Wordless Wednesday: “Snow’s Great if You Don’t Have to Drive to Work!”

February 2nd, 2011

From L.A. to My Snowbound Fellow Moms, With Love

February 1st, 2011

I’ve been thinking about all you parents out there in the areas of the U.S. that are being so hard-hit with snow, ice, school closings…

How are you doing? At first, I’m guessing, snow days are fun. And then… You run out of diapers. Or milk. You have to make it to the store with a toddler and a preschooler, all of you bundled up like crazy.

Then, on day two, the kids start fighting. What did moms do during blizzards before we all had Facebook, where everyone could complain a bit, share pics of the snow in front of their house, and let off a little steam?

Here in L.A., we’re feeling a bit guilty this week, I think. Grateful for the good weather (it finally stopped raining!). But concerned about friends and family buried in snow from Oklahoma to New York.

If you’re snowed in with kids at home, let us know how you’re doing. And if you have some tips for other parents in the same (frozen) boat, please share!

Stay safe, everybody.

Guest Post: “Bath Salts” — What Parents Need to Know About These Dangerous New Drugs

January 31st, 2011

Today I’m happy to welcome Richard J. Geller, M.D., MPH, of the California Poison Control System, as a guest blogger on Parent Talk Today. To learn more about bath salts and other harmful substances, along with info on how to talk with your kids about these issues, follow California Poison Control System on Facebook and @poisoninfo on Twitter. Thanks, Dr. Geller, for this important info for parents.

Beginning in September, 2010, U.S. poison control centers began to receive reports of patients ill from the effects of a series of previously unreported drugs of abuse collectively known as “bath salts.”  These agents have nothing to do with bathing, and, like the synthetic cannabinoids marketed as “spice,” are marketed as something other than what they really are.  Most recent data as of this week is that U.S. poison centers took 236 calls for 2010. We are at 220 to date for 2011.

“Bath salts” are powders that are often sold in 250 mg amounts, packaged in either small zip-lock bags or in jar-like containers, costing $15 to $65.  Like methamphetamine, they are ingested, snorted, smoked or injected, and have been placed in the rectum and vagina. Users are most often males ages 20 to 25 years.

What is known about “bath salts” is that they combine the more dangerous effects of a number of previously identified drugs of abuse: visual and sometimes auditory hallucinations similar, and possibly worse, than LSD; rapid tolerance and craving similar to crack cocaine; extremely violent behavior similar to PCP and methamphetamine; and an unusually long duration of effect and psychotic behavior that may not resolve after the drug is eliminated from the body.

“Bath salts” were first observed in Louisiana, where more than 200 exposures have been reported to the Louisiana Poison Control Center.  Several “bath salt” users have mutilated themselves with knives. One shot himself in the head.  Law enforcement officials believe that eventually they will have to use extreme force with “bath salt” users.  Visual hallucinations caused one user to barricade himself in an attic with a shotgun, threatening to kill the occupants of the home.  Significant “bath salt” use is now being reported in Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi and Missouri.

On both the federal and state levels, “bath salts” have been legal to sell and to use.  Louisiana’s Secretary of Health and Hospitals signed an emergency declaration in January 2011 banning the sale of “bath salts” in that state, resulting in an immediate slowing of reports of illness to the state’s poison control center.  Other states are considering similar measures.

The most common substance identified in “bath salts” is 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also known as MDPV, and marketed as Ivory Wave and Energy-1.  Commonly found is Mephedrone, also known as 4-Methylmethcathinone, a compound very similar in structure to Methamphetamine, and marketed as Bounce, Bubbles, M-CAT, Mad Cow and Meow Meow.  Other substances implicated as “bath salts” are 3,4-Methylenedioxymethcathinone (Methylone), 4-Methoxymethcathinone, 4-Fluoromethcathinone and 3-Fluoromethcathinone.  The latter four substances are derivatives of Methcathinone, also known as Khat, Jeff and Cat, a drug structurally and pharmaceutically similar to methamphetamine.  Methcathenone has a long history as a drug of abuse in Asia.

The Louisiana experience suggests that law enforcement personnel encountering “bath salt” users should be prepared to deal with extremely confused (visual hallucinations) and possibly very violent individuals who may be armed.  Healthcare professionals encountering “bath salt” users should be aware that the usual sedative medications, i.e., benzodiazepines, may not be effective, and that major tranquillizers, especially ziprasidone, have been useful.

The California Poison Control System believes that “Bath Salt” products are a grave danger to public health, and urges that immediate steps be taken to ban their sale in California.

Great Groupon Deal: Go Digital with Your Photos and Videos at ScanDigital ($100 Value for $40!)

January 28th, 2011

There are only two days left to get this Groupon deal for ScanDigital services, so jump on it! You’ll get $100 worth of services for $40.

They can take your photos, slides, home movies, etc. and turn them into digital files to preserve your memories for years to come.

A couple of years ago, I used their services for some old slides my parents took in the 60s, and they came out GREAT. Now I want to take a bunch of our VHS videos and have them turned into DVDs. You can bet I’m jumping on this Groupon deal.

ScanDigital is located in the Los Angeles area. If you don’t live nearby, you can print out a mailing label and mail your photos, slides or video tapes to them. I trust these folks with our family’s memories. Oh, and they’re really nice people, too. They care a lot about their customers. Check out this Groupon. And hurry. It runs out soon!

Hanging Your Child’s Artwork? Here’s a Great Way to Show it Off

January 27th, 2011

If you’re like me, you have tons of drawings and paintings from preschool and the early elementary school years. Even if your kid is in high school, like mine, it’s tough to just trash those early masterpieces. That’s why I was jazzed to discover the Lil Davinci® Art Cabinet. A set of four art-cabinet frames (18 X 24, 12 X 18, 9 X 12 and 8.5 X 11) usually costs $153.80, but it’s on sale now at DynamicFrames.com for $139.85.

Even at the sale price, that’s not cheap. But the frames swing open, allowing you to change the art as often as you want. Wouldn’t this be a great way to brighten up a wall in your home?

Wordless Wednesday: Is It Time for Spring Training Yet?

January 25th, 2011

Scrapbooking: Keep It Simple, Hold the Guilt

January 23rd, 2011

Remember the simple act of pasting a few special photos, a valentine and maybe a flattened carnation corsage into a photo album?

Today, of course, it’s a verb: “to scrapbook.” And in our “let’s-go-overboard-and-then-fret-about-how-stressed-we-are” age, it’s yet one more thing to feel guilty about.

“I sat down and looked at all those boxes of photos, and I just started crying,” one friend tells me. “It all seems so overwhelming.”

Another friend spends hours at arts-and-crafts stores, buying stickers and pens and assorted doo-dads, which then sit in a shopping bag in her closet because she’s too intimidated by the pages in the scrapbooking magazines.

Who can blame us for feeling defeated? These magazines showcase an overwhelming Mardi Gras parade of artistic techniques. Peek-a-boo pages with sliding doors. Folded tea-bag embellishments. Photo kaleidoscopes. And have you tried taking skinny copper wire, rolling it into tiny circles with pliers and making individual daisies? By the way, don’t forget the three shades of green raffia, which you’ll flatten and twist for the leaves.

Then there are the baby pages. They’re simple, really. Just cut your photo into 16 tiny pieces, add 16 pieces of different-colored translucent paper, and reassemble the whole thing to resemble a
gorgeous stained-glass window.

Frankly, I think I’ll wait to try these nifty techniques until after my 15-year-old son, Matthew, leaves home for college. (College-spirit pages – with real mini-pom-poms!) Otherwise, I’m afraid I’ll spend his few precious remaining years at home yelling, from behind a pile of acid-free card stock, “Can’t you leave me alone? I’m busy preserving your memories!”

I have to confess: I do read scrapbooking magazines now and then. But I like to read them in much the same way I peruse gourmet cooking magazines. Late in the evening, in bed, I linger over the pictures and read every how-to step. But just as you’re not going to catch me leaping out from under my cozy comforter to whip up a Gruyère fondue with caramelized shallots, don’t hold your breath looking for pop-up pages or hand-sponged clouds in my family’s scrapbooks.

Instead, what you will find is the first letter Matthew ever wrote to Santa, along with a photo of a little boy in flannel jammies placing a piece of cake and a can of Coke by the fireplace. And copies of e-mailed stories about Which Witch, a silly witch who plays tricks on children, written especially for Matthew by his grandmother. Nothing fancy here. No witches flying off the page. But those stories are there, safely preserved, for Matt to read to his own grandchildren someday.

Our baby pages aren’t elaborate, either, but they hold lasting reminders of a special time: my scribbled list of things to bring to the hospital when I went into labor (what planet was I on when I wrote “playing cards”?), and the page from my husband’s calendar where he logged the time and length of every contraction the night before Matthew was born. We also included our short list of names, so that Matt can look at it some day and wonder if life would have been different as a Gregory.

I also cherish the silly, and sometimes creepy, memories of family life with a boy who seems to grow an inch taller with every page I turn: Matthew, at age 3, running around the house with an oven mitt on each hand, pinching his “claws” together and declaring himself “Larry The Lobster.” The Father’s Day when Dad received cereal, coffee and the sports page in bed, but only after agreeing to wear a “Cat in the Hat” hat for the duration of breakfast. And the page showing Matt and his not-too-crazy-about-snakes mom each receiving a “Certificate of Bravery” for viewing the live rattlers at the American International Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

These past few years, I’ve given up paper scrapbooking in favor of making slide shows. (Confession: There are several thousand photos sitting on my Mac that are just, well, sitting there. And I’ve decided I can live with that. I’ll have plenty of time to organize them when Matt’s off at college.) But I still love leafing through those pages filled with purple-painted preschooler hand prints, photos of Matthew frosting Daddy’s birthday cake and other snippets from our daily lives that will mean more to us, and maybe to our grandchildren one day (no rush, Matt!), than all the twisted-wire daisies in the world.

Give a Great Gift — and Support Habitat for Humanity at the Same Time

January 21st, 2011

Congrats to Amy Lassers and Lauren Sigler, the winners of a $50 gift certificate from Charmings Charms!

And for ALL our Parent Talk Today readers, Charmings Charms would like to extend the love… Starting right now, if you use the code “PTT” at checkout, 10% of your total will be donated to one of my family’s favorite causes, Habitat for Humanity.

Thanks so much, Sara and Mike, for doing this. You make such wonderful charms AND you support our community!

Charmings Charms has a $50 Giveaway for Two Parent Talk Today Readers!

January 19th, 2011

OK, I know I’m a bit biased on this one, but is this not the cutest piece of jewelry for a mom? It’s a picture of my son, Matt and our dog, Charlie. For me, it’s a precious moment in time, caught forever in a form that I can wear (and show off!). I can’t think of a better Valentine’s gift from Dad or the kids.

And it’s easy. The folks over at Charmings Charms make it so simple to upload a photo and create a one-of-a-kind gift. My now-15-year-old son had one made for me for Christmas, and I just had to spread the word in time for Valentine’s Day. (And Mother’s Day is right around the corner…)

And get this: Sara Gold and Mike Mador, the creators of Charmings Charms, are offering a special $50-off giveaway for the first two Parent Talk Today readers who visit Charmings Charms, create an order and use the code “PTT” at checkout. It’s that easy! Just use the code and $50 will be taken off your order. Hurry: Just the first two people to use the code will get this deal.

Of course, not everyone will get to be the first two people to put in their order. But if you follow Charmings Charms on Facebook, you’ll be the first to hear about all their upcoming discounts and special offers — and you’ll also get to see samples of all their cool new items. I love going there and looking at the photos of the charms that happy customers (like me) have allowed to be shared on the page. So adorable!

Did I mention what an affordable gift this is? You can buy a single charm on a suede necklace for as little as $30. A single charm on a sterling silver necklace is $40. A charm on a sterling silver key chain is $50 (stainless steel is $30) and a sterling silver bracelet with three charms is $85. (Those key chains are great Valentine’s Day or Fathers Day gifts for the guys, too.)

Happy Valentine’s Day shopping!

Hey, You With the Smart Phone and the Glass of Wine — How About Teaching Your Kids Some Restaurant Manners?

January 18th, 2011

Great blog post recently, over on Consumerist.com, by a waiter who feels that parents of bratty, messy kids should tip more because the server has to clean up the mess the family leaves behind. I’d love to know what you all think of this post. (Personally? My husband and I always cleaned up the mess ourselves when our son was a baby and a toddler. No bragging here. Just seemed like the right thing to do.)

My opinion? It is WORK for a parent  to teach a young child how to behave in a restaurant. It requires attention, repetition, teaching and modeling good behavior. (How many parents don’t look the waiter in the eye, say please and thank you, etc?) It also involves not assuming that the waitstaff is supposed to pick up all those crackers and all that pasta on the floor when you leave.

Is it easier to ignore the little darlings, talk to the adults at the table (or check your email on your iPhone — I see that all the time), while tortilla chips sail through the air? Of course. In fact, I won’t go to our favorite local Mexican restaurant at the dinner hour because it seems to attract too many families with young children who receive precious little instruction from their parents on how to behave in a restaurant. It’s a shame.

I asked the staff of the restaurant about this and they say it’s appalling how few manners some kids (and some parents) have and how kids are allowed to stand on chairs and yell, run around the restaurant (rude and also dangerous, given that servers with hot plates are walking by), and just generally show a lack of concern for both the servers and other diners.

Am I off base here? I’m starting to feel like the lone voice in the wilderness on this issue. And when I read some of the comments on the Consumerist post, it makes me sad.

When I see parents who are really making an effort with their young kids at a restaurant, I’ll often just stop by the table with a big smile as I leave and say to the child, in front of the parents, “what great restaurant manners you have!” Every time, the parents beam with pride, and they usually acknowledge how much effort it takes to teach, to repeat, to clean up, and to teach some more.

If you have young kids and you’re making the effort, trust me: other diners are noticing, and appreciating, what you do. And you are raising a child that people will want to have in their home, take on outings, and hire some day. Because manners aren’t just about not throwing tortilla chips at your little brother at a restaurant and leaving them for the staff to clean up. They’re about caring about other people.

Does this Consumerist post just reflect the way things are now? Am I hopelessly out of touch?