Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The Huffington Post ran a series of articles in celebration of International Women’s Day, which was yesterday. I particularly loved this piece by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Performer Annie Lennox published these sobering statistics:

Across the globe, gender-based violence causes more deaths and disabilities among women of child-bearing age than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Even in the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo, it’s safer to be a soldier than a woman. Women do two-thirds of the world’s work for a paltry 10 percent of the world’s income and own just 1 percent of the means of production.

We have a long ways to go to achieve equality between the sexes, which is why I want to wish all of you an empowering and joyful International Women’s Day!  

In other news: as it turns out some TV programming, including The OC, have health benefits for viewers, according to MSN Health. But not before bedtime. According to another news story by Reuters, the TV, computer and other technology are keeping us up and making us skimp out on sleep.  

God I hate these articles. MSN had this “What kind of parent are you?” column, in which you read all these archetypes stereotypes to find out what kind of mother you are. The truth is I am a mixture of all those moms, depending on what the challenge of the day is. Sometimes someone is there to help me while I get work done, other days I am octopus mom, writing while putting out the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and disciplining kids outside, or actually working during DD’s ballet lessons. Most of the time it is a mixture of these two as the kids are in school. In other words, I am the “doing-the-best-that-I-can-with-what-I-have-mom.” But I understand that that is too nuanced for these types of articles.

I question if this will go anywhere as I have yet to see it in the San Francisco Chronicle or hear about it in the local press. But a San Francisco “intactivist” is trying to get a ballot initiative to ban male circumcisions in the city, according to AFP.

And smartphones appear to be paving the way to the future as Google’s Android phone overtook the RIM Blackberry in sales for the month of February, according to the web analytics company, StatCounter. What wireless handheld devices, if any, do you use?

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


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First, please mark your calendars for this Friday morning, 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET, for a live-blog chat with organic food guru Max Goldberg. Rather than post a Q&A, I thought of opening up the discussion since it appears that Max has a lot of good advice to offer on so many levels. In terms of healthy eating, he runs an organic food and drink blog, Living Max Well. On a personal level, he can relate to the curveballs life sometimes throws you and how to handle it with aplomb. A former Wall Street banker who lost his job, cash flow and was dependent on Prozac for 10 years, he traded in his personal travails for an organic, read healthier, way of living — and new career. He’s probably not a bad person to ask about entrepreneurship and starting your own company. Please do join us for a live-blog with him this Friday 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET.

Evidence that my 3-year-old owns me — and seriously, you cannot make this up: she is in this phase, in which she demands that mami — not papi — sleep with her every night. That means she must sleep with us, or I have to sleep in her bed, which most of the time I am so tired that I fall asleep and end up staying there for the night.

So yesterday morning when my alarm failed to go off due to an iPhone glitch, I unintentionally slept in my daughter’s bed until 6:30 a.m. and…dreamed. It was such a bizarre dream that I remember it.

The landlord, except he wasn’t our landlord, of our old house in Allston (Boston) called me up to tell me that we had left 62 boxes in the basement. “That can’t be ours,” I told him. “I may have left one box, but definitely not 62!”

But I happened to be in the area visiting my parents so I agreed to check it out. I walked into a room full of carefully hung up princess outfits. “This isn’t ours,” I told him. “But my 3-year-old would love these clothes. I’ll take them!” I then began collecting princess outfits by the armful.

Is this an “entrapment dream” or what? :)

Outrageous: A two-year-old girl in Sacramento just had her two feet and a hand amputated after waiting five hours for treatment at an emergency room, according to the Sacramento Bee. If that weren’t bad enough, the parents are now saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills they can’t pay. Here’s the kicker: they have PRIVATE health insurance! WTF?

In other news: I was just alerted to this awesome free cleaning service for any woman undergoing chemotherapy. Spread the word!

Finally, the second of a round of reminders that this Friday at 9 a.m.PT/12 p.m. ET is a live-blog chat with Max Goldberg of the Living Max Well blog. Thanks all! :)

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


Holiday Medley

I hate to brag, but I feel so well-rested. Doesn’t sleep feel like this indulgent luxury when you’re a parent? My idea of a good time? A meal prepared by someone else, a glass of red wine — and sleep!

As a kid, I remember my grandmother, who always battled insomnia for as long as I can remember, imploring us to nap, telling us that one day we would consider sleep a gift from God. Lord, was she right.

On Christmas Day we did something we have not done in a long time…nothing. There were no people to visit, or guests to entertain, or work to do — at least for me. I even let the dishes and laundry pile up. It was great.

The kids got everything that they wanted so I used the time they spent playing with their new toys to read for pleasure and sleep. Oh, and I was in my pajamas all day. Heaven.  

As is typical in many Latino households, we celebrated Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena, as opposed to Christmas Day. We had our big meal and went to mass on December 24. In my family, we have adopted American Christmas in that we open presents December 25 in the morning, but then we do nothing else. I can think of many a Christmas in which we’d go to the movies and order takeout.

As always, our Noche Buena was busy. First, the kids had playdates in the morning when they asked if they could bake cookies for Santa. I admit, I had a moment of panic that reminded me of our Katie’s reaction when her daughter wanted to make bread.

Like Katie, I am not a baker. I love the kitchen and pride myself in being a decent cook, but I am not a baker…at all. My mommy confession for the day: prior to Christmas Eve this year, I had never baked cookies. Heck, I’ve never even made brownies. I know you can buy them ready-made in a box, but I wasn’t convinced my cookies would be as easy to make or as pretty as the ones on the box.

“Why don’t we buy Santi Clos cookies?” I said to the kids. “There are so many beautiful ones in the store.”

“I want to make my own!” both kids echoed.

I immediately thought of our Katie. I took a deep breath. She did it. I can do this, too, I thought.

I bought flour I never heard of, but the packaging said it was for cookies. I also bought tubes of colored icing and sprinkles. Except for these round cookie cutters I use to make empanadas, I did not have anything else to shape the cookies. So we molded them with our hands. Here were the results — the plate on the right were Ari’s masterpieces:

And they were good! We were so proud of our cookies that we showed them off to everyone we video-chatted with. I know, I am a dork.

That evening the kids and I attended mass. I invited DH to see Eli, who was an angel at our church’s Christmas pageant. He declined, but I was not upset because I have always respected our differences in religion and we have many friends at our church who are like family to us, some who attend without a spouse for the same reason. Plus, DH offered to cook our Noche Buena meal. I always cook for all holidays, so I was thrilled to have the night off. Here is Eli, by the way, spreading her wings as an angel:

After mass, the kids and I were starved and we were thrilled to return to a warm home and hearty vegetarian meal. DH really outdid himself with a lentil loaf, a tomato and onion garnish, and cranberry bread. After the meal, our stuffed selves laid in front of the TV to watch Elf, one of our favorite Christmas movies.

The kids went to bed at 10 and surprisingly did not awake until 8 the next morning. I heard them get up when Ari tip-toed to the living room and exclaimed, “Santa came!”

After ripping through their presents, the kids spent the day playing with their new toys. Here are pictures of the kids playing with their new Wii games. Eli wasted no time putting on her new Princess Tiana dress and then her Tinker Bell outfit.

Happy holidays all! How was your weekend? What are you up to this week?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

On Friday, the kids and I met with our local Target store manager to hand him a form provided by letting him know we would not shop at the store as long as Target donated to political campaigns — especially those with whom we virulently disagreed. About 20 of us showed up at the store. He met with us, shook our hands, let us vent away, and promised to present the forms to upper management.

To Target’s credit, it issued an apology and said it would set up a review process for future political donations, according to CBS News. It also had this to say about California’s Proposition 8 and marriage equality:

Target did not, nor has the company ever, knowingly donated to legislation or referendums that aim to undermine equality for all, including Proposition 8 in California. Further, Target’s support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company.

That said, I will not shop there until I learn of the outcome of its review process regarding political donations. Corporations are not people who should be allowed to funnel unlimited sums of money to buy elections. Publicly funded campaigns, anyone?

In case you missed it, a bill that is supposed to save nearly 140,000 teaching jobs and provide extra aid in healthcare for poor families during the recession, just passed 61-38 in the Senate, according to Moderate Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine voted for the bill, overcoming a potential filibuster by the Republicans.

Here is a freaky story in Wired about how violent dreams, especially in males, can predict neurological disorders like Parkinson’s 50 years down the line.

Once again, Laurie Puhn over at the Expecting Words blog had a poignant list of what constitutes a healthy relationship.

Infant mortality is up in Washington D.C., according to the DC Action For Children blog.

Wheat bread surpassed white bread in dollar sales this year, according to the Consumerist.

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


Saturday Morning Open Thread

Good morning, MotherTalkers! What’s up?

Not to scare you, but the Guardian in the UK ran yet another study stating that getting less than six hours of sleep a night could lead to early death.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating whether Pampers diapers with Dry Max cause rashes and chemical burns in children, according to Reuters.

In case you missed it, MomsRising is circulating its cool viral “Mother of the Decade Award” e-card. It allows you to type in the name of your mom, or your mom friends, and send them this cool faux news video of Michelle Obama and celebrities congratulating them on their good work. By the way, it is free and no one’s e-mail address will be added to MomsRising’s list unless they forward the e-card to their friends AND leave a box checked requesting more information from MomsRising.

In related moms news, the Daily Beast compiled a list of the best and worst cities for mothers, based on how many moms-per-capita, the quality of the schools and services like childcare. What do you think?

Speaking of Mother’s Day, have a fabulous one, my dear MotherTalkers! DH and the kids are taking me to an A’s game tomorrow. I haven’t been to a baseball game in like three or four years. Can’t wait!

What are you doing for Mother’s Day?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I spotted this heartbreaking letter in the Facebook Circle of Moms page:

My stepson’s mother smokes in her home and car even with her child. He’s 4 and has severe asthma! He has at least 5 asthma attacks a month. Mostly because she smokes around him. He has been coughing so bad (since last night when he got here from her house) it’s to the point where he’s vomiting because he’s coughing so hard. I have to use his inhaler and breathing treatments every 2-4 hours because he just keeps having attacks. His mother told us that his doctor said cigarette smoke has no affect on his asthma! Well we called his doctor just to make sure cause that sounds ridiculous! The doctor laughed and said there is no way we would EVER tell anyone cigarette smoke has no affect on asthma, thats the number 1 reason for attacks.
Is this abuse/neglect? And if so, what should I do?

I did not know this, but it is illegal in Canada and in other countries for people to smoke in their cars with a minor present. Four U.S. states — Maine, Arkansas, Louisiana and California — as well as Puerto Rico prohibit this as well. Most of the moms on Facebook recommended that this mom report her stepson’s mother to child protective services since he has asthma. What would you do if you were her?

In related news from the Dallas Morning News: Texas, which has 3.3 million smokers, is receiving a lot of pressure from the CDC to ban smoking in public places. Actually, the CDC would like a nationwide ban.

From the Guardian in the UK: Apparently it is now illegal to drive while brown in Arizona.  

Here is a great top 10 list. MSN compiled the best pizza joints in the country. Have you been to any of them? What other places would you add to the list?

The U.S. Supreme Court is listening to a case to determine whether to reinstate a California law barring the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, according to the Associated Press.

Once again, if you are mulling between studying or completing a project and getting a good night’s sleep — go for the sleep. According to a study reported by BBC News, people who dream about a new task perform it better on waking than those who do not sleep or do not dream.

Oh. My. God. Jesse James’s mistresses have offered to sit down and chat with Sandra Bullock “woman to woman,” according to MSN Wonderwall. Insult to injury, anyone?

I know I am not alone here to say that this season’s Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains is the BEST EVER. People magazine had a Q&A with sexy cattle rancher JT Thomas, who was just voted out. I have to say that I am finding myself eating my own words as I completely underestimated the genius of Russell and especially Parvati. When she pulled out those two idols to eliminate JT, I was like, “Okay, she deserves to win.” But I am still rooting for my Puerto Rican sister Sandra, who looks like she will be pulling moves of her own this week. :)

Survivor fans, please engage me here! DH won’t indulge me, even though I have caught him occasionally glimpsing at the TV and asking questions. I have to say that I was bummed that Boston Rob was outwitted by Russell, then again, Russell has played a fantastic game. What do you think will happen this week? Who are you rooting for?

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


Study: “Controlled Crying” Good For Babies, Mothers

This was my method to get Ari to sleep through the night — without me killing him! — to a T. :)

A six-year Australian study about to be presented to the World Health Congress of Internal Medicine just concluded that letting a baby over six months of age cry himself to sleep may yield benefits to both mother and child. From the Sunday Telegraph:

It is the most long-term and the first “real life” research of its kind, monitoring the sleep and wellbeing of 225 Australian babies from infancy to school-age….

“We totally understand that hearing your baby crying is difficult for any parent, but it’s great to know if they persevere, they are not doing their child any harm.”

Controlled crying reduced babies’ sleeping problems by 30 per cent within four months, the study found, and cut depression rates in mothers by 40 per cent by the time children turned two.

“It’s quite phenomenal,” Ms Price said. “We know that early sleep problems double the risk of post-natal depression in mothers, which can affect bonding with the child.”

By the age of two, 85 per cent of parents said using controlled crying had improved their relationship with their child.

The remaining 15 per cent reported no change, but none thought it had done any harm.

There were two caveats to the study. Nowhere in the story was “controlled crying” defined. But the babies were, typically, nine and 10 months of age. Now that I think of it, Ari, too, was 9 months of age when I resorted to this technique — three months after my pediatrician told me it was safe to do so. I was super-sleep deprived, alone and definitely weepy from the baby blues, but was reluctant to let him cry until then.

But seriously, it only took a night of 50 minutes of crying and he slept through the night afterwards. And our relationship is great today.

Eli was always a much better sleeper, and I don’t remember trying anything this traumatic. (I won’t lie, it was still hard on me with Ari, but I was just so, so bone-weary tired.)

The other caveat in the story, which I whole-heartedly agree with, is that this sleep solution like any other sleep remedy is not a “one-size-fits-all” type of thing. Parents need to respond to the individual needs of their children.

I will say, though, that my husband and I discovered the best remedy for “musical beds”: bunk beds! For the first two years of Eli’s life, we played musical beds, which meant that every night we were all sleeping together in a different bed. Because the kids demanded that an adult stay with them, one night Markos would sleep with Ari and I would sleep with Eli while other nights we all slept in our king-sized bed. It wasn’t the best sleep arrangements for the adults — I am such a light sleeper and cannot sleep with my kids kicking me — so DH recently had the best idea to get the kids to sleep in their own beds. He bought them bunk beds. The kids love them so much that Eli told us that now that she is going to be una niña grande — a big 3-year-old — she wanted a “bed with a ladder.” DH and I agree we do not want little Eli on the top bunk — but glad she likes it.

What do you think of this study? How do you get some needed zzz’s in your house?


Late-Night Liberty: Are You A Napper?

Here is yet another story encouraging sleep for its health benefits. This UC-Berkeley study had to do with the effects of naps on mental functioning. From HealthDay News:

While the findings are preliminary, new research raises the prospect that sleep, specifically a lengthy afternoon nap, prepares the brain to remember things. Think of it as similar to rebooting a computer to get it to work more smoothly.

“Sleep is not just for the body. It’s very much for the brain,” said study author Matthew Walker, an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Walker and colleagues divided 39 young adults into two groups. At noon, all the participants took part in a memory exercise that required them to remember faces and link them with names. Then the researchers took part in another memory exercise at 6 p.m., after 20 had napped for 100 minutes during the break.

Those who remained awake performed about 10 percent worse on the tests than those who napped, Walker said.

There’s one more twist: People’s ability to learn declines about 10 percent between noon and 6 p.m. normally, but the nappers were able to negate that decline.

I believe it. Looking back on my college days, I remember always doing better on tests when I slept — even if I did not study much — compared to cramming all night the night before. Unfortunately, I have no time to nap during the day, but I am sure it boasts mental health benefits.

Are you a napper?


Study on Biological Cause for SIDS

Here is one more story I thought it important to mention. There appears to be a biological cause for SIDS, which may lead scientists to create tests to detect it in the most vulnerable infants, according to Reuters.

Babies who die from sudden infant death syndrome make low amounts of the message-carrying brain chemical serotonin needed to regulate sleep, breathing and heart rate, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

The finding, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, may help identify babies at risk for SIDS, which each year kills more than 2,300 babies before their first birthday.

They said abnormal levels of serotonin may hamper an infant’s breathing, especially in challenging situations, such as breathing in too much exhaled carbon dioxide while sleeping face down.