Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I am 48 hours away from delivering #3 and, in an attempt to scratch one last thing off the list before becoming a shut-in, I waddled into the local Tom Thumb to receive a flu shot.
Despite my timing -- 2 p.m. on a Wednesday -- there was a line for the shots.
"Twenty-five minutes," the pharmacist said. "Come back then."
I dutifully filled out the legal forms then padded to the fruit aisle. I picked up strawberries, swerved to the dairy case for some milk then stood in the protein bar section for half a century while contemplating the benefit of adding fig paste to my diet.
But being in the last stages of gestation and tragically forgetful, I completely forgot about the one thing I'd come to get: the flu shot.
Checking the time, I rolled my now-full cart into the check-out line, chatted with one of my favorite clerks and asked for carry-out service.
Then, I happily conversed with the customer behind me. She noted that her own bulging stomach was post due. The shopper was looking forward to a home birth.
She was buying one lone carton of Ben & Jerry's -- double brownie supreme -- which I supposed would pass as pain management for women stronger than I.
Still, it was a lovely pint, so delicate there on the rotating belt. It spun like a ballerina again and again, its chocolate-y goodness floating towards the infra-red scanner to a soulful ballad only a pregnant girl could possibly hear.
Suddenly, there was a crackle as the all-store intercom went on. A loud voice boomed forth:
Four aisles of customers began hooting and pointing at me.
I blinked.
I am, you see, so "heavily pregnant" that my ears are now apparently affected.
"That's you, Honey," said a nearby clerk, giving me a nudge.
I waved heartily to the throngs, parked my cart near the lottery vending machine and lurched toward the pharmacy.
Clearly, I should have worn another outfit.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


My five-year-old twins won't view President Obama's education address in their kindergarten classroom on September 8 because school administrators in our Texas district have deemed that it would "interrupt instructional time."
Instead, the district will stream the video online. Families can then opt in--or out--of the national dialogue.
This safe compromise was likely made to soothe conservative voices here who worry the President's short speech would aim to indoctrinate their youngsters into the Democratic party--or worse--a "socialist way" of thinking.
And while I haven't yet seen the speech as I write this, I can tell you from my professional experience covering local, state and national education issues as a newspaper reproter for more than 10 years that few presidential addresses of this type given in the classroom release bombshells. My prediction is that Obama's speech will be fairly neutral in tone and offer nice photo ops for the press corps.
As a parent of three, however, it is greatly refreshing to see the public's interest in the content our children are exposed to in our nation's public schools--I only wish we as a group would pay more attention to the subtle types of indoctrination that happens every day.
For example, last week--on the second day of kindergarten--my twins bopped home from our tony community's premier elementary school with camoflague-colored dog tags hanging around their necks from metal chains.
While my kids thought nothing of this, I brought context to such symbols.
Dog tags, after all, are an indellible symbol of warfare. In fact, such dog tags are manufactured to be thin and small so they can be sewen into the mouths of dead soilders and thus help those in field mortuaries identify the fallen.
By sending home such a symbol, my public school is sending a subtle message that they not only approve of warfare--but wholeheartedly endorse it. Moreover, they're telling my young children to be proud foot soldiers.
On the fourth day of kindergarten, my children returned home with fliers listing half a dozen fast-food restaurants that will return a portion of our bill to our public school in an effort to raise funds for educational endeavors.
"Mom," said my daughter Elizabeth, "we have to go eat pizza tonight to help our school!"
As it turns out, we can spend every night this week--and every night for the remaining school year according to these fliers--at fast-food joints raising money for our school.
Of course, nutritionists--many who work for the state's department of health--would tell us that to take the advice of our premier elementary school would be to risk the health of my family. My children would become obese, contract diabetes and ruin their hearts.
Yet, the subtle message from the public school is 'Due your duty and help out your school.'
On the sixth day of school, instructional time in our kindergarten was handed over to two uniform-clad high school football players who signed autographs in promotion of their first big home game. They also read two books to the children, but this last detail was forgotten by my kids who reported only the shimmering uniforms and the deep, impressive voices of the handsome players.
It is likely, too, that they subconsciously picked up on the school's subtle message that sports are of the utmost importance here in Texas, that male athletes should be revered above others, that strength of body trumps strength of spirit or mind.
This is why, even as a longtime card-carrying member of the Democratic party and big Obama supporter, I'm thrilled to have passionate conversations about indoctrination. But let's not limit the discussion to the President's 10-minute speech. As parents, we need to be aware of and address the subtle everyday messages our public schools are giving our kids.
I only wish our school district would give us the option of streaming some of these other messages via video.