Saturday, September 28, 2013

Providence, Oh Providence

I survived my first week at my new job.  I week during which B was on the other side of the country for her job (which, from what I saw on facebook, seems to involve watching Dodgers games and eating fancy meals), and being woken up in the middle of Sunday night by a puking child.   My new job is right in downtown Providence, and I got to walk around a bit to get my bearings and drink quite a bit of coffee in local shops. 

I've lived in a few cities, and gone on interviews in many, many more.  My specialization seems to be the small post industrial (aren't they all) city, with a good dose of Rust Belt.  In each of these cities, I got a tour describing the place as a "city of neighborhoods"- aren't they all.  Providence isn't post-industrial like Chicago or Pittsburgh, but it is certainly post-manufacturing, and you can see that written all over the city.

My morning commute brings me to Kennedy Plaza, the central bus transfer point for the system.  The Plaza brings together all kinds of people, but overall it reflects the demographics of bus-riders who are poorer than the city as a whole, and described in one local NPR commentary as "the 3rd world" of Providence.  They also blast classical music through the loudspeakers on the Plaza.  I assume this choice was based on some broken windows theory that classical music keeps away the riffraff or generally classes up the place.  In practice, I can say that it is very disconcerting to stride away from the Plaza to a soundtrack of "Flight of the Valkyries."  My associations are either Apocalypse Now or Brown Shirts, and I'm assuming that neither of those was what the city fathers and mothers were going for. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bitties and Yummy Bears, Oh My

We had 12 hours of crisis last week when we realized after dinner that LB's very important blanket named "Bitty" was missing.  B spent some time cruising the mean streets between our house and daycare thinking that perhaps bitty had been dropped (passive voice intentional) on our morning walk.  No Bitty.  LB went to sleep whimpering "Bitty got a little bit lost.  Bitty got a little bit lost." And rejecting all other blankets, after rubbing them between her little fingers, and finding them wanting.  She woke up crying at least three times during the night.

B and I were wrung out.  I may have started crying once.  It was the worst thing since the NICU and the time after the NICU when I dropped LB on her head.

All three of us walked to daycare the next morning and the adults kept our eyes peeled for Bitty.  No Bitty.  I was imagine years of interupted sleep.  We walked into daycare and there was Bitty on the front desk!  Then LB remembered (confabulated) that her mischievous friend Z. had removed Bitty from our stroller, and Bitty had gotten a little bit lost.  Perhaps, but we are just glad to have bitty.

Potty training continues to the sounds of "I need a yummy bear!  I neeeed a yuuuummmy bear!"

I managed to get through my first day of work with no puking, cursing, or crying, so I'll call that a win.  I ordered a couple dresses from Land's End, before they told me the dress code is "very casual."  The dresses here and here are flattering and nice fabric.  I was afraid they would be too low cut, but they're fine. And, for anyone who's nursing and looking for professional-type nursing clothes, these dresses would be perfect.  They are faux wrap style with a lot of give, and they seem a lot less expensive than dresses marketed as nursing dresses.  This is my first and last fashion post.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gut Shabbos, Providence

The most visible minority in the neighborhood where we live are Orthodox Jews.  Depending on how much you want to stretch your legs, we are walking distance to at least four Orthodox congregations including a "modern and inclusive Orthodox Synagogue" and an Orthodox Shul that makes no claims to be either modern or inclusive.  There are also a couple Orthodox day schools, and I love to see the Orthodox girls riding their bikes the wrong way down our main drag like bats out of hell with their skirts and braids billowing out behind them.

Orthodox families give a certain rhythm to the neighborhood, mothers and children rushing on Friday afternoon errands, and a steady stream of people walking north on Saturday morning.  Today I was moving against the foot traffic, hurrying to my hair appointment, part of the Saturday morning dog walking, baby strolling, coffee drinking types.  Halfway to my destination there was rugby practice on one side, with knots of Orthodox boys in black suits leaning over the fence to watch.  The other side was the Brown football game (who knew Brown had a football team) complete with girls in short-shorts, tailgaters, and piped in music ("Last Friday Night").  The girls were interspersed with families, one with a fashionable mom in a long dark skirt pushing a baby carriage, accompanied by a stair-step gaggle of daughters in matching, elaborately stitched dresses like something right out of my childhood All of a Kind Family books.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's Potty Time (sung in the voice of Elmo's dad)

 It seems like they should sell Elmo underwear at Target, but, at least at ours, they don't.  Instead we have kitties and ponies, which is ridiculous, but we couldn't see buying Spiderman or Cars underwear just to make a point, which was a good call since a young child only wants to wear one particular pair of Hello Kitties. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Services, Services, Services (in which I complain about that which no one wishes to hear me complain about in real life)

We had LB's IEP transition meeting today.  For those of you lucky enough not to know, that is the transition that three year olds make from getting services through Early Intervention to getting services through the school system.  So far this shift has required

PT eval (2 service providers present)
Speech eval (3 sessions) (1 PT present)
1 meeting to describe transition process (3 providers present)
1 (hour long!) paperwork meeting (1 provider)
1 meeting to meet our transition coordinator (2 providers)
1 meeting to meet IEP team and sign forms (5 professionals!)
(and I was supposed to get LB a hearing screen, but I didn't because she hears fine)

In a few weeks we'll have
The meeting where they tell us if she qualifies for services

Do you see where I'm going with this.  We sat at a conference table with five professional people (presumably making professional salaries) signed a couple things, and they ushered us out the door.  How much did that meeting cost in labor hours?  Because I can tell you that the benefit to us was $0 (and that's being generous because it actually cost us money in lost time).

It is so frustrating, because I know the system exists for a good reason, and some of its exactness and convolutedness does exist to protect parents and kids, to make sure parents understand the process, to make sure that everyone has access to the services they need.  But, it's enough to turn a lady into a small government libertarian.

They really need some kind of screening matrix that rates
1) The complexity of the child's needs (if LB had multiple serious issues, we probably would want to have an actual sit down meeting to make sure nothing was overlooked)
2) parental resources (some parents do need to have all of the forms read aloud to them, and it should be their right to hear that information.  B and I do not need to have things read aloud to us, and doing so is an annoying waste of resources)

The also need to modernize from paper triplicate forms!  Dear lord.  Most of the stuff that takes hours in person could be done online in minutes.  And not all parents have access to a computer and a scanner, but it would be so much cheaper to buy a family a tablet and pay for their internet access than to make them schelp around town to sign forms.  Even it they modernized the system, they could still have some dedicated people would work with families who needed the most support and keep providing them with in-person meetings. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cooking From the Box

We have started getting a weekly veggie box (mostly veggie, with some fruit) from Farm Fresh RI.  The big draw is that we can pick up the box at daycare, which is so convenient it makes me want to cry.  (If you are anywhere near Salem, CT you should check out my friends at Provider Farm, they are talented farmers and some of the hardest working people I know!) When we were in Chicago we did Angelic Organics, which is an absolutely amazing CSA, and then we did one in Baltimore that wasn't so impressive.  Farm Fresh isn't a tradition CSA, instead they work with multiple farms and bundle and deliver the box.  I thought the first week had great variety and quality, but was a little skimpy.  For week 2, the box was absolutely packed and had great variety and quality, so far I'm really happy with FF.

Last week I made: roast tomatillo salsa, bok choy stir fry, and baba ganoush (do you know how long it took a girl from NH to spell all of those foods?).  The baba ganoush was great because I had one medium eggplant, just enough for me and I'm the only person who likes it, and I had all the ingredients on hand.  LB ate 6 peaches, and we ate some of the tart little apples.

This week, red salsa (we got a good sized bag of mixed hot peppers and they are hot!), stuffed peppers, and borsht (I think I'm going to make it with little meatballs).  We also have green beans and cooking greens for sides.  

We got more apples this week, and I think they are just too tart for eating raw.  I could make applesauce, but I think I'll make more decadent apple squares.  I love the box!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"I'm All Jacked Up!"

It's our new family motto.  I was trying to quickly cram LB into her carseat, but it wasn't working and it seemed like maybe there was a bag of cheerios under her somewhere, and I was afraid I'd pinch her with the clips, and I said "This is all jacked up!" For the next 15 minutes a mournful child repeated, "I all jacked up! I all jacked up!"

And we laughed and laughed.  But we are all all jacked up.  Sick, wheezy, asthmatic, adults overworked, child feeling the pressure of being a big girl.  Clearly crappy lung season clearly starts early here than it did down South, but we are not on it.  We have a big meeting for LB on Monday about her move from IFSP to (potential) IEP and I'm gearing up for operation "make sure LB gets services."

Something like a first-day-of-school picture

With neb

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Can I be "an Indian" for Halloween?

For me, the clear answer is "Oh fuck no!"  I need to come up with a response for the younger set.  I've been struggling for a more toddler-appropriate phrase that expresses the sentiment "you are shit out of luck."  So far, nothing seems quite satisfactory.

This page of monstrosities comes to us from the monstrosity that is the Chasing Fireflies company (I'm not even going to link to them).  If you aren't familiar with CF, they seem to specialize in sparkle/fairy/princess of the something-about-that-outfit-seems-inappropriately-sexualized variety.  But, at least I know if I need to buy LB a costume befitting a child prostitute in a 19th century bordello, CF will be there for me.  Maybe they can get Brook Shields to design a Pretty Baby line of costumes.

Until LB is old enough to earn her own money and sneak out of the house with her party clothes in a bag she will not be dressing as "a Native American," "a Black," "a Jew," "a Chinese," or any other racial or ethnic group.  Not surprisingly, CF seems to have missed the memo on the Urban Outfitters "Navaho" underpants controversy.

My family has a lot of pictures from back in the day of little kids in "Indian" costumes.  One of my great uncles was a proud member of the Order of Red Men (there was a Red Men lodge in our old neighborhood in Baltimore), and he was also the direct descendent of an Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) woman.  It's so interesting to think of this man who had lost the Haudenosaunee part of his cultural heritage and then embraced a white faux indian-ness.  So if perfectly nice people dressed up as "Indians" as children and remained perfectly nice, and if people of indigenous heritage participated in fake "Indian" culture, then can it be so wrong?  What if a white woman is invited to a South Asian wedding, is it racist for her to wear a sari?  What if a black man is invited to a Scottish wedding, is it racist for him to wear a kilt?  [These examples are plucked from some of my favorite cultural commentators.]

To which I would reply: A) Try holding your breathe until your Navaho "best friend" offers you some sacred garments to wear as your Halloween costume.

B) For me, the question is do I want to make other people feel demeaned or disrespected over a costume, when there are an infinite number of alternatives that would not be demeaning or disrespectful.  People have a wide range of opinions, and certainly there are people from all groups that wouldn't be offended by this sort of dressing up, but I wouldn't want to have to look someone in the eye who was offended and explain myself.  And clearly cultural boundaries aren't absolute.  We cross and mix and borrow constantly, but that borrowing should be a conscious choice, not the perception that another person or their culture is a thing that can be purchased and discarded.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Back to Reality

I've been using the library at our local university, which is good, but I've been overhearing a lot of awkward conversations among first year students.  At least, now that the semester's starting again, the coffee cart in the library is open again.  What kind of library doesn't serve coffee 24/7 in this day and age.

I spent a chunk of Labor Day writing angry letters to my representatives about why we should not be bombing Syria, or otherwise involving ourselves in that country.  And I feel for the people of Syria, there was an article in last week's New Yorker about the huge refugee camp over the border in Lebanon-crazy and heartbreaking, but, we, the United States, have failed all of our recent fixing-countries tests.  We have a gentleperson's D- in fixing countries.  Our motto should be America: We Break Countries!  Our leaders need to go back to remedial intervention school before we get involved in another conflict.  If I thought our involvement would save the people of Syria, that would be compelling, but everything I've seen in the past decade(s) suggests that we will only make things worse.  Syria is one of those weird issues were the left and the right seem to be meeting up, so I'm unclear about who exactly thinks we should get involved.  I'm not even posting any links because this is one of the few cases where I don't feel the need for nuanced arguments, I'm just going with my gut that we should not be involved in military intervention in Syria.

The interwebs also found strange bedfellows in reaction to this post (pics accompanying the post have been changed from shirtless young men to fully clothed family members, presumably in response to comments about ridiculous double standards for boys and girls.)

One response from the queer/feminist/consensual side here (I like this blog.)  And a response from the conservative religious/authoritarian/purity side here (While I wouldn't consider those terms flattering, I think they are accurate and the blog author would not object to being so defined.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


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B and I have been getting some projects done.  My motivation is wanting things to be organized before I start my new job, I'm not sure of B's motivation.  I think she just likes projects.  I rearranged LB's room to make it more inviting, a project that was successful because of the generous gift of a train table!  (Thanks M!)

Now the room has more of a play nook, and once we get some pictures up on the walls, I think it will be really nice.

 A child approves, and didn't even complain that we moved her bed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Review: American Cab, Providence, RI

In honor of Labor Day, I'm writing a review of a great small business in Providence.  American Cab is my go to cab company.  It's a one man operation run by John the owner, but he does have another guy who covers when he isn't working (and I've also had a good experience with him).  John took me to my early morning airport flights for eight months (I can't believe I did that for so long), and he was early or on time for every trip, even the ones when I left at 4:30am.  He has a nice cab, drives safely, takes the direct route, and is just a nice friendly guy.

I'm a person who usually will take public transit, just because I've had such bad experiences with unreliable cabs, but there is no way to get to T.F. Greene airport at 4:30am without a car.  With John, I was so much less stressed about getting to the airport than I would have been otherwise.

The number for American Cab is (401) 487-2111
Since he's a one man shop, if you know ahead of time that you'll need a cab, call him the day before. 

(I received no compensation for this review.)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Word that Shall Not Be Spoken

There's one word I heard a lot this week that I will not type for fear that it has some Voldemort-type properties.  There was also a lot of online conversation about the lines between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation, like this piece on Jezebel (interesting links and comments also), and this piece on Slate.  The author of the Slate article, Tressie McMillian Cottom, also wrote this academic looking article about Country, Hip Hop crossover and representations of black women's bodies.  I haven't read it yet, but it looks really interesting and hopefully it will answer so many questions that I've been kicking around as I listen to the country station.

At our house, M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls" has been in heavy rotation at our house (LB says "Play again? Play again?"), a year after everyone else.  When it came out, the video for the song was heavily critiqued for its orientalist imagery.  Here's a nice balanced discussion.  Video aside, M.I.A. is ethnically Tamil, Sri Lankan, raised largely in London performing music rooted in Black America.  And she does it well.  So does M.I.A. have credibility because she's good, because she's not performing class, because her body is covered, because she is brown? (I'm not even trying to have answers to all those questions.)

And then there's this monstrosity (below).  I think what I said when I watched this with B was "is this performance art or something."  I don't even understand how Lil' Debbie manages to fit so many offensive images into one video, but she does.  I need to keep this one on file for future exhibit As about race, gender, sexuality, and cultural appropriation.