Monday, September 29, 2008

hood vs. hoodie

I’m all for dress codes in schools. My kids’ school’s dress code includes blue pants for boys and either blue pants, dress/jumper or skirt for girls. Both boys and girls must wear shirts with collars in white, blue, yellow or pink. I think a dress code levels the playing field and eliminates all that “keeping up with the Joneses,” and on a more practical note, I think it’s a lot cheaper than having to outfit the kids in the latest duds on a daily basis.

When I got home from work on Friday, Olivia announced that she could no longer wear her blue sweater in class because hoodies are not allowed. I, of course, rolled my eyes in complete disgust, because this scene was an exact replay from last year when I had to go to the mat with the school’s administration about the difference between a hood and hoodie. Stupid, I know, but the school’s dress code bans all hoodies, because as it was explained to me, many of the middle school teachers spent too much time asking their students to not wear the hood of the “hoodie” in the class. Cool--- I understand how this could be distracting, but handle your business responsibly and give the middle school kids an ultimatum--- if you wear the hood in my class, you lose the hoodie. Case closed! When I pushed the point a bit further with the school’s dean of students, I also caught a faint whiff of the “thug-like” persona associated with the hoodie, but she never came out and admitted this inference.

Despite my intense disdain of singling out hoodies, because of some perceived association with “ghetto fashion,” it’s also impractical--- have you ever tried to find a jacket or sweater for a child without a hood? I haven’t seen one in Target or Kohl’s in the last two years and believe me--- I’ve tried. It seems as most teachers are reminded of this particular school policy by the school’s administrators instead of differentiating between a garment “with a hood” and a hoodie, most just tell their students that hoods are not allowed.

So, what’s a Mango Mama to do? Well, I emailed Miss Olivia’s teacher this afternoon detailing my position, copied the dean of students and school’s principal and I guess I’ll be hitting that mat again this year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Too Sweet, Sweet Tooth

My baby boy needs major dental work. He’s suffering from cavities in his upper back teeth on both sides and after my discussion with his pediatric dentist today, we’re looking at no less than three appointments for extractions. Now, before you jump on me about indulging the little guy with too much candy, let me explain that the boy’s current state of dental damage is due to his nursing too long and at will throughout the night and the natural sugars in my breastmilk would sit on his teeth until he brushed them in the morning. Not good.

Yes, I am a proud former breastfeeder, no… let me be more specific, I was a human Häagen Daz machine and I couldn’t pry this boy off the boob until he was 3 yrs. old and even then, it was a delicate negotiation not unlike the Cuban Missile Crisis. I enjoyed nursing and thought Yannick would wean naturally himself like his older sister, but after making a few halfhearted attempts, it became painfully clear that this boy would nurse until adulthood unless I took drastic action. I broke him off cold turkey, but now I realize the damage was already done.

So, now we’ve got to help our little guy weather this new storm. I’m sure it won’t be pretty, especially because Yannick can turn on the drama when he wants to, but unfortunately, we don’t have a choice. Looks like it may be a funky fall y’all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting Personal

We’ve got less than 49 days until what may be the most important presidential election in our lifetime and things are getting tight. Being totally devoid of an agenda to address our hemorrhaging economy, failing education system and skyrocketing healthcare costs, McCain, his side-kick Palin, and the Republicans have resorted to outright lies and distortions in an effort to divert the American public from the real issues.

Yes, I am a proud and vocal Obama supporter. I have read many of his policy papers and support his positions. I believe this man is America’s best hope for securing a better future for my children. In past presidential elections, I was offered very little choice and I cast my vote for the lesser of two evils, but not this time. We have a real opportunity to do better, be better--- much better.

But, make no mistake, everyone does not feel as I do and despite the fact the choice is clear to me, I’ve encountered folks still sitting on the fence, proclaiming they haven’t made a choice yet, or who outright declare themselves as McCain supporters, or don’t offer an opinion either way. The lesson here--- don’t assume.

Believe me, voting for Obama is not a Black thing, or a Democratic, liberal thing, we’re beyond that, it’s all about striving for more than mediocrity. I’m not interested in electing a president who I’d be comfortable sitting down having a beer with. I want intelligence, integrity, thoughtfulness, diplomacy and vision.

Yes, I respect everyone’s right to vote for whomever they chose. Yes, on most issues, I’m mature enough to agree to disagree, but not when it comes to this presidential election. This is too personal. The stakes are too high and the McCain/Palin ticket has yet to demonstrate any sort of understanding or empathy for the issues me, my family and community are dealing with daily. In fact, their stump speeches are totally devoid of any specifics, offering little in terms of a policy change of the current Bush agenda.

So, for me it’s quite simple. A vote for McCain/Palin is a vote against Olivia and Yannick and that’s totally unacceptable.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Evangelical Christian Defined

Back in February in the thick of the Democratic and Republican primaries, I posted a short piece asking for someone… anyone to please define what the heck is an Evangelical Christian. I went on to ask if it was simply code for White, Christian, Ultra-Conservative

I didn’t get many responses to that post, but I continued to ask the question and about ten days ago while checking out Michel Martin’s Tell Me More blog detailing her experiences at the Republican National Convention I decided to ask the question again. After a few days, I returned to her blog to see if she or anyone on her staff had responded--- and they hadn’t. But, Wednesday when checking my email, I received a request from one of the show’s producers asking if I would be willing to be recorded asking the question for use on today’s broadcast. They invited two religious leaders to respond to my question during the show’s weekly segment, Faith Matters. Check it out--- listen here! Be sure to click on Questions Abound About Palin's Faith.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New School Year/New School Home

These last two weeks have been hard. Loverman has taken on a second gig and we’re all adjusting to his new schedule. The kids don’t go back to school until September 15 because we’re moving into a new building and due to the construction schedule the school didn’t receive its certificate of occupancy until September 1st. It got so hectic with trying to get childcare, I decided to simply use some of my vacation time and stay home with the kids for the remainder of the week. I’ve been home with them since Tuesday.

We had an opportunity to tour the new facility earlier this evening. I couldn’t wait to see it because the building we’re moving into was once Durham Elementary and both my mom and her older sister attended Durham when they were children. It’s fabulous! Bright colors, big windows that open, and a new cafeteria with our own chef Gus to cook wholesome, fresh food for our kids, it’s more than I could ever imagine.

Located at 1600 Lombard Street in Center City, this building is 100% better than where we were. It’s a charter school founded 8 years ago and since its inception, it’s been housed in a building originally used as office space. In fact, the building is the designated FEMA headquarters for Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. So, the students were safe from hurricanes or a terrorist or nuclear attack, but there were numerous challenges not conducive for growing children. The windows didn’t open, the HVAC system was suspect and there was no dedicated outdoor space just for the school’s students. For recess activities, the school used Washington Square, a short walk from the school and an historic landmark that was once a burial ground during colonial times. It worked for a while and the administrators and teachers made the best out of a difficult situation, but with the school’s rapid growth, it reminded me of the old lady who lived in a shoe… We had simply outgrown our original home.

I recently rotated off the school’s board, but during my two-year tenure, most of the board’s energy had been consumed with deciding whether or not to move. For me, this wasn’t really a difficult decision, if we had the resources to move to a more appropriate space, and a detailed plan to execute the move, then I was all for it. In fact, I was surprised that there were even parents who opposed the move. But, for many families the school’s space challenge was trumped by its location right smack in the middle of city’s Independence Mall. The building was less than a block away from the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross' House, Carpenters' Hall and the new National Constitution Center. Our new home is a whopping nine blocks from this cradle of America’s birthplace. But, what we may have loss in immediate access to historical hotspots, we’ve gained in spades with a facility designed to meet the needs of a progressive learning environment.

Acquiring, rehabbing and preparing the school for Monday’s opening have done wonders in reinforcing the school’s sense of community. A parent of a student in Olivia’s class is an architect and the school hired her to oversee the entire project. Another parent has a moving company and the school hired him to move us from one building to the other. Every step of the way the school’s board and administration did their very best to ensure that as many voices as possible were at the table to create this dynamic space. A group of parents even worked together with the school’s principal to secure a KaBoom grant and later next month, the school’s community will join employees of IBM and SAP to build a world-class playground, one of the numerous wish-list items we wouldn’t have been able to fulfill without additional financial support.

Walking through the school’s hall this evening, I was overwhelmed by the intangible benefits the school and its students will reap from its new location. It’s almost like we’ve walked into our first home, with all the pride and pregnant anticipation that comes with home ownership.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On New Stands Now

Shameless Self-Promotion Alert! Mango Mama and her lovely book club buddies are showcased in the current issue of O Home. I’ll admit, I’m buggin’ a bit, appearing in the same publication as the Divine Miss O, but more importantly, I hope folks will check out the book featured with our story, What is the What by David Eggers, because it’s an incredible story and all proceeds go to aiding the Sudanese in America and Sudan through the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation.

So check out the Fall 2008 issue of O Home, and our feature, A Novel Affair, and be sure to let me know if you can figure out which one of us is me--- Mango Mama!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Clampett's Go to Washington

On Friday, I simply blew it off as a campaign stunt. McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate came out of left field, but at first glance it could have been written off as McCain trying to shake things up, adding youth to those concerned with the Republican nominee’s advanced age; securing the party’s conservative base.

By Saturday, I began to get a sinking feeling that this is more Machiavellian than a campaign stunt. It’s been reported McCain had only spoken with Palin once and had only one face-to-face prior to her selection as his running mate. He knows her about as much as I know the guy who delivers our monthly treat of Chinese take-out. Here’s a man who’s been trumpeting the importance of experience, soliciting the services of a woman who’s been governor of Alaska for less than two years and who didn’t own a passport prior to becoming governor.

The Republican talking points touting Palin’s qualifications include she’s the mother of five, with a staunch conservative background, executive experience, and she’s not a Washington insider. She’s pro-life, a lifelong card carrying member of the NRA, and a hunter who is known to head out to the Alaskan tundra, shoot, skin and prepare a moose for a hearty stew dinner. Palin was also a runner-up in the 1984 Miss Alaska Pageant, and former star on her high school basketball team. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Idaho and has no additional advanced degrees.

Are we supposed to believe McCain decided on his own to throw caution to the wind and select Palin for his running mate? I think not! In fact, if I was John McCain and somehow I found myself winning in the general election, I’d sleep with one eye open because the powers that be are looking to have someone under they’re total control and Maverick Man, you may not fit the bill. This uniquely unqualified broad is simply a prop and for those of us who have been befuddled by how in the hell George W. won two terms as President of the U.S., Palin’s ascension as the potential second-in-command should not be taken lightly. There is definitely something funky afoot.

Today we learned Palin’s 17 year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant and this is on the heels of the recent birth of Palin’s five-month old son, Trig, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. It’s also been mentioned that Palin as an additional special needs child. While I do applaud the woman’s ability to multi-task, it would seem her plate is beyond full and maybe more of her attention is required at home; and as much as I respect Alaska’s right to choose whomever they wish to manage their state’s interests, Sarah Palin is not qualified nor prepared to have such a paramount say in my interest or those of my family.