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Archive for May, 2012

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Polls shows 41% of Americans are pro-choice

The Mom Vivant

Wow, is this a worthwhile article. We Moms are on the front lines of the dance around technology. Yes, technology is a boon in many ways. I love that I can google a recipe for dinner and that I can actually read my son’s research paper if he has done it on the computer. No handwriting issues there! And my computer is basically my home office. I’m on it a good chunk of the day. But, it is a challenge to limit and I do have to monitor it. Right now the Xbox is locked up in the silver closet! The people at the Pew Research Center report that girls between the ages of 14 and 17 send 100 text messages a day to their friends, almost 200 if you include family. 

Google’s Eric Schmidt and the curse of constant connection

 By , Published: May 22

Google executive Eric Schmidt offered some seemingly simple advice in his commencement address at Boston University last weekend: “Take one hour a day and turn that thing off.”

This is odd coming from a man whose career has been based, with enormous success, on making it ever harder to turn that thing off.

And — I can tell you, as a mom who’s waged a losing battle against excessive screen time — Schmidt means things, plural: iPhone, iPad, laptop, desktop, BlackBerry, Kindle. We are multiply wired, ensnared — for better and for worse — in a world of ubiquitous technology.

“What’s the first thing that you guys do when you wake up? Right? Check your phone, your laptop. Read some e-mails. Comb through your social networks. I’m awake, here I am! Right? If you’re awake, you’re online, you’re connected,” Schmidt said. “Some of you are probably texting right now, or tweeting the speech, changing your status.”

In the official Boston University video, as Schmidt speaks, the camera focuses on graduates in mortarboards, tapping away.

Schmidt’s message, naturally, was not anti-technology — it was anti­being-ruled-by-technology.

“People bemoan this generation that is growing up living life in front of screens, always connected to something or someone,” he said. “These people are wrong. . . . The fact that we’re all connected now is a blessing, not a curse.”

Mostly, which is where Schmidt’s piece of take-away advice came in. “I know it’s going to be hard,” he said, as the camera zoomed in, this time on a graduate shaking her head in disagreement — or maybe disbelief at his audacious suggestion. “Shut it down. Learn where the off button is.”

Here, Schmidt could not resist a series of digs at an unnamed Other Company. “Don’t push a button saying I like something — actually tell them,” he said. “Life is not lived in the glow of a monitor. Life is not a series of status updates.”

As commencement speaker advice goes, this is pretty good. There’s a chance that, unlike most platitudes of the not-an-end-but-a-beginning genre, it will stick.

But what struck me about Schmidt’s challenge is both how difficult so many of us would find it to implement and how pathetically modest the goal of unplugging for a mere hour a day actually is.

Consider these statistics:

●Among those who text, girls ages 14 to 17 sent a median of 100 messages daily in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. The average, which includes high-volume users like Certain People Who Know Who They Are in my family, is 187 daily texts.

●A survey from the publisher of Parents and FamilyFun magazines found that 12 percent of Millennial Moms, born between 1977 and 1994, had used their smartphones during sex, giving new meaning to the phrase Family Fun. “There is no part of their lives that is media free,” it concluded.

●More than half of children ages 5 to 8 have used an iPad, iPhone or other touch-screen device to watch videos, play games or engage in other activities, according to a 2011 report by Common Sense Media. Just 11 percent of children age 8 and younger use such a device on a typical day, but for an average of 43 minutes. You can guess where this is trending.

Unlike Schmidt, I believe this constant connectivity is both blessing and curse. The blessing is the Internet’s no-transaction-cost capacity to maintain friendships — camp, school, even grown-up life — forged in the real world. I witnessed this on college tours with my daughter, who spent the drive texting constantly with friends, sharing real-time assessments of campuses and figuring out where to meet up for dinner.

The curse is the powerful, distracting addiction to the world of instant updates and constant feedback. A friend who works at the Pentagon, where security blocks smartphone access, describes the novel experience of meetings where people actually listen to what is being said instead of tapping out e-mails.

A decade ago, pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pre-BlackBerry, I took a year off from work. In that short interval, e-mail was transformed from something you checked a few times a day to a never-ending enterprise. Now, in those forget-the-charger moments when I am away from Internet or cell for more than Schmidt’s prescribed hour, I feel an almost panicky sense of disconnection.

Back then, the notion of unplugging for an hour daily would have seemed laughably easy. Not anymore, which is why Schmidt’s challenge is so important, and so sobering.

Must read for kids!

The following are excerpts from a piece in the Washington Post about Eric Schmidt’s graduation speech at Boston University. They might be worth mentioning to your kids at the dinner table. Could be an interesting conversation.

●Among those who text, girls ages 14 to 17 sent a median of 100 messages daily in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. The average, which includes high-volume users like Certain People Who Know Who They Are in my family, is 187 daily texts.

●More than half of children ages 5 to 8 have used an iPad, iPhone or other touch-screen device to watch videos, play games or engage in other activities, according to a 2011 report by Common Sense Media. Just 11 percent of children age 8 and younger use such a device on a typical day, but for an average of 43 minutes. You can guess where this is trending.


Easy is good at this time of year!

Pasta with peas and parsley-walnut pesto

From the pantry, you’ll need: garlic, walnuts, fresh black pepper, kosher salt, extra virgin olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, pasta, onion, wine you’d be happy to drink.

Serves 3-4.


For the pesto:
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 Tbsp roughly chopped walnuts
1 large clove of garlic
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For the pasta:
1/2 lb short pasta (farfalle, penne, rotini, etc.)
1 small onion, diced
1 cup fresh peas
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh black pepper, to taste
Extra walnuts, for garnish (optional)


Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot on the stove. Cook the pasta until al dente (1 minute less than the package directions); drain (do not rinse) and set aside.

While the water is coming to a boil, combine the parsley, walnuts, garlic, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, salt, olive oil, and 2-3 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in a small food processor, and process to a smooth paste.

In a nonstick frying pan, heat the remaining olive oil, and sauté the onion for 2 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the peas, and cook for 2 minutes. Then, add the pasta and the parsley-walnut pesto from the food processor. Stir to make sure the pesto is distributed throughout all the pasta.

Pour in the wine, and add the 1/4 cup of cheese. Stir to mix everything together, and add black pepper to taste. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until everything is heated through and the cheese has melted.

Serve hot.

The Mom Vivant / Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

I really don’t know what to say. I feel like I’m waking up/coming down from an absinthe- induced daydream. Either that or somebody made a live action version of SpongeBob SquarePants. I’m not a big follower of the grand tradition of French absurdist comedy, but I can see its value. Here, we have an endearing romance wrapped in a cloak of offbeat amusement.

Dom (Dominique Abel) is a hotel night clerk who simply wants to be left alone, but when a woman, Fiona (Fiona Gordon), appears in need of a room for the night, he is more than happy to oblige. And when Fiona explains that she is a fairy and will grant him three wishes, he is nonplussed and unenthusiastically wishes for a scooter and free gas for life. When he awakens and discovers his new scooter, he is sold on her identity, but more important, he is in love. Together they must dodge mental health professionals, the police and hostile townspeople to pursue their love and their shared affinity for interpretative dance.

There are some genuine laughs and the love story verges on charming. That being said, it’s called absurdist comedy for a reason. It’s really more like watching a piece of performance art than a film. I would recommend it if you need something to do on a very rainy day.

Tough Love

Tough Love

Progress sometimes comes in quietly. Or as they say in North Carolina, on kitten’s paws.  Other times it’s a dramatic, “Wow!” “Wow” is what I have to say after reading about Mia Love. What’s not to love about her story? The daughter of Haitian immigrants who arrived in the United States with ten dollars in their pockets, Mia Love just crushed the competition to get her party’s nomination to run for Congress. “There are a lot of people who have tried to define me as a person,” Love told CNN’s Kyra Phillips in an interview. “I’m not a victim, and I don’t allow anybody to put me in a box.” Love that, Mia!

A marathon running mother of three, Love got into politics, when she ran for city council in her small town, and got elected Mayor shortly afterwards. She managed 1700% population growth and helped make drastic budget cuts, eliminating jobs even though she knew she would likely be seeing a lot of the people who had just been laid off at the grocery store or in church. That’s tough love. But it worked.  And she was able to slash budgets while funding new city services that the town required as its population swelled. She did it by getting creative.

If elected, Love will be the first Afro-Haitian American Republican congresswoman. She’s also a Mormon. For goodness sake, her name is Mia Love. Clearly she is different. And different is not always a bad thing! Of course, I do wish she was pro-choice and don’t know where she stands on civil unions but it is refreshing to see this kind of diversity within the party. At the end of the day she is all for freeing up the reigns of our economy and letting business lead the charge toward a recovery. That’s why budget chairman Paul Ryan endorsed her.

You may agree that the timing of another article that I came across in this morning’s New York Times is a little suspect.  The paper profiles an African-American Mormon mom from Utah who is leaning towards Obama. It does raise the conflict that some African-Americans may feel voting against the first black president. I did think it was funny when the woman profiled in the NYT story said the following joke is now circulating around the African-American Mormon community in Utah, “Mr. Obama calls Mr. Romney to say he thinks it is time the country had a Mormon president. But just as Mr. Romney is thanking the president for the apparent concession, Mr. Obama interrupts him to say, “My baptism is on Saturday.”

Here are some suggestions if you wanted to learn more about Love:

Debbie’s “Encharitos”

In a large glass bowl, combine shredded, cooked chicken, a small can of chopped green chilis, a cup of grated colby jack and 1 cup of salsa. Combine and spoon into flour tortillas, roll and place on cookie sheet. Cover with salsa, cheese and crumbled corn chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Only in New York! Kids draw the News

Kids Draw the News: The Case of the Missing Manholes

Stealing manhole coversLiam, 11, Burundi, Africa

Our colleagues at The Times’s City Room blog have a new feature called Kids Draw the News, where they assign the 12-and-unders in the audience a current article about New York City to illustrate, and post the results in a slide show. The first two assignments — a brawl at an elite athletic club and an episode in which a heckler called New York’s mayor Michael R. Bloomberg “Pharaoh Bloomberg” — drew responses from as far off as Africa.

This week’s Kids Draw the News assignment is “The Manhole Cover Mystery.” All over New York City, men, some of them dressed as utility workers, have been stealing manhole covers, which can weigh as much as 300 pounds. The people at the utility company, Consolidated Edison, think the thieves are selling the covers to scrap-metal yards, but they’re not sure. Here is the full article about the manhole cover thefts.

So if you’re 12 or under yourself, or know someone who is, spread the word about “Kids Draw the News” — and submit your drawing here.

Timely topics

Timely topics

Wow, it has been an interesting season for Moderate Moms. I just got back from North Carolina where voters voted overwhelmingly for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. North Carolina is such a beautiful state and in some ways, it is quite progressive. It’s a state that likes to keep its manners and its politicians in check, though, typically voting for a balance of Republicans and Democrats. But clearly voters there are not progressive on gay marriage. Even the Republican Speaker of the House said the constitutional ban approved Tuesday would likely be overturned at some point down the road as opinions open up on gay marriage. But in the North Carolina primary this past Tuesday, it was approved by a huge margin. Columnist John Railey, of the Winston-Salem Journal, is a native son. He grew up along the state’s legendary estuaries and marshy coast. This is a reprint of his paper’s position on the ban:

We have opposed Amendment One, the “marriage amendment” that would write a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution, as unwarranted — state law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman — and potentially detrimental to the rights of others involved in domestic partnerships. After further deliberation we also have come to believe that a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is, on its face, discriminatory. Efforts to deny rights to groups historically have failed. In fact, one of the marriage amendment’s supporters in the legislature, Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis, predicted that the amendment likely would be repealed in the future as political sentiments change. That weak defense of the marriage amendment is a pretty good argument not to pass it in the first place. Constitutions, after all, are created to guarantee and protect the rights and freedoms of individuals and groups, not take them away.
The passion with which each side argues in the debate over same-sex marriage — a debate usually wrapped in deeply felt religious views — has clouded more practical considerations, such as the legal effects a broadly worded constitutional amendment would have on unmarried couples. They include domestic-partner benefits, other family-law issues and domestic-violence protections. The amendment would mandate marriage between a man and a woman as “the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” Other states, including Ohio, that have passed similar constitutional amendments have faced court challenges as a result.
Religious groups are on both sides of the issue, with the pro-amendment people arguing that traditional marriage is threatened unless same-sex marriage is outlawed permanently. Interestingly, John Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation, wrote recently that Amendment One is “unwise and unfair” and that the real threat to marriage are couples who too quickly resort to divorce, or who avoid marriage altogether. But back to discrimination. According to one definition, discrimination is when one makes a “distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.” The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, sees the issue clearly. “It’s a dangerous precedent when you allow a majority to vote on the rights of a minority,” Barber told The Associated Press. “They’re trying to give people, based on their sexuality, second- or third-class citizenship. … We in the NAACP know what that looks like.” So should we all. Amendment One should fail.

In the meantime, points out that the impact of President Barack Obama’s endorsement of same sex unions will be interesting to see. Obama only has a 7 point lead against a generic Republican candidate in polls among the millennial generation. Democrats are hoping the issue of birth control will galvanize young women but an interesting article points out that these are post-recession millennials, who may be more concerned about jobs than social issues. Click here to read more about these millennial voters and why their votes should not be taken for granted.

From the Washington Post,”No one knows how (the political implications of Obama’s announcement) will play out,” said Chad Griffin, a major Democratic fundraiser who is set to take over in June as head of Human Rights Campaign, a leading organization lobbying for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. “I expect this issue to really die down, and we’ll be back to the issues of jobs and the economy.”


The Mom Vivant / Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

By Debbie Baldwin

I have an idea for a board game, working title: Diet Tribe. In it, players would move a tiny grocery cart around a board that represents a grocery store. The goal is to be the first to check out with a full cart of food that will encourage weight loss, speed metabolism, lower cholesterol, manage blood sugar, prevent heart disease, slow aging and promote good digestion. Your cart must contain food from every department (no floral or pharmacy).

Player 1 rolls the dice—or picks a card—and proceeds to liquor. Now, I know what I’d put in my cart in the three-dimensional store. But for the game, I will add a bottle of red wine. While alcohol is the enemy of weight loss, the good outweighs the bad for heart health and cholesterol, so the player continues. In the bakery, you choose bran muffins…Buzzzz! Too much sugar, too high in calories…Go back three spaces.

The meat department is actually a trick: You’re supposed to choose fish— salmon, to be specific. Chicken has hormones and red meat isn’t heart-healthy. In produce, steer clear of bananas. Sure, they have potassium, but they also have a boatload of sugar. Eggs have protein, but they’re miles high in cholesterol. If you land on a cursed space, you have to go straight to the canned soup aisle where there is no escape until you can name all 15 superfoods.

Chips have no cholesterol but they also have no nutrients. Popcorn is high in fiber but it’s loaded with sodium. Pomegranate juice is full of antioxidants and vitamins (oh and there’s a bonus section where you get points if you can explain antioxidants) but it’s high in calories. Purchase of any white food automatically makes one of the wheels on your shopping cart go wonky.

If you get to check out with blueberries, organic chicken, whole grains, vegetables of every color—bonus for kale—skim milk, almonds and hummus, the game will let you sneak chips and salsa through as a bonus. While you’re waiting to check out, you read in the tabloids that new research shows we should all be eating high fructose corn syrup and butter, so back to the aisles you go. At the end of the game, you total up your calories, fat, protein, sodium, carbs and cholesterol; and then you get to kick the chair out from under you. I’m still working out the kinks, but I think it has potential.