New Parenting Study Released

Friends have shared this on FB a lot, and I finally got around to reading it.  It’s short, funny, and worth a look.

“New Parenting Study Released” by Sarah Miller

A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go fucking ape shit.

I have to say, as much as I post here about parenting studies, I don’t take many of them to heart.  Most of the studies really don’t even apply directly to how one should parent, they are merely spun by the media to imply that they do. My years of experience reading primary literature and my scientific training allow me to filter out all the noise and spin, and drill down to understand what the results mean for me and my kids.

I have friends on FB freaking out about BPA (to the point that one was ravaged with guilt for eating a bowl of canned soup while pregnant), vaccines, GMOs, etc.  It is to the point of ridiculousness.

I often have friends and family approach me for my ‘scientific opinion’ on something- ranging from biopsy results to whether or not the government and pharmaceutical companies have the cure for cancer and are conspiring to keep it from humanity.

When it comes to many studies (i.e. crying it out, BPA, GMOs, etc) I just say, “Don’t worry about it.”

There are bodies of work that allow scientists to come to a clear concensus- the safety and efficacy of vaccines, for example- but on a lot of other issues, there is no clear consensus.  The data aren’t there, the studies haven’t been done, conclusions cannot be drawn.

So, by and large my advice is, “Don’t worry about it.  Don’t kill yourself finding BPA-free everything, don’t bankrupt yourself buying GMO-free everything, don’t exhaust yourself getting up 1000 times a night, etc.”

We’re all gonna screw up our kids in one way or another, so just accept that fact and get on with your life.

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What do you wonder? Nerdy Baby artwork for the young scientist in all of us.

I love Tiffany Ard’s Nerdy Baby artwork.  Her books and flashcards feature prominently on my Amazon wish list.

I follow her on Facebook and was in awe of the artwork she posted today.

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Source: Tiffany Ard (Click on the image to see it full-size and read the text on the Nerdy Baby FB page)

What struck me most about it was the idea that there is wonder to be found everywhere, even in the seemingly mundane. And really, that wonder is science.

I’ve written before about how it’s not just make-believe that can spark the imagination.  The world around us if full of amazing things.  I love how Ms. Ard captures that with “What do you wonder?”

Turns out, lucky for us, that Zulily* is featuring several of Tiffany Ard’s prints on their sale site right now!

I picked up two of these prints- one for my daughter, and the other for her fabulous preschool teacher.

I also picked up this one for Nemo, who at 1.5 years already said, “Three, two, one, blastoff!”

And this set of “Art Prints for Young Scientists.”

If the Zulily sale is over and you would like to order prints, or if you want a signed print, check out the Nerdy Baby Site.

Have fun inspiring your young scientist!

*Note- Zulily requires membership to shop.  Some of the links to Zulily in this post are referral links.  You can click here to join, referred by me.  However, you should know that if you join, and purchase something, I will get a $15 credit.  So, if you have a friend who is a member, have that person refer you and he/she will get the $15.  You can also join without a referral, but it usually isn’t instantly.

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How young is too young for Broadway? Tips for seeing a show with your kid.

Since it’s actually Kids’ Night Out on Broadway this week (until March 2nd!) where you can get a free kids ticket when you buy an adult ticket, here’s my advice for taking your kid to a Broadway (or, really, any) show! (PS-  Click here for Kids’ Night Out events across the US.)

When I was 4 years old, my mom took me to my first Broadway show.  It was Annie.  I still have some memories of it- I can see the character of Annie on the stage in my mind’s eye.

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I loved it.  I remember getting the sound track to the movie in record form and playing it on my Fisher Price record player while dancing around my bedroom.  Even at 4yo, I could relate to It’s a Hard Knock Life.

So, when Annie came back on Broadway, my mom and I were both eager to take Mabel to see it.  She wasn’t even 3 years old (about a month shy).  It seemed a little silly to take a child so small to such an expensive show, but we didn’t want miss the chance to have her first Broadway experience be so much like mine.  So, my mom considered it a Christmas/Birthday present and we took her.

In advance of that, I picked up the DVD of the 80s movie and let Mabel watch it so she’d be familiar with the music and the plot (even though the movie deviates a bit).  I also borrowed the soundtrack of the movie from the library and ripped it so she could listen to the music (FYI- we now measure road trip distances traveled by how many times we’ve repeated the soundtrack- although Newsies! and Frozen soundtracks have also entered rotation).

She LOVED the movie and the music- particularly all the little kids singing and dancing.  She was super excited for the show.

We took her, she loved it.  Twenty minutes in, she did claim to have to use the bathroom (even though she’d gone right before we sat down), but it was a false alarm.  She was really thrilled.  She was mesmerized the whole time, although there was little squirming, because her eyes were glued to the stage.

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Just last month we took her to see Newsies. (Another movie I have fond memories of from my childhood!) I did the same thing,  having her watch the movie and be familiar with the plot and songs (even though it also deviates a bit).  It didn’t work out as well. She wasn’t as into it and got quite antsy during the show.  (It was distracting for me, but I hope the people a few rows back didn’t notice. Thankfully the seats in the row ahead of us and the two rows behind us were empty!).

Why didn’t it work out as well?  I think she just didn’t like the story as much, and the Broadway version did NOT have little boys in it. I joked to my mom, “Those are the most muscular, orphaned street urchins I’ve ever seen!” The actors were clearly much older than the kids in the movie were supposed to be.

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I do think Mabel was too young for Newsies, and it was a waste of money.  I think she enjoyed it well enough, but she’d probably like it a lot more next year.  Thankfully the tickets were buy one/get one, so it wasn’t as expensive as it could have been.

[Overall, I was disappointed in it as well.  There were lines so cheesy that I rolled my eyes.  The plot was much more contrived, complete with love story.  The accents were all over the place (and I don't mean the 5 boroughs).  Not to mention the changes to the plot, and the conversion of "Have to fear, Brooklyn's here!" into a song that eliminated the line! It did not hold up to my 7th grade recollection of watching the movie obsessively.  That said, the dancing was AMAZING! And they did justice to Carrying the Banner, King of New York, The World Will Know, and Seize the Day.  I'm glad I saw it.]

So what would be my tips for taking a kid to a show?

1. Know your kid.  If your kid, at any age, cannot sit still and be well behaved for 2 hours, don’t waste your money and the money spent by the people around you.  I would have taken Mabel out of the theater if she distracted people around us.  People pay a lot of money for those tickets, they don’t need it ruined by an antsy kid.  Annie, for Mabel, was perfect at almost three years old.  Newsies for Mable at four years old was not great- during intermission I told her that if she didn’t sit still we’d have to leave, and I meant it. Thankfully she listened and was able to (mostly) sit still.

2.  Theaters have booster seats (basically cushions) for kids to sit on so they can actually see.  Mabel used a booster for Newsies.  For Annie she just sat on all our coats (which worked well because then we didn’t have to hold them).

3.  Minimize drinking (by your child, it might help you to imbibe) pre-show and visit the bathroom immediately before the show starts. However a meal or snack before the show is a good idea so you don’t have a cranky, hungry kid.

4. Show the child the movie version in advance, let them listen to the soundtrack.  There are lots of shows that are based on movies, and there are lots of shows that are revivals for which a movie version is available.  Check your local library or Amazon.  Seeing the movie helps kids understand what’s going on and be better able to follow along.  If deviations from the movie will irk your kid, make them aware of plot changes they should expect.

5.  Have water, tissues, etc with you so you don’t have to get up during the performance.  If your child needs them, bring ear plugs or ear muffs, sun glasses, etc.  (Newsies was loud to me.  Also it did have a scene where a newspaper photographer takes a photo- the old fashioned flash explosion startled Mabel, it was loud and bright.  There was another scene where the stage lights got really bright, so many in the audience had to cover their eyes with their hands. FYI!).  You can read reviews of the show in advance to see if it mentions stuff that might bother your kid.

6.  Pick a time that does not coincide with nap/bed time.  Matinees are great unless your kid normally naps at that hour.  If you can do a 7/7:30pm evening show, encourage your child to take a nap. (This didn’t work for Mabel and she was yawning during Newsies, but it did work for Annie).

7. If you are really worried about behavior, try a dry run of a local community theater show.  If your kid can’t sit still, at least you’ll only have spent $20 figuring it out.

8.  If your kid has sensory issues, hearing loss, special needs, a wheelchair, etc. check with the theater.  Look first to the website, don’t be bashful about calling the theater.  Lots of theaters have headphones for the hearing impaired, seating for wheelchairs, etc.  Some even offer special performances for kids with special needs so parents can relax too without worrying about the daggers being shot at them by cranky theater goers.  The Theatre Development Fund does a lot of great stuff to make theater accessible to everyone.  Check out this awesomeness!  For upcoming performances that are part of the TDF’s Autism Theatre Initiative click here.

9. Discuss expectations in advance.  Mabel recently danced in a feis.  While we were there watching other kids dance we spoke about being a good audience member- sitting still, paying attention, not talking, etc.  I reminded her of that when we saw Newsies.

10. Be prepared for (avoiding) additional expenses. Theaters make money however they can- that includes drinks in souvenir cups and snacks during intermission, all kinds of souvenirs, CDs, etc to purchase.  If you don’t intend to spend additional money, discuss it in advance. If the theater will be selling the CD/doll/T-shirt at an incredible mark-up and you’d like your kid to have it, purchase it elsewhere in advance.  Bring snacks and drinks in your purse (I’m not talking an Igloo cooler or a picnic basket, but a water bottle and granola bar).

So those are my suggestions.  Do you have anything to add?  How old were you when you saw your first musical or play?  Have you taken your kids yet?

If you’re a Broadway newbie, check out the Theatre Development Fund’s guide to Broadway! Also check out TDF’s Guide to Family Friendly Live Performances.

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I can’t watch the Winter Olympics

I’ve tried twice to watch the Sochi Olympics.  Each time I was stressing out, tensing up, gasping, etc.  It’s too stressful to watch.

Why are the Winter Games like death on frozen water?  It’s like every other news report is either the medal count or the injury count.

Source: Mashable

Just think about it- the Summer Games are mostly held in locations that could double as a relaxing vacation destinations (Athens, Rio, Sydney, Barcelona).  There are sports events you’d play at a family picnic like soccer, volley ball, or swimming (synchronized swimming if you have a very graceful family).

Winter Games are held in cold mountainous places where you might go for a ski vacation, but not exactly to relax and chill. There are sports like biathalon (ski until you are exhausted, then shoot stuff), or downhill skiing (hurtle at *literal* break neck speed down a mountain three times the height of the Empire State Building), or luge and bobsled (hurtle down an icy chute on a little sled).

The only icy luge you’ll find at the Summer Olympics is for alcoholic beverages. Also, how many summer sports have a high likelihood of killing or maiming you?  I don’t remember the last time I heard about a water polo injury that sent a competitor to the hospital on a stretcher, and water polo is vicious! (While I guess a swimmer could get a cramp, they’re in the water with a bunch of Olympic swimmers to rescue them).  So far in Sochi, there’s been the snowboarder on cruches during the Opening Ceremony, the skier who broke her FEMUR on a practice run, the snowboarder who cracked her helmet, the competitor that narrowly escaped grievous harm on the luge, I could go on.

It’s like the warmer climes have people choosing fun sports with a low likelihood of death, while winter makes people in cold climes do crazy, injurious, torturous sports.

I just can’t watch with Winter Games.  I’m always worried about the Olympians falling and getting hurt.  I also find it very stressful watching them right before they start their competition- I empathize and imagine their anticipation and anxiety.  It’s just not enjoyable.

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Happy V-day!

Happy V-Day!

Every 2 minutes another American is sexually assaulted.  That’s about the time it took you to get to this blog, and read this message.

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However you spend your Valentine’s Day, may you be safe and loved.

Click here to find out how you can help end violence against women and girls.

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Wordless Wednesday: Doggy stink eye

The dog giving me the stink eye, for obvious reasons.

The dog giving me the stink eye, for obvious reasons.

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60% Confidence

Now I know that people are always griping that meteorologists are paid to be wrong most of the time, given the inaccuracy of weather forecasting, but today I am not talking about that.*

I spent yesterday outlining a manuscript, basically making all the figures, figuring out what data are missing, how best to tell the story, thinking of something/anything else that might explain the data, etc.  Publication and peer review generally set a high bar.  You have to be pretty much 100% sure that the data you put out there are correct, that your interpretation is correct, that your model is correct (or at least accounts for all the data).

So…. with this in mind, I nearly spewed my coffee when a FB friend linked to a weather forecast with this image:

Oh what I wouldn’t give if I could just publish everything as it stands right now and merely qualify each figure with a confidence percentage.- and that 60% confidence was all I needed!

That said, I am REALLY hoping this forecast is wrong.  As Mabel said when we went for a walk Saturday, “It looks like Elsa** has been all around here!”

*Northeast Storm Center is maintained by a 16 year old budding meteorologist.  I don’t think s/he’s raking in the dough.  I commend him/her for the scientific zeal and think the work and dedication are awesome. This post is just about my reaction to the image- meteorology is clearly a totally different science from molecular/cell biology and not held to the same standards of peer review. Also, I think, in this case, the confidence percentage was a great way to be clear about how much weight to put on the forecast.

**Reference to the movie Frozen.

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