Archive for May, 2006

Cancer-Causing Chemicals from Tobacco Smoke Found in Baby Urine

Scientists have detected cancer-causing chemicals associated with tobacco smoke in the urine of infants whose parents smoke.

The finding, detailed in the May issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, supports the idea that persistent exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke in childhood can contribute to the development of cancer later in life, said study team member Stephen Hecht of the Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota.

“The take home message is, ‘Don’t smoke around your kids,’” Hecht said.

The researchers collected urine from 144 infants, aged 3 months to 12 months, who lived in homes where at least one parent was a smoker. Urine from nearly half of the infants contained detectable levels of NNAL, a chemical byproduct produced in the human body when it processes NNK, a cancer-causing chemical, or carcinogen, found only in tobacco.

Full story at LiveScience

Posted in Parenting, Health, Smoking | No Comments »

27 Emilys

CNN reported that “for the 10th year running, Emily is the most popular name for infant girls in the United States, according to figures being released this Mother’s Day weekend from the Social Security Administration.” The most popular name for infant boys is Jacob.

This reminds me of my wife’s experience growing up. She was surrounded by girlfriends named Jennifer. She identifies well with Mike Doughty’s song, 27 Jennifers. Her best friend and most of her good friends were named Jennifer, and even when she went to college, some of her best friends were named Jennifer. Was she simply drawn towards girls named Jennifer, or did she not have a choice, because similar to how Emily will be, she was surrounded by them?

Emily and Jacob are obviously very fine names, even if they’re supposedly diluted in America. However, if you’re interested in finding a more unique name, I encourage you to do what my wife and I did and peruse’s Baby Names section. It has over 10,000 names to pick from.

Posted in Parenting, Pregnancy | No Comments »

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”

There are have been a few women in our history who personify strength and beauty with the same intensity.  Katherine Hepburn was one of them.  I don’t know many women who don’t hold her in highest esteem - she busted through a great many stereotypes and allowed women to forge their own paths and styles without question.  Today is her birthday and I think it is worth reflecting on her wonderful presence in our culture.

It’s the birthday of actress Katharine Hepburn, (books by this actor), born in Hartford, Connecticut (1907). She became a Hollywood star by not doing anything that Hollywood stars were supposed to do. Her looks were unconventional: she had red hair and freckles and sharp cheekbones. She didn’t wear make-up or dresses, she didn’t cooperate with the media, and she had a habit of insulting other people in the business. She played smart, sexy, independent women who were always able to get the guy in the end.

She won her first Oscar for her role in Morning Glory (1933). After that she hand-picked each of her movies, and she often had a say in who the other actors in the movie would be. Sometimes she rewrote her own lines, something almost no other actress would have dared to do at the time.

In 1991, Hepburn published her autobiography, titled Me, and it was a best-seller. She wrote about her twenty-seven-year affair with Spencer Tracy, her career, and life in her brownstone in the middle of Manhattan, where she lived for more than sixty years.

Posted in Lifestyles | No Comments »

The Best Way to Save Money is to Eat In

Get Rich Slowly brought attention to a helpful post on the Educating the Wheelers blog entitled, Lazy Person’s Guide to Eating More Meals at Home. They stated that “Cooking at home is an excellent way to save money. But if you’re accustomed to dining out for most meals, it can be a difficult transition. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help available on the web.”

The author advises that people making the transition from dining out to eating at home should:

  • Start small — Pick one day a week to make meals at home, or two, or three. Start with easy recipes.
  • Start with simple ingredients — Don’t make it complicated. Don’t be afraid to start with prepackaged foods. (One of my favorite meals has always been a can of chili. It always will be. I just bought a case of the stuff at Costco yesterday for 86-cents a can.)
  • Find a good source of recipes — Borrow some cookbooks from the library or from a friend. Find one you like. Learn to cook from it. Copy out your favorite recipes.
  • Use the Taco Bell approach — Learn to recombine a few basic ingredients into multiple tasty dishes.

Posted in Finance, Managing, Savings and Retirement | No Comments »

Mama’s Kitchen

I heard a wonderful piece on NPR today - it was called Hidden Kitchens.  Apparently it comes on every Friday (this was the first time I have caught it) and today it was featuring mothers and their kitchens.

I think that most of us grew up watching our mothers nurture us, heal us and teach us through food and the kitchen.  I did anyway.  The kitchen has always been my favorite room to be with others in.  It is the room that we are allowed to eat and laugh simulteaneously.  We can lean back in our chair and talk about our day over wine or coffee or hot tea.  We can feed our children - teach them about the flavors of the world and teach them about human interaction.  It has been a place, in my life, where I have always felt most at ease.  A kitchen is the soul of a home - which is why I think that mothers are so imbedded in the identity of them.

My mom, a lover of all things chocolate and sweet, prided herself on a cabinet full of decadent treats and a wooden pastry box full of home baked cakes and pastries.  We were the house that all the kids wanted to visit - because of the sweet kitchen my mom made.  I know a lot of houses were built on good, sturdy, traditional dishes from generations ago.  We have that too - several wonderful mexican dishes that I still cook for my kids and some (like home made corn tortillas) that  I have yet to brave.  But, in my mind, when I think about my mom’s kitchen, I think about sitting over a lovely piece of Monkey Bread (a truly 20th century southern delight that consists of biscuit dough, copius amounts of butter, pecans and cinnamon and sugar in the form of a bundt cake) talking with my mom about our day, the neighbors, our dreams and our disappointments.  It all revolved around the love of food and the love of cooking - and it all happened in the coziness of our kitchen. And, yes, it was the kitchen and the food, but mostly it was just mom and the fact that I knew I could always find her there, in that aromatic and warm den, waiting for me.

Posted in Daily Living, Healthy Eating | No Comments »

Romania Violates Rights of Infants and Children with Disabilities

romanian mental institutions
This story was too horrendous for me to not mention on I’m not sorry for showing this image of one of the abused children. This is a shocking story that everyone should know about. I encourage you to read the entire report, and to take some sort of action if you can.

Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), has found children with disabilities hidden and wasting away, near death, in Romania’s adult psychiatric facilities. A report released by MDRI, Hidden Suffering: Romania’s Segregation and Abuse of Infants and Children with Disabilities, describes teenagers weighing no more than 27 pounds. Some children are tied down with bedsheets, their arms and legs twisted and left to atrophy.

Despite Romanian government claims that it has ended the placement of babies in institutions, MDRI found infants languishing in a medical facility so poorly staffed that the children never leave their cribs. Many of these children have no identity papers. Officially, they do not exist.

These shocking revelations come at a time when Romania, in its effort to join the European Union (EU), is under pressure to reduce the number of children in institutions. Romanian officials admitted to MDRI that they had no idea how many children with disabilities are in adult facilities.

“We call on the government of Romania and the EU to put a stop to these abuses,” said Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of MDRI. “These are Romania’s most vulnerable citizens. The inhumane and degrading treatment that they are forced to endure is intolerable and violates international human rights law.”

Read the Full Report (PDF)

Posted in Child Abuse | 36 Comments »


It’s a lovely feeling when you find where you belong. I don’t know that it happens to everyone, but it has happened to me. For years I have wandered around, looking for a neighborhood that might suit me - never quite made a match. I was starting to feel a feeling reminiscent to high school - that feeling that persuades you to hide in an art studio for the entirety of your senior year, shutting out mostly everyone around you. That was how I was starting to feel about my living situation. “Well” I thought, “maybe I can just go move deep into the woods and forget that there is such a thing as civilization”. But, alas, it didn’t have to be so. I have found my place. A neighborhood where the people around me are just the kind of people I find great comfort in being around - the kind of people that, too, probably hid in an art room the last year of high school.

Belonging is important to us humans, no? I think I ignored that fact for a long time. I think a lot of people ignore that fact. I know a lot of people that don’t even give it much thought. But I think it really becomes part of who we are when we find ourselves belonging to a larger community of people whom we can relate and communicate with. Maybe it’s a realization I only came to through age, but I am finding now that it is essential to my greater happiness. We are, inherently, a communal species I think. I am glad that I finally realized this about myself, it was starting to get to be a grumpy road I was walking. It makes all the difference in the world to have lovely people on my path to talk to and to be around.

Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

The Long Sweet Goodbye

Today was moving day. Sigh. I have a tendency to romanticize everything, so bare with me.

I am sitting ina completely empty apartment. My kids are with my husband and I am here to collect the cat and the hamster. It is so quiet and clean. Two things that it seemed to never be when we lived here. And now, like all the other times in my life that I have packed it all up and moved on to different spaces, I am forced to feel all at once sad and calm. My daughter learned to walk and talk here. My son built animal habitats here. My husband and I made love and fought, with equal intensity, here. How weird that it will be someone else’s space in just a few weeks. People that have never met us. People that we will never meet. They will be in what was our home. Not just our apartment, but our home. A place that my family will look at in photos and talk about when we are older… “You remember that lovely apartment we lived in.. the one with the balcony looking out onto a busy city street.. the one when we were so young and struggling…” We won’t remeber the long walk up three flights of stairs with anything other than fondness. In time, we won’t remember the leaky pipes that would once a month flood our kitchen floor. We won’t remember the loud, sloppy neighbors.. We will only remember the pretty flowers that bloomed outside our bathroom window. And we will only remember watching the squirrels build their nests and have their babies off our balcony. We will only remember the dancing in the living room… I guess that’s the way it should be.

The move is official. Today was the day. On to a different chapter in our book. Here’s to moving on.

Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

Business is Business

I have learned a hard lesson. I have always wondered why people are hard nosed (and mean) when it comes to business. I never understood why - I always thought “well, geez, lighten up”. Now that I am dealing with sloppy ex-tenants/careless landlords and the contractors that we are paying to clean up their mess, I completely understand. If you don’t find a way to get the message across that you are not going to tolerate being taken advantage of, people will unfortunately walk all over you. I have been fighting this admission my whole life, but I am coming to find that it is (90% of the time) an accurate statement.

A few years ago, my very best friend adopted quite a tough minded mean streak. Through our teen years she was always the one sticking fun-yuns up her nose and doing cartwheels down the hall. She was as light of a personality as you could find. Then in her mid-twenties, she became very edgy and dealt with any money exchange manners in a way that I felt was, at the least, very counter to her personality. She was just downright mean - a ballbuster to the ‘enth degree. She came right out and said that it was because she was tired of being taken advantage of because she was nice. “Oh” I thought, “that is so horrible… You can still be nice and expect to be taken seriously”. What I am finding out is that what I was interpreting as her being a hardass was, indeed, just her being very clear and direct about what it was that she needed and what she expected and what she felt she deserved. It doesn, entirely, come across as difficult - but I am finding that it is necessary in this world to make sure that you aren’t getting steamrolled.

So, I am trying on my stern hat and (after the housecleaner left the house unmopped after I wrote her a check for $150 to scour the place from top to bottom) I am going to have to handle this move with utter directness. The days of me acting like a kid who doesn’t deserve to be given the same quality as a rich middle aged businessman are over. My money is as good as theirs and, quite frankly, is much more difficult to come by. Hopefully, though, I will find a way to marry my inherent consideration for others with my necessity for quality assurance. I have a feeling it will come off as smoothly as Goldie Hawn playing the role of an intelligent woman though - not very convincing. Wish me luck!

Posted in Communication, Communication, Daily Living | No Comments »

Frolicking with Five Year Olds….

I just spent the morning at my son’s school helping out with an animal project.  What fun!  I had no idea that being around ten to twelve five and six year olds could be so much fun!  They are so ripe - the things they say and the way they see the world is remarkable…  Their minds have such a freshness about them and, god, the way they look at you when they think you know something about the world is unbelievable..  And they do think you know something about the world… They have no idea that, as an adult, I am basically a failure at most things that are seen as typical “responsible” adult type behavior.  How amazing.

And it greatly eased my son’s anxiety about our move.  He has been displaying some ill effects from all the packing and stressful situations that come with it..  It was good to just get away and play for awhile.

Of course, in my normal habit of thinking everything is a sign for something larger, I know think that I want to teach kindergarten.  One day with them and I feel like I would be the best kindergarten teacher in the world.  But, I really do think it is something I would enjoy rather thoroughly.  You could make it so fun for them (and for you)….  Just a pipedream for now, I suppose.  But it was something that definately made my day.. Maybe I should just leave it at that.  Maybe not.

Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

<< Previous             More Entries >>