The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...

The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...
He's thinking Classic. (click on photo)


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Jan 29, 2010

Mad at Dad:

I've found myself in a snitty mood lately... and today trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with me. For the most part, I realize I am EXTREMELY lucky to have a husband like Matt. He is incredibly involved in caring for the kids and aspects of our lives most men could care less about. But, like this lady, sometimes I'm plain mad and feel like as a woman, I'm still expected to get it all done, to think for my entire family and sometimes, would like my own assistant to remind ME what I need to get done ;) and figure stuff out when the train falls apart - so this article was well times this week and I thought I'd pass it on. I'll include the rebuttal in the following days blog.


My husband and I just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. I'd say we have a great marriage. There's no one I trust more, no one else I'd rather talk to, and no one who makes me laugh harder.

But that doesn't mean I don't get furious at him from time to time.

Once, when I was dangling at the end of my rope, I insisted he go to the doctor for a hearing test. I was quite certain the man was deaf. How else, for instance, could he have taken my grandma's books to Goodwill instead of the antique-book dealer, as I'd asked when he was cleaning out the basement?

Just as I'd gotten used to the idea of the man I love with hearing aids, the news came in from the doctor. My husband's ears work fine. Better than mine, actually.

I know I'm not the only one who gets Mad at Dad. Whenever I see the phone number of a certain close friend on the caller ID, I know she needs my understanding ear because her husband has dropped a wad of cash on electronics while telling her she can't have someone in every other week to help clean, or because he let the kids eat junk food and play video games while she was running errands, and now they're glassy-eyed and glued to the ceiling. Meanwhile, his whiskers are in the sink and his boxers are on the floor, making her feel like she's married to nothing more than a hairy man-child.

These are the kinds of things we see parodied on TV sitcoms, where bumbling husbands get laughs for feeding the kids frosting sandwiches and sending them to school in scuba gear. These are the kinds of things we moan and groan about when we get together with our other mom friends, often playing our irritations for laughs. Honestly, though, it's not that funny. None of us signed up to live in a sitcom.

Life for women may be better in many ways than it's ever been, but we're far from whistling show tunes. According to Parenting's nationally representative survey of more than 1,000 mothers on MomConnection, an online panel of moms, the majority of us confess to feeling anger at surprising levels. We love our husbands -- but we're mad that we spend more mental energy on the details of parenting. We're mad that having children has turned our lives upside down much more than theirs. We're mad that these guys, who can manage businesses or keep track of thousands of pieces of sports trivia, can be clueless when it comes to what our kids are eating and what supplies they need for school. And more than anything else, we're mad that they get more time to themselves than we do.


46% of moms get irate with their husbands once a week or more. Those with kids younger than 1 are even more likely to be mad that often (54 percent). About half of the moms describe their anger as intense but passing; 1 in 10 say it's "deep and long-lasting."

Bridget Malbrough, who lives in Houma, LA, says she feels angry "the majority of the time." She and her husband have been married for four years, though they separated temporarily after the birth of their daughter, who's now 1.

Her husband doesn't seem to pay attention to or understand his daughter's basic needs, says Malbrough -- for instance, that babies need a lot of sleep. He recently came home from a shift at work at 8:00 in the morning, when Malbrough and her daughter were still snoozing. They'd been up late the night before, and both mom and baby were zonked.

"He just decides he's going to wake everyone in the house up," Malbrough says. "He doesn't think she needs to sleep as much as she does." And, she adds, not only does he violate the universal "never wake a sleeping baby" rule, but once their daughter's awake, she's the one who has to tend to her.

Many moms -- 44 percent -- are peeved that dads often don't notice what needs to be done around the house or with the kids (it jumps to 54 percent for moms with three-plus children). We hate that we have to tell them what needs to be done, that they can step over a basket of laundry on their way to find the remote control.

Erin Niumata, a New Yorker and a mother of one, has a husband who's handy with a vacuum because he hates to see debris on the carpet. But he's oblivious to other things -- he never remembers to clean the bathtub, for example, even though she's asked countless times and can't do it herself because of a back injury.

"I hate nagging," she says. "If he asks me to do something, it's done. But if something doesn't matter to him, why should he bother? He'd never forget to TiVo something he wanted to watch, mind you."

Terry, another New York mom with three kids and a full-time job, gets irate every morning during the mad rush to get the family out the door to daycare, school, and work. "I'm making breakfast, getting dressed, and screaming at everyone to get ready -- while he's at the computer," she says. "He always hops-to when I ask him, but it bugs me that he doesn't just pitch in and help on his own. I have to ask every damn day."

Lots of moms -- 40 percent -- are also angry that their husbands seem clueless about the best way to take care of kids. We know we didn't marry buffoons. We married smart men who can fix cars and garbage disposals, men who empty mousetraps without getting the heebie-jeebies, men who can keep track of their fantasy football trades. So why can't they remember to put kids in coats and mittens before sending them off to school? Why do they give the baby a bottle right before we come home, all bursting and ready to nurse?

"My husband is sometimes lax when it comes to keeping an eye on the kids," says Sarah, the mom of a toddler and preschooler in New Jersey. "No one's ever gotten hurt, but once I came home and found that my toddler's brand-new -- expensive! -- rug was covered in marker. It was clear he'd left them on their own for a while, with markers. I was furious. I'm still furious."


40% of moms are mad that Dad can't multitask. And the more kids they have, the madder they are: 46 percent of moms with three-plus kids are irked by this.

As mothers, we think nothing of stirring a pot of noodles while setting up a refrigerator-repair appointment, sorting mail, and helping a child with his weekly spelling words. And it annoys us when our husbands act put-upon or overwhelmed when we want them to handle a couple of things at once. The dinner hour tends to be especially trying. Randi Maerz, a stay-at-home mom who lives in Keokuk, IA, says she's repeatedly asked her husband to watch their daughters, 4 and 2, while she's cooking, if only to keep them safe.

Instead, he comes home with a list of things he plans to do around the house. He gets to focus on one thing at a time, whether it's changing his clothes or doing touch-up painting on the house. Meanwhile, she's trying to cook with human leg warmers clinging to her shins.

"His priorities always come first," Maerz says. "He's got to accomplish them before he can focus on helping me with the kids." She likes how he takes on house projects, but his inability to acknowledge her needs and his unwillingness to multitask irritate her every day.

Lisa, a mom of two who lives in the suburbs of New York, knows the feeling.

After a full day at work, she can be cooking dinner, helping with homework, and taking notes for a PTA meeting while her husband is in the family room with their preschooler. She'll ask him to sort through magazines to be recycled while he's there, and he'll claim he can't because he's watching their kid.


31% of moms say their husbands don't help with the chores -- in fact, they generate more.

Lucy King is a former executive turned stay-at-home mom in Franklin, TN. Her much-loved husband leaves his dirty dishes in the sink, even though the dishwasher is empty, and can walk right by a basket of laundry without thinking to take it to the washing machine.

"It's like being pecked to death by a chicken," she says. "I call these silly little things the pecks that are nothing, but when they keep happening, they drive you crazy. I think, 'I shouldn't have to tell you I need this.' "

Malbrough, who also stays home with her daughter, says her husband leaves all the housework to her -- even though he works two weeks on and two weeks off as a cementer's assistant. "He said that's my job," she says. "Since we've been married, he has cooked twice that I can remember. He doesn't know how to operate the dishwasher. He's never vacuumed."

Many moms complain they do more family work outside the house, too. One in five moms says her husband finds time for his own errands, like taking his shirts to the dry cleaner, but doesn't manage to fit in such family ones as going to the supermarket.

Traci Magee of Oak Ridge, TN, has a 6-year-old daughter and a job as a school librarian. Her husband assumes that because her workday ends earlier, she can do all the errands -- even though he has no idea of the sort of maneuvering that takes, especially with a kid in tow.

"Right now, his car needs to go into the shop," she says. "Somehow, I'm supposed to be the person who figures out how to get that done. I don't think he understands the logistics of getting a child somewhere, taking her to daycare, planning ahead for all the things that come up." Often, she says, she isn't home until 6 P.M. -- and he's already there. "A woman's expected to be able to wear fifteen hats," she says. "And it's very time-consuming and tiring."


33% of moms say their husbands aren't shouldering equal responsibility and are less concerned than they are about their children's basic needs, like nutrition and clothing -- a number that rises to 41 percent for those with three or more kids. What these moms wish: that their husbands acted more like partners -- especially when it comes to the nitty-gritty.

Andrea, a mom of three who lives on Long Island, NY, comes home from work to find her husband has let the kids snack at 5 P.M. instead of giving them a real dinner, though she's repeatedly asked him to just go ahead and feed them. Or he has tried to feed them but has served something they won't eat, like a "bloody wedge of meat on a plate" with no side dishes. Then, after the kids have brushed their teeth for bedtime, they complain of hunger ("Of course they're hungry!"), so he gives them more snacks. "And then who has to oversee the rebrushing of teeth while my husband is off watching TV? I do."

Terry's husband, she says, never thinks about what the kids should be eating when he does the grocery shopping. "I cannot remember once -- not once -- that my husband bought fresh fruit or vegetables, let alone prepared them, for our three children. Now that I think of it, I don't think he's ever spontaneously bought any frozen vegetables, either."

Nearly one third of moms complain that parenthood has changed their lives more than their husbands'. We carry so much of this life-altering responsibility in our heads: the doctors' appointments, the shoe sizes, the details about the kids' friends. Many dads wouldn't even think to buy valentines for the class, for example, or know when it's time to sign kids up for the pre–camp physical, or that curriculum night is next Thursday at 7:30 and you need to hire a sitter and bring a nut-free vegetarian appetizer that can be eaten without a fork. Even moms who work full-time take it upon themselves to store all this data in our already overstuffed heads. We're the walking, talking encyclopedias of family life, while dads tend to be more like brochures.

It's no wonder that more than one in four moms feels like she spends more mental energy on parenting than dads do. Meanwhile, the thing that would help -- some time off -- seems like it disproportionately goes to dads.


50% of moms tell us their husbands get more time for themselves. Brandi Morgan, a mother of two boys in Bandera, TX, feels her anger spike "when I've had sleepless nights staying up nursing the baby, and I'm up early cleaning after last night's dinner and trying to have a moment to breathe by myself, and my husband, by his own choice, gets up early and spends a lot of time at the gym," she says.

Jessica, a stay-at-home mom of two who lives in New Jersey, is angry that her husband, a mortgage broker who works 11-hour days, manages to carve out one weekend day for his passion -- his work as an independent music producer. The other day is "family day." If Jessica is lucky, she gets an hour or two off a week. "I sometimes want to get in the car and just drive and not have to worry about the kids," she says.

The lack of time off is a huge issue for the moms carrying the most anger. Over 60 percent of the moms who get mad weekly -- and almost three-quarters of those who are angry every day -- feel this way.

One thing that can complicate it is the different ways some moms and dads choose to spend their time. Moms tend not to let themselves slack off when there are chores to be done.

Erin Martin of Seattle remembers the Saturday morning she spent rushing making football-shaped sandwiches for her son's sixth-birthday party. Her husband, meanwhile, was goofing around on the computer, oblivious that he could be pitching in.

This sort of thing happens all the time -- she's taking care of the kids or the house or something else for the family, and he's taking care of himself. "I used to think he did it on purpose and it would make me much angrier," she says. "Now, I think it doesn't dawn on him. Guys are just better at compartmentalizing."

Over time, all these feelings -- from annoyance to outright rage -- can be hard on a marriage.

"Anger is corrosive," says Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., the mother of two grown children and a University of Washington sociologist who's studied couples' dynamics for decades. "It's like a termite that starts to reproduce more termites. If you never get rid of the termites, one day you're going to lean on a wall and it's going to crumble underneath your weight."

Anger can also erupt in unexpected ways, Schwartz says. A mom might blow her stack because her husband forgot to turn off the light switch. He'll think she's crazy because it's just a light switch. But it means so much more.

Lucy King, the former executive who gave it up to be a full-time mom, was so mad she couldn't even talk to her husband because of...a coffeepot.

"I said something might be wrong with the coffeepot. He gave me this funny look like, 'You're crazy.' " What set her off was the look, which felt like a failure of her husband to support her.

"I used to manage 400 employees," she says. "I have a master's degree. I was a pretty high-ranking executive. And he questions me about this little stuff! It's hard."

Anger is worth paying attention to.

If you're chronically at the boiling point, it could be damaging to your health.

When you're mad, your body floods with adrenaline. If you're often angry, you might lose your ability to produce a hormone that blunts adrenaline's worst effects. You can also weaken your heart, harden your arteries, raise your cholesterol, damage your kidneys and liver, and put yourself at risk for depression or anxiety. It's no wonder that some scientists consider chronic anger more likely to kill you prematurely than smoking or obesity.

Redford Williams, M.D., director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University, is blunt about it. "Anger kills," he says. "It's not just that it can damage your heart -- which it does -- but it's also been found in epidemiological studies to identify people who are more likely to have a heart attack or drop dead from any cause." Great. We're not only mad because we're carrying our family's weight, it's going to kill us.


60% of moms don't tell their friends what they're going through, or they make light of it.

This is particularly surprising, since our mom friends -- who'd understand better than anyone -- could be a great source of support. "When we make jokes about it, it's one way of talking about it without admitting to ourselves that it's really bad," Schwartz says.

We should talk to each other -- and be more honest about the depth of our feelings. There's great comfort in knowing you're not alone, you're not unreasonable, you're not crazy. If it's uncomfortable to do that with a friend face-to-face -- whether you're worried about being judged or feel it's disloyal to your husband -- then, hey, find some online friends to commiserate with.

The ones we also really need to talk to, however, are our husbands. The fact that so many moms are mad, and that so many of the complaints are similar, is significant. And maybe that can give all of us moms -- who love our husbands but wish they'd just be...more like us -- the push to make some changes, to delegate more and demand more for ourselves. Anger can be debilitating -- but it can also be motivating.

Plus: Mad at Dad Part 2: a response to this controversial article

Martha Brockenbrough is the author of Things That Make Us [Sic], a funny, snarky guide to avoiding bad grammar

Jan 28, 2010

Common Parenting Myths, Debunked

I don't know about you but I really needed to hear this message today. I scourge myself with parental guilt daily. It's a curse!

I don't see it as bribery. I get paid for working. Is that bribery? When I act correctly and have good performance, I am rewarded. We don't do "allowance" in our house but we do privileges as payment, not bribery. There are plenty of consequence and I have been a consequence driven parent. The kids operated under a negative mentality about completing anything because "If I don't, then this is the punishment." It is very difficult for me to break that cycle. I was astonished to see our kids happily cleaning their desks at the end of the day in school, willingly cleaning up! Who's kids are these??? I discovered the teachers at school had a great idea with positive incentives for the classroom and it created an uplifting, positive atmosphere! We have implemented it at times but somehow find ourselves back to the consequence when patience run thin :) It is difficult to remain consistent and break a long time parenting habit, which at times results in a moment of mad parent yelling, which this article says isn't damaging them too much.

"Fair" parenting - when Matt & I set out on this wild ride, we discussed and agreed to parent all our kids the same. Boy, has that turned out to NOT work. Each kid is different and there is really a great difference between his children and my children, simply from the difference in genetics. Some allowance have to be made or one kids gets stuffed into the expectation box that fits another. It doesn't work. Even my own two are different and I've had to *gulp* accommodate.

Another guilt, taking time for ourselves. Our life is chaotic and incredibly full. So even though we are busy shuttling everyone around and meeting all the needs, at times it feels like we aren't meeting any quality or quantity time need for any of the kids. And we definitely are last for time together, except at night or when we're grocery shopping. Costco has become an ultimate date! Last Sunday as we skipped church so that we could attend to our marriage, I said we were bad parents, letting the kids get their own cereal and play while we were sleeping in & being "lazy". The opportunity is so rare... Matt simply said "What about Savannah?" - our 6th imaginary child that represents us. Point well made and so, we'll shuttle off together to the Portland Winterhawks vs. Everett Silvertips game this weekend, a little less guilt. Savannah must be maintained! (and yes, I know it's corny but she rocks!) ;)

Hope this eases some of your parental guilt today -

We've all been there. You're in the grocery store with a long list and a squirming toddler strapped into the cart. She becomes agitated and starts shrieking, "Out! Out!" at the top of her lungs. You are a) mortified and b) determined to bring home every item on the list. So you tell her that if she'll just be quiet, she can have a bag of M&M's. It works.

Or: You and your husband are having a disagreement that quickly escalates into a loud argument. Your kids -- who normally require something akin to an earthquake to tear them away from their engrossing video -- stop watching and stare at you, mouths agape. You envision them flying into the arms of a therapist by age 10.

In both of these situations, the Bad Parent Fairy hovers over our shoulders, fluttering annoyingly and whispering in our ears: "Bribery is bad" and "Don't argue in front of the children." We end up feeling guilty for not living up to the expectations we have for ourselves as parents.

In reality, the Bad Parent Fairy is just propagating old myths. But many of these have become such a part of the fabric of modern parenting, it can be difficult to sift out the grains of truth from the guilt-inducing fallacies.

To free yourself from such traps: Examine and defuse these myths, one by one -- and then tell that Bad Parent Fairy to take a hike.

Bribery Is Bad

Bribery has gotten a bad rap. And yet almost every parent has used it from time to time -- guiltily, covertly, fearing that we are somehow setting an irreversible precedent. "Stop me before I bribe again!" we want to shout.

Margaret Briggs, a mother of two in Roxbury, CT, was exasperated by the daily struggle she faced getting her sons, ages 6 and 9, ready for school. "I had to drag them out of bed, then we'd fight about what they'd wear. And it was like pulling teeth to get them to brush theirs. By the time we got to breakfast, they were grumpy and I felt like I'd been up half a day."

Then Briggs had the idea for a "bribe chart," a poster-board graph on which she wrote such activities as "Get Dressed," "Brush Teeth," and "Make Bed" and placed a bunch of stickers. After a week of meeting their responsibilities on their own, the boys each got a candy bar; after a month, a small Lego set. "At first I felt guilty -- why should I have to bribe them?" says Briggs. "But now they get themselves up and ready every day, and mornings have become a pleasure instead of a mutual torture chamber."

Giving kids privileges or rewards as a positive consequence for behavior isn't necessarily a bad thing. The word "bribery" makes such an incentive sound worse than it actually is, says Ellen Sachs Alter, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, in Evanston, IL. "Used selectively, for a specific behavioral goal like toilet training or teaching kids to make their bed, such bribery can be positive."

Of course, if every situation holds the promise of a reward for good behavior, your children will turn into monsters. "If you start bribing in order to get cooperation for simple things -- being polite to a grown-up, putting shoes on -- you'll get to the point where they won't make a move without the promise of a candy bar or a dollar," she says.

So first, try employing positive yet reward-free logic to achieve results: "When you use the potty, you can wear big-boy underwear" or "If you get yourself dressed every day, you can pick your own clothes."

Turn to bribery as a last resort. Keep in mind that the reward can be nonmaterial and include special privileges, such as having lunch at Daddy's office or taking a trip to the zoo.

Children Should Never See Their Parents Argue

I must have been 6 or 7 when I was lying awake in bed one night and heard, filtering up from downstairs, my parents having an argument. This was the first time I'd ever heard them yell at each other, and I cried myself to sleep, certain they were headed for divorce. (More than 30 years later, my parents are still happily married.)

Even while successfully raising five children, my parents -- like all parents -- made a few mistakes. By keeping their inevitable arguments behind closed doors in order to shield us from marital conflict, they unwittingly conveyed the message that fighting was somehow abnormal or frightening.

Many of us mistakenly assume that children are irreparably harmed by witnessing their parents' disagreements. "We have a fantasy that denial is beneficial, that if kids aren't exposed to anger or bitterness, they won't have these qualities themselves," says Steve Tuber, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology at the Graduate Center/City College, in New York City.

Constant bickering, of course, benefits no one. But children need good models for how to deal with angry feelings. "Arguing is a healthy part of any relationship," says Tuber. "By being able to disagree in a loving way and not hiding it from your children, you're teaching them how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way."

There are certain caveats: Never allow fights to become emotionally or physically abusive, and never fight about the children in front of them. "It's important to present a united front when it comes to raising your child," explains Heidi Murkoff, a PARENTING contributing editor and coauthor of the best-selling What to Expect books. "If you openly disagree about discipline techniques, your child is going to be confused and won't know what's expected of her."

When the argument blows over, it's critical that kids see you kiss and make up. This helps them understand that their parents go on loving each other even though they've had a fight.

Always Put Your Kids' Needs Ahead of Your Own

What expectant first-time parent hasn't heard some variation on this from a veteran parent friend: "Enjoy your life now -- once you have kids, it's all over, ha ha." We readily swallow the concept that once our baby's head pops out into the world, the next 18 years will be spent putting our own needs behind his.

Wrong. Murkoff puts it bluntly: "If you want to raise a child who puts his needs before others, then put his needs before yours." When a new baby cries, of course, a parent should always respond right away. But when he's a bit older -- starting between 9 and 12 months -- "you can begin to show him that other people have rights too by planting the seeds of patience, keeping in mind that it will take plenty of time for those seeds to sprout," says Murkoff. When your 9-month-old cries to be picked up, tell him, "Mommy's just finishing the dishes, then I'll be right over."

Being devoted to your child and being devoted to yourself shouldn't be mutually exclusive. Just as it's your job to make sure that your child gets proper nutrition, enough sleep, social interaction, and mental stimulation, remember that you need all those things as well. Sarah Moore, the mother of two boys, ages 4 and 7, and a management director at a San Francisco advertising agency, puts it this way: "I am a happier and more patient parent when I have interests beyond my kids, like my weekly yoga class. And when my husband and I get away by ourselves, this shows the boys that Mommy and Daddy love each other enough to spend time alone together."

You Should Treat All Your Children the Same

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard my two older boys, ages 7 and 8, whine, "It's not fair!" I'd be a millionaire by now. The sheer variety of daily decisions about which children can howl indignantly, complaining of inequity, is astonishing. Siblings will attach life-or-death importance to the distribution of red versus green Popsicles, who gets to go to the PG-rated movie, and who sits next to the window in an airplane.

"Being evenhanded with your kids and not favoring one over the other is a good thing," says Harriet Lerner, Ph.D, author of The Mother Dance: How Children Change Your Life. When accusations of inequity arise over such trivial matters as Popsicle color or window seats, you can treat all your children the same. By directing them to take turns ("You can sit by the window on the flight to Grandma's. On the way back, your brother can sit there.") or split the difference (dividing the flying time in half and switching seats), you give them the feeling of equitable treatment.

But fairness doesn't always mean sameness. Giving an older child more privileges or responsibilities than a younger one is unequal treatment that's still fair. As is giving more time to a child who has special difficulty paying attention, learning, or calming down.

However, kids under 6 aren't able to see things in context and have difficulty understanding that their needs may be different from their sibling's. "To a four-year-old, the idea that a two-year-old brother needs to be picked up first if both are crying is incomprehensible," says Tuber. "The parent looks really unreasonable to that child."

When an older kid resents the "special treatment" accorded to a younger sibling, point out the benefits that come with age: "You get to ride a bicycle. You can tie your own shoes." When your 5-year-old doesn't understand why she can't go to camp with her 7-year-old sister, concoct your own "Camp Day" at home, complete with sleeping bags, matching-color T-shirts, and a "camp lunch" in your backyard.

It's essential to remember that children -- even identical twins -- come into a family with different needs and temperaments, and what may work for one may not for another. Getting kids to recognize and revel in their individuality may cut down on sibling rivalry too -- though the Popsicle Wars may continue for many years to come.

Children Need "Quality Time"

The phrase "quality time" was originally meant to reassure working parents -- who had fewer hours with their kids in any given week than their stay-at-home counterparts -- that what matters is not the amount of time you spend but the quality of that time.

Flash bulletin: Any time you spend with your kids is quality time. When Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, in New York City, conducted a study of more than a thousand children about various family issues, she found that both quality and quantity matter. Kids need downtime or unscheduled hanging-out time with their parents, as well as "focused time" when parents are really paying attention. "It's not an either/or issue," says Galinsky. Watching TV and reading individually in different corners of the family room both qualify as valuable downtime.

"When people hear 'quality time,' they envision a family meeting in which everyone talks about their day and their feelings," says Lerner. "This just doesn't work." Many kids simply don't feel like pouring forth a font of information about their day to detail-thirsty parents. As my first-grader, Jonah, said to me recently, "Mom, I just lived it. Do I have to talk about it too?"

Experts agree that having unprogrammed, unscheduled time with your children can often comprise quality -- regardless of quantity. And sometimes when you least expect it -- while lounging in your pajamas on a Sunday morning or cuddling together on the kids' beds before sleep -- downtime can beget moments of connection, joy, and even intimacy.

"Losing It" With Your Kids Makes You a Bad Parent

Children are born with an uncanny ability to periodically transform even the most placid parents into screaming maniacs. Those of us who pride ourselves on being able to calmly and rationally resolve problems at work and with our spouse are horrified to discover that we are often powerless over our emotions when it comes to our progeny.

Worst of all, these moments of explosive anger rarely happen in the presence of others, which can create feelings of isolation and perpetuate a two-pronged myth: "Good parents" should be able to control their anger, and this never happens to anyone else.

On the contrary. "It's a universal experience for parents to 'lose it' from time to time," says Tuber. "All of their coping mechanisms evaporate, and they're left with tremendous frustration and anger."

So we scream. But does this damage the kids? "Not as long as a parent can later say, 'I'm sorry I lost it,'" says Galinsky. "Then kids can shrug it off." For a younger child who may be taken aback by your outburst, give her a hug, then say, "I know that was scary when I screamed so loud. I will try really hard not to lose my temper, but I'm not perfect." It's important for your child to learn that everyone makes mistakes -- even her mommy and daddy.

Parenting is hard enough without buying into the unrealistic and even harmful expectations that often plague us. So go ahead. Bribe. Argue. Be selfish. Lose it once in a while. And know that your child will turn out okay. The only one who may be permanently damaged is the Bad Parent Fairy -- and maybe that's just fine.

Abby Margolis Newman has written for PARENTING and

Jan 27, 2010

Mad At Dad Part Two: How to Get Past the Anger

This was actually better than the original post, so I'm placing it on first before the original. I liked the suggestions of how to work it out. I am one of the lucky ones and I often think why is it that we have such low expectations of our men and such high expectations of ourselves? Crap - I'm sure Marshmallow filling is in our future.... should I have deleted that part of the story?

9pm, here I come! :)

A response to the controversial Mad at Dad, and what to do about too-laid-back dads
By Martha Brockenbrough, Parenting

"It actually brought tears to my eyes," wrote one mom, who called herself Mamaford, after reading Parenting's February article "Mad at Dad." "I know I'm not alone, but to see some of my exact feelings on the page allowed me to let go of some of the anger."

Another mother, who called herself BNA's mom, wrote, "I'm so grateful for the 'Mad at Dad' article. I felt like the worst person in the world. My husband is one who can sit and watch TV but can't hear his son asking him to play with him while standing at his dad's feet... Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one."

We struck a nerve with our "Mad at Dad" story, which talked about the surprising and regular anger many women feel toward their husbands for not sharing the family-life load. Based on a nationally representative survey of 1,000 moms, the story lit up the blogosphere and also got picked up by The New York Times, Salon, The Huffington Post, and the Associated Press, among many other places. And hundreds of parents -- moms and dads alike -- vented and shared their opinions and frustrations on (A note to those involved pops out there, like Sportswriter Dad, who chimed in that "I can braid hair and wipe butts with the best of them... I can do the chores and stay in tune to my kids' wants": We're not mad at you.)

It's a tough world out there for moms. We're surrounded by Judgy McJudgersons who jump down our throats if our kids have a meltdown in the cereal aisle, and if the thank-you notes don't get written, we're the ones who are viewed as disorganized -- not our husbands. Many of us are trying to keep it all together while holding down outside jobs, as well.

Is it really any wonder, then, that we sometimes feel crushed by the expectations, both our own and others'? When we don't get equal partners in the domestic trenches, the anger that results can sink our once-thriving relationships. It's one of the most common problems that Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., a New York family therapist and author of Make Up, Don't Break Up, sees in her practice.

"I'm finding a lot more women burned out," she says. "Two thirds of all women work outside the home and usually spend an additional thirty hours per week on childcare and housekeeping…and that's lowballing it. That's why they're so angry."

It can be a real danger to a marriage. You've seen the wear and tear kids put on a couch. They can do the same thing to your relationship. In fact, as many as 70 percent of partnerships start to nose-dive when kids enter the picture, Weil says. So how do we make things better? While you can't make a guy wake up and notice that the bathroom lightbulb's been burned out for three weeks, there is hope. We've got a five-step program that can help defuse a variety of flash points and make your marriage a happier partnership.

Step One: Raise Your Expectations

Even if you didn't negotiate an ironclad prenuptial agreement that he, too, shall scrub the gooey remains of dinner out of the kitchen sink, you can rewrite the rules of your marriage. Experts say it comes down, in part, to expectations.

First, recognize that equality is an attainable goal, says Francine M. Deutsch, a professor of psychology at Mount Holyoke College and author of Halving It All: How Equally Shared Parenting Works. "As much as you see written about how the norm is that women do more," she says, "there is a significant number of couples who truly share the work of the home."

Women need to expect (and demand) an equal partnership. There's a message that fathers who pitch in are somehow special. Isn't she such a lucky woman to have a guy like that? we say.

While it's important to respect the pressure that men are under to provide for their families (even though most moms also work outside the home and many are the main breadwinners, too), we need to view a fifty-fifty partnership as a choice a couple makes together.

Regardless of whether you both hold jobs outside the home or one partner stays at home, you need to "establish the principle that the work at home is just as valuable, just as hard, and just as worthy of time off as the work outside the home," Deutsch says.

Step Two: Get Him On The Same Page

If Dad isn't quite acknowledging that managing a family and a home is actual work, you might take a page from Freaky Friday and swap roles, says Weil. For stay-at-home moms, "the man doesn't get it most of the time," she says. "He really thinks that you're taking naps and relaxing all day." And for working moms who, say, handle daycare dropoffs, dads often just see shorter work hours. Weil asks the moms she treats to leave the kids with their dad the whole day -- and leave everything to him, including meals. Erin Martin, a Seattle mom interviewed for our February story, tried this on two different weekends, with amusing, if not amazing, results.

Both times that she went out of town, her husband either hired a sitter to "give him a break" or called in her mom for backup. Afterward, when the whole family was together for a week on vacation, he told her he had a much better idea of what her life was like. "He was much more appreciative of me," she says. And now he understands why she's so tired when he comes home from work, and why she's likely to snap at what seems like a trivial thing.

Once he's walked in your shoes, you can come up with a plan for managing your life together.

Step Three: Divide and Conquer

The best way for both partners to correct the unequal division of labor (and understand it, if the Freaky Friday switcheroo didn't drive home the point) is to put it in writing. Start by each making a list of everything you're doing on behalf of the family and the time it takes to do it. This includes bill paying, cleaning, shopping, organizing, taking the kids to the doctor's office, filling out their permission slips, helping with homework, RSVPing to birthday parties, wrapping gifts... it's going to be a long list.

And it will be eye-opening. Both of you will see, in black and white, just how much you're managing. You might also realize he's doing some things you hadn't recognized. Just as likely, though, he's going to see that there's more he can contribute.

Ask yourself, too, whether you're doing some things that don't need to be done, like striving for a House Beautiful standard when House Adequate is fine. Liesel Anderson, a Santa Cruz, CA, mom, settled for that when her daughter was a preschooler and her son was a colicky infant. Her husband was working 12-hour days, and she felt like she was shoveling a mountain with a spatula. "It hit me, as I was rubbing fingerprints off the fridge handle at eleven o'clock on a Tuesday night, that I had to let some things go."

A word of advice: Seeing the hideous imbalance on paper will likely reignite your anger and frustration. As you work together to even out the division of labor, try to stay positive, even though it may be challenging. You want to feel like you're solving things together instead of having dump-on-Dad time, says Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., author of Peer Marriage and dozens of other books on relationships.

Once you've completed your lists, start discussing who should do what and when. As you reallocate responsibilities, keep in mind each other's strengths and weaknesses, but don't be limited by them, advises Weil. Just because he's never been great at planning a week's worth of meals for the grocery-store run doesn't mean he can't learn.

Then convert those responsibilities into a weekly schedule. Need help? Consider using a free online calendar like the ones at Google, Windows Live, or to manage tasks, activities, and shopping lists. Agree that you will both look at the schedule every night to see what needs to be done the next day.

For best results, all the experts stress the importance of affection and positive reinforcement. Weil is a big fan of combining talks about the daily schedule with a hug or a kiss. Not only does this remind both of you that you're sharing these responsibilities as a team, but the physical contact also gets the endorphins flowing, which will help you associate family-care tasks with a pleasurable dopamine high!

Having a formalized plan hopefully will mean that one partner (okay, you) doesn't need to nag the other to do his share of the workload, which is, of course, a common source of stress. "The more you can build the sharing into your schedule, the less it becomes a contentious issue," says Amy Vachon, who with her husband, Marc, wrote the forthcoming Equally Shared Parenting: Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents. She and Marc alternate chores like picking up their two kids from school and making dinner on weeknights.

Another tip: When it comes to housework, keep an eye out for the chores that are hot spots. Most couples end up arguing about the same few trouble areas, says Amy Vachon. If you can isolate and tackle these problems -- like how frequently the bathroom needs to be cleaned, or who is going to buy the dog food -- both of you will make huge gains.

Step Four: Lower Your Standards

If you've been in charge of many aspects of your home and your child's life, you're naturally going to be more competent at things like the schedule,says Amy Vachon. You'll need to let go of some of that turf.

This can be the hardest part for a mom who's been in the driver's seat for a while. Your husband isn't going to do everything to your exact specifications. Just because we're fanatics about dust-free baseboards doesn't mean our husbands have to be. And just because we never feed a baby pureed spinach for breakfast doesn't mean it's wrong.

Anderson, the Santa Cruz mom, had to let go of her "control freak" ways when her husband took the sugar-free peanut butter she'd purchased and used it to make sandwiches -- with marshmallow fluff.

"It was something the kids called a 'daddy sandwich,'" she says. "It's become one of those 'legend in our family' things, and it's a treat -- not an everyday thing -- but a Fluffernutter sandwich is not going to ruin my kids."

As you work with your new schedule, try to appreciate the small steps forward when you can, like when he does the laundry without being asked. "If he didn't fold the clothes, try to be happy that he washed the clothes," says Weil. Yes, it's frustrating when everything isn't done the way you would do it. But is your relationship really worth less than neatly folded laundry?

Sometimes, experts say, being happy with the effort leads to greater feelings of happiness overall. "Fighting can leave you feeling really worn out," Weil says.

And if your partner does something mind-numbingly stupid, like forgetting to feed the kids, resist the urge to blow up and seize control. When you do this, you make your husband feel incompetent, says Schwartz. You also train him to expect that you'll cover for him.

"You really have to stand back and talk about it in a calm way, not necessarily when it's happening in the heat of anger," adds Deutsch.

The bottom line: Involve your husband as your partner, not your employee. Ultimately, this is a gift to your children, says Marc Vachon. "Moms and dads are different, but they both need to be equally valued," he says.

Step Five: See What You Can Learn From Him

Moms are mighty machines of awesomeness in the ways we multitask: We can fill out school forms, stir pasta, and keep the baby's fingers out of the cat's eyes all at the same time. Many men, however, seem unable -- or unwilling -- to do more than one thing at once. Ask him to watch the kids after breakfast and he will. But the dirty dishes may still be sitting on the kitchen table when you return.

Fact is, though, that doing ten things at once may be overrated at home. "It can mean that you're not in the moment with your kids as much," says Marc Vachon. "It's useful to multitask, but it's also useful not to multitask."

Another lesson we can take from Dad's playbook: Find time not to do any "tasking" at all. In our original survey, 50 percent of moms reported that their husbands got more time for themselves than they did. Given free time when, say, the baby is napping, many moms are more likely to use that time to load the dishwasher, while dads might use it to surf the web or check the score of the game.

At the advice of her marriage counselor, Martin, the Seattle mom, started designating a quitting time each day. Even if it's as late as 9 p.m., having a stopping point to her workday has done wonders for her happiness and her relationship. She can pick up a book, chat with her husband, watch a movie with him, or do whatever she wants without feeling guilty -- almost.

"It's been really great," she says, "even if it's hard not to feel guilty. But my husband doesn't feel guilty when he wants to read and there's laundry to do, so I'm trying to enjoy myself."

Another mom from our February story, Lucy King of Franklin, TN, has started taking walks by herself after dinner while her husband tidies up the kitchen and watches the kids. "This is really helpful," she says, "especially when I have both boys home all day and they fight constantly."

It's critical to have time to do things that make you happy. You can't leave your needs out of the equation, and it's difficult to take care of yourself if all of your time is spent taking care of your home and family.

In the long run, everyone is happier when dads contribute more -- even dads. In her interviews with 150 couples for her book, Deutsch found that the men who'd made the compromises required for a fifty-fifty parenting split were more satisfied at home.

"Every single one of them felt there had been this incredible payoff," she says. "There were huge benefits for the parents and the kids." Not the least of which is a mom who isn't angry all the time.

Martha Brockenbrough is the author of Things That Make Us [Sic], a snarky guide to avoiding bad grammar. She lives in Seattle.

WHO defends its swine flu warning

I think it's concerning how easily and how many people on this earth are so easily swayed to inject or injest new drugs into their bodies and their children's bodies. Where is our questioning, our waiting, our observing, our protecting of ourselves and our bodies, our minds? This report is not a surprise to me - it's exactly what I said this "pandemic" was about when it started - money for the drug companies and it seemed so obvious to me. The WHO declares a pandemic, creating fear across the world population and money is immediately funded from the government to the pharmaceutical companies to rapidly create this new vaccine. Bans on mercury in vaccines are lifted - because it's a pandemic and they must get it out! Ads are run in the media, creating fear over the "flu" in general - something that happens every year. Children have been injected with the mercury laden vaccines, which effects will not show up in them for years to come. I feel frustration at things that to me appear to be common sense. Yet, we allow ourselves and our children (which we have no right...) to be guinea pigs to these companies who's only interest is their own testing, their own pockets and we are collateral damage in their free experimental lab. The large organizations (and governments) in this world are about profit - and it shouldn't be a secret that the drug companies are one of the largest. From

"Americans now spend a staggering $200 billion a year on prescription drugs, and that figure is growing at a rate of about 12 percent a year (down from a high of 18 percent in 1999)"

When money is driving the reason, we should all stand back and question what's being shoved down our throats or pushed into our bloodstream. Money is donated to the legislators from those companies. We know how it works. They all sleep together.

This is in the same line as the irresponsibility of the medical world and it's release of highly addictive pain killers that has created it's own "pandemic" of addictions across this nation over the last 8 years, the question about the safety of vaccines - the reports that you will never see an actual scientific report indicating vaccines are dangerous because there is too much money wrapped up in the "facts" that they are necessary. The report or question as to why no one has started a class action lawsuit yet for the pain killers that are pushed with no supervision from most of the medical world, that are creating addicts and who's deaths have now superceded moter vehicle deaths in this nation. We must question those that tell us it's necessary for our own good or our children's own good. Those that "control" have their own interests at heart and I do not want myself or my family to be "expendable", as the Clone Troopers on Star Wars :) (thank you Ryan!).

More from that article:

"What does the eight-hundred-pound gorilla do? Anything it wants to. ...but from 1980 to 2000, they tripled. They now stand at more than $200 billion a year. The claim that drugs are a $200 billion industry is an understatement. According to government sources, that is roughly how much Americans spent on prescription drugs in 2002. That figure refers to direct consumer purchases at drugstores and mail-order pharmacies (whether paid for out of pocket or not), and it includes the nearly 25 percent markup for wholesalers, pharmacists, and other middlemen and retailers. But it does not include the large amounts spent for drugs administered in hospitals, nursing homes, or doctors' offices (as is the case for many cancer drugs).. But they do not include the revenues of middlemen and retailers.

Perhaps the most quoted source of statistics on the pharmaceutical industry, IMS Health, estimated total worldwide sales for prescription drugs to be about $400 billion in 2002. About half were in the United States. So the $200 billion colossus is really a $400 billion megacolossus.

No flu or swine flu shots in our house this year.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has defended its handling of the swine flu pandemic last year, after the Council of Europe cast doubt on its actions.

Countries rushed to order thousands of vaccine doses when the pandemic was declared in June, but the virus proved to be relatively mild.

The WHO's links to drug companies were questioned at a hearing by the Council of Europe's health committee.

A WHO flu expert denied there had been improper influence from drug firms.

The WHO's Keiji Fukuda told a hearing in Strasbourg: "Let me state clearly for the record - the influenza pandemic policies and responses recommended and taken by WHO were not improperly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry."

When a pandemic was declared last June most European countries changed their health priorities to accommodate thousands of expected patients, including spending millions of euros on vaccines for H1N1.
“ We feel we should move quickly. Our purpose is to try to provide guidance, to try to reduce harm ”
Keiji Fukuda WHO flu expert

A number of European governments signed contracts with drug companies to buy vaccines.

But it has since become clear that although 14,000 people worldwide died from swine flu, and millions more were infected, it is a mild flu with a lower mortality than seasonal influenza.

Allegations from politicians and media about links with drug companies have prompted an internal review at the WHO and the Council of Europe hearings.

Dr Fukuda rejected comparisons between seasonal flu and swine flu - describing them as like comparing oranges to apples.

Seasonal flu figures were based on statistical models, whereas every swine flu death had been confirmed in a laboratory, he said.

He said the WHO response had not been perfect, but a range of experts - including some in the private sector - had been consulted and there had been safeguards to prevent a conflict of interest.

"We are under no illusions that this response was the perfect response," Dr Fukuda said.

"But we do not wait until [these global virus outbreaks] have developed and we see that lots of people are dying. What we try and do is take preventive actions. If we are successful no-one will die, no-one will notice anything," he added.

"We feel we should move quickly. Our purpose is to try to provide guidance, to try to reduce harm," he said.

Part of the WHO review would examine if there was a better way to define outbreaks and severity, Dr Fukuda said.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Jan 26, 2010

Girls or Boys; Which is more difficult?

I found this article very true. Having 5 kids, 4 girls and one boy, we are constantly trying to "contain" our sons energy and have had recent discussions about the fact our 4 girls aren't contained much, while we're trying to manage him into the box of "girl" behavior. Simply because estrogen dominates our household, it becomes the standard for behavior, much to the unfairness of the male side of the household. I've already determined that girls are easier when they are younger, while boys are more "difficult" (rather, just male!) and girls are more "difficult" (rather, just female and hormonal) during the teen years. I agree with the point about labeling of ADD or ADHD for boys (this isn't the first article I've read that points that out) that happens because society wants these boys to sit still, not play with guns, be quiet, CONFORM - not be men for Pete's sake, just so they can be more controllable and our classrooms can be orderly and peaceful (um, a female desire I'd like to point out...).

By Paula Spencer

I often say that I spend more time and energy on my one boy than on my three girls. Other mothers of boys are quick to say the same. Forget that old poem about snips and snails and puppy dog tails, says Sharon O'Donnell, a mom of three boys and the author of House of Testosterone. "Somehow it's been changed to boys being made of 'fights, farts, and video games,' and sometimes I'm not sure how much more I can take!"

Not so fast, say moms of girls, who point out that they have to contend with fussier fashion sense, more prickly social navigations, and a far greater capacity to hold a grudge. And as a daughter grows, a parent's concerns range from body image to math bias.

Stereotyping, or large kernels of truth? "I think parents use 'which is harder?' as an expression of whatever our frustration is at the moment," says family therapist Michael Gurian, author of Nurture the Nature. "Boys and girls are each harder in different ways."

Every child is an individual, of course. His or her innate personality helps shape how life unfolds. Environment (including us, the nurturers) plays a role, too: "There are differences in how we handle boys and girls right from birth," says David Stein, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Virginia State University in Petersburg. "We tend to talk more softly to girls and throw boys in the air."

But it's also true that each gender's brain, and growth, unfolds at a different rate, influencing behavior. Leonard Sax, M.D., author of Boys Adrift, believes parents raise girls and boys differently because girls and boys are so different from birth -- their brains aren't wired the same way.

So, can we finally answer the great parenting debate over which sex is more challenging to raise? Much depends on what you're looking at, and when:

Who's harder? Boys
Why don't boys seem to listen? Turns out their hearing is not as good as girls' right from birth, and this difference only gets greater as kids get older. Girls' hearing is more sensitive in the frequency range critical to speech discrimination, and the verbal centers in their brains develop more quickly. That means a girl is likely to respond better to discipline strategies such as praise or warnings like "Don't do that" or "Use your words." "Boys tend to be more tactile -- they may need to be picked up and plunked in a time-out chair," Gurian says. They're also less verbal and more impulsive, he adds, which is especially evident in the toddler and preschool years.

These developmental differences contribute to the mislabeling of normal behavior as problematic, a growing number of observers say. Five boys for every one girl are diagnosed with a "disorder" (including conduct disorder, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, sensory integration disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder), says Stein, also the author of Unraveling the ADD/ADHD Fiasco. Some kids -- most often boys -- may simply fall on the more robust end of normal. They need more opportunities to expend energy and aggression, as well as firmer limits.

Physical safety
Who's harder? Boys
"Much after-dinner wrestling here," reports Michelle Mayr, the Davis, California, mom of four boys, ages 5 to 12. "I'm constantly fighting to keep my house a home rather than an indoor sports center. Their stuffed animals' primary function is to be added to the pile of pillows everyone is launching into from the coffee table." In general, boys are more rambunctious and aggressive, experts say. Taking risks lights up the pleasure centers of their brains. Many parents find they have to keep a closer eye on what a son is "getting into," or use more bandages.

But letting kids explore -- at the cost of a few scrapes and cuts -- builds character, self-confidence, resilience, and self-reliance, says Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. Boys, being natural risk takers, may need encouragement to slow down a little, but maybe girls need to be encouraged to take more risks. Look for opportunities for your daughter to jump off a wall, swim in the deep end, or try the bigger slide.

Who's harder? First boys, then girls
From birth, a girl baby tends to be more interested in looking at colors and textures, like those on the human face, while a boy baby is drawn more to movement, like a whirling mobile, says Dr. Sax. (These differences play out in the way kids draw: Girls tend to use a rainbow of hues to draw nouns, while boys lean toward blue, black, and silver for their more verblike pictures of vehicles crashing and wars.) In a nutshell, girls are rigged to be people-oriented, boys to be action-oriented. Because girls study faces so intently, they're better at reading nonverbal signals, such as expression and tone of voice. Boys not only learn to talk later than girls and use more limited vocabularies, they also have more trouble connecting feelings with words.

"While most girls share their feelings and details of events, my three sons honestly don't see that as important. I spend my days asking, 'What happened then?' or 'What did he say after you said that?'" O'Donnell says.

Important note: Because boys hold eye contact for shorter periods than girls, parents may worry about autism, since this can be a red flag. "It's a relief for moms to know that this is normal and comes from the way the brains are set up," Gurian says.

As girls get to be 8 or so, things can get harder: The flip side of being so adept at communicating is that girls exert a lot of energy on it. There can be a great deal of drama around who's mad at whom, who said what and why, and more. Start when your daughter's a toddler to establish an open communication, so she learns she can come to you for advice.

Who's harder? Girls
Developing a healthy self-image is critical to all kids. But as the more compliant and people-oriented gender, girls tend to grow up less confident and more insecure than boys, researchers say. Famed gender researcher and psychologist Carol Gilligan, Ph.D., calls this "the tyranny of nice and kind" -- unwittingly raising girls to be people pleasers.

"This cultural pressure to put others' needs first, ignore one's own gut feelings, and avoid asking for what one wants has traditionally harmed girls," says Jenn Berman, a California family therapist who wrote The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids. "Despite the fact that she enjoys the positive attention and accolades that people pleasing brings, the more a girl pushes her own needs and desires underground to please others, the more likely her own self-esteem will suffer."

"I see a natural nurturing instinct in my daughter and her friends," says Tracy Lyn Moland, a parenting consultant in Calgary, Alberta, who has a girl, 11, and a boy, 8. "I find myself saying, 'I can take care of that -- you get yourself ready,' when she's trying to mother her brother."

Make no mistake, helpfulness and nurturing are virtues for everybody. But this tendency in girls makes it smart to help her explore and strengthen her inner nature and encourage her to try new things.

Body image is a big part of self-esteem, and though there's certainly body-image dysfunction in boys and men, it remains mostly a female issue. The natural rounding out of the body that happens in puberty clashes with the unnatural slimness girls see in the culture around them.

Be aware of the messages you convey about your own body, diet, and exercise. "It's painfully obvious that girls' negative body image can come directly from seeing their moms look critically in the mirror and complain," says Berman. "Teach your daughter to listen to her body's signals of hunger and satiety. Girls who listen to their bodies tend to listen to their instincts in other areas." Sports are a great way for girls to build confidence and a healthy appreciation for their bodies.

Who's harder? Mostly boys
Boys and modern education are not an idyllic match. An indoor-based day and an early emphasis on academics and visual-auditory (as opposed to hands-on) learning ask a lot of a group that arrives at school less mature. In their early years, most boys lag behind girls in developing attentiveness, self-control, and language and fine motor skills.

The relatively recent acceleration of the pre-K and kindergarten curricula has occurred without awareness that the brain develops at different sequences in girls and boys, Dr. Sax says. Music, clay work, finger painting, and physical exercise -- early-ed activities that once helped lively kids acclimate to school -- are vanishing. Few teachers are trained in handling the problems that result.

One area where girls do less well in school concerns spatial learning, such as geometry. Girls may use different parts of their brains to process space perceptions. The key is for parents to present both boys and girls with plenty of no-pressure opportunities to try out the areas that are challenging.

The bottom line? On balance, the general consensus seems to be that boys are more of a handful early on, and girls more challenging beginning in the preteen years. Which means that, as the mom of daughters who are 12, 9, and 7, I have the next ten years cut out for me!

Parenting contributing editor Paula Spencer is the coauthor, with Jill Stamm, M.D., of Bright From the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, From Birth to Three.

Jan 22, 2010

Teenage Depression: Hagelin: Cultural Challenge of the Week:

The least discussed human illnesses are those that deal with the brain. Yet, so many of our young people are suffering with various brain disorders, including depression and anxiety, that I believe it is way past time that we work to help remove the stigma.

The good news is that brain disorders (also known as mental illnesses) are highly treatable in this modern era. No one who suffers should be afraid, or ashamed, or embarrassed to ask for help. But, most who suffer do not ever ask for intervention because they either don't know help exists or they fear the response from their loved ones.

Mental illnesses are largely caused by chemical imbalances -- much like diabetes is a result of an imbalance in the blood system. When someone has diabetes, we have no problem recognizing that they often need to be treated with injections of insulin. But, many in our society still can't accept the fact that medications can be the "miracle" that can make life happy and normal again for those who suffer from depression.

This is particularly true when the one who is ill is a teenager. This has got to change. That's why I have made teenage depression the focus of this week's culture challenge:

Culture Challenge of the Week: Teenage Depression

You would think that teenagers growing up in the most prosperous society in history would be abundantly joyful. Even in these economic days of woe, teenagers spend an estimated 200 billion dollars a year on trinkets, toys, music and the latest fashions.

My goodness! Compared to the rest of the world our teenagers live like royalty.

Yet, recent studies show that the rate of teenage depression and mental illness is at an all-time high. And, while the general incidence of suicide has decreased in the United States in the past 25 years, it has tripled among young people ages 15 to 24. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents.

A recent study led by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge reports that compared to high school and college students in the Great Depression era, there are five times as many youth today that suffer from anxiety and mental health issues.

The causes of depression and anxiety can range from a genetic predisposition to a variety of illnesses. And, a pop culture filled with empty messages of "love 'em and leave 'em" -- a devaluation of human life -- the fact that 40 percent of children live in a broken home and an emphasis on materialism is enough to make even the healthiest child wonder if her life really matters. The harsh reality is that children from broken homes are five-times more likely to commit suicide than their peers from intact families.

Our pop culture is preoccupied with "liberating" children and teens from their parents, churches and traditional morality -- the three anchors which contribute to the development of healthy minds and spirits. They have been replaced with the rampant promotion of pornography, a doctrine of sexual experimentation, and a self-centered view of the world as evidenced by parents who think nothing of destroying a child's world and heart through divorce. Even teens from healthy homes are often afraid to enter the world on their own with all of its ills.

Our children are crying – literally – for a change.

How to Save Your Family from being lost in depression

Real depression and brain disorders are serious illnesses that must be taken just as seriously. The worst thing you as a parent can do if you suspect that your child is suffering from what still remains the most stigmatized of human conditions is to ignore him, or tell your child to “just snap out of it.”

It's incredibly disturbing that in this beautiful nation with all of our blessings and the wonders of medical science that people -- both adults and teens -- with mental illnesses are often afraid to seek treatment. Ignorance, public scorn, and a health system that doesn't seem to recognize the need for robust mental health services are a blight on America.

If you suspect that your child is plagued by depression, find out for certain. Whether due to a genetic condition or the emptiness of our culture, such suffering requires help -- and human decency demands it.

Know the signs. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (, indicators of depression include:

* feeling persistently sad or blue;

* talking about suicide or being better off dead;

* becoming suddenly much more irritable;

* having a marked deterioration in school or home functioning;

* reporting persistent physical complaints and/or making many visits to school nurses;

* failing to engage in previously pleasurable activities or interactions with friends; and

* abusing substances.

The brain is a complex organ still shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that a brain can fall ill just as easily as a heart, lung, or blood system. Medical professionals will tell you that treatment options are vast and include psychotherapy as well as medicines. What they often don’t include, however, is the critical component of spiritual counseling.

The most successful treatments are comprehensive in nature and minister to the body, mind, emotions, and spirit. To get help for your child, start by looking into the life-giving resources available at

Many thanks for your continued support of this newsletter and my efforts to help strengthen our family relationships. If you find these e-mails helpful, please forward them on to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. As always, they can do so for free through my Web site,

This week, why not do something special for each member of your family to remind them that you love them and are committed to them as long as you live? As you reach out in a deliberate way with a tangible act of your love, you will be one step closer to building the close relationship that you crave.

Jan 21, 2010

California Storms

On the heels of 2012.... interesting news.

Jan 20, 2010

MSN:Today's Best and Worst Cities for Jobs

Last fall, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the recession was "very likely over" -- at least by the numbers -- and the United States had moved into a period of recovery.

That was September. Most job seekers, especially the 5.9 million long-term unemployed workers who have been out of work for six months or more, are still waiting for that renewal.

The national unemployment rate in October was 9.5 percent, not seasonally adjusted, up from 6.1 percent a year earlier. Fifteen metro areas recorded jobless rates of at least 15 percent, while 13 others registered rates below 5 percent. Overall, 138 areas recorded unemployment rates above the U.S. average, 229 areas reported rates below it, and 5 areas had the same rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the unemployment rate is a lag indicator. Looking at other BLS figures, there are signs that the economy is healing. Many U.S. metros experienced some -- albeit small -- job growth from the period of July 2009-October 2009 (most recent data available at press time).

According to seasonally adjusted data from the BLS, out of the largest 281 metros in the United States, 77 cities added jobs the July-October 2009 period. Eleven metros saw no change in the number of employed persons; however, another 193 metros saw declines in jobs.

The best...

Of those 77 cities whose employment increased from July-October 2009, here are 19 that saw growth by 1 percent or more.

Merced, Calif.
No. of employed in July: 55,200
No. of employed in October: 56,700
Percent change: +2.7

Morgantown, W.Va.
No. of employed in July: 62,800
No. of employed in October: 64,300
Percent change: +2.4

Dubuque, Iowa
No. of employed in July: 53,200
No. of employed in October: 54,300
Percent change: +2.1

Wilmington, N.C.
No. of employed in July: 138,400
No. of employed in October: 141,300
Percent change: +2.1

Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, N.J.
No. of employed in July: 60,200
No. of employed in October: 61,400
Percent change: +2

Mansfield, Ohio
No. of employed in July: 53,800
No. of employed in October: 54,900
Percent change: +2

Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C.
No. of employed in July: 798,200
No. of employed in October: 810,500
Percent change: +1.5

Portsmouth, N.H.-Maine
No. of employed in July: 53,900
No. of employed in October: 54,600
Percent change: +1.3

Raleigh-Cary, N.C.
No. of employed in July: 500,400
No. of employed in October: 506,700
Percent change: +1.3

Iowa City, Iowa
No. of employed in July: 91,000
No. of employed in October: 92,100
Percent change: +1.2

Springfield, Ohio
No. of employed in July: 50,400
No. of employed in October: 51,000
Percent change: +1.2

Fresno, Calif.
No. of employed in July: 289,900
No. of employed in October: 293,100
Percent change: +1.1

Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, Calif.
No. of employed in July: 167,700
No. of employed in October: 169,600
Percent change: +1.1

Rockford, Ill.
No. of employed in July: 152,00
No. of employed in October: 153,700
Percent change: +1.1

Glens Falls, N.Y.
No. of employed in July: 52,600
No. of employed in October: 53,200
Percent change: +1.1

Athens-Clarke County, Ga.
No. of employed in July: 83,700
No. of employed in October: 84.5
Percent change: +1

Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa
No. of employed in July: 87,300
No. of employed in October: 88,200
Percent change: +1

Johnson City, Tenn.
No. of employed in July: 79,000
No. of employed in October: 79,800
Percent change: +1

Spokane, Wash.
No. of employed in July: 210,100
No. of employed in October: 212,200
Percent change: +1

And the worst

There were also 193 metros that experienced declines in jobs from July-October 2009. Here are the 15 that had the greatest losses.

Greenville, N.C.
No. of employed in July: 76,400
No. of employed in October: 74,900
Percent change: -2

Columbus, Ga.-Ala.
No. of employed in July: 120,200
No. of employed in October: 117,700
Percent change: -2.1

Dalton, Ga.
No. of employed in July: 68,000
No. of employed in October: 66,600
Percent change: -2.1

Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
No. of employed in July: 119,400
No. of employed in October: 116,800
Percent change: -2.2

Lafayette, Ind.
No. of employed in July: 96,700
No. of employed in October: 94,500
Percent change: -2.3

Bellingham, Wash.
No. of employed in July: 82,200
No. of employed in October: 80,300
Percent change: -2.3

Greeley, Colo.
No. of employed in July: 79,700
No. of employed in October: 77,800
Percent change: -2.4

Barnstable Town, Mass.
No. of employed in July: 96,000
No. of employed in October: 93,700
Percent change: -2.4

St. George, Utah
No. of employed in July: 49,600
No. of employed in October: 48,400
Percent change: -2.4

Gainesville, Ga.
No. of employed in July: 75,300
No. of employed in October: 73,400
Percent change: -2.5

Lima, Ohio
No. of employed in July: 53,600
No. of employed in October: 52,200
Percent change: -2.6

Rochester-Dover, N.H.-Maine
No. of employed in July: 58,200
No. of employed in October: 56,400
Percent change: -3.1

Yuma, Ariz.
No. of employed in July: 51,500
No. of employed in October: 49,800
Percent change: -3.3

Missoula, Mont.
No. of employed in July: 55,100
No. of employed in October: 52,800
Percent change: -4.2

Grand Junction, Colo.
No. of employed in July: 64,800
No. of employed in October: 61,400
Percent change: -5.2

Kate Lorenz is the editor for and its job-seeker blog, She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow CareerBuilder on Twitter

Jan 18, 2010

The F Word: Andrew Keane

By: Andrew Keane:

It’s the F word question that all parents now dread. “Can I go on Facebook?” your eleven year-old bullies you over dinner, declaring that absolutely everybody else in her class is not only on Facebook, but also on Twitter as well as Bebo and Orkut and other peculiarly named social networks.

So how should parents in today’s social media age deal with the F word question? Is social networking bad for children’s brains? Should we allow our kids to freely expose their identities on the Internet?

It’s not an easy question, especially for parents who love their kids but fear the perils of the Internet. I had the good fortune to spend all of yesterday at Los Angeles’ Terranea hotel discussing this thorny issue of children and social networking with a group of technology mavens, many of whom are also parents of young children. We were at an event called Play It 4-Ward - choreographed by the Santa Monica based Generate Media and sponsored by Ford Motor Company and Microsoft - a soon to be broadcasted show on MSN which addressed some of the most pressing social issues associated with the Internet and electronic gaming.

I found myself on a panel with three other dads, each with dramatically different views of the impact of social networks on their kids. My group comprised Stanley Kirk Burrell, otherwise known as MC Hammer, the pop rap artist who has sold more than 30 million records; Chris Kelly, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer who is currently running for the District Attorney position in California, the state’s most powerful legal position; and John Salley, a four time winner of the National Basketball Assocation (NBA) championship and now a popular host on the Fox Sports Network television programme The Best Sports Show.

The only thing MC Hammer, Chris Kelly, John Salley and myself had in common was that we were all parents. About the Internet, especially on the F word question, we couldn’t have disagreed more.

The biggest contrast was between the technophile MC Hammer and the sceptical John Salley. Social networks, the 47 year-old Hammer – who has six children of his own - argued, represented the best way for kids to learn about the world. According to Hammer, therefore, parents who want their kids to learn about the world have a responsibility to allow them to be on social networks. Thus, Hammer’s eleven year-old son, is not only on Facebook, but also Twitter where he has over 1,000 followers.

Salley – who played on NBA championship winning teams with the Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls – had an entirely different pedagogical take on the value of social networks. For this dad, the Internet is killing rather than fostering intelligence. Salley argued that social networks failed to educate kids about the real world, substituting the trivia of video games for books, and promoting a mindless consumerism over serious learning. The best defence against social media, Salley argued, were Montessori or Waldorf educational principles which outlawed computers in the classroom and strongly disapproved of parents allowing kids to go online at home.

Like any Harvard University educated lawyer running for public office, Chris Kelly – who prior to his Facebook gig worked in the Clinton administration - was harder to ideologically nail down than either Salley or Hammer. While Kelly acknowledged that his one-year old was obsessed with playing with his iPhone (presumably not an entirely healthy preoccupation for a human being this new to the world), he did argue that children should never confuse Facebook with real life. And so the consummate lawyer Kelly cleverly circumvented the F word question by arguing – a little disingenuously in my opinion - that since social media websites like Facebook aggressively distinguishes between real world and online community, the impact of these networks is actually minimal on children.

For my argument, I borrowed some ideas from Baroness Susan Greenfield, the techno-sceptical Oxford Professor of neuroscience and the Director of the Royal Institute. It’s the controversial Baroness Greenfield who argues that electronic media, especially social networking sites, are replacing children’s deep cognitive skills with short-term sensory ones, thereby trivializing their notion of real friendship and community. Like John Salley, therefore, my answer to the F question was a resounding, albeit theoretical, no!

My guess is that most parents reading this will be more ambivalent than MC Hammer, John Salley or I about the pedagogical and moral impact of Facebook and Twitter on their children. On the one hand, these networks are the hottest in-thing now for kids and completely banning them from social media is unnecessarily cruel and reactive; on the other hand, it’s hard to dispute at least some of Baroness Greenfield’s observations about the impact of electronic media on the brain and the way in which social networking can dumb down a real friendship and community.

The most problematic issue of all is the way in which social networks undermine the privacy of our children. While Chris Kelly would argue that we all have the power to calibrating the privacy settings within Facebook, he forgets that most kids and parents aren’t skilled in customizing the interface of their social network. And so the truth about today’s digital generation is that they are increasingly leading de facto public existences in which often the most intimate details of their lives are being broadcasted throughout the world on relatively open networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Unfortunately, most parents don’t have the luxury of being able to send their kids to Montessori or Waldorf schools, where they will be responsibly educated by trained teachers about the perils of electronic media. Even more troublingly, with the increasing prevalence of mobile phones which double as always-on social networking tools, even the most scrupulous parents can’t electronically police their kids 24 hours a day.

And so we have to hope that the rapper MC Hammer is, at least, partially right about the intellectual benefits of Facebook and Twitter on the mental life of our kids. Social media is the rock ‘n' roll of the early 21st century. For better or worse, our children are now living their lives on the electronic network, posting their photos, revealing their desires, making their friends, defining their identities.

The F word question, then, should be the beginning rather than the end of parents’ conversations with their kids. No, social networks probably shouldn’t be banned. But yes, parents do have a responsibility to at least try to educate their kids about the perils of self-revelation and over-reliance on social media. The most sensible position for parents is half-way between the permissive MC Hammer and the extremely cautious John Salley. The truth about social networks is that there is no truth. The technology is neither intrinsically good nor evil. It all depends on how our kids use it.

Play It 4-Ward: Kids & Technology

Chris Kelly, John Salley, MC Hammer & Andrew Keane. Excellent discussion. I choose cognition.

Jan 16, 2010

10 Useless Facts To Impress Your Mates With (The Art of Manliness)

This woman stands impressed. I am a Guiness lover (must be the pure Irish in my blood), I do NOT iron (probably haven't even made it to 1/2 mile), love the info on WD-40!, looking forward to my first trip to LV - windows or not; and could have done without the turtle info.

1. ''The Guiness brewery in Dublin, Ireland has a 6,000 year lease on the property, which should mean the gross but nice when your drunk stout will be safe for another few years.''

2. ''The average woman does 215 miles worth of ironing in her lifetime.''

3. ''20th century fox unsuccessfully sued Universal for copyright infringement, they claimed that Battle Star Galactica stole 34 ideas from Star Wars, childish or what, as if George Lucas needs the cash anyway!''

4. ''The 'WD' in WD-40 stands for 'Water Displacement' yeah I bet you really wanted to know that didn't you?''

5. ''The Titum Arum flower is the largest flower in the world, and it gives off an odour similar to rotting flesh when it blooms. Yeah definitely wouldn't give one to the wife.''

6. ''In Las Vegas, casinos don't have any windows or clocks, why? it's so you lose all sense of time and stay longer and spend more of you hard earned cash.''

7. ''A man named Charles Osbourne had the hiccups for an incredible 69 years, then died 1 year after he finally got rid of them, talk about unlucky!''

8. ''There are at least 6 fictional characters that have stars on hollywood's walk of fame, here are a few:''
Bugs Bunny
Donald Duck
The Lone Ranger
Snow White
Rin Tin Tin
9. ''A turtle can breath through its anus, which is probably one of evolutions biggest pranks, and I'll never look at the ninja turtles in the same light again!''

10. ''The first ever product to be scanned with a barcode was a packet of Wrigley's gum on June 26th 1974.''

Jan 15, 2010

MSN:10 Careers That Didn't Exist 10 Years Ago

By Rachel Zupek, writer

Every so often, you meet someone with a job title that makes you go, "Huh?" Either it's too technical to understand, too hard to describe or in some cases, people just may not have heard of it. But, why would someone not have heard about a job's existence?

Simple: All the changes that have come about in the past 10 years, from environmental policy to emerging technologies to the recession, have contributed to the creation of careers that never could have existed before.

Dom Sagolla, co-creator of Twitter, for example, recently made the switch from working in research and development at Adobe to creating iPhone applications with his company, DollarApp. Sagolla is also authoring a book, "140 Characters," which demonstrates the effect of hypertext on literature by redefining the concept of "the book" using Twitter and iPhone to start, he says. Could he have done this 10 years ago? Doubtful.

"I've noticed that the best-of-breed iPhone apps incorporate Twitter and social networks, and the best Twitter apps seem to be on iPhone," Sagolla says. "That is no coincidence: The two came to prominence at roughly the same time. I've worked hard to position myself at intersection of those two industries, which form a vortex of attention and zeal that is unmatched."

Here is a little information about 10 careers that didn't exist a decade ago:

1. Bloggers
What they do: Bloggers research and write blog posts in a conversational style to engage readers online. They work for themselves or for corporations, but their goal is the same: to develop and maintain blogs to promote a brand, mission or objective. Jimmy Moore, owner of "Livin La Vida Low-Carb," started his blog in April 2005 after losing 180 pounds. He wrote about it while still employed in a customer service position. He began blogging full time in October 2006.

"My annual income increased from about $25,000 a year to nearly $60,000 now. I get to work out of my home, I've written two books, host my twice-weekly health podcast show on iTunes, do YouTube videos and so much more. This is literally my dream job," he says. "[It] didn't even exist a decade ago."

2. Community managers or content managers
What they do: Community or content managers are an extension of a typical marketing role, but on a more personal level. They serve as a liaison between the company and the public, managing a Web site that allows them to engage with community members and spread the word about the company.

Erin Bury has been the community manager at Sprouter, a Toronto company that enables collaboration and networking among entrepreneurs, for almost one year. She says, "A community manager is a nontraditional role, so it requires some unique traits: the ability to adapt quickly, the ability to juggle a multitude of tasks while still keeping a smile on their face, and an innate passion for what they do. This isn't a 9-to-5 job; it's one that involves being an extension of the brand almost 24/7, which is why loving the company and the job is a prerequisite."

3. Green funeral directors
What they do: Green funeral directors incorporate environmentally friendly options to meet the needs of families who want a green service.

"A green funeral may include any or all of the following basic options: no embalming or embalming with formaldehyde-free products; the use of sustainable biodegradable clothing, shroud or casket; using recycled paper products, locally grown organic flowers, organic food; car pooling; arranging a small memorial gathering in a natural setting; [or a] natural or green burial," says Elizabeth Fournier, a funeral home owner who works as a green mortician. "It's a fabulous opening for an individual who is green-minded in all aspects of their work."

4. Interior redesigners
What they do: Instead of spending $500 on a new couch, why not use that money to hire an interior redesigner who will find new ways to decorate with items you already own? Interior redesigners remodel your home using the things you already have, either repurposing them for other uses or putting them in other rooms, etc.

Jennifer Schweikert, owner of Just My Style by JMS, says, "In a time of 'less is more,' people streamlining possessions, baby boomers and seniors downsizing, and the green movement of reduce, reuse and recycle, interior redesign is an up-and-coming field of work that addresses these needs in today's lifestyle and economy."

5. Patient advocates
What they do: There are several types of patient advocates, and although their services vary, all of them want to make sure that the patient and family are informed and to make things easier on everyone. Advocates can go with patients to appointments; ensure they're visiting with the right specialists and taking the right medicines; sort through medical bills and negotiate fees with health-care providers and insurance companies; they can even educate family members on proper care for their sick loved one.

6. Senior move management
What they do: Senior move management companies help older adults and families with the physical and emotional demands of downsizing, relocating or modifying their homes.

7. Social media strategists
What they do: Social media strategists use social media tools to help companies interact with customers, increase brand awareness, create buzz, increase traffic and provide information.

8. User experience analyst
What they do: User experience analysts look for ways to make using a Web site easier, more pleasant and more engaging for consumers. They want to figure out how to keep you on their site and how to make your experience while you're there memorable and useful.

9. Video journalists
What they do: In the 1960s, reporters had to shoot and edit their own stories because of lack of manpower and resources. Now, almost 50 years later, this role is back, but now it's called video journalism. To save money, large-market news groups hire small-market reporters as video journalists at a fraction of the cost. They are usually assigned stories to produce for the station Web site, finding content to drive Web traffic.

10. Virtual business service providers
What they do: Many people are forming their own companies by way of telecommuting, offering such virtual services as customer service, concierge services or even public relations from their homes.

"Thanks to the birth of the Internet and the rise of new industries because of it, my company was born. The rise of virtual companies like ours has provided jobs for lots of people," says Deborah Sittig, owner of Green Room Public Relations.

Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow her on Twitter:

Jan 7, 2010

Social Security crunch coming fast (msn)

The debate over health care has captured everyone's attention, but it appears the next big government program that needs to be addressed will be Social Security. That's the focus of the July 30 article "The next great bailout: Social Security" by Allan Sloan, Fortune's senior editor at large. Those who've been paying attention have long known there is no money in the Social Security Trust Fund -- it's all been spent. Thus, former Vice President Al Gore's famous assessment that Social Security receipts should be placed in a "lockbox" was actually correct.

Given that so few people really understand the Ponzi nature of the current Social Security financing scheme -- created in 1983 by a commission chaired by none other than the world's greatest serial blower of bubbles, Alan Greenspan -- I decided to reprise Sloan's article. (The Social Security problem is especially important because it likely will put additional pressure on the dollar and on bonds, and exacerbate the funding crisis down the road.)

The story begins: "In Washington these days, the only topics of discussion seem to be how many trillions to throw at health care and the recession, and whom on Wall Street to pillory next. But watch out. Lurking just below the surface is a bailout candidate that may soon emerge like the great white shark in 'Jaws': Social Security.

"Perhaps as early as this year, Social Security, at $680 billion the nation's biggest social program, will be transformed from an operation that's helped finance the rest of the government for 25 years into a cash drain that will need money from the Treasury. In other words, a bailout."

Could Social Security's number be up?
As I've already noted, there is no money in the Social Security Trust Fund -- just IOUs from the government to itself. What is liable to spark debate and grab headlines is that instead of producing its biggest surplus ever in 2009-10, the trust fund could start running deficits in the next year, primarily because the weak economy is generating less tax revenue.

That's years earlier than expected. Social Security wasn't supposed to go into the red until around 2015.

Past projections were for a cash-flow surplus of about $87 billion this year and $88 billion next year. But new projections show those figures may drop to around $18 billion or $19 billion, which could easily go negative. And once the red ink starts spilling (a temporary bounce into the black in the next couple of years notwithstanding), that deficit will grow for the next 20 or so years unless something is done to halt it.

In order to better illuminate what has transpired and how misleading government accounting is, I would like to use the example from Sloan's article to explain what has happened: "The cash that Social Security has collected from my wife and me and our employers isn't sitting at Social Security. It's gone. Some went to pay benefits, some to fund the rest of the government. Since 1983, when it suffered a cash crisis, Social Security has been collecting more in taxes each year than it has paid out in benefits. It has used the excess to buy the Treasury securities that go into the trust fund, reducing the Treasury's need to raise money from investors."

In other words, the government spent it. Throughout all those years in the 1980s and 1990s, when folks worried about the budget deficit, it was reported to be lower than it would have been had the Social Security Trust Fund's money not been going into government coffers, thereby reducing the size of the deficit. Also untenable is the projected worker-to-retiree ratio, which will jump from 30 Social Security recipients per 100 workers in 1990 to 46 per 100 in the next 20 years.

The next (orthopedic) shoe to drop?
And Social Security funding isn't the only time bomb. Sloan notes that "when it comes to problems, Medicare makes Social Security look like a walk in the park, even though at about $510 billion this year, it's far smaller. Not only are Medicare's financial woes much larger than Social Security's, but they're also much more complicated. . . . Medicare is more convoluted, because the health-care system is much more complex than Social Security. Which, when you think about it, involves only money."

(I've discussed some of the health care proposals, by the way, in my daily column on my Web site; a subscription is required.)

Summing up, Sloan cautions: "Social Security may not make it onto the agenda until next year. But it's going to show up sooner or later, and probably sooner, because the numbers are so bad that something's got to be done."

All of these future funding issues will come under scrutiny in the next couple of years as the budget deficit explodes and worries about how it will all be financed take center stage.

A Fed follow-up
Turning to last week's main event, the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee meeting, here's what I wrote ahead of the release: "There is just too much pressure on the Fed (not the least of which is Bernanke's view of the 1930s) for it to do anything that even remotely resembles tightening."

The Fed did not contradict me, as it chose to continue pursuing the policies it had previously articulated. That must have put a smile on the face of Paul McCulley of Pimco, who recently stated in an interview on Bubblevision that he wanted the Fed to avoid raising interest rates too soon and that the economy needed to see more inflation.

That, ladies and gentlemen, coming from the country's largest holder of bonds. In the old days, bondholders were thought to be inflation vigilantes. But as we can see from McCulley's statements, they are now really just liquidity hogs.

Commodities primed for higher prices?
As for the ramifications of all the money printing the feds are doing and the recent growth spurt in China, it's worth passing along the conclusions reached by "Government Sachs" in a report headlined "Commodities in the Crosshairs" (not available online to the public). That report described the moves we've seen so far this year in commodity prices as "just the beginning" of a new bull market that "ultimately would likely be even more extreme" than what we saw in prior commodity rallies.

Goldman Sachs (GS, news, msgs) noted: "The reality is that the commodity problem is one of supply shortage due to years of under-investment. . . . This chronic problem has been exacerbated during the financial crisis by tight credit conditions and large price declines, which impact producers."

Goldman says that when the global economy recovers, we're likely to see severe price constraints and some wild action, just as we did in mid-2008.

I pass that along as food for thought, and it jibes with the view of a friend of mine that I find intriguing: that as crazy as commodity prices seemed to be last year, they could get even crazier, just as tech stocks' wild ride from 1995 to 1998 paled in comparison to what occurred in 1999-2000. I'm not saying that's going to happen, but given the amount of money printing that has gone on (and will go on), anything is possible.

I was interviewed last week by Eric King (again) of King World News. It was another excellent, wide-ranging conversation, in my opinion. Click here to watch it and decide for yourself.

At the time of publication, Bill Fleckenstein did not own or control shares of any company mentioned in this column.

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