Friday, October 26, 2007


According to research by Children Now, almost 4 in 10 kids watch news programs daily or several times a week. As a parent I wonder, how are they processing what they see? Does a 6-year-old understand the California wildfires aren't near her grandad's house in LA? Does a 7-year-old know how to avoid staph infections at school? Does a 10-year-old understand why President Bush said letting Iran's nuclear ambitions go unchecked could lead to World War III?

I've done a 180 on this issue. Being in the news business, I always said I want my kids well informed. I remember telling someone: "My kids will read the newspaper at home starting when they're small and do reports for me on what they learned."

That was BK (before kids). Well, have you seen what's on the front page and on TV lately? I take it back! Now I look at the news, and their innocent faces, and wonder how long I can hold off reality.

Three years ago -- during that infamous child molestation trial in California -- my then 3-year-old came home from daycare and asked: "Mommy, who's Michael Jackson?" I knew she wasn't asking because they'd been listening to "Thriller" in school. Do you go for the easy answer ("He's just an entertainer, honey") or a watered-down version of the real thing ("He's an entertainer accused of doing bad things to kids") --

inviting the inevitable question: "What KINDS of bad things, Mommy?"

Clearly there are things even little kids need to know. If they're in school, they need to know enough about staph infections to prompt good hygiene. And sadly, at very young ages they now need to be aware of molesters, what they do, and how to avoid them.

But do I really need to explain to my grade-schooler about what happens if Iran's making nukes, what's going on in Iraq (or for that matter, Washington)? A lot of it depends on their age, what type of media they're watching, and whether you're watching with them. The group "Children Now" offers some great advice. Take a moment to read it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


They say every cloud has one, right? I sure was looking for it this morning!

We overslept and missed the school bus. After returning a must-do email from my daughter's teacher, I rushed her to school just in time -- realizing on the way I forgot to put the PTA newsletter in her backpack. A parent was waiting to make 600 copies today.

It wasn't ready anyway -- a rainy-day car accident added an hour to my commute last night, making me late for a meeting. After the meeting, a dear friend from out of town stopped by unexpectedly -- and visiting with her was a lot more fun than finishing that newsletter!

So I woke up behind the eight-ball. I quick-finished the newsletter, emailed it, left a hardcopy at my door for my PTA buddy, and cleaned up the "accident" my long-since potty trained preschooler had on my favorite sofa this morning (why today?!) That couldn't wait till after work -- but I had to run up and down 42 steps on a sprained ankle to get it done!

Finally -- breathless -- I was on my way to begin my day.

I remembered what my pastor once told me: success is 90% attitude. So I started thinking positively. I'm alive, healthy, employed and didn't skid off the rain-slicked roads. What other good things happened this morning?
  • My daughter learned to be more self-sufficient (she had to - I couldn't help today)

  • I made her education a priority by emailing the teacher back
  • My PTA colleagues learned they can count on me to meet deadline, even in a pinch
  • Barring any more accidents, my living room will smell nice and fresh this evening -- and maybe that huge box of Oxyclean I didn't have time to put back will inspire DH or teen daughter to spruce up the house before I get home (okay, now I'm dreaming!)

God must have known I needed a break because when I got to work, the best possible parking spot opened right up for me!

What a great day!

Monday, October 22, 2007


For every Mom who's horrified by (or gotten used to) your toddler licking his toys...

the Consumer Product Safety Commission says those home lead testing kits are completely useless. After all the news this summer about lead paint in toys from China, the CPSC did a new round of tests, and guess what? Half the time the tests said there was no lead present, there was! So the agency recommends not using them at all.

Actually, for all their claims the industry never said these quick-check tests were better than getting an inspection by a licensed professional. But when faced with the choice of a $300 inspection or a $6 test that promises its "accurate," "lab-tested and approved" and even used by the government, what are most parents going to choose?
The concern is that too much lead exposure can cause brain damage. Best advice: stay on top of the recalls and make sure you've checked on the real culprit -- lead paint in your house.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I love doing stories with real impact, and as a parent, this is definitely one of them. Today the FDA may recommend whether to pull kids' cold and cough meds off the market or just relabel them.

Manufacturers recalled cold and cough meds for kids under two last week -- more than a month after the FDA told parents to stop using them. Doctors claim these meds don't work -- they just mask the symptoms.

When I'm up at 2 a.m with a whiny, miserable child and I'm due at work a few hours later, that's good enough for me! I've probably got about four brands in my medicine chest right now -- from doctor's samples to the "emergency" version:
"Honey, can you just run out and get her something now -- she's been up all night and I have to be on air in a few hours!"

As it turns out, many of these meds were never tested in kids -- the industry just estimated based on adult dosages. Now they promise to do more research, but insist even if they don't help, they won't hurt either.

But of more concern: in 2005, Poison Control Centers answered 1,100 calls about these meds and 123 kids have died since 1969. In fairness to the industry -- which sells 100 million packages a year -- that's very few possible deaths over four decades.

The problem is it's easy to overdose because the dosages are supposed to be based on weight, not age. So my 4-year-old -- who's 40 pounds -- wouldn't need as much as my friend's 4-year-old, who's 65 pounds. But that's hard to gauge from the directions.

So for many, it's back to Grandma's recipe: a teaspoon of Father John's (remember that?), cod liver oil (disgusting but effective -- ask my kids) or Castor oil (that was my poison) --

rub some of that thick menthol stuff on your chest and under your nose...

and get plenty of rest and love!