Too skinny and too fat: what happened to normal?

Photo by Camera baba' aka Udit Kulshrestha

You hear a lot about how the media potrays super-skinny models and they make poor role models for young women.

Today I turned on the TV and there was a cartoon with an obese girl in it. Interesting, I thought, they’re trying to portray reality. Then I noticed that every other character had a waist the size of their arm. (Literally, I paused and checked. The male characters had muscular arms and so had slightly bigger waists. The girls all had thin arms and ridiculously thin waists.) So there were a whole bunch of super skinny characters plus one obese girl and one obese boy.

What kind of body image message is that sending?

Learning division in school these days

One of the things that has frustrated us with our 10 year old’s current school is that he has no text books. This makes it hard for us to look up how he’s learning things. It’s especially frustrating in math as they now learn different methods we did.

Recently, I was struggling to show him how to divide. (Well, I wasn’t struggling to show him how to divide but my way seemed to be completely foreign to him, as if he’d never learned it before. So I was struggling to build on what he already knew.)

So I asked his teacher how he had taught the class to divide, and he sent me back this work sheet with the “4 methods he had taught them”.

Nevermind that those are 3 methods and one explanation on how to write problems – I will admit that at times I’m a bit too pedantic about saying exactly what you mean. (But really, it’s math, you have to say 3 when you mean 3!)

While it seems like a good way to understand what division is all about, it seems to be lacking in ways to easily come up with the exact answer. But it does work to teach them how multiplication and division are related.

I also really liked that it was immediately followed up with word problems, i.e. “Mike has 32 cookies. He wants to share them equally with his 6 friends. How many cookies does each friend get?”

I hope there’s a next step where they learn how to divide the “good old-fashioned way”.  Whether or not they do, I’ve already taught my 10 year old that way, although I had to teach him decimals as well. (I’m sure that when I first learned to divide, they very conveniently left out all problems with remainders and then added them in later.)

Which way do you think is the best way to teach kids about division?

Is it bad to argue in front of your kids? (Was: apologize to someone you’ve wronged.)

Is it bad to argue in front of your kids?

Benjamin Zander, the author of The Art of Possibility (My review: The book that changed my life the day I read it), has started a meme promoted by Miguel and Jeffrey Stedfast, to apologize to someone you’ve wronged.

My first instinct was to apologize to my kids for arguing in front of them. When we do that it really bothers me and I wonder how it affects them. However, according to NurtureShock by Po Bronson (recommended by Cathy Malmrose), while hearing parents argue stresses kids out, if they hear the end of the argument (and hopefully two happy parents) they go back to feeling normal stress levels. And they learn about conflict resolution. But if you “take the argument upstairs” and they don’t hear the resolution, they remain stressed.

So perhaps I should now have a discussion with Frank about how we argue in front of the kids. I sent them to their rooms and when that didn’t work Frank sent them to watch tv (which was a better distraction but still not enough.)

But if I let the kids watch an argument I have to answer all sorts of very difficult questions. I regularly get asked about why our old car couldn’t be fixed, why owls eat rabbits, why cars need gas, why we can’t have cookies for breakfast, why I wear contacts, why we have to wear clean clothes, why our dog will die one day … and explaining why we were arguing about whatever we were arguing about … well I just want to say “go to your room”! So perhaps the real apology I owe to my kids is for lazily not wanting to explain the argument to them.

But really, there are some subjects you’d rather not get asked why about too much …

The terrorists have accomplished their mission

Terrorism is the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. … Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror) (Wikipedia)

Right after 9/11, I flew to Australia for a vacation I had been planning for almost a year. Many people asked me if I was afraid to fly and implied that I should have stayed home, close to family and friends. I replied that if I had stayed home, the terrorists would have won.

Unfortunately, my government does not agree with my definition of winning. They think that living in fear and trying desperately to keep us all 100% safe while flying is the most effective way to fight terrorism. It reminds me of a boss that told me he liked it when people lived in fear of being fired, they worked harder. I told him being fired held no fear for me. When you live in fear, you do irrational things – like sending millions of people’s shoes through an xray scanner every day.

The terrorists that used planes as bombs on September 11, 2001 have changed our lives forever. Now I spend hours each month standing in line waiting to be closely inspected and treated as a potential terrorist myself. I buy shampoo in small bottles. I buy special bags to get though security faster. My life and our economy has been fundamentally changed by those terrorists. Not because it needed to change in response to their actions but because we choose to let them create irrational fear in us. We allowed them to terrorize us.

I had to watch my older son fight back tears at the airport as his bags were taken, all his toys were examined by a stranger and his bag was searched for explosive residue. And I had to answer his questions about why they were doing this and why I was letting them.

Today I read that the TSA will now tell children that groping them is a game. Terrorists, through a series of acts in one day 9 years ago, are now causing our children to be sexually molested when we travel. Having a stranger touch your genitals is not a game unless you are both consenting adults.

We need to grow up, crawl out from underneath the bed, trust each other and fight back. We need to carry our fingernail clippers and our knives on the airplane again. We need to give up the charade that we can be stripped of everything that can be a weapon. We need to fight back with intelligence, not fear. Invest all the money that is going into scanners and use it to fight terrorists not travelers.

Remove TSA from the airport process. Let airlines decide how to run security for their flights and let travelers vote with their money for the type of security they want.

Take the money you were using to fund TSA and fight terrorists. Fight terrorists in a much smarter, more targeted fashion. And while you are at it, think beyond weapons as planes. I certainly think the terrorists are thinking beyond planes at this point. But that tactic sure worked well for them!

Scary parenting moments: When should you see the doctor?

Photo by Rußen

My son had RSV when he was 4 months old and the doctors warned us that he was at increased risk of asthma and other respiratory problems. Fortunately, he didn’t develop asthma, but he did develop a mom who’s terrified of breathing problems.

Since then, I’ve had trouble figuring out when we should go to the doctor.

See, the day he was diagnosed with RSV, our day care provider told us she thought he was pretty sick and should go to the doctor. Of course it was Friday at 5:00 and we had dinner plans. And the two previous times she’d thought he should see a doctor, he’d been fine. But we took him. And on the way over, I commented to Frank that this was it. Third strike and she was out. If he wasn’t sick, I wasn’t listening to her advice again. I now take her advice very seriously. When we got to urgent care they immediately attached a device to him to test his blood oxygen levels. One look at the readings, some xrays to eliminate pneumonia and they told us to go immediately across the street to the hospital. There would be a room waiting for us. (Instead we had to go and sit in an office and show proof of insurance, but that’s a different story.)

Since that day, I’ve called the doctor’s office numerous times and held the phone up to my son so they could hear what he sounded like. Several times they have sent us in to the doctor or urgent care. One memorable morning his breathing was so loud it actually woke Frank and I up – and we were in a different room. When I called the doctor at home and held the phone up to my son’s mouth, he told me to go the emergency room immediately. We decided that I should go alone so we didn’t have to wake up our older son. While going 75 mph down the interstate, the terrible breathing noise stopped. My heart stopped too as I put on my hazard lights, pulled over to the edge of the freeway and leaned over the backseat to see if he was still breathing. He was. The terrible noise had started again by the time we got to the hospital and the hospital staff was so sure he had swallowed something, they took xrays. Nope, just a throat infection that was closing his throat up.

But I also took him to the doctor for a number of common colds that didn’t really merit a doctor’s visit – except to calm my nerves. So I no longer trust my judgement.

This morning he sounded terrible. And Frank told me he should go to the doctor. (And usually Frank thinks I’m too quick to go to the doctor.) And when I called the doctor’s office and described what he sounded like, they didn’t think I should wait until 2:45 to see his regular doctor. They told me to come right in. So I was scared. And imagined all the worse.

Luckily, he only has croup and the medicine they gave him to reduce swelling in his throat kicked in within a few hours.

But I continue to be regularly terrified because I simply don’t trust myself to know if it’s serious or not. I mean I would have brought him home with RSV and he might have died that night.

At the doctor’s office today, I anxiously waited the reading of the oximeter (it was a nice 98) and decided I should have bought one of those a long time ago. Turns out you can get one for less than $100 on Amazon. (For the record, I spent 4 days in the hospital staring at an oximeter reading, willing it to stay above 80.) So maybe with an oximeter of my own I’ll know when it’s really serious … but probably not. I’ll probably keep calling the doctor’s office.

(For the record, you are supposed to take kids into the doctor – urgently – if they have stridor breathing sounds, wheezing, stomach breathing, blue lips or gums, … or any number of other terrifying symptoms.)

It’s a conspiracy to get Stormy offline

Photo by Nautical9

I’ve noticed a trend in my family vacations. We are going to more and more remote locations with less and less cellular connectivity. I have been suspecting a conspiracy to get me offline.

My three year old confirmed it this weekend. While camping in a remote corner of Wyoming he announced:

I take a nap when you check your email. No computers at camping. You can’t check your email.

(And therefore he can’t take a nap.)

What’s funny is that he doesn’t normally take a nap when I check email. (Or he’d have to take a lot of naps at home!) But he was bargaining with me.

So it’s proof. These beautiful, remote locations are all a conspiracy to get me offline. It’s a good thing it’s so much fun to hang out in these places with family that I don’t miss the internet. Not too much anyway.

Are you really solving a problem?

Often we get so caught up in our new ideas that we forget to stop and ask ourselves if we are really solving a problem and if so, which problem.

Head snugglers solve a problem. But it’s not for kids’ necks. (When have you ever heard about a toddler complaining about a stiff neck?) Head snugglers solves parents’ needs to feel like they are doing the most possible for their kids’ health and comfort. Many companies profit from that desire.

Needless to say, we will not be buying any head snugglers even though we often comment that the kids look really uncomfortable sleeping in the car! They always wake up just fine and able to flop their heads over to our shoulder to be carried into the house.

(Are you supposed to stop the car and slip this on once the kid is sleeping? Or are you supposed to get them to agree to wear it when they are still awake? I’d like to see that battle!)

One humongous snowman

The kids had a snow day so Frank stayed home to watch them.

Here’s what Dads and kids can do with 10 inches of spring snow!

Biggest snowman ever

Can you spot what’s wrong with this game?

2009-12-26 09.22.51 It took my 3 year old less than five seconds to discover the problem with this game. In spite of not really understanding the point of tic-tac-toe.

So much for buying stocking stuffers in the dollar bin at Target. (Or perhaps I should blame it on the speed at which I was shopping. Not being a big fan of shopping, I was in and out very quickly. Perhaps a bit too quickly.)

What types of questions were you not allowed to ask?

Earlier today I read an interesting article and tweeted:

4yos ask questions, 6yo have learned that teachers value right answers more than provocative questions
Then I shared that I was once banned from asking questions in a physics class because the teacher didn’t know the answers and thought I was trying to disrupt the class. (My question asking status was reinstated after the teacher talked to my awesome math teacher and got confirmation from her college professor that the questions really were hard questions without answers.)

I’ve been amazed at the number of really smart people who have shared similar stories!


Do you have a similar story to share? How do we help today’s kids not run into this?

For my part, I think I kept asking the “hard” questions because my parents and my other teachers were so supportive.