Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Toy story


This was the morning after the day before, aka Boxing Day back home. That's Louis, surrounded by all his presents. Well, almost all of them. Great-grandpa's lamb (Baa-rack Obaa-ma) was hanging out in Louis' crib along with his stripy elephant. And there were a few more items of clothing. Suffice to say he did very well out of his first Christmas even if Santa did forget to visit. (In Santa's defence, he knew Grandma Penny was in town.) A lack of stockings notwithstanding, Louis thought Christmas was great. All that attention. All those gifts. All that wrapping paper. Yum. 

Now that Louis' toy box is bursting at the seams, what I want to know is, who exactly invented toys? And why did they bother? I say that not to sound churlish given the recent generosity of close friends and family members but because half the time it's a struggle even to interest Louis in his toys. After all, why play with something that's been specially designed for a baby when you could play with something far more exciting. Like the telephone flex. Or the DVD recorder. Or Mommy's hair. 

Given the choice of his very own frog mobile phone and Mommy's, he'll pick Mommy's every time. And as for his special "Where's the bone" soft book versus the dirty newspaper? No contest. Always the paper. If I dangle a toy in front of him when he's on my lap, nine times out of ten he'll opt for my belt buckle. My double bluff necklace-cum-teether has him fooled sometimes, but he still much prefers grabbing the silver necklace I got for my birthday. Today he excelled himself, crawling under a table to unearth an old poster tube; far more fun than his rainmaker percussion tube I ordered specially from Mothercare. Then there's the Christmas tree; far better to grab one of its tempting low branches than a building block. 

Looking on the bright side, if LJ is so easily pleased with the various bits and bobs lying around the house, he'll be a cheap date growing up. Just as well given the outlook for the economy and my wage packet. 





Saturday, December 20, 2008

District of Christmas




Five Santa bobble hats; four Christmas sweaters; three model train sets; two reindeer deely boppers; one giant Menorah. Such is the holiday season Stateside, where grown women - and men - think it okay to parade around town in outfits more suited for their local pre-school's last day of term. Top spots thus far include a jaunty Christmas jumper complete with white pom-poms on a Kennedy Centre show goer last night; matching reindeer antlers on a Mom and daughter out shopping in Boston; and flashing Christmas lights on a SUV's front grille. 

Considering large swathes of the country's early settlers didn't even celebrate Christmas (the Puritans who wound up in Massachusetts set sail partly to escape such Old World customs with their Church of England ties), Americans have sure made up for lost time. Cheesy Christmas light displays are old hat over here, so Yuletide aficionados have to show their devotion in other ways. Less wearing your heart on your sleeve and more wearing your Holiday decorations out of the house. 

The trick though is not forgetting that the holiday season here is about more than just Christmas. Saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" is something of a faux pas. The city will get a reminder about how PC DC is tomorrow when a giant Menorah joins the giant Christmas tree on the White House lawn. People don't have Christmas parties here; they have holiday parties. I should know: I've been to three, including one Louis helped host for his fellow yogi-babies. (The other two were Mum's and John's work do's.)

Louis is making the most of his first ever Christmas and checking out all of DC's festive sights. His favourite so far is the Botanic Garden's Windows to Wonderland exhibition. The centrepiece of this homage to kitsch is a poinsettia-bedecked replica National Mall complete with landmarks crafted out of natural plant parts. That's the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial behind Louis above. There's also a special Christmas model train display, model trains being a quintessentially American Christmas tradition. Who knew? 

Trains have apparently been circling Christmas trees here since the early 1900s when model train sets were the gift of choice for a certain class of kid. Space at Christmas being at a premium - all those relatives, all those presents - the only place for the tracks was round the tree. Or so the popular history goes. Daddy J is already eyeing up which train set he can buy Louis. Next year.  

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sophie and fans

                                    Louis and Sophie
                                    May and Sophie
                                   Alex and Sophie

It's a cliche, but the old ones are the best. I'm talking, of course, about baby toys. Specially, about a certain 1961 hand-made rubber number that is the hot teething toy among a particular strata of DC moms. (And happening Bermondsey ones.) Let me introduce Sophie La Girafe, who has achieved cult toy status on both sides of the Atlantic without so much as a celebrity endorsement. 

Louis has been a fan for the past month or so, but it's only now, with his first tooth rearing its pearly little head through his inflamed pink gum, that I've remembered I need to spread the word about Sophie to any non-believers out there. At first glance, the dappled rubber giraffe may not grab you as much of a looker. Granted, there are many fancier looking teething toys. Take Louis' vibrating star for example. But behind Sophie's simple face lies a gem of a toy. Her squeezey, squeaky body has just the right number of extremities in just the right places for even a tiny baby to grab and the sensation of natural rubber against a sore gum provides just the sort of relief that itchy teeth coming through require. Well, that's Louis' verdict anyway.

It was May, pictured above, who first alerted me to Sophie's existence. (Or her Mum, Jill, to be precise.) Next thing I knew Lisa was raving about Alex's Sophie (also pictured above). Suddenly there were Sophies everywhere. Almost every baby at yoga seemed to be knawing on one in between their downward dogs. So, of course, Louis just had to join in. For any Sophie virgins out there, she's Amazonable (isn't everything?) and if you pay the special delivery charge then your baby too can have a Sophie in time for Christmas. Or, more importantly, in time for that mouthful of choppers to arrive. 

PS. I take it back about the lack of celebrity endorsements: Sophie La Girafe's UK homepage features Harlow Madden (who is none other than Nicole Ritchie's daughter - not that you'd know from the name) having a good old chomp. Looks like Sophie's underground days are numbered. 


Monday, December 15, 2008

Missing: kitchen kudos


If writers get writers' block when they can't think of something to write, then what happens to chefs when they can't come up with a new recipe? I ask because I used to think myself fairly handy in the kitchen. I'd count a quick post work game of Ready Steady Cook using the dregs of the weekly vegetable box and our kitchen cupboard as relaxation. Back in Tbilisi, I even used to fancy myself as a bit of a Nigella mark two: true, her  cookery column was for Vogue while mine appeared in  the Georgian Times but I saw that as a mere detail. 

That, however, was all B.L. I refer, of course, to the time before I had Louis. The days when my brain was my own and I took having two hands at my disposal for granted. Becoming a Mom has done something funny to my culinary imagination, turning my mind to Jello when I try to think of anything to cook. And I don't mean funny ha-ha. I see now why pregnancy books tell you to stock your freezers full of homemade meals before the baby turns up: post-partum you will struggle to think of anything to eat bar hummus and crackers. Sorry, I mean chips and dip. 

I now find planning meals up there with planning a wedding in the stressful stakes. And as for completing a supermarket shop in one go, forget it. Sometimes I go back to the store three times in a single day. And even then we can be out of milk come morning. Occasionally I imagine I have re-found smidgeons of my previous kitchen kudos. I made a passably good stuffed aubergine dish when Mum came, and I can knock up a decent stir fry. But then I'll go and do something truly awful, like the butternut squash and spinach lasagne I invented the other night when John invited a couple of work friends. Why? (As an aside, I'm convinced US butternut squashes are way sweeter than their UK counterparts, like everything here, but that's an entry for another time.)

There is one flip side of having Louis though. Now that he's started solids, I've found a level of cooking I can cope with. Steaming and whizzing a batch of carrots was strangely satisfying the other night. And judging by Louis' face after he'd finished eating, it hit the spot for him too. It's no picnic though, preparing baby food. I realise now why it took one friend the best part of her Sundays to prepare her son's weekly meals. At the time, I thought she must have exaggerated how long it took to mash up a few veggies, but I take it all back. It's time consuming stuff. If you don't believe me, try shoving four giant sweet potatoes through a sieve. (Daddy J pleaded sweet potato elbow after just five minutes of helping me.) What I'll do when Louis gets on to needing more sophisticated combinations I'm not sure. I can already imagine turning to the very Annabel Karmel baby recipes I seem to recall scoffing at back in the days B.L. 

Not breakfast in bed but Louis in his makeshift Boston hotel room highchair...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Louis Boston


I'm the kind of person who walks through life looking for signs. I'm also the kind of person who walks through cities trying to picture myself living there. So I clearly thought Fate was working overtime when I stumbled upon a store called - wait for it - Louis Boston - when wandering through, yes, Boston last week. And not just any store, either. A super high end, Barneys eat-your-heart-out kind of a store. My kind of store, in other words. Well, in my dreams at least.

I'm not letting the fact that we couldn't even afford a roll of wrapping paper interfere with the message I'm sure some higher force was sending me. (Or the fact that the store was so baby unfriendly that without Daddy J's help Master Louis Boston himself would never have seen the inside. Honestly, for a country that's supposedly so litigious I'm staggered at how hard it would be to get around in a wheelchair. Haven't the Yanks heard of ramps?)

We were in Boston, clocking up Louis' fourth American state in three months, to visit Grandma Penny who was there for her firm's holiday party. And a week's work, of course. She kindly squeezed us into her hotel room, which was no mean feat given we needed a crib as well. With Louis in tow we did less of the hard core history buff stuff that I'd done when there a decade or so ago with Mum and Grandpa and more of the street pounding, imaginary flat hunting sort of stuff that is my favourite sort of city sight seeing. 

Louis Boston aside, DJ's highlight was the Mapparium, a 3m high glass model of the globe that you can walk through. Built in 1935, it's on show at the city's Christian Science Plaza. Excitingly for the young newspups among us, the Mapparium was inspired by the New York Daily News' spinning globe back when the Christian Science Monitor was a newspaper to be reckoned with. Given DJ's map obsession, getting to stand in the centre of a giant globe was like all his birthdays and Christmases coming at once. Louis thought it was pretty cool too, especially the acoustics: his "Mamamamamaing" reverberated superbly around the world, bouncing from the Soviet Union to French West Africa via British India. (Geopolitically, the world is stuck with its pre-WWII territorial boundaries.) 

Other Boston sights we managed to tick off included Harvard, John Kerry's house and JP Licks - a famous ice-cream joint that had come highly recommended by one of my American Mom friends who went to school there. Aside from brushing up my revolutionary American history, the best fact I learnt during our stay was that Bostonians eat more ice cream per capita than any other US citizens. Quite a feat given how cold it can - and did - get. Something to look forward to when we settle down there! 



Friday, November 28, 2008

Momification

Mom takes a break in Chicago

I'm sure the last thing Michelle Obama needs is my sympathy. But, hey, she's got it anyway. The reason? Her vilification in some corners of the press for her recent "momification". Old school feminists are aghast that someone as intelligent and successful as Michelle Obama could deign to swap a highly lucrative job for the (unpaid) post of First Mom. They bemoan the loss of her "independent identity" and fret about the example it sets modern women the world over. Not for them a life where the biggest strategic decision is where to school your kids. (The prestigious Sidwell Friends, if you're wondering.) 

Yet, others believe that in ditching her $300,000-a-year job as vice-president at the University of Chicago Medical Centre to become a stay-at-home Mom, Michelle is just exercising her right to choose: choice being the ultimate victory of the women's movement after all. 

I'm battling with a similar choice myself just now. The Independent is (once again) seeking volunteers to take redundancy. Is this a gifthorse I shouldn't overlook or would unemployment be a waste of years of graft and a pretty decent education? I'm in an agony of indecision. Although I'd like to look to Michelle for inspiration, my problem is that while she will have law firms falling over themselves to make her partner in four or even eight years' time, I'll be lucky if newspapers still even exist by then. Maybe I should just stay put and shut up. Although who then, would look after Louis? The Independent's impending move from the Isle of Dogs (just down the road) to High Street Kensington isn't helping much either. I hardly think Associated Newspapers will have a creche. As someone pointed out, the Mail doesn't even like women wearing trousers let alone Mums coming to work. Answers on a postcard, please.

Black Friday


Thanksgiving may be billed as the biggest day of the year for Americans. But it turns out that the turkey eating fest is actually a sideshow to November's main event: Black Friday. That's the day the holiday shopping season kicks off. (Apart from in Chicago, where it begins the day after the Christmas parade along the Magnificent Mile, pictured above.) 

Unlike in the UK, retailers here don't pretend they intend to wait until after Christmas to slash their prices. Maybe it's because there is no Boxing Day in the US and hence no Boxing Day sales, or maybe it's because America just likes to do things differently. Either way, shoppers are sharpening their elbows for what are expected to be record bargains given the collapse in retail sales. Some stores are offering up to 75 per cent off. 

But even that might not be enough for some families. With finances so tight this year, something has to give when it comes to Christmas shopping. Recent sales figures suggest that something is the time honoured festive tradition of Moms doing a little cheeky shopping on the side for themselves while playing Santa. Women's clothing sales nosedived last month, forcing retailers from Barneys to Benetton into some savage discounting. A New York Times piece this week said Moms were holding back and digging clothes out from the back of their wardrobes just so they could afford their children's wishlists. 

Nobody tell Louis! As it happens, just before reading that story, I'd decided that my need for a new pair of jeans that actually fit should take precedence over his Christmas presents. After all, surely a kid has to be able to write before he can tell Father Christmas what he'd like? I could have taken back the jeans (and the cardigan) I bought but frankly Louis's needs have already topped mine for the last 18 months and I figured it was time to fight back. A little. While I still can. As for DC's Black Friday, we'll be testing out the Georgetown sales tomorrow with Charlie, who jets in tonight for a couple of days. You never know, if Louis's very lucky maybe she'll buy him a Christmas present.  



Saturday, November 22, 2008

(Anti) Stroller Stress


               A cheery Louis in his (forward-facing) buggy

Hear that? No, not the sirens of a(nother) passing cavalcade, but the sound of smug parents patting themselves on the back for splashing out on the baby buggy equivalent of a Maserati. If slightly more eco-friendly. 

How so? All those dollars (or pounds) spent on one of the ubiquitous Bugaboos or Martian-like Stokkes you see around  have just been vindicated by a new study suggesting that babies left to eyeball the pavement in strollers that face away from their Moms risk being stunted developmentally. The theory goes that babies who face their Moms benefit from her constant waffling as she marches them along the pavement in her own version of pramaerobics. All her chit chat means they are more likely to talk, laugh and interact as a result. And they're less stressed than their forward-facing peers too. Apparently. 

What I want to know, though, is what happens when just being in the buggy - Mom facing or not - stresses out your baby? My own extremely unscientific study of two (that's Louis and his friend Soph) suggests that babies are much happier in their (much cheaper) baby slings than their state-of-the-art strollers. They certainly get plenty of chit chat when carried around at chin level. The only danger there is they get too much: one baby book I read warned that babies could start to tune you out if you talked TOO much to them! On that basis, Louis probably stopped listening to me at least three months ago....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Road to the White House

                     Louis outside the Smithsonian "Castle"

Amid the excitement of Barack Obama's election as the next president, I managed to miss one poignant coincidence: America voted for its first black leader on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of its greatest black leader to date, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. That quirk of timing was underlined at a moving exhibition we chanced upon this week about the civil rights movement that ultimately set Obama on his path to the White House. 

In the depths of one of the lesser known Smithsonian institutions, the International Museum, is a photo exhibition called Road to Freedom, graphically charting a struggle for equality that started with Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1968, the last of the three great legislative milestones of the 1960s civil rights movement. It's hard, today, to imagine a world where Louis's grandparents couldn't have gone to school with our great friend Nikki's, Mum; or where I couldn't have sat on a bus with my news editor, Peter, let alone sat next to him at work. But that was the reality of life just one generation ago. 

The photos told the story of the largely peaceful battle for basic human rights in graphic and tear-jerking detail. Among the most memorable was one showing a motel owner in Florida, a state that just voted for Obama, pouring chemicals into a swimming pool to try and get rid of the blacks protesting their right to be there. Another depicted the hatred etched on the faces of a white female mob taunting Elizabeth Eckford, who made history by becoming the the first black student to integrate a major southern high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Then there were the many shots of a young Jesse Jackson, who would survive to become a veteran of the civil rights movement; little wonder he shed so many tears during Obama's acceptance speech in Grant Park on 4 November. 

The exhibition was the perfect preamble to another Louis and I visited yesterday at the City Museum about the 1968 race riots in DC. Again, how amazing to think that just one generation ago a city - America's capital - was ripped apart by black versus white antipathy sparked by Dr King's assassination and yet in two months exactly a black man will be sworn in as president. I'm not sure Louis quite appreciates the tumultuous events going on around him, but it's nice to think that one day he will.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sling Envy

Louis in the Ergo

Tommy, Lila and Louis in various Ergos; Alex and Esther in the Mobys
                                      Sophie in the Bjorn

Back home, if you fancy carrying your baby around town instead of pushing it in a buggy, your hands-free options are pretty limited. There's basically the Baby Bjorn or the Baby Bjorn. A few daring souls might try the Kari-Me, metres and metres of stretchy material that supposedly wraps around the body to create a kangaroo-esque pouch for your prized cargo, but are unlikely to make it further than the corner shop before dashing home, scared of their baby plopping out on the pavement. 

But in America, land of opportunity, the baby "wearing" options are a different story. I had only to go to my first nursing group at the local breastfeeding centre to have the entire gamut of baby slings paraded before my jetlagged eyes. There was the Moby, the Maya Wrap, the Mei Tai, the Peanut Shell, the Hotsling, the Ergo and, yes, the Bjorn. Then there was the circular discussion over the merits of one baby carrier over another. One particular group of Moms would have the same conversation each time they met about the evils of the Bjorn versus the Moby. Or was it the Ergo versus the Maya Wrap? I forget.

Baby carrying over here even has its own Mom 'n' Pop philosophy: "attachment parenting", which says that babies who are "worn" non-stop feel more secure and loved than other babies and are happier and cry less as a result. And which sleep-deprived new Mum wouldn't buy into that? 

Me for one. Yup, when it comes to obsessing about carrying babies, I am, I readily confess, as guilty as the next Mom. I might have been hopelessly disorganised before Louis's birth, but the one thing I knew I wanted was the Ergo, in part because a friend had recommended it and in part because I was desperate to avoid the ubiquity of the Bjorn. Pre-birth, I read and re-read my Babygami book (a present from G'ma P), which was full of different ways to concoct your own baby sling from the nearest tablecloth or pashmina. John's sister sent me a Peanut Shell from California and I even walked to Borough Market (and back) nine days after my C-section, to borrow a Kari-Me from a friend just so I'd have all my sling bases covered. And yes, I also had, and used - and even liked - the Bjorn. 

So when an online storm broke out here this week about a painkiller maker mocking Moms for wearing their babies as fashion accessories and doing untold damage to their backs in the process, I felt the Momosphere pain. The ads, for Motrin, claimed women "put up with the pain [of baby wearing] because it totally makes me look like an official Mom". The ads, which aired during International Babywearing Week, have now been pulled. Meanwhile, I've "worn" Louis round DC for the past three days straight. Does my back hurt? You bet, but five months into Momhood and I've, like, totally learned that there's literally no gain without pain. And in this case avoiding Louis's mid-afternoon stroller squawks by toting him around town has to be worth it.

  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rainbow Rally



It's no secret that babies know a thing or two about protesting. They protest when they're hungry, tired, wet, hot, cold.... So today I decided it was time to teach Louis that protests aren't just a one way street. To cap a fortnight of major firsts for him (the election, the yoga retreat), I took him on his first protest march. I also scored him his first ride in a cop car. Could a five-month-old boy's day get any better? 

The focus of DC's dissent was last week's shock vote banning gay marriage in California. Yes, California, that liberal blue bastion where voters voted for Obama and a ban on battery farming at the same time that they backed Proposition 8, outlawing previously legal same-sex marriages in the state. Sara, a fellow Mother Yogi and one of Louis' friend Alex's two Mommies, invited us to tag along on the rally. That's Alex's stroller you can see above with the 'My Moms are Gr8' placard. 

In true DC style, the march kicked off from the reflecting pool in front of the Capitol, destination the White House. Anti Prop 8 protesters made for a colourful bunch. The artwork on some of the signs was pretty nifty too. My favourite: "California 4 November: Chickens 1, Gays 0." From his vantage point of my shoulder, Louis took center stage, as ever. His beaming face was captured on camera phone after camera phone. I swear he thought the chanting hoards had gathered purely for his benefit.

But back to the cop car. So there we were, the wrong side of the Mall - thanks to the G20's attempt to save the financial world the protesters had to take the long route round - when the heavens opened. The rain was torrential. My pathetic umbrella barely covered us and that was before the wind whipped the rain sideways. Hardly baby friendly. Luckily the police trailing the march were, beckoning us into their patrol car to escape the weather. Louis couldn't believe his luck and I could hardly get him out when the rain eventually eased. 

If that was the highlight of our day, then the marchers' came when the clouds briefly parted to reveal not a silver lining but a gay pride rainbow. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yoga-ga Retreat




Just five months into life, and Louis has already ticked off one of his Mom's enduring new year's resolutions. No, not giving up chocolate. I figure you can't give up something you haven't taken up yet. Our budding yogini has been on a yoga retreat. Organised by his guru, Carol, the retreat was specifically for babies under six months old. But because Louis knew how much I'd always wanted to go on the ultimate escape, he kindly let me come along too. 

Carol, pictured above in the last photo, couldn't have picked a better day for the retreat. Louis was feeling particularly frazzled after a tricky night when he'd had vocally to tell his Mom on several occasions that yes he really did need to eat again and no his chubby little belly wasn't still full from his last feed. It turned out that his fellow yogini, Alex, had had a similarly tough night with his Mom, Lisa, so Louis was in good company. 

The retreat was out in Great Falls, a national park near here. It got off to a slightly worrying start when the lady who owned the studio put on a special kids yoga DVD featuring several very indoctrinated looking children dressed in white chanting 'I am happy' over and over again (Gma Penny would not have been impressed), but quickly picked up once the baby cobra session got under way. Louis regained his inner tranquility very quickly and was soon gurgling 'oms' with his four fellow yoginis (Alex, Lila, Tommy and Esther). As the oldest baby there, Louis began the class by showing off his upward dog to the rest of the gang. Later, he even let his Mom do a little yoga - you can see him helping her out with her Warrior I, above. 

All this yoga seems to be doing scary things to the development of LJ's motor skills. Much to his Mom's horror, he has already mastered the knack of 'creeping' - a precursor to crawling she fears, which involves him spinning round and backing up on any surface he gets placed. Life as she knows it could soon be over.




Veterans Day




At home, we have Remembrance Sunday; here, there is Veterans Day. The same thing, you might think, but after observing 11 November in DC I'd beg to differ. With many more recent veterans in the US than in the UK, the day has an immediacy that it can lack in Britain. Nowhere brought that home more forcibly than the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It is unique among the many war memorials on the Mall for its simplicity and power. Perhaps understandably, it lacks the hubris of the World War II memorial, pictured above with its fountains galore; instead, the 58,000-plus names etched into the site's black granite walls, visible behind an appropriately solemn Louis, simply tell the story of war's futility.   

It must have been the Mom thing, because walking through the wreath-strewn memorial yesterday afternoon with Louis I couldn't help but hope fervently that somehow the President-elect can see a way to make good with his election promise and end the blood shed in Iraq. It's hard to believe that Bush, during the eight years he has spent in Washington, could ever have even visited the memorial if he thought that sanctioning the war was a good idea. The Mom thing meant I found myself worrying in case Louis ever had to - or wanted to - fight for his country. 

We missed the service proper to mark the day, but did catch an enduringly poignant Last Post being played at the Vietnam Women's Memorial (it gets an apostrophe, the Vets, apparently, don't). There is nowhere like Washington's Mall on 11 November. The memorials read like a roll call to battles past and draw a crowd commensurate as a result. While in Britain, it can be hard to spot a war veteran, here there is no such difficulty because men - and women - shout it out loud and proud, most obviously from their Vietnam Vets-branded baseball caps. And if you'd forgotten to bring one with you, then no worries: the souvenir carts lining the sidewalks along the Mall had plenty spare, plus Veterans Day caps, T-shirts, pins, flags and medals. After all, a federal holiday is not a holiday without a shopping opportunity. We left empty handed but with a better sense of America's recent history. Where will they put the Iraq Vets Memorial, I wonder? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

For rent


For rent: "cosy" two-bed condo, plenty of cream walls and minimal windows. Sleeps four (small) adults and two babies. Could squeeze additional small child into walk-in closet. Rate: sky-high for inauguration weekend. 

Canny DC residents are posting ads like this all over the web as the city's 95,000 hotel rooms fill up ahead of 20 January so Louis thought he should also get in on the action. (That's the front door to our apartment pictured behind Louis and his Mom above.) Listen hard, and in between the incessant sirens you can hear phones ringing non-stop as friends of friends of friends seek out anyone they know in Washington in the quest for a place to crash on 20 January. It's already floor space only in many apartments; expect a rush on airbeds in Target. 

Pundits expect Obamamania to draw a crowd of 1.5 million plus, topping the previous record set for a presidential parade at Lyndon B Johnson's swearing in back in 1965. That is, if people can actually make it to DC. Seats on flights into town are already selling out. Louis has already resigned himself to missing the inauguration proper: the 250,000 tickets will be available only to Americans via their Congressmen - not, as some reports suggest, via eBay for $40,000. In fact, it will be a federal offence to sell a ticket. But he is hoping at least to catch a glimpse of Mr President-elect as he makes his way down Pennsylvania Avenue from Capitol Hill to the White House. Failing that, maybe he could score a ticket to one of the capital's evening balls: tradition has it that Barack and Michelle will show their faces at many of them for a quick dance. Louis is practising his moves in anticipation (video link to follow). 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yes we could - by Daddy J


Five days on it's still sinking in. I didn't dare believe my luck when they reassigned me from McCain HQ in Arizona to Chicago for election night. I thought I had probably jinxed the entire Obama campaign. But I didn't - I was there for the ultimate "I was there" moment. Didn't get the t-shirt - I'm supposed to be part of the dispassionate BBC after all - but I guess a badge and a handful of indelible memories will do.

In fact, merchandise is a key element of the Obama phenomenon. I was dispatched to interview the Obama army as they queued to get into Grant Park in the unseasonably balmy dusk and the atmosphere was much more rock concert than political rally - hot dog stands, self-conscious trendies and memorabilia stalls that would put the Stones to shame. The festival vibe continued in the makeshift arena inside the park complete with VIP zone (Spike, Brad and Oprah were all there), big screens, and fainting teenage girls being pulled from the crowd.

It was all a bit difficult to get used to. I'm used to doing "cool" stuff during my down time of course (fatherhood notwithstanding), but my working life is supposed to be, well, serious. It's not that I've never enjoyed what I do, its just that I've always thought of it as a bit niche and nerdy - and here I was with the hottest ticket in town. Turns out Obama's made politics cool. 

Even more paradoxically, despite delivering the biggest landslide for the Democrats since 1964, it also strikes me that Obama has done a huge disservice to left wing politics. I'd lost count of the number of people I've spoken to in Europe and over here who thought an Obama presidency impossible because "they" would never let it happen. Some fingered the corporations who rigged the 2000 election for Bush and were now producing voting machines that somehow turned votes for the Democrat into votes for McCain - a favorite complaint among Obama footsoldiers. Others - more popular abroad this one - thought that the spooks who run the American war machine would see to it that Mr Obama would meet some kind of accident. 

But Obama's win blows the conspiracy theories out of the park. It turns out that, in America at least, individual talent and determination can defeat established interests. So while conservatives may have lost control of the US government, they can console themselves that their view of how the world works could have had no more effective endorsement. 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Jobs for the boys

Keen as Louis is on his burgeoning career as a newspup, he is excited by news today that he can apply for a job in President-elect Obama's new administration. Yes, really. Taking his "anything is possible" creed to the max, Obama is giving ordinary Joes (and Josephs and Louis's) the chance to join his team. Application forms are available at Change.gov, Obama's new website, but competition for posts is expected to be intense given Americans' new sense of self-belief following the African-American's election victory. 

Given Obama's obsession with young voters, Louis reckons that at five months and two days he is aptly qualified to advise the new president on the issues that really matter. Never mind better public schools, top of Louis's policy list would be opening new toy shops and running more baby-focused classes. His Mom has failed to find him any swimming lessons and the only music class she has managed to get him into is decidedly lame. So far he's had one teacher who was tone deaf and one suffering from laryngitis.

Three days in and Louis is already impressed with the President-elect's priorities. In his first press conference today, Obama revealed that getting his children a puppy to take with them to the White House was up there with solving the economic crisis and responding to the Iranian leader in terms of importance. Asked what breed the new dog would be, Obama said probably a "mutt" like him. Maybe the new dog could apply for a post within the administration: he could be in charge of sniffing out all the political rats standing in Obama's way.  

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hold the front page


Despite my new found addiction to blogging, as a (former?) print journalist I feel I must record an event second only in terms of historic significance to the election of a black president. I speak, of course, of the unprecedented sight of people queueing round the block - round the block!! - to get their hands on a newspaper. Yes, that's right: that 20th century phenomenon widely reputed to be on its last legs was such hot property in cities across America today that entire print runs sold out. (One can only hope the same was true in the UK for the Independent or I seriously might have to become a full-time blogger, sorry, I meant Mum.) 

The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times, were among those titles to rush special commemorative issues to the presses this afternoon in an attempt to satiate the demand that saw people queuing into the night outside drugstores across DC, such as the one on Dupont Circle snapped above by our young blogger, in the hope of getting their hands on a copy. This was despite newspapers upping their print runs by as much as a third. By lunchtime, even the Post's newsrooms had been stripped bare of the mountains of copies that normally lie around creating a fire hazard, one local source told us. 

For all those left disappointed by the restrictions placed on purchases - our local CVS was only allowing those queueing to buy one copy each - Louis has graciously offered to print off copies of his live election day blogging for free. He just asks that you send him a stamped address envelope. He'll even throw in some previously unreported footage, in the manner of those special edition DVDs that get rushed out for Christmas. 

The new dawn


After missing the euphoria of last night's spontaneous gathering at the White House, Louis and I set off before the crack of dawn in search of a little post-election magic of our own. Our destination: the Lincoln Memorial, site of Martin Luther King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech and unofficial totem of the US civil rights movement. The thinking was that DC's all-night revellers would wind up here, lured by the monument's symbolism after the country's choice of its new president elect, allowing us to catch a little of the Obama vibe. 

But perhaps our logic was too subtle for the city's party-weary Obamaites because we had the place largely to ourselves. As we stood, waiting for the new day to break through the remnants of the previous night's rain clouds, it was impossible not to dwell on the metaphor of that Wednesday's new dawn; not to mull over the way that Obama's election had changed the course of American history forever. Here, I must nail my colours as a history graduate firmly to the mast, and one who specialised in US history at that, including the Civil War. The enormity of Obama's election in states such as Virginia, which was once the soul of the Confederacy, cannot be overstated.

How many other Brits today must, like me, have wished just a little bit that they were American so that they could claim Obama's victory as their own? And this admission from someone who has enjoyed watching the country's gradual fall from grace as the world's pre-eminent power these past few months. Yet which non-Americans, during Obama's moving acceptance speech as president-elect, didn't wish that this also was their moment, their time to "open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can." 

It must be something to do with becoming a Mum because ever since Louis was born, the news has seemed unrelentingly grim, making me wonder what sort of a world I have brought him into. Obama's election, for once, gives me hope that it could just be a good one. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blogged out!

Can you believe I was just hovering over his crib willing him to wake up? There are fireworks lighting up the sky over Georgetown, car horns beeping wildly and cheers echoing through the night air. Even the rain has stopped and now I'm dying to hit the streets. What a shame little Louis is blogged out! Doesn't he realise that he's sleeping through history? 

P.S. He actually woke up and watched Obama's Grant Park speech. But we've probably all had quite enough excitement for one day. Tomorrow is another one after all. 

The Glorious 44th!


Bringing you a babieswhobrunch projection: he's done it. Easily. CNN has Obama at 207 to McCain's 95 but here on the bwb hill we're going to go all out and say, all hail the first African-American president elect of the United States. Now that's progress. Just think, when Obama was born, Washington, DC was still a segregated city. But come 20 January, a black(ish) man and his family will be moving into the White House. Champagne on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at dawn tomorrow it is! 

Election Fever

If elections are like a bug then today was the day that DC needed hospitalising. The city went election crazy, with almost everyone we passed proudly touting their "I voted" lapel stickers. Cafes, shops and bars were all falling over themselves to cash in on the political vibe. Voters who got up early to brave the polling queues were able to boost their blood sugar levels with free doughnuts at Krispy Kreme and coffee on tap at Starbucks. 

Louis and I had our taster of election fever at Busboys and Poets, DC's own mini Grant Park for Obama fans. The cafe-cum-bookstore is hot on progressive political tomes, mainly featuring Barack. By tea time, its red, blue and white festooned walls were already bursting and we barely squeezed in. My Obama baby (as oppose to a "Drill, baby, drill", as one man put it) was a big hit. He certainly enjoyed himself, giggling and smiling away, much to the delight of the gathered Barack acolytes. For a five month old, he wasn't bad company, either and seemed more than up for partying all night. But after a couple of hours of utter over stimulation my Mummy conscience got the better of me and I dragged him away. (I must have already broken every rule in the baby books by even taking him in the first place.)

So now we're back at the flat watching the elections results roll in, and with the networks all calling Pennsylvania for Obama, Louis and I are finally starting to believe in the dream. (He was up just now to check on the result - it's all a bit too exciting for him to stay asleep.) CNN is showing a very flat looking Republican party at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona: lucky, lucky DJ for landing the Chicago gig instead of that one. 

Breaking news: Obama has won Ohio, the swing state featured in an earlier post. No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. Could it already be game, set and match Barack at barely half-past nine? I sure am regretting not splashing out on that airfare to Chicago....


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Glorious 4th?


Louis and I have temporarily given up trying to find us an election party to crash and intend to focus instead on some live blogging. So far we can bring you the breaking news that: polling has started in 26 states and New Yorkers are queueing up with.... their dogs. Never let it be said that babieswhobrunch doesn't bring you the big stories! And Obama has just cast his ballot in an unseasonably warm Chicago. It took him about 15 minutes of scratching his head in the poll booth, so let's hope he ticked the right box. 

Meanwhile, DJ may be grateful for the unusual November warmth in Chicago, where he's spending most of the next 24 hours outside, but here on the east coast the weather gods have been less kind. It's pouring in Virginia, a key swing state, which never bodes well for getting people out to vote. I was planning a trip to Alexandria, a DC suburb, which is in Virginia, so that Louis could entertain the voters queueing at the polling stations but am having second thoughts....

Update from our Boston correspondent, aka Gma Penny who flew up there this morning: Bostonians are queueing round the block at the Boston Public Library, which her cab driver said was a first. For what it's worth, he was v gloomy, peddling the line that the voting machines had all been tampered with so that a vote for Obama would simply register as one for McCain. Maybe that's why Obama took his time in Chicago! 

Although, Karl Rove (Bush's former spin meister) of all people is predicting 338-200 electoral vote victory for Obama, which would be the biggest margin since 1996. One thing is for sure, if McCain scoops it then a lot of pollsters will be looking for new jobs. 

Whose day?

You know when grown ups - and by grown ups, I mean parents - used to say that birthdays were nothing special? Insist they were 'just another day'? Well, today, my first birthday as a Mum, I fear I may have got an inkling of what they were on about. Not that today wasn't special; for starters my own Mum concocted a business trip and flew across the Atlantic to spend the day with me because she knew DJ would be somewhat distracted on matters presidential.

But despite the cards and the presents - not to mention my own Mum's presence - for the first time in my life someone else took precedence over me on 3 November. No prizes for guessing who. Yes, the little chappie pictured above in his own birthday cardigan (bought by his Grandma literally on his birth day). Not that he was any particular trouble. He was just Louis being Louis, with his usual mix of smiles, laughs, cuddles, goos and, okay, the occasional little grumble when he had buggy fatigue/hunger pangs/shopping overload. And that meant that his needs, of course, came first. (Except, that is, when his tea got delayed so we could nip into Trader Joe's for a bottle of Prosecco.) He even stopped me from watching the pre-election edition of the Daily Show that I'd stayed up especially late to catch because he decided he fancied a midnight snack. I'm guessing that birthdays will have a whole new significance from here on in with his, not mine, taking centre stage. 

Talking of men overshadowing my big day, I can't help but mention another. Yes, that would have to be Mr Obama, the reason I just watched CNN on my birthday instead of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, which I'd been saving especially, and who has just wrapped up his last rally before America goes to the polls. It was only down the road, in Manassas, Virginia, and much as I'd have loved to be there I'm not sure Louis would have thanked me for taking him. He looked exhausted - that's Barack, not Louis - but as ever it was stirring stuff. I know I'm not American and I know I can't vote, but oh, how I do hope that he wins. For Louis's sake as much as anything; just think of the kudos in years to come if he can say he was here when America elected its first African-American president and put its first black first family in the White House, just down the road from where we're living. Go Obama! Go America! 

Dupont Halloween




Louis was worried that with so much attention focused on certain other big events going on this week - his Grandma Penny's visit, his Mommy's first birthday as a Mom, a certain election - he'd missed his Halloween blogging deadline. But he was so keen to share his thoughts and pics from 31 October that we've granted him an extension. 

He dressed up as a skellington for the local tots costume parade, even though he was worried he'd have no body to go with. Louis must have been the only American bubster wearing a Halloween costume sent from the UK (thanks G'ma). We gathered by the fountain on Dupont Circle along with a cross section of Disney characters, Jack O' Lanterns, farmyard animals and a couple of DC specials. I'm talking mainly about the little chap - he can't have been more than 9 months - who came dressed up as Barack Obama in a little navy suit with his lapel studded with Vote Obama stickers. I would have taken a picture but he'd been sick on his collar and was being a little fractious. 

Then it was on up to our American Mom friend Lisa's house to hang out while she was trick or treated and have dinner. Although the sales guy in the CVS we raided to re-up the candy stash awarded his top costume and general cutester prize to your own special little blogger, a handful of other outfits caught our eye. I'm thinking of the little chap who turned up as a foreclosed (that's American for repossessed) house, the boy who dressed up as a tax attorney (bet he's popular in the playground) and the primly dressed little girl who I thought for a minute was Sarah Palin but who turned out to be Nancy Drew; she collected her candy in her vintage purse. (But we did clock at least one Sarah Palin lookalike while walking home.)

Poor old Louis is going to find Halloween 09 a bit of a let down: in Bermondsey there are no treats, only tricks and Mummy will be lying low....

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Happy Haunting! Louis is off to collect candy. No, sorry, off to celebrate his first Halloween. He will be reporting back....

Thursday, October 30, 2008

History boy - by Daddy J

So there was me thinking that the so-called "most important election in a generation" was turning out a bit dull. For a couple of weeks now the polls have been suggesting that its all over and Nov 4th looms as a mere formality. It certainly seemed that way yesterday as I stared through the wall of fatigue at CNN and swilled down my umpteenth salt'n'sugar-based meal at the (tiny) airport in Charleston, WV. The only excitement on offer then was the prospect of a brush with a Buddy Holly style death in the twin-prop that was taking us back to Washington on a wintry evening. 

All that changed today with a fascinating interview we did with a black journalist from the Washington Post. After the tape stopped rolling he started talking more frankly as to how he felt about the election as an African American. He pointed out that he fully understood why Obama was working so hard on what seemed to me like campaign overkill - the mega-rallies, yet more fund-raising, the half-hour ads - when he's so clearly got his opponent on the ropes. He said that as a black man negotiating the American Establishment you're never confident you've really arrived, you've always got to try twice as hard as the next (white) guy and you're always watching your back. 

What worried him most he said - and here's the exciting bit - is that the financial crisis, the unpopularity of Bush, the weakness of McCain's campaign have all conspired to create a situation in which the only thing that could possibly prevent Obama from winning is race. And that makes a McCain win - from the point we are now one week out - potentially devastating. A million people are expected to make their way to Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate an Obama victory according to the mayor (an exaggerated figure of course, but it shows the level of anticipation and there are at least half a million journalists going) - imagine what happens if those crowds are let down at the last minute. There are already dark rumours of civil strife

But think of the broader picture too - an Obama win is supposed to send a signal to the world that just a generation on from the civil rights struggle America has finally laid its racial divisions to rest. What does it say if America simply refuses to elect a black man president? And now that McCain has proved to be such a confused and impulsive guy - is he really going to be able to lead a shell-shocked country through the backlash from all that - as well as the two wars and the mother of all recessions? Suddenly its hit me just how historic next Tuesday really is. Maybe Mommy will forgive me just a teensy bit for being in Chicago for her birthday after all.

Louis's Mama's for Obama


Yes, that's right, Louis's Mama's still for Obama despite the cheesy half-hour Obamamercial that just hogged the airwaves on all of the major broadcasters bar one. Seems like it went down well with Barack's disciples though: two minutes after it aired so many Obamaites were trying to log into my.barackobama.com that it crashed the site. (Louis and I were trying to see if we could catch him at a last-minute rally in Virginia.)

And I'm not the only Mama for Obama it seems. Take a peek at this lipstick-wearing Mom who uses her three minutes of YouTube fame to tell the world that she's voting Barack even though her son plays hockey. Go figure Sarah Palin! Talking of whom, can you believe she reckons she's going to have a crack at the top job in 2012? She told ABC News, "....I'm not doing this for naught." That's provided her and McCain actually lose next week, which everyone here now seems to be taken as a given. I'm still with the Independent's Mark Steel though: it's nerve-wracking times on babieswhobrunch hill. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Swing State


Tantalising poll numbers today for our partisan news pup from some of the swing states. A new Washington Post survey gives Obama an eight-point lead over McCain in Virginia, an erstwhile Republican stronghold. The state has 13 electoral votes, which under US voting rules would give Obama 13 of the 270 electoral college votes he needs to become president if it were to turn blue on 4 November. 

Meanwhile, CNN puts Obama's lead in Ohio, a state that swung the election for Bush in 2004, at five points over McCain. With 7 per cent of the state's voters still undecided, there is all to play for however, which was why both candidates were back there this evening. As were Daddy J and Kevin Connolly, working on a Today package due to air this Friday. 

Swing states are strange beasts, especially when they carry as many electoral votes - 20 - as Ohio. And swing districts within those states are even stranger. Take Ironton, Lawrence County, on the Ohio-West Virgina border. A depressed iron town (the clue's in the name), Ironton is ignored by both Washington and the modern economy in a normal year. But come election time and suddenly its flavour of the month. Bush was so thrilled with Ironton's efforts to rally local Republicans last time round that he threw a special thank you dinner for the local party chieftains. This time, though, it is the Democrats who are busy wooing the residents. The bright lights of an Obama campaign office bring a glow to an otherwise semi-deserted Main Street. 

DJ will be hoping their piece doesn't have the same impact on Ironton's independent voters that the Guardian's infamous campaign in Clark County, Ohio, had last time round. Then, earnest Grauniad readers helped to turn the district Republican from Democrat after letters imploring residents to vote Bush out of office had the opposite effect. Thankfully their BBC package will be non-partisan. Just as well they didn't take Louis with them. He spent the weekend campaigning in his Obama onesie, although in line with BBC guidelines it's hidden from view by his (new) sweatshirt in his "swing" video below.  

Stuckhome Syndrome


So, since we arriving in DC fiveish weeks ago (as with Louis's age I've stopped counting), I've had probably five offers of potential babysitting. What's more, four of them would set us back no more than the cost of a takeaway pizza. I should be dancing with joy, booking theatre tickets and reading up on the hottest restaurants. But am I?

Um, no. Truth is, I'm suffering from Stuckhome Syndrome. My symptoms suggest it's a classic case of the psychological phenomenon that afflicts 99 per cent of new mums everywhere. Since my life was kidnapped on 5 June, I've become obsessed with my captor (the smiling cherub pictured - at home - above). I'm hostage to his every whim. When he smiles, I smile; when he cries, I cry; when he wakes, I wake. The doctors may have snapped the cord that bound us when they plucked him out, but in truth we are just as tightly attached as ever. 

I've given up even wanting an evening off when the odd time I've made a bid for freedom has ended in tears. His, not mine but they're practically one and the same thing. So while Daddy J jets off to Oxford, Long Island, St Louis, Nashville, Boca Raton and Charleston (West Virginia, not South Carolina luckily, where he is tonight), I'm really much happier here sitting here of an evening staring at my blank cream walls with the TV volume turned down low. Honest! Plus there's always the chance that he might wake and want me. Talking of which I can hear him now....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Yes We Carve


It's no exaggeration to say that people take Halloween pretty seriously over here. Half the first floor of our local Target has been devoted to pumpkin paraphernalia. From bat table runners to skeleton garlands, your every Halloween need is catered for in this uniquely American celebration of the night before All Saints' Day. (Although Wikipedia has it that it was actually the Irish who bestowed the tradition on the Yanks when they emigrated en masse in search of potatoes in the mid nineteenth century. But I digress.) 

With eight days still to go until the big day, houses in DC are already competing to outdo each other in the ghoulish stakes. Mini ghosts hang from trees, cobwebs stick to fences and fanged Draculas peer out from windows. Entire front gardens have been turned into mini cemeteries. Louis and I are running a competition to find the most outlandishly decorated property. 

It's also no exaggeration to say that Americans take their elections pretty seriously. Especially their presidential ones. For many, this translates into another home decorating opportunity: signs, banners, flag and even cardboard models of the candidates festoon entire neighbourhoods. 

So just imagine what you get if you cross Halloween with the presidential election. Yes, that's right, Barack O'Lantern (It sounds terribly partisan, but the guys behind the site, YesWeCarve, claimed that McCain O'Lantern just sounded "less snappy".) Louis will be getting carving as soon as I've worked out how to carry a 17lb baby and a 37lb pumpkin home from the store.... 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shopaholic and baby


Who'd have thought that Louis and Sarah Palin would have had something in common? No, not their coyness about which newspapers they read and no, not even their inability to point to Russia on a globe but rather their personal shopping budgets. Turns out those foxy (for a Republican) skirt suits and killer heels don't come cheap. She blew $75K on a single trip to Neiman Marcus alone (note to Louis's Mom: don't, repeat, don't go and check out the DC branch). Relative to their body masses, that's on the level of Louis's Patagonia splurge last week. 

Surely, however, the Democrat sniping about La Palin's profligacy is missing the point? Rather than rubbing those Hockey Moms' noses in the proverbial, she was actually performing her patriotic duty of keeping the tills ringing. Just think of the trickle down effects of her shopping. Someone has to clean all those glitzy department stores after the big spenders have gone home. 

On second thoughts, perhaps Louis and Moose-killing Mommy Palin don't have that much in common after all. Louis's per diem from the UK government comes in at barely $5 a day; the Alaskan governor sought $17,000 in daily living reimbursements from her state's government. And as for their view on strollers.... Does Mommy Palin seriously think it's okay to push poor Trig around in a $295 stroller? Given the $150,000 she dropped on outfits and hair maintenance you'd think she could have stretched to a fancier pram.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obama qualms




Wandering around Georgetown, DC's political phalanx, it is hard to believe there are two people running in next month's election. "Obama for president" signs adorn every porch, garden and door in the chocolate-box pretty neighbourhood, adding to a growing national perception that the Illinois Senator has this thing sewn up. Television networks are falling over themselves to call states for Obama two weeks before the country goes to the polls. Even Louis's Granddad emailed to say that he hoped the young newspup would be staying up to celebrate. 

Much as I'm loving the Obamamania, and thrilling though it is to be living here at the cusp of a new era in US politics, I'm wary of getting carried away. I'll happily admit that I'm wrong come 5 November, but for now I have an uneasy feeling about the election. Didn't the media all but hand victory to John Kerry four years ago? Even Obama has his doubts, last week warning against cockiness when "the press starts getting carried away and we end up getting spanked". 

Okay so Obama may have a near double-digit lead over McCain in the polls, but that is nationally, which counts for little in an election that can be won or lost in a single district of a single state. Obama's fans take heart from polls showing him leading McCain in states such as Florida, which won the election for Bush in 2000, but even here his advantage is narrow and polls can be wrong. Then there's the Bradley effect, named after the the African-American former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley who lost his bid to become California's governor despite polls pointing to a clear victory, which suggests voters won't admit to pollsters that they don't intend to vote for a black man. 

Astute hacks are already offering their smitten colleagues "just-in-case kits" should Obama's bid collapse. Personally I'm working on the law of sod to decide the victor: at the moment Daddy J is due to spend election night (and my birthday) in Phoenix, Arizona, campaign HQ for McCain and potentially the glummest place on earth come 5 November. But there is talk of DJ being sent to Chicago, Illinois, instead. Surely then Senor Sod will step in to spoil the party for DJ, Obama and the rest of the liberal world? Still, it would probably be less incendiary to blame Sod than to suggest America is hotbed of closet racists. 

(Stop press: as of Tuesday morning Missouri, which has accurately predicted the winner in all but one of the presidential races since 1900 is polling 48%: 46% in favour of McCain....) 

Monday, October 20, 2008

Powell for Obama! (Gosh-darn)

So Colin Powell can't have thought much of Sarah Palin's cameo as herself on Saturday Night Live. Word was he'd been waiting for the veep contender to mess up before endorsing Barrack Obama. Babieswhobrunch readers will know the former Secretary of State had hoped to back him after the vice-presidential debate but Palin somehow scraped through. Seven weeks of listening to the Alaskan Governor's controversial campaigning, however, and Powell finally cracked, much to the excitement of our young news puppy who is claiming the story as his first scoop. (We'll gloss over the fact that there may have been one or two other rumours in the blogosphere about the potential Powell endorsement.)

Whether Powell's backing will be the knock-out blow that delivers Obama the White House will not be clear for another two weeks but there is no denying its value. Not least because his rival, John McCain, is clearly losing the battle for big endorsements.

Louis thinks McCain has only himself to blame for running a poor campaign. And no he's not referring to the hostile tone that it's adopted. Rather, our young newshound thinks McCain missed a trick by failing to court the vital youth vote: DC is swimming with Obama onesies (one today said "Babies for Obama because yes it is time for a change") but there are no McCain ones to be had for love nor money. Phew! Otherwise in the interest of BBC dependents' impartiality he might have had to wear one! 







Friday, October 17, 2008

Yoga-ga

In Britain, stressed out babies are lucky if they get given a dummy but over here it is quite a different story. When the world all gets a little bit too much, DC tots can realign their chakras at one of the capital's baby-and-me yoga classes. Given how much yoga Louis got up to in utero, it's no surprise that he's taken to it well. Thursday's class at Tranquil Space is the highlight of his (or should that be Mom's?) week. 

You can see him here getting in a cheeky cobra before the teacher arrived. His latest girlfriend, Sophie, is practicing her corpse pose on the mat just behind him. So far, his favourite position is upward dog, although his child's pose is pretty good too. He's very excited because there's talk of a yoga retreat next month at Great Falls, a park just outside Washington where the Potomac River plunges through a deep gorge. 

I know Louis's Grandma is worried that he'll turn into Bertie, the 5-year-old protagonist in Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series, who deeply resents being dragged to yoga of a Saturday by his pushy Mum, but for now he is relishing the chance to broaden his social circle beyond his Bermondsey NCT baby chums.