Friday, February 26, 2010

The male vs. female caregiver debate continues

I was honored to be on a panel at Bam! Radio recently with Ron McGuckin, an early education attorney, and educator Brian Nelson, who is the founding director of, to discuss whether parents should worry about male caregivers at the preschool level. To listen to the program, or to download it, click here to go to the station's website.

The discussion was sparked in part by a post I wrote for's Child Caring blog in which I asked, "Would you leave your child with a male caregiver?" Seventy readers weighed in with their opinions; click here to read (or join) that discussion!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A break in the routine, a boost for the spirits

While I was driving home from work a few Fridays ago, my husband called and suggested I meet him and the kids at a little local restaurant we used to love. Money is tight, so we rarely go out to eat now, but we've been in a bit of a rut lately and it seemed like just the kind of treat we all needed. The weariness of the long week seemed to fall away as I drove.

Usually on Fridays, my husband picks up the kids from school and I try and fail to get out of work at a halfway decent hour and end up racing home to make bedtime instead of dinner. The kids are happy to see me and the welcome is always warm, but I hate ending the week that way. But the day he called, we were ahead of schedule at work, and a last-minute family date felt like a reward.

Unfortunately, the restaurant had changed in the years since we'd been there last; the menu was smaller, the prices higher, the waitstaff less professional, and that great old bartender who knew our names and poured our pints the moment he saw us at the door was gone. But the kids were excited at the novelty of eating "some place fancy" (even though it's not fancy at all, but it's all in the perspective, I guess), and their excitement set the tone.

They tried something new (fish and chips, which garnered one "May I eat up your cheeseburger, Mama?" and one "I LOVE fish, can we have this at home ALL THE TIME? But without the crust?"). They waited as patiently as a a 5- and 3-year old could wait while hungry (and yes, our 3-year-old boy was very 3-year-old boyish by the end of the meal), and filled up on Sprite. But the break in our usual routine made a huge difference. So much so that when Sunday morning rolled around, my husband and I felt like we'd somehow gained an extra day.

Really, what we'd done was lost some end-of-the-week baggage. And the lighter load carried through the weekend.

Since then, I try to start the week by planning how we'll break that I'm-too-exhausted-to-think cycle. A fancy meal on a weekend night so the kids can keep challenging their palates? A mandatory grownup movie night at home on Fridays? Another family date out somewhere inexpensive, maybe just for dessert? To be honest, the money we spent at the restaurant could have been better spent in other ways too numerous to list here, but what we got out of it -- a bit of bonding, a bit of a break -- was priceless.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An interview with artist Rufus Butler Seder

Rufus Butler Seder, 56, is the artist behind the New York Times best-selling books Gallop!, Swing!, and Waddle!, which showcase his amazing Scanimation artwork. His books capture the charm and motion of classic flip-art books -- you know, the ones where you fan through the pages in order to see an image move across them -- but without having to actually flip the pages.

Based in Arlington, Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife, Penny, and their cats, Buddy and Scout, Seder started off as a filmmaker before deciding to figure out a way to create pictures that move without using motors or electricity. I was lucky enough to be able to interview him for an article in The Boston Globe Magazine late last year -- click here or on the picture at left read it. The techonology Seder created is complex and fascinating; here's a bit more about it, plus the part of the interview that didn't make it onto the Globe Magazine page:

Monday, February 22, 2010

All Voices: A roundup on Amy Bishop, the alleged Alabama shooter

At citizen journalism site, I've posted a roundup of the latest news on Alabama professor Amy Bishop, who opened fire during a biology department staff meeting two weeks ago, killing three of her colleauges and wounding three others.

Biology professor Amy Bishop, who allegedly opened fire at a department meeting at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, killing three colleagues and wounding three others, says now that she doesn't remember doing it. Her court-appointed lawyer, Roy W. Miller, says that Bishop is remorseful about last week's shootings, but she is likely insane and may in fact be a paranoid schizophrenic.

"She said, 'Do I still have a job out there?' She asked me that yesterday," Miller told the Associated Press. "She said, 'Do you know if I have a job? I assume they fired me. Did they fire me?'"

He said that the 45-year-old biology professor's failure to get tenure at the the University of Alabama in Huntsville was likely the reason for the shootings. Her $83,000-a-year job teaching biology was due to end this semester. Miller also said that Bishop, who has taught at the university since 2003 and holds a doctorate from Harvard University, may have been angry over being turned down by the less-prestigious school. ... [More]

Read the rest, and view the related footage, at

Monday, February 15, 2010

Want a positive response? Take a chance

I started working for my current company fresh out of college -- a rarity in my profession, so much so that the Dean of the school used to tell prospective parents about my new job, turning it into a selling point for students. At the time, I told people it was all luck and secretly chalked it up to equal parts hard work and good timing, but the truth is that I really owe my well-established career to my advisor.

I wasn't going to apply for the job, you see. I was too young, too inexperienced, I thought. They'd never take a chance on me.

But really, my advisor pointed out, I wasn't taking a chance on them.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Childhood obesity: More information isn't enough to solve the problem

This week, First Lady Michelle Obama launched "Let's Move," her intiative to end childhood obesity within a generation.

It's not about looks, she says. One out of three U.S. children are overweight or obese -- a rate that's three times higher than it was in 1980 -- and obese kids usually grow up to be obese adults, which means we could have a national health crisis on our hands. The U.S. currently spends about $140 billion a year on treating obesity-related illnesses like type II diabetes, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, and asthma.

After a run-in with her kids' pediatrician, during which the doctor pointed out that their "busy, hectic lifestyle" was causing her daughters' Body Mass Index (MBI) to rise, Mrs. Obama cut out the juiceboxes, eliminated a few fast-food meals, and made other small changes to their routine. The results, she told PBS's Jim Lehrer on Tuesday, were significant.

Which is great, but I think most of the nation would agree that Malia and Sasha weren't in danger of breaking any scales. But, for the most part, parents of the kids who are at risk aren't the ones paying attention to Mrs. Obama's plan.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Introducing: In the Parenthood!

My new column for the Boston Globe, "In the Parenthood," had its soft launch today, in the pages of our living/arts section (a.k.a. "g"). Starting sometime next month, it'll be live online at and in the printed edition as well.

The first installment is just in time for school vacation week, which starts Monday in Massachusetts. Here it is!

Plan more than just the route before your family road trip

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

A couple of months ago, my husband and I piled our youngest kids and the dog into the car and drove 1,500 miles to Florida to spend time with the rest of our blended family - our big kids, who were with their mom and stepdad.

That’s 1,500 miles each way.

I’ll be honest with you: I was really worried about the trip. I’m not big on camping, or on long drives, and knew that this trip would be a little of both. But kenneling the dog and flying the four of us there would cost more than a mortgage payment, so in
spite of my misgivings, driving seemed to be the best way to go.

The trip started ominously. Intended departure time: 4 a.m. Amended departure time: 10 a.m. Actual departure time: 1:51 p.m. Time of first “Are we there yet?’’:
1:57 p.m. ...

Read the rest online at (I offer up 5 tips for making it to your destination with your sanity mostly intact) or pick up a copy of today's Boston Globe. Got an idea that would be perfect for "In the Parenthood"? Drop me a line! WriteEditRepeat at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Study: Kids spend 53 hours a week online

How do kids manage to spend 53 hours a week -- or more -- online? Turns out that they multitask, too.

A new study by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shows that kids age 8 to 18 spend more than 53 hours a week online or in front of a TV screen. That's a little more than seven-and-a-half hours a day during which they're viewing or clicking away, not just at the computer, but on smartphones and video games as well.

And, thanks to cable modems and cell phones, kids can be texting with one hand and typing or playing games with another, so they're managing to cram nearly 11 hours worth of multimedia content into those seven-plus hours, according to the report, which was released in late January.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad: It was really about choice

Just a quick post to direct you over to The 36-Hour Day at Work It, Mom!, where I've written about my reaction to the controversial Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad that ran yesterday during the big game.

For the record, I'm pro choice. I think that once a government can mandate that you must carry a child to term, it's only a small step away from mandating that you can't -- China's One Child policy, for example, or India's massive forced sterilization campaign in 1976 and 1977. I also think that being "pro choice" isn't the same thing as being "pro abortion." In some places, being pro choice can mean fighting to have your baby. It can mean choosing to carry your child to term and giving him up for adoption. It can mean keeping your daughter instead of abandoning or aborting her. And, yes, in some cases, it can mean having to choose whether to save your own life by ending your pregnancy. That's what Tebow's mother, Pam, faced while pregnant with her fifth child. She chose not to abort. What if she didn't have that right to choose?

For me, the ad represented one woman's choice. I don't see the controversy or offensiveness in that.

I tuned in to the Super Bowl yesterday in order to root for, well, pretty much either team -- as my husband likes to say, I'm deeply ambivelent about football -- but also because I wanted to see the controversial ad featuring Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam.

I've held off on writing about it, so far. I wanted to see it first, in order to separate the ad itself from the controversey surrounding it. Some women's groups were calling on CBS to pull the ad, which news reports said featured a strong anti-abortion message and was paid for by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. Planned Parenthood preemptively launched an ad of its own on YouTube, before the Super Bowl, featuring atheletes talking about the importance of trusting women to make their own decisions.

So I settled in, ready to be riled up. ...

(Read the rest at The 36-Hour Day.)

Photo: The Associated Press

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lancet officially retracts study linking autism to MMR vaccine

There's been news on the autism front, and I'm over at's Child Caring blog with the latest:

On Tuesday, editors at The Lancet officially retracted the British medical journal's 12-year-old study that they say incorrectly linked the combination Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism.

The retraction of the 1998 study comes less than a week after the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom chastised the Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his co-authors for acting "dishonestly and irresponsibly" in doing his research for the study, which claimed that eight out of 12 children who received the MMR vaccine began showing symptoms of autism within days of getting the shot.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What's "leisure time"? Does my commute count?

I read an article in the Washington Post recently, in which Brigid Schulte talks to experts and tries to figure out where her time goes, while I was at the office, waiting for a story to be submitted. According to sociologist John Robinson, that was leisure time, even though I was at my desk. "Women have time," he told Schulte. "Women have at least 30 hours of leisure every week. In fact, women have more leisure now than they did in the 1960s, even though more women are working outside the home."

I guess it all depends on how you define "leisure." Robinson says the time I spend alone in my car is leisure time. I say that focusing on the road and trying to beat the daycare clock is not leisurly at all. He'd classify the time I spent gathering background information for this and other articles as leisure; I call it "part of my job." Also: It's worth noting that, per Robinson's calculations, of the 28 hours of so-called leisure time he cobbled together from notes about Schulte's day-to-day juggle, 18 of them were spent with kids in tow (even the two hours she spent in her broken-down car with her daughter, waiting for a tow truck -- leisure).

Monday, February 1, 2010

5 ways to boost your energy levels

So, I thought as I woke up to another pitch-black New England morning that gradually lightened to a dingy gray. This is what they mean by the dead of winter.

The lack of sunlight affects my motivation, my mood, and my energy levels. I'm on mega doses of several vitamins now -- a "let's see if this helps" effort stemming from that cancer concern from late last year -- which helps a bit but, even so, it's hard to get going, some days.

Like today, for instance.

So, what do you do when your to-do list is a mile long and your energy seems to be tapped out after you've exerted yourself getting dressed in the morning? I mean after I've -- I mean you've -- knocked back those three cups a coffee?