Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

In Politics: It’s election day, which means we will have a special open thread tonight at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. Please join us!

Many people from the Daily Kos crew will be at my house to cover the elections. Even though we are expecting a rough night, we plan to order pizza and eat cake as it is Mr. Ari’s 7th birthday today.

In somewhat related news, Medicare will face severe cuts unless Congress acts, according to the Washington Post.

Alcohol More Deadly Than Heroin? A British study, which was cited by the Washington Post, lead with how alcohol was more deadly than heroin and cocaine. But reading through the article, it sounds like heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, are much more deadly to the individuals who consume them. However, overall, alcohol has a much wider-spread and devastating cost to society.

When drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems. It is also connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin.

But experts said it would be impractical and incorrect to outlaw alcohol.

Leslie King, an adviser to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and one of the study’s authors, suggested education programs that target problem drinkers as opposed to the majority of people who indulge in a drink or two. He said that the price of alcohol should go up so it isn’t as widely available. What do you all think?

World Series: For San Francisco Giants fans following the World Series, our local Zeum Children’s Museum in San Francisco made these adorable movies out of clay models.

LGBT Youth: Our Dana wrote a timely article for the Keen News Service about federal initiatives to curb bullying of LGBT students in school.

Holiday Gift Idea: If you are looking for holiday gift ideas for young children, Sesame Street is offering a 10 percent discount on all its video games to mothers on the blogs. Just go to this website and enter promo code MOMMY at checkout.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Drinks you enjoy

I have branched out a bit in my alcoholic beverages lately and would love to learn about more kinds, so thought it might be fun to have a thread for drinks you like. We don’t drink every night but it is pretty common for us to have a glass of wine with dinner. Now I’m starting to try to learn a bit more (quite belatedly I realize, 20 years after most other people my age did) about different kinds of drinks.

In my 20s I drank mostly beer, but at age 30 we moved to California and since then it has been all wine. Wine, wine, wine. We live close to wine country and it seems that everybody knows all the different grapes and all that. The kinds we most often drink are –

Summer –

sauvignon blanc (usually we drink California wine, but sauvignon blancs from New Zealand are very good too)
pino grigio (Italian is usually good)
Not as much – chardonnay, but I’m not so crazy about it. In the summer when it’s hot I usually want to drink something lighter than chardonnay. I am also not crazy about viognier. It tastes like beer to me. Riesling we barely ever have, usually it’s too sweet.

Winter –

barbera, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, pinot noir, zinfandel (there are lots of local zins here)

And of course I should give a shout-out to Jen, Chilean wine is great too!

We don’t really drink much merlot. “Sideways” no doubt had a very negative impact on the merlot industry.

Cocktails and hard liquor in general are a bit more mystifying to me. I never knew much about them before and am just starting to learn a bit more. There are so many different kinds, it’s hard to know where to start.

I like and have more or less learned how to make a margarita, a mojito, a kir or kir royale. Those are good. I’ve also tried and liked sangria, cosmos (which I suppose are rather 90’s SATC), Pimm’s No. 1 cup, a bellini, and a few others. And of course the old college ones like a screwdriver or a rum and coke.

Last night I tried making a negroni for the first time (1/3 Campari, 1/3 gin, 1/3 sweet vermouth). Sadly I bought the wrong kind of vermouth (dry) and now need to go buy the right kind because it was not so good with dry vermouth.

What have you been drinking lately? Do you have any cocktails to recommend giving a try?


Saturday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The Committee on Substance Abuse for the American Academy of Pediatrics just recommended that doctors screen adolescents for alcohol use, according to the Decatur Tribune. The recommendation followed a study showing that alcohol has an especially adverse effect on children, whose brains do not stop developing until well into their 20s. “The parts of the maturing brain most impacted by drinking are essential for developing organizational skills, emotional regulation, abstract thinking, and impulse control,” the study’s author said.

The Huffington Post ran a column by a child psychologist who wrote about how children favor one parent over another at various points in their lives or even their whole lives. Ouch. Are you the favorite parent?

Daycare center operators lambasted proposed staffing rules that would lower the toddler-adult ratio from 11:1 to 9:1, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Daycare center owners said they are already being squeezed and would be unable to take low-income students receiving a federal stipend that is already not enough to cover current costs of care. I read this article and it just made sad. The kids, in this case 2-year-olds, are already receiving questionable care if they must compete with 10 other toddlers for an adult’s attention. Again, if the state wants this to pass, it should put up the money for additional staff.

The FDA is working with food manufacturers to lower the amount of salt in foods, according to the Washington Post. The idea is to lower salt over a period of time to change the American palate. Too much salt has been linked to an uptick in sodium, which in turn leads to hypertension and heart disease.

In CNN: three-quarters of 12- to 17-year-olds own cell phones, up from 45 percent in 2004. Daily text messaging among teens has skyrocketed in recent years to as many as 100 messages a day.  

The California Assembly unanimously passed bill ACR 105 that makes every May Perinatal Depression Awareness Month in the state. Congrats to the women’s group, the Junior League of California, for sponsoring the bill and overseeing its passage.

In international news: Poland is slated to vote for a new president on June 20, according to Reuters.

Actor Michael Douglas’s son, Cameron, 31, was just sentenced to five years in prison for possession of heroin and attempting to sell crystal meth, according to the National Ledger.

Thursday, April 22, was Earth Day, and Katy Farber over at Non-Toxic Kids listed five books and five activities to share with children.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: Cigarettes and Other Vices

Parents magazine ran the first part of a series on how to quit smoking. Perhaps it is because I live in a household — and area — where smoking is non-existent and frowned upon, I was stunned to learn this statistic: Almost one out of three kids in this country lives with at least one smoker.

Almost 40 percent of women smokers stop during pregnancy, but up to 70 percent relapse after their baby is born, says Cheryl Healton, DrPH, president of the American Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting children and adults from smoking. Most smokers actually try to quit between eight and 11 times before they succeed. “Every time you quit, you’re one step closer to becoming smoke-free,” says Dr. Healton, a former three-pack-a-day smoker.

The magazine unleashed all kinds of scary statistics like people are more in danger of dying from lung cancer due to secondhand smoke than in a car crash. But it also offered practical advice and support. Definitely worth a read if you are a smoker or are trying to help a loved one quit.

But it got me thinking to all the vices we may have because, let’s face it, parenting is hard and stressful work. Whether it is smoking, excessive drinking, a poor diet, or even the other extreme — too much exercise — surely we have some bad habit we are not proud of.

Have you tried to kick a bad habit like smoking? What do you do to relax?


Parents Gone Wild at Chuck E Cheese

Today’s WSJ has a story on parents gone wild at Chuck E Cheese. That’s right, Chuck E Cheese…

In Brookfield, Wis., no restaurant has triggered more calls to the police department since last year than Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Officers have been called to break up 12 fights, some of them physical, at the child-oriented pizza parlor since January 2007. The biggest melee broke out in April, when an uninvited adult disrupted a child’s birthday party. Seven officers arrived and found as many as 40 people knocking over chairs and yelling in front of the restaurant’s music stage, where a robotic singing chicken and the chain’s namesake mouse perform.

Some law enforcement officials interviewed said they get less fights at bars.

Reasons for this bad behavior are many. This one I did not know…Chuck E Cheese serves alcohol at some of its locations! Why, why, why.

Also to blame according to experts interviewed, the “mama bear instinct.” You know, that feeling mamas get when you are going to protect your little cub, no matter what, even if it’s just from a kid hogging the video game (????).

Amid pressure from local politicians, some Chuck E. Cheese locations have stopped serving alcohol, added armed patrols, prohibited knives, chains and screwdrivers from entering the restaurant and making the machines more expensive to use.

The article has a whole “blotter” of incidents around the country, here’s an example…

This most recent assault, described in police reports, occurred after a woman in her 30s approached a 6-year-old boy who was playing a videogame. When the boy went to insert more tokens to continue playing, the woman grabbed the tokens out of his hand and told him to stop hogging the game. The boy went and got his 26-year-old mother, who walked over to the woman. The woman began screaming at the boy’s mother, and another suspect, a man in his 30s, grabbed the mother by the throat and pushed her against the videogame machine. CEC employees had to pull the man off the mother. Both the man and the woman fled the scene.

I’ve never been a big Chuck E Cheese fan myself, but not for these reasons.


Over 100 College Presidents call for Alcohol Age to be Reconsidered.

I’ve always thought it was kind of ridiculous that all the trappings of adulthood come at 18 except the right to purchase and drink alcohol. This morning, over 100 college Presidents signed a letter calling for the drinking age to be reconsidered, so apparently I’m in good company. They go a step further, however, and lay out some good, common sense safety reasons why the current drinking age is not working.

“Kids are going to drink whether it’s legal or illegal,” said Johns Hopkins President William R. Brody, who supports lowering the drinking age to 18. “We’d at least be able to have a more open dialogue with students about drinking as opposed to this sham where people don’t want to talk about it because it’s a violation of the law.”

“How many times must we relearn the lessons of prohibition?” the statement says. “Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.”

The Presidents say that while the current age isn’t working, Federal law limiting highway funding to states that have a drinking age of below 21 limits opportunities to try other approaches which might tackle the problems of binge drinking. And they have no doubts that the current drinking age, rather than discouraging binges, actually has the opposite effect:

They are worried about the binge drinking that underage students engage in before they go out – the goal being to get drunk as quickly as possible before going to public places where they won’t be served.

“If they drink too much in the beginning [of an evening], they can get alcohol poisoning,” said Baird Tipson, president of Washington College in Chestertown. “They’re really not aware of how their judgment is impaired. We hope they don’t get into a car. Or, if they’re a young woman, go to a fraternity party. It’s just not healthy.”

Because colleges feel obliged to ban alcohol from their campuses, students travel and drive to get alcohol somewhere they won’t get caught, and that leads to drunk driving:

“A lot of young people feel that they are afraid of enforcement” on campus, said Sanford J. Ungar, president of Goucher College. “They tend to get in a car and go someplace else – and that’s very, very dangerous. I worry about it every weekend.”

What do you all think? Should the drinking age change? If so, to what? Or do you think these Academics are just misguided, and a change wouldn’t have any effect, or might even make things worse?


Ditching, Rite of Passage?

When I was in high school, I did my fair share of ditching. Now that Karina is starting high school in the fall, the thought that she may ditch a class has crossed my mind, and boy is it scary.

The ditching parties I attended pretty much consisted of the same things. Music, television, talking, some drinking (mostly wine coolers), and plenty of boys to make-out with. Shudder. Nothing ever went terribly wrong, except for the occasional “getting caught” by a parent. So, is it a rite of passage, like learning how to drive? Perhaps. But what about when those ditching parties that go terribly wrong?

A 15-year-old boy was just sentenced to six months in a juvenile detention center after admitting he raped an unconscious classmate in a park near the campus earlier this year.

On May 15, dozens of kids played hooky at Mason Park while the high school, just a few blocks away, conducted statewide standardized testing. Some brought alcohol.

By 10:40 a.m., three girls had passed out, presumably from drunkenness, police said. That’s when the 15-year-old dragged one of the girls into the men’s restroom, locked the door and raped her, even as his friends pounded on the door and others at the park called police. The boy fled, leaving the half-dressed girl on the bathroom floor.

In a plea bargain, the boy pleaded guilty to ONE count each of rape by use of drugs and rape of an unconscious person. In the plea bargain, three other felony charges were dropped, including sodomy of an unconscious victim, sexual penetration by a foreign object of an unconscious person and sexual penetration by a foreign object of a drugged victim. Since there was no mention of whether or not he would have to register as a sex-offender, I can only hope.

So, I started to worry. I mean, we can’t be with our children at every moment. We can’t make the “right” decisions for them. We just have to arm them with information, teach them values, and hope for the best. I had Karina read the article, and then we talked about the victim. Did she ditch knowing what was going to happen to her? Doubtful. Did she think she was safe because she was with friends? Highly likely.

Scary, I know.

What about you? Did you ditch? Do you think it’s a rite of passage? Have you talked with your children about ditching? How have you or how will you arm your child with information that can shelter and protect them, but at the same time let them make their own decisions and learn from them?


Should you drink with your kids?

So asks John Cloud in the June 30 edition of Time Magazine. His premise: social-host laws and abstinence-only programs do not prevent teenage drinking and, may in fact be

encouraging kids to leave their homes (presumably by car) and drink in parks or abandoned warehouses or anywhere else they think they won’t get caught and their parents won’t get arrested.

He posits that the U.S. is “in midst of one of its periodic alcohol panics, this one focused on adolescents” and that the abstinence-only culture we live in/have created is causing more harm than good:

At first it sounds a little nutty, but you might consider drinking with your kids. Incongruously, the way to produce fewer problem drinkers is to create more drinkers over all – that is, to begin to create a culture in which alcohol is not an alluring risk but part of quotidian family life.

He quotes addiction expert Stanton Peele throughout the article:

You give them sips as smaller kids and don’t make a big deal about it. At 16, give them a glass of wine. A second glass doesn’t make sense, but making hard-and-fast rules creates the sense that alcohol is some magical potion.

Cloud takes on our alcohol-soaked consumer culture, differences in European and  U.S. adolescent consumption, alcohol restricting legislation, and rat studies on the effects of alcohol on adolescent brains. It is quite a loaded article but an interesting (and quick) read.

We let our kids have sips of wine and beer. Sally hates it, Sam loves it- Guinness especially. DH and I both agree that anything in moderation is okay and that flat out banning or abstinence programs are extremely problematic. Indeed, we think that education about safety, consequences, and responsibilities are critical for a myriad of issues. We also want to demystify alcohol because we agree with Peele when he writes,

When alcohol is presented as impossibly dangerous, it becomes alluring as a ‘forbidden fruit’…The choice between abstinence and excess is not a good one to force on children.

Of course, YMMV.

What do you do?


Moderate Drinking Linked With Breast Cancer

Even moderate drinking increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer, according to a story in the Washington Post.

A recent Harvard study of 878 people found that nearly two-thirds of drinkers and about a third of teetotalers considered such imbibing to be safe and healthful. So healthful that about 30 percent of those surveyed said the purported health benefits of alcohol are one reason they drink.

The link between alcohol and breast cancer is something that “almost nobody in the study had heard about,” says the survey’s lead author, Kenneth Mukamal, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. Only 10 percent correctly identified breast cancer as a possible risk of moderate drinking, the researchers reported in the journal Family Medicine.

I, too, thought an occasional glass of wine — although I tend to drink like once a month, if that, at this point — was good for me. Remember all the hoopla surrounding red wine’s benefits for the heart? As it turns out alcohol consumption is so potent that it can catch  up to you later on in life, according to the Post.

These results offer a cautionary note for younger women and underscore that it’s never too early to go easy on alcohol. The researchers tracked nearly 10,000 women for 27 years. They found that the amount of alcohol the women consumed when the study began, rather than after menopause, correlated best with their breast cancer risk nearly three decades later.

If women do drink, there’s widespread agreement that they should avoid having more than one drink per day. (A drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits such as whiskey, tequila or vodka.) Just that amount of alcohol translates to “about a 10 percent increased risk of breast cancer,” says Eric Rimm, an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

This story is one of those health myth-debunkers that is good to know.


Drinking While Nursing

Wired magazine’s “Mr. Know-It-All” recently answered a letter regarding drinking and nursing. “Stressed-out mom of a newborn” has found herself craving cabernet, but she is nursing. Is it safe for her to drink?

Mr. Know-It-All’s response:

Caution is certainly called for, as hooch does, indeed, seep into a kid’s nutritional supply. The good news is that an occasional glass of wine shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you don’t have another feeding slated for a while. The effects of liquor vary widely according to a drinker’s weight and metabolism, but a general rule of thumb is that the concentration of alcohol in breast milk peaks around 60 minutes after ingestion. Play it safe: Wait two to three hours per drink before nursing Junior.

You want to be extra cautious, however, if your breast monkey is less than 3 months old; the youngest livers have a tough time metabolizing alcohol. It’s also prudent to avoid the more potent vintages–zinfandels tend to have a higher percentage of alcohol than Rieslings, for example. Check the label before pouring.

But what if there’s a special occasion approaching and you’d like to celebrate with more than one tipple? First off, don’t go crazy–breast-feeding with a hangover is as much fun as doing anything else with a hangover. More important, pump plenty of milk in advance, and be prepared to pump and dump–pump milk and throw it away–should your breasts become full before the alcohol clears your system. Milk alcohol level declines at the same rate as blood alcohol level, so whenever you’re back to 100 percent sober is when you can safely nurse.

Bottom line: Enjoy a glass of wine, and don’t panic. But you should probably wait to really tie one on till after your child has been weaned. Don’t worry–at that age, they’ll still provide plenty of reasons for you to need a stiff drink.

Makes sense. Then again, occasional — versus regular — alcohol consumption is probably a good idea for everyone — not just nursing mothers.  

But, personally, I have never restrained from eating my favorite foods, including spicy or garlicky foods, or even drinking while nursing. While I did wait until my babies were older — after the 3-month-mark sounds about right — to have a very occasional glass of wine, I did not see a correlation between what I was eating or drinking and their behavior. Plus, I thought being a parent was hard enough that restricting my diet seemed rather cruel. I needed the calories!

For the record, I am in the process of weaning Eli because DH and I have a trip scheduled next month. It’s only for a few days and my MIL will watch the kids. But it will be my first overnight stay without Eli.

She is 11 months old today. I am nursing her once every couple days and supplementing with formula. I actually feel good about it — not depressed like I did with Ari. She was nursed two more months than Ari, and I am simply relieved to have survived the first year of babyhood. Whew!