Sunday, June 29, 2008

Relevant News Flash (6:3)

I must be in "one of those moods" because the following bits appealed from around the world of news:
  • It's a sign of the times when an ostensibly humorous list of tongue in cheek fuel tips by Jeffrey Shaffer in The Christian Science Monitor doesn't seem that far fetched. I particularly like tip #6. So if you see someone peeking over your backyard fence, don't panic, they are simply sizing up the amenities!
  • Also in The Christian Science Monitor, Emily Walshe, observes that technology seems to be killing the serendipitous surprises in our lives. What's the fun in life when your path is laid out by a Magellan?

In other news:

  • Significant concerns surround the falling rates of birth around the world, and how cultures around the world regard and react to this new reality goes to the heart of the philosophical differences among us. A very absorbing overview in the New York Times Magazine by Russell Shorto will bring you up to speed on this looming global game-changer.
  • Human population is just one part of the equation according to a piece by Moises Velasquez-Manoff. It seems impossible that it took us this long to acknowledge the reality of interdependence and it's necessary application in any tactical plan we may come up with.
  • It's a wonder that couples that work side by side in business ever reproduce! Geraldine Fabrikant chronicles the ups and downs of the family business, especially when the Mrs. is the CEO, in the New York Times.
  • The image of a unbelievably brave and desperate 10 year old Yemeni girl making her way alone to the courthouse to seek a divorce from her abusive 30 year old husband, to whom she had been given in an arranged marriage, is simply riveting. Learn about this brutal reality for many women in the third world.
  • You think?! Finally, the USDA has updated the WIC (Women, Infants, Children) food subsidy program to include fruits and vegetables. An also notable change is an incentive to mothers to fully breastfeed.
  • Do you know what "WWOOFing" is? Neither did I until I read a piece by Emily Badger which gives a glimpse into a phenomenon that is part eco-tourism and part "finding yourself."
  • Many pride themselves on the ability to keep an open mind. But, is this really possible, given the nature of how our memories work? Sam Wang writes in an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times that, "Consumers of news, for their part, are prone to selectively accept and remember statements that reinforce beliefs they already hold." We look for the common threads that resonate for us. I am no different, dear reader, a fact that must always be kept in mind, yours and mine alike.
  • Finally, a mother tries to hold off the awareness of the deep wedges between us, in a poignant meditation on explaining the unexplainable to a child, by Skila Brown.

Have a good week!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Relevant News Flash (6:2)

A few stories of note... serious, silly and just curious:
  • The Supreme court rendered a ruling that does not support the application of the death penalty in the cases of child rape. Coverage from The New York Times and The Washington Post.
  • It adds a bit of a twist to the challenging "tween" years when your daughter is a bonafide goddess. The Christian Science Monitor goes "In search of Nepal's living goddesses."
  • Bet you didn't know that there is an actual competition for Rock Paper Scissors, and you could earn $50,000 to boot? You can safely tell your children they can indeed be anything they want to be, even a Rock Paper Scissors champ. Read about the International Rock Paper Scissors Federation Championships.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that "new mothers' average time off work has already taken a nose dive since the early 1980s, the Census Bureau says; only 42% of working mothers took more than three months as of 2002, the latest data available, down from 54%." America, we have a problem!
  • Along with this, Joan Borysenko on the Huffington Post, writes about "Busting the Balance Myth." It's not so much about maintaining balance, she contends, as it is about maintaining a center.
  • Speaking of centers and balance, newsflash!, don't go to extremes with your teen and dating, they won't talk to you or follow your lead writes Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal . Plus, how you approach it reveals what your love life is like.
  • Airline traveling nightmares for parents are all too common these days, and recently a mother and child, who is autistic, were taken off a flight. The airline contends the mother was refusing to follow a regulation about storing her bag in the overhead compartment, and the mother contends that a bad situation with a special needs child went horribly awry as a direct result of the flight crews treatment of she and her child. Airline travel is stressful enough for adults of reasonably flexible demeanor, but the little ones, especially the special needs kids, get the brunt of what is becoming an increasingly untenable mode of travel.
  • Do you know the "20 Internet acronyms all parents should know?"
  • It's simply amazing what our little ones soak up! A young child recently summoned emergency response for her ill mother by using a 911 song that her mother taught her. And, it wasn't the first time!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Introducing Dashboard Relevant News Flash (6:1)

Today I launch a feature that gives a quick digest version of interesting and relevant articles that I have recently come across to keep you up to speed. Feel free to dazzle your friends at your next play date, or you could fall back on your old faithful, "So how about that Brad and to lay your bets on how many kids they end up with? Loser hosts playgroup indefinitely!"

Enjoy mommy newshounds:
  • My niece recently returned home from summer camp, and my mother-in-law commented that camp food is "still terrible." For a discussion of this, read the New York Times article: "School Is Out, and Nutrition Takes a Hike"
  • No matter how you stand on the debate about reality television (I also have my guilty favorites), the new NBC show the "Baby Borrowers" just seems to have something disturbing about it. Articles in the Contra Costa Times addresses the show's relevance and impact from the perspective of actual teen mothers, and a mother who allowed her child to be borrowed.
  • Not overtly a parenting tie in, but I still think this article presents some really relevant questions about the kind of culture we are raising our kids in. I would have thought that Mister Rodgers would have been more successful in encouraging us to know our neighbors, but as the New York Times Magazine article, "Won’t You Be My Neighbor?" recounts, the friendly neighbor has been in retreat since the 50s with some significant implications for us and our kids.

A Not So New Attack

Recently the American Medical Association passed Resolution 205 to actively counteract what they perceive is a glamorization of the practice of home birth, and to work to actively discourage the practice. But they do not simply want to discourage it; the wording of the resolution seems to point strongly towards an intention to restrict its practice legislatively through their very powerful lobby. Along with this, Resolution 204 seeks to protect their interests by advocating for legislation that limits the "licensure and scope of practice of midwives." Currently CNMs (Certified Nurse Midwife), who work within hospitals and are certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, are licensed in all 50 states, and CPMs (Certified Professional Midwife), who work outside the hospitals and are certified by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) , are only licensed and regulated in 24 states currently.

This action is getting heightened attention because the AMA directly cited the efforts of celebrity personality and producer, Ricki Lake, and her recent documentary "The Business of Being Born," which investigated the methods and choices in birthing in the U.S., as an example of the need to step up their efforts to counteract what they infer is a misleading trend of celebrity home birthing. Additionally, the Big Push for Midwives campaign wants CPMs to be licensed in all 50 states so that "families have access to legal midwifery care." Previously the public relations war had been waged with groups of parents that the AMA has been able to marginalize as fringe, alternative, and counter culture. Now, with the visibility of not necessarily an a-list celebrity, but a celebrity nonetheless, the discussion of this issue is starting to work its way into the mainstream, and this is counter to the goals of the AMA. Ricki Lake and her fellow filmmakers address this direct attack of sorts on her film and the prospect of alternative choices in birthing in a response to the AMA posted on The Huffington Post.

This action is concerning, but not new. To gain a historical perspective, in 1634 the assault on midwifery began in earnest according to historian Carolyn Merchant, as recounted in her book, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution. Early in the 1600s the Chamberlen family of England had invented the forceps, and had in fact in 1616 tried "to form a corporation of midwives," and also sought to establish "educational and legal restrictions on (the) use (of forceps)." The midwives were not amenable to this effort and resisted, and a public relations and legal battle ensued that has laid the groundwork for the current battle being waged today. Merchant further asserts that the practice of midwifery and the ability of women to have control over their own bodies are closely related, and that by the end of the 17th century "women began to lose control over midwifery and thus over their own reproductive functions."

Ostensibly these battles have been waged over the safety of the methods used to bring our children into the world, but the overtones of the debate are couched in terms of competency that cuts deeply into our philosophical fabric. Is a woman's body competent enough to birth a child with marginal intervention and gently guided care, or is it an unpredictable mechanism that requires a controlled circumstance to perform competently? Many women contend that this should not be a competition, but rather a collaboration to ensure the best outcomes for mother and child.

Groups of parents are mobilizing around the country to make their viewpoints known regarding birth and child-rearing choices, especially as it relates to the health care dimension, and providing support for those who find themselves outside the mainstream as defined by the AMA. The Holistic Moms Network recently issued a press release in response to the AMA's Resolution 205, which questions the basis of the AMA's assertions and expresses the experiences of several member parents that have had safe and enriching home births. Ultimately improving the outcomes of birth, they say, is dependent upon the ability of the citizenry to make responsible and informed decisions, and that necessitates choices and options, including home birth.

For further discussion of modern midwifery and birthing trends in the U.S., read Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent and Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block.

Think Deeper, Take Action

One of things that struck me when I became a parent was just how much I did not know! And the next thing that struck me was how much I ignored, either innocently or willfully. Consumers cry fowl when an overt risk makes national headlines, such as a tainted tomato or spinach, but some things take years of concerned citizen pressure to finally bubble up to the mainstream, such as BPA in baby bottles, and toxic vaccine ingredients and a whole host of other environmental threats that we have had a hand in creating or perpetuating.

Knowing can be hard, but one need not be paralyzed by fear. Small steps and informed action can make all the difference for your child and those of strangers. There are so many resources with actionable recommendations. One of my favorites is


The challenge of parenthood is that we must take our hands away from our faces and really look; merely peeking around your fingers will not serve your child or the world that they will inherit from us.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Social Experiment and Dissection Continues

Does partner equality really exist in our relationships? Even the most progressive couples amongst us find this question front and center once children enter the picture. It is the proverbial rubber meets the road scenario, where some metaphorically capitulate to the dreaded mini-van, or cling stubbornly to the impractical two-seater. Just as the auto industry has sought to dissect and to meet the need to have the function without acknowledging the reality in it's sedan SUV hybrids, this central personal and parental identity question looms ever large in all facets of mundane daily life. For more discussion of this bubbling brew in our American melting pot read Lisa Belkin's interesting article in this week's New York Times Magazine.

Farewell to a "Stand-Up" Guy.

Tim Russert, much esteemed moderator of NBC's Meet The Press, and Washington D.C. bureau chief, passed away suddenly and tragically the other day. I am among millions that mourn his passing. I mourn it as a person of passionate politics, who knew a kindred spirit in his familiar face filled with exhilaration and joy when dissecting the happenings in America's dynamic and mercurial political landscape. But I also mourn it as the mother to an American child, and specifically an American son. Russert was the kind of guy I hoped to be able use as a parental reference for the qualities of fairness, integrity, applied passion and just pure zeal for the possibilities of people, places, and yes, even politicians. It is perhaps not surprising to hear his attending physician explain that Russert apparently had an enlarged heart. His family, friends, colleagues, and his audience, me among them, knew that to be both the exultant and tragic truth. You will be missed Mr. Russert.

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