73 posts categorized "Safety First"

urbanMamas Episode 6: Tamara Rubin

February 08, 2015

Below is a partial transcript from the urbanMamas Podcast Episode 6 where we welcome Tamara Rubin, Executive Director of the Lead Safe America Foundation and creator of the documentary, MisLead: America’s Secret Epidemic. Tamara is a Portland mama to 4 kids, 2 of whom were lead poisoned in 2005.

Click here to listen on iTunes. Click here to listen direct.

Links and resources for lead testing your home are available at the bottom of this transcript, as well as how you can help support MisLead and increasing awareness of the prevalence of lead in our schools, homes and environment. Please help this information go viral. Share this post on your Facebook page, email it to your community groups, your daycare, your school, your local legislative office, and help us fill a petition to get 100,000 Portland parents on board with demanding we fund lead clean up in Portland Public Schools.


We’ll start with the Icebreaker Hat

Tamara: "If you had to move out of Portland, where would you go and why?" Well actually I've been having a lot of difficulty with the Portland Public Schools, and the school system keeps referring my son to schools with lead hazards. And since he has medical fragility and has a compromised immune system from being poisoned as a baby, I don't want him to go to a school with lead hazards and his doctors have said he shouldn't go to a school with lead hazards. But the PPS says "Well, all of the kids here are going to schools with lead hazards, so why should your kid be any different?" And so I've been looking desperately for a school without lead hazards, and we've interviewed at several schools. We just found one in Lake Oswego that we, hopefully, may get a transfer to. And if that doesn't work out, I might have to move to L.A. because they have a publicly funded public school that is a safe school for autistic kids on the spectrum, anywhere on the spectrum, from pre-K to early 20s. And is free, but if you live out of district it's a $20,000 a year private school. And it has integrated therapies, like occupational therapy, speech therapy, focused learning for any deficit areas like reading. And it's like a magical school. And so I would go to L.A. and try to find a place to live in the L.A. unified school district so my kids could go to school for free.

R: Let's talk about lead!

K: So, you have this documentary, MisLead, and you've been working on it for awhile now.

T: Yeah, I've heard from other documentary filmmakers that the average documentary gets produced in about 4 years, and some take 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years. And so this is now the beginning of our 4th year, we just hit the 3 year mark in December. I feel bad that aren't getting this message out faster, but also I'm going with the limited funding I've had to work on the film, and we're doing something that I don't know that any other documentary has done, is we're trying to make a feature film that hopefully will be shown in theatres and will have a Hollywood and NY premiere, but we're doing it completely on donations. So over 900 people have donated something, either time or a dollar or $10,000 to help pull this together.

K: $10,000. Good job whoever you are!

Continue reading "urbanMamas Episode 6: Tamara Rubin" »

Reality for a Saturday night: a dislocated arm

April 17, 2014

Last Saturday night, we were gathered with several families for a potluck and merriment.  There were 5 kids under the age of 5.  There were 5 kids over the age of 5.  The younger kids were playing pretend fighting.  There was also a dad giving 'superman' rides to the little kids, then there was a dad hanging kids upside down.  My 4.5 year old boy was dangling upside down from a dad, when the dad's own boy said, "Dad, do that to me, do that to me!"  and he yanked my boy's arm.

The boy was crying wanting to have the same upside down ride from his dad.  My boy was crying because his arm hurt.  Other kids continued to play.  It was generally chaotic.  There was crying, and there was screaming from playing.  We did not respond immediately.  

My boy's cries were rather shrill.   His cries were ongoing, whereas he would have usually stopped fussing by now under normal circumstances.  We went to go see what was wrong.

Our boy was crying on the couch where everyone was getting situated for a movie.   He was holding his arm.  When we went in to look at him, he said, "My arm hurts" and he was tearing as he held up his injured left arm with his right.  We offered him an ice pack.  He reached for it with the uninjured right arm.

We sat with him for a while, observing.  He had stopped crying.  His arm looked like it was turned inward.  He would not let anyone touch.  We held out my phone (a treat!) and asked him to play a game on it.  He reached with his right hand.  We held down his right arm and asked him to play a game on it.  He wouldn't.

The family gathering was attended by a good representation of medical staff: two nurses and a pediatric neuroscience physician's assistant.  We cleared the room of kids and sat down to focus on our boy.

With his arm turned inward, one of the dad-nurses palpated and felt the forearm bone indeed dislocated from the elbow.  Not dealing with children often, neither nurse felt equipped to replace the dislocated forearm.  The pediatric neuro PA, also, dealing mostly with brains and not with limbs, did not feel equipped to do the job.

Another dad, non-medical in background, entered the room.  "OH!  Yes, this has happened 6 times to our 3 year old son," and he offered to fix it the same way his doctor showed him.  In two quick and confident moves, he repositioned the forearm into the elbow socket and motioned the hand up to reach the shoulder to confirm proper placement.

PHEW!  Wow, what excitement on a Saturday night!  What a scare it was for us for a minute there.  Have you had experiences with dislocations?  Perhaps emergency situations?

Lost child in a crowd: "Where is he?!?"

January 09, 2014

Over the holiday break, a couple of the urbanMamas families were able to get together and had an outing at an amusement park.  

We had four parents and six kids, ranging in age from 4  to 13.  At the ticket booth, there was lots of discussion amongst the kids: who would ride with whom on what ride, which ride they would do first, which rides they did NOT want to do, and how many rides they could accomplish before closing time.  Amongst the mamas, there was discussion too: how many tickets to get for the 4-year olds, how many rides were open (on a limited operation day), how many rides they would fit in before closing.  Add to this, the haunted house stationed directly behind us at the ticket booth (scaring the two 4-year old boys with ghoulish noises and blasts of smoke), and the obnoxiously loud free fall ride, complete with screaming patrons, immediately adjacent to the ticket booth.

Upon purchasing tickets, we distributed them to the older kids and they rushed off.  With them gone, we could focus on the littles and the kiddie rides.  I turned to my 4-yr old and said, "ready to go on the car ride?"  I looked for his other 4-yr old buddy and - realizing he wasn't there - asked my mama friend: "Where is he?"  She said: "WHAT? Oh my god!"  We split and started running in opposite directions, my 4-yr old's little hand firmly in mine.

I dialed my husband, who was with the other dad locking up stuff in cars, and asked: "He wouldn't happen to be with you, would he?"  Response: "What? No! Why?"

We started walking and canvassing.  This boy couldn't have gone far.  He was *just* right there.  Just right *here*.  His mama went to the security office and filed a report.  I took my 4-yr old and said, "Show me where your friend would go.  Would he go in here?"  We went into the gift shop and shouted his name.  "Would he go in here?" We went into the arcade and shouted his name into that dark cave of blinking lights and beeps and honks.  We keep walking and calling his name.  We saw the batch of big kids queue up for the bumper cars, big smiles on their faces, unaware of the circumstances of their little brother.

My husband walked up stairs to the "people mover" ride, for a bird's eye view.  I continued to walk the main floor.  He couldn't have gone far; he couldn't have gone far.  His mama feared the worst, the absolute unthinkable.  Four parents were scouring the place, calling his name, keeping eyes ever alert for the little guy in grey sweatshirt and light blue jeans.  We were all levitating in a place of panic.

I bumped into my husband who was describing the boy to a security guard.  He said, "He's wearing light jeans and a grey sweatshirt..." and I added, "A grey sweatshirt just like THIS!"  Just then, out of the crowd, our lost boy appeared so I could show the security guard exactly what sweatshirt he was wearing.

A sigh of relief, complete and utter relief, about 15 minutes felt like an eternity.  We held on tight until we were all again reunited, our two families for a grand total of ten bodies.  It turns out our little buddy was so bothered by the loud screams and noises of the ride, he just scootched over a bit to get away from the noise.  When he turned around again, he didn't see us, so he walked and walked to try to find us.  Once he reached the end, he turned back and walked toward the entrance.  He heard us calling for him, so he kept walked toward where he heard our voices.

After this whole experience, we all realized we didn't have a plan with our kids on what to do when lost.  What do you advise?  Have you lost your little?  How did you reunite?

Gun control: Are you one of the 'Million' Moms?

January 30, 2013

It hit me today hard when I heard the news of the shooting death of 15-year-old majorette Hadiya Pendleton. Just last week she was performing at the inauguration. Today, she's a casualty of gun violence; her death, in a park just a mile from President Obama's home in Chicago, was apparently random. She had no history of affiliation with gangs. (And we have to say that, which makes me sad, too.)

Sometimes it seems insensible: that stricter gun control laws have not been put into practice before now. One more repeat of "but criminals will get guns anyway!" and I'll throw something at the radio; according to experts I've heard tell, it's all about economics. If you make it hard enough (read: expensive enough) for criminals to obtain guns, gun violence will fall like a stone.

Eight children are killed by guns every day in the U.S.

What can we do?

In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, a new group has sprung up: “Million Moms for Gun Control”. Million Moms just marched on Washington D.C. last Saturday to ask for reasonable updates to gun policy. The local Portland chapter is planning a family friendly rally on Feb. 9, 10 a.m. at City Hall. Information about the event and other ways you can help is on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OneMillionMomsForGunControlPortland

Ceasefire Oregon is another local group working to reduce access to guns. Ceasefire organizes gun turn-in events once or twice a year and they promote the ASK (Asking Saves Kids) campaign. ASK encourages parents to ask if there are firearms where their children play. On the legislative front, Ceasefire Oregon is planning a rally at the state Capitol on March 12 to ask for tighter gun laws*.

Continue reading "Gun control: Are you one of the 'Million' Moms?" »

Helmet Usage & Kids: would you play cop to a stranger's child?

September 11, 2012

Riding in town yesterday, I noticed a pair of youth riding up ahead in the bike lane.  There was a boy, younger, maybe under age 10, based on his size and the size of his bike.  He wore his helmet and pedaled pretty hard to keep up with his companion.

The other child was probably in middle school, based on the size of her bike.  Maybe they were siblings?  Maybe she was tasked with picking him up after school and riding home with him?  I don't know.  I was heading someplace and didn't stop to converse.

As I approached, I noticed that the elder child, certainly not older than 16 years old, had a shiny Nutcase in her front basket as she pedaled along in the bike lane.  I was surprised, and I was sad.

While there is no federal law that requires children to wear helmets on bikes (or scooters, skateboards or inline skates), 22 states and hundreds of localities have laws and ordinances mostly requiring all children under the age of 16 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or even as a passenger on a bicycle.

This info from the University of Michigan says that:

  • wearing a helmet while riding a bike reduces risk of death by over 50 percent
  • every 3 days, a child is killed in the US while riding a bike
  • about half of children riding a bike where no helmet laws exist never wear a helmet
  • helmet usage would prevent 40,000 head injuries and 50,000 scalp injuries in children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Much of children's helmet usage might have to do with observing their own parents.  Some of these parents cannot afford a helmet (one of every two children of polled families earning less than $30,000 never wear a helmet).  Even though 78% of polled parents ride a bike, 27% of them never wear helmets.

Beyond parents, there is also the fashion statement.  My own daughter said that three of her friends, all of whom ride their bikes to school every day, asked their parents to drive them to school on picture day, to avoid "helmet hair".  As children get older, like this middle school-aged girl I saw pedaling ahead of me, they might become more and more conscious about wearing a helmet.  They aren't cool and they don't make for the best 'dos.

As I came closer, I said, "What about your helmet?"  I slowed a little bit to see what reaction I would get.  She looked sheepish as she pulled over and stopped.  I think she might have put her helmet on, but I couldn't stop to see.  

Maybe I shouldn't have said anything.  Or, maybe, since I did decide to do something, I should have pulled over and given the whole story on why helmet usage is important.  Like wearing our seatbelts, it's a no-brainer: it saves lives.  I don't know.  What would you have done?  Pedaled on? Stopped to chat?  Do you see youth, especially teens and pre-teens, not wearing helmets while they bike?

"Distracted Driving is an Epidemic": What to say to a distracted driver?

April 16, 2012

Do you talk & drive?  April is National Distracted Driving Month.  A recent survey (*pdf here) tells us that almost all passengers in vehicles where the driver is texting or emailing felt "very unsafe". The survey also shows us that younger passengers (between ages of 18 and 25) are less likely to speak up to their drivers than older counterparts.

I have been a passenger in a cab when I have felt uncomfortable speaking up, even though I know full well "one text or call could wreck it all".  I feel like I am less often a passenger in a vehicle where I feel unsafe, although my husband does have a habit of checking the phone (or iPod, more often) at the stop light.

If you were a passenger where the driver was on the phone, what have you said?  What can we do to encourage more drivers to lose the distractions?  For those of you with children approaching driving age, how to you advise them to drive without distraction?

For more great info: see www.distraction.gov

Have a Safe Fourth Celebration

July 04, 2011

America's annual celebration of our independence is seemingly inextricable with "safety." As with so much else, we have become hyper-focused on the safety of our children (while, sometimes it seems, forgetting to worry about adults -- who drive drunk and make all sorts of ill-advised choices -- every year setting houses on fire with fireworks and hot dog grills), often to the exclusion of fun. There is virtually no exhortation of hope for children's pleasurable entertainment without an equal or greater-than concern for their bodily wholeness. After all, explosions and fire and the zoomy use of fossil fuels are what this holiday's about.

Not that we don't let the kids have fun. Here in Portland, on a Fourth-of-July weekend in which the fireworks are saved (officially) for the very tail end of the holiday period and warm weather has finally come our way, anarchy reigns. By late Monday, the parks with picnic tables had been so heavily used that the garbage cans were not only full; extra garbage bags were stacked up seven deep next to the cans. Illegal fireworks are so rote in neighborhoods -- and so little enforced -- that kids know where the best ones usually are.

Riding through Portland's streets late in the night and winding in and out of parks with my little boys aboard may seem like riding through a war zone, with sulphurous smoke weaving through the rose bushes and cherry trees, explosions going off in every direction, gangs teenagers, wearing halter tops and graffiti-style tees, whooping and hollering and utterly without adult supervision, and garbage slung all over our parks -- but it doesn't. I feel safe in this anarchic place, safe and enveloped in community.

On NPR, there was a story about how a political scientist found that the key determinant in how well we survive disasters (not fireworks so much, but earthquakes and tsunamis and such) is how well we know our neighbors, and how connected we are to our community. I'm thankful that I know my immediate neighbors, and many others through my involvement with community organizations (like urbanMamas and Portland Green Parenting and volunteering with the high school cross country team) -- so that, when I ride around in this anarchic time of celebration, I figure that I must know some of those teenagers, and that we will look out for each other, and I -- and my kids -- belong in this place.

You & Kids in the Pool

May 31, 2011

When I was younger, my parents were adamant that I learn the life skill of swimming and pool safety.  And, now that I have my own children who love the concept of the pool, I see the value in having kids who know basic floating and treading techniques in the pool.

Another urbanFamily joined us for some pool fun the other day and there was plenty of fun: splashing, some full out swim racing, and lots of cannonballs.  The toddlers, of course, required constant attention and holding.  The older kids, though, were totally competent in their play and swim.  The middle-aged kids, the ones  age 5-7, were still a bit wary in the water, tentative, afraid to let go, even though they were generally capable in the water.  While it is good to be safe, is there an in-between?  A way to instill independence in the water in a safe way?  Do you use floatation devices with your kids when they are pre-swim-savvy?

Do you talk & drive?

April 07, 2011

The cell phone law in Oregon was passed in 2009 and went into effect new year's day 2010:

The new law, a class D traffic violation with a minimum base fine of $142.00, is effective January 1, 2010 and is a primary offense, meaning that a police officer may stop a driver solely for using a cell phone without using a hands-free accessory.  For purposes of the new law, “mobile communication device” is defined as a text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device designed to receive and transmit voice or text communication.  

When I am walking, biking, and driving around town, I see countless individuals breaking the law. When the driver is being particularly mindless, I have shouted "get off the phone!", though I hate to be getting all up in everyone's business.  

As multi-tasking as I like to be, doing anything while fiddling on my phone is not good for me.  I can't walk while texting, I can't even dial while driving.  If I need to make a call, I have to be stopped, bluetooth installed and connected, while I dial.  Once on the call and en route, I feel pretty fine about driving with the hands-free unit.

Tell me: do you see it too?  Do you see drivers continuing to use their phones while driving?  Either held up to the ear or even on speakerphone with the phone held up to their mouth (which - to me - seems to be still the same as holding phone to ear)?  Do you think we shouldn't be on phones while driving period, whether we are on a hands-free unit or not?

Drive Less, Save more... Lives

September 02, 2010

Crash3 As it comes to a close, I'd like to bring up a subject that's come to the forefront for my family this summer. Not once but twice I've been in car-car collisions, one that involved my whole family.  Both times I was a passenger and not a driver.  Both times there was thousands of dollars of damage, but our health and lives were spared.  Both times, I saw it coming.  Some might think this was an advantage, but I sort of felt it was a curse.  You see, since I've started riding my bike to get around town more, I've become especially tuned in to what's going on around me.  

4718678460_57e37fe904_bAs of yesterday, the Bicycle Transportation Association's (BTA) Bike Commute Challenge has begun.  I'll be honest; I've been tracking my commute miles since last September, but this September I will definitely be coming up short.  Instead of biking the 25 mile round trip I will probably spend a short amount of time on the bike and most of it on the bus, getting out to Gresham and back.  I just can't make the trip in a reasonable amount of time, since I'm nearly 30 weeks pregnant (no lung capacity left!).  But I still feel the need to try and reduce car trips.  Is it because I want to drive less and save more?  Well, money may be part of the equation.  Reducing emissions is also important to me.  But in my mind, a much larger part is something you can't quite place a value on:  The lives of our children.  You can eliminate as much BPA from their immediate environments, avoid antibiotic and hormone injected foods, but the number one cause of death for children is not obesity or illness.  It's car crashes.

That's right, according to the CDC Car crashes are the number one cause of death for children and happen at an even higher rate for teens.  This came to my attention early last month when a fellow bicycle rider and parent pointed out this article: "Mom, are we there yet?"  Can you imagine it's safer to walk in NYC than in Portland?  OK, maybe you can, but it really is statistically apparent that fewer cars means fewer deaths by car.  Sure, there are risk factors you can influence, like using safety equipment (and using it properly:  See CDC website for more info).  You can buy a really "safe" car.  These things will improve your odds, if you're in a car.  But what if you are on foot, or on a bike? Only less automobile traffic will reduce the incidence of deaths from car crashes.

So when you think a trip by car is unavoidable, remember the potential price that we all pay in one way or another.  Is the risk truly acceptable?  Are we going to keep muttering "what a tragedy" every time someone dies from a car collision?  Or is it time to realize that we are extraordinarily lucky to have so many transportation infrastructure options here in Portland.  Is it time to learn to use the ones we have, and look into getting the ones we need?  Have you and your family re-evaluated how you get around these days?  Or is it just too overwhelming to even begin?  Even if it is overwhelming, what would it take to convince you to try?

Scary news of lost child grips us all

June 06, 2010

Kyron_horman How could we not but hold our collective breath? All of those of us who have children in Portland Public Schools got the auto-call sometime Friday evening; a second-grader from Skyline Elementary in Southwest Portland, Kyron Horman, was lost to his family and the school sometime between a science fair before school opened, and his arrival at class. His stepmother visited the science fair with him; classmates saw him headed towards his room; when she met the bus at 3:45, he wasn't there at all. Police, FBI, and other agencies have no idea. There is no evidence of foul play.

I had wondered why the automated call I always get around 10:30 a.m. if my child is absent, hadn't triggered concern -- but the latest news from today's press conference with PPS superintendent Carole Smith is that it was such a small school, teachers usually know students and parents and the reasons for absences, and didn't have a dialer. All schools will now be getting automatic dialers (although the timeline for that change wasn't announced). It was just a slip, through a crack no one even thought to concern themselves with. And why? A safe neighborhood, a small school, a sweet child. What could go wrong?

The unthinkable. I've been thinking a lot about such typically unthinkable happenstances over the past few weeks, as I came across the news of writer and prolific mommy blogger Kate Granju's oldest son, Henry. He died several weeks after overdosing on the drugs to which he'd become addicted, and being beaten badly. And earlier today, I came across another mother searching for her 16-year-old daughter, last seen in Seattle. These things happen in lovely, loving families just like ours, and they chill to the bone and have me looking around instinctively every few minutes to make sure my boys are safe.

They are, and according to the FBI, violent crimes were down 5.5% last year and have been falling for several years. Free Range Kids creator Lenore Skenazy points this out in her blog, with great little tidbits like this one from a pediatric ICU nurse: "the real dangers are overlooked. Lock your second story windows, make sure your kids understand car and bike safety. Model safe behavior. Don’t talk and text while driving... I can tell you that I have NEVER once taken care of a kid who was assaulted by a stranger."

What is there to be done? Who is to blame? I don't see failings in security or parental care; I think the best answer is to be vigilant, to pray for these other family's awful predicament and the continued safety of our own, and to hug our children tight as much as we can and thank heavens for them.

Stranger danger at the park: Sort of

May 14, 2010

Yesterday after we picked up Truman from preschool, we decided to enjoy the gloriousness of the day at nearby Kenilworth Park. We weren't the only ones: a group from Grout had biked to school and was enjoying a picnic snack at the western playground; numerous young adults were kicking back in the sun in the "bowl" of grass and staging their own impromptu picnics; a few men had taken advantage of the bowling balls ever-present in their friend's trunk and were playing a raucous game of bowling-ball croquet (with a modified sledge hammer as mallet).

The older boys ran ahead to the upper, eastern playground with the intention of giving Truman a (very short-lived) bike-riding lesson, and I followed behind, seeing from the corner of my eye a giddily happy couple disengage from what looked like an inappropriate-for-public embrace. I averted my eyes in discomfort and walked up to Everett, who was waiting for me. "Those people were just having sex," he said matter-of-factly. "They were?" I asked. "Yep. People have sex there all the time," he replied. (A few minutes later, I saw a condom wrapper a few feet away, confirming Everett's assessment of the situation. At least it was safe sex!)

The couple walked by the playground about then, probably not picking up on the context behind the murderous glance I shot at them (they smiled blissfully back), and it occurred to me that kids look at people in the way adults don't. I feel discomfort at some man's near-nakedness as he reads in the sun; I see excessive PDA; I look away. Not so my little ones.

All I had to say to Everett was, "that's not ok." I couldn't think of another response. But then I watched as Truman approached each and every arrangement of strange adults and teenagers, variously begging for snacks from a couple with eye-popping nose piercings; joining in the bowling ball game (the guys let him have his very own ball and roll it through the wickets while they played); going up to the near-naked reading guy and chat with him for a minute; taking a turn at a ball-throwing toy for a little dog, for whom Truman's misfires were entirely too stimulating; and finally, accosting a teenager practicing his tuba. The tuba player turned out to be extraordinarily patient, telling him about the parts of the instrument, showing him how the tubes and bell worked, and even letting him have a turn blowing into it.

My lesson from this was twofold: first, Truman's complete lack of social boundaries means I have to keep very vigilant (and indeed, during all this I was doing my best to be a careful observer without impinging on his child-joy of social discovery); second, I have to look at people the way my children do. See them, see what they're doing, steer clear or confront if necessary.

But: what is there to be done about strangers who choose to have sex in the public-that-includes-your-kids? I thought about this afterward and couldn't come up with a sensibly effective response. Confronting them after the fact would have been, well, pretty confrontative and angry, not something I wanted my kids to have any more exposure to than they already do; calling the police would have broken something in me (not to mention required a very public retelling for Everett, the "witness"); appealing to them quietly and privately would have meant leaving the children, which was at that point an impossibility. Perhaps there's no solution but to ask your child to please, please, never do that himself.

A dog as your house alarm?

March 05, 2010

I've had sketchy things happen in our 'hood, on occassion.  We get some unannounced knocks at our door.  Our car has been broken into in front of our house.  With my partner out late for work often and with our 100+ year old house getting creaky, I can get scared of dark corners.  I have thought about getting a dog to act as a sounding board, but - geez! - aren't three kids enough?  Well, an urbanMama recently emailed faced with a similar conundrum:

Hi Mamas, my husband and I are having a dog dilemma. He wants to get a dog to alert us of people on the property.  We have had someone in our unlocked shed and in our cars on the nights we forget to lock them.  I understand and support his need to protect his family.   My issues are that we have a three and a half year old and a one year old.  Our house is small but the yard is huge.  I am not wanting to take on the responsibility of an animal that needs real care.  We have two neglected cats who are outdoor only since my son was born.  I don't think it is fair to them to add another animal when they are getting very little attention.  The final concern is the cost of having a dog and taking proper care of him/her.  I know that I will have to cave at some time but would like to figure out what is the best plan for getting a dog that will be good with the kids and worth the bark.  We will not be getting a puppy.  I will go to the pound for a dog and have no plans on paying for something fancy. Your thoughts mamas?

Emergency Preparedness: Got a Plan?

January 15, 2010

 Red cross 

I’ve been thinking a lot about emergency preparedness lately, but the tragic earthquake in Haiti really drove home how unprepared my family is for an emergency of any kind.  No cache of water, no extra stores of food.  No plan about who is going to pick up which kid and meet where.  In having these conversations with my husband, he wants to stash some cash and a gun somewhere in the house.  And while that may (or may not!) seem extreme, it certainly seems easy enough to make sure we have some working flashlights and candles in the house.  I can't imagine going even a couple days without using my cell phone, internet, or debit card, but I guess in a true crisis that is what we might be looking at. There are some great local resources for creating emergency kits and developing plans for locating and reconnecting with family members.  Does your family have these things and what do they look like?  Have you communicated to your kids, close friends, and family members what your plan is?

temperate parents, dealing with cold weather, whoa!

December 10, 2009

Tuesday was the first day I'd had to take the kids out on the bike in this cold, cold weather and I did a great job of bundling. Hats, scarves, double layers of pants and socks, mittens... I was so proud of myself! I sat Monroe and Truman on the back of my mamabikeorama and headed off to preschool. Luckily the road was open, because a few blocks away from school my load suddenly got much lighter and my bike wobbled. Monroe, trying to hold on with his fat slippery mittens, had fallen off.

So that was the first bloody face of the cold snap. His lip and chin were scraped, but he'd recovered enough to be put back on the bike (in the bike seat between my handlebars for good until the weather changes, I decided) after about 10 minutes. Our second bloody face came Wednesday, when Truman decided to check to see what his dad meant, exactly, by "that spot that looks wet is actually icy." He came home to me with the worst bloody nose I've seen in years.

It must be easier for parents of more regularly frozen climes; are they born with an innate knowledge of how to adjust to the cold? I feel so inept. I'm glad I've learned these lessons (no slippery mittens on the back of the Xtracycle, hold a kid's hand the first time he discovers an ice hazard) without permanent injury. I've been scouring thrift stores for snow boots and kids' ski pants and wishing I was more prepared. How have you been dealing with the cold weather? Are you finding any of your regular rhythms awkwardly (or delightfully) changed? Is there any gear you love and can't do without? Have you been surprised with any bloody lessons?

One thing I love is how thrilled the boys are every day when they go outside to ice crystals and frost in the shadows, it's magic to them and I confess to longing for last year's snowy quiet.

Helping Mama & Papa in the kitchen

December 08, 2009

When I was about 5 or 6, I wanted desperately to fix myself food and snacks.  So, I made myself some toast.  I stood on a stool, I put in my two pieces of wonder bread in the slots, and I waited.  When the bread shot up, I reached to grab my slices, but I lost my footing.  My forearm landed squarely on the toaster.  Ouuuuuch!  It hurt so badly.  And, more than my forearm suffering some minor burns, I was more bruised by the feeling of ineptitude in the kitchen.

There must be a way to help our little ones gain confidence in the kitchen, with our guidance and supervision.  An urbanMama recently emailed:

My 18-month old daughter very much wants to be a part of helping Mommy and Papa cook.  So far one of us has held her up to watch the other, but this doesn't always work, and it doesn't give her a chance to be involved.  Bottom line is we have to find something that raises her up to where we're working.  We can't use a chair because we've been working on the whole "we don't stand on chairs" idea (and it's not safe, of course).  I am also not comfortable trying some kind of foot stool (too tippy).  Anyone found something that's worked for you?

How have you gotten the children more involved in the kitchen?  At what age?

Home alone: when's the right time?

November 22, 2009

Our natural next question, after pondering leaving our child(ren) in the car alone, is: would you leave your child(ren) home alone?  Another mama had the same thought, and she emails:

Hot on the heels of the post about leaving your kid in the car alone... I'm wondering at what age people have left their kids at home alone, and under what circumstances.  I just found out that my partner left our 4 year old at home watching TV while he (literally) ran about 8 blocks to go pick up a Zipcar.  I strongly disagree with his decision to leave her in the house by herself, even just for 5-10 minutes.  He says that he weighed the options, feeling that she was firmly planted in front of the TV and was unlikely to go anywhere (true, it was highly unlikely), and wouldn't have left if he didn't feel it was safe. 

What age is too young to be at home alone when the parent is farther away than, say, the neighbor's front porch? 

Alone in the car: not until they're 18?

November 09, 2009

I have very recently become a mama to three offspring.  Lordly-lord, it can be tough to mobilize these young folk.  Getting out the door means three jackets, three pairs of shoes (or foot coverings), three bags of their own stuff.  Then, getting into and out of the car is yet another challenge. 

Sometimes, my 9-year old asks if she can stay in the car while I fetch the younger siblings.  I say, "sure".  Why not?  She's sitting reading in the car parked right in front of the school.  If we were down the block from where I was going, I wouldn't do it.  Then, the other day, she asked if she could stay in the car while I did some grocery shopping.  While I was reaaallllllly tempted, I decided against it.  And, for some reason, only then did it occur to me that I didn't know what the law was here in Oregon (every state has its own motor vehicle laws) about leaving your kids in the car alone.

It looks like Oregon law is sort of open-ended, as ORS 163.545 states:

 A person having custody or control of a child under 10 years of age commits the crime of child neglect in the second degree if, with criminal negligence, the person leaves the child unattended in or at any place for such period of time as may be likely to endanger the health or welfare of such child.

... which means to say that leaving a child under 10 alone in a car could or could not be considered neglect?  So it depends on the circumstances?

Well, if that's the case, what are your thoughts on leaving a child alone in the car?  Have you done it?  Under what circumstances?  Will you never do it?  Will you do it under certain circumstances only?

When strangers touch our babies

July 15, 2009

Sometimes it is hard to keep our eyes off the cute youngsters we meet.  But what about our hands?  You just want to reach out and touch them.  An urbanMama recently emailed sharing a couple of recent incidents that made her wonder: how do we deal with strangers wanting to touch our babies or pregnant bellies?  Has it happened to you?  How have you responded?

We all know that babies are irresistably cute, but why is it that some strangers feel entitled to touch them? I had a lady ask to hold my one-month old, and although I politely declined, at least she had the courtesy to ask.  Yesterday, on a downtown street corner, a man reached across with his (none too clean-looking) finger and tapped my baby on the nose.  I was startled and angry but didn't know how to react besides crossing the intersection quickly to get away.  When it comes to pregnant bellies or little babies, how do you deal with strangers who want to get too close and personal? 

What Would You Have Done? Child Rides in Mama's Lap

July 09, 2009

I don't think any of my kids were fond of the car seat in the early stages of life. One of our readers recently had a falling out with a family member over letting a her child ride on her lap.  She wants your advice and writes:

I know that many of us mamas have found ourselves in a situation where our child is inconsolably upset in the car seat, screaming, crying, kicking and even to the point of puking at times.  Just writing about it and remembering my first child’s sheer hatred of the car seat makes my skin crawl.  Despite those tortuous feelings, I never considered removing my son from his seat while the car was moving.  Recently I had relatives visiting and to my shock and horror, when their one year old son became upset, his Mom simply unbuckled him and seated him on her lap.  I found myself in a moral dilemma about whether to speak out about what I saw as an extremely unsafe choice, knowing it could have huge implications for our relationship, or just ignore it.  In the end I tried to gently inquire about my safety concern and it unleashed a fury of emotion, resulting in an abrupt end to the visit and a huge rift in our relationship.  After all that I’m not convinced that my speaking out will have any impact on their future car seat decisions and we’re no longer on speaking terms because of it.  Was it worth it?  I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure.  What would you have done?

Recommendations for non-DEET bug repellent?

June 29, 2009

Now that the summer appears to be here, we start to think of the bugs.  An urbanMama recently emailed:

We're heading over to La Pine for the 4th of July and my relatives have warned me of the monstrous mosquitos that are waiting to devour my 2 year old and me (I'm pregnant). Does anyone have any good recommendations for non-DEET bug repellent that actually works?

Preparing for baby's departure from hospital

June 25, 2009

Remember the day you went home with your newborn baby?  Did you have everything you needed?  Were there things you forgot?  An expecting urbanMama wonders:

I am having a baby in late July, my first, and I am trying to be as prepared as possible to go to, and then leave, the hospital.  I have heard that hospitals have some specific requirements for letting you go home with your baby, such as having baby clothes that have been previously washed, and stringent requirements for the car seat.  I will be delivering at Good Samaritan in Portland.  Has anyone had experience with these kind of requirements?  These are things that they don’t seem to really tell you before you get there, so I am hoping to learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before me!

Kids in Public: do you let them out of sight?

June 01, 2009

It can be hard to know sometimes how to handle a situation, but it sure does help to hear perspectives from other mamas and papas.  So, an urbanMama emailed recently to hear about how you handle letting the children out of your sight in public:

The other day I left my 3 and a half-year-old alone in the children's section of the library while I took her baby brother into the restroom for a diaper change.  I told her to stay where she was and I would be back in a couple minutes.  It didn't cross my mind at the time that there was any risk - of her being approached by a malevolent stranger and abducted from a quiet library - but as my husband later pointed out, there've been been scarier stories in the news.  While I don't imagine her being the sort of child who would go off with someone she didn't know, even the thought is enough to scare the bejeezes out of any mama.

How vigilant or not are you about letting your little ones momentarily out of your sight in public places?  At what age do you have the 'stranger safety' talk and what do you say?  How do you find a balance between being wary of strangers but not making your child too anxious and distrustful?

Backyard Chickens, Eggs, and Lead

April 29, 2009

Thank you Jennifer, who emailed us to share her experiences with detecting lead in their backyard chickens' eggs.

For me, this all started with Tamara Rubin's piece in the Portland Tribune (http://www.portlandtribune.com/opinion/story.php?story_id=123801660877902600).  A friend (also with chickens) pointed it out to me and we wondered if we should be concerned. Honestly, it had never occurred to me that my chickens might be consuming lead, but the article made sense. Since my daughter was up for her 4-year checkup, I had her tested for lead (for the first time) and I got a test too. My test came back as a "1" (the lowest possible) and hers came back as a 3. According to someone I spoke to from the Portland Lead Line, most kids average between one and three.  The official "level of concern" is 10, although there is much argument over whether this is too high (most people think it is). Therefore, a 3 is cause for mild concern and further investigation (she shows no signs of lead poisoning; most signs don't show up until levels reach higher than 10, but there are still potential long-term effects from low lead levels).

So I had my backyard chicken eggs tested. The results came in today - .2, .3, and .4 parts per million. These levels are very similar to the eggs tested in the only academic study I'm aware of (http://jvdi.org/cgi/reprint/15/5/418.pdf). Their highest egg yolk lead level was also .4 ppm (400 ppb), which lead them to conclude that "Eggs and chicken tissues containing significant concentrations of lead are a potential human health hazard, especially to young children. Repeated consumption of contaminated eggs from a family owned flock could provide a continuing dietary source of lead." As a control, they tested eggs of chickens that had not been exposed to lead paint, and their levels were much lower. Lead does not naturally occur in chicken eggs, so these levels *do* represent a problem. (For comparison's sake, the FDA limit for lead in "candy consumed frequently by children" is .1 ppm).

We live in a house in NE Portland. The house was built in 1920 (so plenty of lead paint), and it was completely renovated about 7 years ago - I suspect not using the safest lead paint removal methods. In addition, our neighbor's garage backs onto our back yard. I tested the peeling paint on this ancient garage and it clearly showed the presence of lead. I have since fenced off the area to my chickens, so I wonder if their levels will eventually drop.

 I thought that other moms with chickens would be interested in these results. I want to make it clear that I am very "urban chicken positive" and am not suggesting that we ban backyard chickens and replace them with corporate egg farms. (On various blogs there seems to be a perception that any slight of backyard chickens must be driven by agribusiness interests). I love my three hens - Dolley, Martha & Abigail. I am planning to test the soil for lead to find out if it is concentrated in certain parts of my yard that I could fence off or remediate.  Meanwhile, I will be buying my eggs at New Seasons (I'm not a shill for them either) and occasionally making egg white omelettes and meringues (lead does not concentrate in egg whites). After I remediate, I'll test our eggs again. I should note that if you do have lead in your eggs you should not compost the egg shells because lead concentrates in the egg shells and in the yolks. (And whatever you do, don't eat your girls!).

Lead Exposure: When it hits home

April 28, 2009

Mamas, as we are vigilant about lead testing and recalls, lead exposure can still hit home.  An urbanMama recently emailed, seeking your tips and advice as it relates to elevated lead levels:

My daughter just had her lead level tested at her 9month check up and it came back at a 9.3.  I am kinda freaked out right now as I have done everything I can to provide my child with what I thought was a non-toxic environment. I live in an older home and am afraid the water and/or possible lead paint may be the culprit.  Has anyone else dealt with high lead levels in their infant and the possibility that it is in fact due to the home environment?  I am very careful about the toys she plays with and the containers her food and water are in.  Does anyone have suggestions for lowering her lead levels?  Can anyone recommend a home inspection company/individual to test lead levels in my home? I live in Columbia County about 25 min. from NW Portland.

Got Guns?

March 18, 2009

Gun There were some unfortunate stories covered in the news this past winter that made my husband start pontificating about the benefits of owning a gun.  He grew up with a father that hunts regularly, he and his brother learned about appropriate gun use and safety, and there was never any incident with having guns in his house.  I, on the other hand, did not grow up around guns and am fearful that having a gun in the house is just asking for trouble. 

We have a piece of property that is pretty remote and sometimes I don't like to go there because I feel a little vulnerable, I suppose my husband hopes that a gun would make me feel safer. But we would never keep it anywhere we could get to it quickly if need be (and really, what are the chances of needing to?) and children are just too curious about things that are off limits (not to even mention their friends).  So mamas, do you have guns in your home? How have you talked to your children (and others that come into your home, if necessary) about gun safety when they have reached the appropriate age?

Tomorrow: Int'l Walk & Bike to School Day

October 07, 2008


International Walk and Bike to School day is coming up on October 8th, this Wednesday. This is a one-time, state-wide event in which many schools participate. 90 schools throughout Oregon are signed up to promote healthy lifestyles by walking and biking to school. For more information on the program, see the Walk + Bike web site.

Are you in?

Alert: Time for Safety Talks

July 29, 2008

Since last Thursday, I have now received this email five different times from different circles of Portland parents.  We have used the occassion to remind ourselves and our children about our safety talk.  Here is the email that came directly from the mama who recounted the scenario:

I want to share with all of you something that happened with my 4 & 6yr old boys at Wilshire Park this past Tuesday, July 22nd.  Please take this information and share it with everyone you know.

Everyone was having a good time running around and I was visiting with friends.  I was lucky enough to look up just as my two boys were walking out of the park with a man we did not know.  To make a long story short, the man asked my older son what his brothers name was and then said, 'Come on Max, follow me.'  I confronted the man and was able to provide a good description of him on my 911 call because of it.  The police called me as they were questioning him and informed me that 'He has a history of this sort of thing dating back to 1999.'  The officer made sure this individual knows they are not welcome in the park and he told all the other parents to please call 911 if they ever see him there again.  Turns out he also lives a ways down our street, NE Skidmore and I believe the lower 50's.  As you know, Wilshire is on Skidmore between 33rd & 37th.

Here's his description...

  • MOST DISTINCTIVE FEATURE**He has long to the waist length dreadlocks mostly grey, but some dark.
  • No taller than 5'10'
  • Olive skinned caucasian or perhaps greek, middle eastern with dark eyes, possibly glasses
  • Age anywhere between 38-48, hard to tell possibly older
  • Slight build in weight
  • Told boys he was a football player (they were playing football), he was wearing a retro 70's like orange cotton football jersey, camoflauge pants
  • Had a 9 or 10 yr old heavy set caucasian child with him that looked like a girl (long hair. almost mullet style) but was actually a boy who engaged my children to play football with him.  This is the child of one of his housemates.

PLEASE SHARE THIS INFO WITH EVERYONE AND DON'T BE AFRAID TO CALL 911 & REPORT SEEING HIM PARTICULARLY IF HE IS IN A PLACE FREQUENTED BY CHILDREN! We were lucky this time.  Please help keep this person from being able to attempt this again.

Heading to the restroom, SOLO

June 26, 2008

If you're a mama with a little boy or if you're a papa with a little girl, how and when would/did you let them go to the bathroom on their own?  When our daughters were brought on a playdate with a friend and his papa, we wondered, "would Jason take them into the men's room?  Or let them potty on their own?"  Shannon emails:

I’m the mama of two kids, ages 7 and 3, and we have just started swim lessons again at our local pool.  Up until now, I have been bringing my son (the 7-year old) in the locker room with me despite the inane sign that tells me children 5 and up must use the same gender locker room or a family changing room.  There was no way my 5-year old was in any way ready to go in the men’s room by himself and it’s virtually impossible to get a family room (plus floor is generally wet and icky).  So now that he is 7, my husband suggested that maybe he is old enough to venture into the men’s room and change by himself while I tend to my daughter in the ladies room.  At first I was really reluctant and worried (there are myriad scenarios that fly through my head), but I thought we’d give it a try.  We designated a spot for him to wait for his sister and me, we talked about strangers and where to go for help (the front desk) if he needed it.

So I was wondering at what age do other mamas let their sons go in the men’s room on their own and how they felt about it?

Willamette Pedestrian Coalition Walks with Kids

June 11, 2008

191836122_f1aeedc36d_mWe're crazy for the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, because its sole purpose is to make it easier and safer for us to get around by walking.  How great is that?  They describe themselves as 'an organized voice for pedestrians.'  What do they do?  Advocate for better laws (what laws?), enhanced enforcement, more sidewalks and signed crosswalks, education programs, community improvements designed for pedestrians, and increased funding to support all of it.  Yippee. 

We're thrilled that the WPC's new Executive Director, Lynn (mother of two girls) is partnering with Activistas to spread the word about pedestrian safety for kids & families.  We're even more thrilled that she is taking the time to share a 3-part series with us on this critical topic.  With gas prices through the roof and the impressive commitment in P-town to get out of our cars, her perspective and information couldn't be more on point. 

Today Lynn writes about basic safety when walking with kids.  Some of it is second nature, but for me, a little reminder once in awhile never hurts.  Parts II and III in her series will address being a safe driver around pedestrians (when driving I need to remember that I'm a pedestrian, too!) and teaching your kids to be safe pedestrians.  Or pediatricians, as my son says instead.  Take it away, Lynn:

Just like the rest of the country I cringe when I see $4.15 on the gas station sign. I cringe not just because of the price of gas, but because I chose to drive and not walk. I spend a few minutes rationalizing why I drove and how I am “trip chaining.” Then I think about my recent trips on foot and feel a bit better.

Many of my walking trips are with my girls, and speaking of walking with children, when do you have to stop saying look left, look right, look left again. I have heard that at age 10 children start to understand the intricacies of traffic. My eldest is approaching that age, but I am still amazed, when she steps into the street without a glance in either direction. When this happens, I am thankful for the drivers who proceed with caution in my neighborhood, on the lookout for the unexpected child to dash into the street.


I also want my girls to be aware that not every driver watches for pedestrians. And I impress upon them that even at signalized crossing we need to be look over our shoulder and be sure the cars see us. This is especially important since we cross at a light on our way to school and cars frequently turn right on red, just as our pedestrian signal turns green. My girls and I are learning, they are leaning to be alert and walk safe, and I am learning how to teach them to enjoy walking, and to know the rules.


Will you be walking more this summer?  How do you teach pedestrian safety to your children? 

[Great pic from cafemama]

When your herbivore babe takes to the garden

June 10, 2008

When our oral-oriented kids share our love for gardens, how do you babyproof and purge the spurge?  Thanks, Camellia, for highlighting this issue:

My 7-month old is a voracious OmniTaster. I was gardening with him on my back yesterday when, quick as lightning, he snagged a piece of Euphorbia and brought it to his mouth. I quickly grabbed it away from him and wiped away the tiny drops of white sap on his face.

Later, he developed a red streak across his face and a raw sore where the sap had landed (for mere seconds!) After a harrowing Google search and call to the poison control center, we learned that not only are many Euphorbia highly poisonous, its sap can actually burn the skin. We were lucky he just got a few drops on his face--it could have been much, much worse if he'd managed to get it into his mouth or eyes (shiver!)

Euphorbia (common name="spurge") are one of the most common plants in Portland gardens. There are countless varieties, including poinsettias. I had a vague notion that they could be poisonous, but had no idea just how pernicious they were. The poison control center recommended not growing them if you have children under the age of five.

I wonder what other common garden and house plants are more dangerous than I realize. I've eschewed foxgloves and datura this year. I know we can't purge our homes and gardens of everything that might harm our children if ingested, but which plants are the really treacherous ones?  Have you removed plants or taken other measures to childproof your garden?

What's in your First Aid Kit?

June 03, 2008

So twice in the last 2 weeks I've been out with the kids and needed to run to the car for band-aids from the first aid kit. It happened again tonight and it got me thinking...is the universe trying to tell me something about making sure my first aid kit is completely stocked and ready to go before we head out on our adventures this summer? Although it's running low on band-aids, my car kit is pretty well stocked with a CPR mask, latex gloves, tweezers, bandages, emergency blanket, etc. But I'm wondering what else it should include? And for my stash here at home, what are your favorite remedies for bug bites and scraped knees? My mom always used this pink stuff for bug bites and poured hydrogen peroxide on the scraped knees...ouch!

Head Lice (ugh!) in Toddlers

May 15, 2008

I can remember being school aged, when there was a lice break out, we'd line up for the nurses office for her to prod through our scalps with wooden tongue depressorrs.  Rebecca had a lovely Mother's Day, encountering those small parasitic insects that love our hair.

Tonight, while bathing my 2.5 year old daughter, I discovered lice in her hair. We've battled this with my 9yo stepdaughter many times, but I never thought I'd discover them on my toddler at this age! She was actually incredibly patient about letting me comb through her hair to remove nits, but the idea of applying those horrible hair masks is pretty hard to stomach for such a little kid (chemical or organic - either way, it's rough going).

I washed and conditioned her hair with Fairy Tales organic Lice repellent products, then combed through to remove all the nits I could find. Naturally, my husband and I threw all the bedding in the wash. Short of repeating this process every day for a few weeks, I don't quite know what to do.  Any advice?

News to us: Measles in Portland

April 11, 2008

"Multnomah County Health department investiages measles case":

From Public Affairs and Human Services:
Measles has been confirmed in a traveler who flew from Amsterdam to Seattle to Portland on March 26, and then back to Amsterdam from Portland on March 29. State and local public health officials are investigating the activities of this traveler, and identifying people who might be at risk of becoming ill.

Apparently, Governor Kulongoski is among those exposed to measles on a Horizon flight.  For more information, see the DHS page on measles.

Baby's got the bug

March 17, 2008

In our household, it felt like a little kid infirmary over the weekend.  Both of our children fought fevers and pretty much stuck to sleeping all day long on the couch, sick ask can be.  Fevers have been running between 102 and 104, for which we have been giving chewable Tylenol (since we have no Motrin in the house).  I regretted not giving them some immunity boosters or even a flu shot earlier in the season.  Not too many other symptoms, other than the lethargy and fever.  One daughter has been fighting the fever for almost 6 days now, and the other is on her second day of fever.  On this Monday morning, I expect the trend to continue.

We received an email from Virginia last night, and we're all wondering, is it happening to you, too?

I'm checking in to see if any of your little ones have been really sick over the past couple of weeks.  My two year old woke up from his nap last Tuesday hot as a  lit match. I gave him Motrin.  The second it wore off, his fever went through the roof again and he had a febrile seizure and we ended up in the emergency room with nearly a 104 degree fever out of nowhere.  It was horrible.  He seems to be feeling much better but he's been complaining that his stomach hurts and today he seems to have a little nagging cough.  I've taken him to his doctor too.  On top of it, he's not congested at all.   What's going around???  I'm not one to worry over getting sick but this is a weird bug.  Have any of your kids had similar symptoms and how has
this one played out?  Thanks!

Kids and Strangers

February 20, 2008

We encounter many folks we don't know in any given day. Back when I was a child, I was ingrained with concepts that strangers were bad: never talk to strangers and definitely never go with someone you don't know. Nowadays, we have a feeling that the stranger talk is a bit different, but definitely still important. How do you approach the topic with the children? What are core concepts and messages that you have given your children?

Julia emails:

Along the lines of people knocking at your door and safety, I am wanting to know how to bring all of this up to my 4 year old twins. They now know how to unlock and open our front door. I have had the conversation of not opening the door to ANYONE, to come and get mom or dad, and I will keep this conversation going. My question is, at this young age, how do I really start the stranger/safety conversation without making them scared of everyone who walks by?

Do you get a lot of knocks on your door?

February 13, 2008

The other night, at 8:37pm, there was an unexpected knock on the door.  Though it is not unusual for us to have visitors come in and out of our front door, it is a bit unusual for someone to come by completely unannounced.  I got a bit nervous and asked my husband to get the door.  Turns out, it was someone campaigning for global warming.  My husband had to question a few times to make sure that she was against global warming and not "for" it.

In our three years at this house, we have been solicited 3 times.  Once, someone came to our yard while we were playing, he made small talk, asked about the kids, then eventually sat us down and tried to sell us this whole "educational reading kit", to which I kindly declined.  When he was frustrated that he couldn't make a sale, he said, "Are you telling me that you don't care about your children's educational advancement?"  I said, "No.  I am telling you that I would like you to leave now."

Once, on a very cold evening, I had a visit from an OSPIRG representative.  While I can recongize that it takes a committed person to canvass neighborhoods door-to-door and make connections person-to-person, we don't usually respond well to soliciations at the door.  I said I'd look up OSPIRG and take a look at supporting.  I think I may have signed a petition of theirs.

The third time, there was a neighborhood fellow who came to the door, asking us if we needed the lawn mowed or any other housework done.  We had just done a lot of housework that weekend, so I was not lying when I said that we weren't needing help at that time.  Before I was able to close the door, the neighborhood fellow started saying, "I just wanted to let you know that there are a lot of crazy people out there...."  And, I thanked him for his time and thoughts and said, "Good day."

Just moments ago, I received an email from our neighborhood association, indicating that there was some fraudulent fundraising afoot.  People have been soliciting funds, door-to-door, in a nearby neighborhood, raising money for the local high school or community center.  The email also indicated that these groups were not fundraising door-to-door, and that these people were probably looking to prey on the homes where they were soliciting.

So, we are wondering: Do you receive a lot of unexpected knocks on your door?  Are they friends or neighbors?  Do you often encounter door-to-door solicitors in your neighborhood?  Have you encountered fraudulent fundraising in your neighborhood?

Do you vitamin? Which ones?

November 12, 2007

My daughter, running a fever for the second day today, started screaming at one point this morning: "Mammmmaa!  Mammmaaa!"  There was an urgency in her voice, and I knew it was bound to be bad.  I swooped her up and ran with her in my arms.  She was crying.  Before we made it to the bathroom, she vomited all over me.  Not a drop hit the floor.  It was all on me.

I ask myself, "Could I have prevented this?"  Another mama and I were talking about this recently: Do you give your infants vitamins?  Do you give you toddlers vitamins?  I remember being prescribed some TriViSol vitamin stuff for the girls when they were babies.  (I now recall that the pediatrician recommended TriViSol as a Vitamin D supplement because breastmilk doesn't contain Vitamin D.)  I never did give them the stuff.  I figured that nursing (strictly for the first 6 months then supplementally until 24 months) would provide the best source of immunity.  I also figured that most essential vitamins (here's a reference on vitamin guidelines *pdf) are best obtained from naturally occuring foods (5-a-day!).  So, I habitually offer well-balanced food choices.  Of course, pickiness can make a diet very carb-heavy and low on fresh fruits and vegetables.  (Please tell me I don't have the only child who lives on carbs alone alone and who thinks a Fruit Leather is a vegetable.)

We're also not big juice consumers.  Once, our pediatrician asked us, "Do you offer lots of juice?"  And, we said, "Sometimes."  She said some sort of strange "Oh" and was beginning to launch into this long schpeil on sugary juices when we assured her that we try to be good about 100% juices.  She said, "you'd be surprised how many juices aren't 100% juice."

So, during cold season, I offer vitamins more frequently.  I choose the gummi vitamins from Trader Joe's.  We've also tried gummis with just Vitamin C or Echinecea to boost immunity and antioxidants, and there are also some Winnie-the-Pooh multivitamins that they like.  They think it's more of a treat than anything.  How else can I ramp up immunity for the girls?  Make them rest well, well-balanced diets, nurse them through toddlerhood....  What else?

It's only inevitable that they'll get sick at least once during the winter.  One pediatrician friend once told me to even expect wee ones to be sick every month.  But, gosh, once they're sick, how can I make it better?

Mary recently emailed and is wondering if anyone has suggestions for natural vitamins for infants:

At our 4mo appointment, our pediatrician (from Metropolitan Pediatrics) advised us to begin a vitamin called Tri Vi Sol.  After the visit, we went home and I did some research and discovered it is made by a formula company.  I am exclusively breast-feeding my son, and I do everything I can NOT to support or put money into the pockets of formula companies.  Needless to say, I didn't buy the vitamin.  I should also mention that I believe that breast milk has everything in it that my child needs, so I'm a bit perplexed about giving him a vitamin at such a young  age. Anyone else have this experience? Do any mamas here have any recommendations for a  natural/organic infant vitamin that is NOT manufactured by a formula company? Thanks for your feedback!

What's in your safety talk?

October 31, 2007

On a day like today, there will be kids of all ages on the streets of all neighborhoods.  When I was growing up, I was indoctrinated with the idea that there were syringes in my Halloween candy.  All our items needed to be screened by adults first.  Then, there was the year that bad things got so bad in the candy batches and the year that the teenagers were not only throwing eggs but also broken glass bottles -- that I was only allowed to go to "Safe Streets", the area in the neighborhood where all households were somehow certified "safe" and cops were at every corner.  From that year on, I recall that I was only allowed to go to "Safe Streets" for our trick or treating.

Our added twist to Halloween this year in Portland is that Jack McClellan is in our midst, and he has re-launched his website, posting the best places to watch girls in Portland.

What things do you tell your children so they know what is "safe" and what is not?  What precautions do you take for yourselves to be most aware of the community around you?  We have had some great suggestions on a previous conversation, "Knowing is Half the Battle", but we would love to hear more...

Safety when buckling in the babe

October 19, 2007

Emily had an interesting question for the rest of the urbanMamas:

I feel really vulnerable when I am bending over, half in the car and half out, trying to get my little one strapped in his car seat.  I'm paranoid someone is going to attack me or try to steal something.  Especially now that my son constantly tries to crawl out so the process of getting him in his car seat takes time and concentration. I get most nervous when I am in a parking structure and there are not a lot of other people around.  Does anyone have suggestions for putting a kid in a car seat and maintaining personal safety?

Crib recall for Graco, Simplicity brands

September 21, 2007

Everett_and_crib Graco has always been the old faithful baby gear brand in my home, and I know we've owned any number of products marketed by the company. Today I'm happy, though, to note we don't currently own a Graco crib (in fact, we haven't owned a crib since our first son outgrew it). The latest and awfullest recall to hit the market covers nearly a million cribs sold by Graco and Simplicity (all manufactured by Simplicity), from 1998 to May 2007.

I wrote about this recall for 'work' today, and while I can't say I'm horrified, I can say that I'm so, so sad for the parents of the children who died in the cribs and it just hits me how easy it would have been to make the same mistake -- the children were suffocated because the drop side is easy to install upside down, leaving a gap into which a baby's head can fit.

With all these recalls, I wonder if the CPSC is being more careful; manufacturers are being more responsible; or it's just random. Is this world getting more dangerous for our kids instead of less dangerous? Or do we just have better and better information?

Is it the Season to Get Sick?

In the middle of the night the other night, my husband gave a start and gasped.  What was it?  Did we forget to close the front/garage door again?  Did he forget to finish something at work?  "What's wrong?" I asked him.  "Nothing.  My throat just really hurts," he said. 

The next day, I got a voice mail that said, "I think I'm coming down with something."  Over the past couple of days, I see my husband drinking glassfuls of water mixed with the Target-brand Airborne or EmergenC, trying to boost his immunity to ward off autumnal germs.  Over the past couple of days, the girls' noses have become drippier and their noses sound stuffier.  I hand them gummi vitamins (also the Target-brand) ever morning.  Not sure if it helps but .... Aw man!  Staying healthy is so important!

Have you and your families managed to stay in good health?  Or, has return of cold winds and school season brought runny noses, coughs, or maybe fevers?  Are there homeopathic remedies or naturopathic treatments you use?  Vitamins to prevent further sickness?  And, when they're sick, how do you make them feel better?

Does "PVC Free" mean PVC Free?

September 12, 2007

PVC is (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, commonly referred to as vinyl.  "When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems."  PVC is often used in conjuction with metals, including lead.  You can't really tell if there is PVC in lunch boxes, but there is guidance on how to test vinyl lunch boxes for lead (DIY kits and the like).

Maura passes on her experience in her search for the PVC free lunch box:

I thought this might be interesting to the urbanmama community.  I saw the piece about school lunches and the mention of the PVC-free butterfly lunch box.  I had been looking around for a PVC-free lunch box and tracked down the one mentioned made by Crocodile Creek at Grasshopper on Alberta. When wiping out the lunch box before we used it for our first day of school, I decided to take a look at the tag inside and to my surprise PVC was noted twice in the fabric content!!!  This after the cute tag on the front says  "100% FREE PVC!" I called Grasshoppers who called Crocodile Creek and they were told that the lunch boxes really are PVC free, but the wrong tags were put into some of the lunchboxes???  Grasshopper pulled all the lunchboxes and are sending them back to the manufacturer.  Grasshopper was awesome and gave us cash back and seemed genuinely concerned.  It's hard to know if these lunch boxes are what buyers thought.  I'm sure some of those parents would like to know.

Has anyone encountered purportedly PVC-Free lunchboxes whose labels read differently?  Crocodile Creek states "We have given special attention to make certain that the lunchboxes currently offered by Crocodile Creek do conform to the current U.S. & European Consumer Product Safety Standards as well as FDA recommendations. Our lunchboxes are lead safe, 100% Phthalate and PVC free."

Knowing is half the battle

September 06, 2007

Those of you who regularly read the Oregonian may have noticed an article regarding Jack McClellan moving to Portland.  Those of you who didn't, might want to know who Jack McClellan is, and why I'd be bringing him up here.  He is a self-proclaimed pedophile who once kept a website that posted events where young girls could be seen/photographed.  There was a time he photographed them and posted the photographs, too.  He claims to no longer be photographing but he has looked to Portland to seek refuge from the harassment he received in Washington state and California.

Legally, many state that McClellan hasn't violated any laws by his writings and photographing, but admittedly, he's very outspoken about his intents, and doesn't deny them.  So what's an urbanMama to do?  Be aware.  Know as much as you can.  Look for his picture online and know his face.  Beyond Mr McClellan there are other things we should be informed about too, such as sex offenders and where they live.

So please remember that knowing is half the battle.  Armed with this knowledge will help in keeping your family safe.

Mattel recall rocks my world

August 02, 2007

Truman_dora_castle_200 By now, you've probably heard all about Mattel's recall of over a million toys that contain lead paint. When I first heard the Mattel recall news early this morning in between half-waking nursing sessions, I got a dull ache in my stomach. When I got up and looked at the list of affected toys in the paper today, well, I wanted to throw up. J0343 Go Diego Go Antarctic Rescue ... J0345 Go Diego Go Mountain Rescue ... J6762 Queen Mami ... J6765 Prince Diego ... it's as if someone took an inventory of my children's favorite toys. (In addition to Dora and Diego toys, Elmo, Ernie, Zoe and the rest of the Sesame Street gang are also well-represented in the list.) That's a lot of lead.

Everett_diego_toys_200 For months now, my husband and I have been musing about whether we should institute a family ban on products made in China; we just can't be sure that any of these things are safe. The recent discoveries have us sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. After all, Mattel is a big company with a brand name in need of protection -- what about those toys sold on the seasonal aisle at WalGreen's?  I hardly think anyone's busy checking the lead content in the Barbie Princess inflatable balls and knockoff Play-Doh. What if... urggh.

While I go around the house collecting these precious objects, I think: is it time to collect everything and switch entirely to wooden and handmade toys? I'm certainly about ready to throw up my hands in distress. My heart aches when I think of the fallout should I discover that the die-cast Thomas trains from Target have lead paint, too (my worst nightmare). If only I'd never developed the love affair my sons have with these dangerous things.

We've called our doctor's office and elected to get a lead test (with our pediatrician, Dr. Vestergaard, we can just go to the lab at Broadway Medical Clinic anytime and get the test), although she said the risk isn't huge. I doubt my kids will be greatly affected (physically) but I've lost all trust for the toymakers, and that feeling in the pit of my stomach keeps getting achier.

Do you S.I.G.G.?

July 18, 2007

What's with the hot new water bottles? At $20 a pop for a new liquid vessel, is it worth every penny?Sigg It is highly possible that the aluminum bottles (like SIGG bottles) are safer than those containing polycarbonates (like Nalgene bottles)". Studies show that a chemical in plastic may be dangerous even in the small amounts that seep from plastic bottles and food packaging.

So, have do you have SIGG bottles for yourself and family? Have you found an aluminum bottle lined with non-leeching product that is the SIGG alternative (i.e., more affordable)?

Survey: What's in Baby's Bottle?

July 16, 2007

EWG, the Environmental Work Group, is a wonderful resource, a research and education nonprofit organization that focuses on issues about family and the environment.  From the website:

The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.

Anyway, one of the current projects EWG is undertaking is working to ensure that potentially harmful chemicals are kept out of the foods we eat.  The following information is direct from their website:

"Bisphenol A (BPA) is a hormone disruptor found plastic baby bottles and the lining of canned foods including liquid and powdered formulas in steel cans. While there has been a lot of attention to potential exposures from plastic bottles, our calculations suggest that BPA in formula could be a greater health risk.

EWG is preparing an independent analysis of infant exposures to BPA in formula to present to the National Institutes of Health. We need your help to gather food and weight information for real babies to understand the intensity of BPA exposure. Timing is critical! NIH is meeting in early August to make important decisions on BPA safety and use.


If your baby was fed formula, please take a few minutes to complete the survey below by Tuesday, July 31, 2007.  Please find the survey here:  http://www.ewg.org/bpasurvey

My first day on the Low Car Diet: Everyone loves the trail-a-bike

July 10, 2007

This morning, I was in a tizzy to get Philly to summer camp on time and in a tizzy to get to the Low Car Diet kick-off on time.  We set up the bikes in traditional train formation: my bike, connected to the trail-a-bike/tag-along, connected to the trailer.  In a rush, I heaved my way five miles from our N PDX home to NW Portland, to Philly's summer camp.

The problem of the morning: My girls fight over who rides the tag-along.  Now that the girls, ages 3.5 Trail_a_bikeand 6.5, are both happiest pedaling on tag-alongs; no one wants to sit in the trailer.  Sad, lonely trailer!  This morning, our biggest girl, 6.5 year old Philly, "let" her little sister have the privilege of pedaling, so I had the privilege of hauling around 45 pounds of Philly in the trailer the five miles from home to summer camp.  Ugh, ugh, ugh.  Sure the trailer can handle loads up to 100 pounds, but can ya handle pulling those 100 pounds??

Continue reading "My first day on the Low Car Diet: Everyone loves the trail-a-bike" »

New Seat Belt Laws in 2007

June 30, 2007

Thanks to folks everyone who encouraged us to update our info, since New Seat Belt Laws in 2006 will soon be dated. As of Sunday, New Seat Belt Laws apply:

CHILD RESTRAINT LAW: (effective July 1, 2007) Child passengers must be restrained in approved child safety seats until they weigh forty pounds. Infants must ride rear-facing until they reach both one year of age AND twenty pounds.

BOOSTER SEAT LAW: (effective July 1, 2007) Children over forty pounds must use boosters to 4'9" tall unless they have reached age eight.

Infantino Recalls SlingRider Infant Carriers

March 24, 2007

Thanks to tipster Jennifer for letting us know about the recall.  Directly from the ConsumerAffairs.com web site:

Infantino is recalling about 100,000 SlingRider infant carriers. The plastic slider on the fabric strap can break. This can cause the strap supporting the carrier to release and infants to fall out of the carrier.