9 posts categorized "Opinions"

Lunchbox Dilemmas

August 16, 2013

As soon as Spring Break hit a few months ago, I knew I would need to replace my girls' lunchboxes that had been doing overtime for two years. I found myself completely sucked into a thread on the *Portland Mamas FB group that had been discussing lunchboxes for the last two days, which caused the topic to resurface in my head. This is big stuff, folks. I like newfangled technology as much as the next modern mama, but sometimes I just wonder if the metal Rainbow Brite lunchbox of my childhood was really just fine.

My oldest had been carrying a Blue Q bag that originally contained a birthday gift. She was more into the bag than the gift so it became an accessory as part of her daily ensemble. I have to admit that in a world of the Thermos, insulated sides, waxed canvas, removable liners, and 100% machine washable, I was suspicious! As the months dragged on, that super cute polypropylene bag did its job, and did it well. It suffered endless half-empty, half-closed containers of applesauce, sticky fruit leather, and tuna fish smeared all over the inside. At first, this stressed me out, but after a quick rinse and a wipe with a soapy sponge, the smell would go away and the bag would be ready to go for another day.

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Children Allowed, but not welcome

August 11, 2011

Recently, I had to use a Groupon (or one of those types of offers) for a facial.  I booked 6 weeks in advance, or even more.  I was excited.  I hadn't had a treat like this in a long, long time.  The morning of the facial, my sitter for the day cancelled, and I was home with my 7-year old daughter all day.  Rather than forfeit or reschedule, I decided to bring her along.  I told her our plan for the day, which included chores, lunch, the facial, some errands, and free swim.  She was excited.  She packed her bag for the day, which included a book and some water and a small snack for her to have during the 60-minute facial.  I know my girl.  She would be cooperative.

I suppose I didn't give it too much thought.  I suppose I could have.  It was a one-person operation, I figured.  We would disturb only ourselves.  I have actually had to bring a child with me before to a bodywork appointment and it was fine.  I was extremely put off by the response I received when the aesthetician opened the door.

She took one look at me, then looked long and hard at my daughter.  The look on her face was baffled, confused, and irritated.  She said, "OH", with a tone that I heard to mean "What the heck is *this*?" and "I don't do kids here."  I explained, "My sitter backed out at the last minute and this is all I could do."  She said, "OH." a few more times, with the same tone, exaggerated and really annoyed.  I tried to put the tone aside and so I could enjoy the 60 minutes I had been looking forward to for weeks.

My daughter was silent for those 60  minutes.  I forgot she was there.  She was reading and having some water and playing pretend games in her head.

Even if it was not explicit that kids were not allowed, it felt like the business operator's response indicated kids shouldn't be there.  I've been into some stores before that literally seem to flinch when I walk in with my kid(s).  Sometimes, I'm made to feel like the kids are a disease.  When it comes to airline travel, kids are an annoyance to other travelers and there is the constant proposal that there be kid-free sections of the plane.  Restaurants and supermarkets (like a Whole Foods location in Missouri) are following the kid-free movement, outright banning children or implementing the ban during specific hours.  (Ever take the kids to Happy Hour?  Always!)

Are there places you wouldn't bring your children, even if kids are technically allowed?  Are there circumstances under which you would support the kid-free movement?  Do you think the kids should be allowed to come along wherever you are entitled to go?

Kindergarten roundups: The big giant fat decision

January 26, 2010

An urbanPapa friend and I engaged in a lively philosophical debate via chat yesterday evening while I should have been cooking dinner. At issue, the looming opening of school choice transfer applications for kindergarteners -- this Friday, January 29, at 8 a.m. schools throughout the district will begin accepting them, as well as registration forms for neighborhood kindergarteners. Should he apply for transfer, or just accept the fate his home purchase a decade or more ago had set for him?

I told him I thought Atkinson, his neighborhood choice, was a good one; he wondered about the test scores there, which were not what you'd call a "home run." Atkinson got a grade of "satisfactory" in the District's report cards [pdf link] (you can find other Oregon district report cards, with data on individual schools, here.) He asked what was partly a rhetorical question: "do test scores matter?" 

My perspective was this: test scores are a snapshot that tells you how well third, fourth and fifth graders in your district take tests. It has much to do with demographics; students who are minorities typically do worse, as do those for whom English is a second language. Yes, we know this, he said, but white students in Atkinson weren't doing great, either. This, I said, was again a snapshot of demographics; poorer students do worse, on average. This tells you nothing more than "the majority students in my school are not, on average, students with the high level of parent involvement that guarantees better results on standardized tests." It is not a reflection, I said, on teacher competence or whether or not your child will thrive there. It's just a demographic snapshot. Unless your neighborhood school is a war zone (I'm not saying we don't have any of those in Portland, just unless), your risk of a bad educational experience is equally great at a great neighborhood school, a poor neighborhood school, a charter school, or a private school.

Roundup_kindergarten Sidebar: Kindergarten roundups [pdf link] actually started last week: you've missed the dates for Arleta and Ainsworth -- sorry! Atkinson was this morning at 9:30 a.m., but has another at 6 p.m. Feb 4. Astor is tonight at 6:30 p.m. Forest Park and Rieke are tomorrow at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively. The rest start next week. If you decide you love a school other than your neighborhood school, you must list it as first choice to have a chance in the lottery. Also: if there is choice between half-day and full-day kindergarten in your school, you will want to turn your application in right at 8 a.m. if you want the full-day option; they fill up fast. We have a growing resource in our schools forum, which provides at least a little information and a chance to connect with parents for each school in the PPS, many private schools, and those from some surrounding suburbs and towns. Last year, we talked about kindergarten roundups and school choice, although most of the comments there do pertain strictly to 2009.

He countered, saying, "there is no question that educational reputation affects people's lives. I can't say it affects whether they are happy, but it does affect what kind of jobs they get. For example, top competitive positions at corps and in government are filled predominantly by people from about 5 or 10 universities. Ivy League plus a few others. Shouldn't I give him that opportunity if it's there for me?" He acknowledged that stating this was a departure for him; he'd just as soon give a screed on how owning land should be illegal.

Yes, I said, but there are so many unknowns for a kindergartener, and the test results of kids who are now in fourth grade -- who won't interact with your son at all -- are hardly likely to influence this much.

Continue reading "Kindergarten roundups: The big giant fat decision" »

Best in mama blogging

January 12, 2010

I read Babble's 'Top 50 Mommy Bloggers' with mixed feelings. First, I was pleased that a local blogger or two and many mamas (and one dad) I consider longtime friends -- people who really deserve approbation for years of hard work and amazing content -- were getting recognition. There was ParentHacks, who won the category 'Most Useful'; I really think of Asha as an original urbanMama (in spirit if not in fact), she's been inspiring us for as long as I can remember. Dutch and Wood from Sweet Juniper are so warm, inspirational and creative -- and both eloquent and moving writers -- that I can't imagine any 'best of blog' list without them. (And yes, Dutch's popscycle is on my fave family bikes list.) Citymama used to be a Portlander (she'll always carry our city in her heart, yes Stefania?); Alphamom is generous and sweet and oh yes, stylish!; Mom 101 is so smart and connected; thanks to the fact that my job as a professional blogger started in parenting blogs, I've had the pleasure of meeting, chatting with or working with many of the other top 50 (but no, I can't say that I know Dooce, famous mommy blogger numero uno).

But hey: it's the in-iest of in crowds and the whirlpool of popularity, I feel, misses a lot of the true gems, the sorts of parenting writers who work their craft for no other reason than because they must, who forge beautiful writing in a "build it and they'll come" mindset to which I, too, have come to subscribe. No matter how many come, the castles of words and images keep slowly forming, each at their own pace. In my opinion, Sweet Juniper is the only true, sparkling treasure on Babble's roster; the other mamas I consider gorgeous, pearls of great price were receiving, at best, a few dozen "likes" from the open-for-nominations list Babble began after its editorially-selected rankings were published. Perhaps the soul-startling bloggers aren't great places for Mattel and H&R Block to advertise, but they're quiet and sweet and real.

If I were making a "best of all possible mama blogs in the best of all possible internets" list, it would include these:

  • Sweet | Salty. I discovered Kate only in the past year and we were well-met. Her journey to a mama's joy despite the loss of one of her sons as a newborn has me gasping.
  • Notes to Self. Kyran weaves stories with such mastery that my face is hot with emotion just peeking into one of her blog posts.
  • Secret Agent Josephine. Unfailingly charming and creative, Brenda always makes me smile.
  • Slouching Past 40. Sarah's poetry makes me weep and her parenting writing is so full of stunning sight and insight -- it's to what I aspire.
  • Oleoptene. Well-met in Portland, Mara's eloquent, cerebral musings are worth the time it takes to unpeel their layers.
  • Irene Nam. A Parisienne who writes in English just for us, each post a small gift, a poem. Her photographs sing to me in whispers.
Some of these are nominated on Babble's list; others aren't (you can vote for urbanMamas and me, too, if you're so inclined). It's proof that popularity is not always key to greatness, nor does greatness lead to popularity; it's proof that sometimes the quietest music reaches deepest into your heart.

Law & Order stirs vaccination pot

April 29, 2009

I have vaccinated all my three boys more or less on schedule, but it is more inertia than science; when Everett was born, I wasn't in a community that questioned vaccinations (my husband's best man was a pharmaceutical sales rep, for one), and it wasn't until later that I started wondering if filling babies full of toxins was really the best approach. By then, it was almost time for public school, and I didn't want to face filling out forms stating my "religious" refusal for one child, but not another.

But I know lots of you urbanMamas don't vaccinate; parts of Oregon have some of the highest rates of vaccination avoiders in the country. And last night on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, I felt as if I was seeing one of my friends on trial. After an 11-month-old died from measles -- and her mom, a distracted and turbulent Hillary Duff, buried her in a parking lot, thinking she'd killed her -- it was decided that the real "culprit" was a mom who'd decided not to vaccinate her son. The baby and the little boy had been at the same playground after he'd been infected by an Amish teen with measles. The city of New York put the non-vaccinating mom on trial for murder. Seriously?

Not only were non-vaccinators called out in scathing tones for their lack of medical degrees and their dispassioned uncaring for all others ("I don't make choices for those kids!" said the mom shrilly), but the way the writers portrayed the woman was unforgivable; on the stand, she goes on a rant claiming that the baby would have died anyway, because Hillary Duff's character was a "bad mom" (true, but really) and she was a "good mom" and thus she deserved to get off. She did, much to the disgust of most of the SVU crew, who kvetched about how she'd gotten away with murder. The ending was too complicated and horrifying to describe here.

I was shocked that such an extreme viewpoint, which took the "mommy wars" media invention and ran with it in the ugliest way, was firmly established by a TV show I've often loved as the moral right. Did you watch the show? What did you think? Will you be watching Law & Order again?

Color-blind kids: is it a good thing?

February 04, 2009

When my 6 year old was trying to get our family to guess the name Barak Obama the other day, he described our new President without ever mentioning the fact that the man is African American or black.  This prompted my husband to state that our children will have the luxury of being “color-blind” when it comes to race.  While I’m not sure that being racially colorblind will be quite the reality of my children’s still-young generation, it does make me wonder if that is even really a good thing?


After living and marrying in a very diverse part of Florida, my parents raised our family in the Pacific Northwest without any discussion or mention of racial differences that I remember as a kid. Living in a community without much diversity, those weren’t conversations that were ever prompted by circumstance.  Although well intentioned, I don't really feel my parents did me any great benefit by living as if racial differences don't exist.  It wasn’t until recent years that I even learned about the concept of “white privilege”; it was just something I obliviously lived.  Shortly after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I asked a few girlfriends (all caucasian and parents of 5-6 year old kids) how they talk to their kids about race so they at grow up conscious that racial disparity is real. They all agreed our kids are too young to go there, to call attention to differences that our kids don't notice yet.


So mamas, what do you think about all of this?  Are color-blind kids a good thing?  How so?  Beyond how we as mamas talk about our own diversity, how do you talk to your kids about race, diversity, prejudice, and privilege?

Durable clothes for little guys?

September 17, 2007

Now that Everett's starting kindergarten and needs lots of serviceable and (my preference) non-commercial playwear, I've been thinking about buying a few really nice things every pay period -- nothing fashion-forward, just t-shirts and polos and chinos and sweatpants that will last, and last, and last. After all: I have three boys and I'd like to avoid having to purchase these again and again.

Truman_climbing_wall I've had good luck with Hanna Andersson sweat pants and chinos, but I don't like many of their pants styles and their shirts haven't done well in my house (lots of unravelling hems and the like). I love American Apparel for myself but have found that the stretchy fabric that's so comfortable also tends to wear quickly. I'm tired of putting pants in my pile of those-needing-knee patches! Does anyone have any favorite kids' clothing makers, or stories of flimsy stuff I should avoid? Retailers with good sales preferred...

Flying with Kids: An Annoyance to Others?

July 26, 2007

We've had many discussions on urbanMamas about flying with children.  Recently, the New York Times featured an article about the "misbehaving children" (a complete misrepresentation in my opinion) on airplanes and the added stress for passengers with little sympathy for kids.  The article provides a flight attendants perspective of hellish experiences when kids are on board, and sensational stories such as a flight attendant demanding a parent give her child Benadryl.  As parents, we probably have utmost empathy for those traveling with kids since it can be stressful.  We've taken trips dozens of trips with our kids, and our interactions with other passengers have been pleasant.  However, the stories recounted in the article seem like the exception.  Or, are they?  Have you had other passengers hassle you because your child was throwing a fit?  What about the TSA?  Any horror stories to share?

Pregnant Mamas Needed, Next Friday, 6/1

May 24, 2007

We like passing info along to mamas to allow them to voice their opinions.  Here's an opportunity, and you'll even get some cash for providing feedback:

Get paid to be opinionated!  Local baby products company is looking for 10-15 expectant moms who are willing to provide feedback on a new product/packaging.  We’re simply looking for your opinion and will NOT be asking you to try the product or ingest anything into your precious pregnant bodies.  We’ll compensate you $25 for 15 minutes of your time.  Please send an e-mail to anotherkate@gmail.com, and include your first name and phone number.