Blog Posts by Mholler

  • What Al and Tipper's separation means to moms

    By Madeline Holler

    News that Al and Tipper Gore were splitting up after 40 years of marriage blew up the Internet yesterday. In a carefully worded email sent to friends, and forwarded to the press, the couple announced that "after a great deal of thought we have decided to separate. This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together, following a process of long and careful consideration."

    Mutual for whom? Al and Tipper didn't consult us. We should have been consulted! And what is a "mutually supportive" break-up, anyway? She'll kick in for his bachelor pad if he'll keep her on his health insurance?

    Do you feel the sadness, the confusion, the anger? Along with the rest of the Web, we're in something of a Kubler-Ross freefall - somewhere between Stage 2 (Anger) and Stage 3 (Bargaining). How could they?

    We expected Al and Tipper to stay together forever, making out like teenagers on the world's stage and proving to the rest of us that when the kids are grown, and the soul-sucking jobs are in the past, romance can - and will - endure. Al and Tipper made it past the hard stuff. Why, then, why are they giving up now?

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  • Should Tantrums be Diagnosed as Mental Disorders?

    By Madeline Holler

    The American Psychiatric Association has proposed dozens of changes - including pathologizing some temper tantrums - in its first attempt in 15 years to overhaul its diagnostic manual.

    Revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a kind of bible for modern psychiatry, have far-reaching consequences, especially with regard to who gets diagnosed as mentally ill.

    Among the changes:

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  • New Year's toast: Did your kids join in?

    By Madeline Holler

    When you pour the bubbly tonight to ring in the New Year, will your kids get a glass? Or are you more Captain von Trapp-ish in your parenting, denying even those 16 going on 17 from a taste of champagne in celebration?

    Experts disagree on whether it's good or bad to give kids alcohol at home. Some think it sends the wrong message, others say it makes the forbidden look less tantalizing.

    John Lieberman, director of operations for Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, in California, says that it's a big mistake to think letting kids have a drink at home will keep them from abusing alcohol later in life. In fact, he thinks it might be setting them up for the worst.

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  • Many pantry staples contain BPA

    By Madeline Holler

    Campbell's chicken noodle soup. Del Monte green beans. Star-Kist tuna. Juicy Juice.

    A Consumer Reports (via test found that the 19 products, all common and popular packaged foods, contain some amount of the chemical Bisphenol A. BPA, as you're surely aware, is public enemy No. 1 these days in the world of family food, as it has been linked in some studies to reproductive problems, breast and prostate cancers, heart disease and diabetes.

    Even some SIGG water bottles contain BPA, so the fact that Chef Boyardee raviolis turned up some amount of the stuff isn't that big of a shocker.

    But you know what is?

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  • Is it Fair to Call a C-Section Rape?

    By Madeline Holler

    Rachael Larimore was raped years ago and survived. More recently, she has given birth three times, all of them via c-sections. Considering her history and experiences, she's unsympathetic toward Arizona mom Joy Szabo and others who equate forced c-sections with rape.

    She's got a point, which she makes in the post, "Childbirth is Not Burger King. You Can't Always Have it Your Way," at Double X. But in arguing that Szabo's use of "rape" is hurting rape victims, she errs in the same way she's accusing Szabo of erring: that is, she makes assumptions about the trauma of other people's experiences and diminishes that trauma in the process.

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  • Where do parents fit in the childhood obesity puzzle?

    By Madeline Holler

    Former New York Times food critic and professional fat guy Frank Bruni asks in a recent Times piece what role parents play in raising unfat kids. Should they closely monitor every meal and snack, or let kids make their own choices? Should parents speak up about bulging waistlines and after-workout ice cream or keep their mouths shut? Is modeling desired behaviors (translation: regular exercise, healthful meals) the key?

    Yes and no and, maybe, actually, none of the above.

    The thing is, researchers, experts, parents - even former fat kids - can't agree on what's making kids fat. Nobody knows how to prevent childhood obesity (though commenters on Bruni's article, Kate Harding's Broadsheet post on the topic, and commenters on my recent piece, certainly believe they do, usually amounting to, "Fat is a personal, moral failure. Do better." Um, okay.)

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  • Is this girl's food fight with the Obamas fair?

    By Madeline Holler

    A Florida girl is now the poster child for an effort to get more nutritious lunches in the nation's schools. The face of Jasmine Messiah, 8, will appear in posters all over D.C. as a part of the Healthy School Lunches campaign's effort to lobby Congress.

    In the poster, a dialogue bubble asks why the Miami-Dade County, Florida, girl doesn't get healthy lunches like the First Daughters do. In fact, Jasmine is a vegetarian, but there are not vegetarian options in her school cafeteria.

    The Obama girls get vegetarian options - and more. Why, Jasmine wants to know. Why?

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  • Barbie gets tattooed!

    By Madeline Holler

    The Virginia state lawmaker who wants to outlaw Barbie is going to lose his mind when he finds out about this: Barbie's got a tattoo!

    In fact, she has many -- and plenty of extra for the girls who play with her.

    Mattel will introduce "Totally Stylin' Tattoos" Barbie in its spring line. She comes with gobs of tattoos for herself, tattoos for the kids and also an accessory that seams to put many parents over the edge:

    A tattoo gun for ease of fake tattoo application.

    It's too much too soon, outraged parents are arguing. Barbie tats will no doubt be the gateway to out-of-control body alterations.

    Tattoo Barbie is selling pretty well, which must be a relief to Mattel, makers of the 50-year-old icon whose diminishing relevance is no small source of pain for the toy company.

    I don't think I'll be getting one of these for my daughters, but I'm not frothing at the mouth over the latest offering. First, tattoos are so commonplace -- even

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  • Was the crack baby angst overblown?

    By Madeline Holler

    One of the big news stories in the 80s and 90s was about crack babies -- kids whose addict moms continued using during pregnancy and after. The babies -- crack babies -- were born with varying amounts of the drugs in their systems. Much hand-wringing (and social-servicing, and child removal) ensued.

    Researchers have been following a significant number of these babies-now-tweens. What's the one thing these researchers have found in the crack babies that truly surprised them?

    Nothing. That is, the hugely harmful outcomes for these children that everybody feared were never borne out. That's good news!

    From the NY Times:

    So far, these scientists say, the long-term effects of such exposure on children's brain development and behavior appear relatively small."Are there differences? Yes," said Barry M. Lester, a professor of psychiatry at Brown University who directs the Maternal Lifestyle Study, a large federally financed study of

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  • Did you give your son a criminal's name?

    By Madeline Holler

    I KNEW we should have gone with Michael!

    My husband and I had protracted discussions on what we should name our new son. We went with Earl (shut up, it's cute!) for many reasons, including the fact that it wasn't super common. But according to the science, or maybe crazy science, we've predisposed the boy to criminal behavior.

    A University of Pennsylvania study argues that boys with unpopular names may be more likely to break the law.

    From Live Science (via The Daily Beast):

    Results show that, regardless of race, juveniles with unpopular names are more likely to engage in criminal activity. The least popular names were associated with juvenile delinquency among both blacks and whites. ...

    While the names are likely not the cause of crime, the researchers argue that "they are connected to factors that increase the tendency to commit crime, such as a disadvantaged home environment, residence in a county with low

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