Thursday, August 31, 2006


For most people, Labor Day is the official end of summer. For me, it's the sniffles that invaded our house this week.

It's the first week of school -- in fact, 2 of our 3 kids haven't even started yet -- and already all five of us are sniffling, coughing and popping vitamin C chewables like candy. That pesky cold virus attacked without warning. I hadn't even had a chance to stock up on vitamins and cod liver oil yet. Yes, I make my kids take the yucky stuff all winter. It worked for my grandparents and seems to work for us, too.

Except right now.

How DO those germs circulate so quickly? I imagine that as hundreds of giggling, backpacked girls and boys bounced off the school bus this week, millions of invisible viruses marched in right along with them -- just as determined to do well in school this year.

"Betcha I can infect more kids than you can!"

"Oh yeah - bet I can get to them first!"

"You take backpacks. I'll take pencils and lunchboxes."

I've read that doctors say 10-12 colds a year is NORMAL for schoolchildren, and actually builds up their immunity. Speaking of which, have you read about the chicken pox parties? Instead of getting the vaccine, parents let their uninfected children play with infected ones, hoping to create natural immunity.

That said... excuse me (achooo!!!!!!!)

... be well. I'm already longing for Spring!


Monday, August 28, 2006


Well, I sent my five-year-old off to kindergarten this morning. What an experience!

There were no tears. I cried mine last night and she didn't cry at all. In fact, she sang all the way to school and bounded out of the car as soon as we arrived. While I was happy to see her so excited, I couldn't help but feel a little sad to see her behaving so independently. The real dagger-through-the heart came when she asked me (about 4 times) to stop holding her hand walking to class. But she did let me give her a kiss. :)

I wish I could spend all day peeking in the classroom window -- not to interfere, but just to see how she reacts to it all. I know what you're saying: "OK Mom, it's time to let go."

I'm getting there.

Feelings aside, I really AM excited to see her take this next step. In fact, it's a big step for all of us. I already have PTA meetings and the principal's coffee updates on my schedule. And shopping for school supplies, I learned a few lessons:

  • Glue sticks are the first to sell out.
  • I never knew there were SO many different types of markers!
  • Don't buy peanut snacks, even if the teacher says it's OK (an allergic kid showed up today)
  • Pack a cold lunch (sandwiches) not leftovers - it never occurred to me she can't nuke it

I'm still undecided about letting my tiny 5-year-old ride the school bus. Two months ago, I was adamantly against it. The bus ride, I'm fine with. It's getting off and on that bother me. Who's in charge at the bus stop? What if she gets on the wrong bus? What if she gets off at the wrong stop? What if she gets to school and can't find her class and wanders off?

And of course, being a NewsMom, stories I've covered come to mind:

How safe is the bus? When was it last inspected? Did they do a background check on the driver? Does he/she have a criminal record the school system doesn't know about?

OK, by now even I realize I suffer from what my father-in-law calls "overprotective parent syndrome." And sometimes all you need is a dose of reality to cure it. When I pulled up to the school this morning, traffic was horrible. I had to park two blocks away. A parent told me it'll be weeks before things return to normal -- and even then, the new parking lot is too small, so good luck finding a spot.

As we walked I thought about how I'll manage next week once my three-year-old is with us. Then I saw all those smiling little kids (including our neighbor) getting off the school bus, and I thought:

maybe the bus isn't so bad after all.


Friday, August 25, 2006


I'm literally on my way out the door for a week of vacation, but I wanted to leave behind a topic of discussion in my absence:

Do career women make for lousy wives?

See the following story on Michael Noer's column was initially published alone, pulled because of strong reaction, and finally republished with a woman's "counterpoint" alongside it.

Have a good weekend.

News Mom "V"


It's amazing how many things in life we take for granted. How many strangers' opinions we trust. How much faith we put in things we can't control -- like the safety of medicines we take and give our families.

Today the News Moms reported on stronger warnings placed on drugs for people with ADHD. Though rare, some of those drugs have been linked to dangerous side effects like serious heart problems and psychotic behavior. Today we reported that after FDA advisors disagreed on whether stronger warnings were necessary, the agency quietly asked drug manufacturers to beef up the labeling to warn doctors -- without alerting the public until this week.

Much of what's being added, doctors already knew and consider when prescribing these drugs. So for most of the four million Americans taking Ritalin, Adderol, Concerta, Dexedrine and other drugs, there's no cause for alarm.

But what struck me as interesting is how much we patients take for granted. We ASSUME the drugs we're taking are safe because they've been through years of clinical trials and screened by experts at the FDA. Yet recent recalls of Vioxx, Bextra and other drugs have certainly called that so-called assurance into question.

The FDA has been under fire for a few years now, accused of not doing its job -- protecting Americans from bad medicine. The harshest critics claim the agency bows to pressure from the drug industry because it receives millions in funding from drug companies to complete its work.

In a report out last spring, the Government Accountability Office (the federal government's internal watchdog) said the FDA hasn't been as vigorous as it should be in ensuring drug safety. And it criticized the agency for quashing the opinions of scientists and drug safety experts who question the status quo. It noted a recent survey that concluded one in five FDA scientists have been asked to change their findings in official reports, and 40 percent fear retaliation for questioning decisions.

The FDA has rigorously defends itself, stating that the agency is diligent and is in the midst of a systemwide review to improve operations. This summer the agency streamlined rules for scientists who advise the agency on key drug decisions, but also are paid consultants for drug companies. The new policy is an attempt to reduce conflicts of interest, or even the appearance of it. Dr. Andrew von Eschenback, the agency's acting commissioner who will likely soon be confirmed by the Senate, has promised a top-down review to further strengthen the agency and restore public confidence.

I can tell you from a journalists' point of view, the FDA is very selective about sharing information about how it does business -- especially when it involves controversial issues. Often requests for interviews and information go unanswered, are not answered in a timely manner, or are simply turned down without explanation. As a journalist who seeks to tell the whole story -- and as a mother -- that's concerning.

Which leads us back to the idea of putting faith in things we can't control. I wonder: do we really have a choice?


Thursday, August 24, 2006



I'm back from a two-week vacation and have that relaxed feeling of renewed passion for life and work. It reminds me that I need to plan more "mental" getaways so I can experience this "Ahhhhhh" feeling more often.

At one point while driving home, everyone in the car fell asleep. At first I was lonely, but I quickly realized the beauty (and benefit) of complete silence. Without kids chattering, music playing or other distractions -- and just the ribbon of highway ahead -- I was able to think through priorities that, unfortunately, often go without attention in the daily rat race.

  • What self-improvements do I need to work on - physically, professionally, spritually?
  • How healthy is my marriage? What can I do to make it better?
  • How can I help each of my children reach their goals?

While out of town, I had a couple of Mommy Moments that I must share:

  • My son pooped in the potty for the first time! Not the topic of typical conversation, I know, but I'm sure parents out there can attest that this is HUGE! :) What was nice about it was seeing how proud he was of himself when he accomplished something new. I can't wait to see THAT look on his face again.
  • A friend commented that my children are well-behaved. I almost fell over. With all the Mommy guilt I live with, he'll never know how that small observation made my day... my month... my year!

Back home now, this evening I spent some time researching our school system. My kindergartener starts Monday (expect a post - once I've stopped sobbing). My preschooler starts a week later, and my newly-licenced 18-year-old starts college two days after that.

I know that Spring is considered the season of new beginnings, but for us, this fall represents a genesis -- a new chapter in our family. As the children each move on to a new horizon, it'll affect all of our lives.

And I can't wait to see how it turns out.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Yes, I know -- it’s been two weeks since we last posted. There’s a good explanation:

I’ve been out sick and T. is on vacation.

I was hospitalized with gall bladder problems early last week. If you have ANY “minor” medical issues – please don’t do as I did and ignore the problem until it’s too late.

I'm still feeling guilty about it.

The hardest part of the whole ordeal was being away from the kids. I have a difficult enough time leaving them with a babysitter, so not seeing them for almost 3 days was torture.

My husband brought me a few photos, which I looked at constantly.

I begged my doctor to spring me from the hospital a night early – and was able to get home in time to put the kids to bed on Tuesday night.

When I got to the house, the baby was crying and my three year old was wearing borrowed corduroys (in 90 degree weather!) because he’d had so many potty accidents at school that day. (It’s true -- what the experts say about kids regressing in times of stress.)

My reintroduction into home life was a bit chaotic – but seeing my baby girl smile in recognition when I walked in the room, and getting a big hug and an “Are you feeling better, mommy?” from my little boy left me with the most amazing feeling...

And reminded me how important it is to exercise control over the things that are manageable (like my medical issues) so that I don’t have to be away from them unexpectedly again.

News Mom "V"

Friday, August 04, 2006


You obviously like to read -- you're doing it right now. But I wonder how many of us have a love of for literacy?

The other day I was pondering my own love-hate relationship with reading. As a child, I was an avid reader. By college, I was forced to read so many "boring" texts, that reading started to feel like a chore. After graduation, I literally had to force myself into a library to recapture my lost love. Today, I'm into fiction... murder mysteries... but don't have time to read as much as I'd like to. Yet increasingly I find myself dreamily wandering past the bookstore - a place I can stay for hours.

Yesterday I got a funny email from a co-worker detailing how life was so different 100 years ago. You know, a loaf of bread only cost 19 cents.. and there were only 8000 cars in the entire U.S. It also mentioned that back then, 2 in 10 Americans couldn't read or write. I wondered how different that is today. So I did some research.

The most comprehensive information I found (though not the most recent) was a federal government study conducted in 1992. The Department of Education's National Adult Literacy Survey asked 26-thousand Americans to complete simple tasks like reading a bus schedule, using an ATM, or reading a judge's instructions to a jury. Profiency was rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best.

Almost a quarter of Americans -- about 40 million -- functioned at the lowest level. Another quarter were considered "level 2" readers whose skills were better, but "quite limited." A third were "level 3" readers -- able to perform more complex tasks after reading a text. Only 1 in 5 American adults were able to achieve the highest literacy rating. (

So more than a decade ago, 4 out of 5 American adults were average or below average readers -- with half of them, about 100 million, ranking at the lowest levels. Isn't that sad?

I wondered if things have gotten any better in the last decade. Just two years ago, the National Endowment for the Arts conducted a survey called "Reading at Risk." It concluded that the number of readers is on the decline. The survey said fewer than half of American adults read literature, and notes a loss of 20 million potential readers in the last decade -- most of them young Americans.

Wait a minute -- aren't "young Americans" learning to read?

Perhaps also not a surprise, reading ranked lowest among minority groups, the uneducated and the poor -- not necessarily one in the same. It said twice as many high-income individuals read than those from low-income families. And the survey found that people who read are more likely to be involved in cultural, sports and volunteer activities. (

I know we're all busy, but we've got to stop this -- and our children are a good place to start.

Recently, I've made reading more of a priority in our home at bedtime. We try to visit the library at least once a month and check out a slew of books. I've been reading 3-5 a night. It's a great way to settle them down for bedtime. Even my teenager loves to come in and listen. Last night she was sad because we started without her!

This month's "Parents" magazine includes an interview with NBC'S Today Show host Matt Lauer talking about how he makes reading to his children a priority. The article mentions that August 24 is Jumpstart for Young Children's annual "Read for the Record" event. This year's book is a classic: "The Little Engine that Could." All parents are asked to read the book to their children that day. (You can register at

What a great way to "jumpstart" the school year! Consider picking up the book, if you don't have it.

And while you're at it, pick up a book for yourself, too.

Happy reading!

News Mom "T"

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Brrrr…it’s freezing at my desk right now. Outside, the temperature is flirting with today’s projected high of 101 degrees.

I was off yesterday -- at home with my 10-month old who'd just had tubes put in her ears. The heat made it impossible to go to the park, or even take a stroll. So we stayed inside and I tried to entertain her.

To those who might suggest mall walking on a hot day -- I am not a woman who can go to the mall and just WALK. If I go to the mall, I do so with the building’s true purpose in mind – SHOPPING.

Getting back to my day with the baby -- we read books, rolled balls, played peek-a-boo, sang songs, pushed buttons on musical toys. I even turned on the TV thinking she might like Elmo. (She wasn’t the least bit interested in Sesame Street, or the Teletubbies for that matter.)

She’d smile and laugh with each activity, then quickly get bored and let out a little scream. What she really wanted was to play with her big brother’s toys, which aren’t the safest (small parts and all) -- so I got more cries every time I took those away.

Her favorite game was to roll an empty plastic water bottle around…and she did so contently for quite a while -- that is, until her big brother came home from preschool.

As soon as she saw him, she scrambled across the room and grabbed his leg. This caused him to shriek and run away. She laughed loudly and followed…and a little game ensued that lasted about an hour. She was the happiest in that hour than she’d been all day. I followed closely to make sure big brother’s arms and legs didn’t land in her face as he tumbled around. She did fall backwards on the wood floor once, but didn't seem to mind.

When we finally got the kids to settle down, it was bedtime for the little one. She drank her bottle and quickly fell asleep.

I learned yesterday that my three year old is a very good babysitter. A little rough, yes – but very entertaining.

Too bad he couldn’t help put the baby back to sleep when she woke up at 2am…but that’s another story.

Yawn. Is it naptime yet?

News Mom “V”