THE TOUR GUIDES SUCCESSFULLY DEBUNKED THEORIES OF FOSSIL FORMATION AND EVOLUTION. THEY HAD NO EXPLANATION, HOWEVER, FOR THE DINOSAUR-SHAPED CHICKEN NUGGETS IN THE MUSEUM CAFETERIA

Worthwhile and timely article here about creationists who lead families on "biblically correct" tours of Denver's natural-history museum. Especially notable are the reasoned responses of museum staff and paleontologists who welcome the tour groups because they assume, we believe correctly, that as the tours expose young people to the museum's exhibits, the kids' curiosities will be sparked, and they'll come back on their own to find out more about the actual science. "I think it's great that a lot of these students are exposed to evidence from the fossil record," says Richard Stucky of the museum. But in the meantime, kids learn from their tours that dinosaurs did not become extinct millions of years ago (in part because the Earth isn't nearly that old) but in fact once must have lived side-by-side with humans, and even made it onto Noah's ark:

"They're fossilized from the flood!" Cameron exclaimed. "So maybe the dinosaurs became extinct because of the flood?"

The biblical flood fossilized dinosaurs, Thorne said, but dinosaurs made it onto the ark - all the animals did. He suspects Noah brought baby dinosaurs (because who would want an adult tyrannosaur around?), and the creatures succumbed to overhunting or climate change.

What's we love is that this guide can glibly proffer this theory - about Noah taking baby dinos on the ark and their species later succumbing to overhunting or to the divine hand of climate change - and yet the creationists' gripe with evolution is that it can't be proven?

VISITORS ARE ALSO ASKED NOT TO MAKE "BUNNY EARS" BEHIND THE HEADS OF NEWBORNS WHEN THEY POSE FOR PICTURES WITH THEM

In an ambitious attempt to regulate and restrict human nature, a British hospital has banned visitors from touching or cooing at babies, talking to new mothers, or otherwise looking at anyone in the maternity ward the wrong way.

Debbie Lawson, neo-natal manager at the hospital's special care baby unit, said: "Cooing should be a thing of the past because these are little people with the same rights as you or me."

Note to hospital management: It may be time to rotate Debbie to a different unit for a little while.

THIS JUST IN: KIDS PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO COMPUTER GAMES!

IN OTHER NEWS: THEY LIKE PRETZELS!

Oregon scientists have used special computer games to train young children to develop their attenti0n spans. The focus of the research was in boosting "executive attention," which is "the ability to tune out distractions and pay attention only to useful information," with the ultimate goal of formulating new approaches to helping kids with attention-deficit disorders.

We might note that our personal experience has been that computer games by their nature do a tremendous job capturing the executive attentions of all small children, and that the real advance for science would be to find a method of training kids to pay attention to something else - anything else - while a video game was being played in the background.

AND NOW IT'S TIME FOR RECIPE CORNER WITH SMALL FELLOW

After a few weeks of experimentation with peanut butter, hummus, and tuna sandwiches, Small Fellow has found the sandwich he wants to take to school every day: Cold chicken with "tomato sauce." The other day, we packed lunches for a trip to the New York Aquarium; Fellow's mother made herself a sandwich of slices cut from a roast chicken, with a few tomato slices. Later, Fellow tried her sandwich, but asked her to remove the tomato slices first. Lo and behold, he loved it, because of the "tomato sauce" left by the tomatoes.

Here, then, is the recipe we and Fellow followed together in making his lunch yesterday:

Spread mustard on one - only one - slice of bread
Add chicken slices cut from a roast
Insert several tomato slices
Place second, mustard-free slice of bread on top
Flip sandwich, so the weight of the chicken presses down on the tomato
Let sit 5 minutes
Remove tomato slices
Wrap in tinfoil

How delicious was it? Let's let Fellow tell you: "It's so good, I want to have it THREE days in a row. Daddy? Whenever you have chicken? I want you to not eat the leftovers, but leave them for me so I can have SANDWICHES with TOMATO sauce. OK? So whenever we have chicken, you have to save the leftovers, because I want a chicken sandwich with tomato sauce EVERY DAY! It's SO delicious!"

September 28, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

NOW, IF ONLY AMERICAN TEXTBOOKS WOULD ELIMINATE REFERENCES TO "THE BRITISH ENEMY"

Interesting article about how Jordan is revising its textbooks to bring them in step with modern times, even eliminating references to the "Israeli enemy." And yet we'll withhold judgment until we see the books' new maps of the region and find out what they call the area immediately to Jordan's west.

SO WHEN IT COMES TIME TO HELP YOUR KID LEARN THE ELEMENTS, YOU'LL BE AS USEFUL AS AN INERT GAS AT A COVALENT BONDING ORGY

They're changing the periodic table on us. Elements 2.0 is more stylish than the model we grew up on, but also, on first glance, harder to follow, and we're not sold on the Milky Way model.

ALSO, THEY DEMAND ACCESS TO THE CAFETERIA EVERY FRIDAY FOR PIZZA DAY

Several weeks back, the Times ran a front-page piece on home-schooling families who demand places for their children on local public school sports teams and extracurricular groups. (Article is available here.) For us, this idea has always been wrong on its face: Parents who home-school for whatever reason, be it religious beliefs, educational philosophy, or safety concerns, have in fact opted out of the public school system. They're off the grid. They've decided they don't want public school teachers teaching or touching their kids. They don't want neighborhood children sitting next to their kids at lunch. They don't want local principals to set rules for them. And FD.com, by the way, defends any family's right to opt out of the system and home-school at any time, and we admire those families who took part in the long and bruising fight to win the right to teach their kids at home in the first place.

But then there are those like the Mellinger family of Strasburg, PA, who want - nay, demand - to have it both ways:

Mary Mellinger began home-schooling her eldest sons, Andrew and Abram, on the family's 80-acre dairy farm five years ago, wanting them to spend more time with their father and receive an education infused with Christian principles. Home schooling could not, however, provide one thing the boys desperately wanted - athletic competition. But the school district here, about 60 miles west of Philadelphia, does not allow home-schooled children to play on its teams. So Mrs. Mellinger reluctantly gave in and allowed the boys to enroll in public high school .... "We grieved about losing the time we had with the boys," Mrs. Mellinger, 41, said .... "It seems so unfair. We're taxpayers, too."

Well, senior citizens pay taxes, but they're not allowed to play JV hockey, either. The nation is simply not set up to run public school systems a la carte. Not that many don't try: Fourteen states already require schools to open activities up to home-schooled kids in some way. Fourteen others, including PA, a home-schooling center where this has long been a hot-button issue, have bills before the legislature this year which would require school districts to grant extracurricular access to home-schoolers -- who do not have to maintain the attendance records or minimum GPAs typically required of many varsity athletes; who, if they qualified for varsity teams, would by definition take spots away from kids who do show up at school each day; who may not be covered by school insurance policies; and who would bring expensive and time-consuming administrative demands which would distract school staff from serving on-site kids.

Pennsylvania's bill appears poised to pass the legislature, though Governor Ed Rendell, who sees this as a local issue, may well veto it. The Mellingers say that if the law passes, they'll bring their kids back home for classes but keep them on the public school's sports teams and music groups.

"I'd love to have them back," said Mrs. Mellinger, who is also home-schooling three of her four other children. "But I can't provide all the opportunities they need. We can practice music. But we can't put together an orchestra."

You can't put together an orchestra at home, Mary? Well, that's a little bit the idea of having a public-school system, isn't it?

September 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

ALSO, ALL OF THE ACTION FIGURES HAVE LITTLE REMOVABLE SHOES THEY CAN PUT ON THE CONVEYOR BELT

For the aspiring TSA inspector in your family, the folks at Playmobil have unveiled their new Security Check-in playset, complete with conveyor belt and metal detector. But when we look at the photo of the playset in action (which you just have to), we can't help but detect some signs of pointed political satire: Why does that guard have his feet up on the job? And is he dressed like a Mod? Further, what in Hell is that freckle-faced lady guard holding, and is she going to use it on that innocent-looking lady traveler?

WE WERE NERVOUS ABOUT WATCHING CHILDBIRTH OURSELVES, BUT AFTER ACTING IT OUT A FEW TIMES WITH OUR PLAYMOBIL PLAYSET, WE WERE READY TO SEE THE REAL THING

One of the hottest topics we missed during our vacation was the visceral response to the Times' piece about a psychotherapist who had treated a number of men unable to feel attracted to their wives after watching them give birth. Most people reacted to these new dads with sharp hostility, although as Slate points out in their reasoned dissection of the reaction, "these men were patients in search of help, not Neanderthals who'd ditched their wives," and so they merited at least a little sympathy.

As for us, like most dads, we've witnessed childbirths, and this has never been a problem. Of course, we had the advantage of already having seen Loving Mother ravage a chicken carcass, so there wasn't much else she could do to gross us out . . .

September 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

IT'S EDUCATION WORLD. WE JUST LIVE IN IT.

Ew_featured
As we mentioned to our audience  afew months back, Freelance Dad (aka Gary Drevitch) will be contributing a series of parenting columns to the "At Home" section of EducationWorld.com, the Web's #1 education site. The columns will appear under the heading, "The Nuts and Bolts," and each will have separate versions for parents and kids.

Our first contribution of this school year focuses on shyness, and you can find it here.

September 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

IF IT'S NOT TOO LATE, WE AT FD.COM WOULD LIKE TO FILE AN AMICUS BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF MAINTAINING CURRENT BRITISH LAW, BECAUSE THE ALTERNATIVE JUST FREAKS US OUT

A European human-rights court has ruled that British law must be changed to allow mothers and fathers-in-law to marry their sons and daughters-in-law, as a 58-year-old has done with his 37-year-old daughter-in-law. (She had been abandoned by his son.) The woman's son is now both the man's grandson and stepson. From where we're sitting, the only cool thing about this story is that the official who must render the change in British law is (no joke) the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer. He plans to get right on that, after his epic duel with The Highlander.

AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT OF RELATIONSHIPS THAT HAVEN'T BEEN IN VOGUE SINCE THE BIBLE . . .

Meet Crystal and Matthew Koso. He's 22, she's 14, they're married, their daughter is a week old, and the state of Nebraska wants to put him away for statutory rape. "We don't want grown men having sex with young girls," said state attorney general Jon Bruning. But the couple, and Matthew's parents, say the state has no right intruding on their bliss. The proud grandmother says, "He's not always lived up to his responsibilities, but this time he will . . . He could have left, but he didn't." And in fact the New York Times found the new dad diligently changing Samara's diapers (she's named after a character in the horror movie The Ring which, of course, her mom isn't old enough to see) while his young bride completed her ninth-grade world history homework.

Kidding aside, we're not sure why the state is seeking to put Matthew away for up to 50 years. As experts indicated in the article, "it is extremely rare for a man to be prosecuted for statutory rape when he has married his minor partner." And that sounds about right.


STUDENTS WILL ALSO BE ALLOWED THREE "BLOOMING"s, FOUR "BLOODY"s, AND ONE "BOLLOCKS" PER WEEK

Students in one British middle school are being allowed to use "the F word" up to five times per lesson this fall. Barmy headmaster Alan Large extracted his head from his arse for a moment to tell the Daily Mail, "The reality is that the f-word is part of these young adults' everyday language." And in a letter to parents, assistant headmaster and silly git Richard White wrote:

"Within each lesson the teacher will initially tolerate (although not condone) the use of the f-word (or derivatives) five times and these will be tallied on the board so all students can see the running score .... Over this number the class will be spoken to by the teacher at the end of the lesson."

The school will also send "praise postcards" to the parents of children who do not swear in class. They may also send home bumper stickers reading, "My ankle-biter didn't swear at Weavers School."

INSERT YOUR "PRESIDENT BUSH MEETS THE WORLD'S LONGEST LETTER" JOKE HERE

Later this month, the President will in fact receive a half-mile letter penned jointly by 4,000 schoolchildren from across the country. Which is neither here nor there, but when you look at the picture on the link, it strikes you that, since Sept. 11, and especially since the release of "Fahrenheit 9/11," for likely the first time in our history we have a President who cannot tastefully take part in a photo op in a public school classroom. Which is really quite a thing.


"LOVE MAKES LITTLE THINGS GROW," INDEED!

Has anyone else out there ever wondered if the theme song and opening montage of "Clifford's Puppy Days" makes preschool-age dog owners feel inadequate, as it rhapsodizes how Emily Elizabeth's profound love for little Clifford causes him to swell to gigantic proportions? Has anyone's daughter come crying to them, bleating, "Daddy, I love Snuffles as much as Emily Elizabeth loves Clifford! But he's not getting any bigger! Daddy, is my love bad?"

And, while you're up, if Emily Elizabeth loves Clifford so damn much, how come she only plays with him for, like, two minutes in every half-hour episode?

AND NOW A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FROM FREELANCEDAD.COM

Moms, has this ever happened to you? You put a roast chicken in the oven, and then hours later realize that you've misplaced the magnet which opens your Tot-Lok? Well, it turns out the little devils have a strong attraction to cast iron and so, yes, sometimes they might accidentally latch on to your cookware and get roasted themselves! But fear not: Although your opener may emerge from the oven misshapen and badly discolored, it will still open your Tot-Lock! And just how do we know? Never you mind about that . . .

SURE, IT WOULD BE NICE, BUT IT'S AN AWFUL HIGH PRICE TO PAY TO GET FELLOW TO START LOOKING US IN THE EYE

Slate reviews the Army's latest recruitment campaign, which targets parents and features this spot:

An old guy and a young guy (the young one is wearing a military uniform) stand side by side on a porch. "You're a changed man," says the old guy. "How's that?" asks the kid. "When you got off that train back there you did two things you've never done before—at least not at the same time. You shook my hand and you looked me square in the eye. Where'd that come from?" We cut to the U.S. Army logo. Then we cut again, this time to a slogan printed on the screen: "Help Them Find Their Strength."


GROWING UP, WE WALKED TO KINDERGARTEN BY OURSELVES. TODAY, WE REGULARLY RIDICULE PARENTS WHO SAY THEY WON'T LET THEIR KIDS OUTSIDE THE HOUSE BY THEMSELVES UNTIL THEY'RE 12. STILL, WE WOULDN'T DO THIS.

Six year-old Japanese youngsters regularly board Tokyo's subway system by themselves for 90-minute journeys to get to school. This mom details the litany of fears that led her to give it up.

September 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

NO, THE NETWORK ISN'T JUST FOR YOUNG TEENS. IT'S FOR PEOPLE OF ALL AGES WHO WANT TO STOMP ON A PIECE OF ANIMATION HISTORY.

Wblogo Fifty years after his debut in "One Froggy Evening," a Chuck Jones masterpiece of animation tragedy with the relentless inevitability of "Macbeth," modern network executives have killed Michigan J. Frog. Several years ago, the singing frog made a remarkable recovery from his crippling stagefright and became the spokesamphibian for the WB network. But now, "In my opinion the frog is dead and buried," network chairman Garth Ancier recently told the Television Critics Association.

WB executive David Janollari explained the decision to send Michigan to the blender thusly:

"[The frog] was a symbol that was--especially in the extensive testing that we did--that perpetuated the young teen feel of the network, and that is not the image we want to put to our audience." He went on to say that the execution is part of a concerted effort to prove that the network isn't just for young teens, but is also "a destination for the segment that's 25-34."

Janollari did not go on to unveil a new network symbol more in line with its older, upscale audience: Frederick W. Capon.

MSNBC BLOWS THE LID OFF KINDERGARTEN

The network uncovers a scandal directly affecting our nation's youngest, most defenseless citizens:

You Can Just Call It Kinder-grind
.... In addition to the three "R's" (reading, writing and arithmetic), 5-year-olds in some schools are learning science, social studies and even map reading.


ALL TOO OFTEN IN TODAY'S SCHOOLS, WHEN KIDS GO UP TO THE LAB TO SEE WHAT'S ON THE SLAB, THEY FIND NOTHING THERE

A new National Research Council study blasts the state of high-school science labs.

September 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

ONE STORY OUT OF THOUSANDS, BUT A PRETTY GOOD ONE

A six-year-old guides six small children to safety after the hurricane, and is eventually reunited with his parents, who had sent him and the children ahead of themselves when a rescue helicopter came to their apartment building. "We did what we had to do for our kids because we love them," his mother said. She was herself later evacuated to San Antonio but a reunion was quickly arranged: "All I know is, I just want to see my kids," she said. "Everything else will just fall into place."

BARKEEP, A SCOTCH ROCKS FOR ME, AND A KEN-ON-THE-BEACH FOR THE LADY

A recent Dartmouth Medical School study found that:

preschoolers pretending to shop for a Barbie doll's social evening were more likely to choose cigarettes if their parents smoked, and wine or beer if their parents drank... 

Researchers apparently brought in 120 little kids, put their parents behind a one-way mirror, and set them loose in a miniature market, stocked with booze and smokes, to buy items for a Barbie-and-Ken night out. The result was abject humiliation for the moms and dads as the kids gravitated toward their parents' vices:

A 4-year-old girl chose Barbie-sized tobacco in the pretend store and said, "I need this for my man. A man needs cigarettes."
 

WE'LL REITERATE OUR PRESCRIPTION FOR A LONG, HARD DAY OF WORK OR WITH THE KIDS: TAKE TWO RINGS AND CALL US IN THE MORNING.

Img001227br500 NASA's Cassini spacecraft has noticed significant changes in the composition of Saturn's rings in just the last 25 years, the Jet Propulsion Lab revealed last week. And as we've mentioned before in this space, NASA's Web site is full of mind-expanding photos you should share with the kids. To see what Cassini has seen, click here.


FOR A BRIEF, SHINING MOMENT, THIS WAS THE COOLEST DAD EVER

A British freight train conductor may lose his job after he allowed his eight and ten-year-old daughters to operate his engine. Apparently, in the UK, Take Your Daughters to Mortal Peril Day isn't until October.


FORTUNATELY FOR THE COACH, HE'LL AVOID PRISON, WHERE WE HEAR THE "CUP CHECKS" ARE EVEN TOUGHER

A Utah youth baseball coach was sentenced to probation after admitting guilt in his sexual battery case, in which three 14-year-olds complained of his "cup checks," which the would-be role model claimed were performed to make sure the boys were wearing protective gear.

September 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

AND WE’RE BACK

Yes, it’s been quiet here at FD.com the past couple of weeks, as we took a little break before, during, and after a week by the bay in Cape Cod with Small and Tiny, which featured a whale watch, a drive-in movie (it was this movie, and it was a big hit in our car) and the acquisition of three, yes, three, new stamps for our priceless Passport to Your National Parks.

Feeling entirely unrefreshed, we return to HQ to review a busy month of parenting news and to share some FD newsstand reports.


WHAT TIME IS IT WHEN THE BIG HAND IS ON THE 12 AND THE LITTLE HAND IS ON A WHALE? TIME TO GET A NEW WATCH!

Garrygittislobtail_1Yeah, yeah, yeah. But Fellow loves that joke in all its various forms. Seriously, though, if the opportunity ever arises to take your kids on a whale watch, jump at it. We took a Dolphin Fleet ship (Slogan: "We must be good. We’ve got whalewatch.com") out of Provincetown harbor and onto the high seas, and enjoyed views of several rarely spotted sey whales, along with a minke and of course, the mighty humpback.

THAR SHE BLOWS!*

0618265716Our Summer Vacation Small Fellow Book Club selection was this illustrated - and 40-page - version of Moby-Dick, picked up in the gift shop of the truly outstanding and kid-friendly New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts, which should be a destination for any families on their way to or from Cape Cod next summer. (We'll remind you at the appropriate time.)

Fellow loved Moby-Dick. He immediately spotted Ahab's flaws, and sympathized with the distraught captain of the Rachel (the ship weeping for her children). And we admit we didn't mind him seeing him regale his relatives with the tale of the hunt for the great white whale at post-vacation family gatherings.

* [can't wait to see what kind of Web searchers this phrase will bring to our humble  little site...]

AND JUST LIKE THAT, WE'RE A KINDERGARTEN PARENT
   [featuring an unprecedented FD.com appearance by Small Fellow himself]

Suc30005We had the privilege of escorting Fellow to his first day of school the other day and fortunately all went well, and has gone well since. Lunch is a bit tricky, though. First, as one of several hundred students at Big City Elementary, Fellow takes his lunch at around 10:45 a.m. Second, hot lunch is free for all, but if you bring your own cold lunch, you have to pay a quarter for your milk. Yesterday Fellow was enticed to try the free lunch, since it was pizza. But there was a catch: The pizza came with an orange, one of his many fruits non grata. He asked a teacher if he'd have to eat the offending orange and was told he would (or so he says). So he faced a classic dilemma: Which did he value more, enjoying the gooey goodness of pizza, or avoiding the demon fruit. To the surprise of no one here, he chose fear and ate the sandwich from home. Unfortunately, tho he'd spent a major portion of his Saturday morning arranging a variety of state quarters in a sandwich bag and carefully placing the bag in his backpack, he forgot to bring any of his quarters to the cafeteria. And so today, on day 4 of school, we had to pay the teacher back the 25 cents she had loaned Fellow for yesterday's milk.

September 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS