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Modern Parenthood

'Well-behaved kids' discount: Tips for taking children to restaurants

By StaffCSMonitor.com / 02.07.13

The King family found themselves with an unexpected discount at a local Italian restaurant: $4 off and a free bowl of ice cream.

How did they qualify?  Good behavior.

Rob Scott, the owner of the Sogno di Vino in Poulsbo, Washington, told Today.com that the Kelly children, ages 2, 3, and 8,  were "the epitome of good behavior: they were very polite, didn’t neglect to say “please” and “thank you,” and stayed seated during their visit. That’s often not the case when kids come to his restaurant, Scott said. Many end up shouting or running around the eatery unchecked."

Laura King posted her receipt with the discount the website Reddit, which triggered a viral online discussion about children's behavior in restaurants. In her own blog, Mrs. King responded to all the attention by writing about the discount and why her children earned it. "We eat most of our meals as a family around our kitchen table. It is one of the ways we come together throughout our week to talk about our lives, to catch up and to share our love. We don’t have any hard rules about there not being iPods or laptops at the table, but most of the time they aren’t welcome."

And she offered some tips for other parents on dining out:

* Take your kids out to eat at least a couple times a month.
 * Give your kids a snack before you head out.
 * Be sure they’re rested and healthy.
 * Be ready to engage with your kids.
 * Notice the people, art, music, food in the room and talk about it.
 * Encourage your kids to talk with you just like you would talk with another adult.
 * Enjoy the time you’ve carved out to be with them.

Want more on this? Check out this article on 10 tips for taking your children to a restaurant. They include,

1) Before you go out, make sure there's something on the menu that your child will actually eat -- or bring along food from home.
 2) Visit restaurants at an off-peak time (such as 4-5 on a weekday afternoon) so you beat the rush.
 3) Opt to be seated in a booth whenever possible, so it will be easier for you to keep your child contained.

What's scarier than bringing toddlers to a restaurant? How about taking them on a long plane ride where there is no booth where you can keep your child contained. Every toddler and parent is unique, but there are two of the six tips for avoiding a toddler meltdown on a long (or short) flight, according to Modern Parenting blogger Stephanie Hanes.

 Arm thyself. You need toys. Books. Stuffed animals. Pieces of trash that you can pretend are toys. Collect these items (some traveling parents suggest wrapping them as individual presents to dispense as needed) into a big bag and have them at your ready. And be prepared for the toddler to get bored with all of them in about 15 minutes.

Bring rations. Sure, the flight schedule said your plane was going to land by Toddler’s afternoon snack time. But what if there’s a delay? And what if Child gets hungry and wants food now? Follow this tip and you won’t have the inevitable meltdown. Cut up some fruit and cheese and throw it in your bag. Or, if you’re like us, running late and relatively frantic, grab a bagel at one of the airport vendors. This is not the time to be picky about nutrition.

What's worked for you and your kids?

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A nanny was caught on camera slapping a child she was caring for. The nanny tried to feed the child, seen here in a snapshot of the hidden camera film, but the baby refused the bottle, causing the nanny to strike the child multiple times. (Youtube)

Nanny caught on camera, N.C. student paddling: Who can hit our children?

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / 02.07.13

As news breaks today about students being paddled in North Carolina schools and a Staten Island mom who watched a live feed from a hidden camera, powerless to stop as a nanny smacked her infant in the face, the question isn’t just about the idea of using corporal punishment, but who (if anyone) has the right to hit our children?

I could not watch the video clip of Staten Island nanny Mamura Nasirova caught on camera slapping an infant across the face so hard the child rocked sideways, without thinking some dark thoughts about what I would do in that mother’s place. The infant was not taking the bottle and the nanny repeatedly smacks the baby in the face. According to the Staten Island Advance, the mother rushed home and the nanny is now jailed on child endangerment charges.

My mother just called me after seeing the story on the news in New Jersey to remind of how, when I was the age of the baby in the video, my nanny kidnapped me and took me to her apartment in Queens. When my father and police arrived there she dangled me from a balcony as my father tried to convince her I was not possessed by demons telling me not to take my bottle. So apparently nanny screening hasn’t progressed very far in the past 45 years.

Sadly, my father was an alcoholic who believed that he and his drunken friends all had the right to give me a fat lip or fracture if I displeased them in any way.

Parenting four sons is a challenge, especially through the terrible twos when there were times I used what Oprah once termed “the diaper pop” or a swat to the butt when the child was so far off the rails he was either endangering himself or another child. That was the limit for me. If someone else were to hit my child that would be a very bad day for everyone concerned.

To ice this mud pie, The Associated Press reports that North Carolina's state school board is pondering “taking a stand against using physical pain to enforce discipline even as the number of children paddled in public schools falls fast."

Corporal punishment is still allowed in a dozen or so of the state's 115 districts. The AP adds the board isn’t asking to outlaw the practice which took place on 404 occasions in schools statewide, down from 891 cases in the 2010-2011 academic year. 

For me, that’s just 404 times too many that a public school teacher decided it was time to strike a child in the classroom. Worse, N.C. is not the only state to allow corporal punishment of students. The only hand raised in a classroom should be to ask a question.

My Grandpa Frank who lived in Passaic, N.J. went to Catholic school and never made it past the seventh grade because the nun would beat his hands with a ruler when he was late to school. He was late because his father had died and he took a paper route to support his mother and sisters. In seventh grade he snatched the ruler, snapped it, and left school forever, becoming the neighborhood fix-it man.

So why does all this hitting happen anyway? Perhaps the best answer came from a character in the film "Time After Time", when H.G. Wells tells his assistant, “The first man to raise a fist is the man who’s run out of ideas.”

My idea is a time out -- for the caregiver or teacher. They need to make sure anger and frustration aren’t driving their actions. Then we need to turn to a site I found called YummyMummy.com where they list eight good alternatives to striking a child for disciplinary purposes including: empathy, making a contract with a child, prevention, and reward systems.

In these modern parenting and teaching times with an entire internet at our disposal to search for ways in which to arm ourselves against disciplinary problems, there’s really no excuse for running out of ideas and hitting a child.

A new Monopoly token, the cat, will replace the iron token pressed upon female players for decades. (Associated Press)

New Monopoly token: Cat replaces housewife's iron, good riddance!

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / 02.06.13

Some days I feel as if the iron has monopolized my life, from pressing stubborn wrinkles to the days of childhood when boys across the Monopoly game board insisted I have it as my token, “Because you’re a girl.” No top hat, race car, or battleship for girls, they would insist. Bah! So when Hasbro Toys announced today that a fan-driven Internet poll ousted the iron in favor of a cat I smiled in triumph for little girls everywhere.

According to Elise Leonard of Litzky Public Relations for Hasbro, this was part of Hasbro’s Monopoly “Save Your Token” campaign on Facebook from Jan. 9 through Feb. 5, 2013. Fans can visit the game's Facebook page to bid farewell to the iron and view additional Monopoly “Save Your Token” campaign content. The cat was able to claw its way up the voting ladder past the toy robot, guitar, helicopter, and diamond ring options offered in the campaign.

I chuckled to see the Hasbro press release where the only one mourning the loss of the iron was a man, Eric Nyman, senior vice president and global brand leader for Hasbro Gaming: “While we’re a bit sad to see the iron go, the cat token is a fantastic choice by the fans, and we have no doubt it will become just as iconic as the original tokens.”

Say all you want about how modern men do iron, that token was always tied to a mother’s apron strings weighing her down.

Besides, I am more than an iron. Frankly, being a mother of four who works from home, I’m more than a race car, shoe, thimble, battleship, top hat, Scottie dog (apparently the fan favorite of social media), or wheelbarrow. Although, somehow those symbols never felt as irritating because I loved to quilt and sew with my grandmother, used a wheelbarrow in the garden which reminded me of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, my uncles were Navy men, the top hat was cool, and who doesn’t love shoes and dogs?

The iron, however, represents only drudgery and all for the production of a smooth, flawless, wearable surface soon to be ruined with wrinkles. Personally, as a tomboy, I never saw the attraction. My mother, a retired Macy’s private label NYC fashion designer and Parsons School of Design graduate, actually has one of the Monopoly irons on a charm bracelet! I recall being about seven and telling her, “You can have mine too and make them into earrings! I’m not playing that piece!”

I have come to see gaming as an early potential indicator of a child’s future career interests and a means of stimulating them to reach in new directions. It begs the questions: “Do kids who love Risk and Battleship choose to serve in the military or just become corporate raiders?”

We’ve all heard about the studies of video gaming and the impact on teens. Studies show improved manual dexterity and computer literacy on the plus side and aggression and a decline in school achievements in the negative column when violent games are played too much. However, board game studies appear to yield a universally positive effect, according to a Palo Alto Medical Foundation study conducted by Gentile, Lynch, Linder & Walsh.

An article by Melanie L. Martin titled How Board Games Can Help Your Children Learn lists five board games to help your child learn and Monopoly beats out Chess for the top slot.

Martin wrote, “Monopoly can teach your children a multitude of subjects. They practice addition by adding the dice together to see how far they move. They must know how to add the money together and make change if necessary. Children's reading skills will be called into use with the Chance and Community Chest cards as well as the property names and information.” 

If you want to know how Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, Scrabble, chess, and other popular board games jumpstart a child’s education even at the preschool level, see the full article

The Toy Industry Association’s Toy Fair will kick off this Sunday in NYC, where the newest toys and games for 2013 will be on display. Hasbro isn’t saying what they will bring to the gaming table for the event.

When I told my sons about the shift in the Monopoly tokens my nine-year-old swiftly pointed out, “Iron? Does our set have one of those?” My teens chimed-in, “Yeah Mom, we’ve never seen that token on our board. Are you sure it came with one?”

Oh it came with one, it just didn’t remain with one. Perhaps it’s time to order a new, more complete set online? Either way, our new kitten sits on the board and wreaks havoc on my behalf whenever we play so it’s a win-win.

Mary Leakey 100th birthday: Celebrated with a Google Doodle today, the famed paleontologist did not slow down her work to parent. She brought her three sons to the dig site as babies. (Courtesy of The Leakey Foundation)

Mary Leakey 100th birthday: A son on her adventuresome parenting

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / 02.06.13

Today’s helicopter parents might want to explore the parenting techniques of famed paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, whose birth 100 years ago is celebrated today. Instead of hovering over or reining-in her three sons, Ms. Leakey handed them responsibilities early in life and brought them out on dig sites from infancy.

“Mother gave us every freedom to learn by experience as early as I can remember,” says her youngest son, Philip, 64, who now lives in Kenya and responded to questions for this blog via e-mail. “This gave me tremendous self-confidence and taught me responsibility at an early age. As I grew I was able to take on more responsibility and in a way it always put us as children ahead of the pack. It encouraged and enhanced leadership skills.”

Mary Leakey, born Mary Douglas Nicol in London on Feb. 6, 1913, was the daughter of landscape painter, Erskine Nicol, and Cecilia Frere. She was one of the world's most renowned hunters of early human fossils and married her colleague, Louis Leakey. Together and separately they stunned the scientific world with their finds. Mary Leakey died in Nairobi, Dec. 9, 1996, at the age of 83. She smoked stogies and enjoyed seeing her favorite dog “chomp” people who didn’t like anthropologists, according to Scientific American. She is science’s version of Katherine Hepburn, except Leakey was a mom.

Most reporters will tell you that the crowning triumphs of her career were the 1972 discovery (with her husband) of 1.75-million-year-old remains from Homo habilis at Olduvai Gorge and the 1978 discovery of 3.6-million-year-old footprints at Laetoli, both in Tanzania.

However, as the mother of four boys, I think she pretty much wrote the book on how to best raise boys to be remarkable men. Philip Leakey says he was glad to have the rare opportunity to talk about his mother as a mother and not a scientist.

Mary Leakey’s appears to be a parenting technique that worked wonders for all three of her sons. Philip’s eldest brother Jonathan is a businessman and former palaeoanthropologist who runs Jonathan Leakey Ltd., which supplies East African snake venoms and plants for antivenom manufacturers. Richard Leakey became a politician, paleoanthropologist, and conservationist after entering the family business of paleoanthropology not only in field research and discoveries, but also as the director of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK). He is now a member of the department of anthropology faculty at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Philip Leakey and his wife Katy run what might be called a Zulugrass-roots endeavor called The Leakey Collection, a Fair Trade design company based in Kenya. It sells items such as jewelry made by East African women (in their homes, not factories). They cut Zulugrass – which is hollow – into beads that are dyed and hardened. The company states that it “uses commerce as a vehicle to enhance the lives of the Maasai in an environmentally friendly, sustainable way while maintaining cultural and traditional lifestyles".

Mary Leakey didn’t just bring us remarkable scientific discoveries. She also left behind three fine examples of why every day should be take your kids to work day, even if it’s just talking about your job. By including our children in our passions we help them dig deep into their imaginations to unearth their own passions in life.  
     
     Here is a Q&A with Philip Leakey about his mom:

Q: Did you ever go on digs with your parents? If so was there any one that stands out in your mind?

Yes. I grew up on the digs on school holidays. I learned to walk at Olorkesaili, [Kenya,] the hand tool site.

Olduvai is where I have some of my fondest memories and my greatest early learning experiences.

You did not choose your mother’s career path, but a more politically active and civic-minded life. What part of you upbringing influenced you toward that choice?

My father influenced me towards that end, but my mother raised me learning her skills of perception of people.

One publication stated that you and your brothers were raised by a nanny until you were old enough to go adventuring with your parents. Is that correct and if so how did that work?

No that isn’t correct. We were not raised by nannies.

At what age did you first go on a dig?

Mother took me when I was a baby. As I said I learned to walk at Olkorkesaili.

Can you tell a bit about your education and if your mother “home schooled” you and your brothers at all or how she taught you about what they were working on?

Both my parents encouraged us to participate in their work as much as possible from working on the sites to engaging with all the people related to their work through identifying all the specimens. It was a hands-on learning experience throughout the entire process. We were included in all the discussions, the debates and every step of the way.

Facebook after death: New Hampshire lawmakers are considering legislation to hand over social media account information like property in a will. (Reuters)

Facebook after death: Should family get deceased's social media passwords?

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / 02.05.13

Of all the modern existential questions to ask, “Where does my social media go when I die?” is the one being legislated right now. While lingering Facebook walls of the dead can become memorials, shrines of love, they can also be a canvas for the hate of bullies who refuse to let their victims rest in peace as family members lack the passcodes to stop them.

It makes me wonder why Facebook can’t just be reasonable and allow family to send proof of death to the server to have a loved one’s page shut down and allow friends to migrate to posthumous walls as a separate entity - call it Facebook A.D. (After Death) which would be posted and controlled by family or heir. When my nine-year-old saw what I was writing about today he shrugged and said, “Well, that just means you have to leave someone all your passwords in your will right? Like money or a house?”

When someone dies, Facebook walls become the memorial. In the case of Norfolk businessman and philanthropist Peter Decker, who died one year ago on Feb. 4th 2012, his wall is alive and well and still adding friends. It’s a beautiful tribute. But I still felt broadsided each time getting his birthday reminder and, worse, when Facebook’s algorithm reminds me I haven’t been in touch with Pete in a while and should check-in and see how he’s doing.

All this is up for discussion today because in Concorde, N.H lawmakers are pondering a study of whether control of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts should go to the families left behind after the user's death. The Associated Press reports, State Rep. Peter Sullivan is sponsoring a bill that would give control over social media accounts to the executor of a deceased person's estate.

Mr. Sullivan told the AP he filed the bill after learning of a bullying case in Canada that led to a teenager's suicide wherein those who bullied the teen posted on her Facebook account afterward. Sullivan’s bill would let family "step into the shoes of the deceased" and control posts. “The presumption would be that the family's rights trumped those of the service provider,” he said.

When it comes to social media, it is a legacy, sometimes a bad one. Many may value the privacy of their messages, tweets, and images beyond that of more tangible assets because feelings and relationships are often involved. Even after death some of us would prefer our families not be privy to our chat logs and personal message threads, and so the battle for cyberspace A.D. heats up.

There are alternatives already available including Entrustet, a free service that enables an account holder to pass on digital assets to up to 10 designated heirs and one executor, who is in charge of executing a person's digital wishes after they pass away. Digital assets include social networks, financial accounts, blogs, e-mails and other Internet properties or files. For other online solutions see http://mashable.com/2010/10/11/social-media-after-death/

Still, as a parent, I would certainly hope the family’s rights to stop bullies would trump those of a service provider and if they don’t currently they certainly should. I have always insisted my sons who are under 18 put all their passwords in a family book I keep. And while it chafes them, it has also saved them when they forgot the codes.

However, as a wife I’m a little guarded about what I may have let slip after a spat when chatting on Facebook with my best friend. If I pass on, do I really want that to be the last thing my husband sees if he goes looking through my accounts for happy memories? It’s tricky out there in the virtual world.

I wish the Facebook App Exfoliate program that routinely scrubs your wall free of all previous posts, photos, and chats were still available.

Five states – Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma and Rhode Island – have laws addressing some of the concerns. According to AP, the Connecticut and Rhode Island laws address only e-mail accounts while Idaho, Indiana, and Oklahoma include micro-blogging, short message service, and social networking accounts.

So here I sit pondering the ins and outs of creating something I would not do for my body, but would consider for my intellectual property health: Does my Twitter account require an Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD) and a living will for all my social media? The ACHD in the event that I go ga-ga (and not in in a Bad Romance kind of way) and need someone with power of attorney to stay my hands from the keyboard before I libel the free world and the other would just shut the accounts down for good and all.

I’m more likely to invest in a virtual lockbox for my passcodes and leave it to my kids as I myself take the time to erase any threads of shame or better yet, avoid creating them.

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.

GoDaddy.com's Super Bowl commercial caused super squirming for this blogger's kids. (Associated Press/Go Daddy)

Super Bowl GoDaddy kiss commercial: How much did your kids squirm?

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / 02.04.13

When a website hosting-service’s Super Bowl commercial asked “Who’s your GoDaddy?” via a gusty kiss between gorgeous Bar Refaeli and actor Jesse Heiman, the nation united to wail, “Not that guy!” While the socially awkward spot didn’t actually cause the Superdome blackout, it lit a fire under my sons who fled the room, taking with them a potential urban dictionary term that may become the signal of either taunt or triumph.

The kiss, or as I like to call it the world’s most visceral nerd snog, heard 'round the world, between Refaeli and Heiman, was meant to show us what happens when sexy meets smart. Apparently, people run away screaming, “AIEEEEEEEEEE! My eyes!” 

In fact, according to ABC news: “Barb Rechterman, the chief marketing officer for GoDaddy, said CBS, the television network that is broadcasting the Super Bowl this year, rejected the first version of the ad....They had to scale down the kissing a bit.” I can only imagine the carbon half-life of that socially awkward bombshell. As it was, the commercial had 45 takes.

However, even “scaled down,” less than an hour after the "kisspocalips" my sons, ages 13 and 17 groaned and chuckled over what they were already joking would surely become a new cultural reference.

In the kitchen I caught snippets of conversation and one saying to the other, “OK, people are seriously going to be saying, 'That’s a GoDaddy right there…' in reference to some poor pair. I wonder how fast it will catch fire in every middle and high school this week as a comparison moniker for what people consider to be a mismatched couple?   

According to ABC News, Heiman has had cameos in over 100 popular films and TV shows including, but not limited to: “Parks and Recreation,” “The Mindy Project,” “The Social Network,” “Old School,” “Austin Powers: Goldmember,” “Spider-Man,” “Catch Me If You Can” and “Bones.”

This can only do good things for Heiman’s life, and Bar Refaeli will definitely survive the "kisspocalips," but those who are not as attractive or cashing-in on their nerd-factor will be less fortunate.

As the mother of a son, 9, who while cute to look at, has Aspergers Syndrome and is set upon daily for being the socially awkward “nerd” who likes a popular girl, but is missing the social cues that she’s not interested in math, science, Minecraft games, or him. The mockery has become a daily grind. So as I sent him off to school today I hope none of the kids decides to hit him with The GoDaddy slam. 

On the other hand, the Twittersphere, while roundly bashing GoDaddy in Tweets calling the spot everything from “uncomfortable” to “icky” as people spoke of “recovering from it” Heiman was hailed as the real winner of the Super Bowl.

Therefore, I’ll offer two versions for the Urban Dictionary entry for “That’s a GoDaddy”: 1. A severely mismatched couple. 2. The underdog who gets the girl. I prefer the latter. Let the verbal games begin.

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Groundhog Day is tomorrow, Feb. 2. What are you doing to commemorate the day with your children? Groundhog handler John Griffith holds famed weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil in 2012. (Reuters)

Groundhog Day: Parenting odds and ends for a secondary holiday (+video)

By Guest Blogger / 02.01.13

Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, has basically everything going for it that I love in a holiday:  It marks a point in a season; it’s full of folklore and wisdom, superstition, ceremony, civic charm, science, mystery, agrarian history, and weather; and it was featured in perhaps my all-time favorite movie of the same name, which itself is a study in acceptance and inner calm while being outright hilarious in nearly every frame.

Altogether now: It’s Groundhog Day!

In an early morning ceremony, groundhog Punxsutawney Phil will rise as he has for 125 years from his heated burrow at Gobbler’s Knob, Pa., and signal to his handlers whether or not he sees his shadow. No shadow means an early end to winter. And if the groundhog does see his shadow? Six more long weeks of the season. Over the years that the ceremony has taken place, Phil has seen his shadow 98 times and not seen it only 17. (Records don’t exist for every year.) In 2008, the crowd heartily booed the prospect of “six more weeks of winter”.

Some have stated that Phil’s “handlers” make the prediction for him. What do we think of that?

History and science of Groundhog Day

According to this excellent Groundhog Day site, German settlers arrived in the 1700s to an area northeast of Pittsburgh, Pa. that had been settled previously by the Delaware Native Americans. The Germans celebrated Candlemas Day, originally a Medieval Catholic holiday, to mark the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. The holiday also has roots in Celtic-Gaelic and Pagan cultures, where it is celebrated as St. Brigid’s Day and Imbolc, and is a time of festivals, feasting, parades, and weather prediction, as well as candles and even bonfires to mark the sun’s return.

According to Wikipedia, “Imbolc” comes from an Old Irish word meaning “in the belly.” Among agrarian people, Imbolc was associated with the onset of the lambing season.

The German settlers of Pennsylvania put candles in their windows and believed that if the weather was fair on Candlemas Day then the second half of winter would be stormy and cold. While this has always seemed counter-intuitive to me, this site explains the science of Groundhog Day and that cloudy weather is actually milder than clear and cold. It makes sense, then, that the shadow would portend six more weeks of winter. (A lifelong mystery is solved.)

The English and Scottish had wonderful sayings to mark this occasion:

The serpent will come from the hole

On the brown Day of Bride,

Though there should be three feet of snow

On the flat surface of the ground.

– Scottish saying

(Note the serpent instead of the groundhog.)

If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Winter has another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Winter will not come again.

– English saying

Punxsutawney’s first Groundhog Day celebration was in 1886, and though other towns, particularly in the eastern US, have Groundhog Day ceremonies — Staten Island Chuck, anyone? — none are as famous as Punxsutawney’s. Some of this may lie with the groundhog’s official name, “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary”. Still more popularity, and tourists, has come as a result of the movie Groundhog Day. The first official Groundhog Day prediction in Punxsutawney? No shadow – early Spring.

Groundhog activities and crafts

It’s fun to play with shadows in honor of Punxsutawney Phil and his. Try making hand shadow puppets, something people have been doing since 2,000 years ago in China, where puppet shows were performed by oil-lamp light.

Have someone project a flashlight onto a wall or other surface. Hold your hands between the light and the wall in various shapes to create shadow puppets. Here are some classic ones to try:

Rabbit—Make a fist with one hand. Place the other palm over it and make a peace sign (for ears) with two fingers.

Hawk—Link your thumbs together, with your hands facing away from you. Stretch out your fingers and hands and flutter them like wings.

Spider—With palms facing up, cross your hands at the wrist. Press your thumbs together to form the spider’s head. Wiggle your fingers in a climbing motion.

Wolf or dog—Place your palms together, fingers facing outward. Put your thumbs up to form ears. Let your pinkie drop to form a mouth. Bend your index fingers to create a forehead.

Camel—Lift one arm. Hold your hand in a loosely curved position. Hold the pinkie and ring finger together. Hold the other two fingers together, thumb pressed in. Curve both sets of fingers and hold them wide apart to form a mouth. Your arm, from the elbow up, will be the camel’s neck.

There are also a lot of very appealing shadow and groundhog crafts for Groundhog Day, like this one and others from Motherhood on a Dime.

Shadow or no, here’s wishing you a happy remainder of the winter, a ceremony or two, a dash of lore and wonder, and a fruitful spring.

Kate Middleton's nose has caused quite a stink in the UK. Women have been getting plastic surgery to modify their own noses to look like the Duchess of Cambridge's, according to the Daily Mail. File/2012. (Associated Press)

Kate Middleton's nose: Latest plastic surgery inspiration

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / 02.01.13

What’s in a nose? That which we call a nose on any other face would be able to smell as sweet and yet women are paying through the nose to have theirs altered to look like the one on the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.

In the land of William Shakespeare the number of women getting nose jobs in order to look like Middleton has tripled since 2011, according to Plastic surgeon Maurizio Persico in the Daily Mail.

It’s not as if women haven’t spent decades shouting “in your face!” at Mother nature as they reach for the phone to ring-up a rhinoplasty. However,  plastic surgeons are getting more and more requests from women who want to replace their own look with that of a celebrity.

I begin to wonder if face patents can’t be far off. If it were my nose I’m not sure I’d want to see it walking around on someone else, much less thousands of others. Helen of Troy launched a thousand ships, but Middleton appears to be ahead of her by a prow or two.

In 2010, Kim Kardashian reached out to a Twitter follower, asking her not to undergo plastic surgery to try to look like her. "Don't try 2 b someone else," she tweeted. Adding she shouldn’t "change yourself for anybody but yourself."

This is somewhere just North of the usual body image issues which drive people to the knife, Botulism toxin injections, and unhealthy weight-loss schemes. This is in the realm of shedding one’s own face in pursuit of a dream becoming more commonly held that if beauty is good, celebrity beauty is better.

As British Actress Jane Seymore once pointed out, “I find it interesting that 16-year-olds are having plastic surgery. People in their 40s used to think, 'I'm aging, I have to do something about it.' Now children are deciding they don't like the way they look.”

Dr. Tony Youn, a plastic surgeon in Troy, Michigan, told CNN, "It's a red flag. This person has psychological problems and is not a good candidate for any kind of plastic surgery. Plastic surgery is meant to make you look like a better, younger version of yourself, not to look like somebody else."

Wanting to look like someone famous isn’t new, in fact MTV ran an entire reality series called “I Want a Famous Face” which followed the transformations of 12 young people who chose to use plastic surgery to look exactly like their celebrity idols such as Pamela Anderson and Janet Jackson. It was a cautionary tale full of risk and woe.

Then of course there is the young Ukrainian who has girls begging for contact lenses that make their pupils larger so they can be Barbie using the non-surgical tactics of Valeria Lukyanova, a teen who became an Internet sensation earlier this year. The lacquered look is all over teens and young women who want to be someone they view as perfection personified.

In the case of grown women making these choices the key word is choice, but when teens begin to fixate on the Barbie or Anime-alike videos, makeup, and contact lenses it may be time to seek help for a burgeoning emotional issue that is unlikely to be solved from the outside in.

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Pop Star Pink’s song “Perfect” seems to have fallen on deaf ears when she crooned: "Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel/Like you're less than, less than perfect/Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel/Like you're nothing you are perfect to me."

Maybe we need to start singing new nursery songs, a reprise of vintage Billy Joel’s, “I love you just the way you are.” We need to get something stuck in our heads, other than someone else’s features.

The number of kids online is increasing, but research on the effects, benefits and consequences of child internet use is lagging behind. A new study, analyzing a number of social media websites for kids online, is stepping up. Here, two sisters under the age of 10 play games on their computer. 2010. (Christian Science Monitor)

Kids online: Social media sites can help develop identity, study says

By / 01.31.13

Imagine a game in which a child not only discovers, collects, creates, and/or customizes 2- and 3-dimensional art objects that s/he then shares with fellow player-creators, but also creates his/her own levels of play. Imagine the literacies players could be developing in the process of playing such a game, including social literacy, through sharing, “liking,” and reviewing each other’s creations.

Wonderfully, there’s nothing imagined about any of that. Millions of children 5- to 12-years-old are playing this game (rated “E” for “Everyone”), LittleBigPlanet, in 13 languages on PlayStation 3 consoles, and this is just one social-media venue profiled by a study from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop in New York. There is still so little we know about preteens’ use of social media, but thanks to this report – which both pulls together the research we do have and catalogs what we still need to know – we have some rich new insights.

The authors write that “many important new literacies are necessary for participating deeply in some of the best practices available in SNF,” as the description of what happens in and around LittleBigPlanet shows (the authors prefer the broader term “forums” to “sites,” thus using “social networking forums” or SNF). “Research also suggests that SNF can also promote some forms of social and identity development. Emerging SNF that sponsor sharing creative designs may provide unique opportunities for children to develop these kinds of new literacies and social practices, sometimes also called “citizenship.”

One of the arguments the study’s authors make, thankfully, is that “social networking,” “gaming,” and other terms used to describe children’s experiences in and with these services, are way too narrow, and the research literature tends to silo them – if it even allows that learning and literacy development happen in them, I would add (considering recent studies relegating children’s screen time to “entertainment media”). In LittleBigPlanet, for example, there’s gaming, media production, media-sharing, and socializing, to name just a few types of online activity – it’s far more than a game or social network site.

Child-centric research called for

Research needs to be less prejudiced by the public discourse about teens’ social media use and adult experiences with media (largely of the very different, mass-media era), I have argued, and this report calls for a more child-focused approach because children are very different developmentally from teens and have very different interests: “Children’s own practices and preferences need to be better accounted for in future discussions and research,” they write. “A more child-centric approach to these issues would assist enormously in avoiding the types of assumptions and omissions identified above.” Then maybe, too, as a society, we’ll consider children’s rights as well as safety – seek young people’s, not just adults’ “perspectives on questions of privacy, consent and freedom of speech, authorship and transfer of ownership, as well,” they write.

Some data we do have

Here’s some of the data we do have on preteens’ use of social media, according to the report: “Children don’t begin to ‘extend their media habits deeper into the digital realm’ until sometime between the ages of 7 and 9,” the Cooney Center reported in an earlier study, so “an important shift in usage takes place at around age 8″; “about 30% of 3-to-5-year-old children use the Internet on a typical day, compared with about 50% of 6-to-9-year olds” and 47% of 6-year-olds use the Internet on a typical day, compared with 67% of 8-year-olds. But there is so much more to learn as we move past the assumptions and fears that characterized the first phase of Web 2.0. “The lack of substantive empirical research of their practices, concerns, and motivations precludes us from understanding what they are doing, thinking, and feeling as they engage there.”

Learning-rich SNFs

The report both identifies the key gaps in our knowledge and puts forth a research agenda. Parents and educators will also appreciate the report’s case studies of social media services for youth. Besides LittleBigPlanet, the authors profiled…

  • Disney’s Club Penguin, with some 150 million largely 6-to-14-year-old worldwide registered users, who play in 5 languages
  • Cisco’s Networking Academy on Facebook, hosting knowledge-sharing by teens and young adults in 20 countries about designing, building, troubleshooting and securing computer networks (15,575 weekly active users, with approximate 546,416 weekly total reach, and 52% of users aged 18-24 years and 5% aged 13-17 years)
  • The very design-oriented educational virtual world Whyville.net with 6.9 million members (median ages 8-15; 24% male, 76% female)
  • The very social computer-programming and media project-sharing site Scratch.mit.edu (median age 12; 64% male, 36% female), with 1.1+ million members working in 44 languages around the world

The last case study looks at a group rather than a venue: “hackers and nonconformists,” representing 22% of all students surveyed by the National School Boards Association and 31% of all teens – a significant minority who especially need guidance not restriction (because they do have workarounds!). The authors report that they’re a group of heavy social media users, active content producers, and frequent SNS rule-breakers, and they also exhibit an “extraordinary set of traditional and 21st century skills, including communication, creativity, collaboration and leadership skills and technology proficiency” – see the 2009 study “Cookie monsters: Seeing young people’s hacking as creative practice,” by Gregory Donovan and Cindi Katz for more. These are the students who may be less engaged in traditional academics, but more engaged in solving real problems (a higher proportion participate in content creation than the general student population: 50% vs. 21%).

Children’s properties less rich than teens’

Not all children’s properties are as learning-rich, the Cooney report’s authors write as well. “Evidence is growing that many of the virtual worlds for children that are currently available are impoverished compared to those for teens and adults.” The reason could well be societal fears generated by the Internet-safety discourse: “Literacy scholars highlight that the greatest opportunities for literacy development occur where kids are given the most freedom for expression, but such expression is often limited (because of societal fears, etc.) on sites developed for children.

Balancing safety with children’s rights, opportunities

This report marks another much-needed turning point in the public discourse about children in the digital age. Just by gathering what we know about the youngest media users and setting an agenda for filling in the gaps, it makes a major contribution. But this modestly titled report goes further. It puts online safety in the context of children’s development, education, participation, and rights, calling for a new, balanced and evidence-based approach to the discussion of children and media. It’s time for parents and educators to take note:

“Misrepresentation is common in media coverage of kids and SNF, especially various examples of moral panic-style reports of young people’s so-called ‘deviant’ online practices,” the report’s authors write. “In addition to perpetuating harmful myths about kids and online social networking, such media classification also obscures important findings and compelling arguments about the roles that these activities can play in kids’ lives.”

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. Anne Collier blogs at NetFamilyNews.

Carbon Monoxide can build up in a house, especially after the furnace has been turned on for winter. Make sure to have a CO detector, seen here, installed and tested regularly. (Associated Press)

Deep freeze and family safety: Watch the carbon monoxide levels

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / 01.30.13

A little animal, the sharp drop in temperatures – below freezing here in Norfolk last week – and the recent flu epidemic formed a dangerous conspiracy of miscommunication in our household this week: the nearly missed signs of carbon monoxide – CO -- poisoning in a house buttoned tight for the winter.

We have a battery operated CO detector. But being penny-wise and not buying batteries as often as we should, it wasn’t working while a toxic CO level built in our home after some wildlife chose our chimney (which vents the gas furnace and hot water heater) as a potential nest.

For two weeks my husband, three sons, and I suffered from the blahs and flu-like symptoms which we chalked-up to seasonal illness. When we felt better after being away from the house it was assumed that the illness had subsided or home remedies had worked.

Our son Ian, 17, came home early from high school exam day and said the house “smelled like gas” – like propane, he added. Virginia Natural Gas puts in an additive “mercaptan” that makes the normally odorless gas smell like rotten eggs; which is different from the “propane smell,” and we never use propane indoors. So I told him not to worry. When he insisted, I gave the “Don’t sass your mother” warning.

It was fairly rare for Ian to come back to me a few minutes later looking mulish and actually demand I call the gas company – so unusual and alarming that I relented and called.

I was told not to put my cordless phone handset back on the receiver or use the computer to prevent them from causing a spark. I was told to check on the flame in the furnace because, according to the emergency operator at VA Natural Gas, “A gas flame should burn bright blue. A yellow or orange flame could indicate improper combustion or venting.”

Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) offers a checklist for detecting potential signs of carbon monoxide buildup and poisoning symptoms and we had them all. The buildup clues are: stuffy or stale air, very high humidity, fallen soot from the chimney or draft hood, and a hot draft coming from the draft hood. The poisoning symptoms were very similar to those being pounded into us by all the stories about the flu epidemic.

According to the VGN technician who assessed our home, the CO level should have been no higher than 9 parts-per-million by the handheld meter that he brought. Our home was at 240 PPM and climbing fast. “At levels over 9 PPM, CO begins to adversely affect your health if you persist in breathing it for over eight hours," according to eHow’s David Scott.

Today everyone is fine. We opened all the windows, shut down appliances, got the people, cats, and dog outdoors and had a neighbor who has a heating business make an emergency visit. He found the chimney blocked, saying it was birds or squirrels trying to keep warm by filling the chimney with twigs and leaves in hopes of building a nest.

I talked to VGN spokesman Duane Bourne, who said our situation is not uncommon. “These [carbon monoxide] leaks occur most often during the winter months, when an improperly vented furnace is turned on for the first time and when a furnace runs more frequently during colder temperatures like what you have been experiencing."

The debris filled a 5-gallon bucket, and then all was right with the world again. I bought a slightly more expensive detector that has both batteries as well as a plug for sockets. Sure, times are tough, but our family is priceless.

I wish a little bird had told me what to look for a month ago, instead of creating distress in our nest. I am putting up netting around the chimney cap and two new birdhouses down in the yard.

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.

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