Warning on a Halloween Batman costume: 
”This cape does not give the wearer the ability to fly.”

Has the whole world gone mad?

Parents today have reached a new low. I’m not kidding. This is utterly psychotic. My youngest, Eli, has been begging me forever to be on a flag football team. So I signed him up with a league in the neighborhood. I’ve heard great things about the organization that runs the league. It was close by. Sure it was adding an extra burden to our already jam-packed after-school schedule. But he seemed so intent on playing that I couldn’t say no.

The first slightly annoying incident occurred when I signed him up. “What day will the practices be on?” I inquired. “That’ll depend on which team he’s on and coach availability,” the impatient voice on the other end of the phone responded. “You’ll find out after the first game. “But what about all of his other activities?” I asked. “I mean, he’s not free every afternoon.” This clearly was an idiotic point to even bring up and i quickly surmised that if you want your kid on a team, you’d better be prepared to make some serious sacrifices. After all, what could be more important than flag football? I mean, come on.

Then about a week before the opening game, I got an email telling me to bring my son’s birth certificate to the first game. I thought it was an odd request and promptly deleted the email and forgot about it. But a few days ago I got another email reminding me that no child will be allowed to play without a valid birth certificate on file. This seemed rather draconian to me. But, since we live in a post “SB1070” world, I figured they needed proof of citizenship in order to be thoroughly legal. But I have come to learn that neither legality nor citizenship figure into this picture. The actual rationale for collecting my six year old son’s birth certificate is that apparently parents lie and try to surreptitiously slip their older children into younger leagues so that they will have some kind of height/weight/talent advantage. Really? What kind of parent would do that?

The fact is that some parent somewhere must have actually tried to sneak their kid into a younger league, right? I mean, just like the ridiculous warnings on baby strollers to “remove child before folding,” or the printed caveat on irons to “never press clothing while being worn,” or the label on my cardboard car sun shield, to “not drive with sun shield in place,” someone somewhere must have committed these inane acts. And there must have been more than a few parents who did this, right? Which brings me back to my initial hypothesis; Parents today have reached a new low.

In defense of the peanut!

STOP BLAMING THE DAMN PEANUT!

Poor parents. We’re so misunderstood. We’re just trying to do the right thing and protect our kids from a devastating legume and then someone, well, a lot of someones actually, comes out and throws a bunch of annoying facts around and we have to face the truth. We are responsible for the plethora of peanut anaphylaxis plaguing our offspring.

I know, it’s like so hard to swallow (tee hee). Here we are delaying introduction of the dreaded edible in order to protect our youngsters, when incontrovertible research now shows that it is in fact this late introduction that causes the dangerous allergic reactions we are trying so hard to avoid. What was that? It’s true. The research shows that it is precisely our delaying the introduction of peanuts into our kid’s diets that’s responsible for the unprecedented surge in peanut allergies.

You see, there is a window theory that has dominated our nation’s feeding philosophies for years. It says that if you introduce foods too early, or too late, you will increase allergic diseases later in life. These allergic diseases include: Food allergies, Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis), Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis), wheezing, and Asthma. Many of us remember the dire warnings to avoid eating peanuts during pregnancy and to never feed a baby anything peanut tinged until at least 3 years of age.
In December 2008 the AAP released a policy statement saying that although solids should not be introduced before 4-6 months of age, there is no current convincing evidence that delaying their introduction has a significantly protective effect. This includes foods considered to be highly allergic, such as fish, eggs, and foods containing peanut protein.
Many studies now confirm this finding. One of the more comprehensive 5 year studies showed that delaying introduction of peanut protein to 2 or 3 years of age did not decrease the rate of allergies at all. In fact, there are convincing studies that show that earlier introduction of these foods actually decreases allergies. The best study that demonstrate why feeding early makes sense is a study done by Du Toit, et al in the Journal of clinical immunology, nov 2008. This study followed 5615 kids in Israel and 5171 kids in the United Kingdom, all of Jewish descent to assure a similar genetic makeup. The Israeli kids ate peanuts earlier and in larger quantities than the English children and had a 10 fold lower rate of peanut allergies than the UK kids.
Another paper, recently published in the January 2010 issue of Pediatrics by Bright, Et al., was a Finnish prospective cohort study. It concluded that late introduction of solid foods was associated with increased risk of allergic sensitization to food and inhalant allergens. Specifically, the study showed a significant increased allergic risk by delaying fish past 8.2 month and eggs past 10.5.
Here are a few convincing tidbits of information from various studies:
– Pediatrics July 2008; Snijders, et al: Delayed introduction of cow’s milk and other foods was associated with a higher risk of eczema (a type of skin allergy)
– Pediatric allergy Immunology, Feb. 2008; Prescott, et al: Tolerance to food allergies appears to be driven by regular, early exposure to these proteins during a critical early “window” of development.
– Acta pediar. May 2009; Wennergrad: Elimination of food allergens during pregnancy and infancy failed to prevent food allergy. Instead several studies indicate early introduction of foods like fish and peanuts may be beneficial. Conclusions: early introduction rather than avoidance may be a better strategy for the prevention of food allergy. (This was a meta analysis)
– Pediatrics Feb. 2006; Zutavern : Cohort study- no evidence to support delayed introduction of solids beyond 6 months of age to prevent Atopic disease.
Archive of Childhood Diseases 2004; Zutavern: late egg introduction increased eczema and wheezing.

The fact remains that food allergies are increasing at an alarming rate. (20 years ago we had never heard of “peanut free zones”). According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2007, approximately 3 million children under age 18 (that’s almost 4 out of every 100) were reported to have a food allergy. The prevalence of peanut allergies has doubled in the 5 years from 1997 to 2002 (Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology Dec. 2003.)

Maybe it’s time to reexamine our feeding philosophies. The facts are clear. Early introduction of high risk foods is the best way to avoid allergies later in life. But we’re all so darn afraid of making a mistake that we overcompensate and choose to delay, or even decline, the introduction of certain foods, like peanuts, and we miss the critical window of opportunity for safe introduction. Our fears are actually causing more harm than good.

And because this is such a hotly debated issue in our culture, the media has shied away from reporting these findings.
Maybe it’s time to tell the truth about peanuts and offer an alternative view of the beleaguered legume. Especially when that view is based on solid research, clear clinical data, and scientifically sound evidence.
So dare to stand up for the unfavorable protein! Go on, I say, break out the pb and j for junior; and the sooner the better.

The power of a Twinkie

Twinkies...the new diet aid?

“Four out of five dentists recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum.” Do you remember that slogan? Have you ever thought about that slogan, about the sheer inanity of that slogan? What does it mean? That one out of every five dentists recommend sugar-saturated Bubble Yum over the sugar-free alternative?

I don’t know about you, but I have never met a single dentist who advised me or my children to chomp on sugar-laden bubblegum. Not one. Yet 20 percent apparently were counseling patients to coat their teeth with sickeningly sweet, caloric, cavity-inducing chewing gum. Why is that?

Because in any study, any collection of information, any data sampling and analysis, there will be a shockingly high percentage of people, (often impressive, well-degreed people), who espouse a point of view that is not only patently untrue, but may actually border on the edge of absurdity.

Think about it. We know beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no link between autism and immunizations. There have been countless, international, meta-analyses to prove this. Yet an entire subculture of parents is out there proliferating this hogwash and exposing their children to deadly diseases like polio, measles, and whooping cough. Why? Because celebrities like Jenny McCarthy insist that the evil medical industry is responsible for sickening her child with autism. (Not to worry though. She changed his diet and cured him!).

Never mind the facts. There will always be someone who will say something insane, unsound and idiotic about anything.

I have numerous friends who are currently on the HCG hormone diet. This diet allegedly resets your metabolism and you lose tons of weight in a mere three-week period. Here’s the catch: You are only allowed to ingest 500 calories a day for 21 days. This new diet craze, which incidentally first appeared in the 1940s, has been conclusively shown to be dangerous, even deadly, in several circumstances. But all it takes is some “expert” on television touting its benefits, and millions of people rush to the naturopath for a dose of the delightful diet aid.

To prove a point, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, put himself on a Twinkie diet. For two months, he only ate Hostess Twinkies, snack cakes and other equally junky munchies. He lost 27 pounds. His point? It doesn’t matter what you eat. Just eat less, burn more calories, and you’ll shed the extra weight.

But we want to believe in miracles. We want to uncover the truth that someone somewhere is conspiring to keep from us. The truth that will make us thin, cure our kids and ultimately set us free.

Keep this in mind: if there is even one licensed dentist in this country recommending sugar-filled Bazooka to their gum-chewing patients, you can pretty be pretty sure there are plenty of other people who will say something illogical, irrational and idiotic about almost anything.

My advice? Trust no one. Question everything. And never, ever underestimate the power of a Twinkie.

What would you do for $33,000

 

Ms. Hawkenson, proudly showing her ASU student ID card.

 

Granted, nobody wants their 18 year old daughter having live sex on camera in exchange for $2000. But, honestly, is it that big a deal?

The news sources have landed on this loopy tale about Elizabeth Hawkenson, the ASU geology student, who appeared in a video for the porn Web site Backroom Casting Couch and allegedly lost her $33,000 ASU scholarship.

Well, first of all, the whole kerfuffle about the scholarship is a hoax. Apparently there was no irate alumnus who wrote to the board of regents insisting the scholarship be revoked. The video itself; however, does exist. Ms. Hawkenson, finding herself a few thousand dollars short of tuition, (and apparently a few cards short of a full deck), made the unwise decision to appear in a “reality porn” video about a young student who innocently ends up copulating for a promise of 5 grand that never materializes. The “reality” is that Ms. Hawkenson knew exactly what she was doing and chose to have sex on camera supposedly believing that the tape’s distribution would be limited to pay per view websites.

Okay, naivete is one thing. But let’s examine the idiocy of this young woman’s choices. First of all, no matter what part of Texas you’re from, you ought to know that sex videos go viral. And if not right away, 20 years later when you actually have a family, career or husband who might really be humiliated by them. Sex on camera, nude photos, and compromising voice-mail messages all fall into the category of idiotic mistakes that even a country rube just off the turnip truck shouldn’t make. Can you say “Dr. Laura?” But there’s an even more asinine choice that Ms. Hawkenson made and that one really baffles me. At one point in the video, she proudly displays her drivers license and ASU student ID card. I’m sorry. But that takes the cake for stupidity. I mean, if you’re gonna have sex with strangers for money, at least pretend you’re from U of A, or Oregon, or USC for that matter.

Now I actually get that people sometimes do foolish things when finances are waining. I, for one, remember a time, eons ago, when a starving actor in Chicago, posed nude for a high class shoe advertisement that turned out, luckily enough, to only expose the scaly skin of a pair of crocodile leather Jimmy Choo stilettos. I was fortunate. A lot of young women aren’t.

Ms. Hawkenson is quoted in several articles saying that her dorm life has become treacherous since the viral video hit the web. No kidding. It’s gotta be rough fielding all those late night “study” invitations she’s no doubt been receiving. But what did she expect? If you’re gonna have sex on camera, you need to realize that someone is going to see that. That’s the whole bloody point of it, you dodo. I mean, they’re not capturing the act on film in order to bury it in the backyard.

I’m glad Ms. Hawkenson didn’t lose her ASU scholarship on account of her poor choices. I can even argue that it’s partly her parents fault for not finding the cash to fund tuition. She did what she had to do to make some much needed dinero. If she’d founded an internet start-up, we’d all be praising her independence and entrepreneurial spirit.

But instead, she used her God given gifts to up her bottom line (if you’ll excuse the expression). And that, my friends, is considered a no-no in our culture. But perhaps we all ought to just drop the “holier than thou” attitude and look within to see how we may have contributed to this sad scene of juvenile delinquency

Maybe there aren’t enough legitimate work-study options at ASU. Maybe sky-rocketing tuition costs for out-of-staters need to be re-evaluated. Or maybe, we all need to step back and stop reveling in the juicy details of this poor woman’s misfortune and focus on earning a few extra bucks ourselves, so that by the time our kids need to pay tuition, we’ll actually be able to cover it. I mean, given the choice, wouldn’t you rather spend a few extra years with your nose to the grindstone, so that your poverty stricken youth don’t end up hocking their wares in today’s equivalent of the world’s oldest profession?

The newest “bridge” to nowhere

mosque to nowhere

The mosque to nowhere

Call me crazy. But if a bunch of American militiamen wanted to erect (pun intended) a jingoistic skyscraper at the site of the Hiroshima nuclear blast, I’d say they were wrong. How about a German patriot with a yen for a Nazi memorial at Bergen Belsen? Bad idea. Maybe a tribute to Slobodan Milosevic at the University of Prishtina in Kosovo? A Jackie Mason roast at the Arab Hotel Association’s annual banquet in Ramallah? What, you think I’m being ridiculous?

A Sufi Imam, who said publicly that the US deserved the destruction wreaked upon us on 911, wants to build a mosque at Ground Zero and anyone who thinks that’s a bad idea is a racist pig who is not only bigoted, but also some kind of twisted, red-neck ethnocentrist who opposes the principles upon which this nation was founded.
Um…what?

I am fed up with this debate. I’m sick of Katie Couric and Chris Mathews and the liberal chicks on The View. I’m not buying the “bridge building” b.s. coming out of the media. And who in their right mind is suggesting that opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is some kind of impingement on religious freedom? Of course Muslims have the right to practice their religion. But their rights don’t exclude them from having to practice common dignity for their fellow Americans. The mere insensitivity of proposing this religious icon on a site where thousands of American civilians were slaughtered in the name of that same religion’s supreme spiritual leader, is so absurd that it belongs in a Saturday Night Live skit, not in the center of a National debate.

Rights in this country are not absolute. We have freedom of speech. However, try yelling the word “hijack” in a busy airport terminal and see what kind of reception you get. We have the right to bear arms too. But it might work out poorly if you send your 5 year old to school with your AK47 for show and tell. Likewise, we all have the guarantee of religious freedom. But with that freedom comes responsibility.

If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is such a “bridge builder,” why not start by constructing his idealogical viaduct somewhere other than Ground Zero? Over 70% of Americans oppose the idea of this mosque at this location. That’s not bigoted. The fact is, Feisal has set off a divisive, emotional powder keg. Wouldn’t the better “bridge building” technique be to find a location that respected all people?

If Feisal truly wanted to spread the peaceful word of Islam, why would he choose to alienate three quarters of the people to whom he is supposedly reaching out? Am I to believe that there is no other appropriate site in all of New York city for this mosque? Well, here’s an idea. Since I want to be part of the solution and not part of the unending, idiotic debate, I’m going to start a coalition to locate a more suitable mosque location in the Big Apple.

I’ve got some great ideas. Very out-of-the-box. For example, why not add a quaint little black box theatre and put the mosque in Soho? Or even better, we can reach out to the latino community and build the mosque in Spanish Harlem. Maybe Feisal should consider attracting more discreet, upscale parishioners and moving the mosque to Park Ave. It could have a charming little tea shop or cappuccino bar within its confines. There’s Wall Street, China Town, Gramercy Park, Brooklyn…The list is truly endless.

Let’s make it a contest. I know you native New Yorkers will be all over this. Send in your proposed NYC mosque locations by September 5th. We’ll pick a winner, award some meaningless prize and then send the entire list off to our beloved Imam.

How’s that for some good old American ingenuity?

What I learned from the daily funnies.

There’s always a window that’s lowered by a millimeter, a woman’s hair is slightly shorter, a man’s polka-dotted tie turns to stripes. It’s really not so hard. So why am I blinded to these seemingly obvious differences?

I am obsessed with hocus-focus. No, that’s not a typo. And I’m not talking about magic, or the dark arts, or any kind of voodoo witch doctor stuff. I’m talking about that comic in the daily newspaper. You know, the one with two identical pictures and you’re supposed to pick out the six differences between them. They’re made for like five-year-old kids, so that parents can say something like, “Here you go, Junior, take a look at these,” and buy themselves a few extra minutes of quiet morning java time.

But here’s the thing; I can’t do them. I’m serious. I’m lucky if I can find 2 or 3 differences. But six seems totally unreasonable. I mean, how are children supposed to figure these out? The weird part is that it’s always the same stuff, and I still can’t figure it out. There’s always a window that’s lowered by a millimeter, a woman’s hair is slightly shorter, a man’s polka-dotted tie turns to stripes. It’s really not so hard. So why am I blinded to these seemingly obvious differences?

I think there is something else going on here. Some kind of psychic rebellion, a repressed emotional resistance to noticing the blatant, the conspicuous, the glaring. Perhaps it’s just a trick being played upon my feeble psyche by Maternus, the omniscient goddess of all things maternal. Maybe she is mocking the fact that I meticulously note every out-of-place ringlet upon each of my children’s tossled tops and can’t help but comment on their faintly stained t-shirts and popsicle blue lips.

As a mother, I admit my compulsion to scrutinize every aspect of my kid’s personas. It’s like I’m unable to keep my eye on the bigger picture; my children’s kind hearts, their graceful spirits, their unending curiosities.

Maybe the message is to stop focusing on the minutia altogether. Because even when you do catch that missing bow-tie or slightly tilted picture frame, you still end up missing a whole bunch of other stuff and losing the game.

Hmmm…that’s a pretty lofty lesson coming from the daily funnies.

Unwed Mamas

The news came out yesterday that more than 1.7 million babies were born to unwed mothers in 2007. That translates into nearly 40% of all US births. Frankly, that’s an astounding figure. Now I consider myself to be a highly evolved feminist. I have little doubt that had I not found a man I wanted to have children with, I would’ve ventured down that unwed mother road myself. I can’t imagine losing the joy and satisfaction of having children merely because I couldn’t find someone to have and to hold until death did us part. But I wouldn’t have had a clue about what I was getting into. And now that there are two of us in this parenting duo, I want to be the first to say, thank God I didn’t do this alone.

As a mom, a working mom, who spends her life racing around between business meetings, volunteer sessions, and school field trips, I truly don’t know how anyone could do this on her own. Are all of these unwed mothers super women? Or do they all earn enough to hire fulltime live-in childcare help and housecleaning crews? I mean, by the end of the day, I’m so damn tired, I have to drag myself up the ladder of my son’s loft bed to tuck him in and kiss him goodnight. Thank goodness my husband’s around to do the ladder ascent half the time. I get up at 5a.m. every morning to greet my tireless imps and begin our morning rituals. By the time I pick them up, feed them dinner and harass them into doing their homework, I’m pretty much spent for the rest of the night. Plus, speaking of homework, I suck in science and math. (Stereotypical, I’ll admit that. But I do.) Having that strong male energy actually plays a critical role in our family.

I clearly get the feminist philosophy of not allowing a partner to dictate whether or not you have a child. I am woman hear me roar and all that stuff. But has anyone told these women what they’re really in for? I don’t mean to be negative, but when you’re the only parent, you’re the one who stays up all night with bad dreams, every night. You’re the one who disappoints when you have to work and can’t attend the end of the year recital that has to be inconveniently scheduled during the workday. You’re the one who soothes, punishes, delights, and snuggles. All of those things are great in limited quantities. But how can one person do this job, and do it well, all by herself?

I’m thoroughly elated that having a child alone no longer carries the stigma it did back in our parent’s day. And maybe the new figures are more illustrative of more couples raising children without the confines of legal wedded bliss. I’m really okay with that. I guess I’m more afraid that as we women strive for total equality and reproductive independence, we’re gonna end up shooting ourselves in the foot. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you really can’t have it all. As Steven Wright used to say, “Where would you put it?”