Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I am baaack and so grateful to be in my routine. While I was in El Salvador, I got e.coli from something that I ate, but haven’t been able to identify. DH got sick, too, but the kids and my in-laws were unscathed.

I had the worst of it, landing in the emergency room near my folks’ home in New Hampshire twice for dehydration. Ugh.

It took 10 days before I could eat a meal, and right now I feel 95% normal. That said, the vacation wasn’t all bad. I did get plenty of rest, and wasn’t lacking for childcare so I didn’t have to worry about anything but getting better. The kids met a major milestone: they were with their grandmother three full weeks in El Salvador, two of those weeks without us. It is heartening to see them so grown up and mature, but I am also sad. I love the ages they are at — 10 and 7 — and now I am feeling the time fly. Sniff.

For many years, I wondered if my kids could be close to their grandparents since they only see them once a year. I’ve learned that it’s not about the quantity of time, but the quality of the time. My kids love their grandparents. Eli was crying that she didn’t want to go back home.

When I asked them what their favorite moments of their summer vacations were, they rated, equally, the time that they spent with their grandparents in El Salvador and in New Hampshire. One of their highlights was a day trip to Canobie Lake Park with my dad:

How’s your summer been? When do your kids go back to school? I don’t know about you, but I’m ready! lol. My kids return to school the day after labor day.

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


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

ICYMI: Images of children as young as infants in detention facilities in Texas have emerged. Because Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform and countries such as El Salvador and Honduras are plagued with breathtaking poverty and violence, the U.S. has a humanitarian crisis on its hands. As many as 90,000 unaccompanied children are in these detention facilities that the think tank Center for American Progress has released a fact sheet on the kids and the violence they are escaping in their home countries.

While MomsRising is not a direct aid organization, we are an advocacy group promoting certain policies and structural changes. We just went out to our members asking them to sign a pledge that will be delivered to Congress and the White House this Wednesday. We are asking for administrative relief from President Obama on deportations and for Congress to act on immigration reform. Can you please sign and share?

Many thanks all! What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

This NBC News article on the Oregon school graduating 21 valedictorians reminded me of a discussion we had on Facebook. Apparently, it is a trend for high schools to graduate more than one valedictorian, although the numbers, at least to me, seemed over the top: 21 at an Oregon school and 34 at an Alabama school.

That’s a lot of speeches to listen to in the hot sun. Oy.

And while that many valedictorians can leave even more students beaming on graduation day, here’s a group of folks not impressed: college admissions officers.

“Yes, it has definitely watered things down a little bit,” said Jim Rawlins, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “Definitely, the more ultra-selective universities have to be more critical and skeptical of class ranks than before.

“The question is: Where do you cross the line? If a school has those extremely high-end numbers (of valedictorians), then I would quickly assume that grading isn’t very rigorous at all at that school,” added Rawlins, also the executive director of admissions at Colorado State University. “But I’m not sure I could say what number that needs to drop to for things to not seem out of whack to me again. Is five the limit? Three? Eight? I’m not sure. But my gut instinct as an admission director is that I’d start to wonder a bit even at four.”

What say you, MotherTalkers?

And today is Blogging for LGBT Families Day at Mombian. Both I and MomsRising’s North Carolina Campaign Director submitted blog posts for it. Please do read and leave a comment or two in support!

And finally, I’ve been following the story of “Beatriz” in El Salvador. She is a woman with lupus who is on her deathbed because the Catholic Church won’t let her have a life-saving C-Section. In El Salvador, abortion — and in this case, a c-section — is banned in all cases, including saving the life of a mother. Even my Catholic-practicing mother-in-law in El Salvador has said this is clearly a “case of a woman’s health” and has joined me in signing this petition. Please consider doing the same in a last-ditch effort to save this woman’s life.

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


How To Make Family Trips Enjoyable

With the summer coming up, Mamapedia ran the perfect article about family vacations. Sorry, you must subscribe to get the link, so I will run a clip that resonated with me:

A family vacation is not just about the parents getting away and relaxing. Some parents never realize this and end up hating family vacations because kids ruin this expectation for them. They resent their kids being there. Tensions run high the duration of the trip. Parents fuss. Kids argue. There may be glimmers of enjoyment, but overall everyone wonders why they did the vacation in the first place. Everyone comes home needing a vacation from their vacation.

Other parents decide that they are just parents, let go of all parts of who they are outside of parenthood, and make their family vacation all about the kids. All activities, locations, and food choices are all decided based on what will make the kids happy. The vacation is really an entertainment package for the kids, and while Mom and Dad may feel some joy in giving their kids a great vacation, parents get little or any opportunity to rejuvenate their own souls, connect with each other, and still may end up secretly resenting their kids for robbing them of their vacation time. Parents come home still needing a vacation from their vacation.

Families will enjoy their vacation when they change their expectations. A family vacation is about enjoying each other as a family. Not just making sure the parents are happy. Not just making sure the kids are happy. It’s about doing something together as a family to create new experiences together and forming lasting memories. It’s about getting the kids to try new foods or go to the local museum because they know it’s something important to Mom or to Dad. It’s about enduring the crowds and going to the festival because it’s something the kids really want to do. And most importantly, it’s about understanding that a family vacation does not take the place of a” parents only” vacation that needs to happen periodically as well.

This article touched a nerve with me in so many ways. First of all, it did make me realize that I need an attitude adjustment when it comes to family vacations. I admit, that on more than one occasion, I have felt resentful at not having alone time with my husband. Our last trip (to my MIL’s in El Salvador) involved having at least one child sleeping in the bedroom with us, and one of us still had to tend to his or her needs in the morning. I will come out and say it. This was hardly as enjoyable as the pre-child vacations DH and I took that, at minimum, included sleeping in the mornings and not having to take anyone to the potty.

OTOH, I thought the author of the article was way too nonchalant about mixing up family vacations and  “‘parents only’ vacation that needs to happen periodically as well.” As NJmom and others pointed out in her diary recently, many of us live far away from our families and must use up our vacation time to visit them.

DH and I are fortunate in that his job requires travel to not so bad places, and in the last two years, we have been able to tack on some alone time on those business trips. Our next trip together will be to Las Vegas for Netroots Nation. My MIL will come to California to stay with the kids, while we go for a week. We will have to do some work, but we will have a few days to enjoy ourselves.

As for family trips, I would say they are getting more enjoyable as the kids become more independent. Ari is actually easy to take on a plane ride, and he enjoys everywhere we take him. But Eli is still throwing tantrums typical of a three-year-old. She does need to be entertained, and when she is up, an adult has to be up with her. Nonetheless, I do recognize she — and Ari — are beyond the infant phase, which means we don’t have to get up every hour in the middle of the night on a “vacation.”

As for the rest, I did think the author of this piece, Tara Wood, had some nuggets of wisdom:

We just came back from one of many family vacations we have taken since that trip to Vail. We were very thoughtful in how we planned the week to make sure that it was enjoyable for everyone. This time, we rented a house instead of staying at a hotel so that we could put the kids to bed at night and still stay up to sit outside drinking wine by the pool instead of feeling trapped every night in a hotel room once the kids went to bed. This also allowed us to not only save money on food, but be more flexible in making sure there was good food choices for everyone. Once we were at our destination, we had a family discussion about what each family member wanted to make sure they did during the trip and planned out together when and how we would make sure those things got accomplished. And when our nine-month-old woke up almost every night at 1:00 am for an hour-long cry fest, my husband and I would joke that at least we’re up in the middle of the night feeling the ocean breeze.

What other tips do you have to enjoy a family vacation? As always, our expert traveling mom, Mara, is full of wisdom at the Mother of All Trips. It’s a good blog if you haven’t read it!  


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. He was shot before giving the Eucharist at a mass by right-wing death squads because he often railed against poverty and oppression of the poor during his homilies. He is a revered figure in Latin America, and someone my husband names as a personal role model on his website. I was sad to learn on a Daily Show news clip that certain members of the Texas State Board of Education had him stricken from the social studies curriculum. Here is the news clip on it and a wonderful homage to Archbishop Romero on Jim Wallis’s God’s Politics blog.

In somewhat related news, the Texas State Board of Education also gave preliminary approval last week to replacing the word “capitalism” with “free enterprise” in school textbooks, according to the Austin American Statesman.

I have to say, I am loving the Democratic Party lately. In addition to the passage of healthcare reform, the Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill to give needy students Pell grants as opposed to private loans, according to the New York Times.  

The Washington Post ran a sad “trend” story about separated couples who must live together because they cannot afford to divorce.

Twelve states plan to sue over the recent healthcare reform bill President Obama signed into law yesterday, according to Business Week. The states’ attorneys claim the law will place additional burdens on their already tight budgets. Those states are Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington. Call your governor’s offices, ladies!

Octomom Nadya Suleman is back in the news again. This time, she has fallen behind $450,000 on the mortgage and may lose the house, according to TMZ.

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


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

After almost two weeks in Central America and a weekend in Orange County for Erika’s baby shower, I am finally back with your weekly parenting news roundup. I hope you all had a safe and restful holiday. Happy new year!

First of all, we at MotherTalkers would like to send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the people of Haiti and relatives abroad searching for their loved ones. We linked to a number of organizations aiding people on the island and if you haven’t already donated, here they are again. We also discussed what an earthquake or emergency kit should include and where to hide it in your home.

In non-earthquake news: Texas is mulling changes to its social studies curriculum by either adding/taking out religious instruction or including/excluding historical figures. The Texas Freedom Network live-blogged the debate hearings.

The Washington Post ran an editorial on the new president of the American Federation of Teachers union, Randi Weingarten.

We had some belated holiday stories. For example, I wondered how to incorporate Christmas decorations — like cards and ribbons — throughout the year as Ari and I love them. Also, at what age is it appropriate to stop giving gifts to children like nieces and nephews? As families grow, it is reasonable to expect gift-giving to curve.

Our Sue in Queens wondered what to do with her grandmother’s china. On the one hand, she wants to serve food in it to honor her grandmother, on the other hand she doesn’t want it to break. What say you?

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


Wearing Yellow Underwear and Other New Year Rituals

Now that I am back at my computer, highlights from my trip — both good and bad — are coming to me. Like, does your family have any goofy new year or holiday traditions?

For most of the 10 days I was in Central America, my family was teasing me for an incident that took place at a public market. My mother-in-law wanted to buy, besides produce, yellow underwear because it would bring her money in the new year. Wearing red underwear would usher in a year of passion and romance, or so I was told.

I had the red underwear and planned on wearing it. When dear MIL asked me if I wanted to buy a pair of yellow panties for $1, I initially declined. “I don’t need the money, I need romance!” Really, it was a stupid thing to say in the middle of a market in a third world country. “Que dichosa!” my mother-in-law and a shopkeeper said at the same time. The lucky bitch doesn’t need money! My MIL’s boyfriend said, “Elisa, wear the yellow underwear and give me the money!”

I ended up buying the yellow underwear and wearing it on top of the red underwear for the duration of the New Year festivities. Of course, this move did not save me from family ridicule the rest of the week. “Damn Elisa, did you want to get jumped?” DH asked me. I turned it around on him and asked him if I wasn’t wrong for wanting a little more intimacy in our marriage? Our new year’s resolution was to spend more time together, whiny two-year-olds be damned.

Besides wearing two underwear, I made a wish and scarfed down 12 grapes at the strike of midnight new year’s day. This is a Spanish and Latin American tradition.

What other holiday rituals does your family share?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I have unpacked, gone food shopping, done four loads of laundry and finally settled at home since our trip to Central America. Overall, it was a restful, drama-free and fun trip.

We arrived to San Salvador Christmas Eve early in the morning. DH and I were so fried from the red-eye with our 2-year-old and 6-year-old that we napped as soon as we arrived to my mother-in-law’s house. The kids were excited at seeing dear MIL and the Christmas decorations that they kept going. What would I do for this endless amount of energy?

At night, we ate a typical Salvadoran meal of rice, beans, tortilla and fried plantains. Then we went outside where Ari and his Papi lit fire crackers in the street. If I had to name the highlight of my trip it was the pride and joy I felt in seeing my son so grown up and fitting in El Salvador. By the end of the trip, he was so adept at launching those firecrackers — and they were big and loud! — he would borrow someone’s lit cigarette, bend down to light the bomba and take off running. He looked like any other Salvadoran boy in the street or on the beach launching them.

Again, he is fluent in Spanish so he had no problem taking off with his cousins — or the children of my husband’s cousins — to go play with the Wii or go out to eat pupusas. (Pupusas are cheese or meat-stuffed corn tortillas, a staple of Salvadoran food.) He never once complained about the heat — it was so hot that we all got sun tans even though we were wearing sun block with SPF 50! — and he thoroughly enjoyed the water, including our first foray jet-skiing.

The day before we returned to the United States, Ari burst into tears. He said he wanted to stay in El Salvador with Abuelita and his primos. I felt wistful for him. As a kid, I cried every single time I left my maternal family in Puerto Rico that, very briefly, I considered going to college there. The large extended family, the beach, the sunshine, the tropical fruits and foods — I always felt in my element there. I can see Ari living in El Salvador some day. He fit in so well.  

Markos does not want to travel during the holiday for at least the next five years — trust me, I don’t blame him — but if there are two people who could convince us otherwise, it is our kids. El Salvador with its late-night festivities that included both young and old people alike, and fireworks, made for a magical Christmas. The fact that most Salvadorans do not put Christmas lights outside their home due to shortages in electricity and almost no Salvadoran puts up a real Christmas tree — even my mother-in-law had a fake one — did not dawn on us. I will always associate Christmas in El Salvador with late-night sounds of firecrackers and children whooping and hollering as they run down the street in anticipation of Santi Clos’s visit.


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Here is where I am at in the countdown until Christmas:

Christmas cards filled out….Check.
Christmas cards sent….Check.
Gifts wrapped….Check.
Gifts sent….Check.
Pack for the Trip….Almost.
Throw away perishable food items….Check.
Stock MotherTalkers story queue….Check.

We leave today for El Salvador to visit my mother-in-law and will be returning on Monday, January 4. I will be back into the groove, hopefully, by Tuesday, January 5. In the meantime, our MotherTalkers extraordinaire Gloria and Erika will be updating the site every day. If you must reach your MT moderators, please e-mail them at gloria at mothertalkers dot com or erika at mothertalkers dot com.

“See” you in the new year! Please have a safe, restful and fun holiday. XO, Elisa


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Thank you to all of you who have written or called to ask about my mother-in-law in El Salvador. Hurricane Ida hit the country on Sunday and has killed 124 people, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Fortunately, my MIL is out of the country on vacation and was not affected. But I did call her office in San Salvador yesterday and a worker assured me that they are all safe. The hurricane hit a nearby town, but it was poor people living in huts and shanties who were the most impacted. My heart goes out to them. Let’s keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

In healthcare news: I admit I was so happy that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill with a public option that I did not allow myself to get hung up over the abortion restrictions in the bill. But this disturbs me: According to a mom over at the RH Reality Check blog, the restrictions on abortion are so severe that even private health insurance companies participating in the exchange wouldn’t be allowed to cover D&Cs following miscarriages. Forcing women to carry dead fetuses/babies — that they wanted — is just cruel. I don’t know what I would have done if after carrying a dead fetus for three weeks — this happened to me before I had Ari — I was told I couldn’t have a D&C. I was distraught and I needed to move on. Okay, I am getting off my soapbox now.

That said, I will still support this bill as long as it has a strong public option. Granting everyone the right to see a doctor — without going bankrupt for it — is better than nothing.

Attention fellow Twilight fans: Author Stephenie Meyer will be on the Oprah Winfrey Show this Friday, November 13, Meyer announced on her blog. She will be on hand to discuss the new movie New Moon, which is based on the second book of her Twilight series.

This is, literally, horribly depressing: Suicide rates are up in the most economically depressed areas of the country, according to MSNBC.

Wal-Mart is shamelessly starting its “Black Friday” deals early, according to MSN Money. Um, can we celebrate Thanksgiving first?

OTOH, Mamapedia had a helpful discussion on what to tip — or what is a suitable holiday gift — to a nanny, daycare provider or babysitter.

Katy Farber over at Non-Toxic Kids has an informative article on how cleaning supplies at schools are harmful to children. Also by Katy Farber: Children are consuming unsafe levels of the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), which is in canned goods and plastic plates and cups.

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