Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Sometimes through work I meet people who truly tug at the heartstrings. Today I interviewed a couple who lost their little girl 13 years ago to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She was an adorable, perfectly healthy three-month-old who took her nap one day and never woke up. I'm a reporter, but a mom first. When telling these stories, I can't help but wonder: what if it was my child?

The story is about new research that further proves children who die of SIDS may have brain abnormalities that make it hard or impossible for them to turn over or wake up when they need to to regulate breathing, blood pressure, etc. That's why experts say it's SO important to sleep infants on their backs. SIDS cases plummeted (over 50%) after the "Back to Sleep" campaign started in the 90s.

I'm glad that through the power of TV we can share this information so one day there will be fewer parents like the couple I met today. Amazingly, they've been blessed with three other children. But of course, no child can ever replace the one who was lost.

I'm constantly amazed how people who've suffered tragedies can find the wherewithal to share their experience. I know it's part of the healing process and many parents do it to honor their child's memory. Still, to muster the strength to do so is, to me, amazing. My heart goes out to them.

News Mom T

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I'm the friend T mentions below, and this is the project I'm stepping away from.

Part of the reason T and I started this blog was to share our experiences juggling careers and parenthood, and to let other mothers know they weren't alone.

Sometimes the juggling doesn't seem so bad, sometimes you fall into a routine and other times you're dropping things all over the place. That's me right now. So I'm taking the blog out of the juggling act.

Thank you to the friends who've bolstered and encouraged me during this little venture, and thank you -- T -- for being a wonderful and understanding colleague and friend.

T will continue with her brilliant, insightful posts, and I'll continue to read in. I hope you will too.

News Mom V.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I started out naming this post "In Honor of Mothers." Then I thought about my dear husband, a co-worker who's a father of four, and one of our readers and realized dads get the short end of the stick too often and should definitely be included.

I was thinking today about the sacrifices we parents make. Tonight I may have to skip an important meeting with my husband because it's going to run very late and I couldn't get a babysitter. I could drag the kids along, but it's more important to get them in bed on time so they're prepared for school tomorrow.

Earlier today a friend told me she's stepping away from a project we've been working on, to spend more time with her family. I was disappointed, but in my heart, I totally understood and am really proud of her courageous decision.

And just a few minutes ago, a mom of 3 emailed me to say she'll also miss tonight's meeting because she going to PTA. I understood because I had to do the same thing last month. In fact, I was thinking there are a lot of committments I've dropped since becoming a parent. I just can't justify spending time with others when I'm always searching for more time to spend with my kids.

The choices we make -- all good ones, always with a price. But this is not a post about guilt or stress. I was actually thinking how blessed I am to have these choices to make. It means there are little people who rely on me. I am important to their lives. The choices I make for them matter a great deal. That's something to feel good about.

So to all the parents out there who face impossible or difficult choices every day, give yourselves a pat on the back. Your children's lives are better because you choose them first. And that's always the right choice.

News Mom T

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


The U.S. Department of Education today made it easier for public schools to create same-sex classes. Some research shows girls do better learning with girls and boys with boys. Schools would also have to offer co-ed classes so parents can opt-out.

Supporters say kids are more likely to stretch their interests when they don't have to fear being the only boy in cooking or the only girl in woodworking. They argue especially in middle school and beyond, students focus better without distractions from the opposite sex.

Opponents -- who include NOW and female university professors -- say the only reason kids seem to do better in same-sex classes is because those classes are smaller and get the best teachers and resources. They fear segregating boys and girls will leave the rest of the students stripped of the best tools for learning.

I have to wonder. My kindergartener seems to be more distracted by the girls in her class than the boys. I guess it's the girl-envy thing. I know that will change as she gets older. But in a same-sex school, how well-prepared would she be to deal with boys in real life?

On the other hand, there's something powerful about the idea of a class full of girls who can beat the pants off their male counterparts in a science fair competition!

News Mom T


I check email constantly and visit my favorite web sites every day. I've even blogged and shopped online in the middle of the night. Am I an Internet addict?

Thankfully not, according to this test. But there are people whose claim their online habits are leading to divorce, getting fired and even depression.

Stanford University's med school is trying to figure out if "Internet addiction" is a real medical problem or just a bad habit. Their survey found that one in eight Internet users behave like substance abusers: hiding or lying about being online and using the Internet to escape real problems. Some logged more than 30 hours a week of NON essential Internet use.

The Center for Internet Addiction offers counseling and says some people experience withdrawal and fantasize about being online.

Stanford says it's not just predators or gamblers. They found a lot of potential addicts are obsessed with shopping, chat rooms and -- BLOGS!

For the record, there's is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being addicted to this blog! :)

News Mom T

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


The local news last night aired a story about Michelle Gardner-Quinn, the University of Vermont student who disappeared earlier in the month and was found dead by hikers a few days ago. Michelle was from a suburb of Washington, D.C.

A woman interviewed in the story, a neighbor of Michelle's family, talked fondly about her relationship with the girl. She'd known her since 8th grade and Michelle and her son were very good friends. She emotionally recalled how Michelle used to ask people,"Can I travel with you?" and said now that Michelle was gone, she would always be traveling with those who loved her.

The woman being interviewed was someone I know and have worked with.

In the last month we've seen the loss of children as a result of the school shootings in Colorado and Pennsylvania. I wept for the families. But when you find out that you have a connection to a story like this, it truly hits home. Things this terrible don't just happen far away, to people you don't know.

News Mom V.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


"Whatever CAN go wrong, WILL go wrong!"

This morning my 5-year-old's before-school Spanish teacher didn't show, so I had to wait with her 30 minutes until school opened. On the way home in the rain, a "student driver" had an accident, jamming traffic. My teen -- who was waiting with my sleepy 3-year-old so I wouldn't have to drag him along -- was now late for class.

After dropping my son at preschool, I drove her to the train to save time -- or so I thought. The freeway was a rainy mess and by then the only parking space was half a mile from the station. So we walked and missed a train. I barely made it to work.

To top it all off, a few minutes ago my shoe heel broke!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

OK... whining done. I can feel a collective "e-hug" from all the mommies who've been there. On to more important stuff:

Today the government is trying to reassure the public that fish is safe to eat 2, 3, even 4 times a week in small to regular portions. Even for kids and pregnant moms -- as long as they don't eat the high-mercury types: king mackarel, tilefish, swordfish and shark.

There's actually growing and strong evidence that fish protects against heart disease. A separate Harvard study coming out tomorrow finds the levels of dioxins and PCBs in fish are much less than in other common foods like butter, milk, cheese and chicken, and reports virtually no cancer risk.

Some are concerned that the Institute of Medicine, which did the government study, had too many people on the panel with ties to the fish industry, skewing the recommendations.


Sunday, October 15, 2006


It's 3am on Sunday and I'm up blogging. The News Moms have been silent for a few days, in part because I worked an early-morning schedule last week that left me too tired to blog at night.

I volunteer to work that shift periodically to give this working mom a chance to spend time with my kids: pick them up from school instead of sending them to after care, ensure a good dinner and bedtime without the rush, etc. And that's actually the subject of today's post.

At a birthday party this weekend, I had a conversation with a few mommy friends about how virtually all our decisions seem to revolve around our kids: where we live (school district), what we drive, jobs and work schedules -- or whether we work at all.

Three years ago we made a cross-country move for my job. Two of the biggest deciding factors were that I'd travel less -- so more time at home -- and my parents now live nearby to help.

But how much is too much? Clearly parents should make their kids top priority. But kids also pick up on that. How do we avoid creating egocentric children who grow up believing the world revolves around them -- because in many ways, it did. (I'm not talking about spoiling kids with "stuff," but about basic life decisions all parents must make.)

And what other aspects of our lives suffer? Health? What about marriage? How you deal with it, and where do you draw the line?

When it comes to health, I think a lot of parents neglect themselves. If my kids sniffle too long or develop an unusual rash -- we're in the doctor's office. They don't miss a regular check up six-month dentist appointment -- but I'm behind on my own.

What about marriage? Do we spend too much of our free time making up for lost time with the kids? Shuttling them to lessons and soccer practice? Are spouses neglected in the process? Are we too busy to realize it until it's too late?

Parenting educator Elizabeth Pantley has an interesting take on that: "When you make a commitment to your marriage, your children will feel the difference. No, they won't suffer from neglect! They'll blossom when your marriage-and their homelife-is thriving."

Any thoughts?

News Mom T

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The Physicans Commitee for Responsible Medicine announced its Golden Carrot Awards for the best school lunches. The winner: a private school in California that's all vegetarian with fresh fruit platters and a salad bar with raw and steamed veggies. In fact, the top 3 winners were vegetarian schools. One even grows its own vegetables.

I'm not sure I'd want an all-veggie school lunch (how 'bout them proteins?) But it's a long way from the "French toast sticks" listed as a main dish on my daughter's lunch menu (I still can't believe that!).

News Mom T

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


For a non-confrontational person, I'm certainly on a roll this week.

First, I angered Izzymom (see below), and today I had an upsetting disagreement with a friend at work.

Fortunately, a similarly peace-loving colleague (who was peripherally involved in the argument) didn't let me leave upset.

She suggested we all convene for an after-work "meeting" downstairs at the bar.

Within seconds of taking that first sip of beer, we'd all kissed and made up.

It's amazing what a drink can do.

News Mom V.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Is TV news all gloom and doom? In a blog entry last week, IzzyMom said she'd had it with depressing stories, and was going on a news blackout. She even changed her home page to HappyNews.com, a site with the tag line "Real News. Compelling Stories. Always Positive." The current headline is "Madonna Again Visits Malawi Orphanages."

Many readers agreed with her. One woman said she allows her husband to "filter" the news for her, and tell her what he thinks she should know.

I will admit that it's sometimes hard to watch a newscast, especially on violent days -- locally or nationally. And as journalists, it can be emotionally difficult to cover tragedy after tragedy. But informing people is our job, and we simply can't edit out the violent or tragic.

I'm curious though...are people REALLY more interested in Madonna's adoption efforts than the latest E. coli scare?

News Mom V.


Less than a week after the government called off its spinach scare, there's more green leafy stuff to keep off your plate. A California lettuce grower is voluntarily recalling 8,500 cartons of its "Foxy" brand green leaf lettuce after initial reports of E.coli contamination -- not on the lettuce itself, but in the water used to irrigate it. No one's reported getting sick, and almost all the lettuce has been pulled. But there are still 200-300 cartons shipped Oct. 3-6 that are unaccounted for. It's believed to affect mostly western states, but some may have been shipped to restaurants around the country.

Let's put this in perspective. Unlike the tainted spinach -- which sickened almost 200 people and killed three -- the FDA doesn't seem overly concerned yet about the lettuce recall. There's not even a mention on their web site. And a spokeswoman said it's standard procedure for the company to deal with it.

This is so sad. I love my veggies! A warm spinach salad... a crisp Cobb - mmm! And those prewashed, bagged greens are so convenient. This lettuce came from the same area as the tainted spinach. I hope it's a coincidence, or an isolated problem --

because otherwise I may have to contribute to the obesity epidemic and start eating (gasp!) fried foods for lunch!

News Mom T

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Wow. When we started doing this, I had no idea just how saturated the blogosphere was. There are an astounding number of blogs out there -- and "astounding" is an understatement.

In April of 2005, the web survey group Perseus estimated the number to be 31.6 million, and predicted that figure would grow to over 53 million by the end of the year.

That represents the number of blogs actually created. The survey doesn't track the number of active blogs, which could take away from the estimate significantly. For example, Perseus's last survey in 2003 found 66 percent of blogs to be inactive.

More figures from the 2005 survey: over 68 percent of the bloggers were female, and only 5.8 percent of all bloggers were age 30 and over.

Who reads all these blogs? According to analysis done in 2005 by comScore Networks, 50 million Internet users in the U.S. navigated to blog sites in the first quarter of that year. Their research also found blog readers more likely to live in higher-income households, have high-speed Internet connections, shop online and be younger than the average Internet user.

So there you have it -- some interesting information and some validation, at least for me, that yes, there are an awful lot of bloggers out there, and a lot of people who are reading blogs.

But if you look closely at the numbers -- about 53 million blogs and 50 million readers -- that's roughly ONE reader per blog.

News Mom V.


As we say in the news business, I "buried the lead." In my earlier post I forgot to share some of the most important new information on this year's flu shots:

  • If you plan to get one this year, there should be plenty. The CDC expects 100 million doses from five manufacturers. (A few years ago when we suddenly fell short, there were only two manufacturers.)
  • Most of the vaccine will be delivered by Oct. 31. Some doctors already have it.
  • The CDC is now recommending that ALL children from 6 months to 5 years get it. (Previously, it was 6 months to 2 years.)
  • Kids getting their first flu shot will need TWO doses.
  • It's not too late to get immunized in December or even January. The shot takes 6 weeks to kick in, but CDC reports show the flu season often doesn't peak until February and sometimes March.
  • For our "more experienced" readers (or remind your parents) -- flu shots and pneumonia shots are free through Medicare. Most people only have to get the pneumonia shot once, not every year.

And a final interesting note: the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases says two-thirds of all health care workers don't get a flu shot. Experts tell me they're either too busy, they don't believe it'll work, or -- get this -- they're scared of needles!


Saturday, October 07, 2006


They happen so early in the year! My daughter had barely been in preschool a few weeks before the packet came home. This year, with two schools, we got two books of magazines and gift wrap to sell. (Oh - and don't forget those "make your own gourmet pizza" kits. I've still got one in the freezer from last year.)

Now don't get me wrong: I believe in supporting the school. I saw all the great programs the fundraiser paid for last year. But a saleswoman I am NOT. And make no mistake -- it's the parents fundraiser. That 5-year-old "top seller" who raised $1,500 last year? Believe me, she didn't do it alone.

Unlike when I was in school, kids can no longer sell door-to-door, for safety reasons. That's good. But it leaves parents begging their friends and co-workers to buy yet another tub of cookie dough (the last one I bought stayed in the freezer for two years). That's just not my forte.

What's nice about the fundraisers is that some are now online. So you can simply send out an email to family and friends and they can buy online and have it delivered home -- and your child gets credit. No more lugging around boxes of perishables and knick-nacks in the minivan.

They've made it so easy. That's why I feel so horrible that this year I just plain forgot.

The packets stayed in my "to do" bag for weeks and when I realized it, the deadline was here. So there I was last night, online just before midnight ordering a few items so my daughter wouldn't be the only one in her class not to receive the "light-up school mascot pin" that every kids gets for participating.

So here's fair warning to all my family and friends -- you escaped this year, but I'll be hitting you up next year with a vengeance!

For now, I'm just shaking off guilt so I can enjoy my Brown Sugar Body Polish when it arrives.

News Mom T

Friday, October 06, 2006


One more bit of today's news for moms:

President Clinton -- who's been leading an effort to fight childhood obesity -- got five major snack food companies (Kraft, Campbell's, Pepsi/FritoLay, Dannon and Mars) to agree to reduce salt, sugar and fat in snack foods sold in schools.

This is the same group that brokered a deal last spring to take most soft drinks out of schools.

Interestingly, the snack food industry isn't fully on board. Some companies think the guidelines aren't fair. For example, some potato chips are OK, but pretzels, generally considered healthier, are not because they exceed the Clinton group's sodium limit. The industry also says the problem isn't just junk food content -- it's the fact that kids sit in front of TV for hours on end eating super-sized portions instead of just one serving.

The so-called food police think it'll be ineffective because the people who actually stock school vending machines -- schools and distributors -- aren't part of the deal. So they can put whatever they want in vending machines, bypassing the new healthier baked chips for the same old fat-laden munchies that sell.

A funny note from the announcement:

President Clinton -- who in 2004 had heart bypass surgery to clear arteries that were 90 percent blocked by with plaque -- claimed that even though he was an overweight kid, he never touched the vending machine at his high school.

Uh huh.

He did admit to sneaking some of Chelsea's Halloween candy. Apparently he likes caramel (me too!)

News Mom T


What if your child's teacher was allowed to bring a gun to school?

In light of recent shootings, a Wisconsin lawmaker has proposed making it legal for teachers and administrators to carry concealed weapons.

Under his plan, teachers wouldn't have to carry weapons, but could at their discretion. The rationale is that school personnel could protect students, and themselves, in the event of an armed intruder. He argues that it works in other countries like Israel and Thailand, where daily violence is rampant.

Besides the obvious concern (guns getting into the hands of kids and kids in the crossfire), there's a legal issue. Federal law bans guns on school property -- teachers included. And who would pay for and oversee training?

Wow - the fact that we've gotten to the point where we're even considering arming teachers speaks volumes. But there are less controversial alternatives:
  • Some schools have reconfigured their layout so visitors walk straight into the office when the enter the school and must be given access to go beyond that area.
  • Some schools lock exterior doors, like "crazy" Joe Clark in the movie "Lean On Me? (That's a true story, by the way.) The downside: it's a fire hazard.
  • What about secure doors with access cards or keypads for parents and teachers? Most child care centers have them - why not schools?

It's sad -- in a country where so many children are lacking academically and all available resources are needed to "leave no child behind," schools are also saddled with the increasingly awesome responsibility of keeping our children safe from strangers, and insiders, intent on doing harm.

News Mom T

Thursday, October 05, 2006


A study out this week finds breastfeeding does not make your baby any smarter than babies of non-breastfeeding moms.

Of course, many studies have outlined the benefits of breastfeeding, but if you're a mom who decided not to breastfeed, or simply couldn't, this is one less thing to feel guilty about -- you have not compromised your baby's intelligence.

As a journalist, I cover a lot of medical studies. Many of them, especially those involving the health of children, can be scary and disturbing for parents.

Last year I read a study that found gaining more than your recommended weight during pregnancy may increase the risk of testicular cancer in male children later in life.

Initially, I felt terrible (and guilty) because I had gained a lot of weight during my pregnancies.

And then common sense took over. One study on the topic doesn't mean my little boy WILL be a victim of testicular cancer, only that it COULD happen.

And who knows, a study done next year might find no link at all between pregnancy weight and testicular cancer.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I must admit -- I'm a HEALTH reporter and I've never had the flu shot. Never had the flu, either. I'm in that 50% of Americans who (experts say mistakenly) think the shot could actually give them the flu. Today I covered the story and learned some things I didn't know about why people think the vaccine will make them sick.

There are tons of non-flu viruses floating around this time of year -- some with flu-like symptoms, but not as deadly. When people get the shot, then catch one of these viruses, they assume the shot was either ineffective or actually gave them the flu.

Also, making the flu vaccine is a guessing game. Every year the experts try to predict which strain will be most prevalent, and make a vaccine to protect against those strains. Sometimes they're wrong, and people end up getting a type of flu that wasn't covered by the vaccine.

Last year's vaccine was 75-95% effective against influenza A (the kind most people get) but not very effective at all against influenza B. One in five people got influenza B -- and the vaccine did very little to help. Even those who got the more common "flu A" had up to a 1 in 4 chance of getting a version of it not covered by the vaccine.

One reason experts push vaccination, especially for kids and seniors at high risk, is to develop a societal immunity against flu. Viruses change and can become resistant to anything we develop. But like other illnesses we've wiped out (think polio and measles), if we can get most people immune to it, it will eventually go away.

One more interesting point: you may have heard about the antiviral medications for flu. Experts admit they're the best we have but not extremely effective. The best they can do is shorten your illness by one day.

I think I WILL get my kids flu shots this year, because both are in high risk groups. Two things changed my mind: the fact that 36,000 Americans die every year from the flu, and most of the children who die needlessly are kids with asthma and other chronic illnesses who were supposed to get the flu shot, and didn't.



This morning I was brushing my 5-year-old's hair and she asked: "Mommy, what are weapons?" Yikes! I wanted to know where she learned that word. She said from her teacher -- I'm assuming in the context of "no weapons in school."

My first reply was: "It's not something you need to worry about." Then I thought about the Amish school, and many other stories I've covered where kids my daughter's age came to face to face with the barrel of a gun. I realized that society has obliterated my attempts to protect her innocence. So I replied: "Weapons are things like guns and knives that can hurt people." Then she said: "Mommy, knives can't hurt people." I guess she was thinking of the kind we use for dinner. If it could only be true.

On a lighter note, my 3-year-old son has changed his name! We named him Derek Andrew -- not quite a "junior" because Daddy has a different middle name. We've always called him Andrew to avoid confusion. But this year's preschool teacher calls him Derek. So now he only wants to answer to that!

And finally, something I once read in the "child help" books really does work. Lately Andrew's answer to everything is "No," and it frustrates me to no end. I even asked him if he's trying to exert control, and of course he said "No!" The "experts" say ignore it - so I did. And they were right. When I don't react, he often does the thing I asked without complaint.

I guess he just feels the need to let me know he can now think on his own.


Monday, October 02, 2006


Another brutal school shooting in the news today, this time in an Amish community in Pennsylvania. Like last week’s high school shooting in Colorado, the perpetrator singled out girls, allegedly shooting them execution-style before killing himself. As I write this, at least three girls are confirmed dead…the youngest, just six years old.

How can you ever prepare your child to deal with something like this?

Just this morning, I was talking to a co-worker about today’s “overprotective” parents. We wait with our kids at the bus stop and give them cell phones before they go to the park…that is, if we ever let them out of our sight. Some parents even send their 7-year-olds to self-defense class to teach them what to do should they be approached by shady characters.

Very different from when we were young and there were no cell phones and we’d disappear in the woods for hours at a time after school.

Some things are just out of parent’s hands. And no self-defense class would have helped the girls today. As an overprotective parent myself, that’s a hard thing to come to terms with.

News Mom V.


If you don't know what "POS" means, your kids could become the victim of an online predator. It means "parent over shoulder - change subject." It's what your kids say when they're IMing (instant messaging) and you walk in the room and they're talking to someone, or about something, they want to hide. Here are links to some common IM shorthand and "emoticons":


I'm sharing these because today we covered those explicit instant messages between former Congressman Mark Foley and former pages. I won't comment since I'm covering the story and he hasn't been charged. But the situation raises some important parenting issues.

The emails alone may not have raised concern, in context. The teen apparently mentions an upcoming birthday, so Foley asks how old he is and what gifts he wants. He also asks the kid for a picture -- a staffer says it's not uncommon to keep them on file. And he chats about exercising to stay in shape.

It made me wonder: with so many kids messaging strangers online, what kind of conversation would raise eyebrows? I think teens and parents would have different answers to that. So is telling them report "uncomfortable" conversations enough? Do we need to be more specific about what we think is inappropriate?

As for the instant messages, most were too graphic to report so I won't link them here. At one point, Foley's concerned about the teen's mother seeing their conversation, but the boy calls her "computer dumb." I thought: would my kids say that about me?

Recently, to my surprise, I discovered my five-year-old -- who only goes online with me occasionally to do her favorite learn-to read web site -- can pull it up and click through all by herself! How much longer efore she's emailing and IMing? (Not on my PC!)

When my 18-year-old stepdaughter recently moved in, we debated whether to let her keep her computer in her room. She'd not given me a reason to be suspicious, and after all, she is an "adult" now. But covering all these stories about Internet porn, I couldn't help being uncomfortable. Online access in their room is the #1 "no-no."

We talked about it, and I was surprised when she volunteered to disconnect her PC , store it in the closet, and use mine, in the family room instead.

I felt better -- but I still peek over her shoulder when she's emailing and IMing.