Problem Solved

Thanks for your suggestions on how to make the most of these indoor-weather days. Today, when J-Jo was at school, I took the twins to the public library in the next town, where they've just finished a brand new, self-contained play room. The best part: we were the only ones there!

And here's another life saver I came across: Kids Craft Weekly, a fresh, sophisticated (yet simple) new site straight out of Sydney, Australia. Subscriptions are free and the editor (also a SAHM) provides you with a "craft syllabus" for each week, delivered straight to your inbox. I can't wait to get started.

Here are a few of their solutions for what to do when all you need is 20 minutes and the kids are bouncing off the walls:

1. Paper chains

Cut some paper into strips. If your child is good with scissors – let them do the cutting. The strips don't have to be straight. Take a strip of paper and join one end to the other, forming a circle, and fasten with tape or staples. Take another strip of paper, thread it through your first loop and fasten as above. Keep on adding to the chain. As soon as they've mastered the art of the sticky tape dispenser young kids will be able to make paper chains on their own.

2. Foil coins

Cut a series of different sized circles from hard cardboard. Then cut some foil squares – large enough to completely cover your largest circles. Have your child wrap each of the circles up in foil. Get an old orange bag or purse to keep the coins in. These are great to use as money in pretend games of shop. You can also encourage your child to line the circles up from smallest to largest.

3. Confetti

This activity is so simple but so compelling for a young child. Introduce your child to the hole punch and provide some coloured paper from which they can punch out circles. Keep the confetti in your useful box – you can use it to decorate future craft projects!

4. Paper lanterns

Fold a rectangular piece of paper in half lengthways. Then make numerous cuts at even intervals from the fold towards to within about two centimetres from the opposite side. When you've made cuts along the entire long side of the paper, unfold and sticky tape the two short ends of the paper together. You can make handles using ribbon or another strip of paper. We recently had a great miniature lantern making session using coloured post-it notes. Just make sure you get the variety that are sticky at the short end and you won't have to use sticky tape at all!

5. Edible necklace

If you keep 'hole-y' cereal in your pantry (nutrigrain, cheerios, fruit loops etc) you can show your little one how to thread the pieces of cereal onto a piece of string or wool using a blunt wool needle. If you don't have a needle on hand you can wrap stickytape around the end of a piece of string to make it stiff enough for small fingers to manage. When they're finished with the necklace they can eat it!

You find the rest here.


Baby it's Cold Outside

Okay. I'll be the first to complain about global warming, but I sure would appreciate some right now. Just for a little bit. Only long enough to take the edge off the days when it's way too cold to take those babies outside. And the days when it's just cold enough that packing them into their snowsuits, et al. just doesn't seem worth it.

So before I give you the detailed local forecast, let me give a big shout out to the dude to the right. Lord knows our genes weren't made for this:

Today: Cloudy. Snow flurries or snow showers developing. High 31F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 70%. Snow accumulations less than one inch.

Tonight: Snow likely. Low 14F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 80%. 1 to 2 inches of snow expected.

I know, I know, 1-2" ain't nothing (I can already hear you, Chi-town people...). But I refrained from giving you the rest of this detailed forecast – which I know you were sooo curious about – because it will NOT get warmer by the weekend. It's supposed to get worse. As in colder. With more snow.

Some black people – other than the Jamaican Bobsledders – actually like the cold. Remember Vonetta Flowers? I've heard through the grapevine that good old Al Roker owns a house near my sub-zero neck of the woods...and I saw Cassandra Wilson at the supermarket one time. I don't say this to name drop, but to state the fact that yes, there are African Americans who don't mind chilling out in chilly climates. The thing that seperates folks like Roker and Wilson, from say, myself for example, is that they're too wealthy to willfully freeze their behinds off. Surely, they own several homes in Manhattan, Paris, wherever and can get up on outta here when the temperature dips too low. Must be nice. *sigh*

Anybody have some new ideas about what to do when it's cold outside with two rambunctious eighteen-month-olds who have grown bored with their toys and still think Crayolas are something to eat?


Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Well, my husband's back to his day job after nine months of (paid, thank God!) sabbatical. Yesterday the students returned to the campus that J-Jo beleives she's the queen of and spring semester is officially underway. In addition to being a husband, father, phenom of literary fiction and graphic novelist, he's Professor J again.

Since May 2006, we've been tag teaming it day to day with our brood, living through spilled Cheerios, stomach viruses and thankfully nothing worse. Sure, we've had our moments when we've wanted to strangle the other person for even suggesting the idea of going to take a nap, but for the most part, it's been blissful. I'm going to miss packing the kids up in the Odyssey I once thought he and I were both way too cool for to take our spontaneous adventures, but all good things (and challenging things, too) must eventually come to an end.

I hate to see him go. We have a couple of responsible and really wonderful babysitters, but at the end of the day, there's nothing like daddy. Thanks, honey, for providing for us while being here with us at the same time these past few months instead of going to your office to hide. Especially those times when there were two stinky diapers to change, dirty dishes in the sink and a five year old who insists on singing "Hey Ya", non-stop at the top of her lungs. We love you.


Hair and Now

Originally published at Anti-Racist Parent:

A week before my five-year-old daughter's dance recital, her instructor, Miss Debbie, pulled me aside.

"We're asking that all the girls wear their hair in a bun."

I looked at Jasmin's golden-brown mane that was pulled neatly into a single puff on the top of her head. Each perfectly spiraled strand was infused with the genetic code of women who came before my child, myself and every other black woman in our family tree. These weren’t the girl next door’s curls. "A bun?"

The fitter-than-thou fifty-something in a black leotard, tights and pink leg warmers looked me squarely in the face. “Yes.”

"I'm not sure if it will do that." I knew I sounded kind of strange, sitting there talking about my daughter's hair as if it had a life of it's own. But it did.

“Try." Miss Debbie gave Jasmin a once-over before standing up to sashay down the hallway. I had no idea the woman was even half as narrow-minded as she had just revealed. I could have sworn I saw her do a pirouette before she went back into the classroom.

It wasn't the first time I'd had this type of discussion about the “proper” way a female of color should be coiffed for something. In high school, the captains of my cheerleading squad insisted that we all wore french braids. Never mind the needs of Tiffany Williams, who wore her hair in intricately designed cornrows, or Mia Kim who wore her jet-black hair in a chin length bob. I hated the idea that this incident was the first in a series that would drill a negative idea into Jasmin’s psyche that something about her “ethnic” hair is problematic. And I didn’t appreciate Miss Debbie for initiating the conversation.

Later that evening, I called to my mother for a second opinion. She calmly reassured me that yes, Jasmin's hair might be sort of "kinky", but I could surely get it into a bun if I wanted to badly enough. I just had to get Jasmin to sit still long enough so that I could blow dry it straight and then flat iron it with searing heat so it would be straight enough to twist into a bun (easier said than done). It wasn’t exactly what I’d wanted to hear. You’d think I never made my mom want to fling the comb at the ceiling in frustration (on countless occasions) as I ripped myself from her grasp – mid-braid, mind you – and ran to the bathroom complaining of “chest pains”. I wasn’t about to send her grandbaby on Miss Debbie’s stage looking like the African American understudy of Little Orphan Annie, but the bun wasn’t happening. Less because it couldn’t than because, at that point, I was pissed.

To continue reading...

Things A Girl Can Only Tell Her Best Friend...When She's Five

OWD (Overheard While Driving):

J-Jo: Do you like your boots that way?

Friend: Do I what?

J-Jo: Do you like that they're brown?*

Friend: Yeah, I like them.

J-Jo: Oh. (silence) I like the flashy butterflies on them.

Friend: Thanks.

J-Jo: Even though they're brown.

* To this day, I've only been able to get J-Jo to wear one brown pair of shoes. And that's only because the boots have these little, metal, heart-shaped charms dangling from them. The girl loves shoes as much as the next sister, but they must be flamboyant. The more bells and whistles the better. I've been known to blink back tears of frustration in the kids shoe aisle at Target as J-Jo extols the virtues of hot pink Barbie sneakers with blinking lights and sparkly laces. What's wrong with plain mary jane? I just pray she keeps the habit in check: I suppose I could tolerate a wannabee Nia Long, who recently admitted to the shoe hoarding sickness...but please Lord, please don't let me raise a junior Star Jones.

I can already picture her begging me to take her to DSW. Not that there's anything wrong with that...


What Do You Want, a Cookie?

I didn't write this letter, but I would have gladly co-signed. Thanks, Figlet!

Cancel My Subscription

Dear Editor in Chief of Cookie Magazine:

Yuck. Look, I'm not opposed to conspicuous consumerism. I'm a conspicuous consumer myself, and I'm sure my stats fit in nicely with your target demographic. I'm happy to buy my little darling expensive Italian leather shoes and trousers made of the finest, softest cotton. I won't apologize for my Yuppie Trophy Stroller, and if they ever make a double stroller, well, I might be inclined to invest in one of those as well. I'm all about organic and 100% cotton and the odd luxury hotel myself. And yes, I'm willing to spend $10 on bubble bath for my kid because I can convince myself that it's better for her sensitive skin.




I'm flipping through your latest issue and I can't help but notice that the only people of color in the entire "American Beauty" issue appear in a handful of ads. I went back and scanned every single page three times. Lots of sweet looking blondes and carefully coiffed white moms. Yo! Rocawear. Props to Guess and Dillard's Department Store. They at least pay lip service to the notion that conspicuous consumers come in all colors.

But I can't enjoy a parenting/lifestyle magazine that doesn't even attempt to speak to anyone outside upper middleclass white yuppiedom. Last I checked there were black yuppies, Asian yuppies, and of course Hispanic yuppies. The thing is, yuppiedom and conspicuous consumerism aren't the exclusive domain of white folks. Not every black woman pushing a Bugaboo is a nanny.

As a child I used to sit myself down with my mother's magazines and pore over recipes and parenting tips, and my favorite column, "My Problem and How I Solved It." I would be ashamed for my daughter, when she's old enough, to idly thumb through your magazine and realize her mother reads a magazine written for upper middle class white women with white children.

Since your editorial offices are based in New York, it's unforgivable, to my mind, that your staff wouldn't have caught this egregious omission. And I wonder if your advertisers noticed, or if they even care.

Sigh. To the bin it goes. Ick.

Sincerely yours,


Buggin' Out

You know who you are.

You're the stylish, sleep-deprived new parent who strolls through the city pushing your precious bundle in a chariot fit for a tiny royalty. You don't turn your nose up at Peg Peregos...you just didn't know they still make them anymore. Why? Because you're the proud owner of a Bugaboo, the stroller equivalent of a luxury car, the "it-child" vehicle of the moment.

I first spotted the Bugaboo several years ago when I was a childless newlywed living in New York City. I dreamed of one day joining the ranks of hip mommies who transported their wee little ones in style. Yes, it costs about the same as a year's worth of daily latte grandes, but my rationale was quite simple: if I had to trade my VW to ride on crowded subways and chase down stinky cabs, there was no way I was going to schlep a baby around Manhattan without looking cute while doing it.

But then we left the city and landed in a place where there are country mountain roads and hardly and sidewalks to speak of. Suddenly, a more practical, all-terrain jogging stroller seemed more appropos. In both practicality and on the purse. That still didn't stop my Bugaboo lust. Fortunately, I've never had the chance (or the nerve) to justify the cost of one to Mr. J.

But there is hope for the rest of us. Bugaboo Day Trips are open to all tiny passengers, regardless of their prefered mode of transport. You never know, some destinations might even offer free valet stroller parking.


About Last Night

7:36 pm
Twins are clean, pajama'd and in their respective cribs. Their light is out and they're chattering away to each other in pigeon toddler.

7:48 pm
I climb onto my bed, ignoring the sound of the tv downstairs and shut my eyes – taking five between putting the babies down and J-Jo to bed.

7:52 pm
J-Jo pokes her head in my door "There's my beautiful mommy that I've missed so much!"

Okay, what does she want?

7:54 pm
J-Jo returns with The Wonderful House by Margaret Wise Brown. One of our – okay, my – favorite books. We read until I drift... off...

"Oh mommy, you really are tired! You fell asleep during this book and it isn't even too long!" J-Jo pulls the covers over me and disappears to the bathroom.

J-Jo returns with my (wet) toothbrush. I fight my type-A personality.

J-Jo is "brushing" my teeth.

7:58 I submit to fatigue.


I momentarily drift out of slumber and hear this downstairs:
"Daddy, I had to tuck mommy in, she was very tired. Could you put me to bed please?"

God bless that child. Think I could do this uh, once a month?


Good Help is Sooo Hard to Find...(Unless You're this Sister)

Not too long ago, I went on a little rant about my experience trying to find a black nanny after the birth of ZenBaby and Big L and my negative experience with the caregiver I ended up hiring. My friend Deesha, however, has only good things to say about the babysitters she's used...all of whom happen to be white. I've cross-posted this recent essay from her terrific column, The Girl is Mine, at Literary Mama to provide hope for those of us who don't have the luxury of live-in help or any loving aunties/godmommies/madeahs nearby...and are holding out for Mary Poppins – whatever color she's available in.
A Little Help, Please?

by Deesha Philyaw

Recently, while setting the table for a dinner of Chinese takeout, eight-year-old Taylor suggested we put our soy sauce in the little white ceramic bowls we reserve for special occasions. "Which babysitter gave us these?" she asked.

"Casey," I answered.

"We've had a lot of babysitters," Taylor said.

And she's right. Over the three years-plus since Peyton was born, I've hired seven women to provide childcare in my home during the day. They came from one to five days a week as money allowed and as my schedule demanded, with freelancing, starting and running a custom writing business, and handling my mother's affairs after her death.

I'm happy to report that my high turnover rate is not due to poor work conditions, low pay, or unruly children. As I explained to Taylor, I've always been lucky to find sitters who have many talents and all sorts of work they want to do, but this means they can't be our babysitters for very long.

"That's right! We have had talented babysitters," Taylor replied. "Which one was it that made Sponge Bob out of Floam?"

Well, there was that. But also among the seven former sitters, there is an aspiring writer, an English Literature PhD candidate, two teachers, a future environmental scientist, and an architect.

And they've all been white.
Click here for the rest of A Little Help Please?


The Electric Company - C is for CA

Now that J-Jo has started to sweat herself for being able to spell "cat", I figured this weekend would be a good time as any to teach how to spell some new words.


A Word from African American Dad

Welcome Our Kind of Parenting correspondent, Keith Morton. He's a hard-working husband and father of a pre-school aged son whose blog, African American Dad, is not only impressive and insightful, but the first (if not only) of its kind. Keith joins us today to ruminate on the controversy surrounding the late James Brown's estate:

By now we all know James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, is dead. According to David Letterman this is significant because it means that now the hardest working man in show business is Regis Philbin. I’d argue Nick Cannon, but whatever. For black folk it’s significant for too many reasons to get into, especially since this article is not in praise of one of the greatest entertainers of our time. You can find that kind of article anywhere. This is concerning his five year old son, a little boy that was left out of his 73 year old father’s will.

Now we can make the excuse that it’s just like black folk to be sloppy in handling their business and leave it at that, but that would be wrong, stereotypical, and as ignorant as it gets. If I’m not mistaken the almost 100 year old (I’m rounding) husband of Anna Nicole Smith was a billionaire and he didn’t even have a coherent plan on how to dole out his estate among his family and his then 26 year old wife, and he was as white as they come. So look at it for what it is and that’s another dad failing to protect his child’s future because of his questionable feelings about his “baby mama.”

To continue...


That's Just Her Baby's Daddy

Did anyone catch this on the Daily Show?

About four minutes in, Senator Barabara Boxer implies that part of the reason Condi's okay with the situation in Iraq is because she never had children of her own. Then Jon Stewart makes an attempt to change all that...

Don't blame me for the mental image.


Another M.L.K. Day

In 1988, I took part in the Freedom Ride – an opportunity of a lifetime where teens from Philadelphia boarded an Amtrak train to make a pilgrimmage through the deep south. We spent a week visiting landmarks of the civil rights movement, such as the home of Rosa Parks and ended the journey in Atlanta at the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violence. We spent the next week at the King Center, taking workshops on non-violence taught by one of Dr. King's four little children who was, by that time, a grown up.

In 1989, I was so transformed by the experience and so upset I had to go to school on M.L.K.'s birthday, that I went to my high school principal and asked (okay, begged) him to make it mandatory that all students watch Eyes on the Prize. He said no, but let me set up video monitors to air the documentary in the cafeteria during lunch. I tried not to blink back tears as my lunch period went on as usual. Students – both black and white – ate hoagies and chips as they acted a fool. Even during the part with the attack dogs. And hoses.

In 2007, there were no special events in honor of Dr. King within a forty mile radius of my home. The day started out like any other lazy Monday (except for the freezing rain outside). I proceeded to make oatmeal with vanilla soy milk and brown sugar as my three small children proceeded to tear the house apart. After they took their morning naps (at least two of them, anyway) I read them a story about Dr. King before turning on the television. The Disney Channel was airing a 12 hour That's So Raven! Marathon.


I wonder when people will stop considering this American hero's birthday a "black" holiday. Or an excuse to catch a sale at the mall. Then again, I also wonder if just the fact that a show about a witty African American girl was on the Disney Channel for 12 hours straight would be enough to make the late Dr. King proud. Would he think the fact that we're now called African American (instead of colored) and can live in integrated neighborhoods is sufficient progress in itself?

I don't remember my mom mentioning any "colored" Mousketeers – so I guess it depends on who you're talking to and the generation they're a part of.

And if they had to go to school on what should have really been a national holiday.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King. We're still working on things here, but the world is a much better place for having known you.


Oprah Unplugged

To the 152 students of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, the talk show queen is far more than a cultural icon. She's the beacon of hope that apartheid surpressed. A post-modern Harriet Tubman – with money, power and a mani-pedi.

But fans and foes alike are questioning the media maven's motivations for building the exclusive, $40 million school in Henley-on-Klip, South Africa...instead of someplace like the South Bronx. Seemed like the whole world loved Oprah – swore she was their homegirl – 'til she sent out party invitations and their names weren't on the list.

But Winfrey had her reasons, which she matter-of-factly revealed in Newsweek:

“I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there,” she says. “If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don’t ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school.”

Uh oh. It seems that the same folks who cringe when Bill Cosby opens his mouth now have a new neck bone to pick with somebody. They took the blunt comment as an indictment of urban black youth (when "inner-city" became synonymous with only black youth, I'm unsure). They took serious issue with Oprah airing our dirty laundry, 200 thread count bedsheets and all. It's not that they entirely disagreed with her, they just didn't like that she said it. They felt she was selling us out. For building a school on the continent that happens to be our ancestral home.

Oprah might have her qualms with hip hop and the materialism it condones, but she's never turned her back on Black America. The millions she's contributed to historically Black colleges, taking the initiative to build homes for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the numerous other causes she's donated to – both publicly and privately – should confirm that.

I don't think Oprah's candid statement should have come as a shock to most. It's no big secret that she's one of the few examples – arguably the best example – of African Americans who overcame poverty to find unparalled success within America. She believes that despite its many flaws, the U.S. education system does its job. In South Africa, a nation still suffering from stark contrast in equality, only 5% of Johannesburg's public high school students finish school proficient enough to college. Most South African shantytowns lack electricity or running water while many people in our projects get BET. Just a couple of good reasons to think twice about asking Oprah for an ipod.

Perhaps she could have phrased things differently, but I'm glad Oprah was honest. The fact still remains that in this country – even in the most troubled urban school – there is a guidance counselor beyond those graffitti-covered walls who gets paid to help a kid see their potential. Of course it takes a village, but we don't need a hook up from Oprah to make it happen. Not as much as others might. Surprise! Turns out it's really not all about us.

Hopefully, Oprah's perspective will challenge American students to prove her wrong. What a beautiful thing that would be, if the opening of a school in South Africa inspired kids from the South Bronx to the South Side of Chicago and beyond to know as much about Marian Anderson as they do about Mary J. Blige.

That, too, will be something to celebrate.


Alternatives to Time Out (or more traditional forms of punishment...don't act like you don't know what I mean)

I might blog about parenting, but one thing you'll never see me post about is about my stance on spanking. We're all so different here, no point in inciting a riot.

I will admit, however, that I'm a firm beleiver in time outs, the Naughty Step (nothing to do with Stomp the Yard), and basically anything Supernanny recommends.

My latest bedtime read - 1,2,3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (exciting, I know), by Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., gives these options for alternatives when time out needs a time out of its own:

Earlier bedtime – More time for you and your honey. If you're not too tired.
No treat – But come on now...don't eat it in front of them, the way a certain parent I know once tried to do at Khors Bros. Ice Cream in Cape May. That's just wrong!
Cancelled playdate – Uhhh, not really helpful if the playdate's at someone else's place, though. For God's sake, please don't go and shoot yourself in the foot.
Loss of TV – Probably needs to go off anyway.
Loss of a toy – Make sure it's one they'll really miss. We've tried this with J. Jo only to hear her respond : "That's fine, I'll just play with (insert random toy name here) instead."

Yeah, the sass-o-meter is way high these days. I really need this list.
So wish me luck! I'll be sure to let you know how it works out.


All Aboard!

The first time I saw Choo Choo Soul on the Disney Channel, I said, "Oh good for Mya! She's come a long way since that video with Pink and Little Kim!"

And of course J-Jo corrected me: "That's Genevieve, mommy."

"Oh. Right. Genevieve..."

But even though this newcomer is still waiting to blow up, she seems to be on the right track. At least with the kids market, anyway. Choo Choo Soul is music parents can actually tolerate, almost up there with The Backyardigans.

Much better listening than Johnny and the Sprites.


Go, Nancy! Get Busy!

"For these children, for all America's children, the House will come to order," Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared as she took the gavel, and made history as the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history last week. What I wouldn't have given to have been a fly on the wall that day, witnessing history in the making.

By acknowledging the importance of family and children in her inaugural speech, I think that Pelosi sent a clear message to families of all backgrounds and economic means that a new day is on the horizon. There may come a day when American parents will have not only adequate, but optimal child care for our children. Who knows, we may even come to know such thing as paid maternity leave that doesn't end as soon as little Jr. cracks his first smile.

To show your appreciation for Nancy Pelosi's family friendly public statement, and to let her know we've got her back, too, you can click here. And while you're at it, take a look at one of my new favorite causes, Moms Rising*, a grass roots organization dedicated to improving the lives of American mothers and their children everywhere.

*Please don't let the Moms Rising logo of Rosie the Riveter holding a porcelain-skinned baby scare you away! After all, we, too, sing America...do we not?

Today It's a Turkey

Now J-Jo's saying she wants to marry a turkey.We went online, looking for pictures of turkeys, so I could further explain to her that she can't actually marry one.

This is what we found and now she's saying she's in love. Should I be surprised? Her first crush was on Moose A. Moose.


Talking About Marriage

My best friend is getting married this spring and she wants J-Jo to be her flower girl. J-Jo was so flattered to have been asked ("I'd love to, Aunt Birdie!") and is beside herself with excitement these days, picking out flowers for Aunt Birdie's wedding...at the supermarket.

Naturally, most of my oldest girl child's conversational topics are centered around the subject of weddings and marriage these days.

The latest:

J-Jo: Mommy, I'm getting married with grapes.

Mrs. J: Really honey? You want to walk down the aisle with grapes instead of flowers?

J-Jo: No, mommy. I'm getting married to grapes, not with grapes. I don't want a husband, I want to marry grapes.

Mrs. J: And why's that?

J-Jo: Because I love them.

Mrs. J: I love them too (popping one in my mouth) but why do you want to marry them?

J-Jo: Because they're sweet and they don't talk.

If Mr.J happens to read this, hopefully he won't take offense (who'd like to think their child wants them to shut up?). But it's nothing personal. J-Jo is a child who deliberately sings over top of televison commercials, has been known to enter daycare saying (in a sing song voice) "I'm here!!". She's the life of the party whether the room is full of stuffy nosed two year olds or stodgy college professors. She's never content outside of the spotlight, at least not for too long. Hopefully, the person she decides to marry (if she decides to marry at all) will understand that smiling and nodding politely can go a long way.

Good Looking Out

Everday people don't usually bolt across the street to save a child's life or have the courage to rescue strangers from oncoming subway trains. So when things like that happen, it restores my faith in humanity. I think that it's time for Pedro Julio Nevarez and Julio Gonzalez, the Bronx residents who rescued a three-year-old who somehow ended up hanging from a fire escape to form some sort of Justice League style alliance with Wesley Autrey, the Subway Superhero.

But as a parent, I have to admit that I'm a little annoyed that the toddler was hanging off of a fire escape to begin with. Of course it's a blessing that the boy lived, with the help of a couple of good samaritans. But what if they hadn't been there? That child from the Bronx wasn't the first to get saved from a near death experience involving a window. Sadly, these kids are the exception to the rule. Far too frequently, small children in tenements lose their lives in tragic accidents that do not involve gunfire, just lapses of judgement on the part of whoever is supposed to be watching them.

One word: window guards.

The type of parent who hires a sitter that opens the window to have a smoke and then absentmindedly leaves it open – naw, bunk that – the type of parent that hires a sitter who smokes Kools while babysitting – isn't one that's going to be proactive about child-proofing. They're just not. So in light of that, you'd think there'd be a requirement on the part of local governments to make sure that all apartment buildings have them installed. Screens wouldn't be too much to ask, either (yes, I'm talking to you, Mayor Bloomberg). This should be a mandatory requirement for tenaments. Everybody doesn't shop at Right Start or have the One Step Ahead catalog delivered to their front door.

When we lived in an urban area, our pediatrician – part of a practice that had many Medicaid patients – routinely asked us if we had fire detectors installed. Now that we live in a rural enclave swarming with affluent Manhattan transplants, it's a given: our new pediatrician assumes we have smoke detectors because he assumes we should know better. Didn't even question if we were checking the batteries. It almost feels like there's a common assumption that the more education a person has, the more careful they are as a parent. While there may be studies to support that theory, I've met more than one educated, middle-class mommy (good mommies, too) who've been reported to Child Protective Services for common household accidents to completely believe it.

Maybe it's as simple as changing building codes in urban high rises and mandating that prenatal care includes a certain amount of parent education. Or maybe there just needs to be more public service announcements reminding parents to be more vigilant. Either way, it will be worth it if more public awareness about something so basic can help save the life of a child. Parents know what it means to have your heart existing outside of your body, running around out there tempting fate. That's what it's like having a toddler, a person with unlimited energy and willpower but not a damn bit of sense. Regardless of class or educational background, we don't want anything or anyone to hurt our kids, especially themselves.

When disasters like these are avoided, it's only fitting that we celebrate the heroes. But we really shouldn't have to when a near tragedy could so easily be prevented in the first place.

Much respect to the Subway Superhero and the Window Guardian Angels for not needing their own comic book series to become heroes. And they deserve extra props just for representing and allowing America to finally see headshots of brown men on the news for something other than playing ball or being accused of a crime.


Fiddling With Hip Hop

Has anybody heard these brothers yet? My kids were going crazy over their video on Jack's Big Music Show yesterday. I searched for the Noggin video to no end – if anyone can find it online, please let me know. For now, you can hear a clip of their fresh sound on NPR.


Black to the Future

This post is purely selfish, since we all know our kids aren't here so we can live vicariously through them, and that ultimately, they have the chance to grow up and become whatever they desire. But like many parents, I can't help but look at my kids without wondering what they'll do for a living one day. So help indulge me for a minute?

J-Jo is a natural born entertainer, she's been singing and dancing almost since day one. Now that the twins are here, she's upped the ante considerably, the world is a stage as far as she's concerned. So if she becomes the next Beyonce, I'd be completely unsurprised. J-Jo's a sparkle butt, I'm sure Ms. Knowles was too at one point (and now she has the sparkly outfits and the butt to prove it). It's fine, as long as J-Jo doesn't expect me to design all her get-ups, a la Tina Knowles, 'cause I can't sew for jack. And I'd hope she'll consider the booty shaking thing kinda played out by then, so that daddy doesn't decide to kidnap her and pad lock her in her old room. But J-Jo also talks about wanting to become a veterinarian. So who knows?

ZenBaby is the classic, textbook baby who barely cried when we brought her home from the birthing center. So sweet, we thought there must have been some kind of mistake the first week we had her at home (we flinched every time the door bell rang, 'cause we knew it was her real family coming to whisk her back home to Bel Air). Nowadays, while J-Jo and their brother are playing tag all over the house, she's curled up on the couch or in the playroom with a board book. ZenBaby's our quiet, reserved child who I know fifteen years from now will either be off in the corner with War and Peace or off in her room sulking "What's wrong with those people? Surely, I must be adopted!" Probably some combination of the two. Zen's an observer and a quick study, I wouldn't be surprised if she became a novelist like her daddy. Or a judge.

And then, there's our boy. At eighteen months, L-Boogie barely says more than three words, but can sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", "Elmo's Song" and floored us over the holidays with his own rendition of "Jingle Bells". Constantly, MJ and I are glancing over at eachother as if to say "the boy can barely talk, but he can sing?" I really wouldn't be surprised if he turns out to be a musician. Especially with his middle name, Thelonious. He's got the coolness of a jazz cat, but the smile of a politician, which strangers in the supermarket have stopped me to comment on. Better a politician than a used car salesman I suppose. I'd be so proud if he ended up following the lead of Deval Patrick, the first black elected governor of Masssachusetts who was sworn into office this morning, placing his hand on the Holy Bible that had been given to John Quincy Adams, by slaves from the Amistad.

Governor Patrick's speech had me all choked up today:
''I am descended from people once forbidden their most basic and fundamental freedoms, a people desperate for hope and willing to fight for it -- and so are you,'' Patrick told the crowd. ''This commonwealth, and nation modeled on it, is at its best when we show that we understand a faith in what's possible and willingness to work for it.

''As an American, I am an optimist, but not a foolish one. I see clearly the challenges before us.''

If I was his mama, that inauguration would have been flooded with my tears. I'm talking life jackets and search parties, people. But that's not where it stops. My son's gotta crawl before he can walk, right? So let me just be completely honest and put it out there that I really wouldn't mind if L-Boogie became the next Barack Obama.

More than anything, most of us basically want our children to be happy, positive, productive people who care about making a difference in this world. That's not too much to ask.

But strictly on the employment tip – based on their current personalities – what do you see your kids doing in 2050?


Daddy Diddy's Birth Announcement

As a follow up to the bling bling baby shower, Diddy made a video to announce the December 21 birth of his twin girls to his 665,267 "friends"on his myspace page, where he defines himself as a "Princess Maker".

Over background vocals of Cheryl Pepsii Riley, Diddy expains that he flew in for the birth from a film shoot and how he and girlfriend, Kim, honored their grandmothers by creating variations of their names. The video is complete with Hooked on Phonics style graphics so that nobody trips up and misspells them. Would I be wrong to predict that the old fashioned baby naming trend might go ghetto fabulous in 2007?

Congrats, Diddy! And thanks for sparing us the shot of your entire entourage nodding their heads and sipping champagne around the birthing tub. No, really. Thank you.


The Nanny Wars

It was ninety-six degrees in the shade but I was way past the point of feeling cute in that Liz Lange swimsuit at our local pool (some maternity clothes just aren't designed for the third trimester). So while my oldest was at daycamp, I parked my pregnant self on the couch with my laptop propped upon my belly, ate watermelon – thanks to my doctor's suggestion that it reduced water retention – and browsed Craig's List for a nanny. I didn't need permanent live-in help, nor could I afford it, just someone who could help me survive the first weeks of life with our impending twins and our three year old. I needed a helper who could relate to our family both culturally and emotionally.

I hoped to find a caregiver who was experienced, reliable and if she happened to look like she could be a family member, that was all the better. I wanted someone who wouldn't make assumptions about us based on race and already knew how to do J-Jo's hair, especially when my hands were too full to make a straight part. And then I saw her: Westchester Baby Nurse. She had the kind of eyes that made her appear wiser than her presumably 50+ years. I looked at her sitting there in her white uniform, holding twins and I imagined what she'd look like holding mine. Perfect. Westchester Baby Nurse's credentials looked impressive, she had extensive amounts of experience caring for multiples and all of the things that came with it, so I decided to give her a call.

Over the phone, she seemed every bit as professional as she appeared on her website. The conversation was pleasant and cheerful as we tried to get an accurate impression of one another. We spoke two or three times at length within the next few days before setting up an afternoon to meet in person at a central location in New York City. She told me I could recognize her by her grey trenchcoat and that her hair would be in a bun. But I never got to tell her what color Mimi Maternity tank top I'd be wearing, because as soon as I began describing myself as black, she screamed "FIRE!" and hung up the phone. Okay, not exactly "FIRE!" But she hung up quickly and never called me back. Several weeks later, the nanny I thought was mine left a message on my voice mail saying she was busy with another family, and that if I still needed help, to give her agency a call. I'd been dissed by Jamaican Mary Poppins.

In the end, we went with Julie, a local, white American homemaker who was actually a concert violinist, but cared for post-partum mothers on the side. She came highly reccomended by a mommy friend of mine. Everything was fine with Julie until Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and I spent the first two days cradling babies and watching CNN, worried sick for the people who were stuck there as they screamed at the cameras for help. Julie's response: "Oh, I'm sure they'll be fine." (in a tone that said, "our good President knows exactly what he's doing."). And the next day, she tried to reprimand us for letting J-Jo watch parts of the coverage on tv.

One of the reasons I wanted a nanny of color in the first place was because I didn't want to have to deal with the politics of race under my own roof. Especially not right after delivering twins by cesarean and instantly expanding my family from three to five. I gave Julie a few more days, but the tension was too real. Rather than echoing Kanye West's famous words that befuddled Mike Myers, Mr. J and I decided to make a change: Julie didn't have to go home, but she couldn't stay here.

In the weeks that followed, we braved caring for our newborn tag team alone. Sometimes we'd wonder how we were supposed to survive. Of course we were still in love with eachother and profoundly in love with our new babies, but the bootcamp they put us through was nothing short of brutal. The only thing that kept us from strangling one another on those late nights, was the fear that one of us would be left alone and outnumbered by the tiny creatures. In the wee hours of the night, between tandem feedings and unrelenting diaper changes, I couldn't help but wonder how things would be different if Westchester Baby Nurse had looked past skin color long enough to call me back.

Eventually, the fog lifted and those early days of twinfancy finally came to a halt. Maybe it was selective memory, but I never gave any further thought to it once that period ended, until a friend of mine sent me this article about the difficulty many black families have finding nannies for their children. I found the story fascinating, especially considering African American women's history as domestic workers, particularly nannies, in this country. Families retold experiences of interviewing black nannies who refused to work for them because they were African American.

According to the New York Times, black nannies complained to their placement agencies that African American families expected more from them while paying less. Several families from areas such as Prince George's County, Maryland, were refused service by well-respected Washington DC-based nanny agencies on the grounds that the agencies do not serve their predominantly black (and affluent) area. By and large, the story provides a very revealing snapshot of race, class, gender and the modern dilemmas of raising children today.

Like some of the parents interviewed, my family does not have extended relatives who are able to help us (or even live close enough) to help us out with our childcare needs. In those early weeks after the babies were born, we were fortunate to have loving friends and family members who were willing to travel here and help us out for a few weekends in a row. Emotionally, they offered us more than a paid helper ever could have. There's no adequate wage for someone who unconditionally loves your older child whose life has just been derailed because mommy and daddy just brought two new kids home from the hospital.

You can't adequately compensate another person outside of family and close friends to adore your children because love just doesn't work that way. When all was said and done, our loved ones went back to their own lives, leaving us here in our rightful place as sole care providers for our offspring. As well they should have – but in the middle of another sleepless night, I would have gladly paid for an extra pair of hands. Twice as much for a compassionate soul who could relate to where we're coming from.