Edition Number 22 - New Year, New or Same You?
Hi Everyone,

It's been far too long since I’ve been in touch but I feel like I was catapulted from a nutty holiday blender, a jumble of overcommitments, stimulation and stuff from which I am slowly piecing myself back together. Yes, there were wonderful times, gatherings and meals to enjoy, but my inner Cancerian craves alone time and doesn’t always vibe well with hectic-slash-forced group situations—i.e. busy airports, obligatory extended family meals at terrible restaurants, a dizzyingly intense Brand Land called Disney. January is always a major hibernation time for me to rethink, regroup and return to my proverbial nest. While I type this I am still fighting what’s become an epic cold as my body has clearly decided I need to shut down for a bit longer. This is a perfect “excuse” for me to read more, write more and share with you. 

Here are some of recent favorite articles to get me in a renewed, 2020 state of mind. The New York Times has a thought-provoking piece about how we can talk about sex and consent more constructively with boys; Vox has an essential, and frightening, update on how contraception may be withheld based on “religious objections;” and NPR launched a series to explore how puberty, pregnancy and perimenopause impact mental health.

For new mamas seeking better sleep there are “smart” bassinets to try for your little one, and for when you're no longer sleep deprived (does that ever happen?) there's an aspirational piece on female-led wineries to visit and support. Better beverages are clearly on my mind so I have included a primer on the pros and cons of plant-based milks and a new book on power-packed smoothies your kiddies—and you—will love.  

In other TBD Mama news, please stay tuned for a couple special projects, both personal and professional. First off, I’m so proud to be collaborating with Mama Talks and some very rad mama-ladies on an exciting new podcast! I am also curating the TBD Mama Shop , a special online space to showcase female-led brands that empower the motherhood journey. Want to be included? Have a recommendation? Drop me a line anytime.

With love,
I’m glad to see an uptick in thoughtful articles that bring boys into discussions around consent and sex, something we can’t have in a vacuum with girls alone. Author Peggy Orenstein, author of “Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent and Navigating the New Masculinity,” penned this interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times that asks this essential question: “Will We Ever Figure Out How to Talk to Boys about Sex?”

I don’t know if we will. Do adults even know how to talk about sex with each other let alone with our kids, irrespective if they are boys or girls? When sex ed is relegated to PE teachers and emphasizes a limited scope of abstinence, pregnancy and disease, how can we expect boys to have the vocabulary, context or understanding to begin to address the idea of consent, mutual pleasure, or personal responsibility? The ethical ramifications of sex need to be outlined, questioned, and discussed, openly, candidly, not just in our classrooms but at home.

According to a 2017 national survey of 3,000 high school students and young adults by the Making Caring Common Project, “ a large majority of boys never had a single conversation with their parents about, for instance, how to be sure that your partner ‘wants to be — and is comfortable — having sex with you,’ or about what it meant to be a ‘a caring and respectful sexual partner.’ About two-thirds had never heard from their parents that they shouldn’t have sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent. Most had never been told by parents not to cat call girls or use degrading terms such as 'bitches' or 'hoes' — this despite the fact that nearly 90 percent of the girls in the survey reported having been sexually harassed.”  Yikes. 
Adults may assume the above ideas are givens that will be taught and learned through someone else or via osmosis: They aren’t. Not surprisingly, “the vast majority of teenagers, though, who did have conversations like these with their parents — and boys even more than girls — described them as at least somewhat influential on their thinking.”

Mamas, let’s talk about sex with each other, our families, and especially with our boys.
This apparently is a real thing that's really happening in 2020. In Florida. Ladies, if you’re in the Orlando area in May, the “22 Convention” is something you’ll definitely want to miss. Promising lucky, female-only attendees to “Make Women Great Again,” the event will be held at a secret location revealed to the women who pay the modest $1200 ticket fee. In exchange, they’ll hear an “expert” all-male lineup mansplain the following hot topics including but not limited to, “the ills of feminism, the war on motherhood, beauty and obesity, love and dating, getting pregnant and having "unlimited babies," getting in shape, beating the competition to "become the ultimate wife," and boosting femininity.” Wowzers.

Because, you know, men know best about these things and women, obviously, want to pay for the privilege of being told how to be great women with a side of everything that’s wrong with them. I’m not linking out to their site (they don’t deserve the click) but am linking to Orlando Weekly which brought this to my attention. I also thought mamas-in-the-know would find it amusing, or terrifying, to know that this is not fake news.
Sigh. It’s 2020 and the Supreme Court is debating, yet again, if employers have the legal right to deny employees access to birth control coverage based on religious grounds—a problematic premise that not only discriminates against women but also violates the fundamental separation of church and state. Until recently, the general rule in “religious liberty” cases was that people may sometimes seek exemptions from laws they object to on religious grounds, but that they could not claim an exemption that would “ undercut the rights of a third party ,” meaning you or I or anyone else who may need contraception for a myriad of legitimate medical reasons. 

The contraception debate was resurrected in 2014 with  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014), which held that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) allows employers that object to birth control to offer health plans that don’t include contraceptive coverage. While this ruling allowed for the government to then step in and provide coverage through an “indirect approach,” (i.e. the government could then make a separate arrangement with the company that runs that employer’s health plan to ensure the employer’s workers still receive contraceptive coverage) this too was challenged by the zealous religious right. 

Fast forward to Trump’s 2016 election and, well, it was all downhill by then. By May 2017, Trump had issued an executive order instructing his administration “to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.” A few months later, the administration pushed out new rules granting a broad exemption to employers with moral or religious objections to birth control, BIRTH CONTROL, ladies! 

Last July, however, a federal appeals court struck down the Trump administration’s rules but now, given the ultra conservative Supreme court, it is quite plausible that they'll determine that religious objectors should be allowed to deny birth control coverage to women. I wonder if these same individuals religiously object to sex in general, vasectomies or Viagra?
My son’s chic bassinet was many things: sculptural, very pretty, and totally un-slept in. It became an ad hoc drawer for extra blankets, diapers, you know, everything except my baby. Hence, the idea of a tech “smart” bassinet intrigues me. A bed that also monitors baby’s sleep? Prevents baby from rolling over? Rocks a baby at four different speeds? Mimics the womb? And can be rented per month? 

I’d like one please. 

Here are two super smart options: Dr. Harvey Karp’s SNOO ($1395 or $112 p/mo to rent) created by the iconic pediatrician and founder of “The Happiest Baby” program, and Four Mom’s upcoming MamaRoo Sleep Bassinet which replicates the natural bounce and sway of adults and will be available this February at the more reasonable retail price of $329. Now, if only there were an adult version!
It’s a very good day whenever Karuna eats something in a primary color, particularly green. Thankfully, he will drink a “superman smoothie” if I suggest drinking one is a gateway to superpowers or bribe him with a treat later on that inevitably undoes the benefit of drinking aforementioned smoothie. Mom and chef to three, Catherine McCord, is an advocate for a healthy smoothie too, and the culmination of her online “Smoothie Project” has resulted in a bestselling book on all things blended. 

“The Smoothie Project: The 28-Day Plan to Feel Happy and Healthy No Matter Your Age,” is a mouthful of a title but does proffer a range of highly Instagrammable, and ostensibly healthy, smoothies for the whole fam to love. I can always use a bit of smoothie inspo past the banana, kale and coconut milk mix so I appreciate the foodie nuance of, say, the “Pina Colada” which manages to get cauliflower and collagen peptides into the mix (although I think my four-year-old is covered in the collagen department.) Her take on a “Creamsicle” introduces persimmon alongside carrots, mango and optional immune-boosters like Reishi (an immunity-boosting mushroom) and Bee Pollen. Check out some of her top smoothie ideas below via Mother .
So vineyard-hopping might not pair well with your back-to-school life or Dry January but it’s nice inspiration for future trips!  Departures has curated a lovely list of top regions to explore where female vintners are resurrecting ancient grapes, experimenting with new blends and running luxe guest houses. 

In Argentina’s prized Uco Valley, classic full-bodied Malbecs can be savored during nightly communal tastings at Cavas Wine Lodge , a romantic Relais & Chateaux, villa boutique hotel co-owned by Cecilia Diaz Chuit, replete with a 3,000-bottle wine cellar.  Entre Cielos by Cecile Adam is a modern, 16-room luxury boutique hotel with its own wine label, Marantal, and Latin America’s first six-stage circuit hammam spa. I mean, who doesn’t love some elaborate Turkish-inspired bathing with a glass of vino in hand?

Willamette Valley, Oregon is renowned for delicious pinot noir and there are several female-led vineyards and properties to consider including the Atticus Hotel, owned by entrepreneur Erin Stephenson that offers a luxe bunkhouse suite perfect for girlfriend getaways. The Tamar Valley in Tasmania isn’t exactly next door, but has thankfully been relatively unaffected by the most recent bushfires and could be a fantastic place to support while also savoring exceptional sparklings (the terroir is apparently very similar to that of Champagne.) 

The Douro Valley in Portugal is the birthplace of Port and the country’s leading wine-making region, as well as an affordable option to visit in one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world. And then there’s Canada, the friendly neighbor with the good exchange rate that’s a great choice for foodies and oenophiles alike, specifically in British Columbia’s verdant Okanagan Valley. Here you can check out one of The Paisley Notebook’s pop-up moveable feasts created by self-described “feminist food geek” Aman Dosanj. She curates locally-sourced, wine-paired dinners held in unexpected, magical pastures and fields while proceeds often support local women’s charities.   
 Say it ain’t so! My rampant almond milk consumption has been disastrous for the environment, specifically because almonds require so much water to grow and 90% of almond milk is produced in CA, a highly drought-prone area where water is scarce. So what is a dairy-averse gal to do?

This helpful Huffington Post piece breaks down the environmental and nutritional pros and cons for plant-based milks including almond, oat, soy, coconut, macadamia and pea. Almond ranks highest for environmental damage yet also ranks higher but not highest for nutritional value. Top marks in nutrition go to soy, provided it’s non GMO and organically sourced. Coconut milk scores well for the environment but not so well for nutrition given it's high in saturated fat. Oat and pea milk seem to be fairly good choices, both from an environmental and health POV but there isn’t much independent research to back up the claims. Then there’s the issue of added sugar, something many but not all of the above tend to be loaded with. OY. 

Good-ish news is this: While these “milks” might not fulfill the ideal nutritional bill, each of these beats dairy when it comes to overall greenhouse emissions, water consumption, soil deprivation and land use, a lesser evil of sorts.
 I’ve only recently become familiar with the term “perimenopause” which refers to the years-long ramp up to the big M, something that technically constitutes only one day in a woman’s life. Often the first tell-tale sign is a big change in one’s menstrual cycle rather than its absence altogether, something usually accompanied by a slew of other unpleasant symptoms including intense PMS, UTIs, irritability, feeling anxious, irrational, super hot, or perhaps leaving everyday items like sunglasses in the freezer. Also, it can start as early as your mid-30s and last a really long time, another fact in a long list of “I did not knows” about my body.

Goddess help me if perimenopause can last four to TEN years. If this is about to be my new norm, then I better learn the signs and conjure a serious support network of magical elves to fan me. But in all seriousness, asking ourselves the tough questions and telling the truth about how we really feel during these huge transitions is essential. Sadly, we can’t count on traditional OBs to prepare and discuss the signs with us given the routine 10 minute annual where, in my experience, I am rarely asked meaningful questions about how I feel let alone equipped with vital, supportive information about my life stage.  

Dismissing the change as “just something to deal with” is both belittling and isolating, and the collective shrug we receive from medical practitioners isn’t acceptable. I appreciate that NPR is dedicating a series of conversations to encourage ladies to understand and equip each other with real tools, strategies and questions in order to navigate the shifts. Some practical tips include:

  • Getting educated - This is obvious and often the question is more of a but where do I start? The National Women's Health Information Center has a section on menopause and perimenopause. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also has a perimenopause FAQ.
  • Monitoring your health - Track your cycle, any physical and emotional changes and share your health history with your doctor/s.
  • Practice better self-care - Sleep, saying no to stressful situations and a mindfulness practice is key. 
  • Cultivate Community - Depending on how you feel about Facebook, there are many private groups with helpful, real-time, “I’ve been there” advice and support. 
  • So don’t tough it out, talk about it! And listen below for the second segment in their series delving into the issue.