Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders

12 May

This talk about women in the workforce is spot on!!


Is TV Watching Bad for Babies’ Brains?

10 Dec

I admit, every once in a while I do try to use the TV as a babysitter. This rarely ever works though! Mr. H watches the intro to “Yo Gabba Gabba!” and then he’s done. In times of dire need (like a long road trip) I do find that the only thing he will really watch is videos with children’s music videos. His favorite one is “The Wheels on the Bus” by the Bacon Brothers. (Thanks Omi!)

A recent article in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine finds that babies exposed to TV at 6 months had lower scores in cognitive testing. As little as 30 min a day resulted in lower scores (gasp!) and watching for more hours resulted in proportionally lower scores. My first thought was that maybe these babies who watched a lot of TV also had other family issues, but the authors adjusted for these factors and found the same results in both low and high income populations. They claim that watching TV prevents these children from participating in other activities which strengthen their brains.

So my take home message: Turn off the TV and play with your baby! But everything in moderation, we can’t be Superwomen! I think that women like me who have their baby in daycare have it much easier…it is those women who are at home all day with their babies (and are trying to do other things also) have a much harder time avoiding the TV. More power to you!


28 Oct


I always speak to Sofia, my daughter, in Spanish. I want to allow her to be fully bilingual. I think it is amazing to see bilingual kids switching with no problem from one language to another with no accent what so ever. That’s my challenge. The rest of her world, including daddy, speaks to her in English. The only exception is when I “skype” or speak on speaker phone with my family and friends back in Spain or we are there in summer.

 It’s been fun and amazing to see how she understands me when I speak to her. She only speaks few words mainly in English but when she wants more of something she says “mas”. Hey, That’s a start!!!!.  I have been doing some reading about the matter and discovered interesting information that I want to share with the world.  

Research in the neurobiology of bilinguism has been concluded that been fluent in two languages and particularly from early childhood enhances the ability to concentrate. Also might protect against the onset of dementia and other age-related cognitive decline.  More information and bibliography related to this is available on the Society for Neuroscience website.

 Here is the link:

Other neurophysicological and brain imaging studies suggest that there is a unitary neural system with overlapping brain regions involved in the processing of more than one language. This network get strong by activation getting strong when there is second language processing. The level of activation of this neural network depends also on proficiency level, task demands, similarity of the languages, and the age of acquisition. The age of acquisition has been a factor emphasized in much of the information that I have read, suggesting for example that the age of acquisition dominantly affects syntax processing in the bilingual brain. It is important to keep in mind that the earlier we expose our baby to other languages the better for their little but powerful developing brains. Another cool fact is that early bilinguals learn gramatical knowledge by means of a frontal system involving Broca’s area and the basal ganglia, whereas late bilinguals learn their second language by means of a temporally located neural system(1).

 Isn’t the brain fascinating!!!!!..

I also checked some blogs about raising bilingual kids. The june 2003 post by offers an interesting idea advised by the German linguist Traute Taeschner in her book “The Sun is Feminine: A Study on Language Acquisition in Bilingual Children. She suggested following the “one parent, one language” rule: each parent should speak only one language (preferably his or her native one) with the child, right from birth, so that the child is able to identify each language with a specific person, and thereby learns to keep the languages separate. I didn’t read the book (it is priced close to 100$ in amazon), but this is what my husband and I are doing.

There is so much information out there which I will continue to explore.  In the future I will comment on the progress of my adventure with my lovely bilingual baby.

To finish a humorous splash, a joke about bilinguism.

I police dog responded to an ad for work in the FBI. “Well” says the personal director. “You’ll have to meet some strict requirements. First, you must type at least 60 words per minute”. Sitting down at the typewriter, the dog types out 80 words per minute,

“Also” says the director, “You must pass a physical and complete the obstacle course”.

This prefect canine specimen finished the course in record time. “There’s one last requirement”, the director continues, “You must be bilingual”.

With confidence, the dog looks up at him and says, “Meow!”.

(1) Language and brain. Angela D. Friederici and Isabell Wartenburger. 2010. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science. Vol 1, Issue 2. Pages:  150-159.

D’Oh Moment #1: Sippy Cup Valves

6 Oct

I realized this weekend that you should take off those little valves on the sippy cups tops before you put them in the dishwasher. I am sure that you don’t need a Ph.D. to figure this one out, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before. But obviously (or maybe not so obvious to me) milk gets trapped in the valve and over time can turn into mold. Dark black mold that probably gets mixed into the new milk that you put into the cup. What doesn’t kill your baby makes him stronger, right?

I was able to get everything clean using a good soak, a small brush, and the dishwasher. But for more stubborn stains I found this article with some good suggestions.

p.s. I almost don’t want to admit this on the same day…but I also found some mold on the INSIDE of the pacifier. Evidently moisture can get trapped in there, too. I was able to get some soapy water inside and swoosh it around to get it clean. But now when it comes out of the dishwasher I will be sure to get any trapped water out. I found a site discussing this very problem (that made me feel better) and the forum had some good suggestions using vinegar.

Time to Hire a Housekeeper?

4 Oct

Time to Hire a Housekeeper? – MySciNet – MySciNet, an Inclusive Science Careers Community.

I am really considering hiring a housekeeper…and this article suggests that outsourcing can even help your career. Yet another reason to make the plunge! Many times my weekends are completely consumed by chores, leaving me no time for decompression before the work week starts again. I am just not sure about the financial part…I don’t really know how much housekeepers cost and if it is worth it (monetarily). How many people out there have maids? It is worth the money? Can anyone share the frequency of service and how much they pay?

Skin Deep

2 Oct

I always wanted to really detox my body before I had a child. Lose weight, get really fit, eat well, maybe do one of those detox diets where all you can eat is lemon juice and tabasco. Well…that didn’t really happen. But after I became pregnant, I did think about everything I ate and whether I wanted my baby to eat that too. But in addition to the food that you put in your mouth, the products that you put on your hair and your skin are also readily absorbed into your bloodstream. I mean, think about the nicotine patch or birth control patch, these drugs only work because they are absorbed through the skin. So would you eat your facial moisturizer? Or even worse, do you want your baby to eat your shampoo? Turn that bottle over and take a look at the ingredients…

Parabens (and all longer words ending in -paraben) are commonly used preservatives with estrogen-like properties that can influence sex differentiation in fish, causing more to be females (Mikula et al., 2009)! Sounds fishy, right? And like estrogen, parabens also increase the growth of breast cancer cells (Pugazhendhi et al., 2007).

Phthalates are used in cosmetics as a solvent and are also used to make plastics (weird!). Well these nasty chemicals have also been shown to mess with sex hormones and are considered a “testicular toxin”. One study actually showed  that levels of phthalates in the mother’s breast milk were correlated with levels of circulating hormones in 3 month old baby boys (Main et al., 2006).

Sodium Laureth Sulfate is one that I am familiar with because it is frequently used in the lab…but we make sure to wear gloves! This foaming agent and detergent is a serious skin irritant, and one study shows that young skin is the most sensitive to this chemical (Cua et al., 2006).

The list of other chemicals in beauty products that pose a threat goes on and on…fragrances, triclosan, EDTA, mineral oil, petroleum byproducts, mercury, lead, sunscreens…but to make things much easier a group called the Environmental Working Group has started a site called Cosmetics Database where you can search for the name of the product in question and decide whether it can stay in the medicine cabinet or is destined for the recycling bin. This site is not foolproof though, because one of my favorite new brands that is reasonably priced and free of almost all the bad stuff is Yes to Carrots, and they are not listed in the database (yet). So you also have to learn to just look out for some of these chemicals when shopping on the fly!

Although this video is a little long, I found it very informative and explains why the cosmetics industry has let things get so dirty. But as I approach the end of this post, I want to say that you can’t make yourself crazy about these things. We could nitpick every little bit of food we eat and cosmetics we use and make our lives a living hell. Look, you probably aren’t going to be eating organic vegetables when you go to a restaurant and sometimes you are going to inhale some chemicals that aren’t good for you. But it’s all about moderation, and doing what you can do to make the world a safer place for your baby. Now, go forth and clean out your bathrooms!

Strawberry Hemangioma

20 Aug

5 months

I had no idea what a strawberry hemangioma was until I had Mr. H. But evidently about 1 in 10 children have this type of birthmark, which is simply an overgrowth of blood vessels. Most of the time strawberries are located on the head and neck area, but they can occur anywhere. Interestingly, these marks are not seen right at birth but start to appear after about 1 month of age. They usually continue to grow for about a year and then recede and are completely gone before the beginning of kindergarten. Of course, this is not an exact science and there are all kinds of variations on this timeline.

7 months

Mr. H had a mark on his upper lip that started to appear when he was about a month old. At first I thought maybe it was a “hiccy” from sucking too hard while eating, but my pediatrician diagnosed it as a strawberry. She also referred me to a pediatric plastic surgeon since the strawberry was on his lip and if it got too big could interfere with nursing, eating, or speaking. It was very hard as a new mother to realize that my baby had an “imperfection”! It was especially difficult when I introduced my baby to new people…I felt as though everyone was wondering what this thing on his lip was and so I needed to explain it.

At the hospital for a treatment

A new procedure which is now used to stunt the growth of strawberries is called “Pulsed Dye Laser” or PDL. This is the same laser used in cosmetic procedures to reduce the appearance of spider veins. Mr. H had his first PDL at 3 months of age, and since then has had about 6 more treatments. The actual treatment only takes about 1 minute, but he has to go under general anesthesia for the treatment so that he will not move. This is very hard for a mother to endure! But I hope that in the end it will encourage the strawberry to heal more quickly and leave a less prominent mark on him permanently. The surgeon told me that we may need to continue giving Mr. H more treatments if it continues to grow…and there is also a possibility that he will have to excise some extra skin after the strawberry shrinks. But right now it is a wait-and-see situation.

First birthday!

Mr. H recently turned 1, and I feel that the treatments and/or the time has led to an improvement in his strawberry. It also took me about this long to realize that other people can see him without being distracted by this superficial mark. So for now I will stop worrying about it. But come kindergarten, I am sure I will be worried again because children can be so unkind!

For more information on hemangiomas and their treatment, here is a great resource: