Thursday, August 28, 2008

Convention Watch! Obama's Acceptance Speech

Tonight, Derek, Paloma and I joined about 20 members for a Obama speech watching party. It was historic; I didn't want to be home alone for this. I wanted Paloma to experience what it was like to witness history with a group of engaged, smart, active people.

Oh, the irony that a group of Focus on the Family folks tried to pray for rain on the Obama stadium speech. Perfectly beautiful weather tonight-- but it looks like a hurricane is about to hit the Gulf Coast just in time for the Republican convention. Doing a heckuva job!!! (And I'm just going to say it. They're great beach volleyball players, but Misty May and Kerri Walsh sounded like idiots with their "Yay Mr. President! You're doing a great job!" They are completely clueless. To be expected-- they've been focused, laser-like, on the important task of winning a medal at a beachy sport. Super duper.)

Back to the speech: I cannot tell you how grateful I am to Obama for FINALLY TAKING BACK patriotism for progressives! I am done, all done, with Republicans/conservatives claiming to be patriotic. With people who fear questioning and fear thinking so much, they cannot imagine that those of us who say "America can do BETTER than this" are patriotic.

"The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first."

I am ready to be proud of being American, but like Michelle Obama, it has been a LONG FUCKING TIME since I've been proud of this country. The past eight years have been about shoddy governance, sub par education, a weak economy, a broken health care system, an illegal war that had ZERO to do with terrorist attacks, and in general the moral strength of a newt.

Republican platitudes like "freedom isn't free! Keep our country safe and strong!" make no sense with their style of governance. Can they not see that the country is less strong than it was eight years ago? Without the kinds of common sense positions Obama advocates, there's no way to "keep our country safe and strong!" Keep praying for rain...

But let me end with this from Obama:

"This too is part of America's promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected. Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what - it's worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us - that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it - because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time."
Paloma is wearing a hilarious (yet effective!) life vest-barrel thing in her way to the pool. Check it:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Convention Watch! Lilly Ledbetter's speech

Just watched Lilly Ledbetter's speech. I'm glad she got a chance to tell her story on this stage. Those of us who are a part of know it well-- as a Goodyear tire manager, she spent 19 years making less than her male counterparts for the same job, at which her performance was praised.

The Supreme Court denied her back pay (though it was awarded by lower courts), saying that she should have filed suit 180 days after the first instance of discrimination. But at Goodyear, like at many companies, it's against company policy to discuss wages. And who would ask that of new coworkers in the first six months on the job anyway?

Lilly mentioned that her case was filed on behalf of everyday working people who face this inequality all the time. For women and people of color, unequal pay is almost a given. Congress had a chance to right this wrong with the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Unlike the weak rhetoric against the Act claimed, it would NOT increase frivolous lawsuits (that's the same tired argument that gets rolled out all the time against legislation that helps consumers and working people). It only reinstates the same rights we had under the Civil Rights Act of 1964-- you wouldn't have to find out about discriminatory pay after only 6 months at a new job!

Lilly keeps up the fight- and so should we. When the Fair Pay Act comes around again, let's make sure that every Congressperson hears from us. Including the ones who abstained from the vote the first time around, including the ones who voted against it.

As a family woman (Lilly's a grandmother), Lilly knows all the needed expenses that extra income (that she earned but did not receive) could have gone to. Any of us who have faced wage discrimination and are caregivers know-- there are health care expenses, groceries, gas, and all the necessary expenditures that go into that little job of raising the next generation.

I wonder how her message will be integrated into the two candidates' platforms.

Convention Watch! Michelle Obama's Speech

Getting into the spirit of the BINGO game early, I decided to tune into Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention. There was quite a line up of speakers, from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Senator Ted Kennedy to Caroline Kennedy to the woman of the hour, Michelle Obama.


Maybe it's my third trimester hormones since I'm not usually a teary type, but when Michelle's mom starts narrating the slideshow of Michelle's childhood in her gentle voice... well, I can't help but think of the generations of mothers and children who came before. It's such a great window into the values and determination of this family.

Then Michelle's speech starts, and her first words are not about policy, the economy or the war. (And she could have delivered a passionate engaging speech on any of those things.) Instead, she talks about family-- and not in the abstract. She talks about her own experience as a sister, wife, mother, daughter. She talks about her close relationship with her dad, who suffered and eventually passed on from MS.

From there, her speech eventually does mention the economy, the war and health care, but she does it squarely in the context of family life in the United States. Instead of describing what's wrong with the system, she describes how families deal with the impact. It's a really powerful rhetorical style. She talks about parents kissing their kids good night before taking that extra night shift; about a student working nights to pay for her sister's health care; several mentions of people, especially young people, foregoing flashy careers because they're needed back in their own communities.

Michelle ends her speech where she started it-- with her own family, her daughters, her husband's desire to be the best father he can be. I came away feeling like she meant what she said, and that as a hands-on parent who has experienced what it's like to struggle a bit, she'd need no explanation of what MOTHERS on our BINGO card means.

I'm looking forward to listening to some more speeches in the next couple of weeks, during both conventions, with my BINGO card handy!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympics withdrawal?

In previous Olympics years, I didn't mourn the end of The Pageantry, the Ecstasy/Agony/John Williamsian overwrought theme song. It was just another TV event that passed.

This year, I think I'm experiencing a bit of withdrawal. But when I think about it, the end of the races and the medal ceremonies is a small part of it. I think what I'm really going to miss is that peaceful nighttime ritual Derek and I had, snuggling on the couch together to cheer on some athlete or another. Laughing at the ridiculous ads. Cursing as yet another midnight passed and we couldn't tear ourselves away to get to bed.

We're not TV watchers in general, but I'm thinking we should institute a regular movie night or pick a TV show to follow, just for fun. Suggestions?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

PSA and cloth diaper review

If you're a cloth diaper user, I just found out about two great sales!

Cotton Babies did a big clearance a month or so ago. As usual, everything got cleared out in hours. But I just noticed that the BumGenius organic one size all in ones are on sale in butternut and white. $17 a pop is a great deal for these, which normally go for $24.95 each. I tried these when the sale came around the first time and liked them so much, I wished I'd bought more. So I just did. :) Whatever stitching problem they claim exists is hard for me to find. Of course, I've never used a first-run version of these, but they really work well.

The biggest pluses here are:
1. They're one size. They'll work from newborn up to 30 lbs! Talk about savings.
2. They're all in ones. No stuffing, no folding, no separate cover. This is as easy as disposable. And lots nicer.
3. They're organic. The pesticides that go into growing cotton account for a HUGE percentage of pesticide use overall, so going organic for cotton products makes a big difference in the world (and for the workers). Also, the quality of the cotton is spectacular. I've never felt a softer diaper.

Some people have reported trouble with the velcro tabs coming undone in the wash, but I haven't had that issue in the two weeks I've been using them. They get laundered once every two to three days, and they've been great. I noticed a tiny bit of lingering odor today, but I never have before. Maybe I should have washed in warm rather than cold. I dry on one regular dry cycle, then put them out in the sun to complete the drying. I washed them with some prefolds I use as wipes, and everything came out fine.

No stains at all, by the way. And no leaks! (We'll see how newborn poo goes...)

Kissaluvs is also having a big sale at their outlet store. Everyone I know who uses these loves them, but they do require a cover. However, since they're so apparently so good at keeping in messes, you shouldn't need a ton of covers. I haven't tried them, but if you're building up your stash and have tried one of these and liked it, now's your chance to stock up.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What's so great about sporting achievements?

It's Olympics season! I have a stunning fact for you:

* Dara Torres is 41 years old. This secret has been kept tightly under wraps, but you deserve to know.

!!! It's a revelation!!!

Yes, there was no escaping the fact of Dara's age during the Games. I truly think the NBC commentators were under contract to say that she's 41 every time they said her name. Trying to beat me over the head with this fact to make me watch her compete was really, really annoying.

But I am going to ignore the annoying aspects of NBC's coverage (and they are legion) because what's so great about sporting achievements anyway? How does this help anyone?

Spoken like a true immigrants' daughter, right?

I was never encouraged in sports growing up. Well, not true- I had Indian immigrant parent-approved tennis lessons for a year. I had ballet for a year at age 5, then got dance lessons again when I begged in middle school through high school. But it wasn't something encouraged, discussed or explored much in our household. And I was a skinny kid, and probably didn't show much competitive spirit.

But studies, that I knew for sure was important to my parents. And I liked school pretty well, so you know, I did that school thing until I was, oh, through law school.

And even Derek, a decent sports enthusiast, had to agree that going to the Giants game just sucked. (Sorry Giants fans-- the drunken assholery was just stupid). So I haven't been feeling like I've missed anything huge.

Until, well, the Olympics. Strip away the ridiculous pageantry-- or wait! Before you do-- The architecture of the Bird's Nest and Water Cube is stunning, and I'm no modern/post-modern lover. And the drummers of the opening ceremony were awesome.

Ok- now strip away the ridiculous pageantry, and you've got a group of the most single-minded, driven, beautifully achieving people on the planet. I've realized that despite the values I'd been taught that didn't place much importance on sports, there's a great value in focusing everything you have on something positive, and working to achieve it in a way that transcends any previous achievement.

Why? Because every time a world record is broken, we can see what humanity is capable of-- in a good way, not a Darfur or Guantanamo kind of way. FOR ONCE!! I think this is also why lots of people are fascinated by David Blaine types of stunts-- challenging the notion of what is possible.

You might even say that Nobel Prize winners do this in their fields as well. I'd say that. It's just not as pageantrified as the Olympics, and the achievements aren't as easy to understand. NBC can't market it the same way, so there's not as much public adulation and glory. But still, same heroics, in my mind.

Maybe if we all approached our work (paid, unpaid, volunteer work, etc.) with the same focus, the same drive that Olympians bring to their work, our society would be very different. I don't mean that we'd all work at frenetic paces; I just mean that we'd all be more thoughtful, mindful about what we're doing, how we're doing it.

Maybe reminding us that we can develop that mindset is the real gift of sports achievements.

Friday, August 15, 2008

PVC- free Back to School!

Ok, so I don't quite yet have to enter the back to school fray. But I know a lot of you out there do, whether or not you're caring for a little one or shopping for yourself. Hooray for lead-free stuff!

(Oh, and while we're celebrating, HOORAY for passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act!! Usually I wouldn't be so excited about any bill that Bush signs, since we know that his double speak means that the Clear Skies Act= Coal-Spewing Protection Act, etc. But this is the strictest law in the world, banning lead and phthalates in products for kids under 12. Trustworthy people were excited, so I am, too.)

It's kind of mind-boggling that there's still so much lead out there to get onto hands and into mouths, eyes, noses, etc. But as long as there's PVC, there will be lead in it to stabilize it, and voila. Your daily dose of neurotoxin.

But there are alternative materials out there that are great. The Center for Health, Environment and Justice did a great job compiling some sources for back to school gear. The usual suspects are on the list (Ecobags, Fleurville) and some surprise big names (Targus, Nike) to make shopping easier.

Happy shopping!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the apples will not be eaten

Paloma had her introduction to death in the animal kingdom yesterday. There are a lot of deer in the regional wilderness area behind my parents' house (it's CA scrubby, not a magical forest, unfortunately). We often throw fallen fruit from my parents' trees over the fence for them. Paloma wanted to toss some apples, so we collected some.

As we approached the fence, I could smell something and heard flies buzzing and kept thinking that something must have died but couldn't see what it was... and then I saw a baby deer curled up by our fence.

P pushed a tiny apple through the wire, then another. And she said, "Up, up?" And I knelt next to her and told her, "No, honey, that deer isn't going to get up. The deer is dead, so he doesn't eat apples anymore." And she said, "Up, up?" a few more times, and we went through the explanation a few more times. Then we went to tell Grandpa and to play in the sandbox.

A few minutes later, a group of three deer had gathered by the back fence. I was surprised, thinking they'd all avoid the area for some time. But there they were. So I asked P if she wanted to gather more apples to give, and she did. Then we went through our Q&A again: "Up, up?" And she'd point to the dead baby deer. "No honey, that deer isn't going to get up because he's dead." And she'd point to the deer who were munching her apples, and I'd say, "Yes, those deer are alive and still need to eat apples." This exchange happened about 20 times.

I think it was a good introduction for her-- a part of the wildlife scene behind the house, an animal she recognized but not a pet, no entrails strewn or anything (I think it succumbed to the heat and drought). I think of death as a part of life, something all living beings experience. I wonder what, if any, memories of this Paloma will carry.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mindy Kaling is hilarious

Everyone needs a break for a laugh! Here's yours. Mindy Kaling has such a knack for making me laugh.

Ad Review!

My favorite ad so far is the Chanel ad. The model's mod haircut and FANTASTIC tights make this photo for me.

The Calvin Klein ad at the very front reminds me, yet again, of 1992. Why, oh why, are we revisiting this? Is this, plus the supermodel ad, plus the Kurt Cobain retrospective in Fashion Rocks, VF's (and the fashion world's) way of saying we're heading back to the Year of the Great Democrat in the White House? Or is there less than that in these ads?

I am NOT enamored of any of the handbags advertised. They all look too slouchy, too print-y or textured, too ... well... they're tacky to me. To each their own!

Anyone else think David Yurman jewelry looks like costume pieces from grandma? All the chain links and heaviness.

Tiffany ad was gorgeous, and I love the yellow Versace dress and purse (yes, texture-y but beautifully built).

More to come!

blast from the past- but why?

I love the new fat VF, but not sure what I think of the supermodel thing. Specifically, the timing feels odd to me. Why revisit 1990's supermodels now? What's fresh about that? Anyone have insight on that?

girl prefs, boy prefs?

What do girls and boys prefer? Well, if my sample size of one says anything, it's that it's hard to say what they prefer!

Paloma **loves** trucks and trains. (She's too busy inspecting it to be in the shot.)

Paloma loves shoes (even on the wrong feet). (These are darling Morgan and Milo sneaks.)

Paloma loves purses. (And playing with my wallet and cards.)

Paloma loves flowers.

Paloma loves getting piggy back rides (and giving them to her stuffed baby bear). Here she's on Aunt Beni's back.

Paloma loves football-- or any ball! She loves climbing things, and loves birds. She loves sparkles and blocks, dresses and her swimsuit. She loves reading books (especially books about new babies-- and dump trucks). Paloma LOVES swinging off any horizontal bar she can find- she has fabulous triceps. She loves singing and dancing to pretty music.

That's my well-rounded girl!

Monday, August 11, 2008

K's "Urban Amish"!

My friend K writes a great blog (pssst... I can link it if you want, K!) and the other day, she wrote about being "Urban Amish." She's an awesome mama, cook and photographer. Being artsy like that, she makes fabulous home cooked meals and such.

I *love* the idea of being urban Amish! I take it to mean being crafty and nontoxic. :) I love baking bread and I've wanted to get into yogurt making forever. I use white vinegar or some water-plus-essential-oil for cleaning everything (this has actually worked to get rid of My Ultimate Nemesis, ants). And I also have wanted to make some soft stuffed toys for Paloma and Sparkle (sidenote: how cute is it that Paloma calls the baby in utero "Parkle baby"?!! I melt every time she says it.). And I'm signing up for sewing lessons stat.

So fun to get crafty. (And if you haven't visited etsy, I apologize for being your enabler.)

So in that spirit, here's a link to my friend's Make Baby Stuff website. It's fabulous. It's totally feeding my dreams of making toys and things for Sparkle and Paloma.

If I get cracking, I will post pictures of things I make as I go along.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

holistic parenting in suburbia! And Review of Pangea Organics massage oil

So, while we're planning our Great Getaway from Suburbia, we do have to make a life here. Even though it's not our permanent home, we have enjoyed lots of things here-- the community swimming pool just around the corner, the parks, the many trails nearby. Ah, if only the neighbors would talk to us! Sigh. Well, can't have it all! :)

But I did find this group a few months ago (ok, half a year ago). Has anyone ever attended a meeting of these folks, the Holistic Moms Network? They look great. I met the area chapter leader at Whole Foods months ago-- she approached me because of my t-shirt.

If you belong to a great local moms' group, I'd love to hear about it. And if you know about Holistic Moms, defs leave a comment.


I tried to get a fabulous nontoxic mani-pedi at Panache Spa in Berkeley but they were closed today! :( Darn. But I did manage to get to Elephant Pharmacy and pick up some Pangea Organics massage oil (on clearance sale!) as a treat for after I give birth in a couple months.

Lavender and cardamom are supposed to be calming, clarifying and warming, which sounds perfect, especially when it will be chilly out- and I'll be sleep deprived and probably in need of some calm clarity. The packaging is minimal and you can even plant the box it comes in! The company is committed to fair trade as well as organic practices-- I feel good about supporting them. And I think the oil massage will be really beneficial. After remembering what a challenge postpartum is, I'm looking forward to all the pampering I can get!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

three thoughts for the day

This is Paloma in the woods at Mt. Tom in MA, taken with my sister's camera phone. She's growing!

1. We just returned from a trip to MA and CT. It was wonderful, and Paloma is a great traveler. She loves being on the airplane, even for a cross country trip! It's kind of amazing.

Anyhoo, we finally disembarked for the final time and Derek says, "Do you want to be a pilot?" And she says "Yes!" "Want to be a dump truck driver?" "Yes!" "Want to be a physicist?" "Mmm... noooo. Blah, blah, blah!" I nearly fell over laughing.

2. Thinking of baby names... I've got some ideas for this new little one but haven't settled on anything yet.
******If you have names that make you think of being joyful, playful, brave, feel free to put 'em in the comments!

3. Maple sugar candy from Vermont is teh redonk. (That's my Internet speak for the day.)