It's officially a thing now: Astronauts on the International Space Station posting videos and racking up huge YouTube audiences in the process. Chris Hadfied's cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" is the reigning champ of the genre, but this week the spotlight shines on astronaut Karen Nyberg, who demonstrates how to wash your hair in space. It's a process that involves squirting water into your hair at the scalp-line and then essentially combing and rubbing it through to the ends, assisted by a towel. It sounds weird – and it is weird – but it's a surprisingly powerful piece of video.
The impact of the clip lies with how seemingly mundane the task is. Washing your hair is something so simple and so universal – but to see it transformed by a lack of gravity gets the imagination going. "What else is different in space...?" is a good starting point, and then you circle outward from there: "What would it be like to live in space all the time?" "Will humanity ever get to live in space, or on other planets? Or will we have to...?"
It's actually the everyday-ness of these videos – washing hair, playing the guitar, eating meals – that set the mind alight.
The importance of all this? That unless we want to go extinct with the sun (or far before that, depending upon the way we pollute and/or deplete our planet) our future lies in space. Space travel and colonization, despite how fantastical they sound, will in fact be something humanity will need to learn and master if it would like to stick around for more than another few thousand years. That message is easily lost, and that's the point – you can sell an existentially heavy message best by starting with something seemingly trivial.
That the trivial can be profound is of no surprise to anyone who has ever raised children. Daily experiences like sleeping, meals, and baths become fraught with (at least personal) significance. And as culture seems more and more caught up inside of its own head, sharing personal neuroses on Twitter and replacing face-to-face heart-to-hearts with Snapchat, it's nice to find the antidote: someone doing something ordinary, in a weightless environment, bringing us all a little closer together in the process.
Kate Middleton is on the move.
The Duchess of Cambridge and the royal baby bump left Kensington Palace for her parent's house in Bucklebury, a city in the Berkshires an hour west of London, Us Weekly reports. The couple's residence in the palace's Nottingham Cottage, apparently, does not have air conditioning.
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England recorded its highest temperature this year two days ago – 89.4 F.
"It was just too warm in Nott Cott," a source told Us Weekly, referring to the Nottingham Cottage within the palace where Kate Middleton was staying. Fact: The Nottingham Cottage is a temporary home for the couple while their four-story, 20-room home at the estate is under construction.
For more royal baby facts, read our top 10 list about what could be the least traditional royal baby yet.
E! Online laid out what they know about the yet uncompleted royal baby nursery: Middleton may have hired interior designer Kelly Hoppen, who has worked for celebrity couples like Victoria and David Beckham as well as the Queen mother herself.
The nursery will be gender-neutral, E! says, painted not in the common blue or pink but in browns and shades of sage.
And finally, why is there all of this hullabaloo around the birth of a baby who, if he or she inherits the throne, will be a leader of the country in symbol only. Do monarchies still matter? See our post.
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Tom Stocky, a Facebook executive, reflected on paternity leave and gender inequality in child-rearing in an essay on Facebook. More than 7,000 people have liked it. It seems that many more will like it before it runs its course – the essay raises a number of great points about work-life balance, the parent-child bond, and the relationship between work and family, popping the top off of an awful big can of philosophical worms in the process.
Reading his essay, it struck me that he'd posted it somewhere else, in an edited form, and I was half right: there's also a recent Slate essay entitled "I’m Not a Hero for Taking Care of My Kids." It's by a different author who nails many of the same points – all of which resonated for me, incidentally, as a freelancer dad who splits childcare with his self-employed wife. In short: dads taking care of kids is ordinary, not heroic, and it's important, and needs to be supported as a new status quo.
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Although the publication date of these essays is coincidental, it's no surprise that the sentiment is being expressed right now. Questions about family structure, the male role in child-rearing, and workers' rights are all hot right now.
People are starting to ask whether it makes sense for the United States to be part of the Lesotho-Papua New Guinea-Swaziland Axis of No Mandated Paid Maternity Leave and to what extent paid paternity leave should enter the discussion, too. America's pro-capitalism (and "capitalism") bias has resulted in a culture of work where it's considered fortunate if we manage a couple weeks of paid leave each year, and support for childcare is a gift, not a right.
And people are starting to ask whether it makes sense that society's expectations label a mom delinquent if she works full-time, or label a guy admirable for actively taking care of his kids.
Before having my son, I'd regard this whole discussion as overly abstract and/or implausible. But in the three short months since having Josiah, I've met a number of people who regard my contributions to my son's care as somehow wonderful or unusual. I've also encountered the flip side while hanging out with older men at family gatherings, where childcare (particularly infant care) is seen as the sole province of women. More than one older guy has told me, proudly, that they never changed a single diaper.
Speaking personally, I like changing diapers. Let me restate that: I take satisfaction in changing diapers. Since breastfeeding isn't an option, it's an aspect of childcare where my own limited talents can contribute, if not actually shine. I like the post-diaper smiles. And I like taking my son on walks, and being around to catch all those silly-but-significant little developmental milestones. But most of all, I like knowing that I'm participating actively in raising him – we've been having dude time together since he was born, something that I hope continues for the rest of my life.
I don't feel oppressed by contributing to my son's care, I feel blessed. Except when there's a diaper blowout. Then I don't feel blessed.
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A few weeks ago my son Cai was playing soccer with another boy, who I'll call Peter. More than a year younger than Cai and considerably shorter, Peter turned out to have a ferocious competitive streak not yet tempered by the "winning doesn't matter" ethos. He was bossy and shouted frequently, and finally Cai shrugged his shoulders and said, "You just can't deal with these Hitler people."
If you haven't already figured it out, Peter is German, we're Jewish, and the boys are pre-school classmates at the Jerusalem American International School. My husband came home and described what happened to me when Cai was out of earshot.
"He didn't say that," I insisted. "He didn't."
"He did," my husband assured me, adding that Peter's father had been standing nearby and heard every word.
Webster's dictionary defines mortification as "a sense of humiliation and shame caused by something that wounds one's pride or self-respect," and that's a fairly accurate description of what I felt at that moment. Like most things that have nothing to do with me, I quickly made the incident about myself.
"You can't make jokes about Hitler," I told Cai later that evening after I'd pulled myself together. "It makes people feel bad. Peter's father heard what you said and you might have hurt his feelings."
"It's OK," Cai assured me. "Because it wasn't him. It was his ancestors." He waved his hand behind him extravagantly, as if to indicate that entire centuries separated Hitler and the present.
Amazing, I thought. Only 5, and he instinctively understood that "tragedy plus time equals comedy," a quote attributed to two American comedy greats, Carol Burnett and Woody Allen.
"You're right," I agreed. "If you made a joke about the Vikings to the Swedish kids in your school, that would be funny. But this isn't."
I explained to Cai that the second world war ended less than 70 years ago. I told him that it's still a sensitive subject because a lot of bad things happened, and some Germans might still feel ashamed about it. And for good measure, I suggested that he also not make any Hitler jokes to Bubby and Saba, his grandparents.
Cai said he understood, stored the information somewhere in his 5-year-old consciousness, and then started talking about an episode of Phineas and Ferb.
After he went to sleep, I was left to wonder why I had felt such shame. I think it's because I blamed myself for Cai's ad hominem attack against Peter. I was raised in a home where the Holocaust was remembered, talked about, analyzed, personalized, and meditated upon more than any other topic. We boycotted German products, wouldn't dream of stepping foot on German soil, and just hearing someone speak German filled me with terror. I don't blame my family for this upbringing – my grandfather's entire family was killed in Auschwitz. But as a member of the third-generation, I believed that I was raising my son in a different environment, a more universal one, less about blame and recrimination and focus on the past, and more about love and acceptance and living in the present. But here was proof that my high-minded aspirations were all a sham.
"No," my husband assured me. "It's me. I make jokes about Hitler all the time."
In Britain, he explained, Hitler jokes are a national pastime. Placing two fingers above your lip to simulate a mustache, while raising your hand in 'heil' and simultaneously goose-stepping was just something that kids did for fun.
He's not making this up. When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, a British Football Association official had to warn fans traveling to see the matches that "doing mock Nazi salutes or fake impersonations of Hitler – that's actually against the law in Germany." John Cleese and Prince Harry are among the more famous Hitler and Nazi mockers.
In light of all the British levity around the subject, my husband speculated that perhaps he'd mentioned Hitler a few too many times around Cai without offering the proper context.
If he were older, I might try to explain to Cai that sometimes it is OK to joke about Hitler, like in the play and film "The Producers" by Mel Brooks. A Der Spiegel interviewer once asked Mel Brooks if he thought that a dancing and singing Hitler was "a bit tasteless." Mr, Brooks replied, "Of course. But it’s also funny, isn’t it?"
Cai, however, is still 5 years old. The subtleties of the proper context for Hitler jokes are still a bit beyond him. We've since apologized to Peter's father. We'll have to make a play date with Peter soon. I think we'll leave the soccer ball at home.
“We learned pretty quickly to stay away from that particular stairwell.”
As we sat with a group of six female high school students from an affluent community, they shared their freshman year experiences with us: “Ten or so senior boys would line up at the stair balcony during class changes – calling girl’s names, trying to look down their shirts, and even spitting on some girls – which was disgusting.”
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Although school administrators were aware of the problem and sometimes even went to the area where it occurred, nothing changed. “A teacher might just tell them to quiet down, but that was it.”
“It was scary and intimidating…. We just did our best to avoid going to classes that way.”
Some facts on sexual harassment
The research confirms what these young women told us during that recent What’s Your Brave interview circle. According to studies[i], sexual harassment is part of everyday life in middle and high schools and is experienced by almost half of students. (More girls than boys, but boys account for 40 percent of that number. Non-gender conforming adolescents are particularly vulnerable to harassment).
Examples of harassment include:
- Verbal harassment (unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or gestures) make up a majority of the incidents.
- Physical harassment also happens regularly – touching girls’ breasts, a boy rubbing his penis against a girl’s buttocks, etc.
- Hallway “gauntlets” similar to the one articulated above
- Sexual harassment by text, e-mail, Facebook, or other electronic means such as using derogatory language to spread a sexual rumor about a girl.
Perhaps, like many of us, you think this is not something that would happen in your local school. Unfortunately, no particular demographic makes your school or town exempt. As just one example, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) recently conducted surveys in a cross-section of schools including middle class, at-risk, affluent, and academically high-performing. All cities and towns reported similar incidents.
This harmful environment takes a toll on girls – in particular – resulting in increased absenteeism, trouble sleeping, and decreased productivity and academic performance. As Melissa articulated, it also gives the girls a clear message that has a ripple effect on their lives in general: “There is no place for me. I have no say over my body. I do not have power over my life.”
As parents, it is hard not to feel helpless … or if we are honest, ready to take someone down, when reading these statistics and hearing first-hand accounts of the realities of daily school life for many young women. But before you get in your car to drive to your daughter’s school, take a breath, because there is some good news and you can help.
Change is Possible
That’s right. There is hope and a significant amount of it too. There are many experts and professionals working hard to change this culture. For example, Nan Stein, a well-regarded researcher in this area for preteens and teens, has developed programs that are proving to be effective in significantly decreasing sexual harassment and violence in our schools.
Building safety practices provide the biggest positive impact: temporary school-based stay-away orders, assignment of school faculty and safety personal to monitor unsafe areas, and the use of posters for education. In conjunction with building safety, a classroom curriculum adds to the reduction of sexual harassment and violence. Topics covered in the classroom emphasize consequences to the harasser, communicating boundaries, and the role of the bystander.[ii]
And most importantly, students have suggestions too – allowing them to anonymously report a problem was at the top of their list. Also high on teens’ lists are enforcing policies and punishing harassers.[iii]
What really struck us about these solutions is how much adults can impact the culture, and further how uncomplicated they are to implement and enforce.
Parents Need to Be Part of Solution
As parents, we can step up to create a tipping point. (A tipping point is the point at which the buildup of minor changes or incidents reaches a level that triggers a more significant change – the cultural shift on smoking in public is one good example.)
Isn’t it time to stop suggesting that our daughters find another hallway to get to class?
If you’re in, let’s get started. Take just a few minutes to complete one or both of the Take 5 actions below.
What you can do right now: Two practical take 5 actions
1. Observe your own attitudes and language about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. Think about your own attitudes about sexual harassment and violence. What messages are your actions and attitudes projecting to your daughter? Do you ever find yourself judging or criticizing women based on their appearance? Do you give the indirect or direct message that the survivor of sexual assault or harassment is wholly or partially to blame because of the way she was dressed, how she acted, where she was, etc.? Just asking a question about what a victim is wearing, for example, sends a blaming message.
2. E-mail or call your daughter's school and simply ask for a copy of their sexual harassment policy. If you have a student handbook, you may find it there. Being respectful, polite but direct will yield the best results. An initial e-mail can be as simple as:
I (we) have started to educate myself (ourselves) on sexual harassment and assault in middle and high school. I just read that research shows how a strong and well-enforced school policy on sexual harassment and violence can drastically reduce its occurrence. After seeing that, I realized that I should be more familiar with what our school's policy is in this area. Would you please send me or let me know where I can find our school's complete policy on sexual harassment and assault?
Thank you so much for your help on this matter and all that you do to support our children's wellbeing.
Hint: Enlist a few other parents to join you if this feels intimidating. Knowing someone has your back is empowering.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please remember that this blog series is not meant to replace professional support for you or any individual. If you have any concerns whatsoever about your welfare and safety or that of anyone around you, please seek medical or other professional help immediately.
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The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Paula Grieco blogs at What’s Your Brave .
Here’s some parenting advice I honestly believe can’t be contradicted. It’s aimed at all moms and dads who are about to have their initial experience with youth sports.
In many cases there will be a pre-season meeting to get everyone acquainted and go over practice schedules and other details. At this gathering there should also be a serious discussion about spectator conduct. You all need to be on the same page about what is, and is not, acceptable behavior. And then everyone should make a collective pledge. Raise your hands or take a voice vote but you must all vow to never, ever hassle any officials during a game.
Yes, this sounds like the oldest broken record in the world. News stories about parents behaving badly at Little League games were common when I was growing up in the 1960s. It’s a tradition nobody is proud to support that stubbornly defies it all efforts to quash it. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying, and I think the best window of opportunity is when families take the first step into organized team competition.
The most important fact everyone has to accept is that the refs and umpires are in charge, period. Sometimes you won’t agree with their decisions, and sometimes they will make bad calls. It’s not a perfect world, right? Mistakes happen and they always will. Just keep in mind that when those moments of consternation occur, sarcastic wisecracks and rhetorical questions like, “What’s up with that?” aren’t going to improve the situation.
A policy of "Respect the Ref" shouldn’t put a damper on parental enthusiasm or stifle competitive spirit. Cheer all you want, enjoy the excitement, but reject any impulse to go negative. The people who referee and umpire for youth leagues are performing a difficult task with minimal pay and hearing trash talk from the sidelines only makes the job more stressful.
The one area where parents do have a legitimate reason for questioning an official is safety. If you think the other team is playing too rough, or the field conditions are hazardous, whatever your concern may be it should be handled by the coach. Be sure to include a safety rundown at the initial team meeting. There are rules about many situations, such as how many batters a pitcher can hit in one inning before being removed. Everyone needs to be absolutely clear on these details before the season begins.
Do you agree with everything I’ve said up to now? It’s possible some people don't, and that’s why having a conversation about this subject is so important. The success of any policy depends on the temperament and personality of each participant, and I do appreciate the notion of, “I’m not going to just stand by and say nothing if I see something that’s not right.” But there are times when you simply must put that attitude on hold, and watching from the sidelines while your kids are on the field is one of those times.
During the past 30 years the concept of "polite society" has taken some big hits. Television has helped transform confrontation and outrageous behavior into popular entertainment. In the online world, insulting and abusive comments are spewed out by the minute. As a parent, taking a pledge of good conduct during youth sporting events is one way you can push back against these trends. Just say "no" to being snarky. While the kids are in action developing their athletic skills, all grownups in attendance have a great opportunity to practice their social skills.
Give it your best shot.
The royal baby watch is nearing the end, but the atmosphere around the hospital where Kate Middleton plans to give birth to her child is full of publicity hogs and rumor.
A prankster posed as Queen Elizabeth July 3 and appeared alongside a fake British Guardsman in front of weary photographers who have been stationed outside St. Mary's Hospital in London for more than a week. The impostor was clearly not the Queen, but photographers snapped a few photos when the guardsman held up a sign displaying the betting odds for the royal baby's name. The pair was taken away by police.
A staffer from the British parenting magazine Mother & Baby pitched a one-person tent with an image of the British flag on top and handed out free copies of the publication on July 4. An artist posed with a painting of Kate Middleton on July 2 and of a naked President Barack Obama the next day, NBC News reported.
For everyone seeking attention, some felt the media (at least 60 photographers were counted) should do something more productive with their time. An elderly woman screamed at a photographer, "Why don't you get a real ******* job?," according to NBC News.
The royal gynecologist, Marcus Setchell, is rumored to be refusing alcohol for the entire month so he has not even a brief shake in his hands come game time, People reports.
Kate Middleton is apparently practicing yoga to help her deal with the final days of her pregnancy, the Daily Mail Online reported.
And the most farfetched headline? The royal baby will reportedly be related to Beyonce and Jay-Z's daughter Blue Ivy. From The Mirror: "William and Kate’s first child will be the 23rd cousin twice-removed of Beyonce and Jay-Z’s baby, Blue Ivy, according to ancestry researchers.
Family tree website findmypast.co.uk also claims to have found distant links between the first-born of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and celebrity couples such as Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, whose three children will be 11th cousins with the royal baby.
And the little prince or princess will be 27th cousins of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s six children."
Less farfetched, maybe surprisingly so, is that MTV's Jersey Shore starlet and new mom Snooki wrote an open letter to Kate Middleton with tips and encouragement: "I couldn't wait to wake up in the middle of the night to take care of my little prince Lorenzo.... But that lasts for about a few days. Then it's like, 'I love you, but OMG stop crying! I'm exhausted.' The lack of sleep you will get used to – just do your makeup, put a tiara on, and you'll look beautiful as usual.... Anyway, music calms them down. I'm pretty sure you can have anyone you want over to sing to your little one … maybe a lullaby from Elton John?"
If there ever was a time for the chief executive to be dishonest, this might have been it: When asked at a White House event for children who had won a healthy recipe contest what his favorite food is, President Obama replied: "Broccoli."
Broccoli is no one's favorite food unless it's covered in cheese, in which case "cheese" is really your favorite food. It's not particularly flavorful, even for a vegetable. Again, even among its kin, it's kind of dull. Most critically: it triggers exactly zero of the caveman-era pleasure centers in our brain, contributing no rare and precious fat, or sugar, or salt. Ask a vegan about his or her favorite food and you'd get a more plausible answer than "broccoli." Naturally, Twitter has gone absolutely bananas with tart skepticism.
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That said, the president is a politician and a member of government, both positions that make the dispensing of absolute truth difficult, if not an outright liability. And it's plain to see the advantages of praising broccoli, particularly in these circumstances: Had he given any of the far, far more believable answers of "a Five Guys hamburger," or "chicken-fried steak," or "kringle," he'd be breaking the hearts of healthy recipe-concocting kids everywhere, not to mention undermining the First Lady's work to cultivate healthier eating habits among Americans everywhere.
More plausible but still productively dishonest answers might have included:
Any fruit – seriously, how hard would that have been? An apple, an orange, a banana – things that are good for us, and thanks to naturally occurring fructose, are also quite tasty. Go exotic and make some waves: kiwi, starfruit, even durian. In fact: try avoiding processed sugar for a week and come back to fruit with a re-sensitized palate. It's absolutely delicious!
On second thought, not durian, which smells and tastes like mango mixed with onions and the smell of feet.
Veggie burgers – a good bean-based veggie burger patty can be absolutely delicious, and you can perpetrate all manner of flummery on the bun and toppings to make it a truly balanced and healthy meal. By jamming the word "burger" into the title, you've helped sell your story, particularly to non-careful readers, which is to say a large percentage of the general public.
Sushi – Four years ago, this answer would have risked bringing down the wrath of anti-snob pseudo-populists on your head (and, indeed, some of the commentariat would still use this as an excuse to paint the chief executive as out of touch, probably just before keeping their lunch reservations at the precious little farm-to-table place downtown.) But their criticisms wouldn't resonate. Sushi is everywhere these days, and both its raw fish and vegetable-driven incarnations are light, intensely flavorful, and totally delicious. It'd be a bold move, but it could be sold.
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Vegetarian chili – The beauty of chili is that it's essentially a medium that takes on the flavor of its herbs and spices – that medium doesn't have to be greasy meat, or meat at all, and it'll still taste absolutely delicious. (I'm a personal fan of vegan taco mix for this exact reason.)
Still, if the kids asked me what my favorite food is, I'd say: "A ribeye steak from Everett's, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled medium rare over lump charcoal on my Weber in my backyard." It's true, but then again I've got the luxury of being truthful: I'm not running for anything.
As every parent knows, bedtime can make or break a night. A perfect night filled with snuggles and pillow talk can make both child and parent wish the night would never end. Other nights can leave parents feeling more like hog wranglers or hostage negotiators.
The unpredictability around bedtime can carry a degree of uncertainty and anxiety for both parents and children. Now it seems that having a varied bedtime could put kids at a disadvantage in school, according to a new study from The University College London, which links irregular bedtimes to reduced test scores in young children.
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The idea that inconsistent sleeping schedules can negatively impact children (and their families) is nothing new. Every parent knows that delayed bedtimes can lead to difficulties in the morning that can continue throughout the day.
However, establishing a consistent bedtime routine is easier said than done.
Here are a few tips for establishing a routine bringing consistency to the end of the day.
Establish a lights-out bedtime and work backward to build a routine.
If bedtime is 8:30 p.m., that means that teeth should be brushed, pajamas should be on, and stories should be finished by 8:30 p.m. By setting a lights-out time rather than a time to start to get ready for bed, parents can defer to the clock when kids ask for one more story, another drink of water, or whatever their latest stalling tactic may be.
If kids know that the lights are going to turn off on schedule, regardless of whether or not parents have read aloud from bedtime books, they will be less likely to dawdle through tasks like brushing teeth and taking a bath.
Set the stage for bedtime.
Parents can begin to set the stage for bedtime an hour or more before lights out. Parents can start talking about bedtime at dinner to make sure kids understand what activities they will have time for before bed. Turning off unnecessary lighting can help to signal kids to begin winding down. While some kids find watching TV before bed to be soothing, others can later have trouble falling asleep. Pay attention to your child's unique needs.
Make sure bedtime reading is appropriate for settling down.
Reading books to kids can be a delightful bonding experience. There are many opportunities for expanded conversations based on the themes and illustrations in the book. However, bedtime may not be the best time to have those discussions. Kids are pretty savvy and will quickly learn that initiating conversation can prolong bedtime. Try avoiding books that have activities in them, like finding hidden objects in the pictures. Remind kids that bedtime stories are for helping them to calm down rather than play. For parents of emerging readers, bedtime may not be the best time to practice reading.
Don't be afraid to disengage.
Children may not be ready to go to sleep at lights out time, especially if their body is not used to a consistent bedtime. Resist the temptation to read one more story and instead encourage kids to rest quietly on their own until they fall asleep. Suggest that they try singing softly to themselves, think about something good that happened that day, or focus on taking deep breaths. If kids really can't settle completely on their own, parents can sit in the room with them reading quietly for a set period or until the child falls asleep.
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It's not the royal baby, but it's the royal rugby baby.
"The Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips, Mr Phillip and Mrs Linda Tindall, and members of both families are delighted with the news," says an official statement from the British Monarchy's official website.
The baby will be the couple's first child and the Princess Royal's third grandchild.
As we've seen with the royal baby, expected to be in the arms of mom Kate Middleton any day now, the Brits like to incorporate royal family life into their betting schemes. Once news spread of the Tindall's baby, bookmaker Paddy Power put the odds at 8 to 1 the couple would name their kin Elizabeth or Phillip. The Tindall's baby's future is also worth something — people are actually betting whether it 5will play rugby like dad and or represent the British flag in the Olympics like mom, according to The Telegraph.
Meanwhile wagering circling around Kate Middleton and Prince Williams' baby include whether it'll be a boy or girl; whether mom or dad will the baby's future boyfriend or girlfriend's name,