October 2008

Cancel it, please.

When I was a kid, my Dad was away a lot. As a good Navy family, my Mom, Grandmother, brother, and I would adapt our holidays as needed to when Dad was around. Celebrate a birthday a few months late. Hunt for eggs on an odd day. The calendar was secondary to us being able to be together as a family.

So now I am a Mother of two and it’s the day before Halloween and I am sick. Like, had to go and suck down medicine in a tube in an Urgent Care sick. It’s a head cold turned bronchitis with some sort of nasty sit-on-your-chest-til-ya-wheeze side effect. I’m hawked up on a bunch of steroids and antibiotics and inhalers, weak in the knees and in bed while Paul — poor Paul — handles his job, our kids, and a whole house of cards just tumbling down, one by one, on his hurting head.

Halloween could not come at a worse time. The spider costume isn’t made (I bought the toilet seat covers for the spider body and have the black tights for legs). Will is going to wear his Batman pajamas to school tomorrow — at his request, chosen over my initial offer of his last-year’s Peter Pan — and Kate? Well, she was suppose to be the Little Miss Moffett to Will’s spider, wearing a simple blue dress that is in no way costume-y, but paired with a bonnet (this woman is amazing), and a little sign about ‘curds and whey,’ I figured we could make work. But for school tomorrow? I didn’t think about this. I wonder if last year’s Tinkerbell still fits her? (It’s 12 months size… unlikely.)

Are we the world’s worst parents if we forgo Halloween?

Can we turn it into a belated punishment for all that not-listening in weeks past? (Okay, I admit, this seems unduly evil.)

But what if we just can’t do it? What other options do we have?


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Song of the week.

Sung to the tune “Close to You” by the Carpenters

Why does Paul look at me and frown
when he hears that hacking sound?
It’s just my luck, that I’m stuck
with a cold.

Why do the kids crawl in bed with me
when in truth, they should flee?
Don’t they know, Mommy is so
sick with a cold.

On the day that we got back from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
I was starting to feel a little ill.
So I took Nyquil and got some rest,
thinking soon there’d be no phlegm in my chest!

But despite staying in bed all day,
My body will not obey.
It’s just my luck, that I’m stuck
with a cold.

Let us hope, that I’m stuck
just with a cold.


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In support of the S word

The election has much of our attention these days.  The disbelief over the undecided (really, people, grow a pair), the shock over those who think Palin is just the best thing since sliced bread (wow, just… wow).  And now, after all the ‘Obama pals around with terrorists’ and ‘Obama hates white people’ and blahblahblah ridiculousness, the McCain campaign keeps throwing around socialism as if it’s some sort of anti-American voodoo.  Watch out for those socialists, folks.  They spit on apple pie, stomp on the American flag, and really, really hate baseball.

As a socialist, or at least a libertarian socialist, I admit that my feelings are a little bit hurt.  What in the world is so un-American about socialism?

Maybe my left-leanings come from the fact that I grew up in a socialist system: that of the US military.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better example of functional socialism: housing, universal health care, even shopping controlled outside of the ‘civilian’ system (no tax on military bases).   Still, the US military is a bit too authoritative for me; I am more of a fan of respecting individual liberties… which, doggone it, seems pretty much like pro-American values to me.

Of course this house is a pro-Obama house.  (I’m working very hard to hold any further snide comments on that issue.)  But it doesn’t mean that he’s my dream politician.  I am fascinated and excited that he has been able to bring people together, excite youth, and make a jaded grump like me feel that maybe there is a way out of this authoritative tunnel of doom we’ve been on for 8 years (I’d argue we’ve been on it since 1980, but that’s another story.)  The hope I have for the Obama mission of change is that he can slowly turn us around, so that our politics can find middle ground in a place that is truly center.  Then maybe us voodoo-welding anti-American socialists can come out and play.


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Different tongues.

We’re in the beautiful northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, near where my parents grew up across the street from each other.  The past day and a half have been a blur of fantastic public parks, fun museums, nostalgic family stories, friendly people, and Eat-n-Park.  Will loves the mountains.  Paul finally explained that ‘we can’t afford mountains in Louisiana’ and ‘they only can be built in places where there is a lot of snow and ice in the winter,’ because Will could not understand why we can’t just build up a few winding mountain roads with bubbling streams through the center of New Orleans.  He is also picking up on the fact that people here say things a little differently.  Words like “yins” (like you all, but not) and “worsh” which is something you do to clean things like clothes and dishes.  We’ve been impressing upon him that there are many ways to pronounce words, and along those lines, that maybe he should be a little more gracious when he corrects our American pronouncation French words?  Or at least not visibly roll his eyes and groan when we make the word “poisson” rhyme with “son”.

The kids’ school called me on my cell phone this morning, while I was leaving the bathroom in the basement of the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum with Will.  It did not take long for them to have me pegged as a sucker who can’t say no someone who likes to be involved.  And now, I’m on the School Council (Conseil d’ecole), which is an elected position (when, in situations not like this one, where more than one person throws their name into the ring) required for accreditation from the French Ministry of Education to act as a voice for the class on school issues.  While that description isn’t the most informative, it’s all I know, and am excited to have the chance to learn more about how these cross-national schools work, although I know little about early childhood education and even less about French educational requirements.  Then I was flashing to the LHAN board meetings, which are often in Spanish and where I can follow along reasonably well but have to use English to speak (so embarrassing, but if I have to take the time to think how to talk in Spanish, the conversation has passed me by) — and I began to have visions of these meetings all in French.  Because that would just make sense for me to be involved in two community volunteering roles in two different languages I cannot speak fluently.

Life in New Orleans

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Are You the Very Model of a Modern Vice-President?

Violet sent me this interesting video, and while watching it, the catchy title above caught my eye.  You see, I can’t resist the urge to recite “I am the Very Model of Modern Major General”.  Once I clicked over, the article itself was so fun and so very-meme worthy, that I couldn’t help but re-post it:

Are You the Very Model of a Modern Vice-President? (By Katha Pollitt)

From Salon’s War Room comes this quote of the day, from Iowa’s Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, a Democrat:

“Sarah knows how to field-dress a moose. I know how to castrate a calf. Neither of those things has anything at all to do with this election. But since we know so much about Sarah’s special skills, I wanted to make sure you knew about mine too.”

What cool things can you do that have nothing to do with being Vice President or, Lord help us, President? It doesn’t have to involve animal bloodshed. Can you write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform? I can’t, but I can whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense, Pinafore. And leap tall buildings at a single bound. Plus, I’ve been to many foreign countries, to say nothing of New Jersey, which I can actually see from my house.

Maybe I should be Vice President!

Your turn.

Here’s my go:

I can recite the words to “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” in time, with appropriate breathing, for at least two verses (I’m not sure if I remember all the words to the third verse).  I can look into a field of clover and quickly spot 4, 5, 6 and yes, even 7(!) leafed clovers.  I can feed, dress, groom, and brush 2 children and have them out the door, on time, for school in less than 35 minutes.  AND, I have traveled extensively through Alabama and Mississippi and emerged every time with all of my natural teeth.

Maybe I should be Vice President, too!

Your turn?

(Anyone? Bueller?)

(True song begins around a minute in.)


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Whip it good!

I’ve already made the $11 investment in toilet seat covers for Will’s costume, so it’s too late for this Halloween.  But I am placing our order of four in for Mardi Gras.  I wonder what kind of alterations we’ll have to make for it to fit Kate?

And while we’re on the subject of the minds behind ‘Whip It’… poor Paul!  That fall put some nasty huge bruises on his (ahem) derriere.  Huge, gynormous, brusies.  I’d post a picture, but I figure the hole-in-the-seat-of-his-pants picture was probably pushing it.

New mission: slowly switch out all of his undies to leopard print, to up the entertainment value of future hole-in-pants photos.

(Devo find, h/t to Mighty Goods.)

Family Life in NOLA

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And then the roof caved in.

It’s 2 days until we leave for yet-another-trip.  Which means that we’ve picked up a time sensitive renovation project that must be finished before it rains OR ELSE.  Because we are predictable like that.

While we picked pumpkins and played in corn mazes and rode on hay, a student from the summer’s Peru course took the shingles off of our roof.  Then he and Paul spent the rest of the weekend re-roofing.  Paul has been getting up to work at 4:30am to be done in the early afternoon to work on the house; Cien will join him again tomorrow after he aces a big exam tomorrow.  They have until dusk tomorrow to finish, else this weekend’s rain will do us in.  (The weather report specifically says that the chance of rain is 100% if we do not have the protective mulehide on the outbuilding.)

Notice the new wood.  And the old roof, filling our backyard.  Almost time for another dumpster!  Here is a view from the ladder (yes, I climbed the ladder).  You can see the back and side headers are new.  See where the joists are joined together to the left?  That’s because they found ACTIVE TERMITES, who were happily munching away at the roof, having made lunch of major portions already.  (We called, it’s under contract, the bug guys came today.)

The other side.  You can see more of the new headers and blocking.  The roof prior had no blocking, so adding it in was important.  Takes time to make all those cuts.

Here’s another view where you can see little channels in the base of the joists — see the little notches?  They had to cut each of those out by hand.

Working on the roof does have it’s risks.  Particularly when it’s a termite-eaten roof.

Some good news: when it happened, workers also on rooftops a few buildings over hollered over to make sure he was okay.  And more good news!  Because of how he caught himself, the vasectomy we were planning may not be necessary.  The hole (below) came from the fall, I’m told.

The (floppy hat) man and his saw.

Home and Renovation

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Truth in Advertising.

Family Photos

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Blog Action Day (After)

Yesterday was Blog Action Day AND Love Your Body Day.

Augh!  Both things I wanted to blog about.  If this were back to the excuse letter, I’d say that I was at a Board Meeting last night for a nonprofit serving the under- and un-insured, and well, doesn’t that give me a little slack?  “No,” says the calendar.  Well, I’m not so good with following rules anyway, so here goes.

The theme for Blog Action Day was POVERTY and one of the reasons I felt compelled to write about it today is because of my great disappointment that no one spoke about it during the debate last night.  The issue of poverty is so dear, so important to me that I’ve thrown myself at three degrees, two schools, a hand-full of countries and a ton of work so that I could understand it better.  Here are two posts I’ve written in the past about poverty.  Global poverty — the fact that 1 in every 6 people on the planet lives on less than $1 a day — is one of the most important issues for us to discuss.  It impacts all of the other issues, things like terrorism, health, economics, and environment, that we are so concerned about in this election.

One thing that was discussed in last night’s debate that has A LOT to do with poverty are free trade agreements.  In particular, the candidate’s discussed the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which McCain supported and Obama (rightly) did not.  Obama very nicely summed up his reasons for not supporting the agreement: there were no environmental and labor protections in it.  The topic of free trade offers great entree to a discussion on poverty.

A Question: how do the free trade agreements supported and promoted by G8, IMF, WB, and most importantly the U.S. impact global poverty?

Answer: one heck of a lot, and not in a good way.

This article sums up the complex issues, ideologies, and major players very well.  It is an important read, because when summed up quickly and succinctly the bottom line goes something like this: The current form of free trade agreements are structured so that the wealthiest maintain solid advantage and the poorest are forced deeper into poverty.  Patricio Aylwin, former President of the Republic of Chile, said the following at the opening ceremony of the Thirty-first session of the FAO Conference where he was delivering the McDougall Memorial Lecture, in honor of Frank McDougall, one of the founders of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Only poverty has been truly globalized in our age. … The over-praised neo-liberalism and the omnipotent market is a mistaken vision and it is the root cause of some of the most serious problems that afflict us.

Like many issues in global health, poverty, and development, there is no quick soundbite that can completely and accurately sum up the issue without sounding extreme.  In a take-my-word-for-it manner, I can sum it up in this way: free trade agreements offer opportunities and protections for multi-lateral corporations that extend far beyond issues of ‘trade’ (here is a video that discusses some of the non-trade issues involved — transcript); free trade agreements disproportionally impact women; free trade agreements further impoverish the rural poor; free trade is often tied to structural adjustment programs, which push countries deeper into neoliberal economic policies that further cripple their poor populations; and finally, that the economic ideologies that dominate World Bank, IMF, and G8 policies are misguided and misreported.  I included a few links that I felt offered relatively short and concise insight into those issues, although the true reading list into these issues is much greater in both length and density.

Instead of offering an economic debate (I spent a good 10 pages of my doctoral comprehensive exams on this, if you are really desperate on my own words), I thought I’d offer a personal account.

When I was working in Honduras in 2003 and 2004, I spent a lot of time traveling to remote villages in the mountains to talk to parteras (traditional birth attendants).  Many of these meetings were pre-arranged, with parteras coming from even more remote areas to gather supplies and attend the trainings and focus groups we conducted.  It was common for us to bring bags of USAID grain along for the ride to be distributed in these areas… bags of USAID grain, which had been grown and processed in the United States, and then shipped to remote farming communities in Honduras which were surrounded by fields of grain and legumes.  What was happening???  Well, the value of the food those farmers were producing had dropped considerably.  Families were forced to sell all that they could grow into order to survive… which meant that they had less food than they needed to live on.  So although they were growing food, they had to sell more and more of what they grew in order to survive — and in very real terms, one season of drought could literally destroy their family.  Their poverty wasn’t just a hard life, it was a live-or-die situation.  The economic forces of structural adjustment and free trade amounted to growth in the country’s export, yes — because families had to produce more in order to compete.  But at the cost of their own health and well-being.  International trade advocates and financial institutions would call this situation a success because of the increase in export goods. The cost to the poor is not part of their equation.

Delivering those bags was a huge reason I decided to go for the PhD in International Health and Development.  I realized in a very real and personal way that the ways in which we approached Global health and issues of poverty were skewed unfairly, and as a citizen of the United States, I felt obligated to at least try and do something about it.

Here are some pictures of us at a clinic delivering those bags in the mountains of north central Honduras (note the “USA” visable on the bags).

Following the lead of Alejna, who got it from Magpie, I will donate $2 to the International Forum on Globalization for every comment made on this post in the next 3 days (until Sunday at midnight — just in case others are late on this, too).

A day late, but better late than never.


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There’s more Canon to love.

At Will’s first camp performance this summer, I brought our video camera to record the class song.  The camera was bought new in November 2003, the week before Will was born.  While sitting in the audience waiting for the class to file in, a grade-school age boy turned around, saw the recorder in my hand, and exclaimed, “What is THAT??”

“It’s a video camera,” I explained straightford.

“REALLY?” he said, “But it’s SO HUGE!”

Point taken, the Hi8 tape thing was getting old.  Mastering video and all that nonsense is a pain.  But I’m addicted to photography, not videography, and have done my best to try to put all responsibility in that second category to Paul.

Who has came through.

On Monday, a surprise arrived in the mail.  With a big family event coming up in the next few weeks, Paul recognized the importance and wanted us to be prepared.  So he took it upon himself to research and buy a great new camera… completely surprising me.   We used it for the first time yesterday and tonight and here is one of our first videos.  Importing it into IMovie and Sharing it to YouTube could not have been easier!

Oh, and the kids got haircuts today.  Although it’s not an issue that will keep me up at night, I do think it’s interesting that there is some debate about the gender-specificity of Kate’s haircut.  Will said “she looked like a boy,” and thought it hysterical when I showed him a picture of me with my super-short Suzanne Powter haircut (cute cut, but not enough product in the world to hold my fine hair).  As for Kate, I think she looks adorable anytime we get to see her eyebrows.  But I am curious to others’ impressions?  And if you find it unattractive, are there suggestions on how else I could cut her super-straight hair?


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