Monthly Archives: February 2007

Something imporant to care about, Vol. 3

This topic qualifies as more than just paranoia. Sexual offenses against our children, no matter their age, is probably one of the greatest fears of many parents. And I feel like I failed my first test.

I have had this fantastic website, the Family Watchdog, forwarded to me a few times by family and friends. If you enter in any address, they will show you a map of sexual offenders’ homes and workplaces with icons on a map. If you click on the icon, you can see a mug shot of the offender, and find out more about their conviction.

The first time I did it, I found a few offenders a few miles away or more. I live on the edge of a highly populated area. I was actually pretty happy with how far I was from the closest offender.

The next time it was forwarded to me, I did another search. I clicked on the icon for my house, and brought up a mug shot. There is an offender who lives so close to my home, it looks like his icon is inside our little house icon. He lives .03 miles away. Two houses down.

I have stared as his picture. I glare at his red BMW every time I walk my son to the bus stop. He made the first appearance outside of his house in six months last week to play with a new puppy in the front yard. He lives with his girlfriend, has a pet, and never leaves the house. He probably works over the internet, like me.


I have examined his conviction: “Use Internet to solicit/attempt solicit etc. a child for sex/lewdness etc; F.S. 847.0135(3) (PRINCIPAL).” I assume that means he used the internet to try to meet up with a child for sex. I don’t know if it was a male or a female child, which is pure selfishness on my part to want to know. I have two boys. My roommate has a girl. There are many more children, boys and girls of all ages on the block. I don’t know how old the child was. Probably older than my oldest, who is seven, and only goes on Neopets on the internet, and that is supervised. But, my kids are getting older every day.

I talked to my neighbor who lives in the house in between. I told him what I found, and asked him to tell me if he ever saw anything suspicious. I fretted about what to say to my older son. I ended up saying nothing other than the same general comments on his private parts being his own, and to tell me if anyone wanted to touch them. I dreamed up letters I could put in the mailboxes on the street, DVDs I would order to show my sons, but I did nothing.

When we were on our way home from the bus stop last week, he pointed out the house with the red BMW out front, and said, “A bad man lives there.” I tried not to show the terror in my eyes.

“How do you know?” I asked quickly.

“Oh, Luis’s mom told us to watch out, that a bad man lived there.”

Luis’s mom. Luis’s mom who I underestimate constantly, who barely speaks English, is the one who prepared my son against this sexual offender. I was frozen with fear, fear of saying the wrong thing, of having to explain rape and molestation to a seven year old. So, I didn’t tell him or any of his friends or their parents about the threat in the neighborhood. I am glad Luis’s mom stepped up.

I hope all of our children’s first and every experience with sex are voluntary and wonderful.

Here are some more websites that parents and kids may find useful:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence &emdash; External Links Page &emdash; includes many hotlines and regional resources

Safer Child, Inc.- Help with an Abusive Situation – Hotlines for rape, child abuse, domestic abuse

Nemours Foundation &emdash; KidsHealth &emdash; Dealing with problems: Rape

Nemours Foundation &emdash; KidsHealth &emdash; Internet safety


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The power of suggestion

My boys never cease to amaze me. Even though I am convinced that they are both special little brilliant geniuses, I still underestimate them all the time.

I found a version of some older software for toddlers that S used to love playing. When I first put Z in front of it, I figured he would be hitting the keyboard randomly for a while, and it would be forever before he started pointing and clicking the mouse, and even longer before he actually understood that it corresponded to something on the screen in front of him.

Well, he was pointing, clicking and dragging within about 2 days.

The other thing I underestimated was the ability of Z to be influenced by what he was looking at on a screen. When he pointed and clicked on the number seven, seven apples popped up and he said “Caco!” (his word for apple&emdash;it actually is short for avocado&emdash;long story). He ran to the refrigerator, grabbed himself an apple, and proceeded to eat it. Ten minutes later, a similar situation happened with bananas showing up in the game. He chirped ” ‘nana!”, jumped up, and insisted on eating a banana.

Luckily, he doesn’t watch much TV, and what he does watch has few commercials. But, the power of image to be converted instantly into want and then action made my head spin. And, of course, it made me paranoid about what future effects advertising will have on his mind and on his waistline.

I found a good site from PBS called Don’t Buy It. This site is geared more towards kids S’s age (7 �) than Z’s age (2). I will try it out on his older brother first. But, who knows, he may be ready for it. I may just be underestimating him again.

Photo credit: anissat at

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Seafood IS brainfood

Yet another source verifies that women should NOT skip eating seafood while pregnant. The Lancet printed a study of data collected in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The study was designed to see if seafood consumption during pregnancy affected children’s neurological development, including their scores on behavioral and intelligence testing. The results speak for themselves:

“After adjustment, maternal seafood intake during pregnancy of less than 340 g per week was associated with increased risk of their children being in the lowest quartile for verbal intelligence quotient (IQ) (no seafood consumption, odds ratio [OR] 1�48, 95% CI 1�16&emdash;1�90; some, 1�09, 0�92&emdash;1�29; overall trend, p=0�004), compared with mothers who consumed more than 340 g per week. Low maternal seafood intake was also associated with increased risk of suboptimum outcomes for prosocial behaviour, fine motor, communication, and social development scores. For each outcome measure, the lower the intake of seafood during pregnancy, the higher the risk of suboptimum developmental outcome.”

In other words, children born to moms with the lowest seafood consumption during pregnancy had the worst outcomes in all areas: behavioral, intelligence, motor skills, everything. The authors of the study come to a similar conclusion as an earlier study by the Harvard School of Public Health, saying that warnings against fish intake for pregnant women do more harm than good.

I love it when the scientific evidence agrees with my opinion and my palate, and we are encouraged to eat something healthy and delicious rather than told it’s scary. I hate it when women are given conflicting information, and I am sure there are women who avoided seafood while they were pregnant thinking they were doing best by their children-to-be, and now feel frustrated and guilty about one more thing.

I am sure there will still be many articles and websites that still mistakenly warn pregnant women to stay away from seafood. (Just like articles on weight loss that say to limit nuts. *twitch twitch*) Here’s to hoping some of these women do some fact checking of their own.


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Keeping up with the recalls

In case you haven’t heard, Peter Pan peanut butter (also packaged as Great Value peanut butter) has been recalled due to a suspected Salmonella contamination. I know no less than three people who have found the exact lot number, the one beginning “2111” in their house.

Oscar Meyer is recalling some ready made chicken breast, which may cause listeriosis. And, just in case fellow crunchy health food store shoppers are feeling a little immune right now, there is also a recall on Earth’s Best organic baby food, specifically the apple peach barley variety. No sickness has been linked to it, but it may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium which can cause botulism.

Beware of your groceries!

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She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie

An apparently patriotic company is marketing a new energy drink called “Cocaine”. Branding an energy drink full of sugar and caffeine as a dangerously addictive controlled substance – well, I don’t know if you can get me to argue too much about that. However, I am not worried about Redux Beverages simply sullying caffeine and sugar’s good reputations.

I am not the only one who does have a problem with their name choice because it makes light of cocaine use. Redux Beverages has created a MySpace site to defend themselves against the attacks of the “liberal media”, which is apparently ABC News. (I think complaining about the “liberal media” qualifies them to put an American flag behind an energy drink named after an illegal scourge.)

If you skip “Dealers”and “Wired Science” and click on their “Rumors” link on their main site, you can read that they answer the question: “Does Cocaine contain cocaine?” with: No, we don’t advocate drug use. What you do with your drink is completely up to you!” While they make a point to tell people to avoid drinks with high fructose corn syrup, apparently drug use is “up to you”.

Advocating drug use can take other forms than sneaking illegal drugs into drinks. For example, wearing a shirt with a picture of a marijuana leaf, even if the shirt isn’t made out of hemp, can easily be considered advocating drug use. Calling a song “Cocaine” like Eric Clapton, “Hits from the Bong” like Cypress Hill, or “Heroin” like Velvet Underground was and is easily argued to be promoting drug use. The interest groups who complained about these songs weren’t typically labeled liberal.

Apparently even being more blatant about not actively promoting drug use isn’t good enough, although it isn’t hard to beat a MySpace account created after the fact. The United States Government Accounting Office released an official report stating that the current administration’s anti-drug campaign actually encouraged more drug use in the group of children that viewed the ads than the group that did not. In their report clearly entitled “Contractor’s National Evaluation Did Not Find That the Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign Was Effective in Reducing Youth Drug Use” the government investigators conclude that these ads “may have promoted perceptions among exposed youth that others’ drug use was normal.” The only statistically significant results they found was increased initiation of marijuana use among groups that watched the ads.

So, if anti-drug ads seemed to imply that others doing drugs is normal, what does naming and marketing an energy drink called “Cocaine” say? Redux, wave the flag, say the “L” word and defend free speech if you want, but please admit that your free speech is encouraging cocaine use. But, that’s “up to you”.


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The green ones make you feel different

Does anyone remember hearing that the green m&m’s would make you horny? I remember this from the playground, before I was even sure what horny meant. I just knew it was something that made the older kids giggle, and would be VERY embarassing if it happened to me.

Now that I’m a little older and wiser, I eat the green m&m’s, if you know what I mean. (Not often I use an artificially dyed candy as an example. I am partial to the plain ones, if I am going to cheat.)

My friend passed along a fantastic late Valentine’s Day link with tips on how to green up your sex life.

This page is very very informative and detailed. I didn’t know there was so much to discuss! Who knew there are phthalates and PVC in sex toys? Who knew there was milk in latex condoms? Who knew there was a site like Treehugger I hadn’t come across yet?


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How Doctors Think…and Don’t Listen

Dr. Jerome Groopman has experienced first hand (no pun intended) the pain and hassle, and potential danger, of an incorrect medical diagnosis. He got four wrong diagnoses on his hurt hand out of six surgeons from whom he sought opinions. Even worse, on another occasion he and his wife were sent home with their sick infant son repeatedly by their pediatrician, dismissed as neurotic first-time parents. And he was a doctor! A trip to the ER later proved his baby had a serious and possibly deadly intestinal blockage.

I am eagerly awaiting his new book How Doctors Think, which is coming out later this year. According to advance interviews, his book discusses one of my biggest pet peeves with some medical professionals. They don’t listen to their patients or value their thoughts.

A good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. I went along with him and his wife when they met the surgeon for the first time, as a sort of medical translator. Although they were very relieved to work with someone so well regarded and confident, I was blown away by his aggressively arrogant and dismissive treatment of my friend during the meeting. (Which I noticed quietly and did not mention until much later, when they had doubts in retrospect about his personality). After the operation, which went well, he NEVER visited my friend on rounds. Not once. After major brain surgery.

What’s worse is when your concerns are dismissed as a parent, as happened to the author of this forthcoming book. There are many heart wrenching stories out there, but here is the one from my family. An ophthalmologist told my mother that my younger brother had “always been like that” and she just hadn’t noticed when she brought him in for an evaluation when one of his eyes STOPPED MOVING. Turns out he had a brain tumor too. Who knew? Not the ophthalmologist. Good thing my mom didn’t wait very long to get a second opinion.

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