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Thanksgiving Horror Stories

Thanksgiving is a lovely tradition that brings family together over an extravagant meal, but it has the potential to go horribly wrong (most events that involve in-laws do). But there are a lot of stories of Thanksgivings that go wrong, and maybe your worst pales in comparison to someone else’s.

I'm no chef, but I don't think this is how the turkey is supposed to look.

I'm no chef, but I don't think this is how the turkey is supposed to look.

Read more »

Making Sense of Finances for Kids

Simple concepts and tools, like piggy banks, can yield valuable economic lessons for kids. Photo by Daniel Y. Go

Simple concepts and tools, like piggy banks, can yield valuable economic lessons for kids. Photo by Daniel Y. Go

In the wake of global economic turmoil, many families, businesses and even the Obama administration has adopted the mantra: “never let a crisis go to waste.” There are plenty of lessons to take from the world’s current fiscal situation, but the pitfalls of Ponzi schemes and mortgage-backed securities probably won’t prove particularly enlightening for your kids, says Sheila Whitescarver, an economics professor at College of Marin in Kentfield, California.

That said, parents have many everyday opportunities to teach their children about finances, and Whitescarver believes it’s a good idea to use them at an early age so that youngsters emerge better prepared for decisions they’ll have to make later on. “Kids should be kids, so I’m not saying they have to watch the news, but you can talk to them at their level about real things,” she says. Read more »

Smooth Riders: Biking Safely in the City

Even for cycling aficionados like Larry Muñoz, the right equipment is crucial for safety.

Even for cycling aficionados like Larry Muñoz, the right equipment is crucial for safety.

When he heads out for a ride through the sloped streets of San Francisco, or anywhere else in the greater Bay Area for that matter, San Jose born fitness fanatic and spinning instructor Larry Muñoz wears a Giro helmet.

It’s “lightweight, adjustable to fit any head shape, well ventilated, and stylish,” he says.

Giro and Bell products are at the top of his list in terms of reliability and protection, but while helmets are a crucial component to riding safety—especially in urban areas—and often necessitated by law, several additional accessories and practices can help improve a rider’s chances of emerging unscathed from a collision, or avoiding it all together. Read more »

Question of the Week: Did You Get Vaccinated Against H1N1?

Did you get vaccinated?

Did you get vaccinated?

Two weeks ago, President Obama declared H1N1 a national emergency, and Americans are having trouble getting vaccinated.

Though there are critics that claim the vaccine isn’t safe, it’s manufactured the same way seasonal flu vaccines are, a process that’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and been a standard for over 60 years. It’s also been tested extensively, minimizing side effects and successfully protecting patients from the H1N1 virus. And remember, the seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against H1N1.

But supply shortages are preventing many Americans from getting vaccinated. According to a story from the Wall Street Journal, 32.3 million doses are available — far less than the 159 million required to cover every high-risk person in the United States. 62% of those vaccines will not be available until the beginning of December, well after flu season ends.

The problem is that manufacturers can’t produce it quickly enough. Typically, two-thirds of Americans 65 and older opt to get the vaccine; for younger people, it’s only one-third. This year’s higher demand is far greater than the supply. U.S. health care officials promise to invest in the infrastructure to meet future demands for the flu vaccine, but it begs the question: why does it take a pandemic to galvanize us into action?

Did you get vaccinated against H1N1? Has the shortage affected your ability to get it? Discuss!

6 Myths About Getting Sick

Are we getting sick for the wrong reasons?

Are we getting sick for the wrong reasons?

1. The Cold Will Give You a Cold It’s true that more people get sick during the colder seasons, but it has nothing to do with the weather. A cold is a virus, and the reason it’s more common during the fall and winter is that we all spend more time inside with each other, making it more likely to spread.

2. Being Wet Will Give You a Cold This is actually truer than most of these myths, but still misleading. Being wet or cold, like in the first myth, isn’t what gives you the virus, but it can trigger a dormant virus that’s already in your system. Read more »

Question of the Week: How Much Halloween Candy Should Kids Eat?

A rotten jackpot? Photo by respres.

A rotten jackpot? Photo by respres.

During the hullaballoo of Halloween, many kids collect enough candy to last a full calendar year, but parents usually aren’t willing to let their kids chow down on seemingly infinite chocolate, nougat, and candy corn… right?

Not so, according to a 1,200-child-poll conducted by kidshealth.org, which reports that around 50 percent of the kids surveyed said they had no limits whatsoever on how much candy they can eat.

While over 60 percent of respondents said they set their own constraints on how many sweets they devour, there’s no shortage of online advice on how to monitor or control you children’s post-Halloween sugar consumption.

Arguably the best thing to do would be to prevent kids from eating any candy, but that is nearly impossible and just so cruel. There are alternatives steps one can take, however, to keep things reasonably healthy. On her blog, Charm City Mom’s, Baltimore Sun writer Kate Shatzkin cites a nutritionist who suggests parents encourage their kids to eat candy with some nutritional value (vitamins, protein, etc.), while steering them toward small serving sizes.

Last year, the Washington Post ran a Healthday News story that indicated how often candy is eaten has more impact (at least on teeth) than the amount that gets wolfed down at any one time: one piece every hour during an afternoon, for example, creates more acid a mouth than several pieces all at once.

Halloween certainly isn’t the healthiest holiday, but is a few week sucrose-binge in November something worth worrying about? How much candy do you let your kids eat in the aftermath of October 31? What rules do you set? Discuss!

SAD Season: How to Stay Upbeat with less Sunlight

Less sun can lead to seasonal affective disorder. Photo by féileacán.

Less sun can lead to seasonal affective disorder. Photo by féileacán.

While Daylight Savings promises an extra hour of perceived sleep, it also heralds the time of year when daylight becomes a scarce commodity. That can be bad news for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD as it is appropriately known.

Doctors don’t know for sure what the cause or causes of SAD are, but the experts at the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and other top health care facilities think a decrease in sunlight during the fall has a lot to do with it.

Estimates put the number of people seriously affected in the US at about half a million, with many more experiencing symptoms to a lesser degree. Those symptoms, according to familydoctor.org, commonly include winter-onset depression as well as weight gain, anxiety, distraction, exhaustion, and even social anxiety and irritability. If you find yourself sleeping in till noon, hording chocolate, and avoiding your friends, for example, you may be one of those affected.

Aside from taking a much deserved trip to another hemisphere, there are still recommended ways to beat SAD, without breaking the bank or having to take extended time off work. Both the Mayo Clinic and familydoctor say you may want to talk to your doctor about light therapy, which involves wearing an apparatus on your head for 30-or-so minutes a day that creates the impression of receiving more sunshine and has few side effects.

Tanning is not a substitute for this, and is generally not recommended by medical professionals, however, certain medications and even psychotherapy can provide some relief until spring rolls around and natural alternatives become available.

When Kids Lie, How to Reply

In late August, author Po Bronson appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss his book NutureShock: New Thinking About Children. One facet of this “new thinking,” according to Bronson, is understanding why kids lie. Because in reality, they lie a lot.

Wasn't me!

Wasn't me!

What Bronson is specifically interested in is how to respond to it. Most parents believe that the way to condition lying out of kids is to teach them that lying is wrong and threaten them with punishments for doing it. But Bronson found that punitive warnings only turn kids into better liars. Read more »

Eye Popping: Our Gallery of Inspired Jack-O'-Lanterns

While trick-or-treating brings in the loot every October 31, it’s pumpkin carving that offers a chance to tap into your creativity, and impress those sugar hungry visitors at the door.

Whether you’re throwing a party for friends, getting the family together, or embarking on a solo project, sculpting pumpkins, and other squash, is a classic way to have some seasonal fun, and craft scary, goofy, or playful decorations for the yard.

As with many undertakings, finding the inspiration to start can be the most difficult part. For some tips and ideas ranging from traditional geometric jack-o’-lanterns to stenciled etchings to some more outlandish creations, check out our gallery of inventive pumpkins.

Family Affair

With pumpkins, the more the merrier. Photo by monocat.

With pumpkins, the more the merrier. Photo by monocat.

Stencils Matey

Guides can help you stencil complex designs. Photo by indigoprime.

Guides can help you stencil complex designs. Photo by indigoprime.

Read more »

Question of the Week: When Should Kids Start Pre-K?

In England, kids start pre-kindergarten at age four, but a new study from Cambridge is suggesting putting it off until six.

The study itself took six years to complete, with 14 authors, 66 research consultants, 28 research surveys, over 1,052 “written submissions,” and 250 focus groups. The result is a report that’s 600 pages long. The conclusion: Kids are not allowed to be kids. They don’t have enough time to play, and preparing for standardized tests puts them under unwarranted stress.

How old does she look? Old enough to start Pre-K?

How old does she look? Old enough to start Pre-K?

The survey also suggests getting rid of testing for children between the ages 7 through 11. Finally, the study recommends focusing on improving basic skills — namely literacy and numeracy — shifting away from more specific subjects like history and geography while adding more emphasis on history and the arts.

Clearly, a lot of effort has been put into the study, but many parents are taking issue with the suggestion.

Barbara Ellen, columnist for The Guardian, suggests that the study doesn’t take into account working parents. With parents juggling more than ever — especially the many families that must have both parents working — pushing Pre-K off another year or two would be harmful to the middle and lower class.

“Most British parents deeply love their children, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be delighted when they’re ready for school,” Ellen writes. “Could it be that this is simply the last taboo – parents admitting that, among other important things, they view school as a reliable form of childcare?”

While the study took place in the U.K., the U.S. struggles with the same issues that Ellen highlights. Though Pre-K often starts at five in the U.S., delaying our children’s entrance to the school system by even by a year could be tough on working families.

Delia Lloyd has spent time with the public school systems in America and Britain. In a recent article for Politics Daily, she explains the diverging ideas in how Pre-K education are developing. She writes, “As an American, I’ve always been struck by how rapidly children are forced to grow up in the U.K… The expectations facing kids seemed quite high — not just academically, but in terms of discipline, play and what kids were supposed to get out of extra-curricular activities.”

It’s clear that how we view our view on education — both here and across the pond — is rapidly developing growing up, maybe even faster than kids for a change.

When should kids start pre-kindergarten? Discuss!