browsing a bounty of ripening cucumbers, eggplants, and summer squash as you decide on a vegetable for dinner. Snipping a bowlful of baby greens to bring to a dinner party and garnishing it with edible gem marigolds, day lilies, and sweet violets.

The gardening buzz is everywhere. You’ve heard about the Obamas’ breaking ground for their vegetable garden at the white house, and about the resurgent victory garden movement. You know all the reasons. There’s the statistic about how our average meal travels 1500 miles to reach our plates, and the fact that switching to a local diet is equivalent to driving about 1000 miles less per year. And you’re painfully aware that the average American consumes a pound of pesticides a year, and that we don’t yet know how that chemical load will affect our kids’ growing bodies.

But if you’ve never grown your own food before, perhaps you’re not sure where to start. Not to worry. Growing edibles in Portland is easier than wrangling a wild banana slug. There are tons of resources in this town to help you get started, many of them inexpensive or free.

Continue reading "Veggie Growing 101: Starting Your Kitchen Garden in Portland" »

Choosing a neighborhood, Part II: Schools in the Inner City

March 17, 2009

About a year ago, we started talking about one mama's dilemma about choosing a neighborhood and whether she ought to consider moving to an "established" school district.  We have recently received an email from an urbanMama who wants to continue the conversation: 

I know I have plenty of time, my son won't be going to kindergarten until Fall 2010 but I've started to research schools in Portland because we're finally shopping for a house.  Yay!  Everyone seems to be pointing me in the direction of the westside or magnet/transfer option schools. Do I have to move to a suburb or apply for the risky transfer option in order to get into a good school?  I love the close proximity of everything in NE and SE but I don't want to trade my son's education for a cool, hip neighborhood.  But on the other hand, I'm not sure if I could handle living in the SW suburbs.  What are your experiences with schools in the inner city versus those of you living in SW Portland and beyond?

New baby for Hau inspires knitting group

March 13, 2009

Baby_feet_knitting Congratulations are in order. Last night at 10:19 p.m. -- less than 3 hours after she emailed to say she was headed to the hospital -- Hau and Joe welcomed baby Hendrik Hagedorn, 7 lbs 15 ozs, 20.5 inches. We're thrilled for them and I can't help but ask myself: what am I going to knit for the baby? A third boy deserves something special; for Monroe, my third little boy, it was a wild, swirly blanket of many colors. Richness is required, don't you think?

Which reminds me. Last Thursday in the Oregonian's In Portland section, I read a little story about a Catholic knitting group in Sullivan's Gulch. "Christ Child Society has met since 1964 at the Calaroga Terrace retirement home on Northeast Second Avenue to sew, knit and crochet clothes and bedding and package them with other items in layettes. But with membership declining from as many as 300 to 80 this year and the limited mobility of some members -- several were in their 90s -- the group decided it couldn't continue and held its final meeting last month," it went on. I was struck with a sudden, utter sadness and thought, couldn't we do it?

Shetha_knitted_blanket Last night, urbanMama Suzame gave me a ride home from an event we had both serendipitously been invited to attend, and mentioned the story, and how she and her husband had thought of me. It's fate, I said, and this morning I called Donna Kipp, from Multnomah County Health Department's Early Childhood Services, who had distributed the layettes to low income mothers, offering our services.

First-timer or third, low-income or middlin', every baby deserves some handmade items prepared with love. Do you have a little extra handmade love to go around? Would you like to get together occasionally to knit (and crochet and sew) it forward? If you're interested, say so; and if you can't wait to get started, meet me at Twisted next Thursday (March 19) around 11 a.m. I love the thought of being spiritual but non-denominational. What do you think?

Portland Parks & Rec: What's New?

March 09, 2009

A few emails have come to us with some goings on over at Portland Parks and Recreation, and we thought it would be a great time to highlight:

Learn about Couch Park Play Area Improvements:  Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) is holding a public meeting to provide information about the proposed safety and ADA accessibility improvements planned for the play area at Couch Park. Please join us to hear about these proposed improvements, how they will help make the play area better for all users, and the timing of the improvements.  Meeting is on Thursday March 12, from 7-8pm, at the Metropolitan Learning Center School Auditorium (2033 NW Glisan).

A community center being planned for Washington Monroe High School:  The Buckman neighborhood in SE Portland is slated to develop 4.7 acres of the former Washington Monroe High School into a Community Center.  Portland Parks & Recreation is recruiting community members to consider key questions such as, "What are the community’s needs?", "Who will be using the facility?" and "What are the activities and programs it needs to provide?"  To be a part of this initial planning process, go to the project website here or download the interest form.

Support the new WEEKEND Indoor Playparks:  We received an email from an urbanMama who has brought weekend indoor playparks to PP&R!  "I returned to work when my daughter was two and quickly realized that there are not enough indoor weekend activities for toddlers. I talked to the folks over at Portland Park and Recreation and they’ve graciously agreed to start a Sunday indoor play park for ages birth – 5 years at the East Portland Community Center, every Sunday from 3:30 to 5:30 pm ($1 per child).  The center is located at 740 SE 106th avenue (very close to Mall 205) and the phone number is 503-823-3450.  I hope that some of you working parents will take advantage of this program – they will keep the weekend park going as long as there is a demand."

Rally it up in Salem, 02.16.2009

February 04, 2009

We aren't the only mamas thinking about going to the kids rally down in Salem in a couple of weeks.  Several mamas have emailed us to let us know they're interested in supporting this event.  One mama emails:

Last night I learned that, based on the most recent economic forecast, Portland Public School District could face shortfalls of $20 for this year and $70 million over the next biennium ($35 million per year).  That means $20 million would have to be cut from this school year! To put that number in perspective, consider this: $1 million buys 11.5 teaching jobs and $1.2 million buys one school day in PPS.  

Another mama says:

I think we all are passionate about raising happy, healthy children. I was struck by some recent statistics that indicate the poor state of education in Oregon: did you know that Oregon ranks 42nd in the nation for K-12 share of total state spending, 49th in length of school year, 50th in average Elementary class size, and 40th in 4th Grade reading scores?

The most recent e-bulletin from Portland Public School district reads "To be straightforward, the situation is worsening. Despite past cuts and our efforts to manage resources responsibly, we face the likelihood of major budget reductions."  There is talk about making cuts to the current school year.  BUT, there are funds that could potentially come PPS's way via the federal economic recovery plan, which could fund PPS renovations and programs at Title I schools (where levels of low-income students are high).

The North Clackamas School District alone is looking at a 7% cut for the rest of this year and at 13% cut next year. The cuts translate into an even shorter school year.  Programming for arts, music and physical education will fall by the wayside.

The global economy is dire, and funding for our precious resources - public schools - is at risk.  What can we do?  To start, we can let state legislators know that funding for our schools is crucial.  Stand for Children, along with several other organizations, has organized a rally in Salem on Presidents Day.  It's a no-school day for kids, and it seems like a great way to bring our kids to our state capital and get involved with our legislation, on the state level.  The agenda: to let our legislators know how much we care about schools and services, even in an economic downturn.  We know lots of mamas and papas and kids from our neighborhood and schools who are going.

One mama writes:

Quite simply, our kids need us.  If we mamas don't speak up for our children, who will? Please log on to www.stand.org/or/rally and register to attend the Presidents Day Rally. 

Can you and will you go?  Buses are being organized now, just hit the above link for more info!  Get on the bus!

Gonna Volunteer on the 19th?

January 12, 2009

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling the call.  The call to service, that is. And even though what we do on one single day may not make up for all the days we haven't helped out, or meant to but didn't, for some reason this single day matters to me.  For so long I have wanted a President to once again ask me to do something for my country, something besides buy things.  So I want to show that when called, I do my best to answer. 

We've talked before on urbanMamas about how to best volunteer with kids, and now seems a perfect time to revisit that conversation. What will you do next Monday, January 19th?  I quick checked Hands On Portland for some ideas, and they have a whole MLK Weekend of Service planned.  So if you can't volunteer right on the 19th, which is a Monday, there are activities planned all weekend.  The schedule is filling up fast (yay!), so what other places should we check?  I did just join the Renew America Together group on Facebook - maybe they'll tell me what to do!

And hopefully, whatever I start on the 19th won't stop there.  My aim is to find something ongoing, something to keep this feeling up, to start something new.  What about you?

Inauguration Day 2009: How will you spend it?

January 07, 2009

Inauguration Day is coming in less than two weeks.  There are many among us who are excited for the moment our 44th president is sworn in and addresses us for the first time as our President. 

Just as the kids stayed up on Election Night 2008 watching votes roll in, coloring electoral college maps, we want them to be part of and remember the occassion on Tuesday the 20th.  Tons of stuff seems to be happening in DC the weekend prior to the event, but the inauguration will happen at noon EST on Tuesday, which is 9am Portland-time.  The line up will start around 8:30am our time with some opening remarks.

We've received several emails now from mamas looking for kid-friendly activities for the day.  Are you planning on partaking, somehow, in inauguration day activities?  The 8-9AM time slot sounds like a mighty fine time to congregate at one of our favorite coffee shops for a little Inauguration Day Playdate, doesn't it?  There are TVs at favorite haunts like Sip 'n' Kranz, Airplay Cafe, and Sydney's.  Perhaps Barackspace (aka Backspace) will project the live televised event on their big screen.  Or, can you TiVo/DVR it and enjoy it in the evening with a little bubbly all around to celebrate?  If you kids are school-aged, do you think they'll show the event at your school?

New year, new commitments

January 06, 2009

The news of a friend's book deal was paired on a writers' site with an announcement of a book on "My year of living within my means." I had to laugh to keep from crying, because, seriously: isn't that what many of us have been doing forever? It's been several years since I used a credit card (and it's not just because I'm disciplined, but that's another story). Why not a life of living within your means?Old_and_new_books

All ranting aside, it made me think of all the other "year-of" books that I'd prefer to adopt, at least mostly, as a life and not just a year -- or not just a New Year's resolution. I think of the "resolution" concept as something that should be applied to the moment, not a turn of the page on a calender, a new digit. Every moment is worth starting anew (or else, perhaps I'm just habitually late and this is my mantra of excusal). I'd like to re-commit this year to:

  • The year of eating local. I continue to strive for better pathways to eat local, sustainably-produced food, and part of that this year will be to figure out how to do it without paying a lot -- and how to spread local foods beyond their "elite" label. I love what the Portland Fruit Tree Project is doing; part of local eating could be gleaning figs from a neighbor's tree or helping me harvest my cherries!
  • The year without a car. It's been two-and-a-half years since our car was last insured and this year I'm going to join the BTA instead of the Zoo (it's cheaper!) and finally sell the car. No, really. My mission is to convince as many families as possible that biking can work for them.
  • The year of living within my means. Well, I had to say it. But with a freelance career, I'm hoping to spend a little more time budgeting appropriately (and spending my money more wisely at the farmer's market).
  • The year without stuff. While I'm not committing to buying nothing new, I'm certainly limiting it to necessities (a new pair of shoes for Everett, the odd piece of photographic equipment, socks), and yarn. I can't do without new yarn.
  • The year without trash. OK, this one is a stretch, I'm only reducing, not eliminating: I've been striving to refill containers instead of buying products with new ones, compost all my kitchen scraps and feed the chickens what won't go in the compost, and avoid buying products which have packaging I can't re-use, recycle, or compost. This means paying close attention when I'm leaving the house to pack reusable containers, plastic bags, etc; and going without certain products (paper towels, for instance). I still do disposable diapers (because I have inertia, ick) and plastic wrap, but I want to figure out a few ways to reduce my trash further.

What other 'the year of' books am I missing? What are your ongoing 'year of' efforts that have turned into 'life of' instead?

Facebook Groups: Which Ones to Join, and Why?

January 05, 2009

A while back we talked about Facebook.  Mostly whether or not we were on or off, or not quite sure what all the fuss was about.  Well now that we're all wasting away our personal and work lives letting all of our "friends" know what we're doing, eating, thinking, & wearing among other things, I'm curious about something else.  Are you a joiner?  I am, but cautiously.  I recently posted about a great group I joined over on Activistas, that I heard about from a friend (natch).  But what next?  Join the rest of 'em?  I'm feeling like my groups are like a teenager's clothes, an outward sign of what I believe in, who I hang with. 

So what about you?  Do you join Facebook groups?  For fun?  Or with a purpose?  To network, or be supportive of friends who 'recruit' you?  Of course urbanMamas has a Facebook group, too, so you can always join that as an extension of this community - another reason for these groups. 

Is it getting to be like websites have become - if you don't have one, you're no-one?  Can't find that group on Facebook?  Must not exist.  For the record (not that you asked), here's a bunch I've joined:

But that's just me.  Clearly.

On charitable giving (and receiving)

December 28, 2008

Charity is very much top-of-mind this week. My husband is in the Army Reserves, and either we are the only large-ish family in his unit and thus deemed needful of charity based solely on the number of mouths to feed, or perhaps he has slightly exaggerated our financial plight (I'm freelancing as our main source of income right now, and while the work is plentiful, my time is not so much). Either way we have received two gift baskets in the past week, both stocked with hams, a pound of margarine, and various canned goods and other nonperishables. I am grateful. And yet, given my now year-long commitment to feed my family organic, fairly traded, as-local-as-possible food, it's been a challenge deciding how to face a six-year-old who I found hoarding two boxes of cake mix and a package of Sara Lee dinner rolls in his bedroom. Among other things. One day I'll let the boys gorge themselves on Trix, Campbell's chicken noodle soup, and chocolate icing straight out of the carton, the next day I hide it all and force-feed them sourdough whole wheat baked goods and raw milk. As a culture, we believe that one should not look a gift horse in the mouth and that those receiving charitable assistance should be pleased to eat whatever GMO-ridden, conventional, processed, sugar-packed, wrapped-up-in-excess-packaging goods the givers choose.

I am torn. I wish to be grateful and am thrilled that such largess exists. I know that those who assembled the gift packages did so out of a genuine and generous wish to make our lives better. (And the PGE gift card that was included in one of them will, indeed!, make our lives better. If anyone should be struggling over what to get for a needy family -- go with the PGE gift card!) And at the same time I wish I could somehow send a message to all those who shop for holiday gift baskets and ask if they might consider getting big bags of Bob's Red Mill organic whole wheat flour, and a dozen eggs from Kookoolan Farms, and perhaps a nice local ham from Sweet Briar Farms or the Pacific Village cooperative.

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urbanMamas snowed-in health hotline

December 23, 2008

Monroe_poxy My sister Hannah just called with a concern; her baby, Angelica, has had a diaper rash for several days, and a fever for the past few. Today she developed a rash on her stomach and Angelica, 15 months old, has been very fussy. She needed advice; she's been calling the pediatrician's office but the line has been busy.

I advised her to see if she's been overbundling Angelica (her power was off yesterday) and switch to breastfeeding only; maybe Angelica's having an allergic reaction and at least that will reduce her exposure to new foods. It couldn't be chicken pox, we decided, as it didn't look like the pox; Angelica's had her regular vaccinations; her only exposure (to my children) couldn't have caused it as they've all either had the pox or been vaccinated long ago. Twitter friends offered the possibilities of thrush, roseola, or hand and mouth disease.

Then it occurred to me that, if Hannah's struggling with a not-necessarily-emergency problem, many other are too, and as doctors' offices aren't answering their phones with great regularity, we'll have to work together to figure it out. So here's an open thread to ask each other for advice (and give yours to Hannah if something occurs to you). I'll start it off: Monroe broke his front tooth in half this weekend (well, in 1/3 and 2/3 vertical chunks) after launching himself face-first into a stack of cookie sheets.One of the chunks is wobbling back and forth and our local dentist office is closed; he hasn't been crying (though he's worked himself a mark near my nipple -- ouch!) and I figure we may as well wait out the storm before getting it looked at. Any problems I should look out for?

Activistas 2009 Holiday Adopt-A-Family

November 24, 2008

After reading the O's Season of Sharing stories today (a day late, natch), I am intensely sad and simultaneously so very grateful. And also glad that we already have underway our 2nd annual community Adopt-A-Family effort. Like last year, we hope to pool our resources to assist a local family in need over the holiday season. This year we're working with the Children's Relief Nursery. Read more and jump in on Activistas.

NE Pdx Parents Listserv: Join Up!

November 16, 2008

Heidi, new to Portland from Boston, started up a listserv for NE parents to get more connected and hopes all you NE parents will join. She writes:

When I moved here from Boston, one of the things I missed was my neighborhood parents email list. It was a great forum to talk about parenting issues, local parenting news and events, and find free (or nearly free) kid gear. But more than that, it really made my community, and especially the parenting community, feel closer-- something that is very important to me. I decided that rather than simply miss my old list, it was time to start one here! By creating a list for Northeast Portland, I hope to bring a new circle of parents closer-- connecting my friends, my neighbors, and their friends.

Subscription to the list is free and, for now, this parents list is for those of us in the Northeast (generally speaking)-- the reason being that Portland is large and if we start including folks further away some of the value of making it a truly local list is lost (like being able to find an event you'd really go to before nap time arrives).

One of the great things about the list is that it's not just for one kind of parent-- it really works best when you have parents of all types (and ages!). It is great to get advice both from parents who have been doing this for a longer time and those who are experiencing the terrible twos (or thirteens) in the moment with you. So spread the word and feel free to forward this information to those parents you know and meet in Northeast Portland.

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Election results: Our hope for the future

November 06, 2008

As a group, we founders of urbanMamas were impassioned Barack Obama supporters. His win got to us on a number of levels: it's a thrilling realization of (what we hope is) a new era in which someone's race or gender or familial fortune is far less important than his or her intelligence, character, and values. It's a victory for grassroots politics over corporate politics (I, the MBA, am actually thrilled that the stock market plummeted the day after his victory). It's a victory for children, I truly believe that; as the camera panned across the kids up on stage with Obama and Biden, I cried even more, certain that the future of those little girls in the White House would be a better one for my little boys. It gives us hope that major policies will change for the better: chief on my list are eliminating subsidies that promote monocultures (buh-bye corn and soy subsidies), senseless transport (it shouldn't be so easy to supplant local produce, apparel, or other locally-sourced products with those from across the country, or the world), and wrongheaded decisions by financial institutions.

We're happy that Barack Obama won, and also

  • Jeff Merkley (though I could do without his expensive, negative campaign); he campaigned on overhauling No Child Left Behind, fully funding public schools and Head Start programs, and creating universal access to health care.
  • Kate Brown for Secretary of State
  • The Children's Investment Levy renewal
  • The Zoo bond; even though I have mixed feelings about the whole concept of zoos, I'd rather ours be up-to-date and taking best care of the captive animals as possible

We have hope that Obama and the other elected officials can make some enormous changes in America. We need to entirely re-think our priorities as a nation; instead of focusing on jobs above all, we need to focus on people. People who are mothers, fathers, children, aunts, uncles and grandparents. People who are farmers and freelance workers. People who do not have group health care; people who choose to live a more sustainable life. We need policies that support us. We need healthy food, first. This starts by eliminating corn and soy subsidies and making sure it's not any easier to grow food that's been genetically modified or treated with petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers than it is organic, heirloom, sustainably-grown food. It continues by funding food as part of education; increasing the time spent at lunch and encouraging gardens at schools and the fresh prepartion of food in school cafeterias. We need better transportation policy; we need to make hard choices and recognize that the best option is the one that doesn't use oil. We need enormous infrastructure changes and a renewal of neighborhood schools so children are walking and biking to school and families can make the choice to go without a car, biking and taking public transportation instead. We need government encouragement for telecommuting so that families with parents who choose to work can do so with the minimal impact on their children. We need tax-funded health care so the choice whether or not both parents need to work can be far easier. We need far more generous paid family leave policies so that children's lives can begin with several months of low-stress bonding, easier breastfeeding, and happier mothers.

That's what I hope Barack Obama, his cabinet, and the other elected officials will do for us. What do you hope for?

Getting kids involved without polling places: I voted!

November 04, 2008

Ballots_on_bike_cropI remember going with my mom to the polling place when I was a kid; there was one right at the end of our block, at 25th and Madison, so watching the people stream by all day was so exciting. I couldn't wait until I was old enough to vote. Now my six-year-old is just like me: only there's no polling place. My husband and I voted after bedtime on Friday and the only evidence was our sealed, signed ballots on the table the next morning, whisked away by my parents to drop off at the elections office.

So, how can we invest our children with the excitement of civic involvement in our vote-by-mail state? Here are a couple of things we've done (and plan to do):

  • Electoral maps. There will be electoral maps to color at Backspace for the election party tonight; and last night Everett insisted I fill in every state as blue (he's loyal, that kid) on the New York Times electoral map, a fun interactive map that lets you run different scenarios while you wait.
  • Mock election. Asha at ParentHacks has a fun idea with imaginary candidates who espouse candy policies and bedtimes.
  • Get your freebies. Though election law now says they can't ask if you voted (nothing of value can be exchanged to induce someone to vote, or to refrain from voting), Starbucks is giving away a free tall coffee in honor of voting, Ben & Jerry is giving away free scoops from 5 to 8 p.m., and Dunkin' Donuts is giving away star-shaped pastries.
  • Campaign with every last second. Moms Rising has several "get out the mom vote" campaigns, like offering to be backup childcare for friends who want to vote, and making last-minute calls to remind moms to vote. Maybe the best way to adapt this to Oregon is to offer to drop off ballots for your friends who haven't yet voted, or to stage a "voting playdate" where you bring your ballots, vote, and hand them over to one mama to hand-deliver to a ballot drop-off location.

How will you get your kids enthused about your civic involvement today?

Blog Action Day: Let's buy a Mercy Corps breastfeeding kit

October 16, 2008

So head on over to Activistas and jump in, 'cause we're not just blogging on blog action day, we're acting.  Join us in buying a Mercy Corps breastfeeding kit.

Surprise!?? There are lots of kindergarteners in Portland

October 07, 2008

School_hallway

In today's Oregonian, the blaring headline: "Finally, a bumper crop of Portland kindergarteners ... The growing enrollment is welcome, albeit unexpected." In 2008, the Portland Public School district enrolled 3,950 kindergarteners, a 4% increase over 2007 (all metropolitan-area kindergartens grew but Gresham and Lake Oswego). There are all kinds of ways to utilize these numbers; kindergarten enrollment is used to forecast enrollment for all grades (that's obvious!), and it seems to be an indicator of population growth. Due to relatively infrequent census surveys, often localities like Portland are left in a year like '08 just not knowing where the people are.

Silly PPS. I know people here on urbanMamas and elsewhere in the Portland blogosphere have been commenting on the growing population for years. From packed prenatal yoga classes to waiting lists for preschool spots to crowding at Piccolo Park: we've been noticing that Portland is a great place to have babies, and lots of people are doing so.

If I was doing the forecasting, I would have already picked this year to be a growth year, and promised growth in kindergartens for the next 10 years to come. I think 2010 will be a particularly huge one! What do you see in your crystal ball (also known as your neighborhood coffee shop mid-morning)?

Tomorrow: Int'l Walk & Bike to School Day

Walk_and_bike

International Walk and Bike to School day is coming up on October 8th, this Wednesday. This is a one-time, state-wide event in which many schools participate. 90 schools throughout Oregon are signed up to promote healthy lifestyles by walking and biking to school. For more information on the program, see the Walk + Bike web site.

Are you in?

Obama Mamas are Google Grouping: Jump In

September 23, 2008

Groups_bar

If you are a self-described Obama Mama, join this group to collaborate with other local Obama Mamas who are busy on the election volunteer effort.  Over on Activistas.

Moms are voting: Let's show it

September 18, 2008

Bumper_momsvote08

Ready to show your stuff?  No, not that stuff.  Your political stuff, your power as a mama to vote like a mama.  The campaigns know we matter, we know we matter, so let's remind everyone that we'll be voting on November 4th, voting to support, uh, moms (and thereby our precious kids).  Get yer bumper sticker from Moms Rising over on Activistas.  Now if only I had one of those excellent little Zapcars to slap it on!  I mean, do I really need a trunk???

How to deal with a problem PPS staff person?

September 15, 2008

Mamas, we have come up empty in trying to suggest how to research how to move forward with this question.  Do any of you have suggestions?  We have received the following email from an urbanMama:

I'm searching for information on how to deal with a problem staff member in a PPS school. I'm in an "information gathering" stage right now.  Has anyone had a problem staff member at your particular school and gone to the district about it?  Any insights to share?