Where real moms tell it like it is.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Intolerant Teachers??

I just returned from a Hawaiian vacation. For the flight home, I bought the latest People Magazine, you know, with Britney, Kevin and Sean Preston on the cover?? I was flipping through the magazine and came across an article that angered, irritated and saddened me.

The article read: "Bounced from Preschool, Nursery school delinquents? Some tots are getting the heave-ho for unruly behavior". The article indicated that a 2005 Yale University study of state-financed classrooms estimated that more than 5,000 U.S. preschoolers are expelled each year - a rate three times higher than in elementary schools.

It reads, "Schools say they are prompted to take such action when a student's behavior - such as hitting, biting or throwing things - interferes with the smooth running of the class. The trend troubles some experts, however, who say too many schools are shirking their responsibility by tossing out, rather than dealing with, tots who act up or lag behind. "We are creating a group of children who are very likely to come to kindergarten with serious problems," says Dr. Jack Shonkoff, dean of Brandeis University's School for Social Policy and Management."

Now, I understand that there is a shortage of teachers and that they are grossly underpaid, but this "intolerance" can only lead to children, that need that extra bit of attention, being left behind.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving Cliches

This past week, how many TV stations ran news shorts about the poor, needy, homeless, and fell-on-hard-times folks filling their plates with turkey at the local soupkitchen, church, or charity? I'd guess roughly a gazillion. And how many well-meaning people, bowing their heads around a table, thanked God for the heapin' mounds of food they were about to hoover down, earnestly concluding "...when there are so many who go without"?

Well, this "let's take a moment to think about the poor" holiday reflex has become so cliche, that I was pleased to read about this more meaningful gesture launched in Durango, Colorado. The Walk a Mile project paired elected officials with low-income mothers. The local policymakers pledged to live on a food-stamp budget for one month, just like the moms. The result?

State Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez, blew the $114 budget for him and his wife in two weeks.

"It was really eye-opening how quickly that went away," Larson said. "I had to think what were the repercussions if I exceed that budget in two weeks and had to go two weeks without it."

Durango City Councilor Renee Parsons busted her $104 budget on holiday fixings.

"With Thanksgiving, it's an impossible situation. It's an impossible task," she said. "I don't even eat a lot of meat, and I'm a pretty frugal person."

Parsons said she began to feel tired after a couple of weeks on the food-stamp budget because she ate less.

Image if every policymaker who uttered holiday-cued nonsense about the poor were forced to participate in a program like this! Especially those Republican Congressmen (turkeys!) who are trying to extend their big tax cuts for the rich by squeezing the foodstamp budget.

Most foodstamp recipients are moms. Many are single and many of them work. Those are some hard shoes to walk in. Three low-income residents who responded to the Walk-a-Mile fliers were turned away because not enough policymakers were willing to participate.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mothers Who Need To Get Lives

I am all for women -- even the ones I disagree with -- to raise their children as they deem fit. But this boycott of American Girl dolls struck me as ridiculous:

"Girls Inc.," one mother warned, "is pro-abortion and pro-contraception and pro all the other lies the secular world wants our girls to believe." Roman Catholic schools in Brookfield, Wis., and St. Louis canceled American Girl fashion shows, where girls were to dress up like their dolls. And the Pro-Life Action League of Chicago called for a boycott of American Girl, which is owned by Mattel.

Okay. As a stark reminder of the time religious fanatics outed Tinky Winky and SpongeBob SquarePants, religious mothers are now fuming over American Girl's decision to donate money to Girls Inc., a girl-empowerment organization that has a 141-year history. American Girl, by the way, is the antithesis of Barbie, representing normal-looking girls and teaching them wholesome American values. The dolls even come with books on where the dolls come from and from which period in American history.

While Girls, Inc. does provide girls with sex education, particularly low-income girls, I think the response from these women is evidence that we need organizations such as Girls, Inc.. If they are paranoid that their daughters won't speak to them about sex and must resort to visiting a Girls, Inc. center, then perhaps they should re-examine their own values. All companies -- including mommy favorites such as WalMart and Target -- give money to politicians and organizations that, sometimes, I don't agree with. But I am not going to boycott them and deny my family their favorite comforts.

I was encouraged by the letters to Newsweek, calling out these mothers and defending American Girl and Girls, Inc..

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Why Old Sparky Should Flame Out

A teenage offender was wrongly executed in Texas, according to a sickening, but in-depth series by the Houston Chronicle.

Ruben Cantu's conviction and eventual execution largely rested on a single eye witness report, which has since been rescinded:

That eyewitness, Juan Moreno, was a 19-year-old illegal immigrant when, along with his friend, he was shot at least nine times during the Briggs Street robbery. Moreno survived; his friend did not.

Now, Moreno, the accuser and key witness, has joined Garza, the accused accomplice, in telling the Chronicle that Cantu was never at the murder scene.

"They put the blame on the wrong person," Moreno said. Cantu "was innocent. I am sure."

Shame on Moreno for not clearing Cantu's name sooner. But, this tragic incident should be reason enough to abolish the death penalty.

A Brave New World

Infertile couples, women prone to multiple miscarriages and parents wanting to save a child from a terminal illness -- by sifting through healthy embryos for another baby -- are relying on a procedure called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, according to a recent article by the New York Times.

The procedure, known simply as "P.G.D.", lets doctors screen through embryos and implant only the healthy ones into the mother. Women with multiple miscarriages due to chromosomal defects in the embryo -- the most common reason for miscarriage -- have used the procedure to bear healthy children. Other couples such as the Flynn family in this article have used the procedure to bear children whose bone marrow could be used to save their daughter from Fanconi anemia, a disease that leads to bone marrow failure and carries a high risk of childhood cancer.

While I applaud these couples' courage for going through a complicated procedure, it is important to note that P.G.D. is not fool proof and carries some ethical dilemmas. The Flynns ended up having twin girls with Fanconi -- now three daughters total, with the fatal disease.

There is the possibility that parents could sift through the embryos and select their ideal traits in gender, intelligence and physical strength. Think there is no individuality in the suburbs? Imagine a generation of perfect -- most likely, white -- genetic babies.

Also, the hysteria of this mother bothered me:

"My doctor told me I would never have a biological child," said Ms. Santos, who lives in Gillette, New Jersey. The diagnosis was a chromosomal translocation a mix-up in the arrangement of a few genetic pieces that leads to a high proportion of abnormal embryos and a 90 percent rate of miscarriage.

"It was depressing having all those miscarriages, but when they told me it was over, I wanted to kill myself," she said.

I understand being devastated at not being able to have a child. (Santos, by the way, did bear a daughter thanks to P.G.D..) But to want to kill herself? The doctor should have waited before offering the procedure.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

American Boobs

A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School has come across yet another reason for women to breastfeed: it reduces a woman's chance of developing type 2 diabetes. So add that to the long list of benefits breastfeeding confers on both feeder and feedee.

Breastfeeding is clearly a cornucopia of health advantages. Then why do so many women struggle with it, give it up, or forgo it altogether? Do breastfeeding difficulties vary from culture to culture? My curiosity led me to an article in LaLeche League's magazine Leaven.

Though breastfeeding is a natural act, many mothers have found it to be anything but instinctive...It is a social behavior: we learn - or fail to learn - how to breastfeed from those around us. Many women today, in the United States and other countries, have simply not had the chance to learn how to breastfeed their babies.

Boy, that's the truth! While my breastfeeding experience was mostly positive, my breasts were like complicated gizmos with no instructions. The article goes on to say, "The greater the dissonance between breastfeeding worldview and breastfeeding biology, the more likely a mother is to experience difficulty or dissatisfaction with breastfeeding." The author takes a stab at summarizing the "Mainstream American Breastfeeding Worldview," which "poses major challenges to breastfeeding."

Recall the worldview of the majority of people in the US: people are innately bad, independence is highly valued, human beings are masters of nature, the time focus is the future, and human activity means accomplishing something.

I recognized a couple of my own beliefs reflected in the above profile, particularly the "accomplishing something" part. I'd lounge around nursing all day, enjoying it immensely, but also chastizing myself for all the things I could be accomplishing but wasn't. And then there were all the well-wishers who advised me to get my son acclimated to the bottle so I could "get out." Independence was an assumed, shared goal.

Too Young For Sex Education?

Now, I’m all for teaching children how to speak properly. I never taught my children to call their “privates” any other names but the proper ones. My son knows that he has a penis and my daughter knows that she has a vagina. But is it really necessary to volunteer sex education to children at such a young age?? According to this article I read in the NY Times, it is.

Robie H. Harris, a leading author of sex education books for children, started on the topic in 1994 with "It's Perfectly Normal" for pre-teenagers. Since then she has found herself addressing progressively younger audiences: first with "It's So Amazing," geared to 7-year-olds and up, and now "It's Not the Stork," due this summer, and intended for children as young as 4. In 2008 she is to publish a volume aimed at 2½-year-olds. Her steady downward demographic shift, she said, is purely in response to parental demand.

Now, I’m not saying that we should continue the lie of the stork, but in my opinion, gratuitous information and images such as the one posted above, which is from the book "It's Not the Stork," geared for children age 4 and up, are NOT necessary.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pimp My Stroller

How much is too much when it comes to your children?

For the record, I like to spoil my 10-month-old baby girl as much as the next gal. She has more toys than she could ever hope to chew, and her outfits are always perfectly color-coordinated, right down to the dainty bows in her hair.

I also like to think of myself as stylish and trend-conscious, so when I first heard about Cookie Magazine, I thought it would be right up my alley. It's described as an upscale lifestyle and parenting magazine, for busy but choosy moms.

But once you open the pages, their definition of "upscale" becomes unpleasantly clear. Want a cashmere turtleneck for your kid? This one's only $145! Get a matching hat for just $70!

This magazine is meant for the type of parent who will pay $750 for an ordinary-looking stroller, and shell out $300 for a diaper bag.

I'm not that kind of parent.

For $750, that stroller better propel itself through GPS technology, have some spinning rims, charge my cell phone and make milk and juice stains vanish into thin air. It better quiet a crying baby the second her tushie hits the seat, or I want my money back.

Funny thing is, I thought my Graco Travel System was pretty fancy, what with its cup holder and clock/temperature gauge. Now I know Gwyneth wouldn't be caught dead pushing my pedestrian pram.

But that's OK. That extra $600 we didn't spend on a stroller went into my daughter's college fund. The $250 we didn't spend on a diaper bag was donated to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina relief.

While it would be fun to strut around with the latest, hottest baby accessories, I know that the choices we make today will impact my daughter well into adulthood. I hope that we teach her the value of hard work and humility instead of avarice and ostentatiousness.

Because who wants to raise another spoiled, brainless rich girl?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Having Only One Child

My biological impulses tell me otherwise -- and my husband certainly wants another child -- but the more I mull it over and read online, the more inclined I am not to have a second child. After a rough night that included drinking and my son waking up earlier than usual -- with me being the only parent to get up -- I gave my husband an ultimatum: You do 50 percent of the childcare with a second child, or, we simply do not have another one. He told me he couldn't help out with the son we already have so I plan to get on birth control when I get home from Chicago.

My decision does not mean that I do not like children or that I do not madly love my son (I do. If anything, the ONLY reason I want another child is to give him a sibling). But as a loving mother, I recognize that I have limits -- my energy and patience reserves are running out! -- and I will shortchange my son if I don't recognize them. I am 28 years old and would like to have a career outside of motherhood. I plan to go back to school in January and will do so without spending any less time with my son. If I had a second child, I would have to drop out of school (because of nursing and childcare costs).

We enjoy traveling and must do so because all our family live so far away. Already it is difficult and expensive to travel with one child -- there is no way I could do it comfortably and cheaply with two children in tow.

Because we don't have parents nearby, my husband and I hardly ever get out together. The truth is I hardly think about my husband. I can't think of the last time I bought him a gift or wanted to do something thoughtful for him. I am so consumed with taking care of our son and he is so busy with work that we live parallel lives. Having another child will not remedy this situation and I don't think this is in the best interest of our son.

I was relieved to read the comments on Berkeley Parents Network and BabyCenter, suggesting that parents do not harm their only children when they choose not to give them a sibling. Even parents of multiple children and only children themselves wrote letters of support, which bring me peace on my decision not to have another child.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Poo-Pooing Diapers

Okay, I am going to admit something in Berkeley that is akin to supporting the war in Iraq or purchasing non-organic produce: I use disposable diapers on my son. And they are not the so-called biodegradable kind from Whole Foods -- but Huggies, which I buy in large boxes from Target.

It wasn't always this way. Prior to my son's birth, I competed with all the other Berkeley mothers in protecting the environment and raising my son the way my Caribbean ancestors did – the au natural way, which included changing at least 10 cloth diapers a day. I subscribed to a diaper service and even wrote an article for Wired touting the advantages of cloth versus disposable diapers, especially for baby boys.

But after seven months of receiving no help at home with diaper changing -- my husband travels often for business -- I cancelled the service and switched to disposables. Still, I often feel a twinge of guilt when I receive press releases such as this one from Knowaste touting diaper recycling due to the mountain of poopie diapers sitting in landfills:

Seoul, Korea -- Facing rapidly diminishing landfill capacities, the South Korean National Assembly is currently exploring new recycling options to help offset its disposal of solid waste, recently considering innovative disposable diaper recycling technologies introduced by international recycling leader, Knowaste LLC. Hearing testimony on the significant problems associated with disposing of diapers, Korean National Assembly members explored diaper recycling programs that Knowaste is implementing on a worldwide basis for environmentally-conscious countries and municipalities.

“Seoul’s landfills will be full by 2020, and outlying regions will run out of landfills in five years,” said Korea Zero Waste Movement Network Commissioner Mi Hwa Kim. “The government should actively explore ways to recycle consumer waste such as diapers.”

No, it doesn't make me want to go back to using cloth diapers. But, I often wonder if our own government will have to resort to some regulation due to the mounds of waste produced.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Toxic Toyz

There's probably a gazillion toys sporting buttons and bows and projectiles that can choke, strangle, or put a kid's eye out.

What I consider much more insidious are toys made from toxic substances. Case in point: Polyvinyl Chloride. Also known as PVC or vinyl. You know, that new car smell. Think floppy bath tub books and Barbie's camper van. Think teething toys.

What is known?
It is generally agreed by all researchers that phthalates are given off freely by PVC. This is caused by mechanical stress (bending, pressure, chewing), solvents such as fats, oils, saliva... and temperatures over 85° F, which causes it to migrate in gas form.

BTW, pthalates accumulate in body tissues, and can damage liver, lungs, and have been shown in lower mammals to damage reproductive organs. PVC can also include lead, although it is hard to tell which PVC toys contain lead and which do not. Furthermore, it's hard to tell by looking which plastic products are made of PVC. And "there is tendency of manufacturers to resist efforts to obtain this information."

A lot of lip service is given to our "free market" and how great it is for consumers. The competition! The innovation! But how free is our marketplace, really, when the consumer doesn't know what she is buying? When toy companies are not required to disclose what their toys are made of? Do the best products and companies really come out on top? Does the consumer really win when her baby is gnawing on a PVC ring?

Harmful Toys

World Against Toys Causing Harm, also known as W.A.T.C.H., issued its 10 Worst Toys list for 2005. Most of the toys on the list pose choking hazards or can cause serious face/eye injuries.

The ten most dangerous toys are:

1. Target's Baby Serena - Baby I'm Yours doll, for potential choking hazards.
2. Fisher Price's Little Mommy Bath Baby Doll, made by Mattel, for potential choking hazards.
3. Animal Alley Ponies, distributed by Toys R Us, for possible ingestion injuries.
4. City Blocks, distributed by IQ Preschool - Small World Toys, for ingestion and choking injuries
5. The Camouflage Water Bomb Fun Kit from Pioneer Worldwide, could cause eye injuries.
6. The Splatmatic Pistol Splat Paintball Shooter, also made the list because of its potential for eye, face and other impact injuries.
7. Hasbro's Star Wars - Revenge of the Sith Energy Beam Blaster, for potential eye, face and other impact injuries.
8. The Lord of the Rings - Return of the King Uruk-Hai Crossbow set, for it's potential to cause eye injuries.
9. Geospace International's 38" Air Kicks Kickaroos Anti-Gravity Boots, which fit over shoes and help children bounce around, also made the list. for potential head or other impact injuries.
10. Toy Biz's Fantastic 4 Electronic Thing Hands -- a pair of oversized fists -- made the list because it could cause blunt impact injuries.

So plan for your Christmas gifts accordingly...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Goodnight, Cigarette

The publishers of Goodnight Moon have digitally deleted the cigarette from between illustrator Clement Hurd's fingers.

The photograph of Mr. Hurd cheerily grasping a cigarette between the fingers of his right hand has been on the book for at least two decades. Kate Jackson, the editor in chief of HarperCollins Children's Books, said it only recently came to her attention, at a meeting to discuss how to publicize the book's 60th anniversary in 2007.

"We had a lot of copies out on a table, and all of a sudden we realized that in the photo on the back of the jacket he was holding a cigarette," Ms. Jackson said. The company was about to reprint the hardcover and paperback editions, so "as a quick fix, we adjusted the photograph" to eliminate it.

While Goodnight Moon was an icon of my childhood, I recall neither author nor illustrator pix on the cover. I was too enamored of the room itself. In fact, a couple years ago I had the realization that my living room bore a strong resemblance to the bunny's snug digs--round rug, color scheme, bowl of mush... Hurd's aesthetic weedled its way into my young, spongey brain, but not his smoking habit.

Where's the curmudgeonly smokers' rights advocates, crying out for justice? Enter bookseller Pete Cowdin, who calls the publishers "corporate Stalinists" and has created a Web site that features a cow, jumping over the moon with a cig dangling from his lip.

Hurd's son imagines that his dad would have been "thoroughly amused by this." Me too.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

To teach her truant 14-year-old a lesson, a mother in Oklahoma had her daughter stand on a busy Oklahoma City intersection, holding a sign that read, "I don't do my homework and I act up in school so my parents are preparing me for my future. Will work for food."

Many Oklahomans wrote letters of disapproval to the local newspaper editor and one motorist even reported the mother to the cops. In her defense, the mother said:

"This may not work. I'm not a professional," said Henderson, a 34-year-old mother of three. "But I felt I owed it to my child to at least try."

Good for her! Sure, Henderson's form of punishment is humiliating -- as all punishment is intended. But her method seems gentler -- not to mention funnier -- than hitting. Also, she should address her daughter's truancy, which by the way -- according to the mother -- has improved since her daughter's short stint with the sign.

People Who Remain Childless

Maybe I am still bitter from my awful day in cold Chicago, but I found this article in the Chicago Tribune interesting: Destiny's child-free. Basically, it is about women who choose not to have children. There is plenty of lingo used by the childless to describe mothers and their offspring. Apparently, there is an organization called "No Kidding" that caters to this bunch:

Connolly says that she's not going to regret her choice to be child-free and that she's sick of people telling her she's too young to be certain.

"I just don't think of my life in terms of ever having children," she says. "I have two children right now: my two boxers. My dogs will be my children. That's how it's always gonna be."

Often, I wonder if these women will ever live to regret their decision, especially when they are old and gray and there is no one to take care of them. But today I am feeling like, "Lucky bitches get to sleep in!" Good for them for standing up to societal norms.

Traveling the Highway to Hell

As the holiday season approaches, the media is already doling out advice to weary, travel-bound parents. This particular Illinois newspaper offered sensible advice such as feeding the kids when they are hungry and taking naps whenever possible. Sure, it sounds like common sense, but it is amazing how a mother who has traveled as often as I have -- with my two-year-old son -- still has a hard time keeping it together on the road.

My most recent trip to Chicago is already riddled with so many disasters -- except, thankfully, losing my son -- I am wondering if we should ever leave this apartment for the remaining four days of our trip.

My husband and I thought it would be a great idea to surprise my brother-in-law -- in (burr) Chicago (burr) -- for his birthday. After forgetting to pack books and toys for my son, we still managed to make the 3-and-a-half hour flight from Oakland, California, with minimal screaming (only 15 minutes worth), get our luggage and rental car and make dinner reservations at 7 p.m.. There was no time for a nap. But apparently Mommy needed it more than toddler.

The next morning (today) for breakfast, I loaded up the stroller with hats, mittens and way too much baby gear. Once outside, snowflakes fell (the first snowfall we have witnessed this year!) and the wind cut through our faces. My toddler whined. I took out my wallet and placed it in a cubbyhole on top of the stroller. I adjusted my son's wooly hat and put on his mittens. I put on my own coat. (It was warm inside of the apartment so I did not put one on.) Once at the restaurant, I realized that my wallet was missing. It must have fallen off the stroller! I left my screaming -- and hungry -- toddler in the restaurant as I ran out to the sidewalk to take a look. Nothing.

We returned to my brother-in-law's apartment. My husband scrounged up a banana and some applesauce for our son while I called my bank to cancel my credit cards and even the social security office. (I foolishly placed my social security card in my wallet.) The California Department of Motor Vehicles told me I had to pick up my new license in person. Now I have no photo identification for the airport. Maybe we are being naive, but my husband and I figure many people lose their wallets on vacation. We plan to arrive early enough to get me patted down, my luggage searched, and, hopefully, on the plane back to Oakland.

I was on the phone for at least an hour. I even had to call my health insurance company to get my policy number in case of an emergency. Yes, my family's life was in that wallet. I completely feel violated as I remember seeing a scruffy-looking man (probably homeless) with something in his hand, pass by the restaurant. There is a good chance I will never see that wallet or its contents again.

Like a hungry dog, I waited for my brother-in-law to come home from work to drive us -- and pay -- to go to a restaurant. Once we ate, I tried to withdraw money from an ATM machine, using my husband's debit card. The machine credited my account for the money, but did not dispense the cash. Once again, we returned to the apartment so that I could call the bank in Chicago and my bank back home in California. At least that ordeal ended. After battling my son for some time -- I coaxed him and read him the books I bought in Chicago -- he, finally, went down for his nap. The Windy City is so cruel.

A Child Molester's Dream??

Sharon Cline of Atlanta, Georgia has sent lawmakers a slew of letters begging them to change a Georgia law that allows children of any age to marry, without parental consent, as long as the bride-to-be is pregnant. She has been trying to change this law since her 13-year-old niece has married her 14-year-old boyfriend.

At age 13, I was a completely naive, innocent little girl, who had just started her period and who had not started shaving her legs. I think of myself at that age and cannot even fathom the idea of being married or pregnant. I hadn't even kissed a boy!! But apparently there is a law in Georgia that no one has bothered changing and some people are taking advantage of it; like Lynette Clark, age 37, who married her 15-year-old "baby daddy" to avoid child molestation charges. Talk about disgusting!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

More Spank Talk

My sense is that a person's feelings about spanking are profoundly informed by one's own experience as a child. I got spanked plenty by my dad, who had some major anger issues. Coming from him, spanking truly was a parental temper tantrum, and the message was definitely "You made me mad and you're going to pay the price." Punishment often involved humiliation; typically, we had to pull down our pants and offer up our bare asses. This was NOT COOL, especially when our butts were exposed to oncoming traffic and my older sister was approaching puberty.

For me, spanking was rolled up with shame, hatred, and broken trust, so I've avoided using it. However, I know I have a breaking point, just like everyone else, and an impulse to swat when my boy is being defiantly bad and nothing else is working. There are many parenting years ahead of me, so I can never say never to spanking. But for now, I'm sparin' the rod.

To Spank Or Not To Spank?? That Is The Question.

As a Mexican-American born into this country and raised by immigrant parents, I was spanked. I never considered dialing 911 and never considered myself abused. I knew that I deserved every one of those spankings.

As a parent, I have used corporal punishment in my home. I believe any responsible parent must teach their children that bad behavior brings consequences. Because of the consistency of this teaching, I have found that I have very rarely had to resort to spanking my children. As a result, I have very well mannered, respectful children and as they get older, their punishment change. Now at ages 11 and 6, spankings are not as effective and one must improvise.

But I get so frustrated when I come upon articles like the following: Spanking Linked to Anxiety, Aggression. In this study, 336 women from 5 different countries were surveyed. Their children ranged from ages 6 to 17.

Of course there is going to be anxiety and aggression when you’re spanking a teenager!!

Then I read the following opinions of so-called “experts” that really tick me off: Dr. Steven Parker said the following, which I totally disagree with:

"Finally, spanking is often nothing more than a parental temper tantrum: You made me mad and you're going to pay the price. In that case, spanking usually has more to do with vengeance than instruction. ."

What he is referring to is abuse, not discipline. For God's sake, if you're that pissed with your kid, have a martini and chill...

What Makes A "Cool Mom"??

What is a “cool mom”?? In my opinion, it’s someone who knows the music of Gwen Stefani and Greenday. Who can identify Kanye West and Tupac. Who knows some of the designer labels and who can sit and watch The O.C.

In my opinion, a cool mom is someone who’s children and maybe their children’s friends feel comfortable talking with about their problems. A “cool mom” will offer up good advice and steer their children and possibly their children’s friends in the right direction, without being oppressive or judgmental.

Silvia Johnson, 41 of Golden, Colorado, obviously has a different concept of what a “cool mom” is. This Cool Mom Got a 30-Year Jail Sentence. She wasn’t a “cool mom”, but rather, a sad excuse for a parent. Not all people should be allowed to breed.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Family Friendly Entertainment

Got a call from the Dove Foundation tonight. I swear, the guy’s voice was the closest I’ve ever heard to a voice-recognition recording. There was even a disquieting pause after my answers, as though they were being electronically processed. The caller’s subsequent remark would be wholly unrelated to my comment. Christ’s own robot brigade.

Creepy silence greeted my comments that my family watches very little TV, and that I perceived there to be plenty of family friendly movies out there. (Not to mention family-friendly activities besides staring at a screen together.) Dove thinks I need more information. Hmmm…

Their shtick?

…to encourage and promote the creation, production, distribution and consumption of wholesome family entertainment. We are supported primarily by donations from families such as yours who want to move Hollywood in a more family-friendly direction.

No surprise then, that Dove’s advisory board is stocked with Christian booksellers, washed-up actors, and TV producers associated with mawkish slop like “Touched by an Angel.”

But the movie reviews are hilarious! The reviewer will describe the film in earnest, even express their enjoyment of it, then explain why it’s not appropriate. Example: “Good Night and Good Luck” has 2 GDs (that’s goddamn, in case you wondered…) Check out the report card for “Jarhead.” Now that’s entertainment!

No Rest for the Wicked

The market for sleep aids has grown into a billion-dollar industry while the number of certified sleep clinics have tripled in the last 10 years. These numbers, however, don't include the millions of mommies who have read every book and taken every piece of advice to desperately catch up on z's (like I have).

After two years of motherhood, I can count on my one hand how many times I have gotten that extra hour of sleep in the morning. I can also count on one hand how often I have received even six hours of simultaneous sleep. Thanks to my shrunken bladder and sensitive mommy ears, typically, I wake up at least two times in the middle of the night. At least I have stockpiled concealer for my eyes.

Last night my son woke up, crying, three times! With stinging eyes, I hit the google search button to see what I can do to remedy the situation and instead came up with this story: "How Do You Get Your Baby to Sleep?" Adding insult to injury, it is a recent story about women who have hired nurses to make night calls to their homes.

Now, if I could afford nighttime help, I would snag it up. But, seriously, what are the rest of us supposed to do in place of plastering fake smiles on our zombie-like faces?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Disturbing Old School Discipline

My children both gave up the binky on their own when they were 3-years-old. I loved their binky and found myself stocking up, in the event I happen to lose one....there was always another one handy. It comforted them and comforted me. But everyone in my family was bothered by their dependence on the binky. They offered up advice on how to get them to stop using it. "Put some Jalapeño juice on it, that'll get them to stop." I told them, "If it bothers you, close your eyes or look the other way." C'mon! How mean is that!!

Then I read this article, "Mom Thought Chili Powder Safe For Baby". Where the 6-month-old baby in question died due to her young, troubled mother putting a chili powder concoction to have her daughter stop sucking her thumb.

What's next?? Getting a spray water bottle with one part water and two parts jalapeño juice and spraying it from a distance, a la George Lopez' comedy routine?? Being a parent is hard work and there should be no short cuts. Especially cruel ones like these...


Friday, November 11, 2005

Do Kids Break Up Marriages?

Before I became a mother, I swore up and down that my husband and I would never change in our affection for one another. We would always find time for dates and cuddling.

I even had the nerve to scold a friend of mine -- who was a mother before me -- that she needed to pay more attention to her hubby.

Now I find myself relieved -- and even gloating -- when I see the closest of couples publicly bicker over the raising of their children. An editorial on MSN today offered up tips on selecting a marriage counselor.

It all reminds me that the sleep deprivation and lack of physical affection is temporary. It doesn't mean that our marriage is about to end. Nor does it mean that we will be sneaking around to have sex -- if at all -- for the rest of our lives.

Then again, some woman out there might have concocted the secret recipe to maintain romance even after giving birth. She is not me.

Motherhood and Dating

As a single mother of two children, ages 11 and 6, one is left to wonder when the right time to date is, what should be shared with the children and the moral dilemma of bringing someone else into the family dynamic.

In surfing the net the other day, I came across an advertisement for an interesting book. Well, at least the title caught my attention: "Mom, There's a Man in the Kitchen and He's Wearing Your Robe" The Single Mom's Guide to Dating Well Without Parenting Poorly by Ellie Slott Fisher.

The description of the book reads like this:
"Embarking on the dating scene can be a fun though sometimes daunting prospect for any single woman. But for the more than 10 million single women in the U.S. with children at home, dating is a much more complicated matter. Whether uncoupled through divorce or death, single moms face a wide range of questions: When will I be ready to date and how do I start? When-and what-should I tell the kids? What happens if I love the guy and the kids hate him? In Mom, There's a Man in the Kitchen and He's Wearing Your Robe, Ellie Slott Fisher, a once-widowed, once-divorced single mother of two, speaks with refreshing candor about balancing dating and parenting. Drawing upon her own experience, the stories of many other women, and the advice of family psychologists, Fisher offers encouragement, strategies, and a healthy dose of humor for the single-but-looking mom-from how to meet men in the first place to when to introduce your date to the kids, from when and where to work sex into the equation to how to talk to your dating teenagers without looking like a hypocrite. Practical, funny, and hopeful, this is the one guide single moms need before jumping into the murky waters of the dating pool."

I have always thought the honesty is always the best approach. Of course, leaving out gratuitous information...I think I'm going to have to get a copy of the book.


The Nanny Dilemma

Is it fair to hire immigrant women to help raise your children when they have children of their own?

This L.A. Times story inspired very mixed feelings for me. It details the relationship between an affluent white woman and her Salvadoran nanny, and the very different lives they lead.

Margoth Enriquez helps Stacey Arnold, a stay-at-home mom to four small children, until 6 p.m. five days per week.

Then she boards a bus to the other side of town, where her 3-year-old daughter and two teenage sons anxiously await her arrival.

Similar scenes play out throughout Los Angeles County every day. Immigrant women leave their children at home — with siblings, relatives or bargain baby-sitters — so they can earn a living caring for other people's children...

Inevitably, immigrants feel the pull between their employer's children and their own families. Every day, they take their employer's children to play dates and the park, often unable to do the same with their own. They pick up their employer's children from school while theirs take buses.

Often, the only baby-sitters they can afford are untrained or unreliable.

"The immigrants are paying each other," said Arizona State University professor Mary Romero, author of "Maid in the U.S.A." "Somebody has to take care of the children. It's the nanny or the maid's child who gets the short end of the stick."

I couldn't help but think of my beloved, late Abuelita Concha, who left her five children in Mexico after their father died so she could come to the U.S. and make enough money to support them. She worked as a nanny in a swanky beachside community, eking out enough of a living to send for her children one by one.

After her death, I found pictures of the children she cared for among her belongings, along with letters and cards they sent her long after she stopped working for them. Clearly, she made an impact on their lives.

In the Times story, Stacey Arnold makes it clear she appreciates her nanny, pays her fairly and even considers her a "co-parent."

Without Margoth, Stacey says, "I probably wouldn't be as good of a parent…. I'd be pulled in so many different directions."

Having Margoth "allows me to have some freedom to do some things for myself, which in turn, I think, makes me a better parent because I come back refreshed."

As a full-time working mom, I completely understand where Stacey is coming from. Parenthood can be exhausting, and leaves you very little time for yourself. If you can afford help, that's a blessing.

But I also feel for Margoth, who will likely never have that luxury.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The People in my Neighborhood

You may be surrounded by sickos and not know it yet. Go to your state Megan's Law website to find out. Every state has their own form of Megan’s Law, the law named after the 7-year-old Jersey girl who was raped and killed by a known molester who had moved across the street without the family’s knowledge. California publishes the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders on a website, where you might even view a few mugshots and the grisly details of your neighbor’s offenses. Enter at your own risk, especially if you live in a dense, urban area or see the world as generally benign.

Knowing where these Lesters live can complicate matters – like school bus routes. These Texas moms are bummed:

The mothers told KPRC Local 2 that their children are forced to walk by the sex offenders' residences because the school district does not provide bus service since they are only 1.9 miles away from the school. The district offers bus service for students who live 2 miles away from the school they attend.

Some of the mothers said it is difficult for them to walk their children to and from school because they are single parents, do not have a vehicle, are taking care of other children or have conflicting work schedules.

Sometimes the safety and simplicity of my own childhood seems like a distant dream.

Being Short is a Bitch

Many children and their parents -- okay, their parents -- want to know how tall they will be as adults as indicated in this health story by the BBC. To assure narcissistic parents like me and my husband, Belgian and Canadian researchers even came up with a "simple" calculation, using a child's age, height, weight and leg length to determine how tall -- give or take two inches -- a child will be as an adult:

Also, according to the researchers, their prediction method could prove practically useful in sports. A problem in youth sports is that there is a bias toward kids who have already begun their adolescent growth spurt, study co-author Dr. Adam D. Baxter-Jones told Reuters Health.

But if, for example, a short adolescent boy is merely a late bloomer and destined to top six feet, then volleyball may indeed be his game.

No, my husband who is all of 5 feet and 7 inches tall and my 5-feet-2-inch-self did not expect to raise the next Michael Jordan. But as short and skinny bookworms who wanted our own son to escape his teenaged years unscathed, we hoped he would reach as close as possible to a respectable 5 feet 11 inches. Based on our own heights and our history of normal puberty, our pediatrician doubled our son's height at his 2-year checkup yesterday and determined he would be 5 feet 9 inches tall. While I was relieved he would at least be taller than both his parents, my normally open-minded husband let out an inappropriate, "Dammit!"

Okay. Soccer it is.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Screamin’ Brats & Cappuccino

This NY Times article made me want to dole out some spankings.
The author describes the children who run riot in cafes and restaurants and the parents who get offended when proprietors and patrons complain or set limits.

She sums up it up as “another skirmish between the childless and the child-centered, a culture clash increasingly common in restaurants and other public spaces as a new generation of busy, older, well-off parents ferry little ones with them.”

I’d argue that it’s not really about the kids. And it’s definitely not about the age of the parents. It’s about entitlement - that gross, graceless approach to shared public spaces. This is no different than the lady who loudly yammers on her cell phone while waiting in line or the guy who parks his penis-extension car diagonally across two parking spaces.

My kid is loud and rowdy in restaurants and cafes. It’s a combination of his age and temperament, among other things. I know that his behavior probably lowers the enjoyment level of diners at nearby tables, so we rarely eat out. If we do, we go to loud-ass family-friendly places. I don't feel bad about this.

I regret the divide that forms between people with kids and people without. Many parents don’t care about the polarization, but I do. A little thoughtfulness on both sides can go a long way toward mitigating this rift.

I have choices: I don’t need to force strangers to accommodate my child’s wild antics all the time. It’s unnecessary. (Well, except on airplanes…)

Spanks to the crazy parents who threatened lawsuits when a restaurant wanted to designate a “family friendly” area!


A Not So Intelligent Bill?

While we are on the topic of politics -- the news media, except for Fox (of course!), is dominated by the discussion -- I thought readers would be interested to know that the parental notification initiative for abortion failed here in California. I think it was a vote of confidence on the part of parents that their teenagers would, indeed, tell them if they were pregnant.

Also, two different school boards -- one in Pennsylvania and the other in Kansas -- gave different views on the Intelligent Design debate. In Dover, Pennsylvania, voters ousted Republican school board members who favored reading a short statement to 9th graders on "intelligent design," or, in essence, the biblical story of creationism before learning about evolution. In Kansas, the board of education approved science standards for public schools that cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

Hey, we already trail many Asian countries in teaching math and science to our youth. Let's not let politics get in the way of our self-destruction.


The Politics of Dancing...

Today, I am taking the opportunity to use this blog as my sounding board. I have so much on my mind and I feel this is a good way to vent.

A little over a year ago, I waited anxiously for the release of Michael Moore’s, Fahrenheit 9/11. On opening night, I went with my mother, and my right-winged brother. My brother has one of those kids that had the Bush 2004 buttons on and would just scream, “Bush, woo-hoo!!” for no apparent reason. My nephew was 6-years-old at the time and it disturbed me beyond belief.

A few months ago, I was home, alone with my son. My daughter was with her father. Fahrenheit 9/11 was on cable and I decided to sit and watch it. My son came into the room and asked if he could lay down on my lap. He did, and quickly fell to sleep…or so I thought. He listened to what was being said in the movie and it is now obvious that he was disturbed by what he had seen. Of course, at this time, I didn’t know it.

A couple of weeks went by, and I was having lunch with a girlfriend of mine. I took my son along. When our lunch arrived on the table, there was a moment of silence, while we each dug in. My son took this as his opening and asked my friend, “Amy, what do you think about President Bush?” My friend looked at me before answering the question. I thought, ‘I’m going to see where this goes.’ My son then continued, “I think he should be taken out of his position because he’s a terrible President. He sat in a classroom for 7 minutes!! 7 minutes!! He did nothing while the planes crashed into the twin towers!!” My friend turned to me and whispered, “I want me one of those.”

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that when a child doesn’t form their own opinion, it can be disturbing when they parrot the views of their parents. When they repeat what they’ve heard their parents say and don’t form their own thoughts, its sad. My son and I had a very long talk after that. I wish he hadn’t seen the movie, he is far too young to grasp the severity of the issues. But my boy did reach his own opinion and is disgusted, just like his mother…


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Politics of Parenting

It's an Election Day, so I've got politics on the brain.

About one year ago, on the day of the Presidential Election, I was 7 months pregnant. I had a monthly check-up that morning, and I remember butterflies (and baby kicks) in my stomach as I waited for the returns. I wanted my daughter to be born into a country with hope, and I foresaw nothing but bad things if Bush was re-elected.

When Bush won, I was in despair for weeks. What kind of country would my daughter grow up in? Was it unfair for us to bring a child into such a troubled world?

I resolved to look toward the future. Raising children with good values and a progressive mindset is the only sure way to ensure that this country will change for the better. And the way things are going lately, it can only get better, right?

But today I saw this. And it got me to thinking: how will I teach my child about my political beliefs? Will I actively try to shape hers? What's the best route? A children's books that spells it out? Lectures? Involving her in political activism?

In the end, I want my daughter to think for herself. I don't want her to be some creepy kid who parrots everything her parents say. All I can do is teach by example. I don't care if my child grows up to be liberal or conservative, straight or gay.

If she grows into a woman who knows compassion, curiosity, generosity, loyalty and respect, then I will know I have done my job.


I Voted Today

Today I went to my polling place to vote on a handful of ballot measures. One, Prop 73, would require that doctors notify parents 48 hours in advance of performing an abortion on a minor.

I voted no. Why? Because even though I am a mother now, I’m committed to remembering my teenaged self. I was one of those gals who would have never told my parents about an accidental pregnancy.

I can’t let my desires as a parent obscure my best reference point for reality.

A snapshot of myself at 17: My relationship with my strict, religious parents had deteriorated to the point where I had decided to leave home. I’d gone to live with a couple of girlfriends. Thankfully, the town had a free health clinic where we could get check-ups, birth control pills, and all the condoms one could possibly need, so unwanted pregnancies were rare in my crowd.

There are good reasons why some girls don’t want to talk to their parents. I’d bet money that many of the religious folks advocating for this bill are the same people whose children don’t confide in them.

For daughters who fear parental abuse or retribution, the bill offers an out: these girls can apply for a judicial waiver. Oy! Just what they need! Another authority figure to pass judgment on their predicament.

What do these girls need most? I wish someone would ask them.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Fortune Gets It

I am one of those lucky moms who had the choice to stay home when my son was born two years ago. But I have been dismayed by the old "mommyhood versus work" debates that often flourish on message boards and the rash of articles such as this NY Times piece berating women for leaving the workforce to take care of their children. The insinuation is that a.) an educated woman is too smart to be a stay-at-home mother and b.) once she leaves the workforce there is no turning back.

Finally, Fortune Magazine -- yes, that is the premiere business magazine -- has published a sensible and uplifting story about women who left the workforce and then returned to similar, if not, better positions:

"Some women leave the corporate high life but are then lured back. In 1998, Brenda Barnes famously gave up her $2-million-a-year job at PepsiCo to spend more time with her family. Six years later she joined Sara Lee—and now she's CEO (as well as No. 3 on our list). Ann Fudge was the president of a $5 billion unit of Kraft Foods (and No. 34 in 1999) when she decided to take a two-year sabbatical. She came back to corporate life as chairman and CEO of ad giant Young & Rubicam in 2003."

The article also noted:

"If there's a single thread that ties together the experiences of these women, it's that taking control of one's own life can feel as bold as wielding power in a corporation. "It's not that they're abandoning it or walking away," Potter says. "I see it as women really exercising their full set of options. And I think that's just a gutsy, powerful thing to do.""

Of course, not all corporations are as welcoming to women who have decided to have kids. How about an article on that?

Single Mama Drama

As a little girl, I always imagined how my life would be. I would travel the world, fall in love, get married, then have beautiful children….well, things don’t always work out the way we imagine.

With my daughter, now 11, the marriage part came second. Divorce quickly followed. I learned I was pregnant with my second child during a time in my life that was consumed with immaturity and bad decisions. I credit my son, now six, with saving my life.

I worked with my son’s father, and so when I learned I was pregnant, I quickly quit my job and disappeared in order to attempt to get my life back together. Once my son was born, the “sperm donor” and I made financial arrangements and he told me that he thought it would be best if he weren’t around.

Fast forward almost two years later…I get served with paperwork. The “sperm donor” wants to be a FATHER!!! He wants visitation and we have to go to court. After a very emotional conversation with my son’s father, I made it clear that unless he was sincere in his intentions that it would best if he would just leave us alone. I told him that if this was an attempt to lower child support, that I would gladly waive this support if it meant not breaking my son’s heart. He assured me that he was sincere and that he just wanted to get to know his now 2-year-old son.

We worked out visitation so that everyone was happy. Needless to say, his visits became more and more sporadic and were shorter and shorter. My son last saw his father on his third birthday. My son will be seven in February.

Now I’m left with wondering what the right thing to do is. I can’t make my son’s father love him. At the same time, I don’t understand why he doesn’t. Everyone who comes across my son, strangers and family alike, are all touched by my son in one way or another…and yet, the man that’s biologically connected isn’t. It breaks my heart, because my son would have been just fine had he never met the “sperm donor”.

So, what to do? My son questions why his father doesn’t call. My son questions why his father doesn’t visit. He wonders if he has done something wrong.

Now, I have all these questions….Do I take the “sperm donor” back to court to revise the visitation and support order?? Do I call him and ask what the hell is wrong with him?? Do I leave things as is?? Do I tell my son the truth and hope he understands?? Am I putting myself in danger for my son resenting me when he is older??

Being a mother is a constant heartbreak…

Published by: Gloria

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Breastfeeding Bummer

I was married almost five years before I even considered having children.

For several years, my husband and I even entertained the idea of not having children. We were so giddy in love and enjoyed each other's company so thoroughly, we reasoned a child would only alter our wonderful dynamic. And did we really want to be one of those uptight couples whose every thought was consumed by their kids? We fancied ourselves too passionate and cosmopolitan to ever want to be weighed down with diaper bags and sippy cups.

But another major reason I was hesitant to have children is I was DEATHLY afraid of giving birth. I was a precocious 15-year-old snot when my mom gave birth to my youngest brother, and I lived to regret asking if I could be in the delivery room. It was bloody and gruesome and above all, SCARY. My baby brother's umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and he wasn't breathing. I watched in horrified silence as the nurses huddled around his tiny blue body, working feverishly to get him breathing. He ended up spending one week in the NICU and today, he is a healthy 14-year-old. Still, watching his difficult entrance into this world affected me deeply. I liked to joke that it was the best birth control method ever!

Fast forward 14 years, and I gave birth to a perfect baby girl, after what could only be described as a perfect pregnancy, labor and delivery. Thanks to the wonders of the epidural, Princess Chunky arrived after I pushed through four contractions. There were so many jumbled, wonderful thoughts clanging around inside my head when the doctor handed her to me for the first time. One of them was, "Wow, that was easy!"

Karmic retribution was already on the way.

I had never been too enthused about the idea of breastfeeding. I was formula fed, as were most of my peers, and the idea of having a baby suckle on my breast gave me the creeps. I resolved to try my best, but not beat myself up if it didn't work out and I resorted to formula.

Breastfeeding proved to be difficult from the start. By my second day in the hospital, my nipples were cracked and raw, and I was sobbing with pain every time she latched on. After one week of pumping, my nipples had healed and we tried again, with better results. P-Chunk took to the breast with ferocious enthusiasm, literally nursing every 90 minutes or so. Never before have I experienced such sheer physical exhaustion. I mourned the loss of my independence even as I fell in love with my daughter's angelic, boob-drunk face. But I soldiered on.

Then came mastitis, a horrendously painful breast infection that also caused a high fever and uncontrollable, bone-deep chills. Not to mention that nursing my daughter became heinously painful again.

At 3 months, I got mastitis again. Did I give in and say, "This is too hard! Where's the Similac?" NO!!! Something in me snapped. Every setback, every obstacle only made me more determined to continue. I WOULD NOT FAIL. If cavewomen could nurse, why the hell couldn't I?

Finally, we settled into a groove. The next 6 months were smooth sailing, and I finally came to enjoy nursing my daughter. It was a time to snuggle and smell her and enjoy the softness of her skin. I adored nursing her to sleep every night, and looked forward to nursing her during my lunch hour on the days she was at day care. And as a working mother, nursing helped me feel connected to her. Even if I was at work all day, I reasoned, she still needs me for nourishment. I am still vital!

Princess Chunky is 9.5 months old now, and not eating as much. My milk supply is starting to dwindle, and I had resolved to continue nursing until she hit the magical one-year mark. The thought of weaning her made me a little melancholy, but I was peaceful in the knowledge that I had fought like hell to give her the best possible nutrition, despite daunting setbacks.

Then the pain returned.

We took a short flight today, and I nursed my baby girl so that her ears wouldn't bother her too much. Shortly after we landed and I settled her into her stroller, I started feeling sharp, stabbing pains in my right breast. They increased in frequency as we made our way to the car, and I was shouting in frustrated pain by the time we got on the freeway. One hour and dozens of guttural screams later, they finally subsided. Google tells me I'm probably looking at a yeast infection, which will probably cause this pain every time I nurse until antibiotics do their thing in about a week.

Google also tells me P-Chunk is also likely to be infected, even though she isn't showing any symptoms. We will have to be fastidious about applying medication and disinfecting everything that touches her mouth at least once a day, or we could just keep passing the infection back and forth in a vicious cycle.

I feel defeated. I don't know if I can soldier through this again. The pain may be too much to bear one more time. We planned to start the weaning process soon, and I know she has received all the benefits of breastfeeding by now. Still, I wanted to stop on my terms. When we felt ready, not when pain and suffering pulled the rug out from under me and my baby girl.

I will call the doctor tomorrow and pray that my middle-of-the-night pumping isn't unbearably painful. I will wallow in self-pity and fight back some tears. Then, if I know myself, I will figure out a way to get through this and stop thinking about ME. About why I have to go through this, and what I did to deserve this.

If there's one thing motherhood has crystallized, it's that it just isn't about me. My daughter isn't ready to wean yet, and I don't have the heart to make her go cold turkey, no matter how much pain I am in.

One way or another, she's going to get her Mami's milk until her first birthday.

And once we reach that milestone, I plan to drink many, many margaritas.

posted by: Erika

Welcome Fellow MotherTalkers!

As promised, here is a no-nonsense, real-world, guilt-free blog on motherhood today. We will bring you the latest news and debate on modern motherhood written by women who are everything from full-time, stay-at-home mothers to single mothers who work full-time outside of the home. Like our own mommies, we strive to do our best. But we are no June Cleaver. Laura Schlessinger beware!