Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Federal Forgery

My sister called me this morning.

“Thirty hours and counting, Sister, you ready??”

“Ha! That was LAST week,” I replied with a sassy voice.

“You finished the kids costumes early????”

“Uh, no, I was sewing on buttons hours before we left for my friend’s party, but that nightmare happened LAST week. Oh, and George wore the clown that you made for your daughter years ago.”


“Oh, I think they’ve all worn that one now.”

Yes, we’ve made it through costume season. It’s a frightening thing, more frightening than anything you will encounter on Halloween. And, just in case my regular amount of mommy-stress was not enough, I actually let Gladys help me. I put her to work, my friends.

Go ahead, make a fairy costume with a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old helping you and see if you don’t need some whisky by the end of the day. Sigh. No, the truth is they were great and we had fun. The only real craziness came when Andrew and Gladys decided to help me by bringing handfuls of thread spools down from the upstairs sewing room into the dining room where I had set up shop (a little safer than having the little ones in the very unbabyproofed sewing room). The entire house was wrapped in thread. I even found a completely empty spool. I had to cut the threads in large sections to get them all up (thread will kill the most impressive vacuum, unless the crazy engineer mommy takes it apart first, which I do way to often).

Each year the specifications for these annual costumes become more complicated. These were my directions this year.

Fairy Costume: sparkly fabric, multi-color stripes, butterflies, lots of colorful “leafies”, more ribbon, more sparkles, more silver, jeweled organza, and, of course, wings.

Park Ranger: Collared forest green shirt, two flap pockets, lots of badges, Park Ranger badge, Park Ranger hat

Which one was trickier? The Park Ranger was more difficult. No, I’m not kidding.

I thought I was being SO SMART allowing them to change their minds from furry monsters to a Park Ranger and fairy. I thought I would buy a shirt and just sew on a few patches. No problem. So easy!! I am SO smart this year!!!

It is not possible to buy a forest green shirt with two flap pockets for anyone smaller than a full grown adult. And, just in case you are wondering, it is ILLEGAL to purchase a Park Ranger badge. Impersonating a Park Ranger is a federal offense.

So, I made the forest green shirt from scratch.

I also fabricated the official Park Ranger badge. I know. This is forgery. I probably committed some federal offense by creating my son’s costume. But, we had our unveiling ceremony this year, just as years past, and those HUGE smiles made it all worth it.

So, everyone, don’t accidentally think that Andrew is REALLY a Park Ranger. Okay? He’ll tell you he is. He’ll even show you his badge. It’s illegal. I KNOW.

And, if I get arrested, I will ask you all, once again, like I did here, would you please bail me out? (Again).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Warm Cookies

“Mom, can we make cookies?”

Those hazel eyes looked up at me lovingly last week, one hand pushing back her curls. I was about to put George down for a nap. Andrew was at school.

“Can we Mom?”

By some accidental spark of genius, or perhaps good intentioned folly, the unwritten rule in our house is that the only cookies we have are ones that we make. I have never stated this rule to the kids. It just became a fact. They don’t ask for cookies in the supermarket. If I bought them, they would ask me what they were for.

Unfortunately, stay at home mom or not, I do not always feel like baking cookies. But, once we get started, I love to see them peering into the stand mixer. I love to see the anticipation in their eyes when I pull off the beater and let them lick it. I even love it when my daughter turns the stand mixer on way too high (even after she said she wouldn’t) and flour poufs everywhere. By the end, I manage to forget about the floor and am asking Gladys to try a chocolate chip before we pour them in the bowl, just to make sure they taste right. I had used the same recipe as my mother, the one out of that blue McCall’s cookbook from the 60’s. You know, the one that has those fabulous now vintage pictures and the hints on how to set a proper breakfast table for your husband on a weekday morning.

We made cookies.

The first batch came out of the oven just as it was time to go to the bus stop to greet Andrew.

“Shoes on, Honey. Grab your jacket. Time to get Andrew.”

“Let’s run, Mommy!”

Gladys loves to run. We hold hands. We run to the bus stop.

Andrew jumped off the bus stop happy as could be. He had a great day at school. He jumped into my arms, all 50+ pounds of my six year old. Gladys wanted to join in, so I picked her up too, holding on to Andrew’s back; these are Mommy muscles.

The three of us held hands and ran all the way home through the crisp fall air. My lungs felt clean.

Gladys announced our surprise before we made it to the door, but no words could be as powerful as the smell of warm cookies.

All of the sudden, I had gotten off the bus myself, like so many years ago.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My "Liberal" Republican Parents?

“Well, I guess I should tell you.”

“Tell me what, Mom?”

“I know you won’t be in town Dear, but I should tell you that your father and I are having a Christmas party for our old friends.”

“That sounds nice. You guys like to entertain. Am I missing something?”

(This social group of my parent’s has been around since all of their kids were young, much like my Gourmet Club, but 30 years into the future.)

“We were all together to celebrate Cathy’s remission from cancer and I announced our plan for the party,” my mother continued.

“Uh huh,” I said, focusing on the fact that my parents still socialize with these old friends.

“Anyway, you know about Jill, right?”

“Remind me, Mom.”

“Jill announced that she is gay a little while ago. Remember? Anyway, she just married her partner and they are living in San Francisco.”

“That’s so nice. I am glad she found someone.”

Her voice shot up an octave, as if she had doubted how I would feel about a gay marriage. (I guess that topic doesn't comes up frequently with my mother.)

“Exactly! I agree. Anyway, her parents were being, well, a little nasty about it. They stopped talking to her when she announced she was gay. And, when they found out that we knew, they stopped talking to the rest of us too.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear about that. They will regret estranging their daughter like that.”

“We all thought so too. Jill is an adult. She’s an honest, confident professional who has made a commitment to her partner. They act like she’s some sort of criminal. We are all pretty mad about it. I mean, we all just want our kids to be good people with happy lives. This is 2008, not 1960. Anyway, I am sure there are exceptions, but I think most people are just born gay or not gay, it’s just whether or not they feel comfortable enough to express it.”

“That is really a shame that her parents are shunning her.”

“So, when I announced the party, one of my other friends said that Jill and her partner will be in town over Christmas (but not at the parent’s house). She suggested that we have a reception for the new couple.”

“So, you’re hosting a lesbian wedding reception? My conservative Republican parents are hosting a lesbian wedding reception? I love it!”

“Well, yes. . . . . That is right. Jill and her partner are very touched.”

“I think that’s really nice. That whole group was at my wedding. You should celebrate their wedding too. Um, but what about Jill’s parents?”

“Yeah, I called Jill’s mom to invite her.”

“How did that go?”

“She was upset at first. But, in the end she said that they will come and even asked why everyone is making such a big deal out of it (as if she hasn’t stopped talking to everyone).”

“Well, let her save face. Anyway, if she sees that everyone else is accepting of her daughter, maybe she will be too. Seriously, this is really nice of you guys to bring everyone back together.”

“We were all pretty upset about it. Someone said they are talking about maybe having kids.” She shifted a little, her body admitting to a little discomfort with the idea that her voice did not betray.

By the way, Mom, if you think people are just born that way, it seems odd to me that there aren’t any gay people in our family. Even if its genetic, I would think there would be one at least.

I leaned over to refill my mother’s glass of wine.

“You mean, I never told you about Uncle Fancypants??”

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rub a Dub Dot, Mommy's Lost in Thought

I was feeling particularly good last Thursday. No, really good, even for someone who often suffers from overconfidence and unbridled optimism. I had finished everything I needed to do, and then some. My kids were having a great day. I even spent a bit of time sewing costumes with George (22 mos) and Gladys (3 yrs). They were helping me and enjoying the process. I displayed a level of patience with them that was unprecedented. I was as cool as a cucumber. George very carefully handed me pins, one at a time.

My joy also stemmed from my blog, of course. I have written a few political posts. Which, although overly mommyish and short on data, were allowing me to participate in an adult forum that I have not allowed myself to enter as of late. I had thrown aside my excuses and participated. I was asking, listening, researching and stating my opinions. I learned about something completely unrelated to children. I pushed my envelope a little, and it felt good.

We feel good when we participate in something larger than ourselves. I crave participation in the world. It fuels my fire and causes me to look for more.

My three small children were in the bath in front of me, but my brain was solving the world’s problems. I will do that. I make a difference. I will be involved.



“Mommy!” Andrew was now raising his voice.

“No need to raise your voice, Honey, I’m right here.”

“George is wearing a diaper in the bathtub.”

They push us to the limits of our sanity. They pull us back to reality.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A thoughtful response from my Democratic alter-ego

Hi EnthalpyMama,

EntropyDaddy here, trying to organize the chaos and get my guest blog written (and I only have one kid). You posted a few days ago about the financial crisis and asked me for my thoughts. Here they are with a disclaimer - I certainly can't match your eloquence, so if your revenues tank because I drag down your blog ratings - well, maybe we can just go to the government for a bailout! :-)

The economy is one item that you brought up in your recent "challenge" post. The collapse of the sub-prime market certainly seems to be the driving factor beyond the problems (I'm not an economist, so I'll have to rely on the information I've read). You point out your belief that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (FM/FM) are the problem. Certainly they're at the core of the problem. I think there's plenty of blame to go around (from the homeowners who took risks by not understanding the loans they were getting into, to lenders who put these people into loans that they knew would reset into much higher interest rates in a few years, to FM/FM, to banks and Wall Street firms who would buy these mortgages without understanding the risk, to the U.S. government for not fully understanding the markets and the crisis and taking action earlier).

I don't think the Democrats are heroes of the economy. I think it's more likely people think the Democrats will do a better job at fixing the problem than Republicans. I don't blame the problem on one party, but I will blame it on one issue - lack of proper regulation.

But one point very quickly, and then back to regulation. You asked why the Democrats didn't step in and fix the problem once they got control of Congress in 2007? Certainly would have been nice. But, by this metric, why didn't the Republicans step in between 1995 - 2007, when they controlled both houses (except for a brief time in 2001-2003 when the Democrats had a slim one-vote margin in the Senate). Both houses of Congress were Republican-controlled for the majority of a Republican administration (2001-2007), so I can't see blaming the Democrats for not doing something in the last 18 months as the reason for the crisis.

But let's get back to what is the major problem - poor regulation. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are regulated by HUD (Housing and Urban Development) - which is in the executive branch of government. Certainly Congress makes laws which can dictate what this organization does, but it's the executive branch that is responsible for running it and making sure there aren't any problems. Now, President Clinton did agree to allow FM/FM to cover more mortgages for more low-income families back in 1995, so maybe he did start this, or maybe not (Why didn't the Republican-controlled Congress from 1995-2001 stop this if it was bad policy?) One might argue that because of Clinton's policies, it was a ticking time bomb waiting to happen. Then why didn't Bush and the Congress come in and fix the problem in 2001? To the contrary, President Bush actually set a goal to increase affordable housing from 50% to 56%. Another metric, in 2000 Freddie bought $19 billion in subprime loans. In 2005, FM/FM bought $170 billion in subprime loans. Are FM/FM to blame, certainly, and so are the people who were supposed to regulate them.

I think the reason people see the Democrats as the potential good guys here is that a main tenet of Republicanism is laissez-faire, hands-off government - while the Democrats are more willing to use the "hand" of government to manage the economy. And I think people are much more willing to believe that the Democrats will yield better regulatory control.

One interesting thing, I don't disagree with the goal of this Republican philosophy - I actually want as little government intervention in my private life as possible. However, I think that over the last century (reference the crash of 1929) we've seen that capitalism is not a system that is fully self-regulating, and we need some government regulation in it. Not over-regulation, but proper regulation.

If you have time, one good article to read about HUD is in the Washington Post (

Sorry for the long post, but there's a lot there. I think we'll be sorting this thing out for years to come.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Schooling on School Funding

I would not have taken on the name Enthalpy mama if I didn’t get a little heated up on a few issues. (Enthalpy is heat). But, unless converted into power, heat is merely dissipated into the atmosphere, a colossal waste of energy. If you read yesterday's post, then you know education is one of my hot buttons.

I like dealing with facts, not rumors, and so the morning after venting about our local tax issues, I went on a relatively low key fact finding mission. I called the President of the PTA in my son’s school. I know her. I know she cares. Since there was a PTA meeting last night, I thought she would want to have a heads up if this became a topic of conversation. I asked her if it was on the agenda. It was not. She thanked me and said she would look into it.

A few hours later, I received a phone call from the Board of Education. I describe this mostly because I think the Board of Education (and particularly this person) deserves a huge THANK YOU. Seriously, she was on my list to call, but I try not to be a bulldozer about everything.

“Hello, is this Enthalpymama?”


“This is the Board of Education. I heard that you are interested in the effect of tax policy on school funding.”

Truly, these people take proactive to new heights. She spoke with me for about 30 minutes or so, answering every question, explaining details, adding some historical perspective. Honestly, she seemed very pleased to talk to me about it. But, I suppose we all enjoy discussing subjects about which we are passionate with those who will listen.

I won’t go into all the details here, but suffice it to say that my description was pretty accurate, with a few exceptions. The bottom line is that there is a huge problem, funding is probably going away, but there is not much that can be done until the first quarter of 2009. And, as I am finding, there are a lot of people in our city who are very passionate about improving the situation.

“You seem to be very knowledgeable on this subject. I don’t find many parents interested in this level of detail.” She said it with pleasure in her voice, without even an inkling of feeling inconvenienced about my detailed questions.

“Well, I guess I’m a bit geeky that way.”

I did attend the PTA meeting as well. The PTA President, who could not attend, surprised me by putting me on the agenda. I do have a great appreciation for clever people, and honestly it was very cleverly handled (and she knows I wouldn’t mind). So, I went from being a person asking all the questions, to being the person who was answering them.

Well done! (applause)

Funding aside, we have a great school district because we have great people.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A taste of things to come?? (redistribution of wealth)

I was thinking this morning about how radical I am not.

Here I am in the Midwest, in my middle class neighborhood, feeding my middle child a lukewarm piece of toast. I would even wear a size medium, if it weren’t for the fact that the marketers of ladies clothing decided to make everyone seem smaller. Now I’m a small, but I used to be a medium. I was thinking about how much I despise mediocrity. I thought perhaps I should stay away from politics and simply have a midlife crisis instead.

I called a friend of mine to tell her a fun story. She is not a friend with whom I typically debate politics, generally we focus on either our wine or our coffee, depending on the social hour at hand. I thought she would laugh at my story and make all things less medium. She obliged.

Then, she started talking about state tax policy. (And, I decided I would have to save avoiding politics for another day).

I was told this morning that our fair state will soon be implementing legislation that will reduce our city school budget by somewhere in the 20 – 30% range. Basically, our city fathers (and mothers) years ago encouraged light manufacturing and small businesses to come to our city. We have a couple regional headquarters buildings, a testing facility or two, and lots of small products. Tax money collected from these business goes into our school system. This keeps our property taxes reasonable and our school systems running with a reasonable budget. We have a nice city for many reasons, but primarily people move to our city because of the schools. We have actually had people “pretend” to move to our town in order to “sneak” their kids into the schools here. Basically, people lease apartments and move their children into them. (Parents are clever, aren’t they? Who can blame them?)

The fact that there is a disparity between the quality of schools from one town to the next is not lost on anyone.

The idea of the tax change is to take the money from these businesses and, rather than allow the money to go to our town, spread it all evenly across the schools in the state. Or, at least that is what I am hearing. That sure sounds fair and Democratic, right?

Would you like to buy my house?

When my husband and I purchased our home, we bought in our town because of the school system. Homes less than a quarter of a mile away are less expensive and larger than our home. Why? Well, if we didn’t have children, we would have lived in the next town over. We were willing to pay a premium and compromise on age/layout of our home in order to ensure a great school system for our kids.

Yes, I know, everyone should receive a fair and equal opportunity for a good education. But, people should also have choices. If you want a quality education under the current circumstances, you either live in a good school system, or work like crazy to make your system good (actually, both are required). Since parents who care about schools (and have flexibility) tend to do their research and live in an already good school system, parents who care tend to “clump together” and continue to make their school systems great. People who have other priorities, for better or worse, make other decisions.

And then, there are plenty of people out there who do not have the flexibility to make a decision at all. Maybe they live near their job in the city and don’t even have a car, for example. Maybe they are retired grandparents with custody of their grandchildren.

But, once again, my issue is not with the desire to improve the education system for everyone. My concern is how it is done. Do we punish the school systems/cities who have done well? Yes, punish the cities that have managed to vote their way into making the right choices. They shouldn’t be allowed to create jobs and have good schools. That can’t be fair.

Yes, we could raise taxes in our town. They are not that low now, actually, but they could be raised (not enough to pay the difference). We already have a neighborhood with 40 home foreclosures. I am not sure how many there have been in our whole city. I guess there would be more. While the schools and the city readjust to the new reality, some people will put their kids in private school. Those who were barely making it by could move back to a less expensive area (probably with worse schools, albeit with slightly more funding than before).

That economic diversity we have in our school system isn't natural anyway, right?

I guess my husband and I need to move to a town that doesn’t encourage small businesses to grow. We would take a big financial blow on selling our home, which would underscore to our children how futile it is to save for the future. We would have a bit of a tax increase, but we would probably make ends meet.

And, of course, we should make sure the leaders of our town discourage such willy-nilly job creation in the future. The politicians should be encouraging businesses to come to our community without any tax incentives for our schools. After all, they create jobs, many of which are held by people in other towns. They create tax revenue to support the schools in other part of our state. And, of course, let us not forget how beautiful the warehouses look and the pleasure of sharing our roads with semi-tractor trailers.

I agree with reducing taxes on companies to create jobs in America, but some portion of that revenue has to go back to the local communities, or you create a negative incentive (notinmybackyardthankyou).

I agree that schools need to be improved across the board. Funding does help (doesn’t solve it), but taking funding away from successful schools is no way to lead success.

Like I said, I used to be a “medium.” Then the rules changed and I became a “small.” This is not the kind of change I need.

Maybe it is just a rumor, but it looks a lot like a campaign promise to me.

(I was told that this information won’t be available to the parents in our school district until mid-November. I guess there is no hurry? So, how many PTA bake sales does it take to recover $1.8 million? Just wondering. Uh, no reason.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Little Something on Socialism

Fellow Bloggers and Dear Readers,

A few days ago I wrote this post in response to Mrs. Obama’s post on Blogher. Honestly, I have been reluctant to post it here. Not because it is not all true, but rather because a lot of dear and Democratic friends have been stressing to me that Obama’s positions are not radical socialism. Since none of us can truly be in the mind of another, we may never know (especially since even if he is truly radical, his view may well be tempered once in Washington).

However, regardless of where you think things are going to go, I’d like to remind everyone that socialism is just a bad idea. So, please, peek through the window with me and let’s remind ourselves of what we do NOT want. Then, hopefully, I can get this out of my head and return to focusing on what we DO want.

Let us consider that it would be extremely nice if everyone had more time off from workplaces. It would also be awesome if everyone was paid the appropriate amount for the job they did, regardless of race, color, creed, or gender. These are unarguable ideals. My concern is how we go about pursuing these ideals. We are given the right to pursue happiness. We are not given the right to be provided happiness.

Let us look at how socialist programs work in the oases in which they exist in our world.

I spent a few nights in a hospital in Japan a number of years ago. Have you ever been inside a socialist health care system? I spoke Japanese just fine, so I wasn’t worried about the language barrier. The floors were filthy. The only food I ate was brought to me by a few, kind Japanese friends. The doctor was shocked when I asked him what was in the IV he planned on giving me. He wouldn’t tell me. I wouldn’t give him my arm. There were four other patients in my room. I talked to them at some length (what else was there to do?), and I’ll assure you I learned a lot about how things worked there. I didn’t even have the right questions at first. The four other patients in my room were shocked when I decided to leave, without the permission of the doctor. Let’s just say things weren’t working out really well. It’s a long story, but you really don’t want socialized medicine.

Go to Europe and smile and you’ll see what socialized dentistry looks like.

Let’s see, education is another example of social programs. Public education in America has both the hand of government and unions. There are many wonderful teachers, but they are wonderful because they truly care about the students, not because the system works. Talk to any parent in a public education system and they can point to a number of teachers who, well, “we try to avoid them but everyone knows they can’t be fired.” And, if you are a really good teacher, you can’t expect to ever have a fabulous bonus for all your hard work and dedication, unless it is from the parents in the PTA. Sometimes I feel like that is the primary role of the PTA, to pump up the teachers to keep doing the best that they can under unfortunate circumstances. That’s what parents do, they do their best to make things work for their kids. Fortunately, teaching does attract people who generally care a lot about education. (Thank you teachers).

The UAW is an interesting example. I worked in a UAW plant as a night shift supervisor. There were lots of rules ensuring that everyone was treated exactly equally. If I didn’t follow those rules exactly, I was “written up” by an employee, and a union representative (and sometimes labor relations) would come down and have a chat with me about how things worked. (Yea, I got to know my union reps pretty well). In fact, I learned a lot from the UAW representatives, who were very nice to me when no one was looking. And, yes, they occasionally yelled at me when everyone WAS looking: an unfortunate culture.

I had four pregnant women working in my area. One, we’ll call her Susie, worked over-the-top hard. She took every opportunity for overtime. She was always there in plenty of time to walk from her car (although some of the guys would hijack an electric cart to go get her – they never wrote me up for letting them do that, hee hee). She showed up in a dirty coat, stretched tight over her huge belly, pregnant with her third child. She explained to me that she was taking all the overtime because she was barely making it by paying for all the childcare for her first two kids. So, she logically decided it made more sense to push out all the overtime up until she delivered, then take a week or so off when she would otherwise be paying for three kids in childcare: good mommy logic.

At the time, two pregnant chief engineers were just beginning to job share. I asked Susie about the Union helping out with childcare. There were many young employees and often both husband and wife worked at the plant (some took different shifts, and just never saw each other, but that was hard because the youngest person on 1st shift was 63, you know, it was fair). All they would have had to do was deduct a small amount from their pay for childcare and allow husband and wife to work the same shift. They were making nearly $20/hour, but there was no consideration for the effect the work structure was having on families.

I asked her about the UAW. The pregnancy hormones must have kicked in. I won’t quote her here, but lets just say that she felt that they were a bunch of self-serving old men who had forgotten that unions were actually for the employees. I quickly found out that even some young men were not happy with the UAW. They knew that no matter how hard they worked, they couldn’t do any better for themselves. Some employees who had been there for a few years had already thrown up their hands and, to some degree, stopped trying.

One of the young men and I had a couple lively discussions about it. He was very ambitious and had been elected the team leader. He complained that the team was so lackadaisical. He told me that there was a strong belief that the company was sitting on a “big pot of money” and just not sharing with the employees.

I asked him if there was a general concern that if the plant couldn’t be productive enough, that it might be shut down and the jobs shipped overseas.

“No, the Union wouldn’t let that happen. We’d just take the whole company down with us. Management doesn’t want that to happen.”

“Yeah, except that if the whole company went out of business, most of management would get jobs elsewhere. I’m not sure there are enough manufacturing jobs elsewhere to accommodate everyone in this plant.” I took a brisk walk between buildings after that one. I wanted to hang from the rafters and scream that everyone just did their best for even a six hour shift, we’d make so much money everyone could have childcare AND be home to get their kid off the bus. (I wonder if I would have gotten written up for hanging from the rafters). Well, to make that work, the system had to change.

About this same time, the company was looking for a new supervisor and was searching the ranks of UAW employees to hire into management.

“Why don’t you take it?” I asked. “I’ll recommend you. I think you’d be great.”


He wouldn’t even entertain it. He told me that he would lose all of his friends. The culture was so deep, he was concerned his neighbors wouldn’t talk to him anymore (and it was probably true). He knew that I didn’t make more than he did. And, of course, he was concerned about being fired.

They knew that they had traded in opportunity for security, but they were afraid to shed it as well. It is scary. Susie was afraid to bring up childcare to the UAW, the very socialist mechanism that theoretically represented her. They thought I didn’t sleep at night. It must be SO horrible to worry every day about losing my job.

I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t worried because I personally felt that my ability to do something productive for society was strong enough that I would be able to find a job. Many of them had been hired because their parents worked in the plant. Those who understood that lived in fear. They were afraid to complain, because if they lost their jobs, they weren’t sure they could do it on their own. A few of my employees had college degrees and one was working on her masters. (She told me that the job offers she had weren’t as good as the plant, so she felt pressure to forgo building a career).

I also heard plenty of heart wrenching stories from the older employees that taught me just how important it was that the unions were started in the first place. I know the tragic history, and how the pendulum can swing so tragically too far in the wrong direction. But, they traded their security in to give the power to the union leaders, and now in some cases they weren’t being treated fairly by the union either.

People need to be properly appreciated for the work that they do. If you remove the competition, people do naturally lose their drive to work (blessings to all you teachers who hang in against the odds). Taking competition away from the health care industry will significantly decrease the quality of care. I want to be able to choose my doctor. I want to know that if my kids need something, I can get them the best care in the world, even if I spend every last minute of my life working to pay it back. I’m their mom, that’s what moms do.

I also want there to be safety nets for those of less means. I am not suggesting we should allow people to be pushed out in the streets because they cannot afford it, but destroying our health care system won’t ensure proper care for everyone either. Let’s work on people getting a good education and good jobs, so they can pay the doctors a reasonable salary (that pays their college loans and insurance so they stay doctors).

The government did a great job finding ways to give credit to people to buy houses, how about limiting credit purchases to health care loans? Oh, not as fun though, because if those loans aren’t paid, the government would have to repossess YOU as an asset. And, of course, people aren’t our most valuable asset, right?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Debate

Dear Senator McCain,

I watched your debate this evening with Sen. Obama. I am sorry you were having a bad night. I do agree with many of your policies. However, the reasons I am voting for you have nothing to do with William Ayers or the Columbian trade agreement.

You seem like a pretty nice guy who was very frustrated this evening. We are all frustrated. Please keep focused on doing the right thing. Its worth it. Unfortunately, pretty nice guys don't tend to win elections. Eloquent, charismatic guys do win. (Of course, a lot can happen in three weeks, right?)

The good news is that the next president of the United States will not be the supreme ruler of the empire. There are checks and balances, debates and votes. And, I think this election cycle has made everyone just a little more aware of the importance of paying attention to the details. A lot of smart people will be thinking, talking, and sharing their opinions. We will all be watching a little closer than we ever have before.

In the meantime, I will keep debating the issues with my friends here on the internet. Hopefully, it will make us all just a little smarter. And, if anyone out there is listening, maybe we will even make a positive difference.

Just in case you forgot why I care, I have included a picture. It is from my son's 5th birthday. He chose the American flag for his cake because he loves America as much as his mommy does.



Mommy, Wife, Blogger, Republican

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Two Cents on the Economy

When I visited San Francisco a few weeks ago, I spoke with a friend who insisted on his desire to convert me to an Obama Democrat. Having great respect for both his tenacity and intellect, I have found it difficult to shy away from such a challenge.

Okay, I’ll be honest, he practically challenged me to a duel.

He even sent me reading material.

I felt fortunate to make it out of San Francisco without someone (not him, of course) poisoning my coffee.

Okay, Mark, you got my attention. The gloves are coming off. I’m ready. It is going to take me several days, but I’ll try to make it through one issue at a time.

Sigh. I barely have time to answer all the questions from my children.

Oh, and excuse me if I take things down an intellectual notch. I am sure you already understand all of these details, perhaps even better than I do, but this will give us a chance to understand if we have a different view of the issue itself.

Okay, enough stalling, here goes . . .


I believe that Mark and I agree that the economy is in a tailspin. We probably even agree that it is due primarily to the mortgage/credit crisis that has caused uncertainty in values in the market. The question here is how do we solve it, and perhaps to a lesser degree, how did we get to this point.

The bailout is absolutely necessary. To keep things in terms my first grader can understand, the government will be buying mortgages. This is necessary because with so many people not paying their mortgages, homes are going into foreclosure. If a bank is left with a home, normally they could sell the asset. But, since they can’t sell the assets and aren’t sure what they are worth, no one knows what these mortgages are worth anymore in the market. So, if the government buys them, then they are worth whatever the government pays.

Since the government is buying something American, we can assume that the government will later be able to sell these assets back to the American people. This is a loan from the government that should be repaid to some degree (not sure how much, of course) after this is all over.

This makes sense to me.

Yes, it also annoys me that my family has NOT gone outside our budget and our tax money is going towards this bailout. This should have been fixed.

What confuses me is why the Democrats are now being touted as the heroes of the economy. Somehow, the Democrats are going to save us from all of this?

I understand that the problem is essentially with Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. These organizations, which are government supported, were “told” (or at least encouraged by the market and the government) to create mortgages, even (especially?) very risky mortgages. The government, well, the Democrats particularly, encouraged it because it supported their pledge of widely available low cost housing. The market encouraged it because mortgage type securities sold well on Wall Street because people believed the housing market would continue to be strong. Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac didn’t stop, because they are government supported. They could create these securities and sell them at a profit without worrying about the downside risk, because they knew (and they were right) that the government would bail them out.

While I am not suggesting that we should change the system entirely, it does seem curious to me that Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac were able to run wild not because of capitalism gone wild, but because they knew they were not completely at the mercy of market forces. This tells me that more regulation is not necessarily better, it’s the right balance of regulations that is important: tricky stuff.

I also find it curious that the very Democratic Congress that has been in office for the past two years were unable to pass any legislation that was recommended (some as I understand by Sen. McCain) to put the breaks on Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. Apparently, some people argued that it made no sense to fix something that wasn’t broken. I mean, who wants to deny people the ability to buy homes? That certainly isn’t going to make you very popular. It is really hard to do the right thing when no one is complaining, especially if the American people do not understand the details.

(I am having a very big problem right now with politicians assuming that the general public does not understand issues very well. It is the public’s responsibility to require politicians to talk about the issues, and to vote based on them rather than giving the politicians further incentive to throw mud. Sorry, I digress.)

If the Democrats wanted to fix this problem, they could have done it. Congress knew about it. President Bush didn’t get a bill on his desk and veto it. It is much easier to do nothing and blame it on President Bush, as if he generates legislation. (Go back and watch Schoolhouse Rock again. I’m only a bill, on capital hill . . .hee hee).

Both Senators McCain and Obama received campaign money from Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. Of course, Sen Obama received six times more money, or at least that is what our media has reported. Wasn’t the work Sen Obama did in Chicago a grass roots effort to help people buy their own homes? Not to say that people owning homes is all bad, but it does seem that Sen Obama should have understood the issue well enough to be pushing for some restraint on Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. I don’t think he did, but I could be mistaken on that point.

So, based on Sen McCain’s interest in applying restraints on Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac prior to the meltdown, the Democratic Congress’ inability to prevent a meltdown, and the apparent need for high leverage regulation rather than lots of regulation, I do believe the Republicans are more equipped to handle the economic crisis.

Considering that I could go on for a few more pages with as many questions as I have answers, I am now thinking that my friend Mark may need to actually post on my blog to be given a proper response.

What do you think, Mark? Or, perhaps I should go back to writing sweet things about my kids? (I would get more sleep that way).

The only person scarier than someone who doesn’t speak the truth is someone who is not willing to listen for it.

I’m listening. Lay it on me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Mother's 39th Birthday

Why is it that even as adults, there is a subconscious (or is that conscious?) need to impress our parents?

My mother visited for the weekend. I cannot admit to being nervous about the visit. I wasn’t, well, except for those last 20 minutes of trying to clean the kitchen, grill hamburgers, and chat calmly on the phone with my sister, explaining that it just isn’t THAT big of a deal. In the meantime, Andrew, Gladys, and George had been making posters in honor of Grandma’s arrival and had scattered arts and crafts all over the kitchen. You might as well have given my three children a double chocolate espresso. They were running around like lunatics.

I NEVER look like that.

Grandma received a rock star welcome. We had to pull the kids from the car in order to let her out. That was Thursday evening.

Since she actually called me Thursday afternoon to tell me she was coming in a few hours, I did not clear my calendar for Friday. She saw me in my full glory.

Friday went like this: Get Andrew on bus, make coffee, crisis clean, drink coffee, host playgroup, drive to register for activities, stop at doctors for records, go out to lunch, drop off at preschool, put George down for nap, go to grocery store, pick up Andrew, pick up Gladys, go to pumpkin patch, make dinner, wash kids, put kids in bed, and clean up.

At 9pm, my mother, Jay and I were sitting on the couch.

“Well, then,” I said, “let’s go out Mom.”

“Aren’t the stores closed?”

In less than three minutes, we were in the car.

“Mom, should we make this a party?”

“Well, its nine o’clock, I don’t think anyone would be awake.”

I made a few calls. I suppose that I HAD thought that we might go out Friday night. But, it wasn’t a sure enough thing to actually invite people. I didn’t even grab my planner on the way out the door. I had two hits before I ran out of numbers I have memorized. (If you didn’t get a call, sorry, I don’t have everyone’s number memorized).

It was a little impromptu party for my 39-year-old mother. (Yes, that’s right, and I went to college when I was 11 and have a younger sister who was born before me – are you catching on?)

I should say, for accuracy, that her birthday is in May. Calling it her birthday was just a simple set-up to win the honor of paying the check (and, yes, winning is the correct verb, a fight could ensue).

My mother walked in the wine bar.

“You and your friends really do this?” she asked, her head was shaking. Not from disgust, mind you, I could see the wheels turning. I could see her thinking. This is what we should have done. We should have done this often.

She was impressed.

A few minutes after our wine arrived, my two friends joined us. We had a great night: great conversation, nice wine, and a sophisticated but casual atmosphere.

I was sipping slowly, responsible for driving my dear mother home safely. I leaned over and asked her if she would have another glass, everyone saw her politely decline.

Within minutes, the bar tender returned with another glass for my friend, and another glass for my mother.

Well done, Ohmommy.

Somewhere along the way, Ohmommy also left briefly to use the powder room. Miss Classy had snuck away to pay the check.

Trumped. Outclassed. Outdone.

We were all impressed. Thank you.

(And another thank you to Mrs. Debutante for ensuring your safe trip home: classy and responsible, of course).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Serious giggling, not so serious wisdom

Okay, that is QUITE enough.

I am not the kind of person who takes insults very easily, most things I can somehow turn around into a compliment. Sometimes, it takes some creativity, but I figure it out.

I am not the kind of person who is very sensitive about my weight. The truth is, I think I look just fine. I popped up on the doctor’s scale today with my jacket and shoes still on and didn’t think twice.

I do dumb things on a regular enough basis that I am okay with teasing about the fact that, even though my hair may not be very blond anymore, the effects of being blond do last a lifetime.

I know I have a dry sense of humor. If I am the only one laughing, oh well, at least I had a good laugh.

I have a reasonable amount of confidence in my writing. I do double-read my work to ensure I am not going to upset or hurt anyone before I post, but I have enough confidence to push that POST button several times a week.

I second-guess my parenting as much as anyone, but I don’t expect my children will be in any more psychotherapy than the rest of their generation. (Which, by the way, I think my children’s generation will be an awesome one).

I am not the kind of person who is sensitive about my age. In fact, I just posted about meeting up with a friend from 20 years prior. I am sure you all have figured out that I went to college when I was 11 years old. Yep, that’s right, I was a child prodigy. Ha!

But, I just received an e-mail advertising services to seniors. It was a targeted e-mail. They found me through my blog.

Do I sound like a SENIOR on my blog? Really? Without even a decent picture, I just SOUND like a senior? Do they think I am writing about my grandchildren???

Oh, that’s right. They were just so impressed with my incredible insight and wisdom, it would be impossible for me to be as young and tender as I really am.

Okay, I’ll take that as a compliment too.

(Imagine a pause while the author stops giggling long enough to post).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Meeting of Prairie Dogs

I received a phone call yesterday from a college friend, someone I hadn’t heard from in nearly 20 years.

“Hello?” I squeaked, still recovering from laryngitis.

“Hello, is Emama there?” (Of course, he used my real name.)

“This is she,” I barely said.

“This is your friend.”

That is all it took. Hours later, we were enjoying dinner at a local restaurant, filling in the foggy details of the past 20 years. He knew a little about this person. I filled in some details of that person. We played show and tell with pictures of our kids (six in total).

He was, literally, among the first people I met on campus. He was an upperclassman, passing out t-shirts to the incoming freshmen. He became the “T-shirt authority” which was my nickname for him. He was one of the few people I knew on campus that first week (and even though I did remember his real name, the nickname stuck for awhile). So, here we were, twenty years later, having dinner. It was really, really nice to see him.

It just took one call.

I have lived in a lot of different places. I have had quite a few different jobs. Out there, somewhere, are quite a few people who could just one day call me up for dinner. I am not that good at keeping in touch and probably never will be. It is not that I never think about these friends. I do. I hope they are all doing well. I hope that every once in awhile they hope that I am doing well. In the meantime, I live in my little hole underground, taking care of my very important little people, and paying close attention to my life within a few mile radius.

And then, every once in awhile, we poke our heads out of our little holes and say ‘hello.’

Thank goodness there are a few people out there who just make that call.

It is hard for me to imagine someone stumbling upon my blog who knew me years before. But, if you do, if you are one of those people who haven’t heard from me in awhile, don’t even think about it twice. Just call me.

Oh, and, "Mr. T-Shirt Authority," thank you again for a very nice dinner. If you are in the area again, give me a call. And, if we do come out your way, I'll be sure to stop by, even though you may not hear from me regularly between now and then. I am just not very good at that part.

Thanks for understanding.

I hope everyone else understands too.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I lost my voice

I have lost my voice. I have been sick since Friday. On Friday, I moved from one place to another in my house, trying to lie down and watch three children. I ordered a pizza for dinner. When my husband returned from work, all four of us were in the master bed watching television.

I have watched enough television in the past 48 hours to notice that my children seem more intellectually gifted than many of the commentators. Of course, I am just as biased as the rest of America, just in my own motherly way.

These are things that my children have said in the past 48 hours:

“Mom, what does ‘among’ mean?”

If you have a bowl full of jellybeans and just a few M&M’s, then you have M&M’s among your jellybeans,” I squeaked. (On Friday, I could still squeak.)

“What if I ate all the jellybeans?”

Then you would have some lonely M&M’s.”

“What does ‘robotic’ mean?”

Like a robot. A robot is generally a machine that does something that a human would typically do.”

“Cool, we have a robot in our house.”


“Our printer is a drawing robot.”

“Do you know why writing is important to America?”


“Because you have to do the right thing.”

He proceeded to spell “right” and “write” just in case I didn’t get the full force of his humor. He went on to explain how there is a silent ‘w’. Hilarious! Then, he noticed that the only other silent ‘w’ word he could think of was ‘wrong.’

“Wow, Mom, ‘write’ and ‘wrong’. That IS funny!! ha ha hoo hoo”

I know. Some part of this is directly from his first grade teacher. They have been discussing symbols of America in class. But, as his mother, I really want him to get it. Writing against wrongs is very much what America is all about. He doesn't quite get that yet, I don't think. I couldn't even squeak out that the pen is mightier than the sword. On another day, I will say that. Today I was glad to see him enjoying the humor of his own discovery.

He kept making jokes.

I smiled, unable to squeak out a comment fast enough.

I listened, as quiet as the silent "w."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

School Bus Test Chamber

Before I had children, I did not really understand the concept of keeping children on the “straight and narrow.” The concept seemed very limiting to me. I mean, what kind of crazy person wants to keep their children in such a cage? Why straight and narrow? Why not a few curves and grassy clearings?

As an engineer, I tend to think of things in the limit of their possibilities. In my imagination, I take things as far as they can go and imagine the outcome. (Which is probably why my daughter’s favorite number is infinity, and why she likes to test ME to the limits of my possibilities).

Think of the school bus for a moment as a test chamber. You spend a good five or more years working on this child, trying to get it all right, and then you put this child on the bus to see exactly how that worked out for you.

If you have taught your child, for example, to tell the truth, you might well expect that the child will tell you every naughty thing that happened on the bus. He is now a tattle-tale.

If you have taught your child to have conversations with adults, then expect that he is now a distraction to the bus driver (but will know everything about the bus maintenance schedule, the route, and even the bus driver’s latest surgery).

If you have taught your child to be generous and share, expect the poor soul to lose a few toys to otherwise well meaning fellow-riders.

If you have taught your child to listen, to be a team player, your child will now become the victim of an older child’s joke.

If you have taught your child to have self-confidence, he may well appear very disrespectful, especially once he gets to school.

If your child has been instructed in leadership, then expect the line into ‘bully’ to be crossed at least a few times.

If your child has learned to love others, then a little heartbreak now and then is certainly in the forecast.

So, the other day, when my son chose something I wouldn’t have had him wear, and he was playing by himself rather than joining the group, I paused. At first, I wanted to tell him,

“Honey, don’t you want to play with the other kids? Don’t you care what they think?”

But, I didn’t tell him that. I thought a lot about what it means for a child to care a little bit too much about what the other kids think. Especially what that might mean in the preteen years. What I found out was that he didn’t want to play the same game they were playing. He wanted to play something else, but he couldn’t remember the name of it. He wasn’t excluded. He was playing on his own terms.


Of course, he bumps into the thistle on either side of that straight and narrow path on an hourly basis. Every time, I hope he explores a little bit more. How the truth is important, but maybe every detail isn’t. How sharing is important, but maintaining your own property is perfectly correct too. How it feels to be natural leader versus a ringleader.

And, of course, how we will always love him, even when the world seems full of heartbreak.