Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kids-on-a-Plane: WestJet forgets about an unaccompanied minor

The first time I travelled alone on a plane, I was 12. I'm glad I WestJet wasn't around at the time.

The parents of a five-year-old girl travelling alone are furious with WestJet for breaking its own guidelines and allowing a stranger to accompany the child off a flight.

Sara-Maude St-Louis, 5, was taking her first plane ride Thursday from Edmonton, where she lives with her mother, to Montreal to see her father. The parents paid a special fee to ensure someone from the airline would look after her.
Read m0re (

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Monday, December 17, 2007

The Continuing Story of Zen Girl's Food Intolerance.... the iFood Edition

We are declaring that carrots are a success. We saw two pinprick-sized spots of blood in Zen Girl's diaper this week, but there was no corresponding change in behaviour and the blood was not persistent and did not worsen.

This means that it's time for a new food, and I wanted to be sure that we could give it to her for a few days before the holidays (when speaking to/seeing an actual staff physician is impossible).

So tomorrow moeining, applesauce.. here's hoping.

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US Toy related dealths


22 Children Died Toy-Related Deaths In 2006


Toy injuries were responsible for 22 deaths and 220,500 emergency room visits in 2006, according to a report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The report looked at injuries affecting children under 15 and found that most deaths were caused by asphyxiation or collisions associated with riding toys, scooters, toy pegs, and rubber balls.

Consumer Reports analyzed the full CPSC report:

  • Non-motorized scooters: Three deaths occurred when children either hit or were hit by an automobile. The children ranged in age from six to 13 years.
  • Toy nails and pegs: Three children died when they choked on or aspirated plastic nails or pegs. One 19-month-old boy died after choking on an oversized plastic nail from a toy workbench. A second boy, 2, died when he fell while running with a toy nail; the nail got wedged in the back of his throat. Another two-year-old suddenly started coughing and stopped breathing. He died at the hospital where an autopsy showed a plastic peg from a toy had become lodged in his left bronchus.
  • Rubber balls: Three children died when they either aspirated or choked on small rubber balls. Two of the children who choked on small rubber balls were about one year old while the third child was an autistic eight-year-old who aspirated a rubber ball.
  • Powered riding toys: There were three fatalities. A boy, 3, was riding a battery-powered toy four-wheeler unsupervised and fell into a pond. A girl, 2, was riding her battery-powered toy truck as her family walked along on a sidewalk; a speeding car hit and killed her. A 6-year-old died when the cape of his costume became entangled in the axle of the gasoline-powered ATV he was riding and strangled him.
  • Tricycles: There were two fatalities. In separate incidents, a three-year-old female and a three-year-old male fell into the family in-ground swimming pool while riding a tricycle and drowned.
  • Stuffed toys: There were two deaths associated with stuffed toys . A six-month-old fell off the parents' bed into a pile of stuffed animals and suffocated A three-month-old fell off a bed into a container of stuffed toys and suffocated.
  • Other balls: There were two deaths from unspecified types of balls. One struck a girl, 10, while she was playing at school; she died of inter-cerebral hemorrhage. A 17-month-old was run over when he followed the ball with which he was playing as it rolled behind a truck.
  • Balloons: A nine-month-old female died of upper airway obstruction caused by an uninflated balloon.
  • Rubber darts: A 10-year-old boy died from aspirating a rubber dart. He had been chewing on a toy gun dart when he had trouble breathing and collapsed. At the ER, he was found to have a rubber dart in his right lung.
  • Toy organizer: A nine-month-old, found underneath a wooden toy organizer, died of neck compression.
  • Unspecified: A seven-year-old boy was chewing on a plastic toy when a small part of the toy broke off and became lodged in his throat. He died of asphyxia.
The CPSC cautions that toys were associated with these incidents, but not necessarily their cause. Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries, Calendar Year 2006 (pdf) [CPSC]
CPSC: 22 children died in toy-related deaths in 2006 [Consumer Reports]
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Friday, December 14, 2007

Weekly Science Round Up

Excessive Tantrums In Preschoolers May Indicate Serious Mental Health Problems
ScienceDaily (2007-12-13) -- Certain types of tantrums in preschoolers may be a sign of serious emotional or behavioral problems. Although temper tantrums are common and normal in young children, the researchers found that long, frequent, violent and/or self-destructive tantrums may indicate the presence of psychiatric illness.

Even Low Lead Exposure Linked To ADHD
ScienceDaily (2007-12-06) -- Very low levels of lead in the blood -- previously believed to be safe -- could be contributing to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The research findings support a growing body of national evidence suggesting there is no safe level of lead in the blood. Other studies show a link between low-level lead exposure and lower IQ.

Heavy Traffic Makes Breathing A Burden In Children

ScienceDaily (2007-12-14) -- Exposure to traffic pollution may increase respiratory problems and reduce lung volumes in children with asthma, according to researchers who studied the effects of road and traffic density on children's lung function and respiratory symptoms in the border town of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.

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The Continuing Story of Zen Girl's Food Intolerance.

The squeaky parents get the grease. In spite of Dr. L.'s threat that getting a second GI opinion for Zen Girl would take six months, we had our care transferred to a new GI this week (same hospital). It seems that our letter to the Ombudsman helped move things along.
Our new doctor, Dr. M. (GI), was kind, thorough, respectful and explained a great deal. We decided together that in order to help ZG develop her oral motor skills etc, we would start trying foods again. In stead of any cereals, we skipped right to carrots.

Today was day 4 of carrots. We saw a speck of blood yesterday - literally a pinprick, that we had to look very hard to find - but we decided to persist. If the blood is due to food sensitivity, it should persist or increase, and if it does we will stop the food and she will have to have an endoscopy. However, today there was no blood in her stool. If she continues blood-free over the weekend, we will try apples on Monday.
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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Continuing Story of Zen Girl's Food intolerances

I know it's been quiet in my virtual world for a while, but in the real world it's been insane.  We're still trying to find a food that Zen Girl can tolerate (we're on day 2 of carrots now - so far so good) and we had to write a letter to the Ombudsman at the Children's Hospital and get ZG's care transferred to a new GI.... here is part of the letter:

What follows is our account of O.’s food intolerances and our interactions with Dr. L..


Our first encounter with Dr. L. arose through a visit to the ER in late July 2007.  Our pediatrician (Dr. M.) was away on holiday and our daughter continued to have blood in her diaper despite being breastfed while C. (the mother) was on a bovine and soy free diet. We had nowhere to turn being a weekend so we visited the emergency room. 


            Dr. L. was on call that night and was consulted by phone.  After hearing the case she instructed the physician to place our daughter on hypoallergenic formula (Alimentum or Nutramingen).  C. was to stop breastfeeding and pump for a few days in order to maintain her milk supply.  This approach was of concern to us, since we had been in contact with the G.I dietician Marie Josée Trempe prior to this visit, via our pediatrician, and she had told us that these formulas contained soybean oil.  Since O. had reacted with blood to trace amounts of soybean oil in C.’s diet, we were very hesitant to expose her to it directly. The emergency room doctor relayed to us that Dr. L. said C. must have accidentally eaten a bovine or soy product.     Our son Lucca had also been bovine-protein intolerant, and C. had been on this restricted diet while breastfeeding him as well.  As a result we had become very adept at checking and rechecking everything that passed C.’s lips.  We assured the ER doctor of this.


We expressed our deep concerns to the ER doctor about giving O. soybean oil and he agreed that breastfeeding was still a reasonable option, for now, as long as C. commenced an even more restricted, allergen free diet (no milk, soy, beef, eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, and wheat).  C. started this complete allergen free diet immediately (July 29th, 2007).  This diet was very challenging for C. and our family, but there was no question that if it helped our daughter we would follow it.  At the time we felt it was the best decision to keep O. healthy and growing.


            Early that next week, we were called by Dr. L.’s secretary and given an appointment on August 1st 2007.  We were very happy that we would be receiving some guidance from G.I.  During the visit, Dr. L. suggested that given how sensitive our daughter was she would recommend that we try offering an amino acid-based formula (Neocate) to O..  The dietician had also previously informed us that Neocate contained soy lecithin, which could also provoke a reaction in our daughter.  We informed Dr. L. of our real concerns about switching O. to this formula:


1)      That it contained soy lecithin which we knew our daughter was intolerant to.

2)      That some babies refused this formula due to taste.

3)      That she was growing well on the bovine and soy free diet and that we were eager to see if we could get the bleeding under control with the allergen free diet that had only been fully started on July 29th (4 days earlier).


In addition, Dr. L. suggested that an endoscopy be performed on O., in order to test for signs of food intolerances and to rule out any other potential problems.  The doctor informed us that she had room in her schedule and could perform the test the following day.  Submitting our 2-month old daughter to an invasive procedure required some thought on our part in order to make such an important decision.  When we asked for a few minutes to make our decision, the doctor seemed to get upset and left the room briskly telling us that we were lucky to get our daughter scoped so quickly and that we had better make our decision because if we didn’t show up the next day she would not be able to schedule us for a long time.  We were both very put off by Dr. L.’s defensiveness, and we worried about entrusting her with our daughter’s care.  After a few minutes of discussion we decided that it was in O.’s best interest to have the test done and find out what was going on inside.


            The next day we arrived for the scope and we were warned that we would not be allowed into the room after the procedure unless we promised not to ask any questions and Dr. L. repeated: “And I mean NO questions”.  We were a little taken aback at this threat but new that Dr. L. had to concentrate on her charting during this time.  We also assumed there would be a time to ask any important questions later.  After the scope we both went into the room and she explained quickly what had been observed.  The doctor told us that she had found nodular hyperplasia in the intestines but that she assumed that biopsy results would also indicate eosinophils in the gut.  During our visit with Dr. L. on the previous day, we had been told that nodular hyperplasia was benign and had nothing to do with food intolerance.


O. was then transferred to recovery where we both had time to think about our questions.  The recovery room nurse asked us if we had any questions for Dr. L. and that it would be no problem to get her.  Instead of Dr. L., the GI nurse was sent.  She was helpful, but had very limited knowledge about nodular hyperplasia.  We had no idea how to tell if O. was bleeding from the nodular hyperplasia or the actual intolerance and whether or not there was any correlation between the two.  We left the hospital with no answers because Dr. L. never came to see us.


            The next week she called with the biopsy results and spoke to Philosopher Dad.  He listened and heard her two options: switch to Neocate formula (her first choice) or continue on the allergen free diet with regular weight checks and blood tests.  Philosopher Dad also asked for a way to contact Dr. L. because C., who was not home at the time, would definitely have questions considering she was the one breastfeeding, monitoring diapers, and weight gain.  Dr. L. did not leave a number to reach her.  When C. returned home she tried to contact Dr. L. and left a message with her secretary.  In the days and weeks that followed C. never received a follow up phone call or appointment to discuss the test results and her concerns about Neocate with Dr. L..  She was once again told to contact the G.I. nurse who had no more information than she had had previously.


            During the four months that followed, C. carefully followed the allergen free diet and Dr. M. closely monitored O.’s weight gain and blood results.  At one stage, O.’s weight gain slowed and she even lost a little.  Dr. L. had told us that any problems with O.’s weight gain would be because she was not absorbing nutrients due to her food intolerance.  However, with the help of the Goldfarb Breastfeeding clinic at the Jewish General Hospital, we determined that C.’s milk supply had decreased because O. was sleeping longer stretches and was only feeding four or five times during the day.  C. started taking medication to increase her milk supply and began feeding O. seven to nine times a day.  O. quickly regained her weight and caught up to her growth curve.  To us, this was an example of Dr. L. scaring us into believing that growth issues were only due to food intolerance.  In this specific case the cause was simple and so was the solution.


Throughout this period, we remained in close contact with the dietician who guided us well during this time.  The dietician frequently reminded C. that we had done the best for O. by breastfeeding her while managing to stop her bleeding and preventing other signs of decline. In addition, O.’s blood tests all proved to be normal according to our pediatrician.  We all breathed a sigh of relief and were happy we were able to keep her growing and healthy.  She was meeting all her developmental milestones and was a very happy baby who slept and breastfed well.


            With guidance and encouragement from the dietician we introduced wheat back into C.’s diet in late August (O. was 3 months old).  After eating wheat everyday for two weeks, there continued to be no blood in O.’s stool, and no elevated eosinophils on her blood test.  When O. was four months old we introduced cooked egg in C.’s diet but unfortunately, O. had specks of blood in her stool within 36 hours and the eggs were discontinued.  About two weeks later, fish was introduced into C.’s diet for two weeks with no blood and no elevated eosinophils on her blood tests. 


On the advice of the dietician and Dr. M. we introduced rice cereal (Beechnut Brand) to O. when she was 5 months, one week old.    Within 24 hours she had blood in her diaper. Unfortunately, for the first time since the diet started, C. had by accident eaten a food that had a trace of soybean oil.  The dietician advised us to wait until the blood cleared and then reintroduce the rice cereal, assuming that the soybean oil had caused the reaction, not the cereal.  We did this but within 30 hours O. again had specks of blood.  Marie Josée then advised us to wait two weeks and then reintroduce rice cereal, but to use a different brand.


We reintroduced rice cereal to O. when she was six months old, this time the PC Organic brand.  Within 30 hours O. had blood.  It was still small streaks but a little more than the other times she had bled.


At this point, we were at a loss and scared for O.’s health.  Dr. M. and we were very glad that we finally had our follow up with G.I. the coming week.


            On November 28th, 2007 we had our follow up with Dr. L..  Upon starting the visit we gave her the blood test results that C. had for O..  Dr. L. was clearly annoyed that she had not gotten these before.  We had no idea that Dr. M. had not sent them but we also knew that if there had been a concern, Dr. M. would have communicated with Dr. L..  As Dr. L. flipped through the results she became upset and said in similar words:


 “I thought I told you that you could continue breastfeeding only if she was blood free, growing, AND her blood tests results were fine.  She is anemic and her albumin was low.”


We were both shocked because according to Dr. M., who had been following O. closely, she was doing just fine.  In fact Dr. M. had been extremely happy with the way O. was growing.  More recently she had mentioned that because she was nearing 6 months old, her natural iron stores were depleting, although she did not consider her anemic.  Dr. M. suggested we start iron supplements because she knew we were having trouble finding a cereal that O. could tolerate.


We continued our meeting with Dr. L. telling her about our current concerns about finding O. food she could eat. Dr. L. explained her theory that maybe giving O. Neocate would allow her gut time to heal properly.  She thought that despite normal eosinophils levels (except when eggs were introduced) and weight gain, O. was still being mildly irritated by C.’s breast milk. When food was introduced it irritated her and started the bleeding again.  This made sense to us but we brought up our real concerns about the plan to switch O. to Neocate which had still not been addressed in the four months since our initial visit with Dr. L.:


1)      That it contained soy lecithin and O. was known to be intolerant to trace amounts of that in C.’s diet.

2)      That she may at 6 months old refuse the vile taste of it.


At this point Dr. L. was clearly annoyed with our concerns and rushed to tell us about Neocate Junior which has no soya lecithin and which could be diluted down and flavoured.  She also said in similar words:

 “Yes, she may refuse the taste but that is why I told you when I saw you last that we should put her on it earlier… and anyway, if that doesn’t work we can put her on rice milk”. 


At this point we both were scared with the likely eventuality of rice milk because we knew it had no protein in it and up until now, O. has been reacting with blood to rice cereal. We couldn’t see how rice milk would be a viable option.   Dr. L. clearly did not want to hear our concerns about this and went right to her next discussion. We kept trying to get our questions in but she often cut us off in accusatory, degrading tones that indicated she was not happy we had continued breastfeeding because we had put O. at risk.  She also mentioned in similar words:


“This is a common problem that your daughter has; YOU have made it bigger than it really is.  There are many other babies who have this.”


We were really taken aback by this comment and felt wrongly accused of putting our daughter in harm’s way. From our regular contact with the dietician, we understood that it was very rare for an infant to be so sensitive to so many foods through breast milk.  The dietician had told C. that she was only aware of one other similar case, where a breastfeeding infant had reacted to soy lecithin eaten by its mother.


In order to keep the visit civil we acknowledged that we knew everyone there had the best interests of O. in mind.


At this point Dr. L. suggested that it might be best to perform another endoscopy on O. to see if there was something else going on or if there were still allergens in her gut.  At this point she proceeded to address us in a threatening tone and said in similar words:


“Listen to me, if I am to scope your daughter at all, I want you to agree NOW that if I find allergens in her gut, the feeding plan will be changed to hypoallergenic formula.  If you do not agree NOW to this plan I will not do the scope.  If you do not agree with this  you can ask for a second opinion, but that will take 6 months, and O. doesn’t have 6 months, or you can go to St. Justine, your choice”.


At this point we felt very threatened, and we told her so.  We told her that we wanted the best for O., and if that meant another scope we would agree, but that we felt very uncomfortable agreeing to a treatment plan before we had done the scope and seen the results.  Furthermore we had not felt that our concerns about O. had been addressed at all.  O. was very likely to refuse the vile taste of Neocate or Neocate Junior. Rice milk was not a guaranteed option either because of her recent reaction to rice cereal.   Dr. L.’s lack of a coherent and comprehensive plan left us thinking that we may be coerced into taking our daughter off breast milk, which is making her grow and gain weight, for alternatives that may harm her more. As parents, we will definitely seriously consider the option of switching O. to formula if we can’t find anything safe for O. to eat in the next few weeks or if her condition worsens.  However we don’t want to be threatened that our child will not receive testing that she needs.


After our follow up with Dr. L., we met with Marie Josée, the dietician on her team.  At this point we were both very distraught over the meeting with Doctor L..  C. felt comfortable with Marie Josée and began to cry.  She explained her distress over the threat Dr. L. had made.  Marie Josée clearly expressed to us that for now that breastfeeding was in O.’s best interests and that she was sure we would be able to find foods that she could tolerate.  In speaking with Marie Josée we set out a clear plan; we would wait until she was blood free and then introduce sweet potato for five days, then banana, and then lamb. 


In summary, ever since our first encounter with Dr. L., we have felt that she was frustrated with us, and that we asked too many questions. After carefully considering the advice of Dr. M., Marie Josée the dietician, and Dr. L. we decided to continue breastfeeding.  It was hard to fully understand Dr. L.’s advice because after the testing C. was never given the chance to talk to Dr. L. about her concerns.  Although we might never know, it is possible that we did not make the best decision at the time because of the impossibility of communicating directly with Dr. L..  We want to reiterate that we are not solely set on breastfeeding, especially if we are presented with a well-explained plan that addresses our serious concerns about transfer to hypoallergenic formula. Ultimately, we are scared for our daughter’s health and we want someone who will hear our concerns and clearly explain their recommended course of action.  In the end it is O. who will suffer if we as her parents do not make the right decision because we are not given enough information to make an informed decision.  


Friday, December 07, 2007

Food Allert: Undisclosed Milk in Holiday Fuit Loops


OTTAWA, December 6, 2007 - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Kellogg Canada Inc. are warning people with allergies to milk proteins not to consume Kellogg’s Holiday Froot Loops. The affected product may contain milk protein that is not declared on the label.

The affected product, Kellogg’s Holiday Froot Loops, is sold in 425 g package bearing UPC 0 64100 15208 3 and Best Before code 2008 SE 24 KCB002.

This product has been distributed nationally.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

Consumption of this product may cause a severe reaction to those individuals with allergies to milk proteins.

The manufacturer, Kellogg Canada Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, is voluntarily recalling the affected product from the marketplace. The CFIA is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall.

For more information, consumers and industry can call one of the following numbers:

Kellogg Canada Inc. at 1-877-675-8777 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday) or via e-mail at

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New Feature: Food Alerts

We're running a new feature here at Philosopher Dad... Food Alerts.  For the moment it will deal with food recalls and warnings from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).  
Please feel free to submit recalls from other countries as well.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Weekly Science Roundup

Prenatal Arsenic Exposure Detected In Newborns

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2007) — MIT researchers have found that the children of mothers whose water supplies were contaminated with arsenic during their pregnancies harbored gene expression changes that may lead to cancer and other diseases later in life. In addition to establishing the potential harmful effects of these prenatal exposures, the new study also provides a possible method for screening populations to detect signs of arsenic contamination.

Rapid Response Teams Save Children's Lives At Pediatric Hospital, Study Shows

ScienceDaily (Nov. 22, 2007) — Gut feelings can save lives, say clinicians and researchers at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ancient greek pottery potty

Curious Boy is nearly two, and the questions have already begun.  "Are you toilet training him yet?"  He is certainly interested, but we haven't really started to push him, since I think that he is still a bit young.  When the time comes though, I have found the training method we are goind to use:

Via BoingBoing

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Worst Toys of 2007

The wonderful people at World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) have released their anually "bottom ten" list of the worst toys of the year.  They include:

GO DIEGO GO ANIMAL RESCUE BOAT (recalled for lead)

STICKY STONES (easy to swallow loose magnets)

See the rest of the list....

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

This week in science - gross nail infections are underdiagnosed in kids

Tinea Of The Nails Underdiagnosed In Children

ScienceDaily (2007-11-18) -- Doctors have observed, through a research carried out during the past 9 years, an increase in the number of children affected by tinea of the nails, as well as an underdiagnosis of this affection by paediatricians. ... read full article

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

In Children And Adolescents, Low Self-esteem Increases Materialism

ScienceDaily (2007-11-16) -- One of the first studies to focus on materialism among children and its development reveals a strong connection between an increase in materialism during adolescence and a decline in self-esteem. Indeed psychologists show that the relationship appears to more than just a correlation, but a causal relationship -- low self-esteem causes increased materialism and raising self-esteem decreases materialism. ... read full article

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Aqua Dots Update

A little bit of poking around has yielded some more information about the toxic component in Aqua Dots.  It is called 1,4-butanediol and has the formula HOCH2CH2CH2CH2OH.  This compound is metabolized in GHB.  The version of the toy that was tested contained 1,4-pentanediol, which has the formula HOCH2CH2CH2CH2CH2OH.  While 1,4-pentanediol is not harmless, once metabolized it does not have any effects similar to GHB.  The two compounds differ only in the number of carbon atoms they contain.

As a scientist this is a perfect illustration of the specificity of our enzymes.  One single atom makes a dramatic difference in the way our body responds to the molecules.

This also raises an important point about understanding the dangers of substituting different compounds into consumer goods.  Because our bodies are so sensitive, it is important that we recognize the dangers of many of the components in our consumer goods.  The EU is very far ahead of Canada and the US in the respect, though our federal government has recently shown some movement on this front.
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Of Breasts and Brains

Breastfeeding makes your kid smarter. A new study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that children with a certain genetic mutation get roughly 7 bonus IQ points if they are breastfed. The kicker... 90% of the population has the mutation.

The Breast and the Brightest (

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Lead paint and Aquadots... It's Red Bull and Vodka for Toddlers

Hot on the heels of the series of lead paint-related recalls this summer, is something way out of left field. Aquadots/Bindeez have been recalled by the CPSC, and here in Canada Toys R' Us has followed suit. They are still for sale though, and although they have not been formally recalled, the federal government is looking at totally overhauling its toy safety protocols.
The last few month have made me wonder if I shouldn't go into business making wooden toys. My dad made Curious Boy some giant blocks out of untreated cedar - I bet those would be a hit.
As a chemist, this particular toy recall is very interesting. I'm still trying to find out what the compound in the product is.

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How can someone be intolerant to rice cereal?

I hate infant rice cereal. It's got no taste. I really hate that the consistency changes over time, so that if you start with a thick cereal, you are guaranteed that before you are half-done, it's soup. Mostly though, I hate that it makes Zen Girl bleed. Rice cereal! Rice cereal? The reason we start kids on rice cereal is because it is the most begnin of foods. ZG was really enjoying eating, and now we have had to stop giving her food. Our dietician wants us to re-introduce rice cereal next week and see what happens.
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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Canadian Parents - without the drugs?

Clint over at pointed out that just launched. While my initial impression is neutral - the site looks like, but no one is drunk or on drugs - I'm going to join Clint in decrying the total lack of dad-related content. In an era when more and more fathers are taking an active role in parenting, it would be nice for the mainstream print and online media outlets to take notice. In case anyone from is reading, I know at least one dad blogger who wouldn't mind helping you overcome your daddy-deficit.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Selling Breastmilk

AP is running a story about a woman in Iowa who took out an ad in her local paper to sell 100 oz of breastmilk. I've seen postings on craigslist before, but this seems to be the first time that the mainstream media has caught on. There are a few safety issues with using another woman's milk for your own child. This mother has already donated some milk to a local milk bank, so it's likely that she has been tested for all the right things already.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I guess we're getting popular...

The site got it's first bit of comment spam today. Comment moderation is now in place. I've decided to take the spam as flattery.

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Total elimination diet - ran an article a few weeks back written by AP journalist Rebecca Boone, who had to go on a Total Elimination Diet (TED) to deal with her infant daughter's food intolerance.  The article is an eloquent account of the struggle and stress of being the parent of an MSPI (and more) child.  Rebecca eats only organic turkey, rice and squash.

On our end of things, the Philosopher Mom has been eating fish for a week.  So far, so good.  

Nursing an allergic baby, Mom goes on 'total elimination'
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Glad to know this site is still helpful

I recently recieved an email from a mom with a 5 week old boy suffering from MSPI.  The letter reminded me of the dearth of resources out there, and the mom (S) has graciously allowed me to reprint her letter here.


I came across your blog when I was trying to find info on MSPI. My 5
week old son and I are dealing with this. I never had this problem
with my daughter. There is not a whole lot of info out there. I
know the basics and what to avoid as far as foods and such.

Do you have any advice, food alternatives, recipes, ideas for me.

I would really appreciate it! Thank you so much :-)

My reply:

Hi S
I'm sorry to hear about your struggle. One of the reasons I started blogging was to collect the sparse resources on MSPI into one page. In terms of recipe, the Food Allergy Network has a cookbook that you can order for about 20$. It is a very worthwhile investment.

You can also substitute rice milk (rice beverage) for milk in many recipes. Make sure that you buy the enriched one though. It is a good source of calcium and vitamins for you as well.

If your son is only intolerant to milk(beef) and soy, try incorporating a lot of legumes in your diet. Many middle-eastern and Indian recipes are safe and straight forward. In prepared foods, watch out for hidden milk...

Please write me back if you have any other questions, or if you find any other useful information on the web.
Best of Luck

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It's all French to me

Now that grad school and paternity leave are done, I'm back at work - and somehow I still can't find time to post.  

Quoi de neuf alors?

First, an update on Zen Girl's health:  Philosopher Mom remains on a  very restrictive diet, having eliminated dairy, beef, soy, nuts, fish eggs and legumes.   She tried introducing eggs a few weeks ago but there was blood in ZG's diaper almost immediately. Very frustrating.  ZG is such a good kid, and sleeps so so much that she was only feeding four times a day, and as a result started to lose weight.  She now eats about seven times a day, and is gaining nicely.

Autre chose:  I've decided to speak French exclusively to the kids.  We live in Quebec, and I want them to be as bilingual as possible.  The ZG is having no problems.  At 5 months old, she doesn't understant much anyway.  With Curious Boy though, it is a challenge.  The kid loves to talk with us, and all of a sudden, he doesn't understand a word I say.  Frustrating for both of us.  He's already starting to pick up some words.  I have a feeling that this will get easier very quickly.
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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Male Contraception

With a 21 month old and a 4 month old in the house, contraception is a big issue for us right now.   The details are, frankly, none of your business, but a few more options would be nice.  I was quite hopeful when I came across the website for a conference entitled "The Future of Male Contraception".  Lots of interesting ideas.  Progesterone  injections, IVDs, 
vitamin A uptake blockers, but it still seems that comercial products are quite some time away.
So much for the "male pill".

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

And We're Back

For those of you who have been paying attention, it's been about six (6!) weeks since I last posted.   In that time, I finally finished grad school and got my Ph.D. So now I'm back and better than ever.

Thanks for waiting.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Fisher-Price Recall: The Lawsuit

Parenthacks and DaddyTypes are all over the Fisher-Price recall of 1.5 million toys, as is just about everyone else. No one, though, has talked about the most important aspect of this.

The Class Action Lawsiuit.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Poking and prodding

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. In the ER on Saturday, we were told that GI would not see us until we tried Alimentum for a week. Some tears, and a phone call to a dietitian we were seen yesterday at the GI clinic at the Children's hospital. We're taking Zen Girl for an endoscopy today. We will find one of four things: nothing, a fissure, nodular hyperplasia or signs of irritation/intolerance. A plan of action will follow when the biopsy results come back in a week or so.
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Monday, July 30, 2007

Things are looking green.. and filled with mucus

I know it's been a while since I've posted. We've been worried sick about ZenGirl, who thankfully seems oblivious to all the fussing. Even though PhilosopherMom has given up dairy, beef, soy, nuts, legumes, eggs and fish from her diet, we are still seeing blood in her stool. Saturday, it got pretty bad so we rushed down from the cottage to the Montreal Children's Hospital to get her a blood test, and hopefully some helpful advice. The bloodtests were reassuring, but no useful advice was forthcoming. After talking to a dietician who deals with this sort of thing, and doing some reading of our own, PhilosopherMom decided to go gluten-free on top of all the other restrictions. It's been 48h, $50 on two small bags of stuff from HealthTree and no blood since yesterday. I've done quite a bit of reading on MSPI, and the use of elimination diets. I'm going to get the links up as soon as possible.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Diagnosing Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI)

There is no hard and fast way to diagnose MSPI in an infant. Usually, a number of factors are looked at together. They include

Deterioration in behaviour
Green and mucuosy stool
Weight loss
Blood in stool

A doctor might order a blood test to measure the levels of eosinophiles, a type of cell that is present in high numbers during allergic-type events. In addition albumin levels can indicate whether or not the infant is having difficulty absorbing nutrients. This becomes a serious problem when the condition is left unchecked and the intestines become severely irritated.

Many physicians might wait for the more severe symptoms (weight loss, bleeding) before recommending that any action be taken. In my opinion, there is no reason not to try the simple elimination of dairy products for two weeks to see if anything changes.

In addition, if you think your child may be reacting to something you are eating, keep a food diary. Record in detail what you eat, and when. Also record your observations about your child. See if you can find any correlations.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI) - Update

Sheesh... it's been ten days since my last post. I've gotten pretty busy this week, but in baby-land things seem to have settled down somewhat. We haven't seen any blood in Zen Girl's diaper for about a week now, which is great. The thing is, PhilosopherMom had to restrict her diet even further, which sucks.

In addition to dairy, beef and soy, PhilosopherMom has given up eating legumes, eggs, fish and nuts. We've had some guidance from a dietitian at the Montreal Children's Hospital, which has helped.

Zen Girl's behaviour is not improving that much. She still can't be put down. I don't want to hear your suggestions, because I promise we tried them already.

At least she's not bleeding anymore.
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI): The saga continue - Bloody Diaper/Soya Oil Edition

I've been meaning to talk about soybean oil, and now I have the perfect, if scary, excuse. Most moms who go on an elimination diet can are told that they can safely consume foods with soybean oil. This is because the irritation that comes from MSPI is due to protein, and refined food oils should not contain any protein. Similarly, most people who are allergic to nuts can eat nut oils, even though they are told not to (this is because anaphylactic attact is super scary).

PhilosopherMom has been doing the elimination diet for about 3 and a half weeks now, but still eating products made with soybean oil and soya lecithin (an emulsifier - also should be protein free). Zen Girl has been doing well, although the last few days have been less good and she's got a rash on her face. So we saw the pediatrician yesterday.

The pediatrician told us that the rash was likely due to the weather. Mom's bare skin sweats on the baby's bare skin in the heat and causes acne and rashes. No biggie. The doc also said, that if the baby seemed content, not to worry about the continued green stool.

We then proceed to weighing. The weight gain slowed dramatically, but we try and take a long-term view of these things. Right as I'm putting the diaper back on... the baby poops. The stool is bright green and so full of mucous that it looks like I blew my nose in the diaper. A closer inspection reveals blood. Now the doc is concerned. PhilosopherMom and I are freaking out.
Fortunately we are going to see an allergist today. The pediatrician suggests that mom eliminate all soy products from her diet, and see what happens.

In addition to all the other soy ingredients that are to be avoided, we now add soyabean oil (soy oil, soybean oil) and soy lecithin.

I'll let you know what the allergist says.
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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI): It's NOT Lactose Intolerance

Most people who have kids with MSPI will already know this, but many don't get the difference. MSPI is related to the protein in dairy, beef and soy. Lactose is a sugar. Lactose intolerance arises when a person's body cannot produce lactase, the enzyme required to metabolize lactose. Lactose intolerance presents itself later in life, generally in adulthood. Lactose is found in large quantities in human breast milk. Infants are never (or almost never) lactose intolerant, as this would be fatal.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sometimes ads are good: Dove Self-esteem Fund

While some may be skeptical of Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty (Canadian version here), the viral ads used in the campaign pack an emotional punch. The best known video is "Evolution" which recently won the Cannes Lions 2007 Grand Prix for film, which is the advertising industry's highest award.

Show this to your daughters. Again and again. And again.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What? A parenting magazine with substance? Well, one issue at least.

On our first visit to the pediatrician with Zen Girl, we were handed a massive lump of coupons. Somewhere in that lump was a copy of ParentsCanada magazine. It was immediately tossed aside. I figured it was an ad-driven, poorly written junk mag. Some time later, while preparing to blue-bin it, I actually looked at the cover.

Behind the requisite "15 Accidents That are Killing Our Kids" headline,
there's smiley Olympic rower, children's rights activist, Canadian icon and single mom Silken Laumann looking right at me.

It gets better.

Interviews with same-sex parents about their experiences becoming/being parents.

And then the real kicker. An excerpt from Freakonomics.

Wow. It's amazing what we take for granted in the Great White North. I remember a controversy in the last year or so where a parenting magazine was forced off the shelves of many an American store because it showed a breastfeeding baby.

We get single moms and gay parents and I nearly over looked it.

Kudos to ParentsCanada! Keep up the good work.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI): The Great Goat's Milk Fallacy

Finding sources of fat and calcium is very difficult for moms breastfeeding MSPI kids. Many people (even lactation consultants and dietitians) suggested goats milk (and goat cheese and yogurt) as viable options. A chat with our allergist revealed that goat milk-based products are NOT safe for MSPI kids.

Bovine albumin (the protein that causes the irritation) and goat albumin have 97% structural homology. This means that the two proteins are almost identical and cause identical symptoms.

Enriched rice milk is a good source of calcium and can be used instead of milk in most recipes. I have yet to find alternatives for cheese and yogurt.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The fuss about co-sleeping

Co-sleeping has been all over the news (here, here and here) since the Coroner's Office of Ontario released a report calling for a ban on infant bath seats and calling co-sleeping a major cause of infant death.

The big media (see links) have been simply rereading the press release, with out looking at the details. In reality, the report should be considered in two sections. The first deals with infant bath seats. There were 50 accidental infant drownings in Ontario between 1986 and 2004 that involved bath seats. Most cases occurred when a parent momentarily turned away. We used a bath seat once or twice for Curious Boy, but he hated it so we stopped. In reality, what is important is for parents remember that kids can drown in any ANY AMOUNT OF WATER. Never turn away. Not for a second. Ever.

The second part of the report deals with co-sleeping. We are avid co-sleepers in this house. Before Curious Boy was born, I was dead set against the idea of having a kid in my bed. After three weeks of zero sleep, I caved. I love it. When Zen Girl came, we just assumed that she would share our bed. Co-sleeping is a wonderful bonding time, and certainly makes nighttime nursing much easier.

The coroner's report suggests that infant sleeping be restricted to "approved" sleeping areas, namely cribs. This is where one begins to wonder if the coroner ever had kids. Children should not be allowed to sleep in playpens, swings, car seats or vibrating chairs. Come on. This means that parents can never actually leave the house. It's absurd.

According to lactation consultant extraordinaire Carole Dobrich, co-sleeping parents must take a few precautions:

  • Baby should sleep in Mom's arms
  • Dad should have his own blankets
  • Minimize pillows and blankets in the bed
  • Sleep on a firm mattress (especially not a waterbed)
In almost every case where a child died while co-sleeping one of these things was involved:
  • Drinking alcohol to excess
  • Sleeping pills or other medication that makes parents drowsy
  • Smoking in bed
  • Obesity in the parents
  • Sleeping on a sofa or armchair
If any of those things apply to you, DO NOT sleep in be with your child.

Whenever someone is critical of co-sleeping, I always ask them to consider other newborn mammals. It would be considered cruel to have a puppy sleep away from its mother. Why then is it not cruel to keep a human infant away?

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Milk Soy Protein Intolerance: What you CAN'T eat.

This is for everyone who's wondering what you need to avoid if you are breastfeeding a child with MSPI (especially Laurie).

On ingredients lists you must avoid the following:

modified milk ingredients
milk protein

soy flour
soy protein
soya beans

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Milk Soy Protein :Intolerance: Stuff You CAN Eat (MSPI)

If you are breastfeeding and avoiding dairy, soy and beef, there are so many things that you can't eat. There are however a surprising number of things you can eat.

Check out the Kosher section of your local grocery store. Better yet, find a kosher bakery. Anything labeled PAREVE will not have any meat or dairy. The only thing to check for is soy.

The first time my wife went on this diet, my wife spent the first two weeks feeling like she was melting away Here are some snack foods we've found:

  1. Lay Chips: Plain, Salt and Vinegar, All Dressed (check others)
  2. Oreo cookies
  3. Dad's Oatmeal (and oatmeal raisin) cookies
  4. President's Choice Trail Mix granola bars (Loblaws/Provigo/Sobeys/Maxi)

Remember to check all of the ingredients anyway, since they can change at any time.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Milk Soy Protein Intolerance

Unfortunately, this is the first in what will be a long and ongoing series of posts about Bovine Protein Intolerance. It is also referred to as Milk Protein Intolerance or Milk/Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI). For simplicity (and hopefully some Google action) I'm going to call it Milk Soy Protein Intolerance.

Our son, the Curious Boy, was diagnosed with MSPI at 4 1/2 weeks, after we found blood in his diaper. Philosophermom went on a restricted diet, eliminating beef, soy and dairy. CB outgrew the intolerance at 10 months (75% outgrow it by 12 months, more than 90% by 2 yrs).

According to our allergist, MSPI appears to be hereditary (talk to my mom), and our other children would be at risk of having MSPI as well (about 50% for a girl, greater than 80% for a boy). When Zen Girl started showing signs of increased fussiness and a green, mucus-y stool at about 2 weeks old, we decided to test if she was suffering as well. After a few days, her stool returned to yellow, and she was once again living up to her name.

There are very few resources online about MSPI, and many pediatricians are not even aware of the condition. I'm hoping that we will be able to share some of our experiences and strategies with you. In addition, I will be posting lists of prepared/packaged/restaurant food that is safe for breastfeeding moms who need to eliminated dairy, beef and soy from their diet.

Skin-to- hairy chest

Paternal Skin-to-Skin Contact Offers Cesarean-Born Baby Same Calming & Development Benefits As Mom.

We are big fans of skin-to-skin contact in this house. Zen Girl was put on her mom before the cord had even been cut. The two spent a lot of skin-to-skin time together in the recovery room, and continue to do so now. It is amazing how much it can calm her down and help her feed.

I love being skin-to-skin with my infants as well, and in the hospital often held my daughter (and son before) to my bare chest to help calm them.

A new study in the journal Birth:Issues in Perinatal Care shows that when mom is unavailable, contact with dad offers the same benefits.

In a study of 29 father-infant pairs, full-term healthy newborns born by planned cesarean section were randomized to be placed either skin-to-skin on their father’s chest or beside their father in a crib. The infants in the skin-to-skin group stopped crying and were more calm compared to infants in the crib group. A father should therefore be regarded as the primary caregiver for the baby when a mother is not available immediately following a birth.

Dads who don't live at home are still important

In the lead-up to father's day (and to compensate for my inability to find time to write real posts), here are a couple of recent studies highlighting the importance of fathers:

Fathers Have Great Impact On Their Children's Lives, Even When Not At Home

"[...] looked at the quality of the relationship nonresidential fathers had with their children. The closer the father-child relationship -- not just the amount of visitation -- the better children were doing,"
This news can be both frightening and reassuring for dads who don't live with their kids. Dads who don't get to see their kids often, but find ways to really engage them can still play an important role. On the other hand, fathers who get to see their kids a lot, but don't find ways to connect won't have a big impact.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

MotherRisk. You should know about this. Really.

I've been meaning to post about Motherisk (LINK) for a very long time. So here we go.

"Motherisk offers pregnant, planning and breastfeeding women answers to questions about morning sickness and the risk or safety of medications, herbs, diseases, chemical exposures and more."

It's run out of the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children (LINK) and is perhaps the most useful drug and exposure resource available for pregnant and breastfeeding women. There is loads of info on their newly updated site, but even better are the phone numbers:

1-877-327-4636 - Alcohol and Substance
1-800-436-8477 - Morning Sickness
1-888-246-5840 - HIV and HIV Treatment
(416) 813-6780 - Motherisk's Home Line

The Home Line is the one to call if you need information about the safety of medication during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This service is much more thorough and helpful than sites like SafeFetus (LINK), because they can provide you with specific details about what types of studies were done, as well as metabolism details.

Last week we called to find out if Claritin is safe during breastfeeding. It is.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Getting the posts in... diaper watch edition

Ever since we found blood in the Curious Boy's diaper when he was 3 1/2 weeks old, we've paid close attention to what comes out of his butt. Same goes for Zen Girl now. The day we came home from the hospital, the ZG all of two days old, we found blood in her diaper. Not the pretty red uric acid crystals that you learn about in prenatal classes. Drops of blood.

Cue the freakout.

A few deep breath later, PhilosopherMom remebers hearing about a friend's sister who had the same thing early on with one of her newborn girls (she has five, and one on the way). Turns out that estrogen from the mom can cause newborn girls to have a little menstruation.


Closer inspection revealed that ZG had swollen breasts to boot. As many as 10% of little girls have this (LINK).

The spotting stopped later that day.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Whoa. (Inhale...exhale)

I'm not even sure where to begin. Last week I submitted my doctoral dissertation for review by my jury. That was Friday the 18th. On Monday morning (21), around 4AM the Philosopher Mom wakes me up "My water broke... it's time to go to the hospital...." Fortunately the Curious Boy was already at his grandparents for a sleepover.

29 or so hours later (it's a very long story.. bits of it to follow), Zen Girl was born. 7 lbs 1 oz (3205 g) at 8:55 AM. All are well.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Autism Roundup - And a winner!

So far there has been a less than stellar response to our contests.. oh well, more chances for those who do play! 

The winner of Mary Kaye's album "Spin Your Web"  is long  time PD reader Mubeenah, the only person who had the balls to post using her name. 

Mubeenah correctly identified PDD-NOS as "Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified".

The PDD spectrum of disorders are frightening for parents for all kinds of reasons.  This is why so much research is going on in the field.  A bunch of it was published this past week:

Autistic Children Can Gain Significantly In IQ Through Early Intervention

Social Behavior Differs In Children With Family History Of Autism

Children With Autism Have Difficulty Recognizing Ordinary Words

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Large Families as a Cause of Climate Change

A new report out of the UK is urging governments to encourage people to have smaller families in order to help mitigate climate change.

As we await PhilosopherKid #2's iminent arrival and ponder the eventual size of our family, this makes me think about population effects. That being said, this strikes me as a little absurdist and extremist. The real population problems facing the planet are coming from the unmitigated growth in Asia and Africa, where American and Vatican promoted abstinence only AIDS education is failing dismally.

This report reminds me of a study claiming that obesity is a significant contributor to global warming because cars and planes have to use more fuel to schlep around fat people. This of course is a load of crap.

Studies like these make a mockery of the serious issue of climate change and take attention away from real, practical solutions.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Another contest!!!!!!! Mary Kaye Album Review

I've been meaning to do this for a while.. It's been almost a year since the thoroughly awesome Mary Kaye sent me a copy of her album "Spin Your Web" to review. Sorry about the delay Mary.

The album blew me away right off the bat, with it's great lyrics and wide range of musical styles. The opening, and title, (Spin Your Web) track is a great world beat groover. My personal favorite is the proto-punk "Let's Get Dressed".

This album is a pleaser for the whole family. The Curious Boy was very young (~6 months) when we got the album, and so it was hard to judge how much he liked it. As he got a bit older, he started to like it more and more. It is in constant rotation in our house and on car trips now.

My only complaint about the record is on the production side. I find that kids are drawn to music with strong, easily heard vocal melodies. On this record the vocals are a bit too far back in the mix. I have this problem with a lot of kindie-pop music. It probably comes from the indie/alt-rock influence on the artists, and it is a sound that I love. I think kids would better appreciate the music if the vocals were more up front.

That being said, I love this record. I think it is an essential edition to any family's collection. Kids can grow for a long time with "Spin Your Web". The music and lyrics are simple enough on the surface for a toddler, but have the right amount of complexity to keep older kids and adults listening again and again.

YouTube user ralpheadsuz used Mary's beautiful track "Child" in their astonishing entry into the YouTube Autism Challenge. The video is a peek into the life of their six-year old son.

And now the contest part: Comment on this post with the definition of PDD-NOS. Everyone who post a correct answer between now and Friday Monday at midnight (EST) will be entered to win a copy "Spin Your Web". The winner will be chosen at random.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Children of Men

I know I said I would be out of touch for a while, but I had share this with y'all.  We took some time to watch the much-heralded film "Children of Men" the other night.  The film is based on the novel of the same name by P.D. James. 

If you haven't seen it, the film is set in 2027 and no children have been born on earth for 18 years.  No explanations, only despair.  While the film poses some interesting questions for people in general, and parents in particular, I found it sharp, smart and ultimately unsatisfying.  Which may have been the point. The best thing about the movie is most certainly Franco Battiato's version of the Rolling Stones classic "Ruby Tuesday".(Hear a sample here.)