Produced by Gary Drevitch
WHO SAID THE CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION HAD NO TEETH?*
The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced an 11th-hour recall Wednesday to warn consumers that fake Halloween teeth sold by the tens of thousands since last year contain excessive amounts of lead. The $2 packages of "Ugly Teeth" are only the latest in a long line of Chinese-made toys and novelty items recalled because of lead. The CPSC announced the recall on Halloween, in a late-morning news release.
WE DEMAND A RECOUNT
. . . . a new study finds that parents actually report fewer psychological problems than their non-parenting counterparts. Researchers analyzed a national survey of more than 33,000 American adults. They found that nine-percent of parents said they had experienced serious psychological distress in the last year, compared to 12-percent of non-parents.
FD.COM MOMENT OF THE WEEK
We returned to New York late Sunday evening after a weekend away and an especially long drive during which the kids slept for several hours as we listened to Game Four of the World Series on the radio. So they had just gotten into their own beds a little before midnight when we turned on the DVR-preserved game with Little Guy on our lap. Seeing that the game was now in the bottom of the ninth, we hit pause, invited Fellow and Tiny to climb out of their bunk bed and watch the final two outs with us. As you may have read elsewhere, the Sox did not disappoint—the guy on Fellow's Red Sox Nation lunchbox (left) even pitched the last inning—and now the kids can tell their own kids one day how they got to see the Red Sox win the second championship of their (and our) lifetime.
[Can we for a moment express what a Bizarro World of sports in which our kids are growing up? The Red Sox are perennially in the World Series, the Patriots are the strongest franchise in all of sports, and the Celtics are perpetually mediocre. That's the complete opposite of the world we were raised in. It's like Lois Lane am Luthor's girlfriend, Luthor am president, and Clark Kent am Public Enemy No. 1.]
SPEAKING OF BIZARRO WORLD
After two years of unfathomable injustice and apparent racism, former high school football star and honor student Genarlow Wilson, now 21, was finally released from the Georgia prison where he was serving a ten-year sentence for having had consensual oral sex with a teenage girl. While Wilson was incarcerated, thousands of other Georgia teens committed the same crime in the backseats of cars idling behind Shoney franchises across the state without having to do time. The state's highest court finally ruled that his sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and you can certainly ask what they had been waiting for. Kudos to ESPN and other media advocates who wouldn't let this case go away, and for reporting that
. . . . the man who prosecuted Wilson, Douglas County District Attorney David McDade, said he disagreed with the decision, but he respects the court "as the final arbiter."
Michael Nifong is out of a job, but this guy is still in a position to prosecute young Georgians?
THANKS, WE FEEL MUCH BETTER NOW
The estimable Tara Parker-Pope reports on her Times blog that we shouldn't be so upset about roaches crawling around our homes or even our favorite restaurants. They're nice, lovely, interesting animals, far less likely to give you a disease than mosquitoes—and even if a roach did make you sick, it would only be because he was transmitting germs he picked up from you.
FOUR MORE SUMMERS! FOUR MORE SUMMERS! (OK, ONE)
Coney Island's Astroland amusement park has been given a one-summer reprieve before greedy developers shut it down, maybe to replace it one day with new amusement attractions—but then again, maybe not! In any case, starting on March 16, 2008, families can enjoy one more summer of the city's best triple-header day trip—visiting the creatures at the New York Aquarium, splashing in the waves at the Coney Island beach, and then playing at Astroland. (Actually, if you add a Russian lunch on Ocean Avenue, it's a grand slam. . .)
BREAKING NEWS: COLUMBUS BAKERY CLOSES ITS DOORS
The non-working moms of the Upper West Side just lost their favorite spot to gab with each other after school drop-off, and to be seen at outdoor tables by less fortunate mothers trudging past on their way to work: Columbus Bakery has gone out of business, a decision perhaps (or perhaps not) related to a recent multi-day Dept. of Health-ordered shutdown. A sign taped to the door promises, in classic New York fashion, that the location will reopen soon, “with an exciting new concept!” Several yoga-panted moms could be seen storming out of the Subway franchise across the street this morning, alerting their trailing companions, “Don’t bother, girls: They don’t even know what a brioche IS!”
WE'LL RETURN WITH MORE POSTINGS LATER, AFTER WE TAKE TINY SCOFFLAW OUTSIDE WITH HER CHALK BASKET TO VIOLATE LOCAL LAW 111 ALL OVER CENTRAL PARK WEST
This from Gersh Kuntzman, Friend of FD.com and grand poobah of The Brooklyn Paper, "Brooklyn's Real Newspaper":
A 6-year-old Park Slope girl is facing a $300 fine from the city for doing what city kids have been doing for decades: drawing a pretty picture with common sidewalk chalk.
Obviously not all of Natalie Shea’s 10th Street neighbors thought her blue chalk splotch was her best work — a neighbor called 311 to report the “graffiti,” and the Department of Sanitation quickly sent a standard letter to Natalie’s mom, Jen Pepperman.
Can somebody stop these bureaucrats before they Kafka again?
Apparently, Local Law 111, passed in 2005, makes it a crime to deface property with any kind of graffiti, pleasant or not. However, since the chalk will be long washed away before the window of 45 days to remove it is closed, there's little risk of the family actually having to pay the fine. Highlight of this story, for our money? The perfectly Park Slopian response from the little girl's Dad:
“This whole thing is ridiculous. Admittedly, this drawing was not her best work — she usually sticks to cheerful scenes, not abstracts, frankly — but to send a warning letter like that is outrageous.”
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT—AND THEN DISMISS OUT OF HAND—BEFORE TRICK-OR-TREATING NEXT WEEK
As the proportion of single and childless workers increases, so do complaints of unfairness in employers' benefits and policies. Single employees' inner resentment about married peers' family needs can surface innocently enough. Thomas Harpointner, chief executive officer of AIS Media Inc., recalls the time an employee . . . left work early on Halloween to go trick-or-treating with his children.
"It did raise a few eyebrows," he says . . . . "We realized that this was no joke-it was a real issue," he says. "If someone needs an afternoon off, it shouldn't matter what the reason is. And if one employee gets the privilege, then everyone should-and we should make it a policy" . . . .
Harpointner did just that, along with attractive enhancements to a set of employee-friendly-not solely family-friendly- benefits that apply to everyone equally and strive to reward everyone fairly by matching employees' individual priorities, "regardless of their lives or career stages, personal situations, whatever," he says.
More employers, and their HR leaders, would be wise to do the same. According to the latest available U.S. Census Bureau data, the nation grows more unmarried with each passing year.
Wow. The nation is growing "more unmarried with each passing year"?
That's quite a turn of phrase. We know that if we were feeling "more
unmarried with each passing year," we'd sure be resentful of our
parenting colleagues taking off all sorts of time to hold their kids'
hands while they get stitches and see them perform in their first
Thanksgiving pageants. And this article reliably goes on
to detail all the usual complaints of the non-breeding set: Parents
take advantage of us, they take advantage of our employers, more people
love them, etc.
WORST BEDTIME CONVERSATION EVER
Lying with Tiny in the lower bunk the other night for her nightly "two minutes," she asked us, "Daddy, can you see my hand shadow puppet?" We turned around and saw her five-finger shadow bouncing on the wall and said, "OK, I'll make one too," except, it turns out, we're really lousy at hand puppets, so the best we could come up with on the spot was a pair of scissors. "Look!" we said. "My scissors can cut off your hand!"
There was then an awkward pause before Tiny said, "Daddy, you would never cut off my hand, right, because I'm your sweetie?" And we said, "Of course not! I was just playing with shadows! Cutting off your hand? That would be the most terrible thing I could ever do!"
And then, from the top bunk, as we knew he would, Fellow chimed in:
"No, Daddy. That wouldn't be the most terrible thing you could do. The
most terrible thing you could do to Tiny is kill her."
"OK, sleep well, everybody!"
THE HIDDEN LESSON OF THE INFANT COLD MEDICINE RECALL
By now, you all know that infant cold and cough medicines are being pulled off the market
because of the risk of overdose to kids under 2, more likely from
parents not following instructions than from anything inherently wrong
with the medicines—other than perhaps the concern raised by many pediatricians that they don't actually work, or are at least no better than home remedies, in children that young.
But what we always find interesting about episodes like these is that
when you review the recall list, it really drives home the fact that
over-the-counter generics are exactly the same as famous-label
medicines; the recall lists include brand-name elixirs and
drug-store-chain generics produced side-by-side in the same factories,
then sold for prices that can vary by as much as several dollars a
bottle. In other words, Dimetapp is for suckers!
Meanwhile, doctors advise treating toddler colds with fluid and rest; acetaminophen or ibuprofen
for pain; a humidifier; and saline drops and/or suction bulbs "to
gently clear infants’ clogged noses." All excellent suggestions, except
that FD has an irrational, pathological fear of using the suction bulb.
Every time we pick one up we imagine sending some sort of "air bubble"
up into our child's brain, damaging them for life. So we ask Loving
Mother to do it instead. . .
WHY OH WHY DO WE SIGN UP FOR E-NEWSLETTERS?
Daily Candy has been sending out peppy shopping alerts to city gals
for years without ever bothering us; then we found out it was launching a
new daily e-mail blast for parents, "Daily Candy Kids Everywhere."
Feeling obligated as we do to collect all the parenting info we can so as to
better service you, dear reader, we signed right up and began receiving
tips for goods like the Sue London ballet-style slippers for toddlers,
inexplicably made of 100% Italian lambskin. The anonymous Daily Candy writer insists that a child
would NEVER take these slippers off, as toddlers might throw off
their other footwear while sitting in their strollers, because, hey, just look at them, they're so darn stylish! So we checked the Sue London Web site for more information, and, we gotta tell you, for $103 a pair? That kid BETTER not pull them off and throw them on the street!
Alternately, might we suggest Robeez slipper-style shoes for toddlers,
which come in a variety of styles from puppy to pirate, each made of
what we sure as Hell hope is not 100% Italian lambskin, each retailing for just
HE'S MAD AS HELL, AND HE'S NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE! (HE'S GOING TO HIRE SOMEONE ELSE TO TAKE IT)
Wall Street Journal "Love & Money" columnist Jeff Opdyke railed against the mountain of homework that his fifth-grade son faces each day, and the stress it causes him,
his wife, and his child. Our oldest is still in second grade, so we're
not in any position to dispute Opdyke's claims about how much homework it takes to disrupt his home life. Still, we might question his solution, which was to hire a college student to help his son "manage his schoolwork a few
times a week." Our quibble isn't that it's "a parent's job" to
help with the homework; on the contrary, we think it's entirely the kid's job. But
showing the 11-year-old that the solution to stress is hiring someone
to come in and bail you out? We don't know. Seems kind of young to have
to go that route, and we're not sure it's the most valuable life lesson the
kid will ever receive. Still, a column worth reading.
BUT OPDYKE IS THRILLED HIS KID ISN'T IN THIS MORON'S CLASS
The Times' puff piece on adorable Montclair (NJ) High School ninth-grade English teacher Damion Frye
is a good example of everything that's wrong with . . . everything.
Frye, you may have already read, is the teacher who assigns homework assignments to
parents and then—apparently because Montclair High School offers its
teachers separate bathrooms, a well-appointed lounge, and reduced-price
lunches, but not any actual professional supervision—actually ties his students' grades to the work done by their mommies and daddies! The Times clearly finds
this idea to be the Next Big Thing, neglecting to raise any questions about how
differences in the educational or socioeconomic backgrounds of a
school's families, or for that matter, their possible international
origins and concomitant facility with English, might factor into their ability to do the assignments, or the time it might take them. Nor does it ask how working two jobs to keep students reasonably
well-dressed in Frye's class might keep parents from devoting their full
attention to his required essays on "Ethan Frome." In any event, none of these are great concerns in well-to-do Montclair, where parents are so obsessively
aspirational that they would never dream of jeopardizing the
ninth-grade English mark on their child's college transcript by going
against the grain. And Frye obviously takes advantage of that mindset to foist his experiment on the community.
We'll note that, yes, the article reports that parents can opt out
of assignments by posting a message to Frye on his Web site, and that
only once has a student's grade actually been lowered because of a
parent blowing off an entire semester of assignments (though once is enough). But that's not
the point. There's a lot of pressure on kids today. As Opdyke notes in the column cited above,
there's also a lot of pressure on parents. All moms and dads who worry about their kids aren't necessarily helicopter parents; they're just parents. Susan Dominus' remarkable must-read piece
in the Times magazine's special issue on colleges two weeks back, about how the elite students of
Bronxville High struggle to get into the colleges of their choice,
makes it clear how deeply any parent can live and die with their
children's applications. Right or wrong, bourgeois or not, those
feelings are real. The parents in Frye's class appear to sincerely
respect his work in the classroom, and by and large say they're happy to reward his good efforts by taking part in his experiment. Among other things, they tell the Times, it helps them reconnect with their student's nightly work in a way they hadn't since third or fourth grade. But would they feel the same if Frye was an algebra teacher? Would they feel the same if their kids' Spanish and chemistry teachers started doling out assignments as well? We don't think so, but we're sure it'll all be moot by next fall when Frye leaves the classroom to go out full-time on the teacher's conventi0n speaking circuit. . .
DRIVIN' GOOD IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
The FD.com Article of the Day:
BROOMFIELD, Colo. - A 6-year-old boy was hungry and decided he'd go to Applebee's. So he grabbed the car keys, took his booster seat from the back seat of his grandmother's car and placed it in the driver's seat, then made a go of driving himself to the restaurant Tuesday.
He made it about 75 feet. Unable to take the car out of reverse, he crossed the street and ran into a transformer and communication box, knocking out electricity and phone service to dozens of town homes.
Nobody was injured.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN CHINA
BEIJING (Oct. 4) - A father tied his 10-year-old daughter's hands and feet and watched her swim in a chilly southern China river for three hours in a task he said Thursday would help the girl achieve her dream of swimming across the English Channel.
BRITNEY SPEARS: ONLY AMERICA'S SECOND-WORST MOTHER?
Authorities in New York say a woman arrested for prostitution early Monday morning also snorted cocaine off the stomach of her infant son while breast-feeding him between tricks.
Speaking of Britney, by the way, we hope that Bob Herbert or some other such responsible, good-hearted columnist will write, or already has written, the column that says that while we can all sit back and sanctimoniously tsk-tsk over the parenting misadventures of Ms. Spears, and the harm she allegedly puts her children in (even while various handlers, bodyguards, and mannies are omnipresent in and around her home), we must also realize that there are thousands of other dangerously irresponsible parents across the country who aren't being chased every day by paparazzi seeking (upskirt photos and) evidence of motherly neglect, and who's looking out for their kids? Anyone?
THE GIRLS AT OUR HIGH SCHOOL ALWAYS TOLD US THE SAME RULE APPLIED THERE, BUT WE NEVER FOUND IT IN THE CODE OF CONDUCT
This just in from Percy Julian Middle School in the Chicagoland:
Principal Victoria Sharts banned hugging among the . . . school's 860 students anywhere inside the building. She said students were forming "hug lines" that made them late for classes and crowded the hallways.
Wow. We're going to have to transfer Fellow to Julian when he gets into sixth grade, because apparently the worst problem they have there is kids hugging each other, and now that's been solved.
We always enjoy articles about arbitrary school rules, because they offer such valuable insights into the psyches of the principals who make them. For example, under what circumstances does Ms. Sharts believe hugs are appropriate?
"Hugging is really more appropriate for airports or for family reunions. . . "
We see. And, Ms. Sharts, are you perhaps carrying around any weird psychological scars from your own middle school years?
"There is another side to the issue when a hug is either unwanted or becomes inappropriate as judged by one of the students involved. . ."
SLINKY SIDEWOMAN HEARS FREELANCE DAD PLANS TO ATTEND DAN ZANES CONCERT, BACKS OUT OF TOUR ALTOGETHER
"the fall tour is starting up and it's our busiest one yet. the big news is that barbara brousal has decided not to tour in order to stay in brooklyn with her daughter, magdelena. we'll miss her, but who could argue with that decision? . . . . "
Who could argue with that decision, Dan? Freelance Dad, that's who!
OBIT OF THE WEEK
Neocon news outlet the New York Sun is beloved here at HQ for its idiosyncratic pockets of excellence, one being the obituary column by Stephen Miller. Here's an excerpt from Miller's report on the death of Richard Goldwater, 71, who followed his dad into the family business—Archie Comics—and co-created both Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, while updating the company's flagship characters:
As son of Archie's creator, John Goldwater, who died in 1999, Richard Goldwater joined the family firm when in his mid-teens, about the same age as the comic book protagonist. The eternal verities of "Archie," and its countless spin-off titles, were already in place: locations like Riverdale High School and Pop's Chock'Lit Shoppe; subsidiary characters like the jalopy-driving Jughead (lately updated to a Mustang), and lunk-headed athlete Moose (now diagnosed with dyslexia). It was a stage for the comic's central agon, an unusual love triangle: Archie torn between a pair of cantilevered hotties, Betty and Veronica.
We don't spout off a lot here at FD.com about reproductive technology, but fortunately, almost everyone else does. In fact, there are two new books out that anyone with a passing interest in the subject should find useful: First, "Embryo Culture: Making Babies in the Twenty-first Century," by Beth Kohl [full disclosure: a friend of FD.com]. She's used IVF treatments to become the mother of three children, and her book is both a frank memoir of her experiences and a look inside the fertility industry. Says Publishers Weekly, one of many outlets that have rightly praised the book: "In this insightful and honest narrative, Kohl shares her experience and offers comfort and companionship for readers dealing with physical challenges, personal and marital stress, and ambivalent answers to heavy questions." And then there's "Knock Yourself Up: No Man? No Problem! A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom," by Louise Sloan, which goes on sale next week. Unlike Kohl's book, we don't have this one in hand yet, but (full disclosure) a good friend who used IVF to have her twins told her story to the author and speaks well of the final result, which is good enough for us.
IT'S NOT YOUR FATHER'S SPERM. (ACTUALLY, IT'S YOUR GRANDFATHER'S!)
A 72-year-old British man is donating sperm to his daughter-in-law because his son's sperm is of poor quality. The senior citizen will be his grandchild's natural father, and the child will be its father's half-sibling. There have been several cases in which a grandmother acted as a surrogate for her daughter, without donating any of her own genetic material, so there's nothing wrong with the concept, per se. But the mounting evidence that old-man sperm is at much higher risk for autism, Down's syndrome and miscarriages would seem to make this a relatively dubious prospect as these things go.
ALTERNATELY, SCIENCE SUGGESTS THAT PREGNANT MOMS CONSIDER KILLING THEMSELVES
Pregnant and breast-feeding women should eat at least 12 ounces of fish and seafood per week to ensure their babies' optimal brain development, a coalition of top scientists from private groups and federal agencies plans to declare today in a public advisory that marks a major break with current U.S. health advice.
It comes down to whether the brain-boosting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids outweigh the brain-sapping risks of mercury-contaminated fish. According to this Washington Post piece, the feds have no plans to change their warnings against fish for pregnant moms, so, ladies, you're on your own, unless you're lucky enough to have a reasonable OB-GYN like NYU's Ashley Roman, who says:
"Every single day, I get questions from my patients about this, because it is such a confusing area. Personally, for me in my practice, it doesn't change what I have already been recommending, which is to have at least three servings of fish a week."
But in Stephens City, VA, a golden retriever nurses a stray kitten. "She started licking her and loving her. Within a couple of days, Honey started naturally lactating," said Kathy Martin. Honey is the dog, by the way. The kitten is Precious.
SIX FLAGS AMERICA: COME FOR THE TWO-FACED COASTER . . . STAY ON THE TWO-FACED COASTER
For the second time this season, Six Flags' Maryland park stranded riders on its Two-Faced coaster, this time for two hours.
SCIENCE PROVES IT: FREELANCE DAD IS DOING LOVING MOTHER A FAVOR WHEN HE FALLS ASLEEP ON THE COUCH EVERY NIGHT WHILE TRYING TO MAKE HIS WAY THROUGH "THE WAR" ON THE DVR
A study published in Sleep and Biological Rhythms (which is NOT the name of the new Radiohead album) shows that while men sleep better while lying beside their mates, their very presence tends to disrupt the sleep of their female partners:
The actigraphs showed that the women’s sleep was more fragmented on nights when they shared a bed, than when they slept alone. The differences weren’t huge, but they were significant.
The researchers speculated that women's fretful sleep might be caused by brain wiring differences between men and women. Women tend to be lighter sleepers because they historically have been the ones caring for infants, the researchers suggested . . . .
Psychologist Wendy Troxel isn’t surprised to see that men do better when sleeping in a shared bed. Studies have shown that men are very dependent on close relationships — contrary to popular stereotypes . . . .