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Royal baby: We care because we relate. A news cameraman reads a newspaper across from St. Mary's Hospital's exclusive Lindo Wing in London, July 22, 2013 after Kate Middleton was admitted to the hospital in the early stages of labor. (AP)

Royal baby boy: The awe-inspiring unimportance of birth (+video)

By Correspondent / 07.22.13

Much has been made about the birth of the so-called royal baby. He will be the new heir to the British throne, via the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. But as much has been made about it, there has probably been more made about how too much has been made about it.

To get properly meta: Here's the BBC's Royal correspondent Peter Hunt's statement about the crown's statement about the baby:

"The statement from Kensington Palace contains just 45 words. Such is the global fascination with this baby, those words will be translated into countless languages and endlessly repeated until fresh information is provided once the child has been born."

Even factoring in the (nominal) importance of the baby to the overall health of the still-robust British monarchy, itself a system of nominal importance, the event is not stunningly important. It's absolutely trivial. It's utterly ordinary. And, yet – as a microcosm for birth in general – it is of course totally momentous.

What really happened is that a new baby was born – something that happens about 134 million times a year worldwide, according to the United Nations. But for everyone observing the event by TV, radio, Internet, newspaper, or other means, it's not merely a random baby that's coming into the world – it's a symbol for every baby that's ever come into the world, with all the fear, joy, and expectations that come along with it.

We can relate. And where there's that kind of emotional connection, there's a live-wire, capital "e" news Event, the kind that attracts special sections, 24-hour-watches, and blog posts that nibble enthusiastically on every particular edge of the story. (Yes, a bit like this one, I suppose.)

If you've recently become a parent like I have, you understand how difficult it is to get perspective on a birth, and so the royal baby is fascinating both as an exotic event and as a mirror to our own experiences.

For the parent involved in the baby carrying, birthing, and caring processes – each of which have their own halos of myth, superstition, and panic – the birth of a baby is not a trivial event. It is the big bang kickoff to an epic, years-long combination of celebration and self-flagellation, both a festival of joy and funeral for the freedoms of the pre-baby era, to be played out in adorable gifted onesies and growing mountains of soiled diapers and declined dinner invitations.

So yes, the royal baby has nothing to do with us, and isn't very remarkable. But, no, you shouldn't feel bad for following the spectacle. It is, after all, everybody's spectacle – it's the spectacle of human life.

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Heat wave and kids: Take precautions not to leave your kids in a hot car. Here, 5-year-old Arbi Costas, from London, plays with his father in an inflatable car near Brighton Pier during the hot, sunny weather in Brighton, southern England, July 7. (Luke MacGregor )

Heat wave and kids: A revisit to the lessons of kids forgotten in cars

By Guest Blogger / 07.19.13

Statistically, it's barely even a blip: Each year across the United States, fewer than 40 children and infants die from heatstroke after being left in cars, well under 1 percent of those who die overall. But as a heat wave crawls across the United States, it can be hard for parents of small children not to think about the worst-case scenario.

Parenting is a volatile combination of hope and fear, and there are few fears more potent than losing a child to a simple, straightforward, personal error – one that we've all made on multiple occasion when the stakes are lower, e.g. a bag of groceries containing heat-sensitive dairy products.

Add the powerful (and almost universal) error multiplier of parental sleep deprivation to the mix, and you have a highly unlikely – but absolutely terrifying – situation as grim as a well-written horror film.

A recent Times of Israel blog post by Sarah Tuttle-Singer digs into the situation from the perspective of a mom who, "but for the grace of God," almost lost her son by forgetting him (briefly) in the car. If you're a parent of a small child, read it. It'll give you some straightforward practical tips for how to avoid doing it yourself.

A couple stray thoughts that Ms. Tuttle-Singer didn't cover:

1) Technology got us into this mess, it can get us out

The put-your-babies-in-the-back-facing-backwards rule that was spurred in part by child-smiting front seat airbags makes sense, overall. But it seems likely to have increased the overall number of heatstroke deaths of children in cars by putting them out of sight of their parents, as per this recent San Francisco State University report.

There should be – must be – some reasonably cost effective ways to prevent this by utilizing modern technology. Car seats that text parents when they get over 85 degrees, for example – and local emergency services when they get over 95 – might be one answer.

Or perhaps when car seats are engaged in the car, the car is aware of this, and will actually roll its own windows down and honk its horn if the internal temperature climbs above a safe level.

2) Let's abandon the urge to judge (or even publicly not judge)

Nearly every time a baby or child dies in one of these heatstroke situations, local media explodes with fury, judgment, and "judge not lest ye be judged" contrarian counter-fury.

Aside from being utterly depressing, the rage is pointless. Yes, we shouldn't forget our children in cars. No, posting hostile remarks about it on the Internet probably won't stop it from happening again.

Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott who committed suicide after a sexual assault, stands by a photograph of her daughter and message board during a news conference April 15, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Teen sexual harrassment: Starting a dialog with your daughter

By Guest Blogger / 07.18.13

Recently I attended a fundraiser for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC). The event was held in a residential home in an affluent, highly-educated community in the 'burbs. The conversation started politely enough with easy questions about the size of the organization and how long it’s been in business.

In the wake of Steubenville (the rape in Ohio of a teenaged girl by her peers, who posted it on social media) and too many similar heinous stories like it, it didn’t take too long before parents jumped right into the heart of what was on their mind – how we can ensure my daughter is safe, when she walks out the door for school or to go to a friend’s house or on a date or attends a party. And how exactly do we talk to our kids about sexual harassment, assault and rape.

RECOMMENDED: Top 5 bullying myths

What was clear that night is that parents deeply want to have these conversations with their daughter, but are confused (or…even a little clueless) as to how to traverse the complexities of this topic as their little ones become middle school and high school preteen and teens.

As one parent said to me in a sidebar, “How can I have this conversation with my daughter. She often seems annoyed when I ask how her day was?”

A few days after the event, I met with a mom and a survivor and I learned a lot. (Thank you Sarah!) As it turns out, starting a conversation with our daughters doesn’t have to be nearly as scary or complicated as we make it out to be. Here’s a cheat sheet from Sarah and others to get you started:

This is not a conversation about sex. Melissa Gopnik, Director of BARCC said this to me last week and I loved it so much I want to say it again: “This is not a conversation about your kids having sex. Sexual harassment and violence is about kids getting hurt not having sex.”

Don’t blame the victim. Let’s state the obvious right up front. The victim is not to blame. Ever. If a teen is the victim of harassment or sexual assault, here is a list of information that you don’t need to know: what type of clothing she wears, what his sexual orientation is, whether she “flirts,” if she engages in consensual sexual activity, if she drinks alcohol, etc. We have to all agree on this as a baseline to keep our daughters safe. Remember harassment and assault is not about having sex, it’s wrong (and illegal) and is about kids getting hurt (sometimes devastatingly so). Period.

Use anatomically correct language. If you don’t call a nose “a sniff-sniff” to your teenage daughter… (You don’t, right?) use the “real” words when talking about all parts of the anatomy – like vagina, penis, etc…

Be a listener not a lecturer. The No. 1 reason sexual harassment and assault are so underreported are that kids fear that they won’t be listened to. Or, worse yet, that they won’t be believed or will be blamed. Never intimate that a survivor is remotely culpable for the harassment or assault.

Use language that reflects their experiences. Be direct, specific, and relevant. I made the mistake of asking Melissa how to discuss “date rape” with preteen and teen girls. She schooled me pretty quickly (but ever so graciously). As it turns out, research shows the term “date rape” is personally not relatable to many middle schoolers. And although should be discussed, may not be specific enough for even high schoolers. In other words, if a girl is groped in the hallway or taunted with sexual obscenities on the bus, she won’t connect this violation to date rape. She doesn’t believe what you are asking about sexual violence applies to her.

Remember this is an on-going conversation. Parents and caregivers often express feeling anxious about engaging in “a BIG talk.” Start to think about this discussion as on-going conversation. Molly, the host of the fundraising event I attended, explained it well, “these are conversations that occur over months, maybe years, often in small doses – especially with younger kids." You can begin what you consider to be a really intense conversation when your daughter asks you a question. And then when she’s had enough, she will walk away, grab an apple, and go read a novel. That’s the way it works.

Feel awkward, but be brave and talk about it anyway.  Use this series as a place to begin the conversation. We are going to get really detailed to help you. And guess what? Research on pre-teens shows that what is important to kids is not what their parents say, but that they cared enough to talk about it at all. In other words, just talking about this tough subject is what your preteen will appreciate. The only mistake you can make is NOT saying anything at all! Remember, you can always go back to make another point or even ask for a redo.

What You Can Do  - Take 5 Actions

1.) Start with the conversation opener below if you like or use your own words. Use a calm voice. Add your own parenting style and what works best with your daughter. I personally like to use self-deprecating humor to diffuse the awkwardness. That’s different than joking about or making light of the topic. Remember this is an on-going conversation. Be thoughtful but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. There are many opportunities for re-do’s and continuing the conversation. Research shows your daughter will appreciate the effort even if it is awkward and imperfect. I found this link of talking points extremely helpful.

Conversation starter: I was reading a blog about preteen and teen sexual harassment. It talked about how kids are being hurt during school and in other situations by sexual harassment. Some of the examples it gave were: Unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or gestures, physical touching like touching girls’ breasts, a boy rubbing his penis against a girl’s buttocks, sending texts or posting messages with derogatory language or spreading a sexual rumor about a girl. It’s hard for parents to believe that this happens in school or in general but I know it does. So, I am checking in to see if you have ever seen or experienced anything like this at school.

(Be as specific as possible and use examples if you have them – see the previous blog for one example of a “gauntlet” in a school hallway.)

Conversation Wrap up: I care deeply about how you feel in school and in the world in general. So let me state the obvious. You deserve to feel safe at school and no one, not anyone – ever has a right, no matter what – to say things or touch you in a way that makes you feel scared or uncomfortable. Even if they say they are “joking." It’s not funny to hurt someone. It’s about showing respect to you and everyone. If you are ever harassed, I want you to know that you can talk to me about it and we can figure it out together. Or if you are not comfortable talking to me, then we will identify another trusted adult that you can talk to.

2.) If you haven’t already, e-mail or call your daughter’s school and simply ask for a copy of their sexual harassment policy. See our first blog of this series for a sample email. 

3.) Look for the next installment in the series on FB or by signing up for our regular tips and updates. Q&A with a clinician who specializes in working with survivors of sexual assault. She will help us continue by giving suggestions about what we should do if our daughter is harassed or assaulted. It will also include advice from our teen advisors.

RECOMMENDED: Top 5 bullying myths

Thanks again Melissa Gopnik, Director at The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (www.barcc.org). Also special thanks to Molly Wong who opened up her home and started this conversation within own community.  And to Sarah, Julia Bluhm, and others who have been open and authentic in sharing their stories. In addition to Melissa, we will be gaining input from other experts in the field including: Miranda Horvath @miranda_horvath and Amy Jussel @shapingyouth. Thank you Miranda and Amy for your work and expertise!

Sam Cornwell's video, 'A Second a Day from Birth,' shows one-second per day of his son Indigo's first year on Earth. (Snapshot from 'A Second a Day from Birth')

Dad's second-a-day video: more viral adorability

By Andrew AverillCorrespondent / 07.17.13

Indigo Cornwell was born a year ago on July 9, and every day since, his father has recorded a one-second video of him. 

Dad Sam Cornwell got the idea from a lecturer who, speaking at a TED convention in 2012, said: "[A]s the days and weeks and months go by, time just seems to start blurring and blending into each other and ... visualization is the way to trigger memory."

Mr. Cornwell's video starts moments after his son was born. As the days and seconds go by, the initial uncertainty in Indigo's eyes gives way to trust and wonder and excitement. Indigo's growing up. 

In one clip, Indigo is on his belly at a beach, flailing his arms and legs out and up like a skydiver. In another he's crying while being held after getting a shot. In others he takes a step with help from his dad, and walks by himself toward his smiling mom. 

Certainly, the movie of one-second clips will be re-watched countless times by his parents and family as he grows up. Seeing him in a fluffy bear costume or going down his first slide, they'll be able to laugh and cheer as they did then. 

But the real prize is Indigo's. He'll always have a video full of daily reminders of his parents' time with him. He'll hear their sense of humor, see their smiles, and remember the love that held him up when he took his first step. 

Barbie sales are down in Mattel's most recent earnings statement. Do the numbers illustrate a doll in decline? Not quite. Barbie products are displayed at a local toy store in Hialeah, Fla., in 2012. (AP Photo/File)

Barbie sales are down, but here's betting she's not out

By Guest Blogger / 07.17.13

After more than 50 years as a pint-sized superstar, Barbie has hit a wall.

The perennially popular series of dolls, which are world-famous for (or notorious for, depending upon your perspective) their depiction of a glamorous, jet-setting, image-conscious lifestyle, has hit its fourth consecutive quarter of declining sales. Barbie's challenges have affected the overall financial condition of the toy company Mattel.

This isn't the first time the line of toys has struggled. "The slump is not at all unprecedented," Sean McGowan said in an e-mail, a senior analyst at the investment banking firm Needham & Company. "Barbie was in a decade-long swoon from 2000 to 2010 when it was competing with Bratz," he says, referring to the hipper, edgier dolls that were a sales and cultural phenomenon in their time. "It is recoverable, but it's tough. If [Mattel] management's explanation is right, second half sales should be better because they consciously shifted shipments to later in the year."

Even as Barbie has struggled, Mattel's American Girl collection has thrived, defying "the times are changing" analysis of why Barbie sales keep slipping. Mr. McGowan discounts the impact of the Internet and cell phones on the way consumers view the doll, saying: "Barbie's core [consumer] age is now about 5 to 6 years old, a bit young for cell phones."

The financial condition of Barbie is related to – but not the same as – its cultural condition. Tanya Lee Stone is the author of "The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie," a history  of the Barbie phenomenon written for younger readers, and she says that it's too early to count the dolls out.

"I don't think Barbie has lost relevance, especially the Barbie dolls that stay closest to the original mission of Ruth Handler, her inventor," Ms. Stone said in an e-mail. "Barbie was always intended to be a vehicle for a girl's imagination, and I don't think that concept can ever go out of style."

From Stone's perspective the intense (and longstanding) hand-wringing about the cultural significance of Barbie misses the point, which is the way children actually relate to the doll. "When I was collecting anecdotes for my book, the disparity between kid's opinions and adult's opinions about Barbie was dramatic," she says. "Basically, it was the grownups that were arguing about the detrimental effects of Barbie on girls while kids were not viewing Barbie as anything but a doll on which to impose their own ideas."

Barbie-branded merchandise, which has total annual sales somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 billion, isn't going anywhere soon – tradition, nostalgia, and a still-gigantic share of the doll market are powerful shields against the fluctuation of trends. For good or ill, the saga of Barbie continues – at least for now.

The tooth fairy may soon be as big a "holiday moment" as Christmas or Easter, if the toy industry has its way. Here, Claudia Raymond, dressed as the tooth fairy, examines a preschooler's shiny teeth looks at a Laporte, Ind., elementary school as part of a local Give Kids a Smile program. (AP Photo/The Herald-Argus, Bob Wellinski)

Tooth fairy: Toy industry wants to monetize the "holiday moment"

By Guest Blogger / 07.17.13

For children, losing one’s baby teeth is an important rite of passage. It marks a child’s departure from early childhood and entry into middle childhood – a time when, among other milestones, a child’s belief in magic begins to recede.

Because of this, there’s something precious about the myth of the tooth fairy. Our children’s belief that the tooth fairy is real is a sign that they are still little, that they’re not growing up too quickly, that they’re still innocent. Children love the strange idea that a tooth will be whisked away in the night by a fairy, with money or a small token left in exchange: It’s a fun, harmless fantasy.

Unlike the holidays of Christmas and Easter, which also have their own beloved fantasy figures attached to them, there is no predicting when an individual tooth will fall out. Waiting for a loose tooth to wiggle its way out takes patience – and once it’s out, it can be nerve-wracking for a child to keep it safe until the tooth fairy can collect it.

Perhaps because losing a tooth is such a personal, individual event, it has not been commercialized in the way that collective holidays and their fantasy figures have been. In the U.S., for example, millions of Christian families spend months gearing up for Christmas, anticipating the joy and the gifts it will bring. Marketers do everything they can to encourage people to spend a lot on the holidays; sales and specials encouraging purchases seem to begin earlier every year, and a fairly uniform image of Santa Claus is widely used in these promotions.

But with children’s teeth on their own individual timetables, marketers have never tried to monetize this milestone… Until now.

Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood reports that The Real Tooth Fairies, LLC is working hard to colonize the tooth fairy myth. Founded in 2011 by seasoned toy industry executives, The Real Tooth Fairies takes the open-ended, family-centered tooth fairy tradition and subjects it to a heavy-handed marketing makeover.

The way its marketing team sees it, “Each tooth is really a holiday moment” – in the same way that Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween are holiday moments: moments that can be commercialized, packaged, and sold to consumers. In fact, they explain, “It’s just a massive opportunity.”

In the world of the Real Tooth Fairies, there is not just one tooth fairy; there are six tooth fairies who have been coronated by a tooth fairy queen. Why six? The brand is copying the formula for success experienced by other popular girls’ brands, such as Disney Princess, the Disney Fairies, Bratz Dolls, and the Spice Girls. Like the characters from those marketing success stories, each fairy has a different look: their hair color and skin tones vary – but not their body types; they all fit the Barbie mold. They also have different interests, ranging from animals to math to rock music – though without fail, each one of them has a handsome boyfriend. And a tiara.

In addition to these seven characters, the brand also serves up a short, stout, eyeglass-wearing, hairy-legged “wannabe” tooth fairy called “Stepella” who, like Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters, is clearly meant as a counterpoint to the tall, pretty, real fairies. Unfortunately, her existence perpetuates a negative stereotype that (like so much about this brand) is not age appropriate, and which our girls don’t need: She suggests that any girl who doesn’t achieve a stereotypically beautiful appearance is unworthy of love and acceptance – unwanted. Although the brand claims to promote kindness, Stepella is excluded from the group.

Real girls, called “Earthies” on the Real Fairies site, are expected to identify with one specific “real fairy” from the main group of six, and then make requests on the web site for things that their parents will have to pay for – everything from personalized letters from a favorite fairy (starting at $0.99) to birthday party packages (costing $379).

So much for the tooth fairy myth’s innocent simplicity.

In fact, the brand grafts together components from nearly every popular girls’ brand: fashion (Barbie and Bratz), music (Hannah Montana), fairies (Tinkerbell and friends), royalty and romance (Disney Princesses), a pro-social “kindness” message (Monster High), and so on. It’s a transparent effort to push every button possible in hopes the brand would sell.

Susan Linn agrees with this assessment. ”It’s like an amalgam of the worst trends in the toy industry,” she said. “It contains every known money-making ploy in a pseudo-sweet ambiance, but it’s full of gender stereotyping and sexualization.”

Although the brand was launched in December 2011, it has recently grown dramatically in popularity: In April 2013, it boasted 7.1 million unique viewers. It has already been funded with $3.9 million. With these promising viewing trends, the owners want to raise an additional $4 million to expand it; they’re seeking to add a boys’ section to the site (with time-traveling action-adventure elves, because apparently fairies are too “girly” for boys) and get licensed products into stores – so they created a pitch video for potential investors.

The company’s pitch video recently came to the attention of CCFC. Upon seeing it Linn, was disgusted. “The pitch to investors epitomizes the worst of the toy industry,” Linn said. “They’re cloaking themselves as doing something good for children, when really it’s about making money.” 

While corporations often feign that their product is meant to do something good for children – e.g., Monster High’s claim that it teaches kindness, which The Real Tooth Fairies, LLC has also copied – there’s something particularly problematic about the way it is playing out here. Linn points out that the tooth fairy has always been in the public domain, and beliefs about the tooth fairy have been very diverse. Families have enjoyed devising their own tooth fairy rituals for generations – and, Linn fears, The Real Tooth Fairy, LLC hopes to put an end to that.

“This is a major assault on an area of childhood that has been unbranded,” Linn explained. “It’s an assault on the imagination. Families have always made up their own tooth fairy rituals, and it’s egregious to stultify children’s imaginations in that way.”

To help CCFC save the tooth fairy, visit their web page or sign their petition

Follow Rebecca Hains on Twitter or Facebook. 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. Rebecca Hains blogs at rebeccahains.wordpress.com.

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The writer's grandson No, 2, Stefan, smiles for a picture taken 13 years ago when he was five-years-old and still loving the backyard playhouse. (Richard O'Mara)

A kids' backyard playhouse and their arsenal of weapons plays on a granddad's memories

By Guest Blogger / 07.17.13

The house outside may be facing the end of its days. It presents a skeletal image now of what it once was. Only one wall remains, the one in the back; the roof is gone, probably blown off during a storm. This enabled the pines to deposit about an inch of their needles onto the floor, a mere four and a half feet square. Now, when the sun comes through the trees after a rain they shimmer like new copper, or a hoard of fool’s gold.

It was to be Nicholas’s retreat from the world of adults. His father, Pat, and I, built the thing on four posts, to hoist it about three feet off the ground, necessary in this low terrain so close to the sea.  We attached a three-step ladder to get into it. When we finished we told Nick to share it with his younger brother, Stefan, my second grandchild, and with his cousins, my three other grandchildren, when they come down here to enjoy the beach with us. Nicholas, when he got a little further on in his life, didn’t bother with it much. “It’s for kids,” said No. 1 Grandson, as he pushed off on his skate-board down the road toward the beach, lugging his surfboard.

Nick doesn’t know that I identify him in my mind by a number. I got the idea from Charlie Chan, the fictional character in old movies, a Chinese American detective with a frozen, unhappy smile, yet operating effectively in an American milieu. He was like Confucius, wise and out of his time. Charlie called his first born “No. 1 Son,” which suggests to me that he expected others would follow.

After Nick, came Stefan, No. 2 in our family; Lily followed as No. 3; then her brother Finnegan, No. 4, and finally No. 5, Lukas: what a talker!  I don’t tell any of these children about their numbers. I do it because it just helps me keep their names adhered to their faces.

They all played in and out of the house over the years, rough and loud sometime. Stefan, for instance, once took a hammer and a bag of nails and pounded them all into this playhouse; maybe he thought his father and grandfather had built a rickety unstable retreat. We didn’t.

One of Stefan’s siblings, bright Finnegan, suggested that all those nails might draw lightening our way. Stefan gave thought to that, and the next time I saw him with the hammer in his hand he was sitting on the ground breaking up a concrete block.  Why? Maybe he felt a need to create something: rubble, perhaps.

Lily (No. 3) favored sedate tea parties. I once saw her climbing into the house with both Stefan and Finnegan trailing behind her with crockery in their hands. Lily poured her tea, and peace reigned. She calmed the boys with her softness and her tea – for a while at least, until the boys’ friends showed up in the yard and they all began shooting one another. Together they had an arsenal that would have impressed Muammar el-Qaddafi.

They had pistols, machine guns, hand grenades to throw at each other, rubber knives, even scimitars, ancient weapons to stab and slash with long blades made of pure sponge. One day, while sitting on the porch of the main house, I kept hearing “Bang! Bang! Bang! You’re dead!” Over and over.

I’ve never felt comfortable having weapons around the house, so I never did. Even fake weapons such as ours. More than once I said to myself, “It’s not a gun. No, it’s not a gun; it’s a symbol of a gun. A toy. Harmless. Yes, right?” But occasionally I would shout at them: “Don’t shoot so loud,” I’d say. “You’re disturbing the peace!”

There came the moment when my mind took a turn in a different direction: I began to think the toys were not completely harmless; they were everywhere: floating through the Internet; on display in shops all around our town.

I looked in on Wikipedia and learned that in our country more people own firearms than those in any other country in the world. Also I learned that 40 percent of our nation’s households have guns in them, one or more. Comforting?

I’ve been in many countries as a travelling journalist. I’ve watched children playing on green fields and in dry rust-colored spaces in Asia, South America, the Middle East, Africa, and other places distant from here. But I have never seen them waving plastic guns that look very much like the real thing. More often than not, the noise, the joyous shouts and screams were made by kids chasing and kicking soccer balls.

One day, having heard “Bang! Bang! Bang! You’re dead!” too many times around my house, I decided to seize their arsenal. And, unfortunately, their pleasures. “No more guns around here, I declared.” And they disappeared, just like that. The next day I uncovered one or two of them, one that looked very much like an AK-47. They were stashed behind a tree. With great ostentation I threw them in the trash. And I discovered some more in the house outside, which encouraged me to tear it down. But no, the smaller ones, Finny and Lukey are still in and out of it.

Maybe I’ll give it another year or so.

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Royal baby due date is this week, says a family member. Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, after an official visit to Naomi House near Winchester, England, April 29. (AP Photo)

Royal baby in July? One royal says she knows royal baby due date

By Andrew AverillCorrespondent / 07.16.13

The royal baby due date has passed, but one royal recently hazarded an updated guess: The baby will be here by the end of the week.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, gave a spontaneous speech earlier today whiling touring Cornwall with Prince Charles

"We are all just waiting by the telephone," she said, according to news.com.au. "We are hopeful that by the end of the week he or she will be here."

Although no official due date was announced, it was largely expected that the baby would be born in mid-July and a number of media organizations pegged the 13th or 14th as the day. But firstborns tend to be born late – this seems like folklore, but there is actually data that backs it up.

A computer science professor in Massachusetts analyzed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey data from 7,643 women and 9,148 births. He found, according to livescience.com, that firstborn babies were born late 15 to 16 percent of the time while second-born, third-born, etc., had a less than 10 percent chance of being born late. 

But due dates are not an exact science. They are a helpful prediction. A mother is not considered to be overdue unless she goes into labor two or more weeks past her due date. 

That leaves some wiggle room for the little heir or heiress. 

Astronaut Karen Nyberg made a video showing how she washes her hair in space. Here, she prepares the first step: squirting warm water from a bag onto her hair at the scalp-line. (Inside ISS screengrab)

Astronaut Karen Nyberg washing her hair: Who knew it could bring us together? (+video)

By Correspondent / 07.15.13

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.

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Kate Middleton is on the move. Keep up with her with our weekend roundup. Britain's Prince William stands next to his Kate Middleton as she leaves the King Edward VII hospital in central London in December. (AP Photo)

Kate Middleton on the move, but the baby's not here yet (+video)

By Andrew AverillCorrespondent / 07.15.13

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. 

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. 

For baby photos and portraits of modern monarchs, from the rolly polly Queen Victoria to the dad-in-waiting Prince William, see our royal baby photos and Prince William through the years posts.  

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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