Activist Mommy

Did anyone else see the news report about the baby videos? Apparently letting your baby park it in front of the tube, even if it’s called “educational” isn’t that great. Who knew?

Baby Einstein videosUmmm, even with a name like Einstein how on earth could any parent think that spending hours zones out on TV be a good thing? I mean already the average American watches 4 1/2 hours of brain numbing TV every day, and that’s usually slumped down as a family. So you may think that by substituting some of that time with something “educational” you could make it better. Well, no. Kids don’t need to be watcvhing TV, videos, movies, etc… The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that older kids not watch more than 1–2 hours of TV or video per day, and that kids under age 2 not watch any television. And that includes those annoying Baby Einstein videos.

But they play classical music and show kids shapes and colors.”

Great. So pop on a CD and pull out a couple books that you can read or look at together. Problem solved, without the talking picture box doing the parenting for you. I know, I know. I’m up on my high horse again. It just bothers me when we go to visit friends and the kids are zoned out on the TV. Every. Damn. Time. Even worse when it’s these so-called “educational” videos because then the parent thinks they can go off and leave the child to watch the video on their own. It gives them a fasle sense of security that their kids are learning without them having to do anything like, you know, interact with their own kids. Part of me wants to go on a tangent about how that attitude leads to parents pushing their kids off to school and assuming that they are getting an education without actually having to be a part of it. But I’ll keep that rant for later. 

Next time you think about plopping your angel down in front of the boobtube think about how TV affects your child and how to have healthy habits for TV, video games and the internet.

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baby bottleLast night I was watching the news when a story came on about baby bottles and a chemical called bisphenol A. A short story on the chemical found in plastics is here. Honestly, it seems a bit redundent that it needs to be said. We alrady know that bottled water is unhealthy and that is in part to the plastic bottle itself. The chemicals in the plastic bottles are leached out into the water you drink. And, obviously, the same thing happens to your baby’s formula in that plastic bottle. Bisphenol A has been linked in tests to “problems such as obesity, early puberty, hyperactivity, and abnormal sexual behavior and reproductive cycles”. That is a pretty scary list of issues that could come using a baby bottle. I especially wonder about the hyperactivity link with the number of children diagnosed with hyperactivity rising.

I hate to get on my high horse, but this is just one more reason I am so glad that I made the choice to breastfeed. I sat on the couch watching women on the news making comments about not knowing what to do and all I could think of was how ingrained the “baby bottle” mentality is in most Americans. Because obviously breasts are for selling cars and pleasing men. I wonder if the ones who say “Ewww” to the thought of breastfeeding thinks that exposing kids to 10 times the safe amount of an artificial sex hormone is less “disgusting”?

Edited to add that I was sent a link to a great article on this that also contains a rebuttal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). You can read it here. They of course say that bottles are completely safe and that there is no concern from bisphenol A. Call me cynical, but isn’t that about like asking the fox if it’s safe to let him guard the henhouse? I mean the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers says that toys with PVC are safe, because saying otherwise loses them money. So what of the JPMA?

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, Inc. (JPMA) is a national trade organization representing 95% of the $7.3 billion industry.

Does anyone else smell a hint of money in their denial of health risks from bisphenol A? I know I would sure like to see what studies they have done, how it was researched, and who funded it.

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I was sent an email about the latest toy recall from Fisher-Price. What seemed ironic to me is the same day I recived a package from Fisher-Price trying to convince me to buy thier latest toys, Planet Heroes. What better way to divert my attention from the dangerous toys then a free DVD and a poster coverd in new and exciting toys. Or not.

There is a great article on How do our kids get so caught up in consumerism? over at Kids and Commercialism. I think about it everytime we get advertisements in the mail, an effort to catch those who aren’t watching nonstop TV and eating at McDonalds and other toy-ridden so-called food places. Buy, buy, buy! And if a few toys get recalled we’ll just make more for you to buy. And kids just eat them up, the bright colors and fun advertising made to catch their eye.

Before a child enters first grade science class, and before entering in any real way into our religious ceremonies, a child will have soaked in 30,000 advertisements.

Here is the email I was sent on the Fisher-Price toy recall and more information on what you can do about it.

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{August 1, 2007}   World Breastfeeding Week

Welcome to World Breastfeeding Week. From August 1-7 people all over the world will be celebrating breastfeeding and educating others on the benefits of breastfeeding. The health benefits of breastfeeding for children is stated by many. But did you know there are just as many health benefits for mothers as well? Benefits such as a delayed mentrual cycle, an extra 200 to 500 calories per day burned, frequent boosts of natural oxytocin, decreased risk of iron-deficiency anemia, reduced risks of various cancers, and much more.

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{July 25, 2007}   Boys and violence

Before I had kids I was absolutely certain that there was no dirrect link between boys and violence. In my pre-child know it all stage I often argued that it was obviously some outside factor, cue glance to parents, that pushed boys towards more violent games than girls. Of course, I would huff, gender stereotypes are just that: stereotypes.

And in many ways my sons have walked outside the stereotypes. They are free to like whatever color they want, wear whatever tickles their fancy, play whatever games they wish. I have a box of photos of my oldest son carrying his baby doll around in a homemade sling and even “nursing” the doll on the couch. While he’s very much a rough and tumble kind of boy, he’s still got a soft spot in him that is usually defined as “girly”. I don’t care. He’s happy, I’m happy, we’re all happy. Mostly.
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marionetteYesterday my mother-in-law had my son’s hair chopped off without my permission. Or my partial permission. She claimed that she was taking him in for a quick trim and brought him back without his signature curls. She and I have been at war over his hair it was long enough to be at war over. My son, like his father, has beautiful long curls that just beg you to run your fingers through them. It’s the kind of hair that strangers stop me in the grocery store to admire and fawn over. And now it’s gone. The icing on the cake is that this is the first time she has spent any time with my son since her and I last fuoght over something petty weeks ago, and she immediately goes for something she knows would upset me.

There are a few hundred parental violations involved here. Lying to me about what her plans were, using my son as a pawn for her revenge, not seeing what an awesome kid he is, the list could go on. But what really pissed me off was after she left. As we stood in the bathroom looking in the mirror my son beemed with pride and declared that he finally looked like a “real boy”. Whoa. Way to take a kid’s natural desire to please the people he loves and turn it into a classic lesson in boy vs. girl. And here I thought it was his other body parts that made him look like a “real boy”. So what was he before the hair cut? Plastic? A marionette perhaps?

I really hate the idea that at 3 he’s already getting pushed inside a box of what is “acceptable” and what isn’t. I actually got a kick out him being too little to understand the way gender is seen by most. He was a boy that played fast and loose with the rules, and was lucky enough to have parents who didn’t care. So when he wanted bright red sparkly shoes to wear with his monster truck outfit I said sure. When he picked out the purple bag with yellow daisies to carry his toy cars around in I put that one in the basket. When he would dance around the room and call himself a pretty ballerina I would applaud and tell him just how pretty he was. But now the seed has been planted as to what is OK for him to do and wear by other’s standards. I knew this concept would come, but I certainy didn’t want it happening so soon.

I’m sure for some it seems silly. After all, it’s just hair and it will grow back. But to me it’s like a first step in the wrong direction. Today it’s “real boys don’t have long hair”, tomorrow it will be “real boys don’t care for kids” or “real boys don’t do housework”. And it seems like just another example of an overall culture that has pretty messed ideas on what makes one male or female while centering far too much on how a person looks.

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The Star had a great article on Friday called Toymakers are missing the green revolution that I absolutely loved. It really hit an important point that many parents seem to be missing. Toys, our modern toys that parents buy today are ecological nightmares. Tons of packaging on plastic toys made and shipped from half way across the world that break in a week are overflowing out of our trashcans. Those cheap plastic pieces of junk shoved inside ever kid’s Happy Meal or stuffed into goody bags at birthday parties are quickly broken or forgotten about. And then what happens to them?

We teach them to flick off the lights when they leave the room. They’ve mastered the habit of turning off the tap while brushing their teeth. And they’re fluent in matters of separating the garbage, litterless lunches and eco-footprints.

But open the toy box, hit the birthday party circuit or stroll down the aisles of the nearest Toys R Us and the whole notion of raising greener kids seems to disappear in a cloud of noxious gas.

My sons have one set of grandparents who fall more into the books and clothes as gifts range. Unfortunately, my mother thinks that more is always better. And this includes toys. Until I finally put my foot down and got rude our house was overflowing with junk toys every day. I was bagging them up to drop off at the thrift shop at least once a month. It was disgusting to think about, and even worse to actually see.

Now we are a bit pickier on our toys. We have a nice set of finger puppets that we play with often. Wooden blocks, wooden puzzles, a wooden toolbox with play tools. My mother even bought us last year a handmade and hand painted wooden trainset from a local crafter. It was pricey, $70, but oh so worth it. It even came in a beautiful handmade wooden box for storing. Buying handcrafted, nonplastic toys from local people is high on our radar of gifts. We also make sure the toys are sturdy ones that will last though multiple kids, and ones that won’t be tossed aside when the next fad comes along. Tranformers will go the way of the Ninja Turtle, but trains are here to stay.

We also look for good toys second hand. A few months ago I managed to find a box full of metal cars circa 1970. that my sons have fallen madly in love with. They have a huge outdoor play house with slide that I found at a garage sale for less than a quarter of the cost new. Buying them toys second hand means there is no new packaging made, and it doesn’t take anymore gas to get to me than what I use driving to the thrift shop. Rather than perfectly good toys taking up space in landfills, we give them a second life with us.

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Woman cookingI was lead to this intersting blog post called The Feminist in My Kitchen. For the most part it is a great post about how choosing to eat local food can be harder for mothers who work long hours outside the home. I admit that while I was still employed, even though I worked where my then only child could be right beside me, all I wanted to do after work was swing through the earest take-out and throw that down on the table to eat. And yes, more times than I’d like to admit we did just that. I would try to make healthy choices, but there is only so far you can go when dealing with fast food. I am certainly lucky now in that I have most of the day to decide, prepare, and cook a meal. I also have a partner who is pretty good in the kitchen himself, even more so on the grill. But there is a part of this post that just bugs me.

If eating local is still a challenge for me, what about women who, voluntarily or not, log 8 to 10 hours a day, five or six days a week, in an office or hospital or courtroom? What about women who, in addition to working long hours and commuting back and forth, also have children at home who need love and affection and help with homework? What about women who, in addition to work and kids and a significant other, also think it might be nice to hit the gym two or three times a week? Or have a social life? Or read a book or take a judo class or become a better photographer?
How do those women get it all done?

How does the laundry get washed and folded? How do books get read and dental appointments made? How on earth do these same women have time to plan balanced meals, let alone meals composed of organic, in-season ingredients… grown locally?

I wonder. I wonder if the slow-organic-local food movement is truly sustainable for and friendly to the larger community of women.

Why is the default setting that women do all of this? Why aren’t we talking about partners, husbands and wives, equally taking responsibility? If she is working 8 hours a day then comes home and has to plan the meals, do the shopping, wash and fold the laundry, make the apointments, and so on and so on what is the other person doing? I realise that for many single mothers who have no help they are doing this all on their own, and they certainly get my respect for it all. But the majority of this post, and call me on it if I’m wrong here, is dealing with women who have partners. So what are they doing?

Can we call ourselves feminists (simply defined here as people who desire the equality of all women, everywhere) and still suggest that an ideal dinner consists of handmade ravioli and slow-simmered marinara from vine-ripened, hand-picked tomatoes and a salad composed of vegetables that (let’s be honest) are Not Available at Safeway?

I say yes, most certainly. I have to wonder if I can call myself a feminist and still run around the kitchen in a pink apron whipping up dinner while my partner sits on the couch watching the ball game and belching for another beer. Because let me tell you, that wouldn’t happen in this household. We are equal, and that means inside the family as well. Some nights i’m in the kitchn by myself whipping up a healthy homemade meal. While my partner is caring for the kids, or folding the laundry, or cleaning the table. Some night he’s in the kitchen while I am taking care of the other household chores. Most of the time he does the grocery shopping because he is better at find deals and I have no patience for crowds. I make the appointments because he is on the phone often at work and doesn’t want to touch it when he’s home. We are equals, we take equal responsibility, we have an equal share in the home and our family.

Do I expect most nights will be a healthy, homemade meal on the table? Yes. With local and organic foods, no less. That is something that we have decided is important to us. Does my vagina automatically mean I’ll be the one doing it all? Oh hell no.

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{June 30, 2007}   I don’t do Myspace

There was an interesting post yesterday over at Feministe reguarding Facebook and Myspace. It was interesting to see the notable difference between who uses which. Thinking about it I have noticed that more of my “odd” friends are Myspace users, while my professional contacts seem to be with Facebook. I guess if I had to choose based solely on that i would probably do with Myspace, being the odd one and all.

However, I don’t use Myspace for one very important (to me) reason. They do not allow breastfeeding images and delete them as soon as they find them. That’s right. Half naked 15 year old girls with pasties on their nipples? That’s quality entertainment. A fully dressed adult woman feeding her child? Well thats just obscene! Move that baby out of the way and shake them boobs while licking a lollypop and they might let you come back.

As a mom who is still nursing a child who *gasp* walks and (sort of) talks I just get behind a site that tells me that I’m doing something obscene. As a woman I can’t support a site that says boobs are for sex only. Sorry. My mouth is pretty sexy too, and yet I can make it through lunch without any making the comparison between sex and food. So why can’t my kid have the same respect?

 I found this on the web when I searched for breastfeeding and Myspace. Mothers Tell MySpace Breastfeeding is Not Obscene 

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{June 22, 2007}   Is that a towel?

cloth diapercloth diapercloth diaperThis morning I had to pick up a few things with my sons. Because there is a Murphy’s Law of parenting half way through our trip a tale-tell odor began to waft from my suddenly grumpy toddler. Sure enough, the bum was in need of cleaning.

So I pulled into the closest store that I knew had big bathrooms and changing areas, which happened to be a Wal-Mart.  Diaper changing can be tricky enough at home, but on the run it has a whole new level of hassle. I got lucky, however, that there were two other moms in the bathroom with their own young children. My preschooler was kept occupied chatting with a cute little girl with curls while I changed his brother. One of the moms was using the table next to me to change her own little boy and we chatted about kids and parenting and other typical mom conversations.

Suddenly the other mom went silent. I finished wiping up my toddler and open my bag to toss in the diaper and wipe. Finally, with a bit of hesitation, she spoke.

Is that a towel? Are you putting a towel on him?

I know that tone of voice. Half disgust, half uncertancy. Surely that wasn’t… That couldn’t really be… Maybe she just… The thoughts go half questioned, but still fill the air around us. Its not the first time, and most likely won’t be the last, that i’ve stunned and confused others in my diaper choices. I still recall when my second son was born. My oldest was in the final stages of potty training which generally meant a diaper at night. Our last minute, middle of the night hospital trip hadn’t left much time for him to use the potty. So not even an hour after my new babe was born I was changing my oldest son’s diaper. I wrapped it up in a plastic bag and set it next to my bag. The nurse looked confused, picked up the plastic bag, and offered to throw it out for me. “Oh no,” I smiled. “I don’t use dispossables.” I think she stared at me for five minutes before putting the bag back down, totally confused by what could be in the bag if not a dispossable diaper.

And here I was again, confusing another set of strangers. The second mom moved closer and peered over my shoulder as I fastened the new diaper on. No, you’re not seeing things. That is a cloth diaper. And cloth wipes even. Yes, I do know that dispossable diapers exist. No, we’re not too poor to buy dispoassables. Well actually, these are the “real diapers”. No, they don’t make a mess, take a lot of time, use a lot of water to wash, smell, or any of the other myth that I’ve been asked about. That is when people get past their shock enough to ask.

Want to learn more? Start here. Just wait till I talk about all the other dispossable products I’ve taken out of the bathroom.

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