Thursday, October 29, 2009

-The Scariest Thing on Halloween Night-

I get a little loopy during the holidays, (even without too much egg-nog), and it's sometimes fun to get a little off-topic and silly on occasion. So this piece was written for your literary enjoyment.

If you find it pleasing, then I'd like to congratulate you in advance for your good taste, and encourage you to please send your friends our way. If you think this poem might be good at performing the same function as a vacuum cleaner, don't worry, I haven’t quit my day job.

Do you know about the scariest thing on Halloween night?
That something that gives parents everywhere a fright?

A something so scary it strikes fear in us all,
You- never know where it be lurking, on the street or in the mall.

This thing, it even scares all the monsters away,
It's frightening whether you encounter it at night or during the day...

This hideous beast, with a mind of its own,
Ferocity greater than anything this world has ever known.


The first time I ever encountered this thing,
It struck me off guard, pounced without warning.

We were just walking along; times as good as they go,
When it started with a simple little word, known as "No."

It happened so quick I was caught by complete surprise;
I saw my whole life flash before my very eyes,

I stared at this thing with a look of surprise,
And it stared back at me, its mouth open wide.

Baring its teeth, its eyelids shooting out a sprinkle,
Its hideous face all contorted and wrinkled,

What before was a child now looked more like a raging beast,
Hungry and angry, seeking parental blood upon which to feast.

Surely, this irate screamin' demon was no child of mine,
My child must be trapped somewhere inside.


At first I wasn't quite sure what I should do,
You would know the feeling, if it happened to you.

What to do...what to do...should I run? Should I hide?
Should I try to protect all the people passing by?

I yelled and I screamed, I made a big fuss,
I pleaded and I begged, yet it wasn't enough.

There's little one can do when this beast rears its ugly head,
Other than take its wrath while wishing you were dead.

Kryptonite won't work; no type of medication would be enough,
There is no holy water strong enough to tackle this stuff.

I called out for an old priest and young priest, but they
Got one look at this scene, and promptly ran away.


Yet there are some things this monster of all monsters can't stand,
The first thing is kindness, with a calm yet firm hand.

If you can just stand your ground, and stay calm through it all,
Just maintain your composure and the beast will wither and fall.

For time is the enemy of the beast, you should know,
This monster is fierce but it's fleeting, it comes and it goes.

You might think that it can never happen to you,
I assure you it can, and you best be prepared if it do.

So on this Halloween night, amidst the cool breeze of fall,
Be on guard, and be aware, of the scariest monster of them all.

The End.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everybody.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Your World In Review: Face paint, Abduction in Florida, FDA & Sugar, Love at First Sight

The FDA is asking parents to report any problems with face paint (rashes, etc.) by calling its adverse event hot-line at 800-332-1088. The request comes after 43 girls at a girl scout event got a rash from face paint.

Sadly, another Florida girl was abducted this past week (10-19-09) on her way home from school. She was last seen running ahead of her group of kids on their one mile walk home after getting into an argument with another child. Seven year old Somer Thompson, from Orange Park Florida, was later found murdered. Her body was recovered in a dump, and police are desperately searching for her killer. Hopefully the predator is found before another child looses it's life. Now might be a good time to use some of our abduction prevention materials with your kids.

The FDA has gone public with its plan to crack down on food manufacture labels, which it says are misleading the public. Products that contain as much as 50% sugar are often marketed under smart "choices labels."

Little Emily was only in her kindergarten class for one day. During that time, she managed to make quite the impression on another 5 year old boy. You see, Emily suffers from a rare genetic condition. So when she was forced to leave school for a kidney transplant, her classmate wanted to help. He came up with the idea all by himself, of selling vegetables from his wagon around the neighborhood to raise money for her medical costs. He managed to raise $380 thus far. When asked why he does this, he responded: "Because I love her ... She's nice and she used to sit by me, and I really like her." And they say love at first sight doesn't exist. Emily, who is now battling cancer, is still in the hospital. What would really make this a feel good story is if she can manage a full recovery. So if you have an extra prayer or two to send her way, it couldn't hurt. CNN News reported this story October 27th.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Adventures With Balloon Boy: What should Happen Now?

Oh, what to do about good 'ole balloon boy. It seems like just yesterday when I watched the charade unfold on television, thinking to myself, 'In 20 years of following safety issues, I've never seen anything like this.' But then again, the general rule is that if you have anything in your house or backyard that through some freak chain of events might get a child into trouble, then somewhere, somehow, it's bound to happen sooner or later. Children are masters at initiating the right combination to unleash mayhem, if for no other reason than that curiosity tends to lead them to flirt with every possible scenario. As it turns out, my first instinct was right, and police now say the whole thing was a hoax.

Sure, like most everyone else, I was a little perturbed to find out it was all a sham. I haven’t felt so used since that time I passed out at Uncle Jed's house. CNN cut away from two hours of regular programming,(Of course, anyth1ng that gets Rich Sanchez to shut his trap is a plus) and I, like much of America, wasted a lot of perfectly good worry and a precious tear or two when it appeared that 6-year-old Falcone might have taken a land-dive at 3,000 feet. It's not as though worry is hard to come by, and granted, I also cry during Bambi, but still, I feel a little bit cheated by the whole thing. Apparently, such sentiment is common all across America.

Yet what bothers me more about this whole situation is to hear pundits on news stations or Entertainment Tonight talking about how the state should take the kids away. Now, I'll be the first to point out that this mother and father won't be winning any parent of the year awards anytime soon. And if there was ever anyone who needed to be on medication more than Richard Heene, I wouldn't want to meet him. The kids seem ill-behaved, rambunctious, and out of control. Watching little Falcone throw up on television while (allegedly) being made to lie about it all was almost as heartbreaking as the incident itself. But what would you expect? After all, according to Dad, the entire family is descendants of aliens. Yet is this enough to justify placing the kids in foster care? To those who answer yes, we would say to you: I don't think you realize just how damaging such an action really is.

How many of you would support a person who lurked outside a park, wait for the first child whose parent looked away or wandered off, only to decide they knew better and moving in to snatch them away, bring them home, and keep them in a strange house for months or years? Would we view such a person as a hero or a monster? CPS workers may be wearing a state issued name tag, but to the child involved, it couldn't matter less whether the person is sporting a ski mask or a smug smile of superiority. It's still someone snatching them away from everything they know and love in life, (even if those people and/or environments are imperfect, neglectful, or abusive) and plopping them down into a strange situation with strange people.

As imperfect as a child's caretakers may be, a child's family is important to every child, as is everything else in their environment. (Siblings, schools, their home, their bedroom, all those things familiar that serve as a source of comfort.) Attachment, or a child's bonds with caretakers, is a youngster’s most important need. In fact, the major problem with child abuse is not necessarily the actions themselves, but the fact that when children are abused or neglected repeatedly, their attachment with caretakers is injured. The action of removing a child from their home often causes a profound injury to attachment and emotional security, doing in one swift swoop what even years of abuse might only whittle away at. In fact, if you compare long-term outcomes for foster kids to studies of children from other abusive or neglectful situations, it's not even a close call. Foster care, by leaps and bounds, predicts the most harmful adult outcomes when compared to any other type of abuse. It's an act so severe that in terms of trauma from the child's point of view, it rivals the most brutal assaults or violent rapes. It's not uncommon for kids to go mute afterwards or show other signs of acute shock, something generally only brought about by the most brutal of attacks. Foster care attacks what is more important to a child than anything else in the world: their sense of belonging to a family. Taking a child away from their family may be legal for CPS works, but it’s still an act of child abuse, and a serious and quite devastating form of abuse at that. It shouldn't be taken lightly.

If it does turn out that this thing is a hoax, I'm sure the Heene family will pay dearly for it as it is. The ironic thing is that this stunt will probably eliminate the possibility of them ever getting the reality show they were striving for, so in this regard, it's a little bit of poetic justice. The reality charade they did get will probably not be nearly as much fun as they were anticipating. As for the criminal charges, probation would probably be appropriate, especially since that whole rescue effort looked expensive, and I'm sure restitution is in order. Above all, we need to remember that as imperfect or abusive as families or parents may be, we can't simply swap them out for what we deem to be a better situation, at least not without doing a child the gravest of harm in the process. It's easy to criticize and act superior. But if we do so in a way that incidentally causes a child much more harm than was necessary, doesn't that make us the real child abusers, the real monsters of society?

While we're at it, rather than pointing fingers at a family who (quite obviously) have enough problems as it is, perhaps we should ask ourselves why parent's would be moved into taking part in such an ill-thought-out stunt. Perhaps we should ask ourselves why viewing the naughty, malicious, and self-destructive behavior of other has become a favorite pass-time for hundreds of millions of people. After all, if we didn't watch, if we didn't make it a sport to revel in other people making fools of themselves on television, there wouldn't be families out there who feel a need to stage such things to get on television, or even considers such self-deprecating fame so important to begin with. This episode is as much a reflection on the state of society at large as it is on this family.

These kids will have to face enough as it is, without us screwing them up even more by yanking them out of their home. Look on the positive side: I don't know about you, but after a couple hours of non-stop balloon-expert testimony, I now know more about flying hot air balloons than I ever imagined, which should come in handy if I ever need to make stealth James Bond-like getaway in a hot air balloon.

General references:
1. Nina Bernstein, 'The Lost Children of Wilder,' New York: Pantheon Books, 2001

2. J. Hodges & B. Tizard, "Social and family relationships of exinstitutional adolescents." Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 30, 77-"'97

3. J.J. Doyle Jr., "Child protection and child outcomes: measuring the effects of foster care." MIT Sloan School of Management & NBER, Working Paper

4. Global Children's Fund, “Child Maltreatment: A Cross-Comparison,” unpublished manuscript, Chapter 36,

For more information on kids, check out our website,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your World In Review: Bad Psychology, Racism, Milk Safety, and More

In case you missed it ...

In the October 12th issue of Newsweek, Sharon Begley reported on the escalating abuse between research psychologists and clinical psychologists. A new yet to be published study scolds clinicians for ignoring science and employing methods that lack credibility and may even do harm.

The scoop: This is the latest chapter in an ongoing feud between psychological research and private practice. Belief and perception is such a powerful force in our mental health, psychologists can hurt as well as help.

"I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves. I feel the children will later suffer." - Justice Keith Bardwell, after refusing to wed an interracial couple.

The scoop: The only reason children might suffer later is because of bigotry dished out by people such as Keith Bardwell.

Where do babies come from? No, not the biology question, but the distribution of the world births. A Newsweek compilation found that 57.4% of the worlds babies are born in Asia, 26% in Africa, 11.5% in the Americas, 4.6% from Europe, and 0.5% from Oceania. (Australia and surrounding areas.)

Milk wars are heating up all across the country. The FDA says, drinking raw unpasteurized milk in dangerous. Advocates say it tastes better and boosts the immune system. The sale of raw milk is legal in 28 states, and many laws are being mulled over as we speak.

The scoop: I avoid the hasle and get my milk straight from the nipple. Sure, the cows give you a strange look and farmer Jim has chased me out of the barn a time or two, but it doesn't come any fresher. (Ha Ha)