duckie.jpgIt’s time to celebrate! Congress has agreed to a ban on three dangerous phthalates in products made for children under 12. The decision came in spite of the chemical industry’s desperate (and well-funded) attempt to shut the provision down. Here is a good article in the Washington Post about how parents feel about the ban, the chemicals, and big industry.

Next on the (my) agenda is a ban on bisphenol A (BPA) in food containers. There have been more than 100 studies performed by government scientists and university laboratories that have found health concerns (including breast cancers, diabetes, behavioral disorders such as hyperactivity and reproductive problems) associated with BPA. Indeed, one federal study estimated the chemical is present in the urine of 93 percent of the population.

But, hang on– the FDA just released a report claiming that BPA in food containers poses no health risks. Well, what they really said is, “FDA has concluded that an adequate margin of safety exists for BPA at current levels of exposure from food contact uses.” Isn’t that reassuring? And whoa– surprise, surprise, two of the major studies upon which the report was based were… industry funded. Read the whole article here.

Now is the time to call your representatives! Thank them for voting to ban phthalates (assuming they did), and encourage them to place a ban on BPA in food containers. There is a proposal in the committee stage right now for such a ban. Go consumers! Go mothers!


The Work Conundrum

working.jpegBefore I begin this monologue, I would like complete disclosure. First, I know I am fortunate to be able to stay home with my children while they are young, even though it has cost us ungodly amounts of student loans. Second, if I were to return to work with two preschool-aged children, the amount of money I would bring in after taxes and all the child care costs would maybe allow us to rent our Saturday night movie without guilt. This is not a “should I go back to work for the money, even though I don’t need it” post, because God knows we need it.. but wouldn’t get it. This is a “should I go back to work, even a little bit, to save the sliver of sanity I have left” post.

There are two realities I cannot get around, when conceiving my ideal work scenario: a) Hubby works insane hours and that is not going to change until after all the children are school-aged, and b) we don’t have the money to have a sitter while I do non-paying good vibe volunteer work. Also, I do love hanging out and playing with my children, especially in the beautiful summer and fall months. Therefore, if I returned to work, it would have to feel very real and rewarding to warrant leaving the children. Alright- so after all those stipulations, what is left?

Here is my ideal scenario: Be home with the children in the morning, and have some fun adventure,- a hike, a swim, the bike ride, etc. Then Baby lays down for nap from 11-1, during which time I prepare dinner and get ready for work. The babysitter comes from 2-5, while I go…change the world for the better for more than the $12/hr that I’m paying the sitter. There is the clutch. How does one find a meaningful part-time job that pays enough to cover the care?

I know there are jobs out there, specially-made for moms who want a part-time gig. And if all I wanted was a break, and half my sitter money paid, I would stuff envelopes or make direct marketing calls (well, maybe not), but I am looking for something outside of a creative pancake recipe that that will challenge me.

I am coming to the conclusion that I need to make something up myself. Something fun and challenging that will better my community, pay at least as much as the sitter charges, and be part-time. If I were a just a sculptor…or a shoemaker….

I would love to hear what you think about working as a mother. Do you? Do you want to, but don’t? Does it bring you the sanity I dream of, or make life even crazier? Is it possible to have job charming while raising children? Or do I need to put all this on hold for another few years? And one last question that could fill a whole new post: if you have decided to stay home with the children, but plan on returning to work some day, at what age do you think it is right to return to work, and why then?

I have come to believe that the true way to get children to do what you want them to do is to expose them to it as much as possible. Whether it is eating beets or cross-country skiing, the more they see it, and see other people doing it, the more likely they will do it.

Ground-breaking, isn’t it?

Yes, it seems like common sense, but I know I’m not the only mother wondering why my children (who only ride their bikes for one hour every other weekend on the bike path) won’t try riding their bikes without training wheels. Or why my children (who take 4 weeks of swim lessons a year) don’t seem interested in swimming without a foamy thing tied around their waist.

“But when we go to the pond, you can go swimming out there once you learn. It will be such fun!” I would try to coax them and, yes, sometimes bribe them. “If you even TRY to ride without you training wheels, we’ll go get ice cream in Davis Square.” Nope. Totally uninterested.

Then we moved from our mostly Italian senior neighborhood to a community filled to the brim with children who are outside all day. On their bikes. Two weeks here, and both my training-wheels-or-bust children were riding 2 wheelers. I’m pretty sure that Dylan will be riding a 2-wheeler by his third birthday.

And swimming…. We live 1/4 mile from the YMCA (which the children can now bike to on their 2-wheelers), which boasts not one but two large pools. So, after my yoga class every Tuesday and Thursday (during which the kids are playing in the free and super duper child watch area), we swim. Though they offer swim lessons, neither of my older children were interested. “I want to take lessons with you, Mommy!” Well, while I don’t give any proper lessons, and actually spend all my time holding the baby, Tiernan and Rowan have both learned how to swim on their own— and even under water, which I was certain wouldn’t happen until they were thrown into a pool at a high school college party.

I have a friend (shout out to Jen Roberts!) who swims with her children nearly every single evening, and on the weekends. Her daughter was jumping off the diving board before mine even knew what a noodle was. Exposure. The good news is that you don’t need to be a member of a fancy county club to swim often around here. Somerville’s Kennedy Pool, right by Porter Square, has lessons and open swim time throughout the year, and I’m sure there are others.

Exposure and peer pressure are two words that often scare parents of young and teen children. But sometimes, they can work in our, and our children’s, favor. Now if I can just get the neighbors’ kids to start eating broccoli outside every night…

Six Going on Sixteen

I stepped out of the shower this evening to find my six year-old Sunshine face down in her bed sobbing, “Nobody likes me!” She wasn’t crying to anyone; she didn’t even know I was standing there. She was crying to herself, into her pillow. Painful flashbacks rattled me into motion.

After calming Sunshine down from sobs to tears, it became clear that the reason she felt that nobody liked her was because her new BFF had left to go camping with her family for a week, and there were NO other girls around to play with. “Why would Jasmine leave me?”

Now, granted, it was 5:00 p.m., our witching hour, and she was cooked from a long day of hard and fun play (with Jasmine before her traitorous departure), so I knew she was feeling a little more sensitive than normal. I held her and listened to her, and reassured her that Jasmine loved her, as did many, and would return to her soon. After a short pause and some sniffles, she broke out into fresh sobs, “What if a grow up to be FAT?”

Mom sits up and looks at her girl. GIRL. This is not a teen, or even a tween. She’s six, for God’s sake, and should be thinking about snakes or dolls or unicorns–something other than her figure.


The confusing thing to me is this: where is she getting this? We don’t have Cosmopolitan mags lying around, or even Vic’s Secret catalogues. Neither Hubby nor I talk about losing weight or being fat, or any of that image stuff. I haven’t heard any of her friends talking like this. They don’t watch commercial TV, and we don’t live in L.A. So what gives? Is it ingrained in girls to be self- conscious about their bodies and looks?

I remember, when Sunshine was like nine months old, hearing a someone say that at the age of 6, parents get glimpses of adolescence because it is a time when children are struggling with increased independence, AND that the behavior usually disappears until around 12 years old. Then hang the F on.

So here we are, and while I’m fumbling along with, “Honey, you’re beautiful, smart and special, no matter how your body looks” and “Isn’t it nice that everyone looks and thinks so differently- that what makes this world so cool!”, Tiernan rolls her eyes (well, tries to roll her eyes) at me, and sluffs off. But, by God, what am I going to do in ten years when she no longer sluffs off to her art table to draw it out, but rather gets in her car (without haven given me the time of day) and drives to her friends house where they will talk over cigarettes, diet pills, and eye shadow about how to be perfect?

I need books. I need preemptive adolescent counseling. I am so not ready for this.

I just took my kids to see Nim’s Island this past rainy Saturday. Well, the movie was alright– not as much adventure as I was hoping for, but the scenes of Nim swimming through the water with her sea lion buddy were pretty cool for, um, the children.

Though I don’t consider myself prudish or overprotective (does anyone really?), I like to know what I’m setting myself up for taking the kids to see (or rent) a movie. Am I asking for “what the hell is that?” coming out of my children’s mouth at dinner, while mimicking their new favorite character? Or are they going to be practicing kissing each other for days after seeing a movie? I like to be a little prepared…and maybe I am little protective.

So, a friend of mine forwarded me a link to this site: Kids-In-Mind. What I like about the site is that in one glimpse, I can see a clear “yeah” or “neah” for kids. It has a ranking (from 1-10) of Sex and Nudity, Violence and Gore, and Profanity, for each movie, and it shows it clearly like this: 0,1,0 (which is like Winne the Pooh), or 8,10,8 (the Zombie Strippers).

I mean, this is helpful, right? Well, I guess it is helpful if you are very confident in what you feel is okay for your children to see. Otherwise, you’re in trouble. For example, when I checked out the Kids-In-Mind critique of Nim’s Island, and saw that it scored a 2 for Sex and Nudity because Jody Foster was in a bikini on the beach, I started to wonder: “Is it bad for my children to see a woman in a bikini?” And then when I saw that under Profanity, it listed Nim’s quote, “lousy sharks”, I wondered to myself when “lousy” became a profanity.

After turning off the computer, pouring a glass of wine, and removing myself from the wacky world of present-day parenting, my old perspective returned (which, in case your wondering, includes a bit of “boy, did those Puritans do a number on us!”). We saw the movie, my kids didn’t blush at Jody Foster’s bikini shots and they’re not running around yelling “lousy brother!” at each other (though it would be better than what they DO run around calling each other).

Even more important than movie critiques, Kids-In-Mind reminded me how important it is to be true to myself, and keep cool during these years. It is only going to get harder in the years to come. Do I really want to burn myself out with needless worries at this point? Nope.

Parenting Green

It seems like everywhere I turn, people are talking green. There is a lot to say, and share these days about being green. And it’s good. Some people will treat it as a fad, but a great many others will learn a new way forest.jpegof living.

I read this article in the NYT last Sunday that articulately sums up how I feel about this green wave. At the end of the article, the author suggests the one best way to be green, and decrease our footprint, is to plant a vegetable garden. I love this idea because it is something I like to do anyway, unlike taking cold showers to save gas, or staving off bananas because they’re flown in on a 747. I think he suggests planting a garden because it is not too overwhelming, and it is easy to become overwhelmed with this topic of footprints and climate change. And though I agree, it is better to do one thing than nothing at all, I would like to add one more thing to our must- do list to help preserve our environment: write to our representatives. Write to them about emissions, corporate responsibility, and China! You know: act locally…

What are families doing these days with their families to help decrease waste, conserve resources, and lessen consumption? Aside from recycling, and begging my daughter to use both sides of the paper for her drawing projects, there is one other little thing I do to help decrease waste. My daughter and I cut up all our empty cereal, cracker, and frozen food boxes (of which there is an embarrassing plenty), and use the cardboard for drawing, gluing and other artsy projects. Oh, and I grow tomatoes and basil– not really a vegetable garden, but about all I can do with .13 acres. What are other doing?

My sweet 4 year old?

I’m in the car the other day with my three children, listening to my 6yo and 4yo’s conversation in the back seat. Sunshine, my 6yo, is trying remember a detail from some story. Boo remembers it for her and then says:

“Do you like that you have a smart brother?”


“Do you like that you have a silly brother?”


Pause (mom smiling in the front seat, while listening)

Boo says to Sunshine, “Do you know why I’m so smart?”


“Because when I see a bad guy, I’m going to kill him, cut off his head, stuff it down the toilet, and then flush it.”

My jaw hits the floor, and I look into the review mirror to see my son smiling happily at his sister.

Do I need to be worried, here?