THE MAGAZINE'S WORKING TITLE - PUSHING IT - WAS REJECTED DURING FOCUS-GROUP TESTING

Did you know: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists produces a magazine specifically for moms-to-be over age 35, and they call it Plum. It's unclear from the Web site, though, how anyone except OBs can actually order a copy.

NATURE OR NURTURE? PICK YOUR POISON

Earlier, we referred you to Newsweek's recent cover package on anorexia, which reported that the onset of the disease might be explained, at least in part, by genetic factors. Now Kate Taylor, herself a recovering anorexic, responds in Slate that genetics is too simple, and almost too reassuring, an explanation for a disease whose number of victims is rising and which is spreading among previously unaffected ages and ethnic groups:

Until we discard the victim model and admit that anorexia, though destructive, often fulfills a deep personal need, we can't begin to investigate what makes a person vulnerable to it. Evidence that anorexia now affects an unexpectedly wide range of people provides an impetus for a new, more complex theory of the illness. But any such theory must acknowledge the willful aspect of anorexia, instead of trying to turn the disease into something as random and involuntary as a cold.


WE'RE ALL FOR A RICH FANTASY LIFE, BUT WHEN FELLOW BROUGHT TWO NARNIA BOOKMARKS HOME FROM THE SCHOOL LIBRARY TODAY, HE TREATED THEM LIKE WONKA GOLDEN TICKETS, AND WE DON'T WANT ANY PART OF THAT

Also in Slate this week, the estimable Alison Gopnik  weighs in on why children love fantasy films like the Harry Potter and Narnia series. As has been proven by psychological studies over the years, it's not that they can't discern between fantasy and reality - it's that their innate scientific curiosity makes them ideally suited to imagine the possibilities of a fantasy world without getting hung up on the ingrained logic of our everyday world:

It's not that children turn to the imaginary instead of the real—it's that a human being who learns about the real world is also simultaneously learning about all the possible worlds that stem from that world. And for human children those possibilities are unconstrained by the practical exigencies of adult survival.

HAPPILY, YOU CAN TAKE THE GIRL OUT OF ALMATY, BUT CAN YOU TAKE THE ALMATY OUT OF THE GIRL?

Back to Slate once again: Their online diary this week is by NPR's Eric Weiner, who recently traveled to Kazakhstan with hopes of bringing home a baby girl. In today's entry, he tells of holding that girl for the first time:

. . . [T]hat's the thing about adoption. It's just like having a kid the regular way, only not. Unlike biological childbirth, there is no such thing as an accidental adoption. . . This is a deliberate, always conscious, undertaking. I can't say that makes it better—I wouldn't wish the process on anyone—but it does bring with it a certain sense of clarity. Why exactly do you want a child? What price—in money and sweat and tears—are you willing to pay? My answer, prompted by the two most beautiful eyes I have ever seen, is: as much as it takes.

JUST AS OUR SEVENTH-GRADE SOCIAL-STUDIES TEACHER WARNED, ASIANS ARE MAKING EVERYTHING SMALLER, FASTER, AND MORE EFFICIENT - INCLUDING KIDS 

Ann Hulbert looks at the new book, Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers—and How You Can Too, by a pair of Korean-American sisters who say their parents' strategies for raising children who would be admitted into top colleges can work for you too. Hulbert believes the book might intimidate white families who already find Asian-Americans to be the scariest immigrant overachievers in the nation's  schools since, well, the Jews. She also suspects that American families could be put off by the "proprietary" interest in children the book assumes parents must take for the good of their future success, because it would mean limiting their freedom or forcing them into certain activities (orchestra) instead of others (XBox), a point she drives home mercilessly:

The truth is, it's hard to expect your kids to be superdiligent at school and slave away at extra studying if you aren't working tirelessly yourself and then squeezing in tutoring time with them at home—which the Kim sisters are rightly awed to say their parents did, night after night. (Standing on the athletic sidelines, cheering and chatting with other parents, is considerably easier.)

The worry is not that American kids are inherently stupid, or even lazy - but that their parents, focused on creating positive memories, and prone to elevating athletics above intellect, may be.

WE DID NOT BRING HOME A HOLIDAY PUPPY THIS YEAR, BUT THROUGHOUT HIS WALK HOME FROM SCHOOL YESTERDAY, FELLOW SCREAMED, "POOPY! POOPY!" SO IT WAS KIND OF THE SAME THING

Jon Katz argues against the "Christmas dog," because "no animal should be a surprise," and as excited as kids are to find a four-legged surprise waiting for them under the tree, when they lose interest in that inbred, puppy-milled pooch, you'll be left to walk and clean it yourself, or take it on a walk of shame back to the shelter. Instead, he advises, get an XBox or iPod: "You don't have to clean up after it, and if they lose interest, you won't have to walk it in the middle of a snowstorm."

Now, the Chanukah hermit crab, that's an entirely different story . . . we got a pair of them, and Fellow loves to play with them. He'll pick them up gently and hold them by their shells, watching their feet dangle, and telling us, "I'm being a scientist!" Then he'll perform such scientific experiments as seeing how they react to being dropped back into their tank from great heights. . .

[UPDATE: One hermit crab has passed away; one to go . . . ]

IN THE FUTURE, THERE WILL BE NO EXCUSE FOR HAVING SEPTUPLETS

New research shows that using a single embryo for IVF is as likely to result in a successful pregnancy as transferring multiple embryos - while greatly reducing the chance of higher-risk, multiple pregnancies. The studies took place in Seattle and Australia, and:

"... [show] the continued progress we are making in addressing the problem of multiple births. These studies will help us move to the goal of singleton pregnancies for all our patients," Dr. William Gibbons, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, said in a statement.

IN FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS, THE MALE MONKEYS SAID THE GIRL MONKEYS WERE "GROSS" OR "DOO-DOO HEADS," AND THE GIRL MONKEYS SAID THE MALES WERE "SILLY" OR "STUPID." THEN THEY BEGAN FLINGING FECES AT EACH OTHER, AND RESEARCHERS ENDED THE  SESSION

In the latest proof that simians are just like people, boy monkeys, when given the choice, played with cars instead of dolls, while girl monkeys chose dolls over cars:

In the experiment, researchers put a variety of toys in front of 44 male and 44 female vervets, a breed of small African monkeys, and measured the amount of time they spent with each object.

Like boys, some male monkeys moved a toy car along the ground. Like girls, female monkeys closely inspected a doll's bottom. Males also played with balls while females fancied cooking pots.

Excuse us? "Like girls, female monkeys closely inspected a doll's bottom"!? What kind of girls have these researchers been hanging out with? Tiny Girl has plenty of baby dolls and while we've seen her give them bottles, get them dressed, and put them to bed, we've yet to see her inspect any of their bottoms.

THIS SALESMAN IS DEFEINITELY NOT GETTING THE GLENGARRY LEADS NOW

From the Boston Herald, Dec. 19:

Something stinks in the Briscoe Middle School bathroom, and it isn’t the toilets.
    Beverly police say a jilted toilet-paper supplier was so miffed he lost his contract to sell to the schools, he decided to wipe out his competition.
    Armed with a tube of superglue, he snuck into the school and glued the locks on four toilet-paper dispensers in a boy’s bathroom, preventing anyone from filling them, police say.
    “It’s clearly not adult behavior,” said school committee vice president Michael Tallo.
    Beverly police are seeking criminal complaints against the man for trespassing and damaging a school building. . .

THE BUILDING IS ON FIRE, YOU LIVE ON THE THIRD FLOOR, THERE'S NO WAY OUT, AND YOU'RE HOLDING YOUR ONE-MONTH OLD SON. WHAT DO YOU DO, HOTSHOT? WHAT DO YOU DO?

If you're Tracinda Fox of the Bronx, you say a prayer and toss the baby into the crowd below, hoping there's someone down there with the skill, courage, and luck to catch him safely - someone like, say, Felix Vazquez. (link includes video footage of the save)

AMICUS BRIEFS FOR THE SCHOOL DISTRICT WERE FILED BY THE PRODUCERS OF EVERY PRIME-TIME SHOW ON THE WB

A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel of judges in California recently ruled that:

"There is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children...Parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students." Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the panel, said "no such specific right can be found in the deep roots of the nation's history and tradition or implied in the concept of ordered liberty."

Backstory: A group of parents had filed suit against their California school district after its schools gave first-, third-, and fifth-grade students a sex survey asking whether they ever thought about having sex or touching other people's "private parts," and whether they could "stop thinking about having sex."

Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family was predictably displeased by the court's decision in favor of the district:

"The 9th Circuit did more than rule against parents who were upset that their elementary-school-aged children were being asked explicit questions about sex in class. They told all parents they have no right to protest what public schools tell their children. . . . It's long been the liberal view that it takes a village to raise a child -- but never before have the 'villagers' been elevated, as a matter of law, above mothers and fathers. Every parent in America should shudder at this decision."

A group of parents have filed a petition with the court urging that the decision be set aside. Meanwhile, the local superintendent insists that the survey was created by a doctoral student who had not told the district about its sexual content when she asked for approval to distribute it. According to him, the school has apologized and moved on. We'll keep you posted.

FOR THOSE OF YOU KEEPING SCORE AT (OUR) HOME, THE MOST HIGH-TECH HOLIDAY GIFTS FELLOW RECEIVED WERE  REMOTE-CONTROLLED CARS AND WALKIE-TALKIES

As far as FD.com is concerned, the question is asked and answered - and the answer is no - but last week's Times page-one article again raised the debate over whether electronic and video toys can make toddlers smarter.

The article breaks no new ground, certainly not for regular readers of this site. This just in: Researchers still aren't sure if any of these toys actually raise intelligence; child-development experts recommend using gadgetry only in the most limited doses; and manufacturers and licensers across the spectrum are jumping in the market because no one wants to cede toddler share to anyone else. (Sesame Workshop's president lays it out for the Times: "There are all these babies watching videos, and we wanted to address the reality that's out there and come up with something that is at least appropriate ... Ours are about sharing and caring, modeling good parenting ... We won't be making any boastful claims about school success.")

In fact, about all the Times article does is provide already-smug parents some fodder for tut-tutting, which was probably the idea all along. So help yourself:

"We own everything electronic that's educational - LeapFrog, Baby Einstein, everything," said [11-month-old Jetta's] mother, Naira Soibatian. "She has an HP laptop, bigger than mine. I know one leading baby book says, very simply, it's a waste of money. But there's only one thing better than having a baby, and that's having a smart baby. And at the end of the day, what can it hurt? ... "

"You're never too young to learn, and kids nowadays are more advanced because of all these educational toys," said Iesha Middleton, another parent shopping at Toys "R" Us. Ms. Middleton's son will be 3 next month. "I tried to teach my son his ABC's when he was 1, and I didn't get very far, but with the Leapster, he learned A-Z really fast, and he can count up to 50."

The V.Smile video game system ... features the motto "Turn Game Time into Brain Time" and cartridges called "smartridges." The V.Smile ... has a television ad where a mom tells her children, "You'll never get into college if you don't play your video games!"

THESE KIDS HAVE TO DRIVE HALFWAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO A DESPERATE, HURRICANE-DEVASTATED TOWN TO FIND PEOPLE WHO WON'T BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF THEM FOR WALKING AROUND IN CAPES

A group of Oregon teens have hopped into a biodiesel-fueled school bus to Bay Saint Louis, MS, where they'll help people recovering from Katrina in any way they can - while wearing capes:

The team members wear their superhero costume at all times, unless it gets in the way of a project. Their colorful capes help put people at ease, start conversations and add an element of fun .... "It's nerve-wracking and kind of scary to think about the risks involved," said Lotus Brashers, 15, who will be Little Peace Riding Hood. "Still, there's nothing I'd rather be doing."

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

The FDA says to avoid taking Paxil during the first three months of a pregnancy, as there is a risk of birth defects.

OH, COME ON NOW; WHO REALLY WANTS TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION WITH THEIR DAUGHTER?

A Boston-area dentist wants teens to know that sexual practices like oral sex or French kissing can be risky if they or their partners wear metal braces:

Metal braces can scratch delicate genital areas, tear sensitive mouth tissues, or rip a hole in a condom. Such incidents increase the potential for sexually transmitted diseases and blood-borne pathogens, including HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, and hepatitis B and C.  “Most teens and young adults don’t realize that metal dental braces can do some damage .... Even plastic braces still use metal wires and ties that can cause damage.”

THAT ADVICE HAS SINCE BEEN DISCREDITED? OOPS. . . HEY, FELLOW, YOU CAN COME ON OUT OF YOUR CAGE NOW AND HAVE A SNACK!

One of Britain's oldest parenting magazines, Nursery World, recently celebrated its 80th anniversary by taking a look back at the now-outdated advice it once peddled to parents of the realm. For example, if you had a fussy eater in 1926, you'd have been told to:

"... cut out feeding times for 24 hours. He has water in abundance, exercise, rest, peace. After that you will have no trouble with regard to food and the wicked boy may be transformed into a likeable young person who appreciates mealtimes."

December 21, 2005 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS

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