The importance of play

Great article from nytimes.com about how important it is for kids to be able to play and be kids. In this age of “No Child Left Behind” where I have heard of FIRST GRADERS having hours of homework and vocabulary lists stretching a full page, we can’t forget that these are just kids. And sometimes kids need to be kids:

“…The best way to improve children’s performance in the classroom may be to take them out of it.

New research suggests that play and down time may be as important to a child’s academic experience as reading, science and math, and that regular recess, fitness or nature time can influence behavior, concentration and even grades…”

Click HERE for the full article

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Dad sells daughter for beer!

A pretty amazing story, and not amazing in a good way. Some guy in California literally tried to sell his daughter’s hand in marriage for beer, soda, gatorade, meat, etc…

(I would have at least asked for a couple of second round draft picks and cash considerations)

“…Martinez had arranged through a third party to have his daughter marry the older teenager, identified by authorities as Margarito de Jesus Galindo, of Gonzales, California. In exchange, Galindo was to pay Martinez $16,000 and provide him with 160 cases of beer, 100 cases of soda, 50 cases of Gatorade, two cases of wine, and six cases of meat…”

Click here for the full article, found this morning on CNN.com

Nuts, or batsh!t crazy?

My wife and I discuss this topic often. Are there really THAT many kids deathly allergic to peanuts out there? And is it because parents have historically gotten more and more mental about keeping their kids clean and germ free? I tend to think so. In any case, here is a great article from TIME discussing this very thing…

Five years ago, at a San Francisco elementary school, a nurse stood by to ensure that children scrubbed their hands as they arrived, while all of their packed lunches were confiscated and searched for nut products. The measures were a precaution to protect a five-year-old boy in the class who had a severe nut allergy.

In 2006, a town in Connecticut felled three hickory trees more than 60 feet high after a resident learned that the trees leaning over her property produced nuts, and complained that they posed a threat to her grandson who had nut allergies. (Read TIME’s Top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2008.)

Recently, a Massachusetts school district evacuated a school bus full of 10-year-olds after a stray peanut was found on the bus floor.

Do these safeguards seem a little, well, nuts? Harvard professor Dr. Nicholas Christakis thinks so. One of Christakis’s children attends school in the district that ordered the bus evacuation, and the episode prompted the physician and social scientist — best known for his work on the social “contagiousness” of characteristics such as obesity and happiness — to write a commentary, published in the British Medical Journal, questioning whether these so-called precautions are snowballing into something more like a societal hysteria.

Of the roughly 3.3 million Americans who have nut allergies, about 150 die from allergy-related causes each year, notes Christakis. Compare those figures to the 100 people who are killed yearly by lightning, 45,000 who die in car crashes, and 1,300 killed in gun accidents. As a society, Christakis says, our priorities have been seriously skewed, and it’s largely a result of fear. “My interest is in understanding [the reaction to nut allergies] as a spread of anxiety,” he says.

Between 1997 and 2007, the number of children under 18 who suffered from food allergies jumped 17%, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Experts don’t disagree that the incidence of food allergy has increased, but there isn’t much consensus about why. Some researchers suggest that an overly hygienic lifestyle may hamper the body’s ability to build up proper immunities; others believe the statistical rise is a combination of a real increase in allergies and an increase in the number of patients seeking diagnosis (i.e., getting allergy tests that turn up very low levels of reaction that might have otherwise gone undiscovered). “You have to distinguish between an epidemic of diagnoses and an epidemic of allergies,” says Christakis.

No one would disagree that children who suffer from life-threatening allergies need to be protected, but the growing trend of demonizing nuts only fuels anxiety, Christakis says. Instilling in the general public the idea that nuts are “a clear and present danger” does little beyond heightening panic. “There are kids with severe allergies and they need to be taken seriously,” he says, “but the problem with a disproportionate response is that it feeds the epidemic.

There’s even some evidence to suggest that establishing nut-free zones or nut-free schools may be detrimental to children’s health, and increases their risk of developing nut allergies. A study of 86,000 Jewish children living in the U.K. and in Israel, cited by Christakis in his article, revealed that those who had more exposure to peanuts earlier in life were less likely to become allergic later on. In the U.K., where peanuts are an infrequent part of the diet, nearly 2% of the children studied developed allergies; in Israel, where peanuts are a common part of diet from infancy onward, only 0.17% of children had a nut allergy.

But Dr. Robert Wood, chief of the Pediatric Allergy and Immunology department at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, cautions against putting too much stock in such epidemiological studies. “The reality is that the vast majority of kids — 95% plus — have no potential to get peanut allergies no matter what you do,” he says, “and there’s one-half to 1% who are going to get it no matter what you do.” Although the findings of the U.K.-Israel study are intriguing, he says, they apply to a very small percentage of children, and more research needs to be done to determine the true impact of early nut exposure. (There is a study underway currently, says Wood, but the results won’t be available for another three years.)

Despite the occasional cases of nut over-precaution, Wood thinks the public generally approaches the allergy risk with common sense. “There are definitely situations where we see a fear of the allergy that develops far out of proportion to the true risk, but for the vast majority of schools, things are mostly on balance and in perspective,” says Wood, who treats some 2,000 allergy patients. Further, he says, it’s important to recognize that the appropriate protective measure depends on the age group in question. “We recommend very different approaches between an early preschooler and a late elementary schooler,” he says. “We view preschool children as being at true risk — sharing food, having messy hands. There are many reactions that occur from those kinds of exposures,” he says. “I think that having peanut-free preschools is a totally reasonable, justifiable thing to do.” For older children, however, in the 4th or 5th grade, he says even minor precautions like specialized seating arrangements in the cafeteria are probably unnecessary.

Still, on blogs run by moms of children with nut allergies, there is a consistent rallying cry for nut-free zones. The concern is airborne nut dust, which can be inhaled, or oily nut residues that can come into contact with children’s skin. Wood, who has been allergic to nuts all his life, says these parents’ worries may be exaggerated. The danger may depend on the severity of the allergy, but has much more to do with the degree of contact, he says. “Nut oils or the kinds of things that might be in a classroom — it’s very rare for that exposure to cause anything more than a localized reaction,” he says. “On the other hand, if you’re a preschooler and your hands are in your mouth a lot, all bets are off.”

As for nut dust in the air, Wood says it can cause severe reactions — but only under specific circumstances, with high concentrations of nut dust in a confined space. At a baseball game, for example, where the dust is quickly dispersed through the air, the risk of an allergic reaction is low. But if you sat a long time in the small waiting room of a restaurant with a dish of nuts and servers who kept passing through, with plates of nuts, your risk of an allergic reaction would be higher, he says.

But like Christakis, Wood cautions against excessive alarm. “It’s an unfortunate situation,” says Wood, “if a family with an inaccurate perception of the allergy leads a child to believe that a Snickers bar from 50 feet away is a lethal weapon.”

<original story>

A nation of sissies, and other consequenses of overparenting

This is a very interesting article I read in the New Yorker which touches on the subject of over-parenting and how it is effecting the children of today, called The Child Trap. Here’s a short excerpt:

“…(It) used to be known as “spoiling.” Now it is called “overparenting”—or “helicopter parenting” or “hothouse parenting” or “death-grip parenting.” The term has changed because the pattern has changed. It still includes spoiling—no rules, many toys—but two other, complicating factors have been added. One is anxiety. Will the child be permanently affected by the fate of the hamster? Did he touch the corpse, and get a germ? The other new element—at odds, it seems, with such solicitude—is achievement pressure. The heck with the child’s feelings. He has a nursery-school interview tomorrow. Will he be accepted? If not, how will he ever get into a good college? Overparenting is the subject of a number of recent books, and they all deplore it in the strongest possible terms.”

<click here for the full article>

A similar article appeared in Babble.com around the idea of a “Kindergarchy”:

“kindergarchy — defined by Paul McFedries on The Word Spy as “Rule or domination by children; the belief that children’s needs and preferences take precedence over those of their parents or other adults.” This new word has spread quickly, concisely capturing the feeling that the lollipops of childhood have been replaced by royal scepters, with which parents and bystanders are soundly bludgeoned.”

<click here for the full article>

Stinkpalm – it’s the smell that keeps on smelling

Those of you who have seen Mallrats will know what I’m talking about, whe

n Brody is demonstrating the finer art of giving someone “stinkpalm”. If you’ve never seen it and don’t have any clue what I’m talking about, you can read up on it in this Urban Dictionary entry.

Moving on. It has occurred to me on more than one occassion that having a child is like having your own personal stinkpalm machine only, unfortunately, you are the one always being “palmed”. Stick with me here. Have you ever changed a really big and/or nasty diaper and accidentally gotten some of the poop on your hand or fingers? And no matter how hard or how many times you wash your hands, you cannot get rid of the smell. It stays with you for hours. I try not to change any diapers before mealtime if I can help it.

If anyone has any suggestions about how to defeat the stinkpalm, please feel free to let me know!

Scratch-proof DVDs?

Nope, no such thing. And I don’t know about you but my kid LOVES to get into her DVD collection and take every single disk out of the case. She thinks this is a great game. We’ve put all of our “non-kiddie” movies up out of reach but keep all of her movies easily accessible, which has proven to be a problem. And all of those CDs that just get stacked on top of each other instead of being put back in their cases? Scratched and unusable, save for a couple of tracks here and there. Well fear not – technology to the rescue!

You knew it was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to repair old/scratched CDs and DVDs, and that time is now. Check out this article from Wired showcasing three prominent CD/DVD repair models. I can’t wait to get my hands on one and bring a giant stack of disks back from the dead.

<click here for full article>

Money can’t by happiness…MY ASS!

It’s been a long long time since I’ve had a post and there are many many reasons that I won’t go into now. The one reason I will touch on is my job, and my lack of job. Way back in January I was laid off and then proceeded to have a sizable professional mid-life crisis. After a couple of months and no answers I went out and got a job at Target to at least get working again and get off of unemployment. First lesson learned is that this was a terrible idea. I was actually making quite a bit more money on unemployment than what I was able to bring in working a full time job at Target. Sad but true. I have the utmost respect for anyone who works a job like that longterm and must rely on that income to support their family. As for me, my wife works a full time job and even with me working full time at Target we were struggling to pay all of our bills.

That brings me to the point of this post. What is it that is ingrained in the male brain that makes us still believe (for the most part) that it is our sole responsibility to be the provider (if not the only provider then at least the bigger provider)? After just a short time of working at Target – I think specifically it was when I looked at the number on my first paycheck – my self-esteem took a nosedive. All the hard work I was putting in was barely making a dent in our monthly expenses. On top of dealing with my professional situation (crappy job market not withstanding), I was feeling like even more of a complete failure because I couldn’t find a job that would sufficiently and comfortably help support my family. No one ever said it was my responsibility to do so, and my wife did not feel bad or inadequate that she didn’t make more money. It was all in my head. I was the big failure because I couldn’t provide us with the means to make ends meet.

Why Why Why did I feel this way? I still don’t know. Luckily for me, and for my family, I was finally able to find a good office job making the same salary as the previous job I was released from. My self esteem and my confidence are starting to return slowly, and the mental stability around my house has much improved on all fronts.  Now don’t get me wrong here, I don’t feel like I need to be the only or even primary bread winner here, but I did feel like I wasn’t pulling my weight (so-to-speak). If my wife made enough money that I didn’t have to work at all, I’d be a stay-at-home dad in a heartbeat and have no problem at all with it.

Money truly is the root of all evil. And I’ve always felt that whoever coined the phrase “money can’t buy happiness” was probably filthy rich. Now to be fair, I don’t think money can buy you happiness, but what it can do is buy you the peace of mind to be able to pursue happiness. Show me someone who isn’t constantly worried about how they’re going to pay all of their bills and make ends meet, and I’ll show you someone who is carefree and has a mind clear enough to follow their dreams and pursue whatever hobby tickles their fancy.

Anyhow, I’m back now and hopefully will be able to start making some quasi-regular contributions again to this blog.

Comments are always welcome, and as always thanks for reading.