Blog Posts by Lylah M. Alphonse

  • The laws of working motherhood

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesWe've all heard about Murphy's Law (whatever can go wrong, will). And the Law of Averages (everything evens out in the end). And Newton's Third Law of Motion (every action has an equal and opposite reaction).

    Well, The Laws of Working Moms incorporate a little bit of each -- and then some. To wit:

    1.) If you have an early meeting, or if the children need to be at school early for a field trip or other event, someone will be up at least twice during the night -- which means you will be, too.

    2.) The toddler will sneeze mightily in your face the day before he comes down with a ferocious cold.

    3.) Your kids' school or daycare will shut down due to Swine Flu the week after your kids have been out sick with a cold. (Corollary: Your kids will not have the H1N1/Swine Flu virus.)

    4.) You will spill coffee (hot or cold, doesn't matter) on yourself if, and only if, you wear a freshly pressed white blouse to the office.

    5.) If you are the working mom of an infant, you will discover a

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  • Can you really save money with coupons?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI started clipping coupons when I was a dirt-poor college student, having to decide whether to spend an extra 60 cents on a couple of packages of Ramen noodles or use that money for bus fare to get to work. (Sounds terribly dramatic, but it's true. It was Syracuse, N.Y., and it was worth going without dinner in order to avoid a three-mile walk home in the snow at night). Back then, the quarters I scraped together went a long way -- a couple of coupons could yield savings equal to the amount needed to wash a load of laundry -- and so the sorting and clipping was definitely worth my time.

    I still clip coupons, but now it's more an exercise in frugality, as well as a challenge to see how little I can pay for the things I usually buy anyway. Every once in a while I hit a jackpot -- a buy-one-get-one free item for which I have coupons, for instance -- and I find myself wondering: What if I did this all the time? Can you really save that much money with coupons?

    Kathy Spencer

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  • Hindsight is 20/20: What would you tell your younger self?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI've been doing a lot of thinking lately, mostly about my career. I started working as a journalist when I was 16 -- I mean working for pay, as opposed to on the school paper or something -- and I pursued my career goals with a single-mindedness that surprises me today, in retrospect.

    I didn't really have a mentor, 15 or 20 years ago. I could have used one -- as a young woman, as a woman of color, as a journalist, as a professional. I could have used a primer on office politics (who couldn't?), some guidance on setting goals, a reminder that work-life balance is important even when the only thing on the "life" side of the equation is yourself.

    Here's some advice -- career or otherwise -- I wish I could tell my younger self:

    Travel more. Not just on vacation -- though I would definitely advise my 25-year-old self to do that, too, before she saddled herself with a mortgage. Travel for conferences, volunteer for off-site assignments, just get out of the building and see

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  • Turning negative feedback into something positive

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesOne of the more demoralizing aspects of the economic downturn is feeling like, even if you haven't been laid off or had your salary slashed, you're probably pretty expendable. So the impact negative criticism can have on your job performance -- and your ego -- is often magnified. Small slights carry more weight, and a poor performance review can seem insurmountable.

    But it's important to learn from criticism, even the negative kind. Granted, some things -- like office gossip, for example -- are detrimental no matter how you dice it. But, for the most part, there are ways to glean the positive out of the negative. These tips work whether the person on your case is your boss, your co-worker, or even your teenager (yes, it's true: Parenting takes people skills).

    1.) Separate the personal from the professional. Remember: No matter how much you love what you do, or how long you have been doing it, you are not your job. Criticism of your performance is not necessarily a personal attack.

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  • Should the Bible be taught in public schools? Texas says yes. I say... maybe

    Starting this year, public high schools in Texas will be required to teach students about the Bible.

    Texas House Bill 1287, which passed back in September 2007 but was not enforced because of problems with training and funding, stipulates that the Bible must be taught in an objective way. The goal, according to bill, is to "teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture."

    Even though the courses are elective, not mandatory, some parents are furious. "I don't want anybody teaching their religious beliefs to my child unless they want to send their child to my house and let me teach them my religious views," one parent told Texas news station KLTV. "There is no difference."

    But does one have to be -- or become -- a believer in order to study the Bible? I don't think so. In fact, I think that the Bible is an important work that should be studied in schools -- but as literature, not

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  • The John Edwards affair: Should Elizabeth Edwards accept her husband's love child?

    This comes as a surprise to no one, except maybe John Edwards himself. According to North Carolina TV station WRAL, Senator Edwards is set to admit that he actually is the father of his former mistress's 18-month-old daughter. The National Enquirer, which initially broke the news (or "news"?) of his affair, reported that the results of a paternity test prove that Edwards is baby Frances' dad.

    A positive result on a paternity test is usually 99.99 percent accurate. That means that the chances of someone else being the dad are slim-to-none.

    Edwards acknowledged the affair with Rielle Hunter last year (a federal grand jury is reportedly investigating whether he illegally used his campaign funds to pay Hunter to keep quiet about it). But the senator has consistently denied being the father of her baby, insisting that the affair ended in 2006, before the baby was even conceived. In fact, Edwards told Bob Woodruff on ABC news last year: "I know that it's not possible that this child could

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  • Octomom puts herself -- and her kids -- back in the spotlight

    photo credit: AP Photo/Nick Utphoto credit: AP Photo/Nick UtThe ink is barely dry on the multi-year reality TV deal Nadya Suleman inked with U.K. company Eyeworks last month. Now, Fox TV has announced that it will air a two-hour special on the single mom of 14 as soon as next week.

    Why do we keep extending her 15 minutes of fame?

    The program will use footage originally shot by Radar Online, which was reportedly cited by the California Labor Commission recently for having violated child labor laws by failing to get the proper permits and by videotaping Suleman's infant octuplets for too long. Fox says its Aug. 19 special will be made up of "never-before-seen" footage, some from as far back as the octuplet's birth in January.

    I'm no fan of reality TV shows -- especially ones involving kids -- but this seems even worse to me, somehow. At least there's some kind of scripting, some sort of lesson, no matter how flimsy, when it comes to most so-called reality TV. This is just a clips reel of outtakes that weren't fit for consumption when they were

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  • What does Sotomayor’s confirmation really teach our daughters?

    AFP via Yahoo! NewsAFP via Yahoo! NewsOn Saturday, when Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in as the 111th justice of the US Supreme Court, I'll be watching my teenage daughters closely.

    My oldest daughter is nearly 16 years old. She's whip-smart and politically conservative. She wants to be a lawyer. I don't know if she has her heart set on a seat at the Supreme Court, but I look at all the lauding of Sotomayor's historic confirmation and wonder: Are we teaching our children that great achievements by women of color are the exception, not the rule?

    We've heard so much about the historic nature of this nomination -- Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic judge and only the third female to sit on the Supreme Court bench -- and I think that, ethnicity and gender aside, Sotomayor will make a strong Supreme Court justice. My whip-smart lawyer-wanna-be daughter disagrees, and that's fine. But I'm dismayed by the fact that so many Republicans voted against her not because they disagreed with her rulings, but because they were making a

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  • How do you keep your kids' toys organized?

    We just got back from a road trip and, after several days in my uncle and aunt's pristine, gorgeously decorated, child-free home, I have to admit that my own house feels like a pig's sty.

    There's mud on the carpets. Something gritty under the kitchen table. Things scattered on countertops. Laundry piled on the floor of our bedroom. A downstairs bathroom counter full of bottles and brushes. And a toy-filled family room that is starting to cause problems. Granted, we have five kids, but still.

    My husband, who does not have my tendency to clutter, has been after me to get rid of many of the toys that fill what used to be our semi-tidy TV room, and I'll be honest with you, I've resisted. "The littlest kids still play with that," I tell him, putting the plastic farm house back on top of the toy box. "What good is a train table if you hide the trains in the basement?" I ask, shoving pieces of wooden tracks into a small bin. He doesn't seem irritated by the big-kid toys in the room -- the

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  • 10 ways to cut your cooling costs

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesTemperatures are on the rise, and so are electricity and fuel costs, making it harder to keep our cool. That doesn't mean your home has to become unbearably hot, though. Here are 10 ways to reduce your cooling costs this summer.

    1. Use a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature automatically when you're not home. According to the folks at Energy Star, the average U.S. household spends about $1,100 heating and cooling costs. A properly set programmable thermostat can save about $180 a year. (Not sure how to set yours? Here are some guidelines.)
    2. Set the air conditioning to kick in at 80 degrees instead of 78 degrees (or even higher, if you can stand it). That tiny two-degree difference can shave 2 to 6 percent off of your electricity bill, depending on the size of your home and how long you keep the AC on.
    3. Seal off AC ducts in unused rooms so you don't spend money cooling them. Why keep the guest room at a comfy 80 degrees -- I mean 78 degrees -- if no
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