Friday, September 26, 2008

5:00 Fridays

I've been whiny lately. I admit it. This election is freaking killing me. It's driving me to drink. Well, drink more than normal. Let's just say that McPain is causing me to drink more than Bird and Deal drive me to drink on any given day. And that says something. You don't think I pulled this 5:00 Fridays thing out of my ass, do you?

You loyal readers know that I love me some homonyms. So today's 5:00 Fridays post is about wine. My antidote to whine. One of my favorite T-shirts reads, "Whine? No. Wine? Yes." I wear the hell out of that baby.

So today's thirst quenching feast is a nod to Five Rivers Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a 40th birthday gift that Mac Daddy and I enjoy in our hours of peace and coupledom where we forget that we have children for a few hours every night. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge. Wa wa wa, as Chachi would say! Don't get the wrong idea about "every night." That thar wine don't work miracles, folks.

Granted, I know nothing about wine. I'm no wine snoot or anything. I simply drink what I like. Well, a fine label design doesn't hurt.

Get yourself a proper red wine glass, and pour yourself a lovely cabernet. Perfect for the cool autumn nights and impending falling leaves crunching underfoot. Ah, I can't wait to bundle up under a blanket with our outdoor fireplace crackling under the stars. Glass of wine firmly planted in my grip.

The best thing about Five Rivers Wine? The winery supports women's cancer research and treatment. The company's mission is to build awareness and advocacy for women's cancer initiatives. I love a business with a good cause! And a reason to drink? Consider it your public service.

Drink up, my friends. Prosit!
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get Your Kids Involved

I am not ashamed to admit that I use my children as my personal billboards. After all, they wear the Polo horse, my alma maters, Mac Daddy's favorite football team, global warming garb, and Disneyland attire. Why is a political shirt any different? The boys are a reflection of us, in actions, values, beliefs, words, grace, looks, hardheadedness, mannerisms, and overall constitution.

Since my boys were babies I have taken them, swaddled in the stroller, to walk to the polling station. They each wore a bib that read "Mommy loves me too much to vote Republican." They also have donkey shirts and Yes We Can shirts. And you know what? They wear them with pride. We make quite a sight with them in their shirts, Mac Daddy sporting the donkey, and me in my Obama Mama shirt.

My point here is this: We are involving our children in politics. We have been reading Duck for President since before Obama stepped foot at a primary pedestal. We vote for what to have for dinner, where to spend our Sunday mornings, ice cream or popsicles and other such incidentals time to time. My kindergartener has kids voting at his school. My preschooler knows all the candidates by logo and face. Don't get me wrong, I will be devastated if my boys think rebellion means turning into Alex P. Keaton. But Mac Daddy and I are trying our damndest to teach Bird and Deal about our political systems, our rights, our freedom, our responsibilites, our priviledges.

Caroline, my soul sister whom I am convinced was separated at birth from me (pshaw to the many years between us!), wrote a lovely post about this very topic. It would behoove you to read it.

In case your thumb is sore from too much clicking, I'll also copy and paste it here. I don't think Caroline will sue me.

Ways to Involve Your Kids in This Election
There are only a few weeks left until we vote for our next President. Along with many other parents and citizens, I am nervous but hopeful about election day. But in the midst of all of this political chatter, how much do your children really understand about our upcoming election? Do they know who our candidates are? Do they understand our priveledge and right to vote? Would you even know how to engage them in a conversation about the election? I certainly wasn’t very sure, so I went hunting for some resources - and I would like to share them with all of you.

Now, what inspired me to look for these election resources exactly? The other morning I took a stab at explaining this election to my 5 year old. We were watching some highlights of an Obama rally on CNN. My son was clearly thrilled that I had not switched over to Playhouse Disney. To try and peak his interest some I said “Do you know who that is?” “No.” His bored tone told me he was anxious to learn more. “Well, let me tell you.” I tried to explain what our president does, who the candidates were and how I will be voting on election day. Blank look. So I simply said to him, “Do you know what you should call me? An ‘Obama Mama’.” Finally a smile and then a giggle. “Obama Mama! That’s silly! Obama Mama, Obama Mama, Obama Mama. … Can I have some Kix?”

This wasn’t this first time I have tried to explain the election to my son. Granted, he is only 5. He is simply trying to figure out the politics of kindergarten - certainly, our complex presidential election may be a bit out of reach still. But it got me thinking. What resources are there for parents with children interested in learning more about the election? If you have been trying to engage your children, check out the following sites. My son might be a little young still, but yours may not be!

PBS Kids, The Democracy Project: PBS does a fantastic job of putting together a fun, interactive website where kids can learn about becoming a president for a day and how our government works. It also allows kids to get into the voters booth and share what issues matter to them.

Kids Voting USA: While more of a website for teachers, it offers election information for children in grades ranging from K-12.

Scholastic.com: Scholastic does a wonderful job with their election website. Kids can vote for president, meet the candidates, read campaign news, read blogs written by kids, or even launch their own campaign for president.

Brain Pop: Looking for a straight forward video to explain the election to your kids? Check this site out.

TIME for kids: TIME magazine has a fun website with campaign games, information about the issues and even some pretty cool kid reporters sharing their own campaign experiences.

Would you like to make this election real for your kids and put together your own election and voting booth? Visit “ABC Teach” to find ballots, worksheets and directions to make your own voting booth.

The White House: The White House website offers further information for kids about our past presidents, the White House itself and even the presidential pets. Maybe you feel like coloring a president? Get out your crayons and print some of them out here!

Rock the Vote: And for your older children, sit them down to Rock the Vote. MTV makes it cool to get involved with this election.

Finally, I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read: “Kids Don’t Vote, but Moms Do!” (If you want one, please visit Momsrising.org.) That statement truly inspired me. Our children and their futures matter. However, as moms, we carry the responsibility to be their only advocates. And during this election, it is no different. Our children count on us to elect their leader. Please don’t forget to register yourself to vote. And then, consider bringing your child to vote with you - what better way to learn about this historical election than to have them truly experience it for themselves!

Caroline's post is cross posted at Type A Mom.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Too Pissed to Write About Politics

I am spent.

Withered. Tired. Frustrated. Angry. Sad. Hunched over. Saggy. Clenched. Stunned. Weakened. Wilted. Drained. Weary. Stupefied.

But. I. Am. Not. Defeated.

I was going to write about my thoughts on the election tonight. Yeah, I know. That's really rich, right? Totally a topic from left field (literally). More specifically, I was going to write about the nonsense of the "Women for McCain" signs I've seen popping up. Oxymoron or just moron? I was also going to write about the touchy subject of being friends with McPain supporters, particularly those you might not have pegged to be Cainiacs. This has hit me square in the sternum like a burlap sack of stolen $100 bills.

Alas, I cannot muster up the gumption to take on such heady topics tonight. I'd like to sleep on this lovely 60 degree night (with the window open...nothing like a clean, cool breeze to soothe the soul, the added snuggle with Mac Daddy is a bonus), and a bushel full of McPain debauchery will prevent my body from a much needed restful slumber. But don't worry, my bitching will be back in full force and then some, especially after a good night's sleep.

Instead of my usual political tirade, I'd like to share some snippets about a few authors that make me gloriously happy. These guys are family favorites who are guaranteed a seat at our dinner table any time. Even on short notice. Consider this your invitation. We will surely require replacement books before Bird and Deal hit second grade. Oh, you better believe I'm gonna have double copies to pass on to my grandchildren one day in the far, far, far future.

Todd Parr
Graeme Base
David Wiesner

What? You have not heard of these guys, the Triumvarite of Children's Authors? The guys who give Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak a run for their money? Well, now you have no excuse. Run, don't walk, or drive, as the case is in my town where one cannot walk anywhere, to the library. I'm betting you'll have to put your name on a waiting list, but it's so worth it.

Todd Parr's books have whimsical illustrations and cover topics such as making friends, adoption, fitting in, first day of school, feelings, and differences among people. He hits on these heavy topics with a genius stroke of simplicity and poignancy. His dog Otto is the star of the series, and his quirky antics are guaranteed to plaster a smile on your kids' faces. When Deal had trouble with separation issues at school this week, a Todd Parr book did just the trick to make him laugh. He's partial to The Feelings Book. Appropros for my sensitive little guy.

Graeme Base is a divine illustrator. When Mac Daddy and I got Animalia as a baby gift for Bird, we sat down on the couch and pored over every page. Nevermind that Bird was only hours old at the time. The clever gift giver clearly knew her shit and applied some foresight to the gift, shunning another noise making, squeaking, cloth book of clowns and hippos. Animalia is a superbly illustrated alphabet book that makes Where's Waldo look like, well, Where's Waldo. Bird now takes Animalia to bed with him and searches for the hidden pictures until his heavy lids get the best of him. The coolest part? Graeme, we should be on a first name basis by now, hides an illustration of himself as a young boy on every page.

David Wiesner somehow manages to write books with fantastic storylines, characters, and plots but no words. His books are fantasy to the Nth degree. Fabulous illustrations tell intriguing stories of wonderment. Page turners to the young and old sets indeed (not that there are any old people in this house!). His imagination stands alone, and he inspires others to see outside the proverbial box we let society cram us into. Tuesday has already lost its cover. Flotsam is dangling by threads. These are hardcover must-haves. Thanks to David Wiesner, we look for cameras on the shore instead of shells when we head to the beach.

So there you have it, a few of my favorites. Our love of reading must be contagious because Bird and Deal devour books. That PBS PSA about reading to your kids for 15 minutes a day is clearly not meant for us. Mac Daddy and I get cotton mouth and dry lips from all the reading we do. It's imperative to keep a tall glass of water at your side if you ever read to my boys.

What other imaginative authors who can spin a mean tale am I missing? Enlighten me, please.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

I'm no Oprah, though I aspire to be as financially free as she is. I did see her show once when I was in graduate school in Chicago. I saw Madeline Albright. Pretty f'in cool. The favorite things show was soon after the one I went to. I've never been a lucky girl.

I'm no Maria either. I sure could use her Super Nanny skills and patience once in a while. Why do the Brits have all the good nannies?

In light of the economy and the southward way it's following the blue jays of summer, I am tightening the ol' belt, proverbially, that is. My real belt is plenty tight, thank you. Chalk it up to all those bittycakes I stuff into my mouth every time I sashay through the kitchen. Mac Daddy and I are prioritizing and adjusting our must-have lists. So far nothing has budged. Come on, I cannot live without Esmerelda and DVR, my cleaning lady and TV crack, respectively. Organic milk and nitrite-free lunch meat are also not budging. It looks like my fall wardrobe is the line item to drop. No new suede boots for me.

Here are five of my favorite things that I cannot live without. In no particular order:

Lip Balm - Burts Bees is my fave, but the Trader Joe's stuff also rocks with just the perfect glint of shine. I used to be a big fan of Wyeth's ubiquitous Chapstick, but the company is too uber conservative for me, and I don't want my $1.99 contributing to Republican coffers. Alas, alternatives abound.

Lash Exact mascara - As god as my witness, I will never buy department store beauty counter mascara again! The funky rubbery bristles hold the perfect amount of mascara, and the formula gives those long, lovely lashes a whole new definition to ooh la la.

Applegate Farms Uncured Pepperoni - Made from cows and pigs that don't OD on drugs and other antibiotics. Cured naturally with no nitrites. Healthy, as far as pepperoni goes. Perfect for Bird's lunch box with some string cheese, crackers, and an apple. Perfect on homemade pizza with a whole wheat crust (what we had for dinner last night), and perfect chopped into some scrambled eggs with onions and mozzarella. Delish.

Stonyfield Farm yogurt - No other yogurt brand will do. All the other brands have a chemically, saccharin taste. This is the real deal. I serve it with fresh fruit, chopped walnuts, and a tiny squeeze of honey and call it a breakfast sundae. My kids eat it up. They particularly love it when we eat them on Sunday. We love homonyms around here.

Wine - I'm not picky. Wine is the lifeblood that pulses through the veins of this sometimes shaky, sometimes wacky, always loud family of mine. White in the summer, red in the winter. Nothing sweet or fruity. Pink is not my color. No white zinfandel allowed through my front door. I've grown to prefer the screw off top. I generally buy wine by the price and label. The fall weather makes me want to cozy up to a good Malbec. A proper red wine glass is a must.

So tell me, what five things make your must-have list?
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Yes We Can! Yes We Should!

We have 42 days to get Barack Obama elected into office. 42 days, the home stretch akin to the last weeks of pregnancy. The anticipation too explosive to control. The eagerness too much to articulate without wild Italian grandma-like gesticulation. The stakes too high to sit back on our seats of cynicism and complacency.

We must keep our sleeves rolled up, our feet moving, our knuckles knocking, our fingers dialing, our words debating. We must all be the Little Engine That Could, 10-fold in purpose.

Think you don't have time to help the Obama campaign? Think your vote is enough (while it is fantastic, it is not enough given the political, social, environmental, and financial climate in our country today!). Here are some easy things you can do to make a difference. Trust me here. Easy, fast, fulfilling. Consider it the Big Mac of Obama tasks.

  1. Make a donation to the campaign: www.barackobama.com. You can even go to MoveOn and get even get a free sticker, button, or T-shirt. I did. I wear my Obama gear proudly.
  2. Host a fundraising event at your house. Throw some brats (as in the German sausage, not the neighborhood bully) on the grill, buy some German beer, and invite friends over for Baracktoberfest. It's a cheap, fun way to raise money. And don't ya just LOVE the idea? Beer makes everything better. No lederhosen required.
  3. Make calls on behalf of the campaign from the comfort of your home. All the information you need is right on the website: www.barackobama.com. Practice different voices and accents if you want to. Just make the calls!
  4. Buy an Obama button, T-shirt, bumper sticker, or yard sign and use it as an opportunity to talk to people about why Obama should be our next president. These items are readily available online in a variety of places: Cafe Press, Obama Zen, Etsy. A friend's beagle even has an Obama button on her collar, and they make lots of friends at the dog park.
  5. You don't have to know about every single issue, just talk about the issues that matter to you. Your passion will come through. I've heard some harsh words about my passion, but it's worth it knowing I am doing all that I can to give my country the giant Etch-A-Sketch shake it needs. There's not enough Tylenol in the world to cure the McPain that lurks.
  6. Contact people you know in swing states and talk to them about why they should vote for Obama. Point them towards resources to read and investigate on their own.
  7. Travel to a swing state (NM, NV, CO, MI, OH, VA, NC, NH) to canvas. The campaign can arrange a free plane ticket and place to stay. Go to this site to find out more: Travel for Change. If you live in California, you can travel to NV for a weekend to canvas. The CA Obama headquarters has arranged buses to transport people.
  8. Remind everyone you know to make sure they are registered to vote! The deadline in North Carolina is October 10. Cliche as it sounds, Every. Vote. Counts. Go here to find out if you are registered.
  9. Send this post to everyone you know!

It is the action of one person, in aggregate, that makes the mountain move. Do it for our purple mountains' majesty.

And the next time you're feeling angry and frustrated about the election, take a deep breath and watch this for a little inspiration. We Are the Ones.
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