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Are We There Yet?

Archive for July 2008

Marketing food to kids

More than 40 major food and beverage marketers spent $1.6 billion (yes, billion) in 2006 to promote their products to kids.

That’s the recent finding of a Federal Trade Commission study on food marketing to children and adolescents. Released earlier this week, the report titled “Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation” found that marketers spent more money on television advertising ($745 million) than on any other technique. Often, however, marketers used an array of techniques when appealing to a young audience – themes from television ads carried to over to packaging displays in stores or restaurants and the Internet.

It reminded me of the time when we were in the dairy aisle of a grocery store and my son kept saying, “Look, mom, it’s Spiderman!” I turned around, scanned the shelves and couldn’t find the superhero. When my son got exasperated, I took him out of the cart and he pointed to one of the containers of yogurt. Of course, he was right. It was Spiderman. But the image was so tiny, it didn’t make much of an impression on me. Apparently it caught my son’s attention immediately and I’m sure the marketing genius who designed the package knew that would happen, too.

Any tips to help kids choose healthy foods or products that don’t have the slick packaging of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Dora the Explorer and other brands?

Spanking and discipline

Editor’s note - this thread is being re-posted to allow the discussion to continue.

There’s been plenty of discussion about the Coeur d’Alene mom who got a ticket for injury to a child during last week’s Fourth of July parade.

Witnesses said Melissa Farrell was “smacking” her daughter, according to Thursday’s story in The Spokesman-Review, but the mother of three said she “simply swatted her 22-month-old daughter, Laila, on her bottom after struggling to keep the child from running out” into the street during the parade.

My focus in this blog entry isn’t on the mom or whether or not she was abusive; I just want to start a conversation about spanking – on whether or not it’s an appropriate form of discipline.

Nancy Shute of U.S. News and World Report recently wrote about this topic. In “A Good Parent’s Dilemma: Is Spanking Bad?” she noted that many parents think it’s OK to occasionally swat your child on the bottom.

But corporal punishment is actually considered illegal in many countries — including Sweden, Spain and Germany.

What do you think?

Recycling old car seats?

A reader recently sent the following e-mail:

“I was hoping that some of your contributors (on the Parents’ Council) could help me out. We have upgraded our carseats and now don’t know what to do with the old ones. Is there some place that takes donations of car seats or any way to recycle them? Any input would be greatly appreciated.”

Running a business and raising a family

While working on a story about local mompreneurs, I spoke with Debra Cashman, a Nine Mile Falls mother of two and the owner of a Web site called

One of her goals, she said, is to help other mompreneurs with the “Support Your Local Mama” campaign on her Web site.

“I’ve met a lot of creative mamas,” said Cashman, 44. “As a mom in business, I have grown to appreciate the other mamas who are trying to do this, too… If I can find something that’s made locally by someone else like me – someone who’s trying to make her own way in the world – I’m much more willing to buy from them than from the mall.”

Manda Warner and Jaclyn Clarry, two moms from Coeur d’Alene who started Monkey on the Moon said they, too, found inspiration from other mompreneurs. In many ways, Margaret Hildahl, owner of Mother’s Haven in Coeur d’Alene, became their mentor, Manda told me.

Do you have a favorite mother-owned business?

Also, please tell us how you’ve been inspired by other mothers to try something – start a business, enter a triathlon or race, pick up a new hobby – that you’ve never done before.

Car seat check tomorrow

The Spokane County Child Passenger Safety Team will be available to check car seats and children to ensure people are safely transporting their loved ones.
Location: K-Mart, 6606 N. Division, Spokane
Time: Saturday, July 19th, from 10:00am-2:00pm.

A chilling effect

While putting together a story about “Free Range Kids” and finding that balance between safety and independence, I was reminded of an interview I had last year with a local pastor. We talked about the growing awareness surrounding child abuse and how churches and other organizations are doing a better job to make sure kids are safe.

At the same time, we also discussed the “chilling effect” created by these changes. It’s no longer acceptable for adults to initiate contact with kids, he told me. Children, from an early age, are taught to be wary of people they don’t know. Sometimes, this affects our own willingness to help others and be compassionate.

The pastor recalled being in his car on a winter day and seeing a boy shivering in the cold while walking down the street. He thought about pulling over and offering the boy a ride home. “But I drove on by,” he said.

I couldn’t blame him. The child probably would have never accepted a ride from a stranger. His parents probably told him to never to do such a thing.

This is our reality now, but I guess I can’t help but feel a little sad about the inevitable erosion of trust. “It’s an unraveling of the community contract,” the pastor told me. And that contract, he says, once held all of us responsible for the safety of children and other vulnerable people in our community.

Birth and C-section rates

While working on a story about doulas, I looked up some statistics on Cesarean delivery rates. (According to doulas and their advocates, having a trained doula at birth can decrease the chances of having a C-section.)

Nationwide, the Cesarean delivery rate rose to more than 30 percent of all births in 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2007 National Vital Statistics Report. That percentage set a new U.S. record and reflected a 4 percent increase from the 2004 figure. According to the CDC, the C-section rate fell sharply between 1989 and 1996 but has since risen by 46 percent. The 2007 report also noted that the rate of labor induction rose 5 percent in 2005 to 22.3 percent – a level that has more than doubled since 1990.

The increase in C-sections, however, is due to several factors.

Lori Schneider, director of women’s and children’s services at Kootenai Medical Center, passed along an article on this subject that was published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Critics decry the cesarean numbers and argue that obstetricians have been too quick to abandon possible vaginal deliveries for reasons related to profit or their own convenience,” wrote the authors, both obstetricians at Massachussetts General Hospital in Boston and professors of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. “A more dispassionate analysis, however, reveals that the trend is widespread, crossing state and national boundaries, and suggests that multiple, convergent factors are responsible, including changes in patients and their pregnancies, in options and recommendations for delivery, and in patients’ and providers’ expectations and evaluation of risk.”

The article points out several changes in the last few years that have been associated with an increased risk of cesarean delivery:
• Mothers, generally, weigh more now than they did in previous decades;
• They’re also older (since 1990, births to women 35 to 39 years of age and 40 to 44 years of age have increased by 43 percent and 62 percent, respectively);
• The number of premature and low birth-weight babies also has increased, “in part as a function of the increasing number of multiple gestations, many of which have resulted, in turn, from the use of assisted reproductive technology” wrote the authors.

The focus of my story was the work of doulas, so I didn’t really get a chance to explore how this issue played out in our region.
Local journalist Rocky Wilson, however, wrote about this in detail in a 2006 Journal of Business story: “C-section deliveries on rise: Reasons include perceived lower risk to baby, desire to set own date, avoid pain.”

I realize that birth has become a rather politicized and touchy subject for some women. But I think it’s always worth talking about – especially as we learn from each other’s experiences. And regardless of how we give birth – whether at home or in the hospital, with a doctor or midwife, with drugs or without – having the support of other women including doulas can make a big difference.

Couples + Children = Happiness?

In a special feature this week titled “Global Literacy 2008: The Stories We Tell Ourselves,” the editors at Newsweek pose the following question: True or False: Having Kids Make You Happy

The answer might come as a surprise.

Does this reflect your reality?

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This blog is intended to provide a forum for parents to share knowledge and resources. It's a place for parents young and old to combine their experiences raising families into a collective whole to help others.

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