Wednesday, January 21, 2009

OBAMA DAY - in pictures

The new dawn - a Dad's view
The new dawn - a Mom's view
Katy and Jason heading to the Mall
Our view down to the Capitol
And back the other way
Where MLK dreamt
On the Lincoln steps
First Mom
Look who's not celebrating
The old and the new
Musical interlude
The orator in his bulletproof pulpit
Daddy J and Kevin Connolly
The President heads for home
Did we mention the cold? That's a frozen Potomac
Obama cupcakes


      And how! Our view back to the Capitol 
On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
President Obama! 
(That's Katy, Jason and Sophie in the orange jacket in the foreground)

So PEBO did it. He survived inauguration and will go to bed tonight as the first African-American leader of the USA provided he makes it through the last few inaugural balls he still has to tick off. And Louis did it too. He also survived inauguration despite the sub zero temperatures although it was touch and go at one point when the emotion of the occasion threatened to overcome surely the crowd's youngest newspup. For the most part though Louis was all smiles and delighted to be able to claim his place in history as part of the largest inauguration crowd ever at an estimated 1.8 million. 

With space on the Mall already at a premium by 8am we reckon we did well to find ourselves a spot on surely the most revered of the Mall's many presidential monuments, the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Where better to watch - okay, to listen to - Barack Hussein Obama get sworn in as president than a monument to the man who ended slavery in a country built on the blood of the new president's forefathers? That we were some two miles from the scene of the action mattered not a jot when so much history was our's for the taking. 

Apart from The Moment of the day - when President Obama took the oath of office, my personal Mom highlight had to be when the waiting crowd on the Lincoln steps cheered Louis after I lifted him up for a better view of the seething mass of humanity stretching back to the Capitol. We'll have to see if his smiling little mug winds up in tomorrow's Washington Post because he was snapped by one of their photographers - as well as by many others. 

We might not be American, but given the country's sway over the rest of the world, it was impossible not to be awed by what one man achieved today. It's strange - and exciting - to think what a difference that man could make to my little boy's life. And to think, Louis will always be able to say that he was there. 20.01.09. Quite a day. 

OBAMA DAY - by Daddy J

39, 41 and 42 applaud 44-to-be and family
The new prez tells it like it is
Hasta la vista W

Quite a day - it felt bigger than the night in Chicago somehow, I guess because in a nation of laws the whole deal is now legally sealed. But there was more to it than that. Us radio guys are used to being kept in the basement somewhere, this time we had a ringside seat on the Capitol steps, just 50m or so from the new president. Adding to the sense of occasion were the superstars of US politics gathered around him - a lonely looking Senator McCain, the Clintons, the whole Bush clan from George H. via W to the twins, Cheney looking frail in a wheelchair, Jimmy Carter and his wife (surely the lowest profile first lady ever). 

The focus of all the media coverage is rightly on the whole first-democratically-elected-minority-leader-on-the-planet-and-in-this-so-recently-segregated-country-to-boot thing and the attendant popular adulation, but the bit I cant get over is that great democratic moment when a whole governing philosophy is swept away and replaced with another just cos some guy says about 50 words with his hand on a book. For once I had the presence of mind to take a camera and by far my favorite photo is the one of Bush's helicopter taking a final sweep past the Washington monument over the jubilant masses. Reagan's chief of staff told us in an interview recently that it was at that point in 1988 that he first saw his great leader cry.

Did I mention how cold it was?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

OBAMA DAY - part I

Inauguration Eve: Lafayette Square

The build up 

It's hard to convey the sense of excitement in a city that for the first time since we arrived really seems to be living up to its Chocolate City epithet. Even yesterday, walking home from downtown via the White House, the crowds were insane. DC was already one big street party. Check out this family, who had gathered here from all over the US to be part of history. That's Louis on the parade route outside the back of the White House. We'll be lucky to get within a mile of that spot today. 

It's a little after 9am and we're just leaving to meet Katy, Jason and Sophie (who is celebrating her half-birthday day) to try and claim a little piece of turf on the Mall from which to watch the swearing in. It's minus alot out there - I figure it's actually best not to know plus fahrenheit gets confusing below 32. With the wind chill the temperature sounds pretty frightening. I'd better go bundle up Louis. Daddy J has been on the Capitol steps since before dawn so he's already one big icicle. He'll be guest blogging later for sure. 

Martin Luther King day

            Louis watching Lisa at work with her roller 
 Louis snoozing after his painting session 

This inauguration lark isn't all rock star glamour and glittery parties. (If only.) In an effort to keep it real, PEBO dedicated Martin Luther King day, a federal holiday and the eve of his inauguration, a day of community service. Although living here for six months only makes DC our temporary community, Louis and I still rolled up our sleeves and got stuck in at an elementary school in the very real section of southeast Washington known as Congress Heights. Okay, so actually we just went along for the ride to accompany Lisa and her son Alex, who in turn were accompanying Lisa's cousin Zach, an Obamaite who took last semester off school to work on the election campaign but we still got stuck in. 

Turned out the school in question was the fittingly named Martin Luther King Jr Elementary. (The comedian Chris Rock reckons you can tell you're in a dodgy bit of town when roads and buildings are named after MLK or Malcolm X.) Its hallway needed a lick of paint so, like PEBO, we wielded a paintbrush and roller and got to work. Louis watched - for a bit, until he got bored and I strapped him into the baby carrier until he got bored of that too and I had to feed him. He helped too - sticking his hand in the paint tin. So much for his organic diet. What with that and yesterday's outdoor rock concert in freezing temperatures I'm clearly just trying to see how many parenting no-nos I can clock up in 48 hours. Something tells me braving tomorrow's 1 million-plus inauguration crowd for hours on end will complete my hat-trick of what-not-to-dos with a small baby. Oh well. Even if it's downhill from here at least he can't complain that life's boring.  

Rock on

Babies who rock
Bono and The Boss make way for PEBO
Louis and chums 
Mom and son

It wasn't exactly a Woodstock '69 moment, but, should he choose, Louis will be able to claim some sort of future bragging rights about the 2009 Inaugural Concert because, bwb fans, he was there. Along with Barack, Bono, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen and plenty of other rock stars and Hollywood celebs whose names didn't start with the letter B. The backdrop was the Lincoln Memorial, site of the "I have a Dream" speech and countless other American epic moments, including, fittingly, the 1939 concert by Marian Anderson, the black opera singer barred from singing to a white audience at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

The security forces used the event as a test run for Tuesday, blocking the streets with desert-ready Humvees. Swarms of soldiers stood guard barking orders to concert go-ers who streamed in to bag a spot near the stage from as early as 8am. (Some six or so hours before kick off.) We opted not to queue (do Americans say "line"?) to get into the "secure zone" around the Reflecting Pool and instead hit the Mall slightly further back in front of the Washington Monument. We hit concert gold by scoring a spot on the mound with a view of Lincoln as well as three Jumbotrons (giant tellys). (We were 9 in all: three sets of parents plus babies.) 

Louis was Michelin-ed up to the max (thanks to my godson) and managed to stay warm despite a slight lack of danceable tunes. Instead, the concert was peppered with historical interludes courtesy of Forest Whitaker, Samuel L Jackson, Tiger Woods and a host of other black A-listers. The music spanned all genres, from folk and country to gospel and hip-hop: the programme aimed to appeal to the broad church of concert go-ers who braved the freezing temperatures to attend PEBO's last rally before taking the helm of the free world. 

Don't tell Bono or the Boss, but PEBO himself was actually the main draw for the vast bulk of the crowd, decked out in Obamabelia as they were. I guess we could say we saw him take the stage, although I won't try to claim he was much bigger than a speck. He brushed up well on the Jumbotrons, however. Louis seemed to concur with those commentators who are still waiting for Obama's JFK speech moment, snoozing through his assertion that: "Directly in front of us is a pool that still reflects the dream of a King, and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character's content. And behind me, watching over the union he saved, sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible." But plenty of other spectators were more visibly moved, breaking into "Yes we can" and "Si se puede" chants. 

I guess Louis's waiting for that inaugural address on Tuesday. Along with the 1 million-plus people who have flocked to DC for the big day. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wee the people

                                   The Johns

If the rumbling of hooves usually signals the arrival of the hordes in the Wild West, in downtown DC it's the silent but no less threatening appearance of hundreds of portaloos on the National Mall. Row upon row of "Don's Johns" now line the banks of the Reflecting Pool and beyond. And what a happy addition to the neo-classical monuments that adorn the city's biggest green space they are too. For these makeshift restrooms - a "Great Wall of Privies" according to today's Washington Post - will provide welcome relief for the crowds come Tuesday. 

We're talking 7,000-plus portable toilets, turning the Mall into the largest temporary restroom in American history. Heck, if Don's Johns and his portaloo compatriots Johnny Blue, Mr John and Johnny on the Spot get their act together, I-Day could go down in toilet annals as the largest temporary restroom in the history of the world. (Germany holds the existing record at 8,000 for some event involving the Pope.) The temporary toilets will get a "not so dry run" tomorrow, reports the Post, when hundreds of thousands are expected to crowd into the Mall for the Bruce Springsteen et al inaugural concert that will kick off PEBO's inauguration festivities. 

But in attempting to get to the bottom of the biggest logistical headache to confront I-day organisers, the Post's piece leaves its youngest readers wanting. It makes no mention of any possible diaper changing options - and trust me, changing a diaper is not something you want to tackle in your standard portaloo. Frankly, it's discrimination against the potty-challenged. Perhaps Babieswhobrunch could start a class action. This is America, after all. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rehearsing for I-day

                         Louis surveys the parade dress rehearsal
                          One of the many military marching bands
                                Louis watching again
                               A local dance troupe
                                 The Faux-bamas

The US military weren't the only ones out rehearsing for Inauguration Day earlier. Babieswhobrunch used the dry run for the big day to do a little rehearsing of its own. We figured we might as well grab the chance to rehearse getting freezing cold watching the parade if we're going to try and venture out on 20 January. The practice run kicked off down at the Capitol, where PEBO (president-elect Barack Obama) was sworn in at around dawn this morning. Or at least his stand-in was. As that coincided with Louis finally going back to sleep after a night broken by his blocked nose, suffice to say we saw about as much of the swearing-in rehearsal as we're likely to on I-day itself. Unless we stay home and tune into CNN. 

But we did hit rehearsal gold a couple of hours later outside the White House by arriving just as the US Marine Band was striking up as it marched past the president's backyard. After a quick rendition of Hail to the Chief, the new chief - or at least his stand in - also marched part. Wearing a sign around his neck to signal his temporary president-elect status, Staff Sgt. Derrick Brooks strode through Farragut Square with his spouse stand-in LaSean McCray, a Navy yeoman first class (whatever that means) as onlookers scrambled for their cameras so that they could could claim a little bit of inauguration history for their own. An abridged version of the parade followed: highlights included the fat tuba players and the dancers from DC's Howard University, one of the country's oldest black colleges. 

Louis spent the morning doing his best drunk Russian general impersonation, watching the action from below the tilted brim of his fleece hat. The noise of the bands didn't seem to bother him, not even when clashing cymbals interrupted his morning nap. As far as rehearsals for the big day went, ours passed pretty smoothly. I suspect that was mainly because we didn't actually try to do anything difficult. Like push a stroller through a crowd of several tens of thousands or pull off an emergency diaper change. I didn't even have to feed Louis. Where that all leaves us come 20 January I'm still not sure. Especially as temperatures are forecast to plummet, complicating further the task of soaking up history in the making with a seven month old in tow.  

Saturday, January 10, 2009

First Grandma

                  G'ma Penny gets to work on Christmas Day

Behind every great man stands a great woman, or so the old adage goes. And behind every great power couple stands a power grandma, or so the babieswhobrunch adage goes. Witness the Obama household: Barack's mother-in-law arrived in DC today ready to fill the void left when Daddy finally starts his job leading the free world and Mommy gets busy with her First Lady duties. 

Malia and Sasha already have Marian Robinson, Michelle's Mom, to thank for looking after them while their parents were on the campaign trail. They know they owe her: the president-elect (PEBO to Beltway insiders) told a reporter the girls' grandma was "one of the unsung heroes" of the election. 

So far Louis' grandmas have had it pretty easy. True, there's been presents to buy and the odd night of babysitting to do but that's about it. He's keen to know what his parents can achieve once his grandmas get to work. With two on the scene plus a great one down the road in Brighton, he's got high hopes once we move back to the UK. In the meantime, he will be watching events in the White House closely. 

Friday, January 9, 2009


Remember all those "My Mama's for Obama" toddler tops back in October? Or the "Obama 08" onesies? Well the president-elect apparently doesn't. Otherwise why would his inauguration planners be making it quite so hard for Moms to attend his swearing-in ceremony on 20 January? 

Just to stress the point that taking your baby along for the ride will be no picnic, Congress issued a special "advisory" aimed at making Moms feel less welcome than a vegan at a Texas barbecue. It pointed out that the day will be cold - "normally 37F at noon" - involve many hours of queueing and any infant incapable of walking will have to be carried - all day - because strollers are not allowed. Oh, and the only restrooms are portaloos and you can bet they won't be squeezing in any of those special diaper changers. By the time you're done "celebrating" you'll be cold, tired, hungry and probably wet because umbrellas are banned too. And your child will probably have pneumonia.

Bet you're not feeling quite so sore about not scoring one of those 240,000 golden swearing-in ceremony tickets now, huh? If you're a parent that is. The draconian I-day rules have sparked a big debate among DC Moms about whether they dare even venture out of the house on 20 January let alone anywhere near the Capitol with a small child in tow. The day will be a logistical nightmare. 

Slightly better news for those Moms just hoping either to catch a glimpse of the inauguration parade down Pennsylvania Avenue or to watch the ceremony from one of the giant TVs that will be scattered across the Mall. The stroller ban applies only to Capitol Hill. That means the other 1.25 million people predicted to cram into an area barely 1 mile by half a mile can bring all the strollers, umbrellas, rucksacks and diaper bags they desire, although presumably there still won't be anywhere actually to change a wet nappy. Or push a stroller. 

That said, I still want to take Louis. Even though he now weighs more than a small Alsatian. (It's all that veg puree.) I'm just waiting for the special inauguration souvenir baby slings. Maybe I should design one and cash in. 

Monday, January 5, 2009

Inauguration countdown

                                A new bric-a-Barack shop
                              An ad in a yoga shop window
                               The White House grandstand 

Major excitement in DC this weekend with the Obamas arriving in town. There are still 16 days until I-day (you can count them down on a special Obama advent calender that doubles up as an Inauguration countdown if you like) but the First Family had to get here early because term time starts on Monday for Malia and Sasha. Now there are two girls who are going to have their pick of the school cafeteria come lunchtime tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, Daddy O will have his head down preparing for the big day, much like the rest of the city, which has gone into overdrive readying itself for the presidential swearing-in. Entrepreneurial types are grabbing every opportunity to cash in on Obamamania. Inauguration souvenir shops have sprung up all over the city selling various bits of bric-a-Barack and today we spotted some guys flogging red, white and blue "change" wristbands at a local flea market. Check out the "Ombama" ad that the yoga-to-athletics store Lululemon had hanging in its window. 

On 20 January, the place to be is Pennsylvania Avenue, which connects the Capitol to the White House. The route is symbolic as it will be Obama's first trip as President. Grandstands already line most of the wide road although all the bigwigs will have prime viewing from special stands being built outside the back of the White House itself, pictured above. 

It's less clear how Louis and I will manage to catch a glimpse of the action. I hardly fancy camping out the night before, plus strollers practically top a list of banned items (along with firearms, rucksacks and, if you're sitting in a ticketed area, umbrellas. I'm guessing diaper bags will also be unpopular). Still, we're determined to soak it all up somehow (literally if it's anything like as wet as it was on election day). No sign of a special babies' inaugural ball, although there is a children's one on the Sunday before at the Washington Historical Society featuring, among other things, a special display of how earlier presidents helped the DC kiddies. We'll have to check it out.  

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy 2009

                         LJ at a little after midnight, 01.01.09

Louis hopes all his bwb fans had as good a start to the new year as he did. He saw in 2009 in some style after his parents finally got the message and let him stay up and join the party instead of fruitlessly attempting to lull him back to the land of nod once he woke up at 11.30pm. (If you can call dinner for four plus a sleeping 20 month old a party, although I fear you can: this Momhood malarky seems to mean that eating with anything apart from a magazine or the telly ranks as a big night.) 

Letting LJ stay up and play for a couple of hours instead of trying to coax him back to sleep made for a better night for us as well. It sure made a change from the usual pacing around until he drops off and then praying that this time he might just stay asleep for more than a couple of hours. I'm told that this business of waking up more rather than less at six-ish months is not unusual. I believe it's known as the six-month sleep regression. He's not being wilful; he just can't sleep because there is so much bubbling away in his head, not to mention throbbing through his sizable muscles. 

To be fair, LJ's had a big couple of weeks, mastering sitting up, crawling and cutting a couple of teeth. Which I guess explains why he spends half of his nights up on all fours, rocking back and forth instead of sleeping. I don't even think he knows he's doing it half the time. Something similar happened at three-ish months when he'd spend all night practising rolling over only to get stuck once he reached his stomach. Each time you flipped him back on his back, over he'd go again. These developmental milestones apparently occur at so-called "wonder weeks". The mumosphere is rife with talk of a magical book by a couple of Dutch researchers that sheds light on what's going on inside their little heads, but I don't think I can take anymore alleged magical books. (That said, we're about ready to start paying one of those sleep trainer people, or we would be if I had a big fat redundancy cheque heading my way.)

For now, I'm just hoping that along with walking and talking (more developmental milestones certain to break the night into yet smaller chunks) one of Louis' new year's resolutions might be to learn to sleep. Gina Ford would say that's something I'm supposed to be teaching him, which I guess means I'm already failing as a Mother a mere six or so months into the job. But nobody tell him that. Good night and Happy New Year blog fans.