Many moons ago, I was forcibly uprooted from the co-ed, hippie, Montessori learning enclave of my early childhood and enrolled by my parents in Catholic all-girls’ school.  Whereas once I had daily worn teal-and-black animal-print high tops and tee-shirts celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was suddenly thrust into a world of uniform plaid jumpers, saddle-shoes, and dour-faced nuns.

Orderly rows of assigned desks replaced the colorful carpets on which I was accustomed to lounging.  I was no longer permitted to while away the hours in the library, obsessively consuming comics and books on the Salem witch trials, or scribbling in my journal.  Instead, study time was strictly scheduled and misbehavior was publicly punished.  I was forced to take math beyond pushing a desultory bead around an abacus.

Math, in fact, was the fundamental cause of this disorienting change of course, as recent testing demonstrated that my nine-year-old self possessed the vocabulary of the average college student (thanks to my insatiable appetite for reading) and the math skills of your average three-year-old sorting out Cheerios at the breakfast table.  It seems my parents found this troubling, and despite the fact that I could adeptly weave hammocks from plastic six-pack rings and was extremely disturbed by the Gulf War, some basic educational tenets were lacking in my development.

This alleged inability (or total unwillingness) to learn math was also what prompted my mother to chauffeur me, whining, to Kumon twice a week, while my dad suffered my crying fits over everything from fractions to basic Algebra.  If you are wondering if the extra-curricular Kumon teaching methods are effective, I can only say that my math skills sped from 0 to 60 and the school was later that same year forced to furnish me with a sixth-grade math book – this for the girl who, months prior, had barely mastered basic addition.  In my experience, Kumon is the steroids of arithmetic, and for your math-averse child, akin to a prolonged, pinpointed torture session.  Obviously, I plan to subject my own children to it in the future, when they’ve been very bad.    (more…)


In order to educate the public and combat the prevalence of colorectal cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the country, Canada has taken the logical step of constructing a 40-foot-long touring colon.  The interactive colon, which according to this AOL report, resembles “a disturbing take on the traditional bouncy castle,” features informative video lectures on a variety of colon diseases as well as an (Italian?) muppet named Dr. Preventino.

If you would like to see a giant, inflated polyp, you can take a video tour here.  I can imagine that thousands of bored schoolchildren have forcibly toured the inflatable colon in the few years it’s been traveling through Canada, but I have a hard time imaging adults, who should be the real targets of colon health education, voluntarily spending a Saturday afternoon this way (“Hey, Hon!  Dr. Preventino and the giant colon are in town!  Let’s have an early lunch of leafy green vegetables, followed by a single aspirin and then walk briskly over to city center to check it out.”).

Of course, I haven’t been to Canada, so this could  be makings of a heady weekend, for all I know.  I don’t think it’s a bad idea, actually, just that they could have gone farther with it.  Why not tie it in with a waterpark, and construct a Journey Through A Urinary Tract Infection Slide, for example?  A cancer-cell versus radiotherapy shoot-’em-out game?  I see no reason that if South Korea can have a sex theme park, Canada couldn’t have an awesome public health theme park.  Everybody wins!

If you would like to get in on my public-health theme park, please submit your medical tie-in ideas for roller coasters, log chutes ,vertical drops, etc in the comments.  Canada’s Ministry of Health?  Have your people call mine and let’s make this happen.

I don’t think the website Some Ugly Baby is here to encourage baby bodysnarking.  I regard it more as a celebration of those odd babies out who don’t quite fit the Gerber baby mold, those babies that make stangers bite their tongues, those babies that defy convention in their own unknowing way.  I am a fan of the unexpected, subversive, ugly baby.

I don’t have a baby of my own, but I believe I would know if my infant was ugly (maybe, maybe not).  An ugly baby doesn’t mean an ugly adult – it’s obviously a transitional phase that predicts little about a child’s looks in the long-term, which is why I’m not too bothered by how amusing I find ugly babies.  That said, I am always sort of weirded out when I see little kids and can visualize exactly what they’re going to look like in middle age.

This is definitely a middle-aged baby.  A lot of babies look like old men, of course, especially the brand-new ones. (more…)

pageantTo be honest, I actually have a pretty high threshold for people babbling about their kids.  I like kids, I used to work with them, and I genuinely find them fascinating and their parents’ sense of delight charming.  Kids are great.  I am interested in their first words, the playground throwdowns, and how their respective parents are tackling puberty issues.  I’m a good audience for kid stories in general.

What I have a lower tolerance for, however, is both the total overshare aspects of childrearing and the stupified superiority complexes exhibited by some parents, which is why I had to stay at work an hour late today to make up for the fact that I read every single entry in the STFU, Parents tumblr.  I was alerted to this blog courtesy of a Salon Broadsheet post, and it happily exceeded my expectations.

STFUParents is a lovingly-crafted wee gem that encapsulates (and takes to task) the smug and pedestrian tendencies exhibited by some folks the second they discover they’re about to birth their own “little miracle.”  Specifically targeting the mind-numbing and nausea-inducing Facebook updates people impose on their friends (and by friends I may mean people-they-have-not-actually-spoken-to-in-twenty-years) about their shitting, puking bundles of overachieving joy, STFUParents hilariously skewers obsessive parenthood, lack of awareness, and the self-satisfied “Supermom!”

What breed of parent are we talking about here?  Not necessarily the nice people you work with, who might bust out with a wry and exhausted anecdote about their firstborn teething.  Not your cool friends who have, yeah, experienced a life-changing event and share some of the joys and punishments with you, without losing their perspective or their ability to relate.  Rather, the blog tackles those folks who have taken the self-congratulatory and exclusive road by proclaiming things like:  “You can only relate if your (sic) a parent!!!! lol :).”  Or:  “Baby Cleopatra unleashed an atomic bomb today!!!  I didn’t know poo could explode out the back of the diaper and into the hair!  LMAO!!!” (more…)

boy-toys-girl-toysOkay, not the whole country, but the Swedes continue to kick the rest of the world’s ass in terms of making gender equality a central issue.  On the extreme edge of a wholly worthwhile effort comes news of a young Swedish couple who have raised their child, “Pop”, gender-free, refusing to reveal the sex of the two-and-a-half-year-old.  Pop is allowed to wear dresses or pants, play with whatever toys Pop chooses, and is not referred to by either masculine or feminine pronouns.  As AOL reports:

Back in March, the parents gave an interview to the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, saying they decided not to reveal their child’s sex because they believe gender is a social construction.
“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mold from the outset,” said the child’s mother, “Nora.” (The paper used fake names for the entire family to protect their privacy.)
“It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead,” the mother said.


 Predictably, a lot of people think this is a terrible idea and potentially long-term damaging to the child.  I’m not so sure.  First off, Pop’s well-meaning parents say that Pop’s sex will be revealed when Pop decides that it is time, and seem to accept that this will likely be at school-age when social pressures dictate.  They’re not enforcing a gender-free lifestyle on a kid going through puberty. (more…)

This baby has something to SAY, damn it, much to her parents’ delight.

I love how engaged and adamant she is.  I see a future in punditry.  As an interesting addition, after my mom sent us this video, my dad responded with a link to this essay on “The 30 Million Word Gap” by Betty Hart and Todd S. Risley from a 2003 edition of The American Educator.  Dad explained:

Re the little chatterbox, whose father is obviously quite responsive to her attempts to communicate: attached is a study of language behavior in families of professional, working class, and welfare families.  You don’t really have to read it; the main conclusions are that there are enormous differences in the quantity of words spoken to small children (and children of professionals receive much more encouragement vs prohibitions).  Educators call it “the 30 million word gap”. 

Nicholas Kristoff’s column in Sunday’s The New York Times referenced this also.   My conclusion?  Talking to your babies is good policy, especially when they start to talk back.

A lot of us are looking for something to nourish, to love, to attend to, and it’s a natural compulsion that grows stronger as we age.  It’s something I think about in my late-twenties: to what, or who, do I want to come home?  When I trudge back to my flat after a long day at the office, what do I have to look forward to?  At some point in your life, you make a choice about what’s going to be waiting for you when you open your front door.  Here are some of the options, as I see them:


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