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Planning to Age in Place? Find a Contractor Now →

Paula Span brings an important message to anyone planning home renovations who's also planning to live in their home a long time.

Older people have the highest rate of homeownership in the country — about 80 percent, according to a 2016 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. The great majority live in single-family homes, most of them poorly suited for the disabilities common in later life.

The center has looked at three of the most important accessibility features that allow people to move safely around their living spaces: entrances without steps, single-floor living, and wide hallways and doorways that can accommodate wheelchairs.

“Less than 4 percent of the U.S. housing stock has all three of those,” said Jennifer Molinsky, a senior research associate at the center.

Add two more important elements for aging in place — doors with lever handles, and light switches and electrical outlets that can be reached from a wheelchair — and the proportion drops to 1 percent.

You’ll often hear older people vow that they won’t leave their homes except “feet first.” Without modifications, however, the design of most older Americans’ homes could eventually thwart their owners’ desire to stay in them.

This entry was tagged. Home Ownership

Parents Should Avoid Comments on a Child's Weight

Roni Caryn Rabin reports, at the New York Times' Well blog.

Should parents talk to an overweight child about weight? Or should they just keep their mouths shut?

​And?

Now a new study offers some guidance: Don’t make comments about a child’s weight.

The study, published in the journal Eating & Weight Disorders, is one of many finding that parents’ careless — though usually well-meaning — comments about a child’s weight are often predictors of unhealthy dieting behaviors, binge eating and other eating disorders, and may inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes about weight that children internalize. A parent’s comments on a daughter’s weight can have repercussions for years afterward, contributing to a young woman’s chronic dissatisfaction with her body – even if she is not overweight.

​Tell me more.

The new study included over 500 women in their 20s and early 30s who were asked questions about their body image and also asked to recall how often their parents commented about their weight. Whether the young women were overweight or not, those who recalled parents’ comments were much more likely to think they needed to lose 10 or 20 pounds, even when they weren’t overweight.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Brian Wansink, a professor and the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, characterized the parents’ critical comments as having a “scarring influence.”

“We asked the women to recall how frequently parents commented, but the telling thing was that if they recalled it happening at all, it had as bad an influence as if it happened all the time,” said Dr. Wansink, author of the book “Slim by Design.” “A few comments were the same as commenting all the time. It seems to make a profound impression.”

Some studies have actually linked parents’ critical comments to an increased risk of obesity. One large government-funded study that followed thousands of 10-year-old girls found that, at the start of the study, nearly 60 percent of the girls said someone — a parent, sibling, teacher or peer – had told them they were “too fat.” By age 19, those who had been labeled “too fat” were more likely to be obese, regardless of whether they were heavy at age 10 or not.

​That's scary. What should parents do?

Dr. Neumark-Sztainer was besieged by parents asking her this question, and wondering, “How do I prevent them from getting overweight and still feel good about themselves?”

In her book, called “I’m, Like, SO Fat: Helping Your Teen Make Health Choices About Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World,” she notes that parents can influence a child’s eating habits without talking about them. “I try to promote the idea of talking less and doing more — doing more to make your home a place where it’s easy to make healthy eating and physical activity choices, and talking less about weight.”

For parents, that means keeping healthy food in the house and not buying soda. It means sitting down to enjoy family dinners together, and also setting an example by being physically active and rallying the family to go for walks or bike rides together. Modeling also means not carping about your own weight. “Those actions speak louder than words,” Dr. Puhl said.

This entry was tagged. Children Food

Love your spouse more than your kids

When your children eventually leave you — and if you’ve done your job right, that’s exactly what they’ll do

​What a great statement. It's blunt enough to be surprising, but completely true.

Karol Markowicz is arguing that you should live your life in such a way that you still have an identifiable life once you no longer have kids at home.

This entry was tagged. Children

Mom sues police over arrest →

As if raising kids wasn't hard enough.

A stay-at-home mom from La Porte has filed a lawsuit against the city's police department, an unknown officer and one of her neighbors.

Tammy Cooper said she was wrongly accused of endangering her children and was even forced to spend the night in jail, all because she let her kids play outside.

She said her children, ages 9 and 6, were riding their motorized scooters in the cul-de-sac where they live while she watched from a lawn chair in her front yard just a few feet away.

"I was out there the entire time," Cooper said. "I never left that lawn chair the entire time."

Cooper said a little while later, a La Porte police car pulled up in front of her home.

"I went out there to see what he was here for and he said, 'Ma'am, we're here for you.' I said, 'Oh really? Why?' He proceeded to tell me he had received a call from one of my neighbors that my kids were riding their scooters unsupervised.

Cooper said she was handcuffed, put in the back of a police car and forced to spend the night in jail.

Yes, Chicks Dig Jerks →

If you care about ending domestic abuse, the social data paints a pretty depressing picture.

In a study of residents of a battered-women’s shelter, 75 percent of the abuse victims returned to the man who abused them. Victims of abuse are no more likely to end a relationship or a marriage than are women who are not suffering abuse. These traits are not limited to women who are poor and economically vulnerable.

… All of which is to say that there is good evidence and good theory behind the belief that chicks dig jerks — mildly psychopathic men with lots of testosterone and little empathy. (Or, if you want to take the Richard Dawkins view, chicks’ genes dig jerks.) Those who do will have relatively more sons. And what will those sons be like? It is worth keeping in mind that those traits are heritable.

Liberals generally accept the biological explanation of human sexual behavior in exactly one case: that of homosexuality. But human desire is a stranger and sometimes darker thing than we imagine, and certainly a more complex one. Those who would try to understand it must be willing to ask uncomfortable questions and to entertain uncomfortable answers.

This entry was tagged. Research Women

That’s Not Your Job, It’s Mine

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle lately, about a new Florida law that prevents pediatricians from asking parents about guns in the home.

There’s one customary question, though, that I’m no longer allowed to ask. In June, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law barring Florida doctors from routinely asking patients if they own a gun. The law also authorizes patients to report doctors for “unnecessarily harassing” them about gun ownership and makes it illegal to routinely document firearm ownership information in a patient’s medical record. Other state legislatures have considered similar proposals, but Florida is the first to enact such a law…

The measure was introduced in the state Legislature after a pediatrician in Central Florida dismissed a mother from his practice when she angrily refused to answer a routine question about whether she kept a gun in her house. The doctor, Chris Okonkwo, said at the time that he asked so he could offer appropriate safety advice, just as he customarily asks parents if they have a swimming pool and teenagers if they use their cellphones when they drive. He said that he dismissed the mother because he felt they could not establish a trusting doctor-patient relationship.

Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician, explains why he’s asking these questions.

I ask parents regularly if they have a gun in the home. If they tell me they do, I ask how it’s stored. I recommend that they think about not having a gun around children. If they must, I recommend that they keep it unloaded, locked up, with the bullets stored separately.

Why? Because in 2005, guns were were in involved in almost 85% of homicides and more than 45% of suicides in children aged 5-19 years, not to mention many accidents. I ask about guns because they are a major mechanism of childhood death. I’m trying to prevent that from happening.

I’m not judging my patients or harassing them, any more than when I ask them whether they use bike helmets, or whether they use car seats, or whether they let their kids cross the street unaccompanied by an adult. I’m trying to keep them from getting killed. That’s my job.

Dr. Carroll says that it’s his job to keep my children from being killed. That it’s his job to ask questions about how I instruct my children and what precautions I take. That it’s his job to oversee the general safety and security of my home and possessions.

I think that, in effect, makes him my parent. It puts me in a position of being answerable to him, of needing his approval of how I live and act. It takes away the responsibility that I have, for my children. He’s making them his responsibility.

This reminds me of the “Oath of Responsibility” that Residents of Grainne take, in the book Freehold.

I,, before witness, declare myself an adult, responsible for my actions, and able to enter contract. I accept my debts and duties as a Resident of the Freehold of Grainne.

It’s a simple oath, but a very deep one. Simply, it declares that I’m responsible for my own actions. Deeply, it means that I agree to accept any and all consequences for my actions—good or bad. There’s no one I can blame if things go disastrously wrong. There’s no one backstopping me if I start to veer into a ditch. There’s no one hovering over me, waiting to snatch me back from the brink of disaster.

It’s a sobering oath. If I take it seriously, it would mean that I have to slow down and carefully think through all of the potential consequences for the decisions I make. It means that I need to be sure, quite sure, before I act.

This is what being responsible looks like. This is what it means to be an adult. And this is the oath that I implicitly took when I moved away from home and, especially, when I got married. I did both of those things years before I read Freehold and read this oath. But this oath resonated with me, the first time I read it. It explicitly stated what I’d always implicitly assumed and lived by.

That’s why I resent these pediatricians who think it’s their job to look out for my children and who think that it’s their job to question and second guess my decisions. I took responsibility for my children long before I had them. I retain responsibility for them now. And I am not going to outsource that responsibility to anyone, no matter how well intentioned they may be.

No, Dr. Carroll, keeping my children safe and alive isn’t your job. It’s mine. You are not responsible to monitor whether (or when) my children wear bike helmets, when they stop using car seats, or when I let them cross the street unaccompanied by an adult. It’s my responsibility.

I have a dual responsibility: to protect them from harm and to teach them how to live responsibly. I have a responsibility to teach them how to distinguish something that’s truly dangerous (riding a motercycle on the highway without a helmet) from something that’s merely occasionally a little risky (riding a toddler bike on the sidewalk without a helmet).

I have a responsibility to teach them how to safely cross the street. Eventually, that will result in me letting them walk to the park unaccompanied by an adult. In doing so, they’ll cross one or two streets, unaccompanied by an adult. I have to teach them how to do that. Invevitably, they’ll end up doing it sooner than I think, at a time when I’m not prepared for them to do so. When that happens, I want them to already know how to do it safely—not to be completely unprepared because their pediatrician thought it was reckless and dangerous.

Dr. Carroll, if I ever come into your office, it’s because I want you to do the job I cannot do: the job of knowing which medicines and treatments will heal my kids after they get hurt or after they get sick. If you can do that, we can have a good, strong, relationship. If you try to take responsibility for my household and try to take authority that I haven’t given you, we’re going to have problems.

Being More Hospitable

My wife and I talk a lot about hospitality. We want our home to be a home away from home for those who may not have a home. Specifically, for Christians who are living overseas and just visiting the States while on furlough. Aside from having space to accomodate guests, how else can we be welcoming? It's something we haven't thought a lot about. Normally, our conversations start and end with "when we get a bigger house". But we should be talking and thinking about it more.

That's why I was so glad to read some hospitality tips from Lydia Brownback. She writes about both attitudes and actions. Many of the actions are most relevant for my wife -- after all, there's only so much I can do while I'm at work 9 hours out of every day. But the attitudes are very relevant to me. And, I can certainly help with the actions and make my wife's tasks easier.

Lydia offers four principles.

  1. Hospitality isn't based on having the "right" house.
  2. Hospitality isn't always convenient.
  3. Hospitality isn't always comfortable.
  4. Hospitality is always about serving others.

She also offers four habits.

  1. Decide to get organized.
  2. Alter your attitude about your home.
  3. Get fixed with food.
  4. Prioritize people.

I think this will give us a great start to becoming a hospitable family. It's time to break out the planning spreadsheets!

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Lookin' for Love in All the Wrong Places

A woman feels trapped in a loveless marriage. She goes online and starts chatting with "Prince of Joy". His compassion, tenderness shine through even as he describes his own loveless marriage. After several months of talking, they decide to meet in her person. Each will carry one rose. Imagine her surprise when she shows up at the cafe and sees her husband carrying a rose!

Apparently, that actually happened. (I say "apparently" because the whole story reads like something out of the Onion.)

This line tells you everything you need to know about human behavior.

"When I saw my husband there with the rose and it dawned on me what had happened I was shattered. I felt so betrayed. I was so angry."

So, they're both filing for divorce as a result of the other person's adultery.

This entry was tagged. Marriage Sin

Learning the Tricks of Children

Babies not as innocent as they pretend | Science | Earth | Telegraph

Dr Reddy said: "Fake crying is one of the earliest forms of deception to emerge, and infants use it to get attention even though nothing is wrong. You can tell, as they will then pause while they wait to hear if their mother is responding, before crying again.

I'm pretty sure I've already caught Esther doing this. She's only 19 weeks, but she's smart. Devious too, apparently. Now I have proof that it wasn't just my imagination.

I'll have to keep an eye on this one...

This entry was tagged. Children Sin

Babies and Eco-Crazies

According to radical environmentalists, putting diapers on your baby is a great way to ruin the earth before your grandchildren arrive. Here they are, in their own words:

"There is a way to have a baby and NOT use diapers."

"When David was born, I started to think about the kind of world I was making for him to grow up in. The thought of garbage spewing and sprawling landfills filled me with horror. And right along with this horror were those little mother's helpers, disposable diapers...rotting, but never really going away in all their plastic glory. ... [M]any of us have not, until recent years, given credit to the mothering skills of more Earth-centered, i.e. 'primitive" cultures." -- Natec

"In my mind, diapers became the symbol of the Evil Empire of Western Parenting in which babies must suffer to accommodate the needs of their parents' broken-continuum culture: a controlled, sterile, odorless, wall-to-wall carpeted fortress in which to live with the illusion of dominion over nature. ... How I longed for a simple, dirt-floored, baby-friendly hut like that of a Yequana family." -- Scott Noelle

"Observation and close bonding interaction help the parent to understand the baby's signals, body language and timing rhythms. Some common signals that indicate a need to pee in a young infant are: squirming, 'fussing,' tensing the face, frowning or having a look of 'inner concentration'. When the baby has to go, the parent holds him or her in a comfortable position over an appropriate toilet place and makes a cueing sound (perhaps a gentle "sss"). [Parents out shopping] may rely on using public bathrooms, or bring along a container such as a tight -lidded bucket. This gentle and ancient practice is the most common way of caring for a baby's hygiene needs in the non-Western world." -- Ingrid Bauer

Diaper-less babies -- because diapers are more dangerous than the plagues, diseases, and sicknesses endemic in pre-diaper societies. Hygiene is, apparently, overrated and the earth is underrated.

Thoughts on Home Schooling

With a child on the way, I'm starting to think about schooling more and more. (Hey, you can never start too early, right?) Having been home schooled myself, I have a gut-level preference for home schooling my own kids. My only regret is that I can't be a stay-at-home dad and do all of the teaching myself!

Earlier today, I stopped by Dr. Helen's place and found a link to the latest Carnival of Homeschooling. I checked it out and found several things that interested me. Here's a quick rundown:

  • Thinking Like a History Teacher. This won't be relevant for a couple of years, but it's good to keep in mind.
  • The "unschooling" movement is the fringe of the homeschooling fringe. It has to do with letting children learn by indulging their natural curiosity, rather than through rigid, structured curricula. I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea, but I think it has its merits. An early magazine of the movement, Growing Without Schooling, is being put online. It might be interesting to check it out. (Growing Without Schooling)
  • The Thinking Mother posted her thoughts about all of the work she does for homeschooling. Reading through this list made me wish I could quit my day job and devote myself to studying everything she does. Does your child's "professional", "paid" teacher put half of the effort into teaching your children as this mother puts into teaching hers?
  • Jen talks about the many ways that children can learn science, even if they're not actively studying science.

Last, but not least, one of the blogposts mentioned the Sonlight Curriculum. I'm always a sucker for checking out curricula, so I took a look. After browsing around their site, I'm really starting to like what I see. It's based around reading (a lot!), it's based around exposing students to both good and bad ideas, it's based around getting children to think for themselves rather than developing an ability to regurgitate facts. It's also based around a Christian worldview a global perspective (instead of an America-first perspective). They're 13 reasons to buy Sonlight are good, but I found myself more convinced by their 27 reasons not to buy Sonlight. (That is, I find myself disagreeing with most of the 27 reasons.)

Fortunately, I have five years to continue researching all of this before I have to make a decision.

The Miracle of Day Care

A look at day care in Quebec.

Starting in 1997, the Quebec Family Policy subsidized day care for 4-year-olds at government-approved centers around the province. By 2000, the program had expanded to cover any child not old enough for kindergarten, all the way down to infants. This is universal day care, an audacious idea that recognizes the revolution in women's work over the last 30 years.

Because everyone knows that giving your children to anonymous workers for 8 (or more) hours a day is a great way to make sure that they're raised with your values, attitudes, and ideas. They'll know that you love them enough to earn only the very best.

The results show that parents who leave their children in daycare, aren't doing their children any favors:

Almost a decade after the family policy started, however, there was still a big mystery about it. Nobody had done the work to find out how it had affected children. The province was spending $1.4 billion a year on a grand social experiment, yet no one had bothered to look at the results.

So three economists took up the challenge a few years ago, realizing that the program offered an excellent way to examine a much-debated topic. The three "” Michael Baker and Kevin Milligan, who are Canadian, and Jonathan Gruber, an American "” collected data, looked at various measures of well-being since the program started and compared Quebec with the rest of Canada over the same period.

When they finished last year, the answer seemed clear. "Across almost everything we looked at," said Mr. Gruber, an M.I.T., professor, "the policy led to much worse outcomes for kids."

Read the article to find out how much worse.

It's true, children require economic sacrifice. My parents experienced it. My wife's parents experienced it. I expect to experience it when I have children. But, so what? Children are worth it. Start planning your budget now. Learn to live on one income and save the second. When children come, you'll already be used to living on one income and quitting one job won't be as much of a hardship as it could be.

Your kids will thank you, one day.

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Today's Spoiled Kids

Michelle Singletary takes aim at overindulgent parents with her column Spare the iPod, Unspoil the Child. It's not that today's children have too much -- it's that they expect their parents to induldge their every whim, and their parents blindly fulfill those expectations.

Oh, and now we have the cellphone controversy in our house.

Can you believe my 10-year-old is incredulous that I won't get her a cellphone? All she wants to do is talk incessantly to her friends. We have a phone at home and she can talk to her friends during school hours for free.

I recently persuaded a couple to get rid of the cellphone for their 12-year-old daughter. I bumped into them at the movies and I couldn't help but notice that the girl had a cellphone plastered to her ear rather than conversing with her family. I asked her dad whom she was talking to.

"You know, I don't know," he said.

It was like a light bulb had come on over his head.

That child's cellphone bill was about $40 a month. Are you kidding me? If parents just saved that money, the cash they spend on monthly cellphone charges would add up to thousands of dollars by the time their children go to college. That would certainly help them buy books and supplies for four years of college.

Sounds about right to me. Parents don't have a "duty" to provide their kids with cell phones. They're expensive -- let the kids pay for them, if they need them so bad. Doing so will certainly teach responsibility, thrift, and the value of money.

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