Let’s Keep Families Together for the Holiday

This was cross-posted at Daily Kos. -Elisa

As the daughter of a Cuban immigrant father and Puerto Rican mother who grew up speaking Spanish and around immigrants with and without the right paperwork, I am very passionate about the human rights of immigrants. Because I have seen how hard undocumented immigrants work and understand that we ALL benefit from their labor whether they live here or abroad, I am bothered by the vitriol against them, injustices against their humanity, and our refusal even to address the root cause of why so many of them, economic refugees, flee to our country.

I am particularly disappointed at how we have failed to come together to address this humanitarian crisis — I agree with Professor George Lakoff that 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants is a humanitarian crisis! – for the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of children in this country who worry every day that their parents will be taken from them.

In the first report of its kind, Applied Research Center (ARC) has found that more than 5,000 children are in the foster care system because their parents have been detained or deported. Considering the record number of deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), this number is expected to exceed 15,000 in just five years.

Families in this sad situation have little recourse than to split up. Because ICE detention obstructs the ability for parents to participate in Child Protective Services’ family unification plans, detained parents can actually lose their parental rights.

In light of the upcoming holidays and International Human Rights Day on December 10, the We Belong Together initiative is hosting a letter-writing campaign for children to ask our leaders to consider the devastating impact our immigration enforcement practices are having on families. We can’t think of a sadder holiday for children than to be separated from their parents.

Our goal is to collect 5,000 letters. It may be a simple action, but we hope it will be one of many steps to keep families together and address the humanitarian crisis in our backyard.


Do Congressional Leaders Not Get Sick?

This week I wrote this story and helped solicit others like it for a blog carnival on Medicaid at MomsRising.org. It is appalling that congressional leaders would even consider cutting this vital program. Please check out all the stories, leave a comment or two, and forward to your family and friends. Thanks! -Elisa

The other day I witnessed a disturbing sight in my corner of the city on a street lined by multi-lanes and whizzing cars. A couple of kids about my kids’ ages – a 7-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl – were doing a big shopping – not candy! — at Walgreens.

I watched them check out, receive three bags of goods, change and a smile from the cashier. Then they struggled to take the bags outside, the little boy with two bags in his hands and the little girl with one. Once they were in front of the store, they attempted to reorganize their heavy load so that the little girl held none and the boy struggled with three bags.

I watched, hoping that they would go to a parked car with a loving adult in the driver’s seat. No. A woman – also a bystander – offered them help. Initially, the boy refused, but then accepted her help. She grabbed the bags and then walked away with them, presumably to their home.

On my way back home – approximately a three-block walk – I couldn’t stop thinking about them. What parent would allow two small children to go shopping alone? It was the 4th of July, perhaps the mother worked while the kids cared for themselves. Maybe a homebound grandmother had no choice but to let them shop for the family. I told my husband that I wished I had followed them home and let their guardian know that I was willing to do the shopping for them so that the kids wouldn’t have to. It really bothered me, as I cannot fathom giving my young children this kind of responsibility.

I found myself feeling the same way when I heard the stories of some of our contributing writers who depend on Medicaid to care for themselves or severely disabled children and/or their parents, too. What the heck are they going to do if they don’t have this lifeline? I can’t even fathom.

At the same time, I was in awe of their strength. These are strong women like Laura Tellado who has undergone 19 surgeries for spina bifida, a congenital disorder that often leaves the spinal cord unfused and causes paralysis. Despite a proposal to cut Medicaid by a third, Tellado continues to advocate and write on behalf of other spina bifida patients, and speak out against the cuts.

“My days of healthcare coverage are numbered—but I still have a voice, and I’m going to use it. I’ll use it fight for myself. I’ll use to fight for those who don’t have a voice,” she wrote here and at her blog Holdin’ Out for a Hero.

Then there is Emily Townsend’s heartbreaking reaction to the possibility that Medicaid may face devastating cuts. She has a severely disabled 17-year-old daughter who is in diapers and requires help with feeding. With sheer will and the help of Medicaid, Emily was able to work and gain a Ph. D. But how can we expect Emily’s family to thrive if her daughter is denied Medicaid coverage?

“It keeps me up at night,” Emily wrote. “For those of you who are reading this, please do not allow our leaders to balance the budget on the backs of the disabled. Medicaid is the main source of long-term care for people like my daughter and seniors. She and others like her are deserving of a long and dignified life.”

And for those of us who do not rely on Medicaid for health coverage, not only may we need it someday as it is the primary payer for 64% of nursing home residents, but we save money by cutting down on emergency room visits and investing in preventative care.

“Without it, my kids would be sicker and their lives in jeopardy – and those around them – as they would not be able to receive vaccines on time or wellness checkups,” wrote Katrina Alvarez-Hyman. “We would be in a whirlwind of trouble without it.”  

I, for one, am not willing to pay in the long-term for short-term savings on the backs of the disabled, seniors and children. The last thing I’d want to see in my community is for more small children to shop for homebound disabled and elderly people. Shudder.


Thursday Open Thread

Oh dear.

A mommy blogger over at Babble.com has started a mini sh!tstorm with a painfully honest post:“I Think I Love My Son A Little Bit More.”

OUCH. And that’s just the title!

Most readers seemed to take particular offense to the following statement, and questioned the writer’s decision to publish it lest her daughter grow up and stumble upon it someday:

There are moments – in my least sane and darkest thoughts – when I think it wouldn’t be so bad if I lost my daughter, as long as I never had to lose my son (assuming crazy, dire, insane circumstances that would never actually occur in real life).  I know that sounds completely awful and truly crazy.

Said mommy blogger then stoked the flames a little more with a defensive follow-up post, accusing readers of dishonesty.

It probably struck a little too close to home for many of you…you’ve had those same thoughts about one or more children in your darkest, most private times…and found it obscene to see your own worst thoughts out in the light of day.

Um… if you say so, lady.

Do you think this writer was honest and brave to put this out there, complete with her daughter’s name and photo? Or was she misguided?

The comments that struck me were from readers who said they knew, without a doubt, that their mothers favored their siblings, and the pain that continues to cause them even as adults. So tell me: did your parents show obvious favoritism among their children? Do you worry about repeating the pattern?

I know it is impossible to parent different children the same way or even love them in exactly the same way, but I can honestly say I am equally crazy about my daughter and my son (and to this very day I feel guilty when I recall my initial ambivalence when I found out I was having a son).

And they can drive me equally crazy, in their own unique ways. That may not be the case in 5 years or in 10 years, and I can see how warm feelings toward your kids can ebb and flow depending on age and circumstances.

But could I make such a “Sophie’s Choice” about which child I could stand to lose? Dear god, no. The very thought makes me weepy. I guess I can praise the writer’s brutal honesty, but I can’t begin to comprehend it.

What else is on your mind? Chat away!


Q&A with Beth Bader, co-author, The Cleaner Plate Club

Today, I’m delighted to bring to you an Q&A interview with Beth Bader. We here at MotherTalkers know Beth better as Expat Chef, who has endeared herself to many here for her recipe and passion for cooking, healthy eating and food justice as captured at her blog The (Ex)Expatriate’s Kitchen. Beth and co-author Ali Benjamin, founder of The Cleaner Plate Club blog, have recently published their first cookbook, The Cleaner Plate Club: Raising Healthy Eaters One Meal at a Time.

A few notes of journalism – firstly, Beth is a friend, so this isn’t exactly a strict piece of journalism – I’m biased as hell and want the book to succeed! Secondly, this “interview“ took place over IM and is edited and condensed for space, clarity and to cut out random  “My kid does this“ stories. Thanks, and without further ado:

R:  What was the genesis of The Cleaner Plate Club?

Beth Bader: It started in one way as a hobby I could fit into my life as a new parent. I needed something I could do for me (writing a blog) that would be flexible, ten minutes here, a random hour in the middle of the night there. And, something that I had to do in life anyway, that I enjoyed: cooking. I just pointed myself down the path I enjoyed. The food issues were beginning to surface and there was a lot to write about. The book came along when I met another blogger online. She [Ali Benjamin,]  emailed me and said, “We should do a book!” You think, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ But people have the best intentions, it just rarely comes to be. Next thing I knew, I have a proposal, a book contract [and a] life goal staring right at me.

R:  I like the fact that your approach to the book is really “in the trenches” and explanatory without being condescending. Am I right in thinking that a lot of these recipes have come about because of techniques to encourage healthy eaters?

BB: Definitely. None of them are too complicated. All of them are aimed at getting the best flavor from healthy foods in a way that most kids would try, without really bringing the recipes down to a “kid food” low. And by kid food, I am talking about that limited set of recipes based on sugar, fat, salt and simple carb. The goal is to expand kids’ palates back to something “normal.”

R:  Yes – they come across as being adventurous and colorful without being demanding in a molecular-gastro-haute-cuisine sort of way.

BB: Heh. We wanted the cooking skills required to be minimal, and not intimidating. But we also used the recipes to teach how to create meals WITHOUT a recipe. Empowering people to cook, not just instructions without the “why.”

R: I’m struck by that phrase “expanding … back to something ‘normal’…” because it occurs to me that the re-norming is not just for the kids, but also for the adults doing the shopping, preparing and cooking.

BB: Seems like our culture has completely forgotten how to cook. Which is ironic, what with Food Network on 24/7 and all. But there it is. Maybe we all just need permission TO cook again, where marketers and fast food are trying to convince us we are too busy?

R: To that point, what I really enjoy about the book are two features – the pantry shopping list at the start of the book, and the recipe index at the back that organizes things by season.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve whipped out one of my cookbooks, found a delicious recipe and then either discovered that I don’t have the ingredients in my pantry, or that it’s totally impractical from  seasonal perspective.

BB:  Well, thanks, there’s a good reason the recipes all use the same pantry. It was my pantry! I cook with what I have on hand, recipes come from that one source, so the pantry is limited and seasonal.
… [A] lot of it is all the basics with a slight obsession for spices. We’re on a weekly food budget like everyone else. Growing herbs is absolutely the one way to take your dishes to the next level. Immediate greatness.

R: It works so practically, doesn’t it? they taste great, they’re cheaper than buying those bunches of fresh herbs in the store, and the food miles become  “food feet”. what’s not to like?!

BB: And they smell amazing. And somehow even I cannot kill them. I am a lousy gardener.

R: Do you have favorite recipes in the book? People who are longtime fans of your blog … will find old favorites like the mac n cheese recipe and the Florentine meatloaf recipe. But do you have favorites?

BB: I love the wedding soup. And, hmmm, the carrot souffle. My favorites kind of change each season. I’ll make something again and remember I love it.

R: So, what’s next for you? Have you enjoyed the process [of co-authoring a book] enough to repeat it? Does your activism continue in other venues?

BB: I’m still on the path with food. Food justice is growing on my radar. There is a nagging in my heart about those who don’t have access to good food. Hard to fully enjoy a meal when there are so many still hungry. So, that’s a next step. I would like to do a next book, too. But this one has to do well first for that to happen! One thing at a time, I guess. I am also intrigued by creative solutions to feeding more people. Urban agriculture for example.

R: Food justice. Yes. It’s not enough for people to go out there and say “organic is best! Buy only organic!“ then you  go into schools or negihborhoods where they’re starved for any fresh produce, conventional or otherwise.

BB:  Definitely. Food justice is a movement because so much of it is based on empowerment. Not just handing people money for a temporary fix. I love the creativity in problem solving, it inspires me. So those are fun topics to explore.


DD’s video tribute in memory of her Grandfather

Well, I hope you’ll all bear with me.  I uploaded the link for the video my DD made because I wanted to share it here and because I just realized I COULD!   I am so moved by this effort of hers, and so touched by the  poignancy of the video it defies my ability to put into words what I feel.

As I help her move into her dorm (second year), and watch her with my Mother eyes, with a distance that comes from the passage of time and the trust that is built during the years of love and sharing, and which allows a healthy space for her to exist and embrace this new phase of her life, I am again awed at the journey of this life.  

With the ironic juxtaposition of elderly parents coming to the end of their lives, and my two adult children starting their own independent ones, along with the five grandchildren from my husband’s two older “boys” ages 41 and 39….my mind and heart are continually bombarded with material that both lifts me up and slays me.  But even in darkness, I know there is light around the corner.  

I was given the gift of loving parents which is a great antidote to the painful parts of life.  It isn’t that I don’t feel the pain, because I do (and then some), but I feel completely at home with riding the currents that are inevitable and I thank my parents again and again for loving me unconditionally.  And believe me, we had our moments.  May we all LOVE our children and be their best and biggest advocates.  With that knowledge they will have much of the “battle” won.

I hope this video works….I also uploaded as an update on my past diary from weeks ago.


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Let’s call this the relationship open thread, shall we?

I often quote Expecting Words blog’s Laurie Puhn because she is a relationship expert. She has a couple of books under her belt and a Facebook page that has some moms talking. Most recently, Puhn published these two updates, which created a healthy response:

Couples often have phases in their relationships, good years, and then not-so perfect years and back to more good years.  If your relationship is going through a rough spell, don’t give up!  Has anyone experienced the phases and survived?

Game Show time! Name “Things that Make a Couple More Likely to Fight“ 1) Broken air conditioning (I’m suffering from that right now!), 2) Lack of sleep, 3) A new baby, 4) ….. what’s your answer?

On the latter, money was a big issue that caused even temporary separations. But a couple moms did comment on kids — including their husbands acting like children — and sleep deprivation.

In the beginning of my and DH’s relationship — that would be 14 years ago! — we did have spats over money, but not enough to break us up. One of us would fret about our debt load, then we’d fight over who was spending what, and we’d end up spending more money making up over takeout. (Ay!) In recent years, however, I would say that sleep deprivation and division of labor — meaning childcare — has caused the most tension in our relationship. But we have managed to plunge through, meaning, we have fought, but then made up and talked things over after we’ve had time to stew. What about you? What are some of the things you and your partner fight about? How do you “roll with the punches” so to speak?

In dysfunctional relationship news, Time magazine covered a study showing that people who have recently experienced a breakup exhibit the same symptoms of addiction as someone on cocaine. Read on:

It also helps explain why feelings of heartbreak are so hard to get over and even harder to control. The study notes, with classic academic rigor, that the spurned students had engaged in activities such as “inappropriate phoning, writing or e-mailing, pleading for reconciliation, sobbing for hours, drinking too much and/or making dramatic entrances and exits into the rejecter’s home, place of work or social space to express anger, despair or passionate love.” Sound familiar, anyone?

At least in one sense, this pain is a good thing, according to Brown. “In a way, nature gave us this response as a protection,” she says. “It helps us keep relationships going under adverse circumstances, which is important for keeping our species going.”

Such pain is also the first step in helping people get over their exes.

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


Sunday Morning Open Thread

Happy Sunday, MTs. How are you today?

A couple of science/technology stories have caught my eye, so bear with me. First up the World Health Organisation is reporting increases in the rates of “untreatable” gonorrhoea. Luuuuuuuvly. According to this article in The Age:

Isolated cases have now emerged in China, Japan and also Australia which indicate the last-line treatment – oral cephalosporin – was also losing its effectiveness against the bacteria.

Dr Shin Young-soo said if the pattern continued, it was only a matter of time before gonorrhoea was fully resistant those medications conventionally used to combat it.

“We are dealing with a serious issue with the implication that gonorrhoea may become untreatable,” Dr Shin, the WHO’s Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said in a statement on Thursday.

“This will have a major impact on our efforts to control the disease and will result in an increase in serious health-related complications.”

I’m appalled to read this, and it just redoubles my belief that when the time comes, comprehensive, strong sex awareness education is the only way to go with my girls.

Last week, I wrote about a spate of mystery convulsions/high fevers in Australian children who had had a combined flu vaccination. The mystery might be solved – a professor at Flinders University believes that high levels of RNA residue were left in the vaccine as a result of its manufacture. The high levels of RNA precipitated an immune response cascade.

Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, a Flinders University immunologist, says an experiment he carried out indicates that large amounts of viral genetic residue created by the vaccine’s manufacture were overloading infants’ immune systems.

The experiment left him in “absolutely no doubt” that high levels of the residue in the form of RNA (the viruses’ genetic blueprint) were the cause.

Professor Petrovsky’s claims were supported by Melbourne immunologist Professor Bryan Williams, whose team at the Monash Institute of Medical Research is at the forefront of research into how the immune system detects infection.

“I was planning to design my own experiment to test this, before I heard about Professor Petrovsky’s result,” he said.

This year’s vaccine contains more RNA than previous years, because it consists of several inactivated seasonal strains of influenza virus combined with the pandemic H1N1 swine flu strain. Professor Petrovsky says RNA extracted from the flu vaccine triggered an “enormous reaction” in human immune-system cells in vitro.

Interesting. Does this hypothesis hold water?

Finally, the booga-booga-booga (oh Katie, how you have gifted us) story of the week about social networking sites: researchers are hypothesizing that social networking sites are changing the very nature of friendship in young people. It could be a positive, but of course the article in The New York Times leads with the doomsday predictions.

To date, much of the concern over all this use of technology has been focused on the implications for kids’ intellectual development. Worry about the social repercussions has centered on the darker side of online interactions, like cyber-bullying or texting sexually explicit messages. But psychologists and other experts are starting to take a look at a less-sensational but potentially more profound phenomenon: whether technology may be changing the very nature of kids’ friendships.

“In general, the worries over cyber-bullying and sexting have overshadowed a look into the really nuanced things about the way technology is affecting the closeness properties of friendship,” said Jeffrey G. Parker, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, who has been studying children’s friendships since the 1980s. “We’re only beginning to look at those subtle changes.”

The question on researchers’ minds is whether all that texting, instant messaging and online social networking allows children to become more connected and supportive of their friends — or whether the quality of their interactions is being diminished without the intimacy and emotional give and take of regular, extended face-to-face time.

We all know that this is a hotly debated topic, but I’m not at all certain that going with the worst case scenario first makes for good social research. Myself, I’m of the opinion that cell phones, computers, social media websites et al are just tools – it’s up to us as parents/carers to regulate our children.


Healthcare Reform and Children with Pre-existing Conditions

Our Desmoinesdem has been covering this issue in the diaries, so I thought I would follow up. MomsRising just unveiled a website on “How will healthcare reform affect my family?”

Here is what it said in terms of covering kids:

• This year, insurance companies will no longer be able to refuse to pay for treatment of children’s pre-existing conditions.
• This year, health care plans will allow young people to remain on their parents’ insurance policy up until their 26th birthday, as long as they are not eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.
• This year, insurance companies will be banned from dropping people from coverage when they get sick, and they will be banned from implementing lifetime caps on coverage.

Unfortunately, Desmoinesdem is right that insurance companies will be allowed to discriminate against people, including children, with pre-existing conditions until 2014. Then that unethical practice will be banned.

Here are other perks that will kick in 2014:

• Families and children with moderate incomes (up to about $88,000 for a family of four) will be able to get help paying for health insurance coverage for the first time.
• State insurance exchanges will enforce minimum benefit standards for health insurance coverage.
• All new health insurance plans sold to individuals and small businesses will cover maternity and newborn care.


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day all! I did not even know we are already at March 17. I forgot to send something green with Ari. Gah!

What’s up?

CNN ran a story about babies on airplanes. The article included tips for weary parents — and passengers.

The food additive Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP), which is in processed foods like Pringles potato chips, was recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. Here is a list of the recalled foods on the FDA website.

Washington Post columnist Carolyn Hax just doled out advice to a husband whose ex-wife and mother of his two children does not want him to have anymore children with his new wife.

Good news: Whether you conceive the traditional way or via IVF has no detrimental impact on the birthing process or the baby, according to Science Daily.

I did not know this, but Kate Winslet and her director-producer husband Sam Mendes are headed to divorce court, according to MSN Wonderwall.

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


The Difference Between a Boy and a Girl

Before I had children, I always imagined myself having a daughter. A mini-me. An ultra feminine girl, with long, flowing hair, who liked to get into Mommy’s make-up and wear high heels. A daughter who giggled and flirted and shared her boy crazy secrets with me. Then, I had Karina. Now, don’t get me wrong – Karina isn’t a “tomboy”, but she isn’t very feminine either. She isn’t boy crazy, nor is she a flirt. She refuses to walk in heels and only sports “raccoon eyes” when it comes to make-up.

I never imagined myself having a son. I mean, what would I do with a baby penis? I was always afraid of potentially getting squirted in the eye while changing a boy’s diaper? And, aside from all the obvious penis-related stuff, how could I possibly relate to a boy? Then, I had Cristian.

Karina and Cristian are like night and day. They both have their amazing qualities, but they both have they ginormous faults, too. Karina is very reserved, while Cristian is very outgoing. Karina is into sports, while Cristian is into books. Karina is “hard” and I know that I don’t have to worry about her, but instead worry about those who dare to cross her. Cristian is all heart and super sensitive. He cries when he’s happy. He cries when he’s sad. He cries when he’s scared. He cries ALL. THE. TIME.

And, I love it.

There is an amazing power that comes from raising children. With Karina, my goal is to raise a confident, independent, strong woman who doesn’t need to depend on anyone to get ahead. So far, I think Karina and I are on the right path.

With Cristian, my goal is to raise a confident, independent, and strong MAN. The kind of man that will make a good employee, then good boss. The kind of man that will make a great boyfriend, then amazing husband and father. The kind of man who is sympathetic. The kind of man who understands. The kind of man who listens.

Yes, there is an amazing power that comes from raising a daughter. But, for me, there is a more intense and incredible power about raising a son to be the kind of man you hope your daughter will find.

Just today, while I was sitting on my living room couch, suffering quietly due to menstrual cramps, Cristian asked me what was wrong. When I told him that I had cramps, he said, “Aww…I’m sorry. Do you want me to make you a cup of tea and bring you some Motrin?”

I think Cristian and I are on the right path, too.