A brown belt for Big Guy – not that it’s important
Mon, 12/03/12 – 12:49 | Comments Off

It was testing week in karate and, as usual, Big Guy was under the gun. Not as much as he used to be, when he didn’t have a clue and had to frantically cram, but …

Read the full story »

Picky eaters and allergy-safe cooking — the two aren’t necessarily unrelated.

Girl Gone Wonk

From policy to politics, this rant’s for you.


The day’s events in a family way — unless something else amuses me.

School days

From preschool to kindergarten — so far

Simple Gifts

Inexpensive homemade gifts, creative parties and low-cost projects, for Christmas and beyond. Many are easy enough for children to help.

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When balloons are outlawed …
Thursday, 24 Jul, 2008 – 5:24 | Comments Off

The guys aren’t much into political news yet, but a recent item would have led to much rejoicing had they seen it: The California Senate has abandoned its effort to ban mylar balloons.

As far as I’m concerned, the ban should have been implemented in June, before I bought Little Guy a musical Thomas balloon for his birthday. Sure, it looked cute in the store, but try listening to a train whistle “”Happy Birthday”" a few million times. No, I wasn’t the one who popped it, but I won’t pretend to mourn the loss.

I’m sure now that the weighty matter balloon is solved, legislators can move on to trivial things. Such as a budget that’s more than a month overdue and has led Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to threaten slash state workers’ pay to the

Kids and Allergies: $11 billion spent on allergies doesn’t even touch it
Tuesday, 17 Jun, 2008 – 7:31 | Comments Off

It’s official now, because the government says so: Allergies are on the rise, with the percentage of American reporting problems increasing from 6.3 in 200 to 7.3 in 2005.

While 7.3 percent might not sound like a lot, consider that that’s 22 billion Americans. And the statistics, released Monday by federal Medical Expenditure Panel survey, cover only airborne allergies.

The pocketbook numbers are even more interesting. Nationally, spending to treat “allergic rhinitis” almost doubled from $6.1 billion in 2000 to $11.2 billion in 2005. Both figures are in 2005 dollars, so you can’t blame inflation. Not that anyone in the government will admit there’s inflation.

Individually — that’s you and me, folks — expenses have gone from $320 per person to $520 per person.

And both figures are way low. The government report looks only at

CDC should stop the drubbing and face the truth: Some women can’t breastfeed
Friday, 13 Jun, 2008 – 19:06 | Comments Off

A few things I think we all can agree on: Breastfeeding is healthful, inexpensive and natural.

My second point, though, has me swimming smack against the mainstream: Breastfeeding is not possible for everyone. Believe me, I know. I tried twice — made it for a few days with Big Guy, a whopping two and half months with Little Guy but only because I supplemented with formula at first.

Which means the Centers for Disease Control considers me an abject failure. They just issue a press release today about people like me and the wicked hospitals that encourage my unhealthy habits.

“New CDC study finds gaps in breastfeeding support in U.S. hospitals and birth centers,” its headline reads.

The government’s breast-feeding goals — 75 percent of mothers to try breastfeeding, 50 percent to continue for six

The latest recalls: Overalls and a backyard merry-go-round
Friday, 13 Jun, 2008 – 4:56 | Comments Off

Seems it’s never too early to introduce your child to the concept of college — unless, of course, the higher education apparel has a higher-than-normal chance of its button falling off and choking the child.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued two child-related recalls today, one for infants and toddlers overalls with a definite rha-rah appeal and another for a backyard merry-go-round sold only at Toys R Us.

About 1,800 of the overall shorts were sold at college bookstores, fan stores, children’s boutiques and gift shops nationwide from March 2007 through February 2008. The government says buttons on the shoulder straps can come off, posing a choking hazards.

The outfits were manufactured by Sara Lynn Togs, of Atlanta, in sizes 6/9 month, 12 month, 18

For families, lack of paid sick leave nothing to sneeze at
Saturday, 7 Jun, 2008 – 2:12 | Comments Off

Courtesy of momsrising. org comes this addictive little ditty called the “Don’t Get Sick Game.”

The object — aim tissues at the sneezing nose floating about your office and hope to block the wafting germs and avoid taking ill. If you make it until noon without calling it a day, you win!

I’m hoping they come up with another version: Keep the guys from getting sick so I can go to work. Little Guy nailed me yesterday for another sick day.

For many working parents, this is no game. I’m lucky enough to have 10 paid sick days a year plus vacation time I can use when those are exhausted. And I have run out of sick days every year since Big Guy was born, not because I misused them, but because little kids get sick. A lot. During his first two years alone, Big Guy earned lifelong membership in the Ear Infection of the Month Club.

Other parents aren’t as lucky as I. They have to take time off without pay, go to work sick or find somewhere to stash their kids when they can’t sneak them past the guards at day care or school.

One kid’s prank is this parent’s vandalism.
Thursday, 5 Jun, 2008 – 2:11 | Comments Off

Let’s start with some definitions courtesy of Cambridge Dictionaries, because there appears to be confusion about what’s been going on in high schools around these parts.

Prank: A trick that is intended to be amusing but not to cause harm or damage.

Vandalism: The crime of intentionally damaging property belonging to other people

Now we’ll move to three case studies:

Police in Ceres, Calif., issued five citations for vandalism after a two-minute nacho fling in the Central Valley High School cafeteria. School officials have suspended eight or nine students — some for throwing food, others for helping organize the fight via text messages.

Officials at Gustine High School punished the entire senior class after a pig had to be euthanized and the school suffered $4,500 damage. Police said the students covered their school in graffiti, destroyed textbooks, broke into buildings and let the agriculture program’s animals out of their pens. The Gustine rumor mill has it that some parents drove their kids to “”prank night.”"

About 40 Patterson High seniors blasted the building with paint balls and smeared lard on locks. Those who came forward had a choice: beautify the campus or face.

And yet some adults, such as this person who left a comment on the Ceres story at modbee.com, dismiss the incidents as “pranks.”

Five buck bread could wind up being a low estimate
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:47 | Comments Off

We’re going to be paying $5 for a loaf of bread by the end of summer, a friend predicted recently.

Maybe you will, but I bake all of ours, I retorted.

Despite my smugness, his point was well-taken. Have you walked out of a grocery store recently with your wallet less than 30 bucks lighter?

I find myself looking back fondly to the days when I complained about how much formula cost. I realize now it was a bargain — $25 would feed the baby guys for more than a week back then. That sum barely keeps them in bananas and milk these days.

And it’s getting worse.

Better Michelle Duggar than me
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:44 | Comments Off

I am a wimp.

A selfish, whiny little wimp who complains about lack of sleep. Who gripes about cleaning a 1,600 square foot house and ever-climbing food bills. Who will quickly complain about 18 months of foot-in-the rib pregnancy. Strike that — 17 months, because both guys were two weeks early.

I am nothing when compared to Michelle Duggar of Arkansas — no word on whether she lives near Opossum Trot — who just announced that bun No. 18 is in the oven.

Michelle’s latest is due New Year’s Day, so no extra tax deduction for this year, dang it. She’s already has spent 135 months pregnant with children range in age from 20 years to nine months.

She and her husband, Jim Bob — definitely a

Free Treffly Coyne! Free Treffly Coyne!
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:12 | Comments Off

Notice to the police: I’m running low on gas and will have to refill in the morning. Depending on the pump-ATM-astronomical alignment, I might be a yard or so away from the guys for a split second. But I promise I won’t take my eyes off them, so please don’t cuff me.

Sound preposterous? Something very similar to that scenario happened to an Illinois mother around Christmas, after she left her 2-year-old sleeping in the car for mere moments on a cold, sleety day while her two older daughters dropped $8.29 in coins in a Salvation Army kettle at Wal-Mart.

A Crestwood police community service officer then proceeded to arrest Treffly Coyne. The suburban Chicago mother is scheduled to go to trial tomorrow on misdemeanor

This kiss, this kiss — it’s criminal
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:07 | Comments Off

It was sweet and innocent and precious three summers ago when Big Guy, overcome by his feelings for little Snow White, had to express them with a kiss.

But, then, this was a daily occurrence for those two. From the second he started at day care, she was at his side, tracking down his lost Bear and dissing her daddy to kiss him goodbye.

Good thing they’re not going to kindergarten in Denver next fall.

Both would wind up spending more time at the police station than they would in class.

According to a recent article in the Rocky Mountain News, Denver Public Schools referred two 5-year-olds and their parents to the local Human Services Department after they kissed in

Amana Dry Erase fridge makes you wonder why
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:04 | Comments Off

From the files of  “tell me again why I need this:

Amana’s new Jot Fridge — 17.6 cubic feet of storage wrapped in a Dry Erase board.

I supposed the capacity is acceptable, though 17.6 cubic feet is starting to look skimpy now that the guys are downing almost a gallon of milk a weekend. And its suggested price — $549 – is the same as a non-white board model that’s less than a foot bigger.

Still, as I look at the guys’ marker-marred kiddy table and the pencil streaks down Little Guy’s door,  I wonder if any parents in their right minds would deliberately make the world’s largest temptation the centerpiece of their kitchen.

What’s even funnier than the notion that this is a good idea

9to5to9: No polka dots tonight, dear, I have a head ache
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 21:26 | Comments Off

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about trying to get two octopuses – or is that octopi? – dressed in the morning, the Swedes have come up with another complication.

First, I learned to avoid solid red or blue – gang colors.

Then I learned to make sure their clothes were comparable, if not identical, because heaven help me if one is wearing a Lightning McQueen shirt and the other isn’t.

But now, apparently, I need to shun stripes and polka dots, too. It seems those patterns could give their teachers migraines – as if the guys’ presence alone weren’t enough to trigger massive headaches.

That’s the latest word from Sweden, where a preschool has banned children from wearing stripes and dots after a

Product recall: Evenflo Discovery infant car seats
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 21:23 | Comments Off

If you’re relying on Evenflo to keep your baby safe, pull out those model numbers.

Friday, the government and the company announced a voluntary recall of 1 million Discovery car seats after tests showed that the seat could potentially separate from its base in a high-impact side collision.

The recall involves Discovery Models 390, 391, 534 and 552 manufactured from April 2005 through last week. If the description matches your carrier, you can call Evenflo toll-free at 800-356-2229 between 5 a.m. and 2 p.m. west coast time, weekdays, or visit its website for details about getting an additional fastener officials say will make sure the seat stays on its base.

This is a voluntary recall, for a couple of reasons.

First, the base is considered a convenience. Technically

Easy-to-use car seat a myth, and the ratings prove it
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 21:21 | Comments Off

I’m from the government and I’m here to help you?

That actually happened today when the National Transportation Safety Administration unveiled a new way for parents to evaluate car seats – ease of use.

All the old standards remain – quality of instructions and labels and, the most important one, how well it secures the child.

Now they’ve added ease of use to the five-star system, in an attempt to tell parents how hard the seat is to install.

You’ll have to pardon my pessimism – I refuse to say “how easy the seat is to install,” because none is. Not unless you’re Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci. They’ve probably choreographed a floor exercise based on car-seat installation.

I am a smallish, fairly limber person, but my cute

Diaper free? Not for me!
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:54 | Comments Off

I guess I’m just too much of a self-absorbed, spend-thrift, non-environmentally aware mother to get the whole diaper-free movement.

Granted, it’s not without appeal – toilet mastery far earlier, some claim before the baby’s even 1.

But I cannot imagine hauling a butt-naked newborn to a sink or toilet on a set schedule so the baby can potty. Call me lazy, but I’d rather sleep. Or eat. Or do virtually anything in the world just to catch a break for a stinkin’ minute.

What an unsympathetic cad I am. Not at all like people who are practicing “elimination communication” – how’s that for an impressive buzz word?

“It is about slowing down and taking things day by day, moment by moment, learning to listen to your child and figure

The new Mommy Track doesn’t leave the station for many
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:44 | Comments Off

I resented Alpha Mom as I scraped neon toothpaste off my dress today. Alpha Mom is too carefully coiffed to go to work looking like that.

She taunted to me as I jetted to SaveMart between work and soccer practice. Alpha Mom never would have forgotten her kid’s water at home. Her nanny would have made sure it was packed.

I cursed her as I rushed dinner to the table – grilled cheese and applesauce. Alpha Mom serves pork loin.

Alpha Mom mouses placidly at her computer, infant in arms and toddler playing blissfully behind her. I tried that during my second maternity leave. Little Guy wailed on one side and Big Guy turned my other arm into steak tartar as I tried to hear my boss over

It’s gonna be a cornhusk Christmas
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:35 | Comments Off

It’s not even Halloween, but I know exactly what the guys will get for Christmas: corn-husk dolls and sock monkeys. That’s assuming I can find good-old American-made buttons for the monkeys. And non-genetically modified husks for the dolls.

It’s getting that ridiculous.I’ve always had a healthy dose of recall paranoia, dutifully registering major baby gear and steeling myself for the wave of nausea sure to come if some company announced a major flaw in something important, such as a car seat.

Never in my wildest nightmares, though, did I imagine the toy tsunami that’s slammed ashore again and again since early summer.Check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site:

The tidal wave began in June, when 1.5 million Thomas the Tank Engine toys were recalled

My guilt and angst at screwing up the world
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:28 | Comments Off

Originally published July 17, 20007, thehive.modbee.com

Woke up in a great mood this morning. The sun was shining, but not too much. The kids were 90 percent less grumpy than I expected considering they’d stayed up too late the night before. I didn’t screw up the coffee and made it out the door on time.

But then The Associated Press told me I had it all wrong.

In a story about the latest round in “Mommy Wars”, AP recapped the alleged conflagration so far: “There’s spirited talk, angst, and some guilt from mothers who fear they’re doing the wrong thing.

“Now the guilt seems actually tangible.”

Oooooh. Ominous.

I rifled through my purse for some angst but couldn’t find any. Dang it. I know I put it on the grocery list last week. Dad must have

Studies and mommy guilt
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:20 | Comments Off

Originally published June 27, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

This just in from HealthDay:

“First-born children possess IQs that are 2.3 points higher, on average, than their younger siblings, a new study contends. This finding held true even when first-born children didn’t survive and a younger child was reared as the eldest, scuttling the idea that genetics determines the difference in IQ among siblings, according to the Norwegian researchers who authored the report, published in the June 22 issue of the journal Science .

That’s swell news. Because I’d been sitting around all day wondering what I should feel guilty about next. Lucky for me, this showed up in my inbox and I had my answer.

I knew there was a reason I’d always wanted twins. Technically, one still would have been older, but maybe

Making the punishment fit the crime
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:07 | Comments Off

“Do you have Dr. Pepper in a can? You better let him out!”

My, but prank calls are considerably more sophisticated – and dangerous – than when I was a kid.

Seems today’s trendy stunt is to concoct an elaborate tale about a kidnapping, worry your loved ones to their wits’ end and waste tons of public time, energy and money as officials search for you.

It happened twice Monday.

The case first reported involved 12- and 13-year-old cousins who decided it would be a giggle to disappear from Vintage Faire mall, then text-message their parents that they were being held against their will.

The second involved a woman who wanted to get out of a date. She told her would-be suitor she’d been kidnapped. He called the police, and she kept law enforcement busy tracking her, as she described being hauled around south Sacramento in the trunk of a car. All the while, she was home.

Heche, Homer and the working mom
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:57 | Comments Off

Seems that I have some things in common with Anne Heche, although I’ve never run dazed and confused through rural Fresno County knocking on doors and pleading for help late at night.

Heche’s husband of 6 years, Coleman Laffoon, has filed for divorce. And it looks like Laffoon v. Heche is going to be anything other than a civil civil case. He wants $33,000 a month and joint custody. Presumably, his $6,000 a year premarital salary won’t keep him in the style to which he’s become accustomed.

So he’s letting it all hang out: allegations of poor parenting, disorganization and potty mouth.

Some accusations, if true, are troubling. The most serious: That she allowed their 5-year-old son, Homer, to ride without a car seat.

Most of the rest smacks of the standard stuff used to smear working moms, whether they make $81,000 an episode or $8 an hour.

The line between freedom and fear
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:53 | Comments Off

The story that made me want to throw up this morning:

In Vernona Beach, N.Y., 6-year-old Kayleigh Cochis died after she fell off a chair while trying to reach scissors on top of a refrigerator. The blades stabbed her in the neck. Her father was home, but didn’t see her fall.

Two things are certain about this stomach-turning tragedy.

One, the father will second-guess himself until the day he dies.

Two, a substantial portion of the rest of the world will blame him for the death.

That’s usually the case these days. Somewhere along the line, we stopped believing in accidents. Everything has to be someone’s fault, and it’s usually the parents’, even if the kid’s not a kid anymore.

The changes of parenthood
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:49 | Comments Off

I’m sitting at my desk this afternoon, rushing to get caught up before a meeting so I can rush to finish afterward, and a call comes over the police scanner. Vehicle versus train on Claribel Road.

It’s always phrased that way: Vehicle versus train, vehicle versus tree, etc. It’s a coping mechanism.
Within an hour, still in the “vehicle versus train” mode, I was posting the early report on modbee.com.

A woman and four people in her sport utility vehicle had died. We heard rumors children were involved.

Possibly very young children.

And that’s when I made the mistake of climbing into the driver’s seat of that SUV. Did she know this was it? Did she have time to say good-bye to her babies, to get in one last “I love you”?

People ask how parenthood changes you, and you mention the obvious: Lack of sleep, time and money. The deeper changes are inside. You feel things differently.

The electronic box of enlightenment
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:17 | Comments Off

Once upon a time, in a land long ago with only two broadcast channels that you had to get off the couch to change, there lived a sad little girl. Her family had a television – color, even! – but cartoons were confined to Saturday mornings and a half-hour weekday afternoons.

It was a miserable existence in a desolate land.

The child was forced to set up a play kitchen, from which she prepared scrumptious air cakes. In the summer, she and her friends were reduced to performing backyard concerts – complete with choreography and costumes — for afternoons on end. And as night fell, Red Rover would hold dozens of children hostage in front yards, the torture ending only when parents forced the pitiful creatures indoors.


A really useful recall
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 17:00 | Comments Off

Originally published June 13, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled 1.5 million Thomas & Friends toys, imported and distributed by the RC2 Corporation, because paint on the toys contains lead that can be toxic if ingested. No injuries have been reported.

The recall includes wooden vehicles, buildings and other train set parts sold from January 2005 through June 2007.

More information is available at the Consumer Product