Nearly two weeks after almost everyone else has gone back to school, the 16,000 kids in our school district are still on summer vacation. This is because the teachers went on strike rather than accept the school board’s current contract proposal.

As you can imagine, many people – especially working parents screwed for child care – are up in arms about this, and so many showed up to last night’s open school board meeting that dozens were turned away for lack of space. Luckily, the district thoughtfully provided a live stream online, which if you are fortunate enough to have a super-fast computer and a high-speed internet connection, was a great option. Unfortunately though, I doubt this was the case for the many parents in our district who live on salaries similar to those of our teachers.

In any case, of the parents, teachers and principals who showed and did get in, many got up to speak, and for the most part the comments were uncommonly well-prepared. One woman, however, used the phrase “Gestapo-like tactics” to describe the school board’s behavior. Now one may or may not agree with the school board, but this woman needs to get a serious grip, as well as a history lesson. The Gestapo, hello, were the Nazi police, and they humiliated, tortured and murdered thousands upon thousands of victims based on their religion, sexual orientation or political views. They did this in support of a regime that went on to murder millions for the same reason. There is not a school board in this country – not even the ones who think we should teach creationism in school and ban books in libraries – that deserves this comparison. Ok, lady?  Sheesh.

As for the kids, you would think they are all having a blast. The weather has been uncommonly good, so I figure that if we lose our February and April breaks – which we surely will – at least we have off now when the sun is shining. But no, they are acting like a bunch of just-retired OCD businessmen, moping about the house, rudderless.

Partly, this is my fault. I’m sure there are parents out there doing fun crafts and special projects with their kids to fill the time. But personally, I am against doing arts and crafts at home with my kids. If I turn my back for a second, my son will drink the glue while the girls paint the table they are using, the chairs they are sitting on and any furniture unfortunate enough to be placed in the same room with them. I just can’t take it, and besides that’s what the membership to the darn childrens’ museum is for.

Instead, last week I taught my five year old how to ride a two wheeler. This was a good thing, but to my dismay, it required more stamina for running than I currently have. Nothing like sprinting back and forth as you bend over to grip the back of a little kid’s bicycle to make you feel old, winded and acutely aware of how utterly out of shape you are. Maybe I’ll set a goal that by the time my son is ready to learn, I’ll be able to teach him without feeling like I need to retch at the end of a session. Check back with me on that in three years, Ok, everyone?

Meanwhile the strike goes on, my five year old fears she will miss kindergarten completely and never learn how to read, and we wait.


To Kelsey at My Sweet Life: Prayers to you and your family, especially sweet little Dennis and the girls.

I just couldn’t do a normal post without acknowledging this unbelievably terrifying night for a fellow mom blogger, and the sisterhood it inspired. Tonight, while out biking with her three little kids, Kelsey of My Sweet Life was struck by a car. All were seriously hurt, especially three year old Dennis, and are in the hospital.

Moms all over may have a zillion different ways of doing things, but all of us are one when children are hurt. Thanks to Busy Mom for letting us know with Twitter. Thanks to Crunchy Green Mom for posting what happened. I imagine we are all spending the night in a similar mental place, as we send fervent good wishes for a complete and quick recovery to Kelsey and her kids.

We just got back from spending a week with the kids in Canada, one of my favorite places. Over the years I have visited each of the major cities (Toronto, Ottowa, Montreal, Vancouver) multiple times without and with kids, and each experience has been notably good.

Although I have visited Canada many times as a tourist, this feeling originally crystallized many years ago when I traveled there quite a bit for business as part of my job at Kenneth Cole. That was how I met with the team at the Brainstorm Group, a boutique creative agency we had engaged in Toronto. Now marketing people are known for being, shall we say, confident, and fashion people can be well, overly-engaged in their own view of things. Frequently, this can be a toxic mix, but the relationship went swimmingly, and the people at Brainstorm were wonderful to work with. The proof: 10 years later Brainstorm still works with Kenneth Cole in Canada. This in a world where agency – client relationships make celebrity marriages look positively ageless. It helps that Kenneth is pretty damn cool too. But I digress.

To me, Canada has always seemed to represent a kinder, more enlightened version of America, a place where people understand that guns are for the police and not the rest of us, where healthcare is a right and not a privilege, and where the people who run the government can be counted on to accept scientific fundamentals, like evolution.

One of the nice things about living in the Seattle area is that Canada is so close. We can drive there in about 3 hours hours and our local NPR station, KUOW, features weekly updates and analysis of Canadian news with Vancouver Sun columnist, Vaughn Palmer. I wish these chats were available more widely because Canadians offer us the most balanced and fair outsider view of the American landscape available.

So, I was taken aback to see the kerfuffle started while we were over there last week after a woman nursed her baby in public at an H&M in Vancouver. (Yes, I am probably the last mom in the blogosphere to mention this story, but hey, that’s why they call it vacation, folks.) My take is that this dust-up was simply a product of two excellent strains in the Canadian character conflicting with one another: liberal-minded support of human freedoms butting up against an unfailing commitment to niceness and decorum.

Ironically, this happened in H&M of all places, a trendy department store based in Sweden, a country so liberal that once, while vacationing there, my husband once saw a topless woman riding a bicycle. (This, unsurprisingly, made such a strong impression on his conservative Japanese sensibilities that 15 years later it is still the first story he tells whenever anything related to Sweden comes up.)

The whole thing seems to be resolved now, with a Toronto-based PR representative of H&M flying in to meet and welcome a riled-up bunch of moms who came down to the store last Friday to protest with a group nurse-in. That’s Canada, a happy and diplomatic ending.

Has anyone else been to and loved Canada? I would love to get suggestions of great places to go with kids there. Maybe I’ll even make a few of my own in my next post.

Blue Angels at Seafair

Check these guys out!

Winter lasts in Seattle from October to July. If this sounds unlikely, let me assure you that on June 14th this year it was 49 degrees at noon here.

So when summer finally arrives we have more than earned it, and there is no better summer weekend to spend here than Seafair. This is when the Blue Angels (navy jet fighters) fill our skies with thrilling tricks for four straight days. There are other events too: hydroplanes, boat shows, and many related parties, but to me it’s the sight of these planes that makes the weekend.

They usually fly right over our house at least a few times, rattling our windows and exceeding all kinds of recommended safe sound levels I’m sure, but we love it when they come close just the same. Each summer all our neighbors gather spontaneously in the street to watch the grace and awesome power of these guys.

A few times we took our kids right out to the bridge with the best views, loudest decibels and biggest crowds, but with a toddler in tow we usually just enjoy the show from home. Luckily, you can see much of the show from almost all of the many hilltops in the area, and the many public beaches offer great views too.

In most big cities I’ve spent any length of time in, going to a special event means packing the kids up in the car, dealing with hours of snarling traffic and paying through the nose for concessions and parking. So when people say the Pacific Northwest is a great place to raise kids, this is what they mean: A terrific public event, free, easily accessible, and effortlessly enjoyed with friends and neighbors.

As my friends know, I have a really hard time with the long, dreary winters here, so I’m not saying move or anything. But I have to admit Seafair is pretty damn cool.

The Blue Angels over the Seattle skylinePreview this Post

The Blue Angels over the Seattle skyline. All those boats on the water watching the show are getting a nice big blast of jet-fueled air. Ick. As if boats don't make you sick enough.

Recently, I created a Facebook page. Why? Because all the social-networking-for-business experts say that people who run businesses like mine should. To my astonishment though, once on I found that many of my 35+ friends and acquaintances were already on it purely for fun. Who knew? Certainly not me. So far, the social networking experts appeared to be right.

But I soon discovered that there are some decided downsides to Facebook, none of which I was warned about in advance. In the spirit of alerting others then, I am sharing some of my doubts here:

First, the ads are way too creepily targeted. At least every third time I log on, the left hand bar shows an ad that knows my precise age and insecurities: “Are you a 35 year old* female who is overweight?” This copy is accompanied by photos of a large woman covered in thick layers of cellulite on one side with a thin, bikini-clad female on the other. “Click here for the ultimate weight loss solution!” Ugh.

Second, there is a lot of new, and unfamiliar etiquette. If someone sends me a bumper sticker do I have to accept? As far as I can tell, bumper stickers are invisible until you retrieve them, so it’s kind of like having the class jokester hand you a box and say “Open it!” in front of everyone.

And what about those endlessly worthy groups and causes? I now get multiple invites to join group save this or association help with that. I support most of these causes, but it seems to me that by listing the many we diminish the power of the few, and it looks highly likely to get pointlessly out of hand. Still, if I don’t click yes, will the sender doubt my values? Do we all have to sign on to everyone else’s sensibilities? Surely Miss Manners never faced such a conundrum.

Even some of the pluses come with caveats. Sure it seems great to be able to post photos and let friends come retrieve them rather than emailing everyone large files. But start trying to keep up with all the photos and wall posts and stickers (oh my!) and you have now redefined time suck.

Of course there are helpful aspects to Facebook too. For example, I imagine it will be useful to be able to click on a friend’s page and verify all her kids names before sending a holiday card. I’m sure there must be others too, but I really can’t think of any. Feel free to chime in.

So it doesn’t look like my Facebook page is going to advance my baby bib business any time soon. In the meantime though, at least that’s one less new technology for my kids to discover that I will have no clue about.

*Ok, I’m more than a little past 35, but you get the point.

In my line of work you get a lot, and I mean a LOT of requests for samples from moms who write blogs. Mostly they are vehicles for reviewing and pitching baby gear, which has its place I’m sure, and is an important part of my business, but they are certainly not what one would call brain food. Then there are the many, many, many blogs of the “Johnny pooped on the potty today” variety, a remarkable number of which make it into fairly mainstream lists of mommy blogs to follow. Surely there are quite a few moms out there in desperate need of some meaningful volunteer opportunities.

So it’s always great to stumble across a blog like that of Rachel Sarah, called Single Mom Seeking. Thoughtful, smart and on target, Rachel tackles the big issues (her post on the recent Supreme Court decision about the right to own guns was spot on), but she clearly also knows how to have a good time. You don’t have to be single to appreciate her sharp take on the many issues that touch parents’ lives, and I expect she has fans of all varieties. She’s written a book too, also called Single Mom Seeking. Judging by her blog, it’s going to the top of my list of gifts to give to single mom friends.

Single Mom Seeking, Rachel Sarah

Single Mom Seeking, Rachel Sarah

All my kids are little mess machines, but my son combines this tendency with a strong urge to use his arm muscles and a deep need to create noise. A few months back he went through a phase of banging any object that was handy against the nearest hard surface he could find. Metal spoon against ceramic plate? Cool! Baseball bat against patio doors? Awesome! Ice cream scoop against sister’s head? Oops, mommy’s really mad now…

Thankfully, this phase passed after a few months, which is a good thing because I was getting pretty tired of sitting in the corner with him.

Bam bam returned this week, however, and he certainly picked his moment. In the midst of a communication breakdown between me and my two-year old over his milk and his sippy cup, my son started shouting, “Daddy!, daddy!”

Generally, this translates as: “Would the alternate adult who occasionally understands what I want and gives me chocolate when he can’t figure it out please show up!”

Eureka! Somehow I connected that call for daddy to the idea of using daddy’s “grown-up” cup. So, I offered to let him drink his milk out of a wine glass.* Happy does not begin to describe the look on his face as he got this unbelievable offer. The meltdown immediately turned to happy giggles, I got to be the hero, and we proceeded with lunch.

Long story short, dad comes home, baby delightedly shows off his new triumph by drinking a wine glass full of milk for the whole family, and right then and there smashes it to the table in his bare hand. Nice going mom! I guess I won’t be the one posting any ideas to the mommy blogs about creative ways to handle toddler meltdowns.

How about you? Anyone else want to fess up to a self-inflicted baby disaster?

*(If this sounds far-fetched, I recommend reading If You Give a Mouse A Cookie)

Bam bam is strong boy!

Bam bam is strong boy!