Putting the God in godmother

Posted by Erica Noonan November 17, 2010 11:18 AM

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I was absolutely thrilled to stand up as godmother to my favorite 3-month-old baby boy last Sunday.

I wore a new sweater and a nervous grin. The little guy wore a cute white satin suit, bulgy diaper and a headful of pine-scented oil.

We all lined up in the third pew of the church where his father was baptized, and pledged the baby's fealty to a religion I don't practice. Everyone solemnly promised God, the priest and the baby's parents to help him be a good Catholic.

I realize this is an assignment that most people seem to view as largely symbolic these days. Nevertheless, it was a sacrament.

So basically, if something happens to my friends, it would be my duty to ensure this baby was raised in his own faith.

This might have me trucking my godbaby to CCD classes and Mass on the same days I am hauling my own kids to their own, very different, religious education programs, in a very wacky interfaith carpool with FOX-TV sitcom potential.

(In this scenario, let us all pray my godson does not also wish to play hockey. Going to Mass on Sundays is one thing, 5 a.m. every morning in a cold skating rink is quite another.)

I'm pretty sure my services won't be needed -- the next time I go to Mass with my godbaby will probably be for his First Communion. This godmother gig is probably about cool birthday gifts, not spritiual awakening.

But like I told God last Sunday, I'm ready. Just in case.

The holiday season is coming up. Are you responsible for the religious education of any children other than your own? How do you manage interfaith relationships with the children (and their parents) in your life? Tell us!

Leave us a comment or send an email to enoonan@globe.com. And please follow us on twitter

Moms, dads, and the ballot box

Posted by Erica Noonan November 2, 2010 09:15 AM

Today is Election Day, and I saw several parents at the ballot box imparting on-the-fly civics lessons.

One well-meaning parent was even rattling on about redistricting to an 8-year-old.

The kids appeared to range from bored to bemused -- basically they were thrilled to get to hang out with mom or dad for the morning and get a donut for good behavior.

I'd bet the glory of democracy was lost on the under-10 set, but at least they are getting the idea that voting is Something We Do regularly and with gusto, like nightly teeth brushing, or singing at top volume when AC/DC's "All Night Long" comes on the car radio.

I started to wonder if the 'parent vote' would be much of a factor in today's races.

Being a voting mom or dad is always a double-edged sword. Someone is always the education candidate or the public safety candidate.

As a parent, that seems to translate into the question of do we want kids to have more resources in school, but get mugged when they walk out the door? Or the other way 'round?

But here in Massachusetts, I see Question 1 -- whether to repeal the 6.25% liquor tax, as being very parent-oriented. Ask yourself, do you drink more since you had kids, or less?

Question 3, which would slash Massachusetts sales tax by 3%, seems to qualify as well.

Parents certainly buy a lot of stuff, and lower sales tax would make it easier to do so. But is that really so great if it comes at the expense of public services, like education and town sports?

In terms of governor, attorney general, sheriff and everyone else, the races left me voting in line with my basic nature as a person, worker and homeowner.

Kids or no kids, my core beliefs about who should hold office haven't changed that much over the years. Have yours?

Did being a parent affect how you voted today? Why or why not?

Leave us a comment, or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com And please follow Moms Are Talking About on twitter

Liberty and security (and what do we tell the kids?)

Posted by Erica Noonan October 21, 2010 11:18 AM

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For his sixth birthday, Dennis asked for a trip to see the Statue of Liberty.

He'd studied the statue in school and become fascinated with its purpose, which as he understood it, was "to welcome people."

But when one of our best friends had a baby recently, he asked why Lady Liberty did not appear at the hospital to herald the arrival of baby Jack.

So to clear up the issue, and because when your sweet little boy -- who mostly traffics in fart jokes and computer games -- asks to do something so darned patriotic and wholesome it brings tears to your jaded eyes, you kinda have to do it.

Last Saturday, he and I went to New York City, as enrollees in Keefe Tech's daylong Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island bus trip. (I highly recommend this trip for anyone who'd like to avoid the driving and much of the line-standing with the huddled masses yearning to get tickets.)

Dennis loved the statue, the pretzels, and the buzz of being in the city. Even at age 6, he was reveling in that amazing feeling of New Yorkness, which I hope he enjoys for the rest of his life.

He didn't like the lengthy security stops necessary to get onto the ferry and Liberty Island. He was afraid of the guards, the X-ray machines, and the constant buzzing and stopping and searching.

"They just want to keep everyone safe," I told him. "You don't need to be scared." He looked unconvinced.

Back at Battery Park we had time to kill, but I decided against taking the walk up the street to Ground Zero. He's just too young, I thought.

So we bought hot chocolate, napped on a bench, and chased pigeons for awhile.

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But on our way out of the city, the bus driver announced we would make a special trip past the WTC Memorial site.

Dennis was deep into his Nintendo by the time we turned up Church Street, but I made him shut it off.

"Look, I need to tell you something," I said. "The security stuff at the Statue of Liberty is because something bad happened here a long time ago."

I looked at me with big eyes. "Have you heard of September 11th?" I asked.

He nodded. "That was the day that two big buildings over there exploded," I said, tapping the bus window.

He stared out the window, past the signs and anti-mosque demonstrators. "Were people in the buildings?" he asked.

"Yes, a lot of people were."

"Did they get out?"

"Some people got out. Some people couldn't get out," I told him.

The bus pulled away, heading for the highway and home. Dennis drifted off to sleep.

I felt equal parts relieved and unsettled. He'd gotten more of an education than I'd planned.

How do you explain weapons checks and security stops to your kids? Are they scared of them? How should we explain September 11th to young children?

Leave a comment, or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com And please follow Moms Are Talking About on twitter.

Lions and tigers and protesters: Is it wrong to enjoy the circus?

Posted by Erica Noonan October 12, 2010 10:20 AM


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We went to circus this weekend. So did a bunch of animal rights protesters.

About two dozen were on the sidewalk outside the DCU Center in Worcester on Saturday, as families with small children arrived for the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey show, which comes to the TD Garden in Boston this Wednesday.

I stopped to chat with a few of them -- including a member of the Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition -- who told me her group wants circuses to stop using animals entirely.

(Some of the protesters I met don't care much for zoos either, but their major beef -- no pun intended -- seemed to be with traveling circuses, where animals are forced to perform and confined for many hours per day.)

Ringling Bros. is clearly sensitive to the criticism -- it now hosts an hourlong pre-show where families can visit the animals and their trainers close up, ask questions, and take pictures. In 1995, the company built a 200-acre elephant sanctuary and study center in Florda.

Circus officials say the animals are treated well, live decades longer on average than in the wild, and receive quality food, affection and medical care. They say environmental degredation and black market poaching are a far greater threat to the survival of endangered Asian and African elephants than any circus.

They think animal rights protesters should apply pressure on governments overseas to protect exotic animals, not disrupt local circuses bringing joy to kids and employing humans during a recession.

Adult disputes aside, my kids -- ages 4 and 6 -- were unequivocal about the circus: they loved it.

They were positively entranced and found it as magical as I did, back in 1979, at the old Boston Garden. (I have to admit, aside from the protestors, the sexy Cirque de Soleil-style acrobats, and the shockingly-priced $9 lemonades, the show hadn't really changed much.)

Driving home, the kids made me promise to take them again next year, and talked incessantly about how cool the elephants and tigers were.

I have to wonder, is there any redeeming good in providing a venue for kids to see and fall in love with these animals? How else would a Boston-born kid see exotic creatures like big cats and elephants without a trip to a zoo or circus?

I'm not suggesting we sacrifice the welfare of animals to educate kids.

But since circuses and zoos are already here -- and are likely to be for many years to come -- shouldn't we use them as educational tools? Or must animal lovers boycott the circus?

What do you think? Leave a comment, or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com And please follow Moms Are Talking About on twitter by clicking here

Does the new Massachusetts child-ATV ban go too far?

Posted by Erica Noonan October 4, 2010 09:54 AM

With all eyes on the no-texting-while-driving ban (and for teens, no cell phone use at all) that passed last week, few of us even noticed another major piece of kid safety legislation that became effective Oct. 1.

In what is being called the toughest law in the country, kids under 14 are now banned from operating all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, in Massachusetts.

The new law was spurred on by the family of 8-year-old Sean Kearney of Plymouth, who was killed four years ago while riding on an ATV driven by a young playmate.

The Kearneys had no idea Sean would be near an ATV -- machines that can weight between 500 and 1,000 pounds -- when they dropped him off that day at a friend's house in October 2006.

Since his death, they have become outspoken advocates for ATV child safety restrictions.

"Sean's Law," as it came to be called, was warmly welcomed by by the Boston medical community.

About 1,000 children are treated every year in Massachusetts ERs for ATV-related injuries, said Dr. Peter T. Masiakos, a Massachusetts General Hospital pediatric surgeon who has seen (and repaired) the kinds of child-meets-ATV injuries that would make your hair curl.

He and Dr. Lois Lee, of Children's Hospital Boston, both advocates for the new law, contend that that children of the Commonwealth are significantly safer on the sidelines than on an ATV.

When a similar ban was passed in Canada, ATV-related ER visits decreased by 50%, they said. Helmets and pads are just not enough protection for a child on such a powerful machine, they said.

"Some critics have relegated the 2010 legislative session to the annals of political inaction, with many pointing to the failure of the legislature to pass comprehensive health care cost control legislation," they told Moms Are Talking About last week.

"But when it comes to preventing injury to children, our political leaders have enacted legislation that will not only save lives and prevent avoidable injuries, but will also reduce the costs of unnecessary heath care," the doctors said.

Certainly not everyone agrees with the new ATV kid ban. Some parents say it should be a family's choice to judge whether their kid can handle it. The ATV industry argues that better safety training and supervision for kids would prevent injuries, and a ban was not necessary. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

What do you think? Is it wise to ban kids under 14 from ATVs, or does Massachusetts go too far on this one? Leave a comment, or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com And please follow Moms Are Talking About on twitter here.

Breaking silence (and wind)

Posted by Erica Noonan September 19, 2010 09:24 PM


Thanks to everyone who offered such good advice on getting some details out of Dennis about his first few weeks of kindergarten.

I tried many of your ideas, like asking about his favorite part of the day and chatting up the other parents.

But the Moms Are Talking About award has to go to genius reader jstarr who offered this pearl of wisdom:

"I break the ice with goofy questions - what was the funniest thing that happened today? Who got in trouble today? Who had the best/worst snack or lunch? Did anybody f@rt or burp or cry (they just love bodily functions). Once you have "back to school night" you should have more insight from the teacher on the day's schedule and then you can know what to ask - who got to be line leader? Attendance taker?..."

Oh, whoa, wait a sec, jstarr! You had us at f@rt.

What a brilliant conversational device for the under-6 set! I tried it with Dennis, and got a hilarious rendition of who did, well, exactly that.

According to Dennis, kindergarten is a profoundly flatulent place. The kids, the teachers, the principal, even the classroom guinea pig -- all in desperate need of Beano.

And the bus! A methane mobile!

This gaseous line of inquiry produced hours of giggling, and raspberry-style sound effects that lasted, unfortunately, all the way through dinnertime.

But embedded within the laugh/f@rt track, were a few new names of kids in his class, and the revelation that they'd all made their first visit to the library. (Side note: f@rting in the school library apparently also a serious problem. I hope those poor librarians have a fan.)

So, I'm calling that one a win. Thanks to everyone for the advice, especially jstarr.

Any more thoughts about how to get your kids to (willingly) chat about their school day? Leave a comment, or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com And follow us on twitter at @ericanoonan

School news blackout: when your kid goes mum with Mom?

Posted by Erica Noonan September 8, 2010 11:37 AM

Now that the melodrama of entering kindergarten is behind us, I was looking forward to reconnecting after school with Dennis over milk, cookies and long, detailed chats about his day.

I fantasized that he'd happily describe his teacher, his classmates, what he did at recess, what books he was reading, what they were learning about, what the other kids wear, eat and do. His favorite new games. That kind of stuff.

Ha! What was I thinking?

Three days into the school year, and I have been able to get details on just one aspect of his day: Lunch. (Chicken nuggets and chocolate milk. It was good.)

I cannot get the sparsest of details on anything else, including how he spends a full six hours in school.

Keep in mind that I have some -- no, make that lots -- of experience with unwilling interview subjects. My JOB is to ask intrusive questions nobody wants to answer.

But I have dragged more true confessions out of indicted embezzlers and accused sex offenders than from Dennis these past few days. He's a veritable Alcatraz of information.

I'd be more concerned if my friends with boys weren't having similar news blackouts at their houses.

On the other hand, the little girls his age spend six hours in school and six hours at night rehashing every single detail of the day. (This can get a bit tedious, one mom admitted.) My young man could give a Secret Service agent a run for his money.

At least the little boys seem pleased to go to kindergarten in the morning. I get a kiss and a wave as Dennis happily dashes away into the black hole, er, school building.

Going forward, how do I get the 411 on what this kid is doing all day?

Experienced parents -- please share your ninja interrogation techniques to make my kindergartener spill his guts! Will this get better as he gets older? Leave a comment below, or drop me an email at enoonan@globe.com

First Day of Kindergarten: Saying goodbye

Posted by Erica Noonan September 1, 2010 10:23 AM

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(Heading into kindergarten, blowing mom a kiss goodbye.)

I was not the only parent to show up too early, pace around nervously and get tearful when our babies all lined up and trooped happily into the first day of their academic careers.

Afterwards, all the new kindergarten parents stood there on the blacktop awkwardly for a second. Nobody seemed quite sure what to feel, except a little empty and lost.

We all know that the kid who comes back out these doors in a few hours might look the same, but will be forever different.

Before he walked away with his teacher, Dennis, looking rather more concerned for my emotional well-being than his own, said, "Mom, I'm not scared. Not even a little."

Well, good. That makes one of us.

Missing your voices

Posted by Erica Noonan August 24, 2010 11:50 AM

You have probably noticed that over the past several weeks the lengthy, thoughtful, often maddening, but always valuable, comment chains under our most controversial postings have disappeared.

This is because we recently switched over to a new comment moderating software.

The good news is that going forward, your comments will be posted more quickly. But this means that more than 1,000 archived comments cannot be displayed under the new system. (They aren't gone forever, but the tech people tell me they can't be imported right now.)

This about broke my heart because your comments are the best part of this blog, and I feel terrible for leaving the faithful fans who continued to post for months afterwards on issues like letting a male nurse deliver your baby, should kids ride on ATVs?, and why don't the breastfeeding activists just give it a rest?, not to mention our other mom-provoking greatest hits, with a creepily clean slate.

All I can say is that I'll keep writing, and I hope you do too.

Soon, I hope, we'll have as many vibrant comments chains under the new entries as we did under the old ones

Thanks, as always, for reading and contibuting to Moms Are Talking About.

- Erica

New back-to-school clothes: environmentally irresponsible?

Posted by Erica Noonan August 18, 2010 03:48 PM

Most of us have the green back-to-school vibe going by now.

We got the BPA-free water bottles and the reusable lunch sacks and the organic Trapper Keepers.* The kids are ready to recycle their homework and compost their art projects. We have been sternly warned not to let our engines idle while waiting in the pick-up line on a rainy day.

But the newest green frontier is truly a sacred cow -- and I don't mean hemp-colored vegan Crayolas. Environmentalists have set their sights on the traditional back-to-school wardrobe.

A new movement of clothing swappers are saying that that to be a truly green family, you gotta go used.

The stigma of used clothing is fading away, says thredUP co-founder James Reinhart. His Cambridge-based company is a web-based children's clothes swapping system -- you pay a small fee and trade a box of your child's (clean and washed) outgrown clothes for a box from someone else. Users rate each other ebay-style, and the company insists you only swap stuff in good condition.

It's not only a bargain to swap clothes, when kids outgrow them every six months, but its fast becoming chic, he said.

Really? When I was a kid, you couldn't have pried my (new) Esprit, Ton sur Ton, and Guess duds out of my shallow fifth-grade hands.

But that was the wasteful 80s, when labels were a must-have status symbol. Are today's kids so much different?

It appears so, and clearly their parents are, said Reinhart.

"We are in the midst of a powerful consumer shift - increasingly, eco-consciousness is in," he told Moms Are Talking About recently.

"The hesitation around the used clothing industry has rapidly begun to dissolve - not only because it's an affordable option, but also because it's environmentally responsible," he said.

"Parents who otherwise wouldn't go the "gently used" kids clothing
route, are starting to reconsider. It's the green angle that has parents thinking swapping above all else, and we're thrilled to be at the forefront of this consumer shift."

The past month has brought nearly 100 new customers to thredUP per day, he said.

"They are excited to push back against the "buy, buy, buy" mentality of marketers during this season, and swap with other environmentally conscious families across the country," Reinhart said.

What do you think? Would your kids consider used clothes for their back-to-school wardrobe? Do you think buying a brand-new clothes for growing children is environmentally irresponsible? Leave a comment and tell us what you think, and follow Moms Are Talking About on twitter at @ericanoonan

* P.S. Just kidding about the organic Trapper Keeper. There is no such thing.

The Happiness Project (in 168 Hours)

Posted by Erica Noonan August 6, 2010 08:23 PM

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(Photo from left: Marisa Thalberg of Executive Moms, "168 Hours" author Laura Vanderkam, and "The Happiness Project" author Gretchen Rubin hanging out at BlogHer 2010 on Friday afernoon)


NEW YORK CITY -- There's nothing cooler than meeting people whose work you admire, and today at BlogHer 2010, just standing in a hallway like mere mortals or something, were of two of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin and Laura Vanderkam. (And, as it turns out, they were totally nice and friendly women, so it's impossible to hate them for being so successful.)

Gretchen Rubin has the New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project, and Laura Vanderkam just published 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

The Happiness Project, if you haven't read it, is a great step-by-step approach to thoughtfully considering your life. And 168 Hours examines the semi-revolutionary idea that we crazed moms actually have lots more time in a week than we think -- 168 hours to be exact.

It's where we spend it that shows what we really value in life. When we don't make time for something (working out, calling the in-laws, cleaning the house, baking bread, reading a bedtime story to the kids, etc.) it is because we have not made it a priority.

Saying we want to do something is not the same as ACTUALLY wanting to do something. And it's perfectly OK, she writes, to just accept that housecleaning or bedtime reading is just not a priority because some other, more important things are.

So stop feeling guilty already, and spend your time as you wish, not as you wish you wished.

Rubin and Vanderkam's books are often categorized under self-help, which can be a real turnoff for some people, so we all agreed the genre should really be called "self-helpful." Check 'em out if you haven't already.

(In case you are wondering, BlogHer is the nation's largest network of women bloggers, and its annual conference is in New York City this week.)

A friend -- a very egalitarian-minded guy --- asked me what gives with the whole Sisterhood of the Traveling Bloggers thing. Why do we need a special estrogen-based group? Why isn't there a BlogHIM? he asked.

Heck, Tim, I said. The whole darn Internet is BlogHim.

But he does have a point. Today, I was looking around wondering what the conference would be like as a mixed-gender gathering. (Men are actually quite welcome at BlogHer, they are just pretty scarce, so it's reasonable to call this a Girl Thing.)

It's kind of like working out at a women-only gym -- women are just more relaxed when guys aren't around. Maybe that isn't fair or progressive, but it seems to be true.

Would I have gone running up to Gretchen and Laura like they were long-lost sorority sisters if we'd been surrounded by a bunch of guys in suits and ties? Probably not.

Have you read The Happiness Project or 168 Hours? What did you think? Do you have any questions for authors Gretchen Rubin or Laura Vanderkamp? Leave a comment here, or follow me on twitter @ericanoonan

Protecting your kids from ID theft

Posted by Erica Noonan July 22, 2010 11:19 AM

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I like to think my capacity for worrying about stuff runs deep and wide.

But here's something I had never thought to be afraid of: child identity theft.

That's right. As if we needed one more thing to keep us awake at night, identity theft targeting children is on the rise.

The problem is that it can go unnoticed for years, until the child applies for their first part-time job or college loan, according to Adam Levin, co-founder of the Arizona-based security company Identity Theft 911.

Child ID theft is still only about 5 percent of the ever-booming business of ripping off the personal information of adults, said Levin.

At least 20 percent of child-centered fraud is perpetrated by someone in the child's life --a parent or relative will use a child's name and social security number to get additional credit cards in an attempt to keep family finances afloat, he said. Sometimes the theft is for less noble reasons, to support a gambling or substance abuse problem.

Levin offered Moms Are Talking About some tips on keeping a kid's credit safe until they turn 18, and are legally able to mess it up on their own:

-- When you check your own credit (this can be done for free annually through any of the big three credit agencies), ask to check your child's as well. Don't ask a friend in the mortgage or car loan business to do this for you, the inquiry could create a file on your child's number that doesn't need to exist, and just makes them more of a victim for fraud.

-- If a school program requests a copy of your child's birth certificate or other personal ID info, ask where the forms will be stored and who will have access to it. Ask if the forms can be returned to you after the program is over.

-- Beware of scams in medical settings. The newest type of fraud involves rings of identity thieves working in medical offices and hospitals smuggling out along confidential patient ID information, Levin said.

-- When your teenager is begging to apply for their first job, don't hand over their social security card without a heart-to-heart chat. Explain why the information has to be protected, and why they should never share or post it on social networking sites for any reason.

Do you regularly check your child's credit? What precautions do you take to prevent identity theft in your family? Leave a comment or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com

(Citizen baby photo from AMW Safety Center)

Cheers to that: Buying birth year wines for kids

Posted by Erica Noonan July 14, 2010 09:53 AM

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Check out this entry from one of my favorite wine blogs, Vinography, which discusses how and why you should choose wines from your child's birth year to lay down and enjoy together when he/she turns 21 (or at least gets out of diapers.)

This is an option available for all of us who like wine, and would like to start a little cellar in the cellar, but don't have much free cash or wine know-how.

Editor and founder Alder Yarrow writes:

At two years old, my daughter is already pronouncing her judgement on wines. She does this in one of two ways. She either takes a long sniff in the glass, or she puts her finger into the neck of the bottle, twirls it around and then sticks it in her mouth while putting on a thoughtful expression. Her assessments currently consist of "dis one good" or "no like." Which means she already knows most of what she needs to be a competent wine drinker.

As you might expect, I have a fantasy of opening some great bottles to share with her when she officially turns 21. She will, of course, be drinking wine long before that in the security of our home and with our supervision. But my hope is that by the time she's 21, she will not only be interested in drinking wine, but be able to tell the really good stuff from all the rest.

Which is why I'm about to start buying some "birth year" wine for her. She was born in 2008, and some of those wines are starting to hit the market now, especially the whites and the Pinot Noirs.

The question, though, is what to buy?

Until the day care bills stop, I can't afford much, but some reasonably priced 2004 and 2006 vintages, probably aren't out of the question. (Anyone have any suggestions?)

Vineography commenters make some good points: get something you like to drink because your kid may grow up to hate wine; 20 years of storage can damage a bottle, so be ready for the uncorking to be a bust; and for heaven's sake, try not to open the bottle prematurely when your child drives you bonkers.

All in all, it sounds like a nice tradition to get started.

Did you buy a special bottle from your child's birth year? Which vintage did you choose? Did your parents do the same? Leave us a comment, or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com

(And don't forget to read the rest of Yarrow's entry here)


Learning to like bikes (or at least not hate them...)

Posted by Erica Noonan June 21, 2010 10:24 AM

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That's what I love about Boston.com Moms Nation -- you are Greek chorus, peanut gallery, choir of angels and firing squad all at once.

Thank you for the 80-plus, not-always-polite comments about whether bike riding is really an essential life skill for kids.

Your consensus was overwhelmingly that it is.

So I'm coming around to the idea that my kids should go to a bike safety class.

And yeah, if they love bike riding, I will schlep them out to bike paths to practice, even if it's not my favorite thing in the world. (I'm still not sold on kids sharing the road with cars.)

The most compelling pro-bike arguments came from commenters who said cycling is still an important social activity, and in many parts of the world, still a primary form of transport.

I had trouble following the reasoning of people who felt bike riding was as vital a life-saving skill as swimming. Learning to swim might keep you from drowning. But learning to ride a bike only increases the chances you'll be in a cycling accident.

I also differ with commenters who declared I was Everything That's Wrong With America and/or single-handedly encouraging childhood obesity.

Oh please. There are a million other activities kids can do to stay fit and active.

Of all the powerful emotions expressed about bike riding, I was most moved by the lovely stories of special childhood memories from the Bikes=Independence crowd.

But sadly, most local kids younger than 10 or 11 just don't take off on their bikes for hours at a time. Blame it on overprotective parents, or just the general decline of outdoor free time.

Sure older kids have more freedom, but with so much going on in their lives, do they really head off into the wild blue yonder so much anymore?

(We didn't even take off for hours on a bike when I was a kid in Wellesley in the 1970s and 80s. My father says he did, in Watertown in the 1950s, but that was a long time ago.)

Not to be a total bummer, but the beautiful, nostalgic notion of a kid, his bike, and the wind at his back -- isn't this a parental fantasy? Shouldn't we temper it with a 2010 reality?

Readers, do we still live in a world when kids can (and should) just take off on their bikes to explore? Do you allow this? Please leave a comment, or drop me an email at enoonan@globe.com

The no-bike zone: do we have to teach kids to ride bikes?

Posted by Erica Noonan June 10, 2010 12:32 PM

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(Boston: Not an E.T.-in-the-bike-basket kind of town?)

How emotionally damaged will my kids be if I never teach them to ride a bike?

Yes, yes, I know it's that time of year. Cue the springy Saturday morning with the proud mom and dad giving the madly grinning kid a shove and a wave as he pedals away for the first time.

If suburban life was a movie, this would be the opening scene.

Except at my house, a no-bike zone that borders a busy road.

It's not for a shortage of bikes. The well-meaning grandparents have picked up several second hand. There is a constant stream of biking families out the window pulling kids in trailers with the cheerful little safety flags.

Those happy scenes give me the chills. I know too many veterans of bike accidents who had head injuries and required cosmetic surgery. I knew a teenager who was killed on his bike. I have covered too many stories of young adults getting mowed over by trucks while biking to work.

For the nostalgic types out there, I have to point out that cars are way bigger than when we were kids. Every day here in the suburbs, I see some jerk on a cell phone piloting a monstrous SUV nearly hit a pedestrian out of carelessness.

Greater Boston is just not a-kid-with-E.T.-in-his-bike-basket kind of place.

I don't need a therapist to tell me that this is probably more about being afraid of the unknown than an actual dislike for cycling. And I don't need Lenore Skenazy and the Free Range Kids Movement to tell me I shouldn't "protect" my kids by denying them simple, free and healthy pleasures.

But can't we just skip the bicycle? I'll teach them to ski, ice skate, swim, rockclimb, even scuba dive. Isn't that enough?

Do you think teaching kids to ride bikes is a must-do for parents? Is it really such a fundamental life skill? Have you had any regrets about letting -- or not letting -- your kids learn to ride a bike? Leave us a comment or email me at enoonan@globe.com

Not too late to help! Bone marrow drive at NU for Brookline girl on Thursday

Posted by Erica Noonan May 26, 2010 06:58 PM
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So many kind people spread the word about Devan Tatlow, the Washington DC toddler who needs a bone marrow match.

His story was picked up by media outlets around the world and Twittered by celebrities like Demi Moore and Lance Armstrong. (Paris Hilton, I never thought I'd be saying this, but you just won big brownie points from Boston.com Moms Nation.)

The fabulous news? Devan now has a partial provisional cord blood match!

But there's someone else, a 9-year-old living just a few miles away in Brookline. Her name is Sarah, and she and her parents also thought they had chldhood leukemia beat.

She was cancer-free for six years until it came back several months ago, and the first round of chemo hasn't worked.

Like Devan, she needs a match -- fast. Her best chance is most likely a donor of Jewish ancestry, but her family and friends are hoping anyone and everyone will stop in and get their cheek swabbed at Northeastern University's Curry Student Center on Thursday, May 27 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

It's at 360 Huntington Ave., right on the MBTA's E green line train. The swab is quick, painless and free -- all insurance plans cover it.

If you aren't Sarah's match, you might be the answer to some other family's prayers. And, like Paris Hilton, you get big brownie points from Boston.com Moms Nation. What more could anyone ask for?

Thank you.

And that's why the lady wants a tramp(oline)

Posted by Erica Noonan May 21, 2010 08:25 AM

To bounce or not to bounce?

My in-laws generously offered to get us one of those backyard trampolines -- the kind with the side netting panels -- for some summer recreation.

We have the room in the yard, and they look like a lot of fun. Lots of families out here in the 'burbs have them.

I casually mentioned this to my neighbor, whose six-year-old twins often come over to play. (It should be mentioned that she is in her second year of medical school, and sees lots of scary stuff on a daily basis.)

Well, you'd think I'd just announced plans to build a rifle range or a Superfund site in the backyard.

She turned positively pale. Kids get hurt on them all the time, she said. Back injuries. Neck injuries. Bad stuff, she said.

Even with all that protective netting? I said. Yep, she said.

That gave me pause, so I did a little bit of internet research. Yes, kids have been hurt, but the newer trampolines are also a lot safer.

But some parents mentioned something I hadn't even thought about -- needing more homeowners insurance. Like a swimming pool or a pit bull, trampolines are considered an extra risk by some companies.

Readers, am I being too cautious here? Can't kids get hurt doing just about anything, so are trampolines really so bad?

Do you have a backyard trampoline, or would you consider getting one? Tell us what you think! Leave a comment or email me at enoonan@globe.com

South Asian-American moms and dads, can your bone marrow help Devan?

Posted by Erica Noonan May 13, 2010 10:12 AM

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(Devan Tatlow, age 4. He needs a bone marrow match.)

Whatever daily annoyances we suffer over here at Moms Are Talking About, I am pretty sure none of us will have as difficult a mothering day today as Indira Lakshmanan.

Indira is a former Globe foreign correspondent and mom of cute, smiley 4-year-old Devan Tatlow.

Devan has been fighting leukemia most of his young life. His parents thought he beat it in 2008, but last month it returned with a fury.

Devan needs a bone marrow transplant from a donor whom they have not yet found. Doctors say chances for a match are only 1-in-200,000. They are asking anyone -- friends, strangers, readers -- for help.

Devan's best chance is with a donor, who like him, has a South Asian/Indian and European/Caucasian background, although it's possible a good match could be found among any ethnic group.

The test involves a swab to the cheek -- nothing intrusive or painful -- to get on the US registry, which will not share information about you with other agencies or companies.

I did this about five years ago for a Natick bone marrow registry drive, but have never been called. It was so easy to do, and I love the idea that my bone marrow could be the answer to another mom's prayers.

So if you can help, or know someone who can, please check out Devan's site, matchdevan.com for more details on how to mail away for a kit. There is a donor drive in Randolph at The May Institute, 41 Pacella Drive, from 1 to 5 p.m. today (Friday, 5/14), if you can get over there. Devan and his family need a miracle quickly.

Thank you.

A cure for diaper fatigue?

Posted by Erica Noonan May 7, 2010 03:36 PM

I could smack myself upside the head for every time I clucked at some stressed-out mom struggling with toilet training.

"Oh just relax. They'll do it when they're ready," was my well-broadcast mantra. Mostly because I relaxed, and Dennis did it when he was ready. Must be a foolproof plan, right?

But Lila hasn't read the memo.

And that's not because she can't read, or write, or solve simple algebraic equations. At age 3 years 7 months, she can do plenty of things, except use the potty.

Scratch that. She WON'T use the potty.

For the past year, I've had plenty of excuses for this too -- she's afraid of plumbing, it's a control/power thing, she's too little to feel secure on the seat. Blah, blah, blah.

Covertly, I was already dabbling in bribery -- M&Ms, ballet lessons, you name it. I even brought home a pink nail polish set. When Lila poops, her nails get pained pink! She clapped with glee at the prospect, but no potty action.

Last night, I just plain hit the wall. The wall of diapers. The nasty crunching sound of the Diaper Genie haunts my dreams. It's time for a change, and not of the Pampers variety.

Readers, please help me out. I need your advice. How do I potty train this child -- immediately? Share your ninja potty secrets in the comment section, or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com

IVF Lit for Kids: Cool or TMI?

Posted by Erica Noonan April 19, 2010 01:07 PM

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They had me at "sperm."

Finally, a new children's book that explains -- and even normalizes -- IVF for the preschool set.

"I Can't Wait To Meet You" by Claudia Santorelli-Bates is about a cartoon couple, Grace and Charlie, who can't make a baby after trying for a year. They become distressed. They visit Dr. Nelson who tells them that there are "different ways you can try."

Grace's ova and Charlie's swimmers make cameos, and lo and behold a child is created.

Finally, Grace and Charlie get to paint a nursery and moon dreamily over a selection of expensive strollers. When their baby girl arrives, she is christened "our little miracle.... wanted and loved long before we met you."

The book is sweet and simple, though for kids much into grade school with curiosity about conception, it just won't be enough.

There are just too many questions about where the other fertilized embryos wind up, how Charlie got the sperm into that cup, and why Grace's egg retrieval looks like it's being done via roto rooter.

(Also, Charlie and Grace must be living in Massachusetts, because they are not handed a $20,000 bill by Dr.Nelson at the end of the story.)

OK. I am mocking this book a bit, but truthfully I was really pleased to see it.

More and more of our kids are not conceived the old-fashioned way, and parents need tools to educate them as they grow up. Books like this can help.

Do you know of any other teaching materials out there to explain assisted reproduction to kids -- and even other adults? How do you handle the subject in your family? Or is this just way Too Much Information for a kid? Leave a comment or drop me an email at enoonan@globe.com


Flood waters can't stop this music

Posted by Erica Noonan April 13, 2010 03:31 PM

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For decades, my parents begged me to come sort through the boxes I left in their basement in Wellesley. Like most adult children asked to cart away the debris of their youth, I ignored them.

Last month's flooding changed all that.

My parents' basement filled with 7 inches of water. The cat's litterbox quite literally floated away, along with boxes and boxes of ruined stuff.

Dad's college notebooks, his photos from his time in the Air Force and collection of record albums, all destroyed.

Once the water levels dropped, they grimly delivered a few boxes and bags of my stuff that had survived the mess. The other day, I sat on the floor and gingerly peeled back a crusty box flap.

The lot was carbon-dated circa 1987, judging from the stacks of clattering plastic cassette cases.

There was the first tape I ever bought with my own money, Synchronicity by The Police. Mix tapes of Cat Stevens and Styx copied by my friend Elizabeth who spent the money she earned as a checkout clerk at Roche Bros. on a massive collection of music.

Ticket stubs from James Taylor and Steve Miller Band when they came to The Place Formerly Known As Great Woods, and we thought nothing of sitting on the lawn in the rain. (We kids growing up in the late 80s apparently did not listen to a lot of music made in the late 80s.)

In college, I must have woken up and smelled the 90s, because there are dubs of Erasure and Tracy Chapman and Bad Company and a recording from a band called Poi Dog Pondering, (Official, not a bootleg copy. I must have liked this group A LOT at one time to pay full price for it.)

There is a mix tape of my own making called ``WBOS Favorites,'' dated 1990, when 92.9 FM was a brand-new adult contemporary station and I was an unpaid intern there. Kenny Loggins and Steely Dan never had such a sympathetic audience since.

Was this the equivalent of discovering a metal case of my father's old 45 records when I was a teenager?

I don't think so. Back then I still had the technology to play those, and marvel at the scratchy sounds of the Supremes.

We don't even have a cassette player in the house anymore, not counting the battered old boom box we drag out for hard-core renovation work.

But I won't toss these in the trash. They harken back to a time when making a tape for someone was a time-consuming favor, or even a grand romantic gesture.

Now technology moves so fast. Sending a song file with a few clicks of the mouse just isn't the same as the effort it took to catch the first and last notes of a song, peel off the sticker, write the label in tiny print (checking off the the noise reduction box if you wanted to be really cool) lining up sides A and B, and listening for the hiss and squeak when it the tape was spent.

I decided to toss the battered boxes into my own basement for the kids to find when they are older.

They'll probably ask the question to which I currently have no good answer:

"Mom? Why the heck did you pay full price for a Poi Dog Pondering tape?"

More on nursing noodges

Posted by Erica Noonan April 13, 2010 10:09 AM

Thanks to everyone who took the time to leave a comment about the virtures and vices of "nursing noodges." We got more than 100 really passionate comments on that entry.

Coincidently, a study was released a few days later reiterating yet again what we all know, how totally fabulous and great breastfeeding is, and that it would save billions in childhood health care costs if 90 percent of women breastfed their babies exclusively for 6 months.

A few people -- who hadn't liked my position in the first place -- wrote in with undisguised glee.

See! Aren't you really, really sorry you opened your pie hole now?

My answer to them was, nope. I stand by every word.

What do you think? Was this study just adding more fuel to the already raging breastfeeding bonfire? After all this discussion, have you changed YOUR mind? Leave a comment or drop an email at enoonan@globe.com

Nursing Noodges should knock it off

Posted by Erica Noonan March 29, 2010 01:04 PM

One of my best friends is pregnant, and recently got The Question from someone in the birthing-industrial complex: Will she breastfeed?

She'll certainly try, she told them. But after watching dozens of other women encounter problems, she's keeping an open mind (and buying a can of formula.)

Oh noooo, howled the Nursing Noodge. There is no try! You MUST be determined to nurse! Rah rah ta-tas! Lactivation!

(Brief aside: Moms Are Talking About has a major peeve with the term Breastfeeding Nazi. The words breastfeeding and Nazi do not belong in the same sentence, ever, and anyone who insists on combining them should be forced to read the works of Elie Wiesel and Gunter Grass until they weep.)

Anyhoo, back to the blog....

My friend is too savvy to be bullied, but she was still very, very irritated.

She is still in her third trimester, yet the implication was that she was already a neglectful mother whose baby will have rickets or dropsy or scurvy or something. There will be LIFELONG ramifications to bottle-feeding, she was warned.

Oh, please. Why, I ask, must the Nursing Noodges be so obnoxious?

Isn't it enough that they are absolutely, incontrovertibly right? Breast is best, yes, we all heard you the first ten thousand times you said it.

So why make well-informed women feel like garbage if they have to settle for second-best? Why do the Noodges have so little faith in a woman's ability to make up her own mind about what's the right choice for her and her baby?

There are a lot of valid reasons not to breastfeed, including Numero Uno: the woman doesn't want to. Also on the list are:

- doesn't like public nudity
- can't make enough milk
- is an adoptive mom
- baby has a cleft palate or other birth issue that makes nursing impossible
- it hurts too much/mastitis
- inverted nipples/breast issues
- needs more than 30 minutes of sleep at a time
- wants her body back
- wants dad to take an equal role in feeding and parenting
- can't pump at work
- can pump at work, but would die of embarrassment if the words "breast" and/or "pump" were uttered in a professional setting...

What were your reasons to not breastfeed? Is it OK for someone else to tell you what to do with your body or baby?

And Nursing Noodges out there, I know this isn't what you want to hear, but please chime in with your side. Tell us why it's important to keep pressuring new moms to do it, even when they are sick of your lectures?

Leave a comment or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com

Double-standard when daddy bloggers come out to play?

Posted by Erica Noonan March 17, 2010 12:23 PM

Mommy blogging has been getting kicked around quite a lot these days.

Some people seem to think writing about your kid, family or domestic life for fun or money is some sort of offensive hobby.

Critics in this week's New York Times story say mom bloggers are either raging narcissists, or corporate shills willing to reveal their family's most intimate secrets for free detergent samples.

But what really came first, the kid or the underlying desire to blog?

Most of us could just as easily be doggy bloggers, or wine bloggers, or I-watch-a-lot-of-BBC-America bloggers if there was a market for it. (Note to self: pitch Boston.com on a I-watch-a-lot-of-BBC-America blog!)

So why is it when daddy bloggers come out to play in our sandbox -- and they are popping up everywhere these days -- they are heralded as serious essayists, modern-day J.D. Salingers with a domestic twist?

Now these guys are awfully likable. They are total mensches -- family men, real partners in kid-raising and homemaking. That's so cool, I probably shouldn't make fun of them.

But they make it so easy! Like the other day, when in the adrenaline-fueled afterglow of the arrival of his second son, Josh Tyson of The Kids Are Watching writes an ode to his wife's private parts on the Mother of all Mommy Blogs, Lisa Belkin's The Motherlode.

Josh points out how superior his wife is for refusing an epidural during labor, unlike all the other weakling ladies in the maternity ward that day.

(Poor Josh was probably not aware what a sore spot the drugs vs. natural debate, compounded by the natural vs. C-section quandry, is among women, though by now he surely is.)

But basically, this guy fully admits, his big job was to impregnate his wife and then hold one of her legs during labor nine months later.

Yet he's trying to claim halvsies on the experience, and then calls Nicole's vagina "an oracle."

Really dude? An ... oracle? (Well, that's a lot better than what most guys call them, but it made me laugh really hard.)

So obviously Josh is a good guy, and a good writer (though I am not sure he'll live down the oracle thing anytime soon), and I am going to bookmark his blog on my list of faves.

But if a woman wrote this kind of thing, she'd be pilloried for it, don't you think?

Is there a double-standard about what dads can get away with saying about pregnancy, labor and parenting? Are women criticized too much for what they write and say? Leave a comment, or drop an email at enoonan@globe.com

Million-dollar baby (tooth)

Posted by Erica Noonan March 13, 2010 09:33 PM

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It would be helpful if someone could send a heads-up email the next time a childhood milestone decides to jump out of nowhere and scare the bejeezus out of me.

Dennis's first tooth just fell out and I was simply shocked. Shocked!

My first instinct was to page our dentist.

Yes, on a Saturday night at 8 p.m., I was thisclose to an emergency call to a dentist to report breathlessly that a 5-year-old child's tooth fell out. Should we meet him at the ER?

Then I slowly backed away from the phone. A 5-year-old's tooth fell out. Right. Calming down now.

It's just that we are so well trained to get totally hysterical when things fall off or attach themselves to a child.

The last body part that fell off Dennis was his umbilical cord, and I recall having several earnest after-hours discussions with a (very bored) pediatrician about that shocking development.

At least Dennis was thrilled. He poked his tongue around in the gap for awhile, and then carefully brushed its still-standing neighbors.

Another little girl in his class lost her first tooth a few weeks ago, and she has been a total Pre-K rock star since.

"How much did the tooth fairy leave Anna?" I asked, tucking him in to bed.

"About a hundred dollars," he said.

Wow. You mean the umbilical cord was the last freebie we get?

How much does the tooth fairy leave in your house? Is five bucks enough? Leave a comment or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com.

about the author

Erica Noonan is chief of the Globe West bureau. Before joining the Globe in 2000, she worked for the Associated Press in Boston. Raised in Wellesley, she has a master's degree in political communication from Emerson College and a BA in political science from Trinity University in San Antonio. She lives in Natick with two energetic children: Dennis, 6, and Lila, 4.

Contact Erica

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