Friday, February 29, 2008

misery loves company

One of my best discoveries lately is DadLabs. It's a bunch of fathers who put together "informative" videos about being a dad. It's pretty low budget and the humor can sometimes fall flat, but on the whole it's a very enjoyable thing to watch. You can't find many parenting guides that call kids "evil little badger children" or hold interviews in bars.

My two complaints are: first, their main advertiser is BabyBjorn and I'm not a big fan of their baby carriers. Second, their website is poorly laid out. There doesn't seem to be an easy way to watch old episodes and sometimes you can get two movies on one page, both automatically playing. Shame! Fortunately a lot of their clips are also available on youtube and are much easier to navigate.

double whammy

Two big boosts for the anti-vaccination crowd lately.

The first is the news that the government has conceded a vaccine-autism case in the Court of Federal Claims. An 18 month old girl went in for her shots and quickly came down with diseases and setbacks that resulted in symptoms of autism. Turns out, though, it wasn't autism but a mitochondrial disorder that acts exactly like autism. It also seems to be around 10% to 20% of the 4,900 vaccine-autism cases currently in court. Now that precedence has been set, most of those will probably be winners and that's going to mean big bucks doled out in compensation. The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has already paid out $1.5 billion to those who agreed not to sue the government for saving their children from the ravages of disease at the cost of... injury or death, I wonder if these new cases will be paid out of the $2.1 billion they've still got in their piggy bank.

In a way this might be good news, though. If it's possible, either now or in the future, to detect this
latent mitochondrial disorder before vaccinations then that could save a lot of families quite a bit of heartache.

The second interesting tidbit is an independent study showing a significantly higher percentage of autism in vaccinated kids. What amazes me most, though, is the fact that this is the first study relating to this question that's ever been done. How is this possible? I mean, when I first heard of the possibility that vaccinations can cause autism my first question was, "Can you back it up with numbers? What are the percentages?" And these people spent a mere $200,000 to get those numbers, using a phone survey very similar to the one used by their arch nemesis, the Centers for Disease Control itself.

This survey isn't perfect, though, and doesn't really point a finger at vaccinations specifically. Rather, it indicates families who vaccinate are more likely to have autistic children. There are plenty of other environment factors that could contribute. Does the child eat more preservatives? Does he watch more television? Does he live in a high pollution neighborhood? Was he bottle fed as an infant?

A fully comprehensive survey could help point scientists in the right direction in determining the cause of autism, whatever it might be.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Memory is the first thing to go

We went to visit my brother and his family recently, and at one point he expressed his amazement at how much work it took to keep Simon out of trouble. I gave him a funny look and mentioned that with two kids of his own he went through the same thing more than once, but he just shrugged and said most of that time is just a blur to him now.

That does seem to be a survival mechanism in our species. If we truly remembered how big a pain kids can be then I doubt anybody would have more than one. Instead, after a couple of years our brains start telling us that babies are great and having another one would be really cool. My theory is that the body gets used to the stress and sleep deprivation. Once your child is old enough to be less maintenance and you finally get a full night's sleep the brain, which has been subsisting solely on endorphins up to this point, gets euphoric and starts equating babies with feeling good.

So there's a chance that in a year or two my wife will turn to me and say, "We should have another baby, now that Simon is so easy." Fortunately I've conditioned myself to react to this by bursting into tears, running out the door, and driving to Mexico.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Force is strong in this one

The other day Simon was rummaging around my nightstand and pulled out a flashlight. He held it up in both hands and made a very impressive imitation of a lightsaber, despite never having seen a Star Wars movie.

Now I'm not saying that he's destined to become a jedi, I'm just saying that if he does, then I hope it pays well. I'm actually somewhat against it, since it doesn't seem to be a good career for a family man and I expect lots of grandkids.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A shot in the arm

My wife recently showed me an anti-vaccination ad. It's pretty bold, with visuals making a strong link between vaccinations and autism even though they admit there's currently no evidence proving such a thing. My wife thought the ad was great, claiming that if pro-vaccination groups can use unproven emotional statements like, "outbreaks still occur each year because some babies are not immunized" then we can fight fire with fire.

To me, this is just adding fuel to the fire. We don't know what causes autism, and even though pumping toxins into an infant's bloodstream may be a pretty likely contributor we shouldn't go making false accusations. Instead, how about doing something crazy like demanding that vaccinations be put through the same kind of rigorous tests that any other medicine goes through? How about both sides agree on some case studies and put money into doing them right? Call me crazy, but I'd love to get a few more actual facts.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Do the locomotion

Whoever said that you need to learn how to crawl before you learn how to walk has never seen a baby. This is the actual progression:

1. Slacker Months - He isn't much for moving on his own, but that's okay because these suckers do all the work for him. He wants a toy? It's there! Milk? Bam, a boob is in his face! Sure, he misses out on some of the good stuff but there's time for that later.

2. Teleportation - You suspect that he can crawl, but if he sees you watching then it's easier for him to just cry until you pick him up. If there's something nearby that he knows you don't want him to have, though, you'll turn around to see that your inert child has magically gotten three feet closer to your antique knife collection. He will then look up at you and cry, pretending all he wants is a teething ring.

3. Crawling - Once you catch him in the act a few times he'll finally admit to crawling and then there's no stopping him. Time to put up the baby gates and apologize to the pets in advance for the years of abuse they are about to receive.

4. Cruising - This is the term for when a baby can stand with help but has to lunge from object to object in order to move, and it's really funny to watch. The several seconds of psyching up, followed by the look of horror when he's in mid-lunge, and finally the relief and joy when he gets to his destination in one piece is well worth recording.

5. Running - Technically, the way the moon orbits the Earth is by traveling forward at the same rate as it descends, so its speed ensures that it continually avoids crashing down. This is the same for babies once they let go of their props. Leaning forward with a frantic moving of the legs is the only way they can stay upright as well as moving forward.

6. Walking - It's not until they can master the run do babies get the whole 'walking' thing under control. For girls this happens fairly quickly, for boys it's around age 14.

Clothes make the baby

Baby clothing is the bane of my existence. Everything is either too big, too small, or too ugly.

It was easy for the first year or so when we didn't socialize, especially during the warm weather when he could just hang out in a onesie. We'd go visit other parents and their kid would be in a tuxedo but ours would have a barrel with suspenders. Unfortunately, now that he's out and about more often it's getting hard to stay on top of what fits and how it looks, and though I know nothing about fashion I am able to predict how much my wife will complain about whatever outfit I cobble together each day.

The exception to this rule is that one piece of clothing that always seems to fit, probably made from unstable molecules. You put it on him when he's four months and it fits fine, then a year later you put it on him again and realize that he's doubled in size but this thing still covers his Buddha belly.