Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's bedtime honey, grab your computer!

Disney is planning to launch a new initiative to get more children to read their classic stories this upcoming Tuesday -- books not required. For $79.95, parents and children can log on to for hundreds of electronic-version Disney books.

The computer will affectionately read to beginning readers with musical accompaniment and sound effects. For older readers, unfamiliar words can be heard with a click of the mouse -- No need to sound them out. There's also no need to ask Mommy or Daddy for help when there's a built-in dictionary. Trivia, games and story-builder tools will help to create a more interactive experience.

While Disney is touting this site as revolutionary, publishers -- like HarperCollins and Scholastic -- have offered digital children's books for years.

Reading is undoubtedly important for children development, but is this just another excuse to plop kids in front of a screen? Will children snuggle up to their Mac Books at bedtime? Is this a trend you'll jump on?

Monday, September 28, 2009

mixed up at implantation

An Ohio couple went to a fertility clinic, got pregnant, and is due to give birth any day. The problem? It's someone else's child.

A fertility clinic implanted the wrong embryo into Carolyn Savage, so she is now feeling the movements of another woman's baby. The Savages decided to deliver the baby boy and hand him over to the biological parents, Paul and Shannon Morell of Michigan, without hesitation.

Unfortunately, this was the Savages last change to carry their own baby, due to their age and previous pregnancy complications. They plan to hire a surrogate for their fourth child.

The clinic hasn't told either family what exactly went wrong.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The problem with baby back-sleeping

ABC News reported yesterday that because babies are now being put to sleep on their backs to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), 1 in 40 babies will develop a flat head, increasing the risk for ear infections, language disorders and learning disabilities.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants up to a year old, and since The American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending babies sleep on their backs in 1992, the number of sudden infant deaths has been cut in half.

But at what cost?

Lying in the same position puts pressure on a certain area of the skull, which can be molded back into shape with a helmet or band. There's no cure -- or known cause -- for SIDS. So while there are possible complications involved, pediatricians believe that the amount of babies saved by sleeping on their backs outweighs the risks.

Detecting a problem before four months of age is crucial to prevent flat heads, and back sleeping is believed to be less crucial once the baby can easily roll from front to back.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mommywood: A baby girl for Buffy

Sarah Michelle (Gellar) Prinze and husband Freddie Prinze Jr. are now first-time parents to baby girl Charlotte Grace. The I Know What You Did Last Summer stars welcomed the newest member of the Prinze clan on Sept. 19.

After much time out of the spotlight, Freddie is slated to star in the upcoming 24 season and Sarah recently filmed the pilot for a new HBO show, The Wonderful Maladays.

Congratulations to them both!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

mothers re-entering the workforce

The New York Times recently reported that more stay-at-home mothers are ditching their sweats for suits. In our current recession, many educated women that "opted out" of working to be stay-at-home moms are now dusting off their resumes, due to laid off spouses or tighter financial constraints.

The article is pretty upbeat, showing the resilience and success many women have found in the job market. But it raises an interesting question: Is abandoning a professional path too risky? Always?

This is the argument that Katie Allison Granju makes on her Home/Work blog for Babble. With the divorce rate as staggering as it is, with our economic prosperity obviously uncertain, it's important to consider the long-term ramifications of leaving a stable job behind. Granju uses her own personal experience and anecdotal stories to show the danger in being financially dependent.

I don't think anyone will deny the immeasurable benefits to being able to raise a child. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't fantasize about that opportunity. But in today's world, is it realistic?

Rather than condemning women for following their hearts and staying at home, Granju makes an important argument:
"What would be truly revolutionary would be a real Mother's Movement in this country, in which meaningful grassroots organizing would actually be taken to the voting floor by the women who represent us in Congress and to the boardroom by the female executives in the companies that employ us. Together, as mothers, we should be building support for the family leave, affordable health care, and child care options that would make this entire 'opt out' conversation moot. We need universal, paid family leave that allows one parent sufficient time at home to care for an infant, and we need more career-track, part-time jobs with real benefits, so that women with babies and young children don't have to make a potentially life-altering choice between immediate family needs and longterm financial security. Further, we need a well-coordinated system of public and private childcare that allows the many women who 'opt out' of paying work altogether following the birth of their children - simply because they can't find or pay for acceptable care - to make their choices based on the bigger picture."
Amen sister.

There is nothing more important to the future of our society than quality parenting. We're raising the next generation of doctors, teachers, activists. We're directly shaping the minds that will create innovative inventions and inspirational art. We're recognizing and nurturing their talents, their ambitions. What job is more important?

So why do we struggle? Why do we regularly feel heartbreak and guilt?

The idea of a Mom movement is inspiring, but what Mom has the free time to organize it? What, with our need to make an INCOME and all.

How do you handle the work/home dilemma?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Teen pregnancy and religion

A new report in Reproductive Health found that the most religious states have the highest teen pregnancy rates, even after considering other factors, such as income and abortion rates.

Joseph Strayhorn, a professor at Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh, and Jillian Strayhorn sifted through religious data from the Pew Forum’s US Religious Landscapes Survey, income data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and birth and abortion rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The states labeled as "religious" have high percentages of people that attend service at least once a week, pray at least once a day, claim to receive a definite answer to a prayer request at least once a month, and believe Scripture should be taken literally, word for word. These are states that have large amounts of people that believe there is only one way to interpret religion and that religion leads to eternal life.

The study suggests a possible explanation: Religious communities are less likely to teach and support contraception, perhaps due to abstinence-only education.

According to a National Public Radio poll, "the historical impetus for abstinence education has come from evangelical or born-again Christians." More than twice as many evangelicals as non-evangelicals believe the government should invest in abstinence-only programs rather than sex education.

It should be noted that this data only applies to the state level, not the individual level. The study does not assume that religious teens get pregnant more often than non-religious teens. It does, however, find an astonishing state-level correlation.

Do you agree with the assumption that abstinence-only programs are to blame? Does religion discourage the use of contraceptives? Are religious women choosing to start families younger than non-religious women?

What do you think?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Race against racism

A new article published in Newsweek found that kids naturally judge others based on their skin color as young as six months, and avoiding the subject doesn't avoid the issue. When it comes to race, colorblindness doesn't exist. More than that, the new book Nurture Shock argues that changing the way we talk about race to our young children could cause long-term change in the character of our society.

So what should parents do?

Studies at the Children's Research Lab at the University of Texas and at the University of Colorado have found that children as young as 3 should be talked to about race. Children's brains at this age are programmed for categorization and in-group favoritism. They assess their surroundings and group things according to what's visible -- skin color being an obvious category. It's in this developmental period when children are forming their first conclusions about race, whether or not a parent discusses it.

In fact, children as young as 6 months will stare significantly longer at photographs of faces that are of a different race from their parents. They obviously notice the difference. How could they not? In one study, a group of 3 year olds were given a deck of cards with drawings of people on them. When asked to split the deck in two piles, 68 percent divided the cards according to race, while only 16 percent used gender.

Beyond finding that children are not, in fact, colorblind, the article cites that many parents are uncomfortable talking openly about race. A 2007 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that out of 17,000 families with kindergartners, 75 percent of white parents never, or almost never, talked about race. Vague terms like "Everybody's equal" and "Under the skin, we're all the same," does not qualify as an explicit discussion on race. It's common to think that pointing out racial differences will encourage children to see divisions in society, but it's apparent that brown skin looks different from white skin. It's right there. Out in the open. Pretending like the difference doesn't exist, or making the topic forbidden, forces children to become intimidated by the mystery of race.

According to the article, talking about race should be just as easy as talking about gender.
"What jumped out at Phyllis Katz [then a professor at the University of Colorado], in her study of 200 black and white children, was that parents are very comfortable talking to their children about gender, and they work very hard to counterprogram against boy-girl stereotypes. That ought to be our model for talking about race. The same way we remind our daughters, 'Mommies can be doctors just like daddies,' we ought to be telling all children that doctors can be any skin color. It's not complicated what to say. It's only a matter of how often we reinforce it."
Are you comfortable talking to your children about race? How do you approach it?

For more about what I think, read this.

I get by with a little help from my phone

My husband and I have been toying around with the idea of scrapping our Verizon wireless service and following the masses over to AT&T for the iPhone. We're both massive Apple fans, yet I've been reluctant to switch over. Despite the nagging and nagging and NAGGING from Justin, with all of the other changes in my life -- is this necessary? Now?

But, Justin, you'll be happy to know -- I've been nudged a little further in your direction. Enter the iPhone apps for new moms, thanks to lilsugar.

No more keeping a pen and paper by your side to record nursing lengths and dirty diapers. No more keeping a safety pin on your bra to remember which side you nursed last. No more adding in your head to keep track of naps and diaper changes, which, let's be honest, is challenging on three hours of sleep.

Most promising, in my opinion:
  • Baby Tracker: Diapers ($1)
    • Track wet and dirty diapers, including a short description of the color and consistency and a clock to determine an approximate next change. The history can even be downloaded and printed for the doctor. For future parents: Yes, color and consistency are major deals. I know.
  • Total Baby App ($8)
    • Juggling information for multiples? Track diapers, feedings, naps, baths, doctor visits, vaccinations, growth carts and more for children of the same and different ages.
  • Baby Tracker: Nursing ($5)
    • Log the length and side you last nursed on, as well as the amount consumed for both breast and formula-fed babies.
  • Baby Brain ($5)
    • Control freaks and schedule-aholics, try to contain your excitement. Record all bodily activities (nursing, eating, changing, napping...) into Baby Brain and your phone will analyze the information daily, weekly or monthly to help form a set schedule. The information can even be sent over to your doctor in one click. I think my heart just skipped a beat.
For pregnant mamas-to-be, find helpful iPhone apps here.

Seeing that I don't have an iPhone -- yet -- I can't vouch for its usefulness. Anyone use these apps? Are there other apps you can't live without?

Kids taken away for nude vaca photos

You know those cute photos you have of your little one splashing around in the bath? Did it ever cross your mind that they could be incriminating?

An Arizona family had their three children -- ages 5, 4 and 18 months -- snatched away and put into foster care after a Wal-Mart employee developed some nude bath-time photos and alerted the authorities.

But it wasn't a child-porno shoot -- it was a family vacation in San Diego. A few of the 150 vaca. photos brought to Wal-Mart contained snaps of the children in "various stages of nudity" en route to the bathtub.

After a state investigation for sexual assault evidence, the parents were cleared of any wrongdoing. Naturally. The family is now suing Wal-Mart, the city, the state, and the Arizona attorney general for punitive damages for defamation and outrage.

Do you censor your photos for the person developing them? For the Internet? More shocking: Do people still develop pictures?

Friday, September 11, 2009

National Grandparents Day

This Sunday, Sept. 13, is National Grandparents Day -- a day to spoil the biggest spoilers of all, and to show your appreciation for their pure, unconditional love.

The holiday was originally created by Marian McQuade to comfort the lonely elderly in nursing homes and to strengthen the heritage bond between grandchildren and grandparents. In 1978, Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day as Grandparents Day.

My mother, a proud first-time Grandma.

If you have the time and resources, on-line photo sites like Snapfish (now offering free shipping until Sept. 13) have high-quality, affordable and fast photo gift ideas. And really, what grandparent has enough pictures of their little ones?

You can make customized photo books, mugs, magnets, calendars, or mousepads for under $20. If you want to splurge for a little more, try making a shirt, tie, apron, or even a blanket.

For those crafty mamas with toddlers, check out ideas here and here. And if all else fails, I'm sure a day with the grandchildren is enough to say "thank you."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mommywood updates

Nicole Richie and Joel Madden welcomed the newest addition to their family yesterday in the early morning hours of 9/9/09. Sparrow James Midnight Madden was born at a Los Angeles hospital, weighing in at 7 lbs., 14 oz.

Madden took to Twitter to announce his son's arrival, joking,
"1st day of his life & my son is already a trending topic on twitter. That's right son, ur just like your old man. wait, i've never been a #TT."
There's been a lot of outspoken opinions about the little boy's name -- as there always is in the celebrity baby naming biz -- but I'm sure the couple thoughtfully picked out Sparrow, and I'm sure it means a lot to them. Let's limit the negativity, people.

Although, I do find this picture from Mamarazzi amusing:
Sparrow joins 20-month-old sister Harlow Winter Kate in the Madden clan. Best wishes to the family.

In other "news,"

Katherine Heigl is joining the ranks of Angelina Jolie and Madonna.

Heigl announced on the Ellen DeGeneres show, scheduled to air tomorrow, that she and husband Josh Kelley will adopt a special-needs 10-month-old girl from Korea.

According to ABC News, Heigl said her name is Naleigh after her mother, Nancy, and sister, Leigh. Heigl told USA Today, "I'm done with the whole idea of having my own children."

Congratulations to the couple.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The invase abuse of power

So here it is. Today President Obama delivered his much-anticipated, hysteria-inducing speech to children across the country. Children who weren't pulled out of school by their parents, of course. I think the amount of children inspired by this speech will far outweigh the temper tantrum parents threw. But maybe I've been brainwashed.

Friday, September 4, 2009

American parents: New levels of absurdity

I wanted to keep this blog strictly news with a few of my own opinions thrown in when the subject is juicy enough. But this, dear, dear readers, baffles me beyond impartiality.

I'm sure you know by now that President Obama is planning to give a speech to American students on Tuesday, Sept. 8 via a live feed from the White House Web site. In his words,
"I'm going to be making a big speech to young people all across the country about the importance of education; about the importance of staying in school; how we want to improve our education system and why it's so important for the country. So I hope everybody tunes in."
According to the U.S. Department of Education,
"During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation's children and young about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning."
It seems simple enough. Presidential enough. Praise-worthy, certainly.

So am I missing something? Today's Yahoo! leading story: Parents angry at Obama

According to the article, "Some parents and conservatives are blasting the president, calling the speech an excuse to brainwash American children."

Let me get this straight, Conservatives. Teaching children the importance of education is brainwashing -- but President Bush blatantly lying about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq being connected to Al Quaida was...?

I guarantee if Bush had wanted to address the American students on why it's important to stay in school it wouldn't have even been newsworthy. What about when President Bush (#1) televised an anti-drug speech in 1989? Or when President Reagan televised his commencement speech and Q&A session to 171 school districts in 1986? Is it because it's the big, bad, scary Obama? Aren't we pulling at straws here?

Apparently the big tadoo is over an accompanying lesson plan for children to follow along with, including questions like "What is the President trying to tell me?" and "What resonated with you from President Obama's speech?" To me, this sounds like basic discussion questions that we ALL had to in english class. Just because you don't like the book doesn't mean you don't have to understand what the author is trying to say. I'm sure if a kid TRULY didn't believe in what Obama was saying he or she could say, "Nothing resonated with me because..."

How DARE that man inspire conversation about our educational system? Who does he think he IS? The PRESIDENT?

Here is what Jim Greer, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said about Obama's plan:
"The address scheduled for Sept. 8, 2009 does not allow for healthy debate on the President's agenda, but rather obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with our President's initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates."
Greer also called this an INVASIVE ABUSE OF POWER. Must I bring up Bush again?

I'm guessing that many of the people who agree with Greer are also in favor of teaching creationism in schools. You know, throwing science -- based on evidence and proven facts -- out the window to brainwash teach children that God created the world in seven days and planted fossils to throw us all of track. Oh, the hypocrisy.

And why do children HAVE to agree with him, Greer? More importantly, why wouldn't you want your children to agree that education is important? It's not like he's launching a campaign for health care reform or government spending. Isn't quality of education a bipartisan, no-brainer, issue?

Yet Conservative talk show personalities like Tammy Bruce and Glenn Beck have encouraged parents to keep their kids home from school that day.

How about the video contest the U.S. Department of Education is launching, inviting students to respond to this INVASIVE ABUSE OF POWER by creating videos describing how they will improve their education and explaining the role of education in fulfilling their dreams?

But oh, it's SOCIALIST!
How exactly?

Who are you parents that are so angry? Who are the 63.6 percent of Facebook users who think President Obama shouldn't make this speech, according to a circulating poll? What exactly is the harm in teaching children to value and take responsibility for their education? I'm so exhausted from the large number of Americans who regurgitate garbage they hear -- garbage that sounds scary and titillating and scandalous -- without ANY facts to back up their arguments. Obama is a Nazi. A muslim, socialist Nazi responsible for 9-11. FOX News said so, it must be true.

Man, can this guy catch a break? It's not like he's trying to get us into an undeclared war based on rumors and lies. It's not like he's getting a blow job in the oval office from an intern. He's trying to make sure the American people are healthy and educated. That monster.

I know that the media and the government are hard to trust at times. I'm with you on that one. But can't we lift the veil of partisan politics, just for a moment? Step away from "labels" that neatly define what we think? Can't we just think like logical, rational people that share the same sense of humanity and mortality?


Go here and here for more information on Obama's speech.

I'd really love to hear your opinion on this, especially those who don't agree with me.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bubble bath? CHECK! Rubber ducky? CHECK! Cancer-causing chemicals? CHECK!

How can something so ugly belong on something so cute?

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found two known cancer-causing chemicals -- 1.4-dioxane and formaldehyde -- in dozens of baby bath products, including the beloved Johnson & Johnson "pure and gentle" baby shampoo.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, both chemicals are known animal carcinogens and most likely human carcinogens as well. The formaldehyde in bubble baths and washes -- you know, what they embalm corpses with -- has been known to cause skin rashes for children with sensitive skin.

The Organic Consumer Association's 2009 study found that many cosmetic companies greatly reduced the amount of carcinogens in products, proving that it doesn't need to be there.

It CERTAINLY doesn't need to be on my baby.

Check out your ingredient labels for these red flags:
  • Sodium myreth sulfate
  • Ingredients with "xynol," "ceteareth" and "oleth."
  • quaternium-15
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • imidazolidinyl urea
  • diazolidinyl urea
You can also use the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep cosmetic safety database to search for tainted products by checking the "Contamination concerns" box.

Here are some of the safest options for your little ones:

For more safe baby products, go here and here.

What if a stranger slapped your child?

Who hasn't been here: Your child has a meltdown in a store. Perhaps you expect unsympathetic glares, maybe even a rude comment. Just imagine a stranger coming over to you, saying "If you don't shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you," and then proceeding to do so with multiple slaps to her face.

This is exactly what happened to one mother in a suburban Atlanta Walmart.

According to the AP, 61-year-old Roger Stephens of Stone Mountain was arrested and charged with felony cruelty to children after slapping a 2-year-old girl at least four times in the face for crying.

Can you even imagine?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Levi Johnston: Father of the Year

Levi Johnston, the father of ex-Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's grandchild, spilled to Vanity Fair in this month's issue that Palin planned to adopt her 17-year-old daughter's baby to hide the teenage pregnancy. He also attacked her parenting, her political motives and her hunting skills.
"Sarah told me she had a great idea: we would keep it a secret—nobody would know that Bristol was pregnant. She told me that once Bristol had the baby she and Todd would adopt him. That way, she said, Bristol and I didn’t have to worry about anything. Sarah kept mentioning this plan. She was nagging—she wouldn’t give up. She would say, “So, are you gonna let me adopt him?” We both kept telling her we were definitely not going to let her adopt the baby. I think Sarah wanted to make Bristol look good, and she didn’t want people to know that her 17-year-old daughter was going to have a kid."
But let's step back for a minute. This is Levi Johnston. A boy who the AP reported is A) angry that the Palins limit his access to his son, and B) pursing a career as an actor/model. Of course he is. He's on minute 14 of his fame trip, people.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not a fan of his mother-in-law. Not in the slightest. But this doesn't make me like her any less. It's obvious that this kid is taking advantage of knocking up the right girl at the right time. Does he love his son? Probably. But this blatant betrayal of his son's grandmother and family, thrusting his baby back into the limelight, is irresponsible and immature. Don't make me side with Sarah freaking Palin, Vanity Fair.

And on top of it -- what's up with Vanity Fair hoisting this kid up on this platform? We're not talking about US Weekly here. Besides what this says about our country's cultural obsessions and journalistic integrity, if we just stick to the political facts then she sinks her own boat. And she did. There's no reason to keep her name in the headlines. We're giving them exactly what they want.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NYC students offered free swine flu vaccines

Public and private New York City students -- numbering over a million -- will be offered free swine flu vaccines in an effort to prevent the second, more serious, wave of the virus that is expected to hit this coming fall.

According to Salon, the vaccine should be available in mid- to late October -- most likely as a nasal mist -- after it's tested and deemed safe and effective.

Smaller states, such as Maine and Alabama, are planning to offer vaccines as well, but many large areas are waiting for direction from their state health departments as to how to run their vaccine clinics. Perhaps once the largest school district in the country is effectively administered free vaccines, other major cities will follow suit. However, some cities, like Boston and Dallas, have already rejected school vaccinations altogether.

But people in New York City have a more prevalent fear of the swine flu than those in, say, Boston. New York was the first large city in the country to have such an alarming number of infected people, shutting down entire schools and claiming more than 50 of the 500 nationwide swine flu-related deaths.

A White House report estimates up to half of the U.S. population could be infected this time around. But, of course, if proper measures are taken to contain the virus -- such as staying home when sick and perhaps getting a vaccine -- then there's no reason to stress.

Will you be getting a swine flu vaccine? Will your kids?