In ‘Workplace Policies for Parents,’ Montana gets a C-minus

When it comes to policies that support new parents in the workplace, Montana is just “meh” according to a new national report.

We’re not that great, but not so bad – unlike all the states surrounding Montana, which earned solid “F”s.

Montana has protections for workers (both state and private) who take medical leave, for nursing moms and … well, that’s about it.

Read on for the full breakdown:

Montana Earns Only a “C-” in New Study for its Workplace Policies that Support New Parents

In Advance of Monday’s White House Summit on Working Families, New State-by-State Analysis Reinforces Compelling Need for Congress to Act

A new state-by-state analysis shows how little the nation supports and protects working mothers and fathers when a new child arrives – and Montana has a long way to go when it comes to helping its new parents.

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Wednesday got you down? Then look forward to Moscow Monday

Ugh. Some weeks, Hump Day seems like a bigger hump to get over than others.

This week’s Wednesday follows Tuesday’s elections, and at the newspaper where I work, Election Day is always exciting – and always sets up the next day to be a bit of a drag.

I like to liven up my draggy days by scheduling multiple appointments for family members and pets! Because there’s nothing like driving two kids to different office settings around town for several hours after school to brighten up everyone’s attitude.

But maybe you do it differently. That’s cool.

Now, those who get through the work week by looking forward to the weekend might want to look even further ahead – to Monday. Recently the Montgomery Distillery started hosting what it calls Moscow Mondays, from 12 to 8 pm. And this next Monday – Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11 – a dollar from every cocktail sold during its Moscow Monday hours will go to the Children’s Museum and Families First. I hear there’s even going to be some Play Store items and other prizes given away.

Interested parents can check it out at 129 W. Front in downtown Missoula.

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Our adoption story

One summer day, Willow and your dad and I were walking home from the farmer’s market when we passed a table. And who was at that table? Bill! You remember Bill, don’t you?

Well, Bill gave us all kinds of information about foster care and adoption. We took it home and read it and we decided that, yes, this is how we would find you.

So we took lots and lots of classes, and we filled out lots and lots of paperwork, and we got our house all ready for you, which was hard to do because we didn’t know if you were a boy or girl, or how old you were, or what kinds of things you liked and what kinds of things you hated.

Then we waited and waited and waited. One day we got a call about a little kid who needed a home, so we went to the office and read about this kid – but you know what? That kid just wasn’t the right fit for our family. That kid went to live with some other family.

So we waited and waited and waited, until one day we got another call about another kid who needed a home, so we went to the office again and we read about this kid, who was actually a newborn baby. But you know what? That baby wasn’t the right fit for our family either. That baby went to live with some other family.

We waited and waited and waited some more, until we were very tired of waiting. Then we got a call about TWO kids who needed a family. They were sisters, and they were the cutest pair you ever saw. We wanted very much to be the right family for these two, but it turns out, we just weren’t – and a good thing too, because those girls went to live with another family that actually is perfect for them. And if they had stayed with us, we might never have found you.

Anyway, we were done with waiting. Your dad and I said that’s it, we’re not waiting any more!

But still, we waited.

Until finally, one day, we got another call. And this call was about you.

We went to the office and read a little bit about you. We found out that you were 4 years old, and your name is Landon, and you like cars and trucks. We thought, hmm, we’d like to meet this kid!

And when we met you – when we met you! – we knew for sure that you were just right for us, and we were just right for you. You were the one we had been hoping for, and waiting for, all that time.

I remember the very first time I saw you. Your dad and I were walking across the parking lot to Kari’s office, and you were walking across that same parking lot with your foster mom, Momma Kim. We all went inside together, and you sat down at a little table and showed us how you could find letters in the newspaper. And then while the grownups talked, you played with cars. You lined them up all nice and neat, and then you and your dad played cars together, only back then, he wasn’t your dad yet.

After that I got to visit with you a few more times before you came to our house and met your sister – only back then, she wasn’t your sister yet. Willow couldn’t wait to meet you! She was so jealous because your dad and I got to see you before she did. She asked us and asked us and asked us, “When do I get to meet Landon?”

Well, she got to meet you when you came over to our house for the first time and you two spent the whole afternoon playing in the mud in the backyard. It was summertime, so it was hot outside.

Right after that you moved in with us for good. And now I am your mom, and your dad is your dad, and your sister is your sister – and you are a part of our family for ever and ever, no matter what.

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Crowded students and long-range school facilities planning

I seem to remember some years ago, before I had kids in school, that Missoula County Public Schools student enrollment was in steep decline. As recently as 2004, MCPS was closing entire schools.

Now, enrollment is increasing so much that schools – including Rattlesnake, Lowell and Russell – have had to tack on extra classrooms to accommodate extra classes of students.

The new modular building at Rattlesnake is pretty nice. It looks like this:

TOM BAUER/Missoulian

But at least 200 more elementary students, 100 more middle-school students, and almost 30 high-school students are projected to join MCPS within the next four years. That would be a lot of modulars.

Fortunately, MCPS is currently entering the second phase of its facilities planning process. The process casts a wide net over the future of Missoula’s public schools, and fluctuations in student enrollment numbers is only one consideration.

A guest column from MCPS’s Hatton Littman will be on tomorrow’s Opinion page; it urges the larger Missoula community to get engaged with the process.  It also notes that the next Community Listening Session will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 6:30-8 p.m. at the Broadway Inn Hotel and Conference Center at 1609 W. Broadway.

Consider attending. If you can’t, however, there are other ways to get involved, starting here.


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Halloween can be hell – on orthodontia

I really do love Halloween. Swear.

I don’t intend to be the Debbie Downer of Halloween – although that would make a pretty sweet costume.

See, my inbox is just overflowing with Halloween warnings from various groups. Here’s one subject line that caught my eye: “It’s scary what Halloween candy can do to orthodontic treatment.”

My kids don’t have braces (yet). But they are sporting roughly five loose teeth between the two of them. As awesome as it would be to have some of those teeth pulled out by candy, a visit from the Tooth Fairy on Halloween night is more than this momma wants to take on.

In any case, I was also intrigued by the list of orthodontia-friendly Halloween recipes. Aren’t Halloween-themed foods fun? The Missoulian ran an interesting Foods page feature yesterday on making “noir-hued” treats for grownups.

Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune

That right there is a picture of sauteed octopus over squid-ink pasta. I wouldn’t eat it, but hey.

Here’s the press release from the American Association of Orthodontists in full. Click on the link I included to see the recipes and photos (my favorite is probably the Spider Bites):

It’s scary what Halloween candy can do to orthodontics treatment.

With October 31 just around the corner, kids with braces will be tempted to chew on sticky candy that could tear off brackets and delay treatment.

But parents- don’t fear! For those of you hosting Halloween parties for adolescents with braces, try out these recipes for orthodontist-approved treats!

Frightful Finger Cookies

Goblin’s Gooey Apples

Halloween Parfait

Spider Bites

Goblin Goodies

Graveyard Shakes

Mounds of Brains Cookies

Witch’s Crystal Ball

Happy Halloween!


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Halloween decorations don’t have to be scary – if they’re safe

Hey, did you know Halloween is coming up? If not, then you don’t have kids. Mine remind me how many days are left every, oh, three minutes or so.

Needless to say, we’ve got our decorations up already. Giant hairy black spider? Check. Foam grave markers? Check. Home-made pumpkins and witches and cats on fenceposts? Check, check and check.

Since I’m so – ahem – frugal, every year for the past five years we’ve been re-using the same stuff that’s supposed to look like spider webs when you stretch it out. Only it’s long since lost its stretch, and is now laying artfully in clumps around the front yard – like this:

Hey, Halloween decorations aren’t suppose to look pretty.

I was reminded by the National Fire Protection Association today that they are, however, supposed to be safe when the NFPA sent out a scary warning for parents to make sure Halloween costumes and decorations don’t accidentally catch fire.

That’s because candles alone were the cause of more than 11,600 house fires from 2006-2010, resulting in 126 deaths and nearly 1,000 injuries, according to NFPA.

To help prevent tragedies like that from happening, the NFPA provided this timely list of Halloween safety tips:

    • When choosing a costume, stay away from billowing or long trailing fabric. If you are making your own costume, choose material that won’t easily ignite if it comes into contact with heat or flame. If your child is wearing a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough so they can see out.
    • Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume.
    • Dried flowers, cornstalks, and crepe paper are highly flammable. Keep these and other decorations well away from all open flames and heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.
    • It is safest to use a flashlight or battery-operated candles in a jack-o-lantern. If you use a real candle, use extreme caution. Make sure children are watched at all times when candles are lit. When lighting candles inside jack-o-lanterns, use long fireplace-style matches or a utility lighter. Be sure to place lit pumpkins well away from anything that can burn and far away from trick-or-treaters, doorsteps, walkways, and yards.
    • If you choose to use candle decorations, make sure to keep them well attended at all times.
    • Remember to keep exits clear of decorations, so nothing blocks escape routes.
    • Tell children to stay away from open flames. Be sure they know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire. (Have them practice stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.)
    • Use flashlights as alternatives to candles or torch lights when decorating walkways and yards. They are much safer for trick-or-treaters, whose costumes may brush against the lighting.

That’s for the grown-ups. For the kids, the NFPA has a Sparky Be Safe Halloween Coloring Sheet.

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Missing the punchline

Me: Knock, knock.

Landon: Who’s there?

Me: Canoe.

Landon: Canoe who?

Me: Canoe guess my name?

Landon: Is it Martha?

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Long time no blog

Regular Missoula Mom readers may have noticed that there hasn’t been a whole lotta activity on this site in recent months. Why the long silence?

The short story: I’ve been busy growing my family!

Long story: Let’s save that for another day. Suffice to say that my family has a lot of gratitude for the folks at Youth Homes‘s Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Program right now.

Funny enough, Youth Homes has been busy expanding lately too. The new Tom Roy Youth Guidance Home will feature 10 bedrooms for teens (ages 16 to 18) who are aging out of foster care. The new 5,000-plus square-foot building will replace the old one which, as Youth Homes executive director Geoff Birnbaum has been saying for the past four years or more, was never designed to function as a group home.

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need places like this. I’m not happy we need them, but I’m so grateful we have them.


Nearly one in five young men still live with parents

It’s no surprise that, in a recession, more young adults would opt to share a home with their parents. What is a surprise is this week’s news from the Census Bureau that a full 19 percent – or nearly one in five – men between the ages of 25 and 34 report living at home with their parents.

Back in 2005, pre-recession, the number was 14 percent.

But get this: That’s still higher than the current number of young WOMEN living at home. In 2005 that number was 8 percent, and now, it’s 10 percent.

So why do nearly twice as many young men cohabitate with their parents as young women? Well, the Census Bureau doesn’t get into that.  It does, however, note that the recession isn’t the only reason for the increase.

“The increase in 25 to 34 year olds living in their parents’ home began before the recent recession, and has continued beyond it,” said Rose Kreider, a family demographer with the Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, and author of the new Census Bureau study (which can be found by clicking here: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2011).

As for the younger crowd, more than half of those between the ages of 18 and 24 are currently living with their parents: 59 percent of men and 50 percent of women. This, too, is an increase since 2005 – but these numbers also include all the nation’s college students who are currently living in dorms.

There’s lots more statistical information to be gleaned from the study, such as the number of children 18 and YOUNGER living with two parents (remember, this is this year, 2011, we’re talking about), and that sort of thing. But you’ll have to read the study for yourself if you want a more exhaustive analysis.

I’ll leave you with one interesting item, though: In 2011, there are 74.6 million children in the United States under the age of 18. That’s a lot of young-uns, isn’t it?

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More on the secondhand underwear controversy

Last week Connie Schultz, in her syndicated column, brought to my attention a proposal from a Michigan state senator to require foster parents to use their children’s clothing allowance in thrift stores only.

Sen. Bruce Caswell has since dropped the proposal, but his idea got a lot of folks thinking about the value of new versus used clothing. Me, my mind went straight to underwear. As in, used underwear is not something I would buy; would the proposal have applied to children’s underpants as well? And shoes and socks and other hard-to-find-in-good-condition-and-in-the-right-season-and-in-the-right-size items?

This week Connie Schultz wrote a second column on the subject after speaking with a woman who has very definite ideas – rooted in personal experience – about used clothing.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and an essayist for Parade magazine. Her column appears each Friday on the Missoulian’s Opinion page, but since she writes more than one column in a week, this one won’t be in the paper.

But you can read it here:

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