Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Male Seahorses Experience Pregnancy

The animal kingdom mixes up our gender assumptions about parenting.

Female bald eagles are bigger than the males. Charlotte Ann Kisling, a bird expert and guide in the Klamath Basin, says this is because birds of prey are so fierce that for a female to let a male get behind her and do his thing, she has to know she has nothing to fear from his talons and sharp beak.

Then there are seahorses. Did you know that male seahorses are the ones who carry the pregnancies? Details in this article in Science Daily.

Male Emperor penguin care for their newborns while the mom leaves for a long period to hunt. The regurgitate a watery milky substance and feed it to the newborn penguin. We call that male nursing!

Happy new year! May 2009 bring more gender reversals in the human animal world!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Is Shaken Baby Syndrome a Myth?!

Mark Anderson, a writer and a dad, spent months researching this article for Discover Magazine about Shaken Baby Syndrome. The article questions whether Shaken Baby Syndrome really exists or whether innocent parents have actually been accused of--and jailed for--"crimes" they did not commit.

In the article Anderson tells the story of a father in Illinois who was charged with shaking his baby and his wife charged with abuse and neglect. Their infant had been hospitalized three times in two months with seizure-like symptoms and fever. After he went home from the third hospitalization the baby was back in the ER with brain hemorrhaging and the baby was taken away from his parents.

Did his father and mother abuse him?


This baby had a chronic subdural brain hematoma that was not caused by SBS.

The article is thorough and well-researched and carefully presents both sides of a controversial issue. Anderson does not conclude that there is no such thing as SBS. Instead, he documents how mistakes have been made, with tragic consequences to parents and their children. He also explores the research and models being proposed by scientists who are trying to figure out what happens in infant brains and why.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Parenting Advice for Fathers Only

Paul Banas, at, has a great article up about parenting advice for fathers only. The gist of it is this:

Though traditionally books and articles have been geared towards moms, that's changing as Web sites, blogs, and books have begun to address themselves specifically to dads.

He cites the new book, "Caveman's Guide to Baby's First Year," as an example of this new trend. And also mentions our book, "The Baby Bonding Book for Dads," and Armin Brott's book, "The New Father."

Banas suggests to dads, in addition to reading, that they reach out to other men who have experience as fathers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Resource For Moms and Dads who Miscarry

Our writerly friend Katie Allison Granju has started a blog about miscarriage called The Miscarriage Blog.

Here's the link.

Hopefully you won't need it. But if you do ever need it, it's there.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Holiday Hard Stuff

[This post was originally an article by Jennifer Margulis in the Ashland Daily Tidings]
“I’m just afraid that this will be the last Christmas that they believe in Santa,” my husband James said sadly. “I just want it to be fun for them. And special.”

These were the first conciliatory words from James all evening. Santa was running late and we were frantically wrapping presents, stuffing stockings, and placing surprise ornaments on the tree. Every time we passed the kitchen table we took a bite of Santa’s cookies. Santa wrote a note in response to 5-year-old Athena’s, thanking her for the cookies, praising her and her siblings for being good, and suggesting our 3-year-old stop sneaking sugar.

Now that our kids were in bed, we adults should have been enjoying these Christmas preparations. But we weren’t. James was having something akin to an anxiety attack, and I was starting to feel like I wanted to cut December 25th out of the calendar.

My foul mood had started earlier in the day, after being awakened at dawn by my children, who were eager to know how many days were left until Christmas, who had a deluge of last minute present requests (after refusing for weeks to hint at what they might want from Santa), and who were all voicing their needs in high-pitched whines.

“I hate Christmas. Next year I’m going away,” I said to them grumpily. “I’m skipping the whole thing.”

“How can you say that?” James asked in a hurt voice when they were out of earshot. “It’s one thing to say it to me, but not to the children. What if I said I didn’t want to celebrate Hanukkah?”

But on Hanukkah, which we celebrate in a haphazard way, there’s no gift giving. Instead, we light candles, sing the traditional Hebrew incantations, and eat traditional foods. This year we had potato latkes and doughnuts dripping in oil. We invited friends over to share the candlelight and the meals. And, as is our custom, we exchanged poems instead of presents. There wasn’t much to do to prepare for each night of Hanukkah except for putting candles into the menorah and cooking. My children didn’t expect hundreds of presents, and since the holiday is as much for me as it is for them, I didn’t worry about whether they’d be happy.

Christmas, on the other hand, was feeling very stressful. It involves a lot of things I don’t like: spending too much money on plastic toys made in China by laborers in substandard factory conditions, wasting paper to wrap presents. No matter how many times we read Dr. Seuss’s “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” or “The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree” it always comes down to presents. Christmas Eve we invariably stress: did we buy enough toys? Will the kids be happy?

But maybe the anxiety is really about our own childhood baggage, and since I didn’t celebrate Hanukkah as a child, I don’t have difficult memories associated with it. After my parents divorced they still celebrated Christmas together for the sake of the children. My father would express his anxiety by manically throwing away wrapping paper while we were still opening our gifts. I would have a lump in my throat all morning, awkward around my parents and feeling guilty for something I couldn’t define. And I would feign excessive enthusiasm for each gift, as if showing gratitude would prove to my parents that I was a good child, and perhaps even motivate them to love each other again. The only part of Christmas that I remember without ambivalence was how my dad would awaken early to go to the bagel shop in Newton Centre, coming home with a dozen warm bagels and a tub of hand whipped cream cheese.

For James, an only child, the living room was covered with presents. He has fond memories of the mountains of gifts but his yearly anxiety tells a different story. The Christmases when he was four to nine were the years after his mother, who had a drinking problem, divorced his father so she could live as a single woman in the swinging Seventies. Being a mom was not her first priority. The holidays were like make up time. A few months later, she would go on a cleaning frenzy with a trash bag, picking up each new toy and suggesting he throw it away.

The kids wake us at dawn. “He came! He really came!” They marvel at the bulging stockings and the presents and the day is a success.

I hope their childhood memories won’t be as fraught as mine.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More reasons to NAP with your baby (and not to drink coffee)

This article, just in from the New York Times, talks about how napping is beneficial to learning and caffeine isn't. We say any excuse to nap with your baby is a valid one. If your wife is skeptical of why you need to snooze a roo, print this out for her:
Regimens: For the Best Pick-Me-Up, Lie Down

Published: December 1, 2008

Scientists spent a morning training 61 people in motor, perceptual and verbal tasks: tapping a keyboard in a specific sequence, discriminating between shapes on a computer screen and memorizing a list of words. Then the scientists randomly divided the subjects into three groups. The first took a nap from 1 to 3 p.m. At 3, the second group took a 200-milligram caffeine pill, and the third took a placebo. The subjects repeated the tasks they had been taught earlier and were scored by researchers who did not know which group they were in.

Those who had caffeine had worse motor skills than those who napped or had a placebo. In the perceptual task, the nappers did significantly better than either the caffeine or placebo group. On the verbal test, nappers were best by a wide margin, and the caffeine consumers did no better than those given a placebo. Despite their mediocre performance, caffeine takers consistently reported less sleepiness than the others.

“People think they’re smarter on caffeine,” said Sara C. Mednick, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and the lead author of the study, which appeared in the Nov. 3 issue of Behavioral Brain Research. “But this study is a strong argument for taking a nap instead of having a cup of coffee.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Golden Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This baby gets our vote for cutest in the world, being the brand new niece in the family but it was her older sister's birthday we were celebrating Thanksgiving weekend and we altered a version of a golden cake recipe that came out so well it was gobbled down in no time.

Totally Yummy Golden Cake Sweetened With Xylitol and Agave:
2 1/2 cups white cake flour
1 cups whole wheat flour (we added some wheat germ for good measure)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup xylitol
1 cup agave nectar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 cups whole milk organic yogurt (traditional recipes use sour cream)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Butter 2 (9- by 2-inch) round cake pans.

Mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter and xylitol in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Then add the agave. Then the eggs and finally the vanilla and the yogurt. Add the flour mixture by hand and beat until smooth.

Bake until a knife in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. When the cake cools, add your favorite chocolate frosting, preferably with melted organic milk chocolate in it.We decorated the cake with some jelly beans, 'cause that was all we had on hand.