Produced by Gary Drevitch
WOW, THAT'S A HELL OF A STRATEGY. WE'VE BEEN TRAINING FELLOW AND TINY TO PRETEND TO BE GIFTED FOR TWO YEARS AND IT HASN'T MADE US A PENNY
Tacoma, WA mom Rosie Costello admits to having bilked the government out of $280,000 in benefits after training her two children to pretend to be mentally retarded, beginning in the mid-80s when they were 8 and 4. Social Security workers eventually became suspicious of the son, and then "uncovered a video of Pete Costello ably contesting a traffic ticket in a Vancouver courtroom."
AT A BOWLING ALLEY BIRTHDAY PARTY YESTERDAY, TINY RAN AMUCK, CHASING THE 6-YEAR-OLD BOYS AROUND AND THREATENING TO KISS THEM. FELLOW WAS THE MOST DESPERATE TO AVOID HER LIP-SMACKS. AND NOW WE KNOW WHY.
Our disgust at sibling incest turns out to be nature, not nurture. The key: How much time an older sibling spent watching his or her mother care for a younger one, or how much time the two spent together in the same household.
ON THE OTHER HAND. . .
ABC News blows the lid off incest—sorry, "genetic sexual attraction"—finding a hot half-sibling couple ("It's like kissing myself," Rachel says; "If you take Adam and Eve," Shawn says, "where did we all come from if there wasn't incest?"), as well as a woman willing to admit her attraction to the child she gave up for adoption at age 15. In keeping with the science mentioned above, though, no one involved in ABC's piece grew up knowing the eventual object of their affections.
Hallmark has introduced a line of cards for people who need just the right words to support a friend who's been diagnosed with cancer, or miscarried, or lost a job:
"We saw a huge need for cards covering a large emotional range, from sharing grief to celebrating the joy of recovery," says Cynthia Musick, editorial director for Journeys. "When we started talking to people, they told us they needed cards for events that really do happen in life. This is the 'new normal' in which we live. Basically, they gave us permission to talk about these specific, sometimes scary life moments."
We're inspired. In fact, writing Journeys card copy could be a good side gig for us. Let's see. . . How's this?:
cover copy: God loves all His children, even those that He, in His mystery, chooses to challenge with an undescended testicle.
inside copy: Get the surgery anyway.
ON THE OTHER HAND, IF SOMEONE STARTED OPENING UP DAY-CARE CENTERS WILLY-NILLY ON EVERY AVAILABLE CORNER, WHERE WOULD COMMERCE BANK PUT ITS NEW BRANCHES?
New York magazine explains why Manhattan parents can't find a day-care center for their kids. There aren't any:
Early-childhood-services facilities can usually spend between $15 to $20 per square foot, says [Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Faith Hope] Consolo. But commercial spaces on the Upper West Side, for example, run $50 to $60 per square foot. Meanwhile, stringent regulations—centers can’t be above the second floor, must have two means of egress, and need 30 square feet per child, plus sinks and bathrooms—reduce the options. And on top of that, landlords become “concerned about traffic and noise, the cars and carriages,” she says.
THE FD.COM EDITOR'S NOTE OF THE WEEK
From Newsweek's report, "Your Igloo or Mine?: Web sites like Club Penguin have introduced social networking to children. Welcome to MySpace in braces":
In fact, most of these sites are remarkably safe. For example, at sites like Webkinz, members can only chat by choosing from a list of the site’s preexisting conversational snippets—safe but a bit stifling. Language and profanity filters at Club Penguin are so strict that one user complained of being blocked from the site for 24 hours after misspelling the breed of puppy his family had just bought—it was a Shih Tzu. Parents, after doing their due diligence, can generally rest easy: it may not be very difficult for adults to join many of these sites, but their online interaction with people they don’t know in the offline world is severely curtailed. . . .
EDITOR'S NOTE: The original version of this story included three references to Tweenland, a social networking site. In response to new concerns about the security of the site, Tweenland was taken permanently offline on Feb. 23.
LIKE A TOOTSIE POP, ONLY MORE ACTIONABLE
We're still reeling from this Times article from a couple of weeks back (OK, we're catching up here a little bit this weekend) about the porcelain favors manufacturer in France struggling to retain its business in the face of competition from the Far East:
. . .the French began the tradition of the galette, a flat, round pastry with a favor hidden in its dough -- a practice that these days continues through the end of January. Whoever got the slice with the favor in it became king, or queen, for the day, complete with a paper crown, and the favor was said to bring an abundance of good fortune. The favor is still called a fava bean, or fève, for beans were what French bakers originally buried in the cakes. But more recently the favor in the finest galettes has been made of fine china, delicately decorated with flowers, texts or other themes to delight the recipient.
"Thumbnail-sized" pieces of porcelain in the middle of children's cakes? If they tried this in America, the protest petitions out of Park Slope alone would crash the Internet.
SAD NEWS: APPARENTLY, INSIDE OF FIVE YEARS, TINY GIRL WILL OUTWEIGH HER OLDER BROTHER BY ABOUT 30 POUNDS
A Northwestern University study finds that children who sleep more are less likely to become overweight as they grow up, and vice versa:
“Children who get less sleep tend to weigh more five years later,” lead researcher Emily Snell said. . . [Snell] determined that an extra hour of sleep cut the likelihood of being overweight from 36 percent to 30 percent in children ages 3 to 8, and from 34 to 30 percent in those ages 8 to 13.
WE BELIEVE THE PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES AT OUR LOCAL PUBLIC
SCHOOL WOULD BE MUCH IMPROVED IF THEY COULD KEEP THE MICE FROM RUNNING
AROUND THE CLASSROOM WHILE WE HAVE OUR TALK
On Slate this week, Emily Bazelon points out that the parent-teacher conference hasn't changed much in 50 years, and could very well be in need of an overhaul, beginning with the radical idea of actually inviting the children into the conversation. Bazelon quotes some limited studies which claim that including kids increases parental participation and empowers kids, and that may be so, but at the younger grades (by which we mean up to maybe fifth), we're not sure you want kids listening to any remotely frank discussion of their flaws, which is all they'll likely take away from it.
ALTERNADAD 1, WIGGLES 0
We have a copy of Neal Pollack's Alternadad here at FD.com HQ, but we haven't cracked it open yet. We feel like we already got enough of a taste of it in the Sunday Times magazine, and suspected that a taste was all we needed to get the gist.
Then we read Pollack's recent interview with Radar this morning, and, we gotta tell you, we're feeling a little bit won over:
How do you feel about the Wiggles?
We're [Pollack and his son] out of that phase. He watched them, and that was okay because I always imagined what punk versions of their songs might sound like, and it could be sort of fun. But I turned on the Wiggles when I tried to use the "Quack, quack, quack, quack, cockadoodle, doo" lyric as the epigraph of my book and they wanted to charge me $1,000. I was like, "You guys are greedy bastards—let me use your nonsense words, Jesus Christ!"
NOTE TO SELF: NEVER GO ONLINE FROM A CLASSROOM IN NORWICH, CT
Maybe this 40-year-old small-town substitute teacher is a sex addict. Maybe she's a cheeky monkey who gets off on exposing middle-school kids to ambush porn. Then again, maybe she went online from a classroom, got a porno pop-up screen she couldn't figure out how to close, and was mortified when kids got a peek of what was on the monitor. While the latter seems, oh, 800 times more likely than the former, a Connecticut jury decided to convict her anyway, and now she could face a year or two in prison for the snafu.
All of which may help explain the town slogan: Norwich, Connecticut: We Put the "Nut" in "Nutmeg State."
No word yet on whether slinky sidewoman Barbara Brousal was in LA to accept the award with the band. . .
UPDATE: Nope, apparently Zanes' Grammy posse consisted exclusively of Father Goose.
Our new book for kids, "Baseball!: Q &A," part of a series jointly published by HarperCollins and the Smithsonian, went on sale yesterday, in paperback and hardcover/library editions.
Fellow brought a copy to school today - he demanded we donate it to his classroom's library - so hopefully we'll have some road-test responses from his little pals soon. As for you, readers, if your five-to-nine-year-old is curious about our national pastime, and you have $6.99 burning a hole in your pocket, step up to the plate.
Hasbro is recalling a staggering 985,000 Easy-Bake Ovens after a series of mishaps with the product's new design injured 29 children, leaving some of them burned. Newsweek reports that things went bad when the company replaced the oven's traditional 100-watt bulb with a new heating system, clearly angering the Gods of Nostalgia.
(If you have one of the products, don't come crying to us. Click here for more recall details.)
ON THE OTHER HAND (NO PUN INTENDED. . .)
CBS News' Public Eye blogger throws a bucket of cold water on the study released earlier this week that said our children were being bombarded with "ambush porn" (ambush porn!?) whenever they went searching on the Web:
. . . . consider the "ambush porn" story from a common sense perspective. If you're reading this, you presumably spend a decent amount of time online. Are you constantly being "bombarded" with unwanted pornography? I'm not. That doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. [But] the default search setting on Google is a "safesearch," which filters explicit images. And most kids, having grown up with the Internet, are much more Web savvy than their parents. They are relatively knowledgeable about how to avoid ads — pornographic or otherwise — that they don't want to see. So why is the study getting so much attention? Because it fits into a classic news template: The your-children-are-in-peril story. . . .
We'd disagree only in that we felt the item actually fit into the classic blog template: The joke-about-porn-on-a-parenting-site story. . .
The slogan for "The Wheel of Responsibility" is "Stay Un-Divorced!"
Maybe because it provides couples with a common enemy. . . ?
PHOTOS ARE READY
Friends and relatives may enjoy the handful of new photos
posted in the "See the Kids" area.
As always, scroll to the bottom for the latest images,
including new shots of the happiest baby yet.
REPORT: "THE MUPPET SHOW: SEASON TWO" DVD RELEASE IN THE OFFING
From muppetnewsflash comes a report that the long-delayed DVD release of the second season of "The Muppet Show" is on Disney's summer 2007 calendar. Longtime readers know how strongly we believe that the first season special-edition set is a family must-have.
(Muppetnewsflash is also the kind of site where you can find out that "The Muppets Take Manhattan" was denied a 1985 song Oscar by that young upstart, Prince.)
COULD BE WORSE: WE COULD BE CREATING A GENERATION OF "TATER-TUTES"
Newsweek bets big this week that it can add about a half-dozen entries to the 2007 Lingo Watch but pretty much strikes out. Are all of us, the magazine asks, complicit in creating a generation of "prosti-tots," raised on US magazine and the exposed pudenda of rehab-bound Lindsay Lohan and "the Brit Pack," and therefore utterly lacking in values, modesty, and moral fiber?
We'd be more inclined to look for lessons in this bloated tsk-tsk cover job if the magazine hadn't so blatantly tried to boost sales by plastering a racy photo of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears on its cover, or if it hadn't included a slide show of "bad girls" throughout history on its Web site.
FREE TABITHA! FREE TABITHA!
Newsweek is free to speculate that Britney Spears is the voice of today's younger generation. For a time, we were sure that Tabitha Soren, the earnest redhead star of MTV News, would become the voice of our own generation. Which is why we have to say that her current status continues to trouble us in the same way that the plot of "The Little Mermaid" does. Soren left MTV long ago and is now trying her hand at news photography. In fact, she frequently takes the photos for husband Michael Lewis' magazine pieces. Among other things, Lewis, acclaimed author of "Moneyball" and "Liar's Poker," contributes an occasional column to Slate about becoming a father later in life. It's the closest we ever get to Soren's voice these days, and what we hear isn't at all comforting, as in Lewis' latest entry, about Tabitha's recent bout with post-partum depression:
Just before 2 in the morning, I'm prodded awake. It's Tabitha, with a look on her face I've never seen there before. "I'm sorry," she says.
"Okay," I say. "What's the matter?" But I already know it's serious. She's fighting very hard to hold it together. Her eyes dart around, and she fidgets as if she itches in 50 places at once.
"I don't know," she says, "I'm really, really scared."
She's like an addict in need of a fix that does not exist. She's terrified. Worse, she doesn't know what she's terrified of. All she knows is that she can't be alone, can't even close her eyes in my presence without shuddering with fear. "I think I might need to go to the emergency room," she says, reluctantly, and she might. But it's 2 in the morning, we have three small children in the house, the neighbors are all gone, and the nearest blood relation is 2,000 miles away.
"Tell me exactly what you feel."
"As if something really bad's going to happen."
Tears fill her eyes.
"I feel like I don't have any control of anything. I feel like I might be going insane."
WELL, NOT THE FIRST TIME, ANYWAY
According to the latest issue of Pediatrics magazine:
More children and teens are being exposed to online pornography, mostly by accidentally viewing sexually explicit Web sites while surfing the Internet. . . . Forty-two percent of Internet users aged 10 to 17 surveyed said they had seen online pornography in the past year. Of those, 66 percent said they did not want to view the images and had not sought them out.
LIGHT DAWNS OVER LITTLE ROCK
Can we get a verdict from the replay judge here: Are you allowed to
call consequences "unintended" if you were the only people in the
country who didn't see them coming?:
Arkansas — the first state to send home obesity report cards to warn parents of overweight kids’ health risks — may ditch the plan or weaken it with the help of the new governor. Gov. Mike Beebe said the school weigh-ins and report cards had “a lot of negative, unintended consequences” and hurt some children’s self-esteem. He favors letting parents drop out of the program more easily and wants the state to test children less often.
In actuality, there's much debate over Arkansas' anti-obesity
programs. There are indications that the obesity report cards have inspired some
parents to bring their children in for medical advice or to enroll them in
fitness programs. States including California, Florida and
Pennsylvania, are already launching similar programs. But we're still not
convinced that weigh-ins are within the schools' mandate, and,
speaking as a former fat kid, we're also not convinced that the self-esteem
blows the program delivers are worth the trouble.
It's like that old joke: A boy brings home his report card, and his
mom sees he has a D in Math. So the mom comes to school the next day
and says to his teacher, I want a second opinion. Teacher says, OK,
he's also fat.
SCIENCE JIGGLES ON
We're impressed by the detective work here, as doctors investigating why a number of boys, ranging in age from 4 to 10, had developed gynecomastia
discovered that the culprits were lavender and tea tree oils found in
the boys' shampoos, soaps and lotions. The researchers, writing in the
New England Journal of Medicine, assured parents that the effects of
the oils (including enlarged breasts) should disappear once boys stop
using the products, which mimic estrogen and block the boys' hormonal
The AP article linked above also reports on a debate between pediatricians about whether the risks involved are serious or lengthy enough to advise that families actually start avoiding these products. Whatever. Suffice to say, we're convinced: He'll be upset, but we've just closed Fellow's account at L'Occitane.