Nanny in NYC

A modern day Mary Poppins

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ciao Bella!

Yesterday Luke and I wandered down to the World Financial Center with the expressed purpose of visiting the brand new Ciao Bella Gelateria.

I made the mistake of asking "Do you want to go and get ice cream?" while we were still at the apartment, so the walk down along the river through Rockefeller Park was marred by the constant repetition of "Lukey ice cream! Lukey ice cream!" in an increasingly panicked tone. But, despite his fears that the world might end before he got his ice cream, we did arrive. Usually we can spend hours looking at all the big boats in the North Cove but today we rushed on past to get to our sugar fix as fast as possible.

The selection is pretty big. After I obtained a sweet, tiny cup of simple strawberry for Mr. Luke (and he was suddenly, blissfully silent), I sampled took my time Hazelnut Biscotti, Malted Milk Ball and Fresh Mint.

In the end, however, I settled on what I'd come in search of a sugar cone of Triple Espresso. I love coffee ice cream, and for conventional purposes Bryers is my favorite, but the Ciao Bella Triple Espresso Gelato is a wonderful indulgence.

Here's one caveat about the CB brand, it's a wonderful indulgence, yes, but not an inexpensive one. Luke and I both ordered the smallest sizes, and I was kind of shocked when I handed the cashier a 10 dollar bill and all I got back was a couple of coins.

On a hot sticky day like yesterday was, there is almost nothing better than sitting with my little man in the air conditioned Winter Garden eating gelato and people watching. Our favorite find of the day was this tour guide who, unlike most of the WFC tour guides who carry big red umbrellas to make themselves easily seen, he chose a huge green light saber. We told him he was very cool as we exited the building & headed to the water park.

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Thursday Morning Rant

You want to know what I hate? I hate Pediasure!

Have you ever seen their commercials, the ones that ask, "Are you worried that your children aren't getting proper nutrition?" Every time I saw those ads (past tense, I'm so beyond watching commercials these days) I wanted to scream at the TV, "THEN YOU SHOULD FEED THEM BETTER!"

I have a personal pet peeve (a bunch of them, really, but just this one for today's purposes), I absolutely despise it when parents try to disguise their own shortcomings by pointing to their children's behavior. If I had a dollar (inflation) for everytime I heard a parent try and explain that their child is simply a picky eater and won't touch this and that I would not have to worry about money all that much. The reality of the situation is that it's worth more to these parents to make compromises with their childrens' diet than to put in the work that it takes to teach their children to eat right.

Here is the truth as I see it: every single child is a picky eater. If they could control what they ate on a daily basis, scurvy would set in within a month. Neophobia (literally, fear of the new) is a naturally occurring stage in a child's development. It serves to make newly mobile kids adverse to actually consuming all the new things they come in contact with (and inevitably put in their mouths).

So, all parents are facing an uphill battle when it comes to getting their offspring to eat their veggies, it's not just the parents of the "picky" eaters. But, you will absolutely never hear a mother at a coffee clutch say, "Yes, I know that little Jenny probably shouldn't eat a bagel three meals a day, every day. It's just not worth it to me to work on her diet. I'd rather spend this time with her when she's cute and it's so easy to make her happy by giving in to her every desire. I'm not going to think about how she'll be 200 lbs. at 15 and a likely candidate for Type II Diabetes."

Pediasure does serve a very good purpose for children with specific dietary issues, but parental laziness is not a specific dietary issue.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I love this!

. . . perhaps a little bit too much.

For an explanation/more on this visit Full Metal Attorney (from whence I stole it).

At least he never suggests grilling them.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Sex & the Single Nanny

Don't get excited, this post really has nothing to do with sex, per se. I just loved the title.

In reality, today's topic is dating. I've already talked about how I am a bit of an anomaly, as a college educated, white, American-born Nanny, so I would hope that it isn't difficult for you to imagine that the type of man who dates college educated, American born, twenty-something girls does not often find himself dating a Nanny. This doesn't really bother me all that much because I enjoy my job and am not embarrassed by it. The only challenging thing about it is that when I say I'm a Nanny, the subject of children, family (and because it goes along with those two, marriage) seems suddenly and inappropriately present.

In the past I've handled this by going very academic. I talk about what a grand experiment children are and how I am very interested in how generational trends in raising children effect economics, politics, etc. It usually works because presenting a topic for debate is a winning tactic with the kind of men I date. The question for me then becomes, how do I introduce the man in my life to the very important non-academic aspects of my job: the children.

In my last relationship I had middling success with this. I was working for the P. family at the time. They have two children who I absolutely adore. At the time they were about 7 and 9 and I had reached the point where I enjoyed spending time with them both on and off "the job". So one day, shortly before Christmas, I took them out on a weekend to go shopping and see a movie, and I invited G., my boyfriend at the time, to go along with us. We went to see Peter Pan (which I highly recommend, by the way) and everything went very well until the final moments of the film. The last line of the movie is a voice over by Wendy. She is explaining how the Lost Boys, each in their time, would come to her and she would help them find loving homes because, she explains, "Every child must grow up. Every child except one." To which G replied (very loudly, people several rows away turned around and looked at us) "Michael Jackson!" He got a lot of titters from those around us, but Phoebe (the 7-year-old) gave him the fisheye.

After the movie I left Phoebe and Jack with G. while I went to the bathroom. Big Mistake! I was gone less than 5 minutes, but when I returned to them G. was looking uncomfortable and sheepish (not so odd, in and of itself, that was kind of his constant demeanor) and Phoebe was glaring at him with undisguised scorn and suspicion. Apparently, while I was gone, shrewd little Phoebe had asked what exactly G. meant by his Michael Jackson comment. G. had stammered a bit and finally come up with this gem, "Uh . . . you should ask your mom." Then he amended that to "Or, you could ask Annie." So, having explained this, she did just that.

"Michael Jackson was very famous from the time that he was about 5 years old," I said, "and because he spent his childhood working instead of just being a kid, he is trying to make up for it in his adulthood by having his own amusement park, zoo and other things like that."

Phoebe was quite satisfied with this answer, but, because she's not at all a slow child, she quickly came to the next obvious question. "Why couldn't he tell me that?" I gave her the only answer I had, "He's a little weird." Not surprisingly, she had absolutely no problem accepting that.

This incident was really just a bump in the road of getting the kids and my boyfriend to be able to relate to one another, and it definitely got better as time went on. Like with so many things, G. was training for the next phase of my dating life. Now, I know what red flags to look for and what amount of wariness is reasonable and good. He's also served as a wonderful base line from which to tell what is par for the course and what is exceptional behavior.

So, when a cute, interesting boy pulls out a wallet full of pictures of his niece and nephew and walks me through each one with increasing delight, I know I'm dealing with a truly exceptional man.

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Feeling a Little bit Crafty, Part Two

Here is the doll base that I found for Miss Jill's birthday present. It's from Fire Mountain Gems, which is a Must-Know site if you like to bead or do most any kind of crafts. (This is the best product they sell, for my money.) A true DIY-er would make the doll base herself, but I'm so daunted by this task that I was thrilled to find this simple, bendable base. My sewing skills are much more straight line oriented, a doll was truly a frightening prospect.

Once the doll arrives, I will face the task of clothing & accessorizing her. The finished doll, if I'm lucky, should look like this picture to the right, although I'm creeped out by dolls with minimal faces, so I'm going to get creative with eyes and lips and nose. I don't think I can embroider them, as the doll is already constructed, but maybe I'm wrong, so it's at least worth a shot. Also, I definitely think that shoes are called for, although I've not gotten any hot ideas about how to construct them yet.

Also, despite the fact that Jill would probably be thrilled with the calico look, I'm thinking I might try and update the ensemble a tad bit. She's very into pink and I just love the combination of pink and gold. I picked up this fabric recently at Lonni Rossi Fabrics near my parents' home, and I love it. I think the scale is off for a doll this small, so I might need to do some more digging to find the right fabric, but I'll use this swatch as inspiration, at least.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Feeling a Little bit Crafty

Jill's 7th Birthday is fast approaching. When it comes to the kids in my life I generally try and get them exactly what they want for their birthdays, to the best of my ability (and wallet) of course, and I tend to get them books only for the winter holidays. I do it so that during the holidays, when everything is pretty hectic, I can make one trip to Barnes and Noble and be done with a good chunk of my shopping.

Last week Jill and I were discussing plans for her upcoming party and I asked her outright what she'd like me to get her. While she was thinking about it, I added, "If you'd like me to make you something, I will." I was thinking about the beaded necklaces we'd been into lately, or a small knitted blanket, because I've been playing around with knitting needles lately. Her face lit up at this idea, but she surprised me when she said, "Yes, a doll!"

It immediately brought me back to Christmas circa 1983 (give or take), and Jill was in luck because she absolutely loves stories. I told her that the year I was her age exactly all I wanted for Christmas was an Annie doll, as in Little Orphan Annie. Obviously I felt very akin to Annie (and Anne of Green Gables as well, but I'll save that obsession for another day) and movie the had come out only the year before so she was very big that holiday season. On Christmas morning my mother proudly unveiled the doll that she had worked for months to make. Sadly, I don't have a picture of the actual doll, but she was 36" tall (a little bigger than me at the time) and carefully made from this McCall's Pattern:

From the first moment that I laid my eyes upon her I hated her with a passion. I hated her from the tip of her red yarn hair down to her real black patent leather shoes. Why? Because instead of the doll my mother had lovingly made from hand, I wanted this:

The store bought, plastic, probably made by children in a Cambodian sweat shop Annie Doll. I am, of course, ashamed to admit it today, but I cried bitterly and I think I may have actually yelled at my mother something like "I don't want your stinking doll! I won't play with it and you can't make me!"

Jill is clearly a much more enlightened and much less commercial child than I was.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Warm Fuzzies

I've been thinking a lot this week about empathy and how it is slowly developing in my little Lukester. The kid has an unusually sensitive head and doing things like washing behind his ears and cleaning off his sticky face are always a chore. Now that he has a huge mop of hair (that mommy doesn't want to part with just yet) hair brushing has become a daily headache. Yesterday I had the brilliant idea of letting him brush my hair before I tried to go to work on him, so that he'd see that it's not an "Owwie-owwie!" as he'd been insisting it was.

Big mistake.

The first time I brought the hair brush, with both our hands on the handle, toward my head he looked at me, shocked. The second time he screamed out "No, Annie! Owwie-owwie!" and pulled the brush away from my head. Then he threw it in the bathtub.

It really got me thinking about the little guy and how much more he's aware of these days. We still have a great deal of trouble getting him to not hit his brothers and sister, especially Drew, but all in all he's really developed a sense of the people around him and how they have feelings separate and different than his emotions. I started doing a bit of research about how empathy develops in infants and it brought back a lot of very sweet memories from the time when Luke truly was a baby.

I found an Australian site simply called Raising Children which gave a nice break down of the early stages of empathy development. Reading it convinced me that Luke is way above the curve when it comes to his emotional progress (as he is with so many things, of course). According to the site, at around 13 months
more than half the children had tried to hug, pat, or touch another person when they were showing distress. Scientists call this "pro-social behaviour" which means that they not only responded to the emotion they saw, but they made an attempt to help the other person feel better. This doesn't mean that children this young showed empathy all the time--they didn't--but it shows some early signs of empathy.
This made me remember April of last year, when Luke was only seven months old, and I had my worst day ever. I came into work bleary eyed and groggy, having been up crying all night after breaking up with my boyfriend of almost two years. In retrospect it was amazing that I made it into work at all, but I guess I knew that ultimately I'd feel better with something to occupy my mind. Not only did I feel better, but when I went into Luke's bedroom to get him up for the morning he looked me right in the eye and then put his hand up against my cheek. He patted me gently while holding my gaze as if to say, "Everything's going to be all right, Annie." We spent most of that day cuddling together, and not only did work occupy my mind, but Luke's sudden and unusual concern was truly healing.

Of course, other things are developing in Luke right along with the empathy. Things like jealousy and anger and greed, but those are emotions we all share, so I guess I won't begrudge him his share of those as well. Especially as he's the youngest of four, the kid will need to be able to stand up for himself as much as he needs to understand his tormenters--oh, I mean siblings.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Like No Other

The G. children, as a general rule, do not watch TV. The watch videos or commercial-free, pre-recorded shows from PBS on Friday and Saturday evenings only. I think that this is a perfectly find state of affairs, for now. They're blissfully ignorant of many products, food items, toys, etc. that they would only hear about through television commercials, so Mr. & Mrs. G. and I hear less whining in stores for specific purchase requests. All in all, I'm a fan of this policy. Just not today.

Today I actually brought, on my computer, a commercial for Sam & Jill to watch. I found about the commercial (which is European) after reading a little about Jose Gonzalez, who I'm simply crazy about right now. His song, Heartbeats, is the music in the commercial, and it fits the footage wonderfully.

If you have QuickTime on your computer, I highly recommend you go here to watch the commercial, but for those of you who don't, I've included it below (but in considerably poorer quality, so the colour which is the whole point of the commercial, is kind of lost). The kids and I watched it over and over. It's wonderfully peaceful and exciting at the same time.

After I finally said that we'd watched it enough, and it was time to do something that didn't involve us all scrunched up around my tiny computer screen, Sam asked the obvious 8-year-old question, "How'd they do that?" I said simply, "They can do wonders with computers, almost anything you want." He looked at me with awe, as if it was me who could do anything I wanted, and seemed very satisfied with my answer. BUT I WAS WRONG!!

There are no special effects involved. When I tried to scare the video up on YouTube, I found this:

I felt so very Mr.-Rogers-at-the-crayon-factory when I showed it to the kids. It's a bit slow to begin with, and it runs over 6 minutes with a lot of thick British accents talking about the wonders of Sony, but it's really cool to watch. I especially loved hearing the thunderous roar the balls made coming down the street, not at all a peaceful sound.

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Summer Camp

Next week Sam and Jill head off to day camp in Westchester, NY and in a couple of weeks one of my former charges is leaving to go to a Canadian summer camp for three weeks. You know what? I am SO JEALOUS!! I loved camp when I was a kid, I loved camp when I was a counselor-in-training, and I'd be a counselor in a heartbeat if I could afford to now.

I first went to sleep-away camp the summer before third grade, so I was about 8 years old. My mother still talks about my first letter home, which went something like this
Dear Mom,
I am so miserable. I hate it here. The bugs are eating me alive. The food is terrible. I miss you a lot.
Love, Annie

P.S. I don't want to come home.

Slate has a great article up on their site right now about the idea of sending six-year-olds away to overnight camp and it's, surprisingly, pretty much for the idea. Apparently there has been a slow but steady increase over the past few decades of programs for 6 and 7-year-olds. One reason for the existence and popularity of these programs is that children that young actually have an easier time adjusting to camp-life and experience considerably less homesickness than children who go away for the first time at 10 or 11. Also, the perception of parents who send their children away to camp as being uninvolved or looking to off-load their kids so that they can have an affair or get a divorce or just run amok for a few weeks in the summer is pretty much entirely a myth. The parents who send their kids away to camp at a young age are overwhelmingly parents who loved camp as children, plain and simple.

Maybe by the time I have kids I'll be able to send them off by five!

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A Belated Father's Day One-Liner

You'll always be my Dad. That's one thing the casinos can never take from me.

Courtesy of those crazy jokers at Shoebox.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Family that Smokes Together . . .

I have been involved in several family conversations about giving children an allowance, and I'm not really sure what my feelings are on this one yet. I like the idea of having the money you give your children be totally for them and not tied to any kinds of chores or expectations, so that they can have a little security in that small amount of mad money--but I understand the arguments against this as well from parents who want to instill a work ethic in their children as soon as possible.

I can, however say this one thing with total certainty: Your children are ABSOLUTELY not ready to receive their allowance in marijuana until they are old enough to withstand questioning by the police. I think that's usually around 16, not 11.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Go Ahead, Sue Me!

I truly believe that we live in an overly litigious society and that a large majority of the lawsuits that are brought by people alleging "emotional distress" or similar damages are ridiculous. However, I was not at all annoyed by this lawsuit. In case you don't know the story, Claudia Muro was arrested because of "nanny-cam" footage that seemed to show her violently shaking the 5-month-old child in her care. After Ms. Muro spent two and a half years in jail the charges were dropped because the Boca Raton-based Tyco Fire & Security finally admitted that the footage was time-lapsed, causing smooth motions to appear jerky and violent.

I hope that whatever court hears this case awards Ms. Muro a large amount of money. She lost her job, reputation and over two years of her life. She definitely deserves more than that lady who spilled coffee in her lap.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I've kind of always viewed head lice as a right of passage for kids. Everyone educated in the US Public school system can remember being taken as a class to the nurse to have her go through your hair with a tongue depressor thingey looking for the tell-tale knits. But apparently the head lice have gone rogue and are now resistant to 80% of over-the-counter remedies.

Warning: Actually going to the link and reading the article might make you all itchy. That's how I feel, at least.

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Big Words

When I was a new reader I'd often come up against a word that I didn't know. When this happened I'd inevitably go to my mother and say "What does prosimian mean?" Instead of simply replying, "Well Annie, prosimian is a suborder of Primates that includes various primitive groups, lemuroids, lorisoids, and tarsioids," my mother, with the same of infuriating lack of compassion towards an inquisitive but fundamentally lazy mind, would say "Go and look it up."

Now that I'm the one being asked about words like "rogue" and "contrary" that Sam & Jill should definitely know, at least by the time they're old enough to be out at Denny's at 3 AM, I am trying to keep in mind the need for instant gratification that growing brains feel.

Google makes this pretty easy with their SMS features. All I have to do is text "define:" and then the word we're wondering about and I get an almost instant message back with all the definitions I'd get doing a regular Google "define" search. Plus, the kids think I'm oh so tech-savvy.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My Breasts, My Body

During college I did a great deal of evening and weekend babysitting. Mostly it was for new parents and their infants and I quickly noticed a profound difference between the breast fed and the formula fed babies. The latter had way more stomach problems, they spit up constantly, cried considerably more after feedings, were often medicated for gas from birth and they were more prone to colds and other bugs than their breast fed counterparts.

Despite the very unscientific nature of these observations, it was enough to convince me that when I became a mother myself I would do everything within my power to make sure I was able to breast feed, at least for the first few months.

That being said, there is simply no way I will stand for the government telling me, or any other women, what to do with our breasts!! And, according to an article on the cover of the science section of today's Times, that is what the Department of Health and Human Services seems to be leaning toward. This spring they launched
a two-year national breast-feeding awareness campaign that . . . ran television announcements showing a pregnant woman clutching her belly as she was thrown off a mechanical bull during ladies' night at a bar--and compared the behavior to failing to breast-feed.
I won't argue with the idea that it's better to breast feed, and sure, there are some health issues that may arise because of choosing not to, but risk seems and incredibly inflammatory word to use in this situation. It seems chosen specifically to illicit guilt in women who might, for whatever reason, want to bottle feed.

So many things are more risky than not breast feeding! Strapping your infant into a seat and then hurtling him through space at rates of 70 or 80 miles an hour, as most parents have no problem doing, is far more risky than not breast feeding. Taking your children to MacDonalds on a regular basis seems to me (although, technically I have no proof for this one) also far more risky and harmful. Swimming! Sun exposure! Second hand smoke! Need I go on?

But what is more disturbing to me is that this article represents not a problem, but just another symptom of a much larger looming sickness that I'm afraid will soon come to a head in this country. In May the Washington Post reported that new federal guidelines
ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves -- and to be treated by the health care system -- as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.
So, according to the government, from day one of a young girl's first menstrual cycle until menopause sets in she should take folic acid supplements daily and never smoke or drink.

I first heard about these recommendations in Dan Savage's Village Voice column, where he so eloquently said,
Color me paranoid, but ordering American women to regard themselves as "pre-pregnant" opens the door to prosecuting women who harm their fetuses by failing to regard themselves as "pre-pregnant." How long until "women should" becomes "women must"? Does that sound paranoid? Well, so did a war on contraception once.

Oddly enough, Bush's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't urge straight men to regard themselves as existing in a perpetual state of "pre-fatherhood." Smoking, obesity, asthma, and diabetes could seriously hamper a man's ability to do the heavy lifting that comes with fatherhood. But Bush's CDC doesn't seem that interested in regulating the behavior of all those fat, smoking pre-fathers out there. Gee. Isn't. That. Weird.

I do not think it's paranoid to fear the idea of our country nationalizing the bodies of women of childbearing age. Countries have done it before, and I would not put it past the US. Just months ago conservative groups were gearing up to oppose the new HPV vaccine, a vaccine that would stop the spread of the number one cause of cervical cancer because they claim it will be seen as "as a license to engage in premarital sex". I suppose that on some level these people (yes, I said it THESE PEOPLE) feel that a young girl who engages in premarital sex deserves cervical cancer. They wouldn't ever say it, of course, but THESE PEOPLE are the same ones who will spout enraging phrases like "pay the piper" in abortion arguments.

Sadly, the time has not yet come when we can sit back and expect that we live in a world where equal rights will beaffordedd to women in the same way as men. The only way we can ever get to that point, and I do believe we will, is by remaining active in the causes that are important to us. I am an American woman, and as such, I will fight for my right to breast feed my child, and Amy's right not too. I'd much rather raise my child to have a mildly compromised immune system or be gassy and cranky for 12 months than to raise her in a world where the government values her control over her body less than a boy's.

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More on the Potty Issue

So, I've become the girl who gets emailed links by her 20-something-single-no-thoughts-of-children-in-their-heads friends all about Potty Training. Somehow I can't really see this development in my life as a good thing, but I will admit that I most certainly asked for it.


Dr. Phil can't do it and this Potty-Pro certainly can't either. Potty training is literally about training and strengthening muscles and the connections between them and the child's brain. It simply can't happen in one day, as much as we may dream that it could or should.

I suppose that if you want to sell a book or promote a prime time TV special, praying on American parents desire to have their lives be easy & uncomplicated is the way to go. But people, are we really buying this crap? Sadly, I guess we are.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Most Obvious and Unexpected

I admit that it is certainly an example of perversion in my own character that makes me enjoy the following story, but I think I'm pretty much ok with that.

Late last year a British convenience store was the first business to use the "Mosquito", a "machine that emits an annoying sound that only youths can hear" which is designed to deter underage loiterers. When I heard about it then I thought it was somewhat mean and very degrading, but I didn't dwell on it too long, as I mainly worry about my own problems and don't intend to spend much time ever hanging around outside Welsh 7-11s.

This morning, however, I was very happy to hear that the degrade-ees have become the degraders--well, sort of.

British school kids are now using the sound as a text alert that they don't have to turn off when they're in class. Now, would I be happy about this were it being used in my own classroom (if I had one)? No, probably not. But that's a bridge to cross when I come to it. For now, I'm simply loving the irony.

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Britney & the Manny: Why can't it be true?

So, after criticizing Ms. Spears and recommending that she seek out a Baby PR professional I was so very excited to read this in the Defamer. Sadly, Perry Taylor, 28 year old former Naval Academy graduate, is simply a bodyguard (and an attached one, at that) and rumors that Kevin is jealous of the stroller-pushing, Sean Preston-holding, better-looking, and less-skeevy Taylor are supposedly exaggerated. But really, how could he not be a little insecure?

Even if the gossip is mostly untrue, I still see this situation as an improvement. I don't see it as a coincidence that lately there have been no car seat blunders and no baby/drink mishaps. Perry's strawberry blonde presence is clearly a good influence on all, as I see it.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Explanatory Video

As Americans we have to bring something exciting and dirty to cultural imports, right?

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Quidditch and the World Cup

Luke had his first tumbling class today, so I took advantage of the time w/o the little guy to meet up with a friend who was in the city for the day. We met up at Puffy's Tavern and I got to watch him drink a pint while I sipped a glass of water (picking up a toddler from tumbling class with alcohol on your breath is a no-no). They were playing the first match of the World Cup, and many of the people who were there had clearly come for the sole purpose of watching the match. Which got me to thinking . . .

I think when the generation of children that Sam & Jill belong to are young adults soccer might be bigger here in America than most of the sports that dominate ESPN's lineup at present. It's ubiquitous. Most every child I know (and that's a lot of kids) plays soccer. It's much more in keeping with the middle class dominating values of teamwork, sportsmanship and the "everyone is a winner" spirit than baseball, basketball or football. It's a global sport, and the pre-9/11-George W. Bush mindset that believed one could get away with not considering the world outside the US is a thing of the past.

But the two most important reasons why soccer is soon going to be a major US sport have very little to do with sports themselves. Those reasons are Harry Potter and Tivo.

Fundamentally, if Harry Potter is down with something, it's bound to become cool to American kids. But, although we have everything else, Uncle Sam, sadly, can not provide an experience even closely resembling the Quidditch World Cup in the level of excitement, anticipation, international involvement or excuse to make judgmental and often inflammatory generalizations about other countries. So what option does the US youth have but to turn to the World Cup? Gosh, Harry even made being the outsider who's come to the party way late and ignorant of the whole experience an OK thing to be (as long as you catch on quick, of course).

And finally, Tivo & DVR systems are becoming so widespread in middle class American households that during the Winter Olympics this year I had to spend close to 45 minutes explaining to an alternately irate and tearful Jill why it was simply IMPOSSIBLE to fastforward through the boring parts of LIVE television. A televised baseball game is absolute torture to the child who's used to clicking through every commercial she's ever come up against. Soccer is the perfect answer to this problem. There are two halfs with one break in the middle, no endless time outs. It's the obvious choice in terms of live sporting events for the media expectations of the kids we're currently raising.

Plus, there is the added benefit of casual sex, at least according to John Hodgman. Explanatory YouTube video to come (hopefully).

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Back from Vacation and Ready for a Good Night's Sleep

Hello again! Sorry for the extended absence, but in the life of a jet set young New Yorker, these things do happen. (Or perhaps I just had a bought of laziness, you can believe as you like).

Anyway . . .

While I've been on break I've been hearing a great deal in both the media and from parents (they're simply everywhere you go these days!) about new news on the infant sleep front. Last month Dr. Richard Ferber published an updated edition of his famous/infamous book Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems which had some of his devoted fans, such as Emily Bazelon, fearing he'd gone soft:
The dismaying advance word about the new edition of Dr. Richard Ferber's totemic book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, was that the nation's best-known sleep expert had gone mushy. Oh no, I thought, feeling betrayed. My husband Paul and I succeeded in training neither of our children according to Ferber's method. Still, his parenting book is read and reread in our house, because we rely on Ferber for backbone. So, it would be traitorous for the doctor to retreat from his claim that it's an act of necessity and virtue to tolerate crying (in precisely measured doses) as your child figures out how to go to sleep at night and stay that way.
So, basically, from what Ms. Bazelon goes on to say, it seems that Ferber is still Ferber. He's softened his delivery only, not his stance on limit setting or the basic idea that it is not a terrible thing to allow your child to cry (up to a point, of course) during the process of getting them to fall asleep on their own.

To be perfectly honest, I don't like the way Ferber's ideas have been distorted and applied to very young infants. In my opinion, children under three months old do not benefit from being allowed to cry for long stretches of time. I'm all for letting your infant child fall asleep in your arms and I simply do not believe that doing so will have an affect on setting up healthy sleep patterns after three months. In my experience, rocking a child to sleep becomes less and less effective with the age of the child. It's natural that the tiny baby who fell asleep so sweetly in your arms at two months will be different at four months when your face and body and voice are more engaging to him than soothing.

However, I am willing to admit that I could be a little bit wrong . . .

Psychologist Ian St. James-Roberts published an article this Monday in the journal Pediatrics which details his experiments with three different sets of sleep strategies--the first experiments ever to offer up real evidence based advice on the matter. He had three sets of parents:
The first group was made up of women in Europe and the United States who were aligned with a natural-mothering network: They held their newborns 15 to 16 hours per day, breast-fed on demand, and co-slept with their babies.

The second group, in London, was much more structured in its approach to baby care, setting up schedules for feeding and naps. Overall, the London parents had about 50 percent less contact with the babies than the "natural-network" moms.

The third group, made up of moms in Copenhagen, Denmark, split the difference between the two more extreme approaches. They carried their babies a lot during the day, but typically did not sleep with them or rock them to sleep and kept a structured sleeping and eating schedule..
The results, put very simply were this: The "natural mothered" babies fussed considerably less during the first few weeks of life, but were horrific about sleeping, even at 10 months most weren't sleeping through the night. The London group's babies cried twice as much during the first weeks but settled into healthy sleep patterns much more easily. The Copenhagen babies were the "just right" group, crying much less than the London babies, but sleeping just as well.

It's really not all the surprising, I suppose, when you get down to it. I'm very quick to point out to parents that elementary school age children simply love rules and structure and are most comfortable when they're getting a great deal of both. I guess babies aren't all that much different.