Thursday, June 28, 2007


It's not often that I read actual Supreme Court Opinions or Dissents. After all, that is what Nina Tottenberg and Jim Lehrer are for, no? They read them so I don't have to.

But today, I was reading a booklet that Daughter D put together in her summer program. It's a hodge-podge of questions on xeroxed paper, tied together with a ribbon. Mostly, it's standard 7 year old kid stuff:

What's your favorite toy? "Playmobil"
What's your favorite food? "Pizza"
What's your favorite thing to do? "Read"

and so on.

But the last page had the question: "Who are your favorite 10 friends?" As I glanced over the page, I realized that D. had only listed 3 Caucasians, the rest were different races.

Our neighborhood is 99.9 white. Her neighborhood friends are all white. But her friends at school are every color under the sun.

I have to think that she is benefiting from that experience. Hell, I KNOW that she is benefiting from that experience. She's color-blind when it comes to skin color, except for a growing fascination with the civil rights movement.

At the library yesterday, I told the kids to pick out a book that I would read to them at the coffee shop next door. They picked out a biography of Jackie Robinson. (baseball and civil rights - all in the same book - can't go wrong.)

Baseball benefited immensely when the leagues weren't segregated by race.

Schools, too, benefit when they aren't segregated by race.

I read most of Roberts and some of Kennedy and I think Kennedy's heart is in the right place - I do think that they are trying to ban ANY kind of racial segregation - ironically, even the kind that leads to diversity.

But the problem with their argument is that neighborhoods are segregated. Our neighborhood is bused to a poorer school - that is the only reason we have such great diversity. (And sadly, the reason that most of our neighbors go to a private school.)

When neighborhoods are segregated - schools will be segregated. And that's not good for anybody.

Breyer's Dissent was brilliant. (When can we see the Dissents on YouTube?, that's what I'd like to know.)

In particular, he said:

Many parents, white and black alike, want their children to attend schools with children of different races. Indeed, the very school districts that once spurned integration now strive for it. The long history of their efforts reveals the complexities and difficulties they have faced. And in light of those challenges, they have asked us not to take from their hands the instruments they have used to rid their schools of racial segregation, instruments that they believe are needed to overcome the problems of cities divided by race and poverty. The plurality would decline their modest request.

The plurality is wrong to do so. The last half-century has witnessed great strides toward racial equality, but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown. To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown. The plurality's position, I fear, would break that promise. This is a decision that the Court and the Nation will come to regret.

I must dissent.

Me too, Justice Breyer, me too.

Brown vs. Board of Education was unanimous. With this court, it looks like we are in for a long haul of 5/4 decisions.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Whoops, I did it again

Every single time I've finished a marathon, my first thought was "Gee, that was fun." My second thought was "I'M NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN."

All is well until I make the mistake of doing a HALF marathon, like I did a few weeks ago. In those cases, the first thought upon finishing is the same: "Gee, fun." But the second thought morphs into something obscene like, "That was so fun, Why shouldn't I have TWICE that much fun in a real marathon?"

And then I go and sign up for a marathon.

Like this one:

On October 9.

Of this year.

Sigh. I just can't help it. Milwaukee marathon, here I come...

In other sports-related news, daughter D did her very first swim meet ever this morning. She did great! She even came home with 2 ribbons. Not anything that said 1st, 2nd or 3rd, mind you. But two "heat winner" ribbons.

There are a million kids in the 8&under group, so there are a thousand heats. Because she'd never swum in a meet before, she was placed in the slowest heat. So, even though technically, she was the 26th finisher in the 25-free...she still got a ribbon because she finished first in her heat.

But I was super proud of her today. Her first event was the very first race of the meet: the 100 IM relay. She was scheduled to swim the breast stroke leg. Poor kid has NO CLUE how to swim breast stroke.

Her eyes filled with terror and tears as soon as she read her sheet. But her coach told her that he didn't care what stroke she swam, he just wanted her to have FUN. He said he'd be cheering her along at the top of his lungs, even if she swam doggie-paddle. He said they were all there to have fun and since it was her first meet, he wanted to put her in as many events as possible, so she could have the most fun possible.

The two coaches are 20-something guys and they are amazing. They have nicknames for every single kid and they are motivating and inspirational and just well, amazing.

So, my daughter swam her relay. She completely swam the wrong stroke, came in dead last, and DQ'd the whole group. But her coaches cheered her along at the top of their lungs like she was an Olympic swimmer. When she got out of the water, they hugged her and told her she was amazing and said that they could tell she was having FUN while she swam. She went on to swim three more events.

I watched them do this for every single 8 & under kid who was swimming in his/her first meet.

As a parent, you spend years and years trying to give your children confidence and self esteem and all that stuff, with very little measurable progress.

Yet, this morning, Daughter D woke up nervous and scared about the meet. And this evening, she went to bed proudly displaying her two ribbons, feeling as special as an Olympic Swimmer. She didn't win anything. She didn't even swim all that well, to be honest. But she tried something new and her coaches valued that effort more than a win.

We owe you one, amazing swim coaches.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Testing, testing

I had to take an on-line personality test for my job today. It had 400+ true/false questions. I really wanted to check "it depends" for many of the questions, but alas, that was not an option.

It was also tempting to answer some of the REALLY obvious "weeding out" questions with a questionable answer of my own. "Why yes, I do hear voices inside my head." Or, "yes, as a matter of fact, I did grow up in a home with no love." Or "Yes, I am deathly afraid of deep water." (Although, what deep water has to do with a marketing job - that I'll never know.)

But I didn't. I answered truthfully. Or as truthfully as I could when what I really wanted to check was "it depends."

I guess my personality is dependable? Or completely undependable?

I will find out in early July, when the results are in. I've been making fun of this test all day - but I am very eager to see what it says about me. Usually these things are more accurate than I'd like to admit. Exhibit A: My Myers-Briggs profile:

that's me - the inadvertent manipulator...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day

I turned on one of the morning news shows on Friday as I was picking up the kitchen. They were doing a Father's Day story, of course.

And the man they chose to profile - What was his great achievement? Did he climb Mount Everest? Did he cure cancer? Did he father 18 children? Was he serving in Iraq away from his kids?

No. The man that was profiled on the Today Show (Or Good Morning America...or whatever one it was)...he (drumroll please) Came Home For Dinner.

Some work-a-holic executive decided to change his life by getting home in time for dinner each night.

This justifies a 15 minute feature?

I expect Anderson Cooper or Barbara Walters to be on the phone for husband D. any minute now. For not only has he been home for a family dinner (almost) every night for the last 7 years...but he also plays with the kids while I make dinner. After enjoying a meal with his family, he does all the dishes. All of them. I haven't washed a dish since giving birth.

I'm sure Mr. "Come Home for Dinner" is a very nice man and a good father, but the way this news show portrayed him made him sound like the rarest of all breeds: an involved father.

Here in the boring Midwest, fathers are home for dinner. I don't really know any families who don't eat dinner all together. This is not prime-time news - it's our normal.

Evidently Mr. "Come Home for Dinner" also has a book deal in the works.

Hmm..maybe I should call Random House to let them know that sometimes in our house, we have both breakfast AND dinner together....

Monday, June 11, 2007

Weekend News

Daughter D. came home today with a backpack stuffed full of school work. My favorite was the notebook entitled "Weekend News." Each Monday, the kids write all about their weekends. Reading all of her recaps of our weekends was delightful.

It also made me realize that her dear teacher knows EVERYTHING about our family. D. really leaves no details out.

For example, isn't it nice that her teacher knows that husband D. and I spent our 12th wedding anniversary eating at a loud chain restaurant called "Quaker Steak and Lube" - with both kids in tow. (long story...)

And she knows that I'm a "Big Sister" and she knows exactly how many weekends we have taken our "little" to Chuck E Cheese. (In my defense, it's where she wants to go...I can say "no" to my own kids, but with her, I'm as useless as a grandparent in the saying "no" category!)

She knows that we swim at a Country Club, but only during the 6 hours/week that the residents of our village who do not actually *belong* to the country club are allowed to go...

She knows that I train for long-distance running events and abandon my family for hours upon hours on weekend mornings.

She knows that I won't eat at McDonalds. (But she also knows when I'm otherwise occupied and more-fun-Daddy takes the kids there.)

In our favor, she also knows that we go on lots and lots of weekend visits to the zoo, the nature center, the arboretum, the botanical gardens and Madison's many parks and lakes.

Still, makes you wonder what the teachers *really* think of us parents. "Look at that, another crazy mother won't eat at McDonalds, but this is her 3rd visit to Chuck-E-Cheese this month...and she spent her anniversary at a restaurant named after a gas station???"

The last day of school is Friday. Last year, I picked D. up from school and started getting a little teary eyed when I said good-bye to her Kindergarten teacher. By the time we were at the car, I was all-out sobbing. D. joined me and we had a good cathartic cry together.

We had the most phenomenal year and we'd all gotten so emotionally invested in the school...I couldn't help it.

I'll be picking D. up again this Friday. Hopefully, I have matured a little since last year and will be able to do it without sobbing.

Nah. Who am I kidding? I'll be sobbing. This year was even more amazing than last year.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

If it's summer, it's time for....math?

Today was another perfect weather day. 80 degrees. sunny. no mosquitoes yet. No bees yet. We spent the morning at the pool.

And the afternoon? After telling daughter D. that she could do just about anything she wanted? Well, we spent the afternoon indoors making Math Arrays of course. Isn't that what all 7 year olds do on their summer vacation?

More on math arrays (for the un-initiated in elementary school math:)

Her school doesn't have enough money to buy adequate math supplies, so of course, we are making them. You don't want to know how much time it takes to make a set of math arrays. Trust me, don't ask.

There is hope for those of us who didn't exactly shine at math the first time around. There is always a chance one will give birth to a math geek and get to do it all again.

It was actually pretty fun...except for the part where she could figure out major multiplication problems faster than I could. That part isn't quite as fun.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

NYTimes Magazine

Lots of talk amongst the blog worlds this week about the NYTimes Red Shirting Kindergarten article:

very good coverage of the article and the points it brings up, all of it.

But really, really what they should be talking about is that FINALLY - the NYTimes magazine crossword puzzle was easy enough for even an idiot like me to do! Usually, it takes me all week to get even one corner of that damn thing done. Even with my dictionary. (But never the internet...I draw the line at using the internet to help with my xword puzzle addiction. Only the dictionaries will do.)

But this week - this week, I got a significant portion done in ONE night. I couldn't believe it.

Seriously though. I just don't get why the Kindergarten start date is such a big deal. I have friends who are agonizing over it. Son D. is born in mid-September, so he won't start Kindergarten until 2008. Our cut-off is Sept 1. But if he'd been born in mid-August, he would start in 2007 - there's no way I would have held him.

I think I mentioned that I started with a new "little sister" in March. She is a fantastic, lovely, amazing little girl. I adore her.

This experience has completely changed my life in a way that my two previous "littles" didn't. I wasn't a mother when I started with the other two. I knew they were poor, but the concept of childhood poverty didn't really resonate with me back then.

Now, it hits my heart and my soul. I don't want to write too much about it here, because she's not my child and it's not my story to tell. But she's poor in the "not enough food or clothing" category and frankly, I'm finding myself getting FURIOUS with the world for allowing so many children to be in this category.

We've had a rough beginning, in many ways. Poverty makes a lot of things hard - scheduling, communication, and transportation, in particular. But we are working it out. Flexibility has never been my strong suit, so I'm sure in some warped way this is all some sort of valuable life lesson for me.

So, when I hear my local upper-class friends agonizing about whether to start Kindergarten this year or next year, it takes every bit of my self control not to YELL - "YOUR KID WILL BE FINE EITHER WAY!" For those kids who were blessed enough to be born into families with high-speed internet, food on the table, 2 cars, boots in the winter and sandals in the summer, books, 2 parents, and the occasional vacation.....they are going to be fine. It doesn't matter.

What if we could take even 1/10th of the energy wasted on worrying about topics such as this and put it towards the very real and very growing problem of the increasing number of children growing up in severely poor situations...

According to the NCCP:

Nearly 13 million children in the United States—18% of all children—live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level—$20,650 a year for a family of four.

8 years ago, that was just a statistic. A big, disturbing statistic, but none-the-less, just a number. Didn't really affect my day-to-day life.

Now, between the number of D's classmates who live in poverty (over 60%) and my new "Big" experience, it has finally become part of my every-day life. So it's very hard to read the Times' coverage of Red Shirts in Kindergarten when I'm dealing with kids who struggle just to have shirts to wear.

It's almost enough to make me vote for John Edwards. (almost...if only he wasn't so protectionist. My economist-alter-ego just can't stomach that part of his platform.)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Locks of Love

She did it. Despite all my my vain attempts to convince her otherwise... : )

pics are here:

I fixed the password (thanks E!)

username is "my first name" (no caps)

password is "my last name" (no caps)

Email at kpnelson @ mac . com if you can't get in!

And I have to admit - she is pretty darn cute with short hair! I'm really glad she didn't listen to me. I love the new cut. And words can't describe how proud of her I am.