Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Mark Landon, an actor and the eldest son of Little House on the Prairie star Michael Landon, was found dead in his home on Monday, according to the Associated Press. AP did not list a cause of death but said he was 60 years old.  

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget includes cuts for abstinence-only education in favor of teen pregnancy prevention, according to USA Today.

Oprah Winfrey’s in-house medical and health expert, Dr. Mehmet Oz, is leaving to start his own show, according to the Associated Press. Also in the Associated Press: Miss California USA, Carrie Prejean, will retain her crown despite the emergence of photos showing her posing in her underwear as a teenager. Prejean has not stopped making headlines since she opposed gay marriage in the last Miss USA pageant where she placed second to Miss North Carolina Kristen Dalton.

In celebrity gossip break: Now it’s Kate Gosselin of Jon & Kate Plus Eight fame who is under the mediascope for allegedly having an affair with their bodyguard, according to People online. Oy vey.

And I am surprised I missed this, but Sarah Jessica Parker is going to have twin girls via surrogate, according to People. Finally, in case you missed it, actress-writer Nia Vardalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding wrote a moving essay for People about her newly adopted 3-year-old daughter’s blessing at church.

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


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos. Don’t forget to recommend us!

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here are some topics we recently discussed at MotherTalkers:

Do you eat dinner as a family? Multiple studies have pointed out health advantages eating together rather than grazing in front of the TV solo. But we discussed the challenges of herding the family during mealtimes and offered tips on how to make it easier.

We had yet another discussion on how much influence parents should have over their small children’s birthday party invitation lists.

Here is a personal and moving account of what it is like to be adopted and place your own child for adoption. Our “Frog Wife” garnered quite the response.

We had a monstrous discussion on progressive and family-friendly places to live in the United States. I am an east coast transplant who now lives in Berkeley, California. This is what I had to say about it in the thread: “We have been living in Berkeley, CA, for the last 10 years and can’t imagine being anywhere else. It is, for the most part, sunny, green with all the amenities of city life plus open space in the hills. It is progressive and family friendly in that there are many things for us to do like go to the zoo, children’s museums, preschool-type programs and other activities. However, it is expensive and that is a big downside to it and what made us consider Portland (Oregon). It is also a tad crowded. I am surprised by the number of cars here despite having, for the most part, reliable public transportation.” Where do you live? Do you like it?

Here is a hot topic we discussed: Would you buy your teenaged daughter a vibrator? Apparently, Oprah Winfrey and show sex expert Dr. Laura Berman endorsed the idea. I read a re-cap of the show — and ensuing discussion — at the AOL blog ParentDish. Discuss away!

I will be out of town next week and will not post this diary a week from today. I will resume “Weekly Parenting News Roundup” and the accompanying Daily Kos diary on Saturday, May 9. “See” you then!

What’s up with you?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I heart Jennifer Weiner. The author of Good In Bed and Little Earthquakes wrote an hilarious piece about her neurotic friend Elizabeth for Glamour magazine. The photo of the two women is adorable.

Salon’s Broadsheet has a big debate going on about United Airlines’s new policy to charge overweight passengers for two seats. As the long thread pointed out, Southwest Airlines already has the same policy in place, although it is illegal for the airlines to do so in Canada because it is viewed as discrimination.

In case you missed it, Oprah Winfrey pulled her show about the Columbine shootings because it focused too much on the killers. She left a note on Also in Oprah: Sex expert Dr. Laura Berman — and Oprah — recently agreed that moms should buy their teen girls vibrators. ParentDish had a recap of the fascinating discussion and topic.

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


Former Harvard Doc: Water Births Are Dangerous

A self-described obstetrician-gynecologist who used to teach at Harvard Medical School recently wrote a scathing diary at Salon against water births. (Not surprisingly, this chick has generated a lot of angry responses in the thread.)

But she listed all kinds of statistics I think are worth mentioning for discussion:

Perinatal mortality and morbidity among babies delivered in water: surveillance study and postal survey was published in the BMJ in 1999. Out of 4,030 deliveries in water, 35 babies suffered serious problems and 3 subsequently died. It is unclear if any of the deaths can be attributed to delivery in water. However, of the 32 survivors who were admitted to the NICU, 13 had significant respiratory problems including pneumonia, meconium aspiration, water aspiration, and drowning. Other complications attributable to water birth include 5 babies who had significant hemorrhage due to snapped umbilical cord. In all, 18 babies had serious complications directly attributable to waterbirth. The risk of serious complications necessitating prolonged NICU admissions was 4.5/1000.

Hospitals in Ireland recently suspended the practice of waterbirth after a baby died from freshwater drowning after delivery in a waterbirth pool.

The most nonsensical aspect of waterbirth is that it puts the baby at risk for freshwater drowning. The second nonsensical aspect is that the baby is born into what is essentially toilet water, because the water in the pool is fecally contaminated. In Water birth and the risk of infection; Experience after 1500 water births, Thoeni et al. analyzed the water found in waterbirth pools both before and after birth. The water in a birth pool, conveniently heated to body temperature, the optimum temperature for bacterial growth, is a microbial paradise.

The doctor in question, Amy Tuteur, fervently argued that there is nothing “natural” about a water birth as “no primates give birth in water, because primates initiate breathing almost immediately after birth.”

The discussion at Salon is worth a read. Readers have called for more studies to rule out other causes of death like lapsed cords or incompetent staff. (Good point.) Also, babies do swallow water in the womb. Tuteur’s response seemed pissy more so than informative.

Discuss away!  


Late-Night Liberty: Five Biggest Marriage Busters

Dr. Phil, who I normally don’t follow, recently revealed what he says are the five biggest marriage busters to Good Housekeeping. I will list them and then we can discuss:

  1. Unrealistic Expectations (in other words, marriage is hard work.)
  1. Money Miseries
  1. Family Members Who Meddle
  1. Kids Who Won’t Listen
  1. Career Concerns (largely that of stay-at-home mothers)

The parenthesis are mine. But Dr. Phil offered detailed explanations after each point in his magazine.

While I don’t doubt that the issues above are really stressful on a marriage, I would love to see a study listing the reasons people divorce. For example, I wonder how many partners cheat or are unfortunately involved in a domestic violence dispute? Surely, those factors cause breakups, too.

Have you divorced? What caused the breakup?


The Hoopla Around Vaccines (Again)

As Katy Farber over at Non-Toxic Kids pointed out, Dr. Paul Offit’s book about the false link between vaccines and autism is out and has created quite a stir.

The author will not be going on a book tour as he has been called a “terrorist” and has received death threats for his pro-vaccine stance. Farber echoed my thoughts on the matter:

Of course this is a personal issue. Many parents have children suffering from autism and they want answers. I don’t blame them. I too want to understand why the rates of autism in this country are on the rise. And we must continue to look tirelessly for answers, our children deserve this. But how did the debate turn so negative and nasty that the Dr. Offit doesn’t feel safe? I’m sure there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides of this issue.

I would like to get my hands on a copy of this book. My own grandmother wrote a thank you note to Jonas Salk for inventing the polio vaccine. And now, according to this article, Dr. Offit is being called a terrorist? I’m not sure how we came to a place in our society where a doctor who invented a vaccine that saves thousands of children’s lives a year was affixed with that label.

One of Farber’s readers pointed to Dr. William Sears’s reaction to Offit’s book, which was quite negative. While Sears is pro-vaccine, he accused Offit of misrepresenting his work, expressing surprise that Pediatrics magazine disrespectfully published “selective, misleading, and inaccurate quotes” from Sears’s book The Vaccine Book.

Sears does favor an alternative vaccine schedule, which is a point of disagreement between he and Offit.  

I will admit that the book does offer one major controversial idea; my alternative vaccine schedule. However, it is important to note the context in which I offer that advice. At the end of the book, I encourage parents to vaccinate their children according to the CDC schedule if they feel confident in our nation’s vaccine system. For those parents who, after reading all the reasons why vaccines are important in my book, still believe vaccines aren’t safe and plan to not vaccinate, I at least ask them to consider getting the most important infant vaccines so their babies have protection from the life-threatening illnesses (HIB, PC, DTaP, and Rota). Where my alternative schedule comes into play is for those parents who are still unsure about vaccines, but they do want to fully vaccinate. I offer them an optional schedule that gets their child fully vaccinated, but at a slower pace. It doesn’t delay any of the most important shots, but it slightly delays some shots that are for lower-risk diseases. This option is really for parents who would otherwise leave a doctor’s office unvaccinated – parents who are too torn to make a decision, and therefore often don’t make any decision to vaccinate at all.

It is my belief that many families go unvaccinated simply because they aren’t offered a more gradual option. If they were, many would vaccinate. I believe this approach would actually increase vaccination rates, not decrease them as Dr. Offit suggests. I think that is our main area of disagreement.

Sears went on to offer a rebuttal to all of Dr. Offit’s main points. His piece is worth a read.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Community Service

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Our dear President-Elect has asked us to dedicate a day of service to our communities. You can find out more information on

Unfortunately due to lack of childcare — namely Eli — we won’t be volunteering anywhere. But once she is bigger, we absolutely plan to make it a family tradition. For the time being, we will spend time as a family.

Still, I like the idea of Dr. King’s birthday being honored in the way of community service. Yesterday, my church had a wonderful homily by the Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, D.C., Bishop Martin Holley, who also happened to be the son of sharecroppers. While he was optimistic that a part of Dr. King’s dream was realized with the impending inauguration of our 44th president, he also reminded us that much work has yet to be done to achieve racial equality in this country.

We recently had riots in Oakland after a white cop shot an unarmed black man at a public transit station so Bishop Holley’s sermon was timely. He intertwined sobering statistics on the growing segregation of our schools, the incarceration rate of African-American men and abysmal high school graduation rates of black and Hispanic students with Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied , and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty steam.”

What is an area that has let you “unsatisfied?” Will you be volunteering today?

Enjoy the day off if you have it!


Monday Open Thread

Happy 2009, all. A bit of a mixed bag in news today. I’m not that fond of the vast majority of women lifestyle columnists here. They’re either “ladettes,“ or they’re uptight and judgemental. My days of necking beer and ahem, putting notches on my lipstick case (if that doesn’t date me too much, nothing will) appear to be over, but I don’t need a blow-by-blow replay. OTOH, I’m not going to sit in judgement, either. It was fun while it lasted and I’m not going to lambast Girls Today for enjoying themselves.

So this column from Emily McGuire stood out because, well, I agree with it. McGuire takes aim at a recent call by a New South Wales MP to ban topless bathing by women. McGuire asks, why only the women?

Fred Nile’s call to ban topless bathing may have been overwhelmingly rejected by the state’s politicians, but plenty of women I know think he has a point. Not that any of these women would advocate making toplessness a crime, only that they acknowledge a naked chest can be mightily distracting. Oh, and they’re talking pecs, not breasts.

Nile wants the law to state that “exposure of women’s breasts on beaches will be prohibited” but the ladies I talked to would be happy with a simple health warning: “Exposure to finely toned, lightly oiled male torsos may cause dizziness, confusion and excessive sweating.”

These symptoms were in evidence when pictures of the US president-elect, Barack Obama, strolling topless on a Hawaiian beach were beamed around the world last week. Women from across the political spectrum were, for a moment, united in their glassy-eyed appreciation of the soon to be Babe-in-Chief. (Representative comment on one female-targeted website that published the pics: “Those swimming trunks leave too much to the imagination. Buy that man a Speedo!”)

The tiresome myth that women are not as visually aroused as men is used to justify everything from sexual assault to double standards about public toplessness, and it’s time to kill it dead.

I have a feeling that it’ll be a cold day on Bondi Beach before anyone calls for Daniel Craig to assume the burqa, but food for thought.

In “you’re never too old to be gallant“ news, Ron Barassi, a legendary Australian Rules Football  player, is being hailed as a different type of hero after he went to the rescue of a woman being beaten on a Melbourne Street on New Year’s Eve. Barassi, who is 71, saw the fight break out while eating dinner with his wife at a cafe in St. Kilda. He leapt up and tackled one of the men involved in the beating, only to be knocked to the ground himself, and beaten relatively badly. It seems like neither Barassi nor the woman will face any long-term complications from the injury, but I imagine that the culprits when caught will not be in a very comfortable position – to give you a comparison, it’d be like Joe Namath or someone similar intervening in a fight on a busy street in NYC, only to be beaten himself.

Barassi doesn’t see himself as a hero, but everyone else sure does:

RON Barassi, who has been praised for risking his safety to help a woman, has called his attackers “cowards”.

The football great and good Samaritan has been praised for coming to a woman’s aid after a New Year’s Eve scuffle, but told 3AW this morning he only did what he hoped anyone else would.

“I just did what I hope any person under pressure would do,” Barassi said.

“To do what they (the attackers) do in packs, they don’t realise they are cowards, they don’t deserve respect. Do they know anything about respect? Do they want to be respected at all?”

Rock on, Ron.

And finally, because I’m a Dr. Who tragic, the BBC has announced the actor who will take on the role of the Doctor after David Tennant exits early in the next season. (nooooooooooooo!). Matt Smith, 26, is the youngest actor to take the role and is relatively unknown in the UK.  I’m open-minded, but he sure doesn’t hit the hawt factor the way Christopher Ecclestone and Tennant did. And yes,  I’m shallow, considering my Dr. Whos only for their sex appeal. So sue me.

What’s going on in your world, MTs?


Sleep Training (first diary!) [UPDATED]

Sleep training update…Thank you so much for your advice, support, and sympathy.  I’ll be brief and say that after stalling a couple of days and fits and starts in my willingness, the babe seems to have taken to Weissbluth’s approach very nicely.

The first night sucked and we had decided ahead of time that we’d give it one good night before re-evaluating.  He cried just under 45 minutes (with DH doing 2 checks at 15-min intervals) and slept until 6:30.  He awoke rested and in a great mood.  The next night DH had to work so I did it myself–after 10 minutes of crying I was cursing him and missing my baby–but 8 minutes and one check from me later and he was asleep.  Last night? Under a minute of crying, a few minutes of cooing to himself, and another STTN!

We’ve been bringing him in bed to cuddle when he wakes up and I still take his morning nap more or less with him.  All in all we’re happy with things, though I NEVER EVER thought I’d go this route.  The world seems so different now that I’ve had a couple nights of near-normal sleep, and DS has never slept so well.  I suppose I’ll always be a bit conflicted, though.

Thanks again, ladies.  Really.
Hi, ladies…By way of introduction, let me just say that I’m a 32-year-old, dissertation-writing, left-wing, slightly flighty mama to a 7-month old “surprise” little boy.  I’ve been reading y’all for a long time, but I think I’ve posted a total of one comment.  About diaper cream or something.  I’m so impressed by the sense of community here and excited to be a part of it.

The reason I’m writing this diary is to (I hope) get a little advice or at least some commiseration.  It is so time to get Peanut sleeping in his crib and in a way that’s more efficient than our current extended nursing/singing/tiptoe away/repeat as needed routine.

When he was born, we wanted to co-sleep but had him in a bassinet mostly because he seemed so teeny that we were afraid to have him in the bed.  This lasted about two weeks until we became intentional co-sleepers.  This lasted until he was five months old and a real wiggle-worm who wanted to nurse all night long.  Now he sleeps on a futon mattress surrounded by pillows because I can’t nurse him to sleep in the crib.  But he’s mobile enough now that this isn’t a good solution anymore.
I haven’t read all the books, but I’ve read plenty.  From Sears to Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution to SleepEasy to The Baby Whisperer to Happiest Baby on the Block to Ferber to Weissbluth.

Anyway…this has been weighing on my mind so heavily lately.  It takes such a long time to get him to fall asleep to the point where I can sneak away whether it’s for his morning nap or at bedtime (he’s in daycare in the afternoons where the naps are utterly random) and I feel so overwhelmed sometimes.  Especially because with the nursing to sleep, his sleep is all-me-all-the-time and I’d really love to share that with my husband.

So after much thought and discussion, we’re set to try Weissbluth tomorrow night.  On the one hand, it seems so harsh, on the far end of the spectrum opposite the loving Dr. Sears–I mean we’re really supposed to just shut the door and not come back until his single post-midnight feeding?  But on the other, in a way it seems kinder than Ferber because the idea of going in there at 5, 10, 15 minutes seems like it teaches him to cry for progressively longer and it seems like such a tease if we aren’t supposed to pick him up.

I really like Elizabeth Pantley’s perspective and tone and everything, but (I am so ashamed to admit this, especially to people who don’t know me) I just don’t think that I’ve got the mental resources left to be as gradual as that approach requires.  I’m so tired.

If you have the time and inclination, what I’d really love to hear is some of your experiences with sleep training:

If your baby(ies) slept in his/her own room and crib, how did that happen? When did it start?

If you used Weissbluth, Ferber, or something similar, how long did it take?  Did you do naps and bedtime all at once or just one or the other?  Did your child seem more clingy or upset the following day?

If you had it to do over, would you do it the same way?  What would you change?

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.  I’m glad to be here.


Vaccines and Autism

Parents magazine advisor Dr. Ari Brown recently poo-pooed allegations that vaccines like the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) cause autism. Here’s why:

Q. Does mercury in vaccines cause autism?
A. Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, is the main ingredient that gets blamed for autism, but it was removed from vaccines in 2001 and autism rates have continued to rise. Some flu shots still contain thimerosal preservatives, but you can ask your doctor for a thimerosal-free version. The truth is that a baby typically is exposed to 25 times more mercury by breastfeeding for six months — which the AAP strongly recommends — than by getting a flu shot. There is five times more mercury in a single tuna sandwich. Methyl mercury, found in fish, takes almost two months to break down and leave the body. Thimerosal, which is ethyl mercury, is rapidly eliminated — within a week.

Q. Hasn’t the MMR vaccine been linked to autism?
A. The MMR vaccine made news in 1998 when a research group claimed, after studying eight autistic patients, that the combination vaccine might cause autism. But in 2004, 10 of the 13 researchers withdrew their claims, and extensive research since then has also refuted this theory. Perhaps the most compelling argument against it is that doctors in Japan stopped using the combination MMR vaccine back in 1993 and started using separate measles, mumps, and rubella shots — and autism rates there are still climbing.

Brown admitted there was a case, in which a patient was awarded a monetary settlement for getting “autism-like symptoms” after immunizations. But this patient appeared to already have a disease, making her more susceptible to the added stress of vaccinations.

What do you think? Do Brown’s responses give you peace of mind?

As Brown pointed out, as many as 14 million infections and 33,000 deaths have been avoided due to vaccines. So I, personally, am a fan.