Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's Not the Bottom Line, It's Our Babies!

A few days ago I passed along information about a Consumer Product Safety Commission warning to immediately cease using either the Simplicity 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 bassinets due to significant dangers of the products that has resulted in two infant deaths.

This company has had issues and deaths on their hands before, and an article in The Washington Post details the past issues, and the reprehensible behavior of the current owners, who refused to issue a recall after the first death to protect their business. A second child died shortly thereafter. The CPSC took the unusual step of issuing the warning and instructing the stores to remove the bassinets because the company refuses to do so.

This shocking lack of morality in a business is not terribly surprising, but as a consumer we do not need to stand for it by further supporting their business practices.

She Can Bring Home the Bacon, Raise Five Kids AND Be Second in Command of the Country

In case you missed the news, John McCain has selected the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin (pronounced "pay-lin") as his running mate atop the Republican ticket. She's among other things a proud "Hockey Mom," wife of a working class oilman, and mother to five children; the youngest is four months old and was born with Down's Syndrome.

Who is this woman? Here are some links:

Of course ALOT of commentary out there, but this will get you started.

Three Babies and You are Out!: World Relevance

The world where we live:
  • The earthquakes in China killed thousands, and nearly 5,000 of those deaths were children who were attending schools in what many claim were buildings built in a substandard fashion, due to graft and corruption. As I have previously written, the tragedy of the loss of their children is compounded by the parents' loss of their right to seek and get answers and accountability. The Chinese government is so keen to hush them, they have coerced and threatened many into accepting a payout in exchange for their silence. It's either take the pay-out, or be cut off from the government that feeds you. No choice at all really. But, many parents still manage to fight to seek justice for a grief that will not be silent.
  • In China officials argue that they should get eco credit for their one child policy, as leading environmental groups call for families around the world to limit themselves to just two children, to preserve future resources. This is a hotly debated viewpoint, and it's not a simple issue either. There are many cultures that are now hitting population decline, such as the U.K. But proponents argue that a child born in a developed nation has a far higher eco footprint than those born in Africa for example, where five children is currently the average.
  • A shift is occurring in Japan. Women are increasingly deferring having babies, and additionally they seek to avoid childish men as husbands who require servile babying. I think it's the result of recent generations of Japanese women that have read and loved Anne of Green Gables; makes them feistier.
  • U.S. women aren't the only female populace that struggles with the inequity of pay, especially when one becomes a mother. In Germany, women also are faced with hard choices regarding career and family.

Who Needs a Parachute When You Have a Diaper?: Relevant News Flash (8:9)

Kids, and people acting like kids:
  • I may have sounded the clarion call of victory a wee bit soon for the Tomato Tots, those young sisters (one is three) who are fighting for the right to earn a little extra money for college, or a smoothie, by selling some nice home grown veggies from a card table on their front lawn. The mayor of the city is crying foul and claiming the city's planning commission is breaking the law by making an exception for the kids. The stew thickens.
  • Enterprising kids can be hard to come by these days, and maybe it comes down to no longer having chores? In fact the lack of chores these days has all kinds of ramifications for society, including philanthropy and having a stable marriage. Delegate moms and dads, delegate! Your country needs change, so do your part and assign the laundry.
  • Soon we shall have to wrap them in bubble wrap. A school in Australia recently banned cartwheels and somersaults due to safety concerns. They are reviewing the decision after parents declared, "let my kid tumble!" OK, I made up that last part, but the article does make the point that other Australian obsessions such as soccer, cricket and tennis, carry equal levels of risk.
  • Diaper defies death! The only thing that saved a toddler who tumbled from a window recently, was a diaper that caught on the way down and slowed his descent.
  • Libraries get tough on library crime! Recently a woman went to jail for failing to pay her library fine, and now a grandmother is going to jail because she refuses to return a book that she considers offensive. I reiterate, don't cross the librarian!

Young and Guns: Relevant Education News

Meanwhile, in education:

Eagle Eye Friend Saves Child: Healthy Relevancy

Health headlines:
  • Many are quite concerned with the FDA's recent move to allow expanded irradiation of our produce, without consumer knowledge in the form of packaging labels and other measures. If you are concerned, this isn't going to happen overnight; the process is on the cost prohibitive side at the moment.
  • Most of us take a ton of photos of our children and circulate to our friends. One good friend of a mom recently spotted a subtle warning sign of a tumor in the eye, in a photo of the child. Her observation may very well have saved the child's life.
  • For those who follow vaccination news, a recent report has emerged of a mumps occurrence in Vancouver. According to the report there were 116 confirmed cases, and 74 suspected cases.

Be well.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Natural Surgery and SQUEEZE!: Relevant Pregnancy News

On the pregnancy and women's health front:
  • Have you heard of the natural cesarean? This approach to the surgical procedure coming from the U.K. promises to give the birthing couple as natural an experience as possible, including a slower "delivery" of the baby to allow uterine contractions to clear the lungs, and bonding immediately following birth.
  • Those who have delivered non-surgically will utter one word to you: kegels. A new study finds that with consistent practice, initially the results are much better than those who have not heeded the advice; but, after years pass, without continued practice you're in the same boat as your non-kegeling counterparts. So, the moral is, add it to your circuit training sister. In fact, do it now! Are you doing it? Very good!

Real World Backtalk? Go Virtual: Relevant Tips

A few items that fall under the heading, "News You Can Use":
  • Something annoying and cute that my son does: he wants to touch anything and everything having to do with my computer. He has singular tenacity and focus when it comes to achieving this objective that I, on my least sleep deprived days, have to admire. In fact, I can tell that he's made it through my defenses when my office/library, which also doubles as Chateau Toddler, becomes suspiciously quiet. Experienced moms are chorusing a this moment, "he is up to no good," and they would be correct. Usually he's fished the mouse out, and it speedily working to get to that coveted keyboard. A special yelp of glee is especially reserved for the rare instances he makes it into my desk chair. Little surprise since I use the computer rather a lot as a writer, and he gets that it is my equivalent of his massive dump truck, and I get rather testy if he touches it. I don't share well. I foresee that some savvy parental computer stewardship is on the horizon, until the day, probably not that far off, that he can out hack me and his father. The Internet is fantastic, and the Internet can make a parent sweat. A nifty free downloadable toolbar can help direct your kids to age appropriate websites. It's not a complete guard, but it helps.
  • Parenting goes hi-tech, where the real and virtual mesh in some interesting ways. A new subscription service, NannysCircle.com, offers scheduling tools and other resources to manage the family; but not just meetings, activities, but also chores, homework, and even discipline. The concept is no nagging, but delegation to a virtual nanny. Does this work for husbands as well?
  • You are no longer a bad mother if you don't fish the wax out of your children's ears. Evidently it is best to leave it alone, and that goes for us adults as well. Yes, yes I am very smart, it has nothing to do with not having the energy to hold my toddler down to perform yet another personal care task he regards as torture worthy of a congressional hearing or a war crimes tribunal.
  • In CA at the moment this is hard to believe, but someplace it actually rains and challenges parents to keep the kids from writing your commitment papers to the loony bin. So some rainy day activities are in order to keep the natives happy. In my case, with the temperatures soaring outside, my toddler and I are inside doing a rather enthusiastic rain dance.
  • Finally, in the world of marketing, setting yourself apart from the competition is essential. When trying to find a decent nanny, I'm told, it's cut throat. A mom recently placed an ad on Craigslist that gives new meaning to the phrase, "truth in advertising." My favorite line, "I can be a tad difficult to work for. I'm loud, pushy and while I used to think we paid well, I am no longer sure."

Product Warning Alert: Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 Bassinets

If you or someone you know currently uses a Simplicity 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 bassinet, a critical warning has been issued about these products, and retailers are immediately removing them from their shelves.

Two infants have died, and the safety concerns are so great, that the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an immediate warning to cease using this product immediately. The products will be formerly recalled soon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Returning From a Station Break: Relevant News Flash (8:8)

The news hasn't stopped; I've just been indulging in writing about my other passion, often glimpsed here, politics, and 'tis the season! If you would like to check out what I've been writing about, head over to Open Salon and check it out. Rest assured, I have been also checking the news sources as well, so let's get current shall we?
  • Triumph of the Tomato Tots! I have previously brought you the story of two entrepreneurial sisters in Clayton, CA who have a homegrown vegetable "stand" (think card table) in their front yard; they grow it, pick and sell it for some extra preteen spending loot. They had been instructed to shut down by the City for violating a city zoning ordinance. Well, the story traveled and the outcry grew, and the City acknowledged that perhaps they had been a little ridiculous. Well, no, they didn't go that far, but they should have.
  • Speaking of vegetables, it should come as no surprise that a recent study has proven what anecdotal evidence has pointed to about vegetable consumption and kids: parents must lead by example, and do it early. Even better, grow it in the backyard and involve the kids, who find it more cool to eat that which they have had a hand in growing. Who knows, they could follow the Tomato Tots example and someday finance their own extracurriculars.
  • While we are on the topic of nutrition, another recent study joins the large amount of data coming out recently about the effects of vitamin D deficiencies. A recent New York Times article cautions breastfeeding mothers to be aware that breast milk can be deficient in vitamin D, and especially if you, yourself are deficient. It is easily remedied however with vitamin supplementation or cod liver oil. And, don't forget a little appropriate sun exposure. African American women particularly need to be vigilant.
  • Nutritional issues also directly contribute to our medical care costs, and as the politicians duke it out, be aware of a recent report that had some very illuminating findings, directly related to the question of whether universal health care is in our economic best interest.
  • And speaking of politics, the greening of energy has some specific challenges to overcome, and if we want to make it viable and affordable, it goes beyond individual states, and is definitely something to consider in assessing the candidates if this issue is important to you.
  • As a woman, to what degree do you really understand your finances, or do you subscribe to the ostrich financial plan? Syndicated personal finance columnist, Michelle Singletary, tells women it's time to address your "confidence gap," and she has some ways to get started.
  • In tougher economic times, I suppose it's natural that the decrease in personal earnings should also be felt in the adolescent sector, i.e. lower or no allowance. If your kids start to whine, remind them that it could be worse; they could be French. The French are really cutting their kids back, or off all together!
  • If they start looking for ways to redress the financial situation, suggest that they assist the family by making some homemade personal care items with these recipes.
  • Switching gears to education, which is getting a tiny bit of mention in the convention cycle thus far (more is needed in my opinion), The New York Times ran an interesting article about the educational tensions about teaching evolution.
  • Also, did you know about the growing trend of 9th grade only schools? Proponents work on the supposition that it improves ultimate graduation rates, if young teens are given another year to mature before entering the high school population.
  • A story about a nine year old with a mighty talent poses a parental tough call. A young baseball player has been barred from pitching because he is too good. When he took the mound, the other team immediately forfeited! Is it fair to bar this young guy from playing the game, or is it unfair for the other kids, who are beginners and amateurs, who have to face down this young man who can bring the heat?
  • If the current princess craze seriously concerns you, and you are searching for other books featuring better heroines for your young daughters to read about, check out the Amelia Bloomer Project.
  • Do you believe your child is truly gifted? "Gifted" has become a word marginalized by over and misuse. Truly gifted children are a much smaller percentage of the population than what other parents might have us believe, but check out these suggestions for helping your child fulfill their own unique potential.
  • Join the mile high birth club? An Indian woman recently gave birth to a six week premature baby boy while en route via airplane to Australia. It appears even storks are outsourcing these days.

Back to the labor pains of a party trying to birth a president...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pole Position: Relevant Political News

As the Olympics gives way to the political conventions, and parents are immersed in all things back to school, here are your political cliff notes:

Cue the political olympics...should be an interesting two weeks.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Barbie Bags the Big One: Relevant Giggles

Two new items to tickle your funny bone:

Friday, August 22, 2008

What a Way to Squash A Kid's Business Plan: Relevant Quickies

Odds and ends in no particular order:
  • Education, a step back? Many advocate separating boys and girls in public schools, claiming that it allows the kids to focus better, without some of the social pressures, as well as allows lesson plans to be tailored to the different learn styles of males and females. And, many advocate pulling back on our push for public pre-K education, cautioning that it does more harm than good.
  • Vaccine debate. Health officials are raising the alarm about the increase in measles cases. Dr. Sears weighs in on flu shots. The cervical cancer vaccine, Guardasil is highly controversial, and expensive. A lot of marketing money is flowing to ensure this vaccine campaign's success, but questions linger about it's overall effectiveness and value.
  • Business is tough all over, even for the budding young entrepreneur! Two young girls' produce stand (think lemonade, but with nice watermelons and zucchini) in Clayton, CA have been shut down for violating zoning laws. They are not allowing themselves to be squashed (sorry, couldn't resist), and vow to fight the ridiculous action. They're selling home grown fruits and vegetables people, they're not part of the problem, they are good role models!
  • Meanwhile, the FDA has just said that many of your everyday produce items can now be irradiated, without your knowledge. Makes the kids' stand look better and better, now doesn't it?
  • A proposed change in the legal drinking age, from 21 to 18, is causing a mighty furor. But, even those that signed the Amethyst Initiative petition concede that the culture may not yet be ready to acknowledge what they clearly see as reality. Critics claim that not enough "proactive prevention" has been applied to the issue, and don't see the move as making any impact without it.
  • A similar lack of proactive prevention, as well as an unraveling familial and social fabric are being blamed for the recent deaths of three teens on a Wyoming Indian Reservation.
  • Has responsibility for one's actions, as well as consideration for others, also known as "manners," just completely gone out the window, one mom asks? If you are similarly concerned, Tipnut.com, has some solutions for you. And, if you are interested in getting your kids involved in charitable endeavors, check out the recommendations from Ann Marsh.
  • Childhood development experts caution children to avoid TV until the age of three, but recent programming channels targeted towards infants and toddlers are gaining viewers. France has aggressively moved to limit this programming, and mandate warning messages on the programs to deter the parent.
  • Tax experts advise couples to adopt domestically.
  • While changes have been made, the Bush Administration's new regulations regarding contraception and abortion claim to have the specific intent of shielding medical professionals and institutions from being forced to practice procedures they find morally objectionable. Critics, however, claim that it is still too vague, and will lead to a decrease in proper access to medical care for women. Also, it would weaken some states regulations that prohibit the denial of contraceptive or abortion coverage to those employed by institutions that disagree with such practices.
  • Check out this strong argument for choice in birthing.
  • Off topic, but useful nonetheless: be aware of a jury duty scam according to the FBI. The identity thieves threaten to have you jailed for skipping duty you were unaware of.

There's your arresting news flash!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Getting Caught Up in the Blades of The Helicopter Parent

"Helicopter parenting" refers to parents that can just not let go, and are over involved in every aspect of their child's life. You most certainly have met one, and you might even be one. Consider the following scenario:

Your child is applying to college, do you:

  • A: Give support, encouragement and advice, while letting them navigate the application and interview process for themselves.
  • B: Tell them to text you once they have been accepted to their school of choice with how much to write the check for.
  • C: Write the essay, sit in on the interview, call your friend the Dean, and follow-up with the admissions officer, and pack their bags to move them in.

If you answered "C," you aren't alone. Your interest in your child's success is so keen, that some universities in the U.K. have acknowledged the inevitable and now just let you sit in on the interviews themselves.

And it doesn't stop in school. Employers are increasingly learning to deal with parents that have an opinion about their child's career growth in your company as well. I recall working at job fairs, and with alarming frequency a parent would approach me and proceed to tell me about their child, and how they would be perfect for my organization. Said child was usually a few paces behind, looking shy, bored or exasperated. Sorry to say, such behavior usually landed that candidate in the "handle with care" pile. Even following up to regretfully inform the candidate, who wasn't available usually, often turned into a series of twenty questions from the parent I invariably got instead as to why, which I politely declined to discuss as gently as possible.

Helicopter parents are usually well meaning, but increasingly the way to actually help your child stand out from the crowd is to take a step back yourselves, and allow them to develop the skills and maturity to accomplish on their own. This parenting behavior starts early, and particularly shows itself as your children enter school and activities. As back to school approaches consider how much independence you allow your children to succeed or fail, and make adjustments to help them get the most out of childhood. Follow the advice of the Saint Louis School of Medicine:

Remember that your job is to prepare your child to be a responsible and
capable adult, so decrease your involvement over time and let your child
live his or her own life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's Education, Stupid

All the pyrotechnic issues, foreign policy, economy and energy get all the attention in the presidential race, but substantive discussion about education is treated like charitable work on college hopefuls resumes; expected and predictable but perhaps not all that original or genuine. The question is why such an issue that arguably does more to decide the course of a culture, including the aforementioned hot button issues, is not front and center, certainly in our domestic policy dialogue, but also in our foreign policy and diplomatic debates as well?

Enlightening education news:
  • Check out some of the latest education statistics, which shows growing diversity demographics and a widening economic divide as well. Note that we are now educating 3 million more kids in "special education" than thirty years ago.
  • The Washington Post editorial pages gives the education approaches of both candidates an "I for Incomplete," and challenges both campaigns to bring something more than party line policies to the schoolroom.
  • Read the great Salon.com interview with public radio personality Sandra Tsing Loh, who has written a new book, Mother on Fire. In it she tellingly recounts her journey through the process of choosing schools for her kids, recalling the angst and pressures that attend this decision, especially when you can't afford private education. Instead of bemoaning it, she decided to put her ideals into action.
  • I chillingly recall seeing the paddle in my Principal's office as an elementary school student. Corporal punishment is still a reality in many schools in the country, and a recent study has found that it has signs of being racially skewed, as well as misapplied to those with developmental issues.
  • Columnist Tom Purcell questions a school lunch policy that has expanded beyond its original mandate.
  • A mom writing in The Christian Science Monitor recounts how her son, though never the star student in math through his school years, causing her a great deal of angst about his prospects, still persisted all on his own to tackle the equation to carve out his own future.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy Came Home Broke: Relevant News You Can Use

Today's economy requires attention, if not creativity, in making the most of your dwindling dollars. An article in the New York Times not long ago found that perhaps mothers were not deciding to stay home with their children because they wanted to necessarily, but because they didn't have better options in the workforce that allowed them to raise their families well AND balance the family books. And, whether you stay at home or not, the economic pinch increasingly requires both camps to make adjustments and choices in your daily lives. Here is relevant and useful information I've found recently:
  • While John Dillin, correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, started by implementing some green remodeling features in his home to lower his bills, ultimately he found that his greatest savings came from simple things, not requiring a contractor and building permit. I can attest that the simple act of capturing and reusing my dish wash and rinse water to water my plants in my water rationed neighborhood in CA, in part helped me to shave 100 units off my last water bill.
  • I must admit that I am not the best coupon hunter out there, but if you've got the time and the tenacity, the deals are out there. Click the links for great resources.
  • E Bay is not the only source for deals, and in fact some niche sites now offer deals and flexibility for both buyers and sellers.
  • Look for opportunities to swap items for free. Check out Recyclegroupfinder.com, Freecycle.org, Freesharing.org, and the Reuseit network. One single mom on a morning news program was able to furnish her entire apartment for free by using FreeCycle.
  • Recently my husband was reading a column by Tom Purcell about the household frugality tactics implemented by his wife, and he stopped what I was doing and shoved it under my nose, with a "this man feels my pain," look upon his face. Yes, I to had discussed the prospect of making our own laundry soap just a few weeks prior with him. I haven't yet tried it, but it is becoming more and more tempting.




Make Your Own Laundry Soap! - The most amazing videos are a click away

Happy penny pinching!

Dear CA Legislator: No Paycheck For Services NOT Rendered

Every year, as the heat of July approaches, like clockwork, I start to twitch. Then as July turns to August, I start to breathe heavily with annoyance. And, then as August starts to approach September, then I blow in indignation! E-V-E-R-Y single year.

What causes such a palatable disruption in the force of my sanity, you ask? The inability of the California State Legislators to pass a budget, expediently, let alone on time. The prancing, the dancing, and the grandstanding, while people suffer the whims of whatever political party happens to hold sway, never fails to send me into a world class adult temper tantrum to rival those of my toddler son.

This year, added torture has been heaped upon Californians, as the Governor and the State Controller duke it out over executing an immediate pay cut to thousands of state employees to minimum wage. Meanwhile, programs that depend on state funding, such as critical daycare programs are forced to go into personal debt while they wait for their funding to be restored, and scrimp on what they feed those in their care, to continue to serve those families that so desperately need affordable and accessible programs.

Now, members of the Democratic party propose sending a measure to the voters by 2010 to require merely a simple majority to pass the budget in the future, as opposed to the two-thirds it requires now. Democratic Assemblyman Sandre Swanson argues that this is needed to "strip the minority party of what he calls its out-sized influence."

Nope. Not good enough. What should happen is that the legislators themselves should cease being paid until the matter is resolved. This follows a very simple principle of all great and responsible leaders: Lead By Example.

If ever there was proof that it is critical to take part in the political system, and at the very least vote, this is one glaring and painful reminder to do so.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Until Money Starts Growing On Trees, Try This

Those who lived through the Great Depression must scoff at our angst over current economic woes, thus far anyway. Not that it hasn't been rough, and indeed devastating to countless families, and it's far from over yet. In our children's myopic experience, it's catastrophic, in view of the suped up consumer culture in which they are being raised. If nothing else this experience is a huge wake up call to return some sanity to our methods of managing our money, and that calls for some back to basics money management lessons for ourselves AND our kids.

It isn't just affecting some of us anymore. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the effects of our economic uncertainty has now reached into the wealthiest classes, and they to are now beginning to show signs of "reconsidering their spending." Many economists now see that we are at a point of a "transformation:"
Growing numbers of economists believe that America is now in a
transformational economy, where consumer spending may play a lesser role, as
households belatedly recognize the need to "right size" their lifestyles. For
many families, comparison shopping has become an essential practice.


Families that have been able to get by without making and sticking to a basic budget, are now finding that it is essential to do so. Many are unequipped to do so however, and don't know where to begin. Good Morning America and USA Today have recently teamed up to conduct a "Frugal Family Challenge." Two average families are working over thirty days to tackle their money management, or lack thereof, and improve their economic conditions. First is to tackle everyday spending, and then to work out saving for education expenses and retirement.

It may also be tempting to tap into retirement investments now, but advisers caution strongly against this, and advise good basic money management techniques, coupled with a savvy approach to the current conditions in the investment markets. Lost funds now, equals less miraculous compounding later when you will really need it, given the state of Social Security.

Ultimately, some return to common sense money management is in order, and parents especially need to actively teach their kids how to handle their money well, or factor them strongly into your retirement expenses! You can and should start early. Economist and mom, Gloria Nye, advises starting small. She advises parents that even if you don't feel you have the best money management skills, "you can begin to teach your children and learn more yourself in the process."

One innovative stockbroker dad, and now author, David Owen, decided to go into the banking business of sorts, and set up "The First National Bank Of Dave," because he recognized that “for kids to learn about money, there has to be something in it for them.” He operated his bank much like an actual financial institution, with a few kid friendly adjustments, such as realizing that a month can seem like a year to a small child, so to be engaged they need to see results more quickly. He chronicled his experiences in the book The First National Bank of Dad, and teaches parents specific and actionable steps to help your kids gain sound fiscal management abilities.

Taking these steps may not always stop the whining that attends the release of the latest gadget or gizmo that your child covets (or you for that matter), but ultimately when they consider spending their own money, that they have an active hand in managing, they may ultimately reevaluate its priority in their wants. And as a parent, you may do so as well.

Do Talk To Your Kids About The News

Whenever I see Tom Brokaw on TV, I feel that all is right with the world, and if he's reporting something horrible, he does so in such a way that feels like a benevolent sitcom dad breaking down the moral for the episode. See, for me, Brokaw was my Mr. Rodgers. My television in the boonies didn't pick up public television, so I grew up only peripherally aware of Sesame Street and the wonderful days in Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood. But I did watch Tom Brokaw on the "Today Show" every morning like clockwork with my parents. Newspapers were always piled somewhere around my dad's favorite chair. In short, news was part of the daily fabric of our household. Explains a lot doesn't it?

I was listening to a radio program recently that flashes back to specific years, and it played a clip from the Challenger Shuttle disaster. Immediately, I remember sitting on my coffee table as a middle schooler, riveted and horrified by the images of the shuttle blowing up. We spoke about it frankly at home, and in school, especially because my math teacher had applied to be the teacher on that flight. It was difficult to process, but I think I gained a lot from that experience, and it only made me more appreciative, and yes, more curious.

Many people shield themselves from the news. It can be difficult to take in. It can make you feel insecure some days, especially if you fall prey to the sensationalistic elements that news organizations have resorted to to garner their fair share of the public's attention. News doesn't need to be dull, but neither should the degree to which it entertains be a key indicator of it's worth.

Also, we feel the instinct to protect our children from the news of the day, and depending upon the child's age, that can be appropriate. But, ultimately it's important to talk about the news with your kids. It presents great opportunities to work out what your and their thoughts, feelings and viewpoints are, as well as working out what you value. Frank discussion of news in my household growing up also taught me to not merely accept one point of view as the only point of view, and I learned to think critically and independently as a result.

Teaching your kids to be informed and to think for themselves is one of the most important legacies you can give them, and I for one thank my parents for that.

For more resources about how to talk about the news with your kids, visit:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Do We Need To Burst The Safety Bubble and Give Me An "I" For Injury: Relevant News Flash (8:7)

Safety in the news:

  • Keeping our kids safe, and what extents we should go to are hot topics in parenting circles. But, in eradicating the dangers on our playgrounds, are we creating other unintended consequences? An editorial in the Wall Street Journal recently asserts that our obsession with safety is playing into our childhood obesity epidemic.
  • Families and child advocates are celebrating the passage of the toy safety law. President Bush signed the bill into law this week, which also infuses funds into the budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for enforcement.
  • Recently the FDA declared that the concern about BPA was unfounded, and will hold a hearing next month to discuss consumer concerns.
  • Tummy time can be a bit nerve wracking for a paranoid new parent; however, researchers urge parents not to avoid it, since it is essential to normal infant development, they say.
  • Maybe it's the skirts, but cheerleading has really never gotten it's due when it comes to acknowledging the athleticism of the sport. In fact, it's also the most dangerous sport for girls and young women when one factors the rate of injuries. I, myself, am one of the legion of former cheerleaders who was injured, which was my one and only ambulance ride as an youth, thankfully. Because it is not taken as seriously, perhaps sometimes the safety guidelines and procedures are not as assiduously followed as in other sports. This was certainly the case in my experience, as our faculty coach was almost never present at our practices, and wasn't the day of my injury. A risk to be aware of if your daughters are interested in joining the squad.
  • If you have a gun safe, be aware of the risks and take precautions to prevent young children from becoming locked inside, as happened to three young boys in a Texas sporting goods store recently.
  • This young couple was probably a candidate for "The Baby Borrowers." When they were stopped their 4 week old infant was not strapped into the car seat, and they had taped the pacifier to the baby's mouth!

Issues of access:

  • This may come as news to many Little League parents, but written into the bylaws of the organization by the founder is the encouragement NOT to charge fees of participants, so access is assured for all that want to play. But the reality of the organization flouts this rule regularly.
  • As the issue of childhood obesity worsens, weight loss camps, or "fat camps," have sprung up to meet the market for families seeking weight loss solutions for their kids. However, unless you can pay, there aren't to many options to gain access to these programs.

Hot Button issues:

  • Recently doctors in Denver, Colorado, performed a heart transplant on some desperately ill babies, harvesting the organs from severely damaged newborns. The controversy arises over the timing of the harvesting. The hearts were taken a mere two minutes after the babies were disconnected from life support, and some critics and ethicists question whether the children were allowed to fully die in that amount of time. The debate highlights sharp divides between those striving to maintain the viability of the organs to extend another life, and those fighting for proper respect for the dying.
  • Access to adequate health insurance coverage is no longer a problem for the poorer classes of American society, but extends well into the middle class, and profoundly affects children. Some states have gotten in some hot water with the current administration over their decision to extend coverage programs meant for the poor to the middle class as well. The Bush administration however is now retreating from their threats to penalize states that do this.
  • As the rates of Autism has dramatically increased, so to have the debates over how much to accommodate those with the condition. People on both sides of the divide are struggling with the balance of the needs of the one versus the needs of the many.
  • In recent years there has been a serious push to limit where convicted sex offenders can reside. Now some are claiming that these residency requirement laws are in conflict with the constitution, and must be reconsidered.
  • Many people swear by it, and many call it a case of marketing fraud. However, the FTC challenged the makers of Airborne's claims, and a potentially $30 million dollar settlement has been reached to reimburse consumers for up to six purchases of the product. While still on the market, Airborne's packaging has been significantly redesigned to remove any suggestion that it cures the common cold.
  • Even though the economy is tough, a kid still needs school supplies. Suffering from lagging sales, retailers are pulling out all the deals they can to entice wary and weary consumers into the stores for the critical back to school season. Deals are out there to be found, just don't fall into the impulse buying trap!

Tales from the Womb: Relevant Pregnancy News Flash

Fecund news bits:

  • A woman in Egypt got more than she bargained for when she took fertility drugs in order to get pregnant with a much desired son; she got seven total babies, four of which were boys.
  • At least she paid attention in birth class. A woman in southern California gave birth to her second child on her front lawn before emergency personnel could reach her.
  • An Indian couple who had challenged the country's late term abortion law that disallowed a termination after the 20th week of pregnancy, unless there was a risk to the health of the mother, delivered a stillborn fetus. They wanted to abort the fetus because it had a heart defect. The case had sparked widespread debate across India.

Relevant Cause: "Power of ONEsie"

Make sure that whomever the next President is knows how important the American family is, and understands the critical need to support and protect America's families with commonsense policy decisions.

Join Momsrising.org, a political action organization advocating on behalf of women and families, in their "Power of ONEsie" display that they plan to feature at both political conventions.

Here is all the relevant information:

As you're wrapping up your summer, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain are heading into their respective political conventions to receive their parties' nominations. Yet the pundits are mainly reporting on the war, the Olympics, and the price of gas. What's missing? You! Moms! Kids! Basically, family issues like fair wages, inflexible work hours, lack of paid sick days, and the astronomical cost of childcare/early learning.

From your very own living room or kitchen table, you can bring the voices of mothers and families to both the Democratic and Republican conventions and have your voice be heard by the media, the pundits, and the candidates.

HOW? Well, we have a simple, wacky, and yes also brilliant way to make a splash at the conventions. We're putting together an eye-catching (news-catching) "Power of ONEsie" display for the conventions, where each decorated baby onesie represents a mom, a dad, a child, a voice for families.

YOU CAN HELP- YES YOU! Just take a moment to decorate a baby onesie with your message to the candidates and send it to us (full explanation & directions below), or simply buy one here for us to decorate & display for you:

http://www.momsrising.org/Make_Me_A_Onesie

Remind the pundits, the parties, the press, the people, and the candidates that families across our nation are struggling and need our attention, that nearly a quarter of families with children under age six are living in poverty, that a baby is born every 41 seconds without health care coverage, that too many parents can't afford adequate childcare, and that women's wages are still stuck way below the wages of men. It's time for a change! We moms share these issues together, and we can solve them together.

THE POWER OF ONEsie: MomsRising will showcase a fabulous chain of mom-decorated baby onesies, the "Power of ONEsie" display, at the two national conventions, one in Denver and the other in Minneapolis to garner media attention, raise awareness, and prove to the candidates that real people care about these real issues.

In the display, each onesie signifies one person--mother, father, child, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, or other who cares deeply about building a family-friendly America, but can't take time off work, or away from kids, to be at the conventions.

OUR REQUEST TO YOU IS SIMPLE: Help us build this chain by getting us your decorated baby onesie and we'll take it to Denver and Minneapolis. You can do this either by sending us your own creation, or by donating to get a onesie made for you with the easy link below. Creating something unique and eye-catching is an extremely effective way to catch the attention of the press, as well as a key way to move public opinion and expand understanding. It's a powerful way to help.

TWO ONEsie OPTIONS FOR YOU (OR DO BOTH!):

* CRAFTY OPTION: If you want to make your own ONEsie and send it to us, then simply get a new or used baby onesie (or a small kids t-shirt) and make it your own by decorating it with fabric paint, markers, or even rhinestones! We invite you to add catchy slogans ("Paid Family Leave or Bust," "Health care for All Kids," "Changing More than Diapers") or your hopes for the future. You can even get together with friends and have a ONEsie Party to decorate! Or decorate your ONEsie with your children, at play groups, with book clubs, or even while you're waiting for sports practice to end. After you've decorated your onesie, then... pop it in the mail to us! SNAIL MAIL YOUR CREATION TO: MomsRising, P.O. Box 19596, Seattle, WA 98109
- and/or-

* NON-CRAFTY OPTION (WE MAKE IT FOR YOU): You can buy a ONEsie from MomsRising online with one easy click, and we'll decorate it for you and add it to the Power of ONEsie project. Click here to buy your ONEsie for the project:

http://www.momsrising.org/Make_Me_A_Onesie

*Please invite your friends to participate in this effort by forwarding this email to them. Working together, we amplify our voices!
TIMELINE: We need to have as many onesies as possible to display at the Democratic Convention in Denver by August 25th -- that's 10 days from now.(!) So, make, or purchase, your ONEsie soon! But even if you can't make that deadline, we'll continue building onto our Power of ONEsie project to display at the Republican Convention in Minneapolis. We'll also use the display at the Presidential debates, and in specific states where the display can spark important conversations and remind our leaders that mothers and families are going to be visible participants calling for policies and programs that reflect the needs in our lives. We'll continue adding to the project as people continue donating onesies. Think Guinness Book of World Records long!

MAKE A DIFFERENCE -- HOW ONEsies WILL HELP: Do you remember the AIDS quilt? Long before the public began to pay attention to research and funding for a cure, people who were touched by AIDS, whether mothers, fathers, sons or daughters, told their story through this dramatic display. In Washington State, the Power of ONEsie display helped make Washington only the 2nd state in the country to pass family leave!
All eyes in America will be focused on the convention. Imagine, if they all see your voice represented, in the Power of ONEsie!

Get crafty and make a onesie, or buy (a crafty additional) one through us by clicking this link:
http://www.momsrising.org/Make_Me_A_Onesie
One by ONEsie, working together, we can show the nation that we moms are a creative and powerful force, as well as help our politicians to pay attention to issues which have too long been ignored.

-- Laura, Kristin, Katie, Joan, Ashley, and the whole MomsRising team

p.s. Let us know if you are planning to be at either of the Conventions by emailing
laura@momsrising.org. We'd love to talk with you about helping with the display!

p.p.s. If you plan to decorate the onesies as a group, let us know, because we might just be able to get the media to cover your effort. In the past, the media has loved to cover such gatherings and then write stories about issues affecting moms. Please email us at laura@momsrising.org, with the Subject line "Power of ONEsie."

Relevant Find: The National Birth Survey


Choosing your method of birth and your caretakers is a daunting proposition for most new parents. While all moms have their birth stories, getting a well rounded picture of any particular method or caretaker can be hit or miss. It is often after the birth that many moms realize that they wished that they had known more about their practitioner, and location that they gave birth.


A new national birth survey seeks to collect women's birth experiences and specific feedback to ultimately empower women in making decisions about their births, as well as give maternal care providers and institutions material feedback. Take the time to take the survey, and have a role in improving maternity care in the U.S.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Don't Click Away, Our Children Count On Us

Reading the news regularly as I do, many times I encounter stories that just make me ache as a parent, and I have a firm rule to have some tissue handy at all times. I don't include them all, because frankly, I can only take reporting so much when it comes to the victimization of children, and I don't think my readers want that either. The stories are plentiful and prurient, but my focus is to inform, and empower parents (myself included) through greater knowledge and awareness to meet the hurdles of child rearing, with a spirit equal to any Olympic athlete in Beijing. Rose colored my glasses are not, but neither do I look to include stories that approach parenting with something akin to exploitative tabloid zeal.

A hard story broke through today and had to be told. In the West, we like to think that we cherish and guard our children well as societies overall, although there is much evidence that erodes that assertion, and is the subject for another post altogether. However, reading about the act of heroism of a Senegalese father, who has stood against a deeply ingrained cultural practice that subjects young children to "necessary abuse," brings humility to our own efforts to be advocates for our children, as important as these causes are. After reading this story, I had to go and check on my sleeping son, and give thanks for God and Country, that my son doesn't know such conditions.

Stories such as these are hard to read, and write about, and can make one feel a sense of defeat because there is just so much, and getting through the day with your own children, in your own community and country can be so overwhelming as well. But, I don't want to shy away; it's important to look and to know, and when one can, to act. This is a key motivator to my continuing to write about so-called "hard news" in a parenting blog, when the research suggests that hard news doesn't play to this particular demographic. I have to believe that as mothers we care about more than how to fix our hair, and reclaim our post baby bodies. Can we really be so narrow as the marketers suggest that our concern for children of other nations extends to which nation Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will adopt from next?

I pray that this is not the case, and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Booger Books Beguile Boys: Relevant Book News Flash

    Book news:

    • Hollywood and the book industry have always had somewhat of a love hate relationship. The book industry is coming to learn however that this relationship must be accepted, and perhaps not begrudgingly, but enthusiastically as a way to reach the wider audience and profits it needs to stay alive. Children's publishers are getting more savvy to this relationship, not only hoping for a lift to existing book lines, but as a key aspect of their development and marketing plans. One worrisome aspect with this "end in mind" approach to publishing and movie making, however, is the loss of quality, and certainly originality in the process, which in the long view seems to be essential to the survival of both.
    • Speaking of a certain degree of originality, publishers are striving for, and finding, ever deeper levels of "grossness" to sink to in an effort to get and keep the attention of boy readers, a notoriously tricky demographic. Undoubtedly gross sells, but is gross just a phase we just have to endure to get our young boys to read? Something tells me that this strategy caters to those who would be the TV executives that bring us the "Fear Factors" of the world.
    • I'm not really sure that this is the demographic that McCain really needs in the upcoming election, but McCain's 23 year old daughter, Meghan, feels that America's kids should know the story of her dad, and is set to release the book "My Dad, John McCain."
    • Many aspire to write, but write badly? A long standing Bulwer-Lytton contest recognizes excellence in stinky writing. Perhaps we could enter some of the aforementioned "gross factor" children's books?

    Should We Brand Her With A Scarlet "E" for "Enabler"?

    The odious revelations about John Edwards' affair are not matters that I really care to include, nor comment on, but a dimension of the story got my attention nevertheless. In all the seemingly pointless dissections of who knew what, when, there were some that were questioning Elizabeth Edwards as an "enabler." That's just really rich! The woman has been through a lot, and now we want to lay a little tabloid blame on her doorstep as well? Thankfully the wonderfully sane voice of Lee Woodruff, no stranger to strife herself, writes a great response in the Huffington Post that says all that I want to. Well said.

    All That is Gold Does Not Glitter: Relevant Global News Flash

    News from around the globe:
    • The Olympics in general has never been my major media "thing," and especially now, as parent, staying up until 2 a.m. to watch is just NOT going to happen. I'm writing at that hour after all! However, I am not immune, and I do confess to having a few slack jaw moments, both in awe and disgust, throughout this current Olympic barrage. Not surprisingly, the politics surrounding the event are what captures my interest. Overall, the Chinese drive to win at all costs in all aspects, from the hosting factor, where image is EVERYTHING, to the actual calculation to target specific events to increase their total overall medal haul, specifically gold, has elicited more than a few grumbles from me. Consider the story of Du Li, who had the extremely inauspicious honor of losing the Chinese's first opportunity for a gold medal. The pressure upon all the athletes, but especially the Chinese, is pretty unfathomable, and this particular athlete felt her failure to deliver particularly keenly. A fair number of her countrymen also let her know of their disappointment, and rather brutally. I wanted to fling myself off a bridge, reading the comments made! It's a testimony to her mental toughness, that she came back a few days later to win a gold in another event. I admire the competitive spirit, and as an American, I know the danger of casting this particular stone, but is winning really everything? It seems this current Olympic cycle has a lot of fodder for a family, community and national discussion on an issue that goes to the heart of who we aspire to be.
    • Speaking of gold, our demand for it has some costs that many would rather not think about. Thousands of children work in bush mines in West Africa, many as young as 4 years old. The process involves pouring mercury into their bare hands, doing untold damage. The precious metal has always had a high price in the world's cultures, and it indeed also has incurred a high human cost as well. As has been done in the diamond market, more reporting needs to be done to bring accountability to this shadowy marketplace.
    • Help doesn't always have to entirely come from outside. With a little well placed help, and with people native to the culture, who possess some amazing moxy, communities can improve themselves from within. A mother and a daughter have pioneered an innovative approach that is netting real results in Rabuor, Kenya, and is now spreading outwards to other communities. This community, with some well placed assistance, has taught itself how to fish in the waters of the global economy, and not become victims of it.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Desperately Seeking Swedish Sperm and The Pill Made Me Do It!: For The Ladies News Flash

    Ladies, can we talk about us for a moment? Several articles pertinent to the mamas emerged this past week. Let's review:
    • The birth control pill may have liberated our sex lives, but apparently it also skewed our biological systems to pick the wrong men, genetically speaking that is. A startling report suggests that the pill may drive women to select men that are genetically similar, and therefore can exacerbate inherent biological issues in the couple. This may be a significant contributing factor to the rising rates of disease, disorders and infertility since the late 60s. Furthermore, it may also be a contributing factor to marital discord, particularly in the child rearing years, as rates of birth control use lowers, and the natural biological "senses" return to influence your attraction to your spouse.
    • Have your heart set on procuring some nice European or Scandinavian sperm? Get in line, and the supply is dwindling fast! The U.S. enacted restrictions on sperms donors from Europe and Scandinavia due to fears of spreading mad cow disease into our gene pool. Those who have had previous children by these donors are being forced to either travel overseas for insemination, or choose the donor behind door number 2.
    • Vitrification, or flash freezing of embryos, is a new and groundbreaking fertility treatment innovation which is yielding promising results in the U.K. The first children resulting from this approach are being born with no apparent adverse issues. The storage method better preserves the precious embryos, and allows for more success with only single embryo implantation.
    • Why do we have a growing childhood obesity epidemic? Start ticking off the reasons on your fingers, and now add, if mom is carrying too much excess weight before and during pregnancy. This may genetically predispose the offspring to have continuing weight challenges throughout their lives. One more thing to add to your maternal guilt list, but the point about greater attention and commitment to preconception and pregnancy health is well taken.
    • You are truly blessed if you escaped motherhood without the vexom hemorrhoid issue. But if you are one of the legion with this legacy of motherhood (you can raise your hand, presumably you are in private) there are some excellent and natural ways to address the problem and get some relief sister.
    • A tragic toddler drowning incident which may have stemmed from a mother's post partum depression is an aching reminder that mothers need to watch out for one another and for the signs of this condition. Never get complacent about your young child in a tub!
    • Bucking the trend to legislate and litigate against questionable parental naming judgement, Sweden says go ahead and name your child "Metallica" if you wish, but just stay away from "God, Allah or Devil."

    I sense that there may well be some little "Abbas" born in the months to come.

    Prodding the Prodigies and Learning to Live Scream-Free: Relevant News Flash (8:6)

    News of the pint size variety:
    • Where's the fun in that? The popularity and competitiveness of traveling youth sports teams has been growing year after year, and they are reaching for the younger and younger phenoms in the wings. Can you imagine your t-ball preschooler traveling to compete? Are you dooming their big league career at the tender age of three?
    • How much can you know about the blues at the age of 8? Enough to make the grown-ups view you as serious competition in the case of young blues guitarist prodigy, Tallan "T-Man" Latz.
    • What exactly should my kid know and when? Opinions and standards vary frustratingly. The education beat reporter for the AP got a rude awakening herself when she relocated to London, and was informed that her daughter was not prepared adequately.
    • While U.S. schools grapple with meeting shifting standards, one unique school is working innovatively to make sure that no immigrant child is left behind. The story of young Bill Clinton Hadam continues.
    • Tantrum or credible threat? A four year old had a meltdown at nap time in his Colorado daycare, and proclaimed that he was "going to shoot all (his) friends." He was subsequently barred from the daycare. Overreaction? In a time with more than our fair share of violent behavior in our youth, how do we discern the line between emotional outburst and imminent intent?
    • Growing violence and disconnectedness are indeed cause for parental anxiety. A few youths have responded to family criticism and discipline with deadly consequences.
    • And, as if that weren't enough stomach churning for one news post, consider the danger of brain eating amoebas in some of our lakes that have already claimed some young lives this summer. Yes, you read that correctly, and no it is not the name of the new horror flick opening at the multiplex.
    • Our kids are psycho, our economy is loopy, but apparently a news report says that despite our woes, we still make time to "eat drink and be merry." In fact, the fortunes of the so-called "sin stocks" are on the upswing. Not surprising that with the news of the day we reach for a nice micro brew and a delicious piece of chocolate.
    • Never fear, however, there is the possibility of "scream free parenting," which advertises a "window to a calmer world."

    Chin up parents, the news has to get a little better. We hope!

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    We're Off to See the Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Spin Control

    As Dorothy famously uttered, “we’re not in Kansas anymore.” The same could be said of parenting in the information age. The impact of marketers and public relations spin professionals challenges parents trying to guard their impressionable children as well as their wallets.

    When I was emerging from college and deciding on what direction to take, Marketing and Public Relations, was a vague, slightly important sounding bubble on the interest assessments I took to find what color my proverbial parachute was. Over the years, slowly I have come to better understand the far reaching fingers of these disciplines that are at once ubiquitous but yet still, interestingly enough, somewhat shadowy at the same time. It all came together down the yellow brick road, when I went with Dorothy and the gang to meet the Wizard. I'm pretty sure that movie should be required in all Marketing and PR 101 courses.

    My initial instincts proved to be correct; there is a fair bit of power lurking in these titles, and the impact can be quite far reaching. The rise of the Internet, the evolution of Web 2.0 and the explosion of social networking has enhanced these industries, and given rise to new ways to manipulate the spectacle from behind the curtain. Consider the rise of the company New Media Strategies, which hires and deploys its staff to comb the Web with the intent of representing Company A, and doing the Internet trench warfare, if you will, to build the brand and fight back the insurgents that would detract from it. Sound off about Company A on a popular blog that speaks to the key demographic, and there is the NMS wizard to counter that comment with a favorable one of their own. They call the strategy "influencing the influencers," and you have to admire the precision of the concept.

    Hollywood has raised marketing and pr to an art form. This summer they have had something of a break through, and hit upon the right mix of the moment to get a huge and elusive market segment into the theaters, women. The success of "Sex and The City," "Mama Mia," and the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," all helmed by strong women in front of and behind the cameras, has demonstrated that women will come, and they will go toe to toe with the big summer testosterone blockbusters. It really does come down to who can best "influence the influencers," and some Hollywood women hit upon the right properties, with the right women up front to lead the charge this summer.

    Why should the evolution of marketing and pr matter to parents? Because, we are huge influencers to an emerging market segment: our kids. It stands to reason that those that stand to gain have a few wizards on their side, and one would be wise to look around the curtain and ensure that we are comfortable with the influence they are wielding.

    Love and Marriage, Goes Together Like a Horse and Frequent Flyer Mile?

    A few interesting stories emerged recently about the state of marriage. The first comes from an informative interview on Salon.com with Susan Squire, author of I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage. The author discusses the 5,000 year history of the practice and it's prospects for the future. She reveals that the modern marital expectations of romance, sustained sexual heat and partner equality is a new notion in the long history of the practice, really only about 300 years in the making, with a turbo boost since the 1970s, and still emerging and changing. The author urges couples to take the "long view" to remove the pressure. Perhaps the same could be said of parenting?

    Also, one of the more interesting manifestations of the current economic conditions is the effect that it has had on marriages. There have always been long distance relationships, but long distance marriages were less common. Now, as the job market changes, it is not always a simple matter of picking up the family and relocating. Now, it may take a while to sell your house, or one might want to minimize the disruptions in their children's lives, and thus long distance marriages are on the rise. While this may seem to be a ticket to divorce court, on the contrary, many couples are finding that it has strengthened their unions.

    Love and co-habitation, perhaps you can have one without the other!

    Are You Part of the Problem, Or the Solution?

    One of the reasons I am personally passionate about staying informed, especially as a parent, stems from a feeling of personal responsibility to gain perspective as much as possible, to widen my understanding and challenge my preconceptions. I feel this responsibility particularly keenly as a parent because I believe that the job of parenthood is to raise your children to be who they were intended to be, and prepare them to carry on the story of humanity. And to my way of thinking, that requires perspective.

    The Middle East is one area that people, if they know much at all, tend to willfully resist perspective. Perhaps it is easier for most to have a clearly defined source of "evil." But with perspective, one finds that things are rarely so clear cut. A wonderful project is drawing to a close, spearheaded by Queen Rania of Jordan. Over the past several months, she has been attempting to bring dialogue to challenge and enrich what people know of the Middle East, through interactive videos and blog posts on YouTube. I encourage you to visit and start a dialogue of your own, to benefit your children now and to come!

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    Placental Fruit and Grandma, Can We Ride On The Roof Again?: Relevant News Flash (8:5)

    Good afternoon news lovers! A few stories to pass along:
    • I thought they were, well nice, in Canada? A U.K. family of a disabled girl however recount how their dreams of relocating to the land of the nice, north of the border, turned decidedly nasty, when they were denied entry at the airport because their daughter is disabled. This story will take your breath away.
    • Now that you have your breath back, prepare to start huffing in indignation. I've posted many parental travel horror stories this summer, and now here is the viewpoint of a man who feels severely put upon to suffer an upset child on a flight, and suggests that parents really don't need to travel. Keep reading the comments on the piece and you just might start to hyperventilate, so keep a paper bag handy.
    • Doesn't it seem odd sometimes that we spend millions studying things that are just really common sense? For example, a recent study confirms that children that suffer severe stress early in life, suffer the effects for a lifetime, and can develop personality issues as a result.
    • My mom let me sit in her lap as a child and "steer" the car when I was barely a preschooler. My how things have changed, but someone needed to educate a grandma recently that was arrested for letting the kids ride, albeit really slowly, on the roof of the car.
    • Learn some interesting statistics about adoption, and specifically who is doing it, and you might be surprised. And, the Olympics is an especially exciting and important event for families of children adopted from China.
    • Homeschoolers declare victory as the court overturns the previous ruling that would have required homeschool parents to have a teaching certification.
    • How effective, and how accurate, is McCain's recent ad regarding Obama's economic policy's effect on families? AdWatch breaks it down in analysis.
    • A recent opinion piece bemoans the rise of the "Nanny State," particularly in the western states. But the question to consider pertinent to parents is not covered in the piece. In light of how mismanaged the recalls of children's products have been handled, and indeed even the allowance of toxic substances in our children's products in the first place when other countries in the world set up standards nine years ago, how else are parents and state and local governments to protect when the profit motive lacks a conscience and the federal arm lacks the means and will to do it?
    • The good and bad of technology on display. Take a look into the future, not far away, and the technology that will make Gumby proud. And, the warning at the end of a recent USA Today article on the skimming devices being used by crooks to capture consumer information at the gas pumps is depressing in it's assertion that it's not a matter of if, but when.
    • Let's close with that lovably zany Matthew McConaughey, who is really a gung-ho 21st century papa, proudly "getting native" with his laboring girlfriend, and now talking about his plans to bury the placenta in an orchard to celebrate his beautiful son. Not quite sure about the bit about taking him to a John Mellencamp concert though. Got tiny protective earphones? It's nice to see an unabashedly enthusiastic papa, and if he occasionally plays the bongos naked as a baby, well more power to him.

    Remember to pull down the shades.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Relevant Find: The Responsibility Project

    Ethics used to be a part of core curriculum, but these days it is relegated to elective status. Has our society and culture suffered? The Responsibility Project is a community created by an insurance company, Liberty Mutual, after it received a lot of feedback about one of it's commercials. The intent of the site is to bring people together to "think and talk about responsibility." The project has drawn together artists, musicians and filmmakers to create compelling content that gets people considering and sharing where they stand on everyday issues. You can actually have a thoughtful discussion about the real life hard questions that we all face, particularly as parents trying to raise our kids well.

    Get thinking and talking, and your kids will thrive for the effort.

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008

    Fierce Women Can Raise Millions, Slay Lions and Carry a Baby in a Size 2?: Relevant News Flash (8:4)

    Shaking off the slightly sick feeling that I included Paris Hilton in my commentary today. I feel a little dirty frankly. Let's get back to the other news of the day:

    • A prominent pediatrician and author, Dr. Melvin D. Levine, is under a cloud of suspicion as lawsuits have been filed alleging sexual abuse. Dr. Levine has been a pioneer in the field of special education for decades, and was featured on PBS and "The Oprah Winfrey Show," detailing his groundbreaking and acclaimed educational approach. The New York Times delves deeply into this story, and reveals that this isn't the first time this issue has arisen for Dr. Levine.
    • As women break down social and professional barriers, we are learning about those that are also asserting themselves in the world of philanthropy, pooling their efforts and lending a hand to other women across racial, class, cultural and socio-economic divides.
    • When we have such capacity for greatness in us, sometimes the mercenary competitive instincts of women is just so demoralizing. Initially the move to show the pregnant belly gained ground in the celebrity world as a brash rejection of the idea that the pregnant body was somehow misshapen, and so should be covered up in the maternity "tents," ala Lucille Ball. Those early tabloid shots of stars proudly proclaiming their protruding bellies in tiny shirts and snug fitting jeans was a clarion call for women to feel good about their pregnancies. But somewhere along the way, the competitive drive entered the picture, and the belly became the "bump," and the expectation that you carry your bundle of joy, but not change your jean size took hold. This drive has been assigned the odious and exploitative moniker "pregorexia." I agree with the Slate commentator, our obsession with attaching a cute catchphrase, ignores a serious underlying problem putting women and babies at risk.
    • Speaking of trends in pregnancy, technology jobs aren't the only thing being outsourced to India, there are also uteruses for hire in a growing surrogacy market. The AP reports of one such surrogacy case that has gone very awry, where a couple who had hired a surrogate split, leaving a helpless infant in limbo.
    • In the tense immigration debate, sometimes we forget that people still regard America as a"paradise," that represents modest dreams of safety, opportunity, and the ability to eventually live where there are "not too much roach." Meet the compelling Bill Clinton Hadam and his family as they make their way in their new world.
    • These days young gourmets are on the rise, and it's hip! I didn't get too much guidance in my quest to learn how to cook as a child, and resorted to old cookbooks to teach myself. Never one for the mundane, my parents bemusedly sat down to a dinner of Seafood Nuremberg one evening. Many programs now cater to and guide the budding foodie, with aspirations of culinary stardom.
    • To top it all off today, a couple of headlines that bear repeating for laughs. First there is "111-year-old reptile finally becoming a father," which for a minute there I thought we had gone biblical, but no, a rare reptile suddenly feels frisky since he had a growth removed from his area. And, the dramatic, "Woman riding a donkey fights off lion with machete." She was protecting her seven year old niece. Talk about a woman with some moxy points.

    Alright, I Admit It, She Has Her Un-Vapid Moments

    I for one can't seem to shake a certain sense of chagrined unease as I bring you the news that Paris Hilton has scored a begrudging point in my moxy book. It's actually hard to wrench the words from my keyboard, such is my usual disdain for all things Hilty. But as McCain drew her into this arena, I guess I'll have to acknowledge that she is legitimate news. Now, remember, she didn't come up with the spot, nor write it, she just showed up as her Hilty self and delivered. And she did deliver. When I watched her recent spoof campaign rebuttal ad on funnyorDIE.com, I thought, "she's reading rather well from those cue cards," but apparently I was wrong. The AP reports that she delivered her energy policy analysis script from memory. Maybe there might be a br...nah, that's going a bit to far, and I have to pace myself.

    John McCain is trying desperately to use the spot to his advantage. By saying that Paris has a better grasp on energy policy than Barack Obama, he is simultaneously attempting to get back in the good graces of the parental Hiltons, who are contributors and were rather unamused by McCain's use of their daughter in his attack ad recently, and scoring a hit against his opponent's somewhat shifting position on the issue. One thing seems to resonate amongst commentators on this development, a begrudging "atta-girl" from hard and soft politics and news junkies alike, and an "uh-oh, you're in for it now" assessment of McCain's position coming out of this.

    Round 2 to Hilty, McCain is bloodied on the ropes, and Obama is... in the locker room.

    See more funny videos at Funny or Die

    Tuesday, August 5, 2008

    A Post Baby Body Can Be Golden: Relevant New Flash (8:3)

    • Luggage? Check? Boarding passes? Check. All five of your children? The flight attendant wishes to inform you, that you've left your three year old behind at the airport. The youngster who got separated from her family while they rushed to make a flight, later flew with an airline staffer to reunite with her family. Those parents will never live that down. Just another day in airline travel.
    • You shall no longer be able to hide behind that tired post baby body excuse. Olympic athlete moms say that they perform even better after having given birth.
    • Working in close proximity to a major movie plex, I always used to dread the opening of the latest slasher horror flick, because I would be surrounded by droves of tweens on the prowl. I always wondered how all those far below the rating age were getting in, and then I went to see one and saw Mom and Dad buy the tickets, distribute to the squealing pre-teens, and head next door to the Mexican eatery for a round of margaritas with the other parents. So it isn't surprising that a significant amount of pre-teens regularly view R-rated material. But, what impact does it have upon them?
    • If you choose to have hospital birth in the West, be thankful for conditions that don't follow those in Turkey presently, where 49 babies died in July, and 27 alone in one hospital in the last two weeks due to dangerously low nursing staff levels.
    • Initially when read with a western eye, a report that efforts are being made to set minimum legal marriage ages, to eliminate the possibility of a one year old child being married off by their families in Saudi Arabia, and that there is resistance to the idea, seems unfathomable. But this issue is not at all clear cut, in view of cultural reasons that such unions are arranged.
    • It's great that e-waste recycling efforts are steadily increasing, but where does it go from there? Presently, there is a good chance that it may land in Africa, where it is broken down for scrap. But, the process is highly polluting, and children as young as five have been found among the workforce. So when you think about upgrading that snazzy device, be aware of what the recycling policies of the seller are, if any. Another opportunity for an informed consumer to make a difference.
    • Speaking of recycling, when times get tough the tough get scavenging. Due to the high demand for metals, increasingly people are making ends meet by recycling what may be sitting around their garages.
    • And, on the front of reducing waste, you don't have to be overwhelmed, just start with lunch. A campaign to promote waste free lunches is just in time for back to school.
    • As recent reports of a dns vulnerability makes some tech folks utter some colorful expletives, a handy article from the AP for the everyday consumer delves into how to authenticate the websites you are doing business with to help protect yourself.
    • The lament of the death of the printed book has been written about for a long, long time, but is the new Amazon Kindle the device that will finally lower the proverbial boom? What impact will that have on the culture and our kids?

    Feeling guilty about that Olympic mama story tonight, as I down my milk and cookies. Mmmm. I'll take the bronze, if need be.


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