family life Articles

Chopsticks, Death and Love

03.9.18

I’m in Monterey Park and after dropping a chopstick on the floor I grab a new one. Just one. As my hand hovers over a dumpling my friend practically shouts, “Don’t do that!”

Alarmed, I drop my hand and ask, “Don’t do what?”

“Never use mismatched chopsticks,” she says, “it’s bad luck.”

Not being superstitious I raise my chopsticks again and start to grab a dumpling when I am interrupted by an older woman at the table next to us, “We use chopsticks like that when someone is dead. It’s for the bones.” And she gave me a look that made it abundantly clear that this wasn’t about superstition, this was about manners.

I waited and asked a server for fresh chopsticks. But I was obsessed with learning more about the chopsticks rule. So I ran home and started reading about Chinese funerals. We’d been to dim sum, right?

I’d inadvertently learned about Japanese funeral customs while in a Chinese restaurant surrounded by mostly Chinese and Chinese-American people.

Japanese Buddhists cremate their loved ones differently than Americans typically do. I was interested to learn that, much like observant Jews, Japanese Buddhists perform their funerals within 24 hours. Also, like observant Jews, the body is never left unattended. After the funeral, the body is escorted to the crematorium where it is incinerated at a much lower temperature than we are accustomed to, and that is where the chopsticks come into the picture.

The family accompanies the body to the crematorium and witnesses as both casket and remains are placed in the cremation chamber. They are there two hours later when the remains are taken out.

The family then begins the process of placing the remaining bone fragments into an urn that will later be buried in a family plot.

The ceremony of placing these remains into an urn is quite beautiful and, I imagine, healing, as religious rites are designed to be. Special chopsticks are used to start at the feet and collect the bones to place in the urn. It’s important that the loved one is upright in their urn, and part of the ritual of picking the bones (kotsuage in Japanese) is passing them from chopstick to chopstick on the way to the urn.

Here is a striking photo of kotsuage.

Like any other religion or region, there are many steps, clearly defined, to the Japanese Buddhist funeral. Too many for this groups of words. But they’re comforting steps that serve to honor the dead while soothing the living. Funeral rites give rules to the family table, to the community, and to a nation first and the world second.

Even in good health we are planning for deaths. We keep our rituals sacred so that when the time comes for the people we cherish most the chopsticks are mismatched and the feet are at the bottom of the urn.

It’s not a Japanese thing, or a Buddhist thing, or even a chopstick thing. It’s a human thing. The way we preserve these moments, these rituals and their tools. We withold their use from daily existence so that the chopsticks that don’t match become tools for healing. What a waste it would be to use such a thing for just one dumpling.

This all got me to thinking about the ways we run from death. We keep death from our lives as though it’s a separate entitity. There’s living and there’s death. We’d like to believe they are two different states. But that’s not quite the case.

Ask any night nurse or hospice worker, ask widows and emergency responders. There are things we all do when we’re dying. Sudden deaths lend themselves to proclomations, grand and otherwise. Long illnesses or simply fading away in old age carry a predicability that leads to the moment. There’s a lack of hunger, and then of thirst, the eyes close and the breath slows, and if you’re very lucky there are no gasps before the permanent silence. If you’re even luckier someone will hold your hand and breathe slowly with you.

Then someone will sit with the body. And perhaps they will chant, perhaps they will pray, surely they will cry. Mostly though, there will be rituals, some of which make sense and others will be carried out with no understanding of why, and no desire to know. And death sort of bleeds into life as we care for those who pass before us.

With special chopsticks.

 

The Longest Shabbat

01.9.18

I didn’t work in 2017. I know it, my family knows it, my clients learned it, and shortly my accountant and the IRS will know that in 2017 I did nothing that really looks like paid work.

Sure, I partnered with a friend and worked on our Instagram channel. We even started a website. But I didn’t work. I didn’t make the commitments that keep me out of the house, stuck in the house (in my office), or emotionally unavailable. I also didn’t make any money.

I don’t regret a thing.

My daughter left for college in the fall, a week later my son got his driver’s license. I went from having two children living and laughing at home to one. I transitioned from six months of spending a minimum of 90 minutes a day in the car alone with my son, to tossing him the keys to his car and having three extra hours a day.

The fall was lonely and rudderless and I cannot tell you if I missed the time with my son or my presence of my daughter more. Both left an ache. They left an ache because the footprint was there and it was strong. 2017 hadn’t been a year that was rushed. I might describe much of it as languid.

“Mom will you drive with me to the Palisades?”

“Sure!”

“Mom, will you make me some zucchini bread?”

“Yes!”

There was even a weird family weekend away that I remember taking, though I don’t recall where it was. 2017 was just a lot of me saying yes. Yes to driving, to traveling, to cooking, to shopping. It was me being completely available to both of my children for the bulk of the year and confining my adult activities (tennis, shopping, and the gym mostly) to the time they were in school.

It was a little like that first year of parenting each of them where you kind of hit the pause button on your life and they become the center of your universe. Although, this time it wasn’t exhausting. This time it was exhilarating. We listened to Kanye and Frank Ocean, dissected songs from Tyler the Creator and watched Brockhampton emerge into something new and different and wonderful. I heard about the books they read and tried to follow along with the assignments they were completing.

The school opened their grade books to students and parents alike in 2017. I learned my lesson from the Blackbaud days of K-8. I don’t want to know about late homework assignments. I don’t want to help my kids get from a B+ to an A- or even an A. I want to help them when they want to be helped. If there’s a success it’s their success. I didn’t check their grades, but I asked them how they were doing in school. I didn’t offer tutors, but I told them if they asked me for one I’d provide it (no one asked). I parented like it wasn’t 2017, and I waited for my children to come home from school to tell me how their days were. I let their school belong to them.

I don’t regret not helping them get better grades. It’s not my job and I spent the first decade of their academic careers resenting the people who made me feel like my children’s grades were my job. Some years I bought into their line of reasoning, most years I did not.

My daughter is attending her first choice college. It was fine. Good even. My son will find a school or two that he loves and he will attend the one that’s the best fit for him. If I have to monitor a 16, 17 or 18-year old’s homework they probably shouldn’t go away to college at all. What are the odds of success at that point?

I didn’t parent like I usually do. I spent 2017 devoted to enjoying my kids and watching them make decisions. Most of their decisions were terrific, some were less teriffic, none were bad.

I’m returning to real life in 2018. I like working. I enjoy my clients, I enjoy the people I hire, and I enjoy the intellectual challenges that come with owning and operating a business. I’m going all in in 2018. I’m going all in on me. Which obviously means there’s going to still be a lot of family time.

 

 

 

 

Talking to Kids About Porn

03.30.14

Today’s New York Times features an article which asks the question, “Does Porn Hurt Kids?” The answer was a resounding, “Maybe?”

I won’t argue if porn should or shouldn’t be. Porn just is. It’s always been here and it will continue to be here. The only things that are markedly different about porn now versus my childhood is that kids have unprecedented access to it and because of the short attention span of the internet it’s all been fast forwarded to “the good parts”. Magazines and sidebar images seem tame and there’s some guy talking for 15 minutes on a TedX stage about how porn is men being violent to women. It’s not. Some of it is but some of it involves violence from women to men. Let’s not pick and choose fetishes and pretend it’s representative of pornography.

Getting rid of pornography will not protect women and children.

Your kids are going to see porn. Some of it will be ridiculous, some of it will excite them, some of it will mystify them and some of the porn they never see will affect their lives. This is why we need to talk to our daughters as well as our sons about porn.

I find that trapping kids in the car is a great way to engage them in discussion. They can’t jump out of a moving vehicle, well, maybe they can but no one in my family’s done it yet. Here’s a little taste of what goes down in my car.

ME: [nonchalantly] When’s the last time you guys saw porn?

ALEXANDER: MOM!

JANE: Eww Mom. Never.

ME: Are you sure? Because I hear that there’s quite a bit of popup porn ads online.

JANE: I don’t really use the web. I just read Buzzfeed and go to Facebook groups for school stuff.

ALEXANDER: You blocked all the ads on my computer. [So I did.]

I will address the horrors of a steady diet of Buzzfeed another day.

ME: What about you Alexander? Are you seeing porn on some of the sites you visit?

ALEXANDER: No. I don’t think so?

ME: Girls in bikinis aren’t pornographic.

ALEXANDER: Okay then, no.

ME: Even girls with their shirts off aren’t always porn.

ALEXANDER: Really?

And then we talk about all the ways that men and women can be naked without it being pornographic and I vaguely mention that things can be very pornographic without explicit nudity.

I talk to them about the fact that violence and sex are two things that never go together. I talk to them about mutual consent and what consent means. We talk about young people and crazy people. We talk about drunk people and drugged people. We talk about how people have a right to behave strangely and not be touched. We talk about how nudists aren’t always being sexy and wouldn’t it be nice if someone could walk down the street naked?

We talk about the fact that even though it’s wrong what we wear brings about reactions in others. That we can’t fight every battle.

women powerless

Then I talk about porn in a way that I know makes my kids uncomfortable. I tell them that they may date someone who has watched a lot of porn and they may want to try things that seem overly acrobatic. I tell them that sex in front of a camera is sort of like watching a car chase on TV. Things just don’t work that way and it’s okay to not be interested in sex acts that feel like a performance.

I’m okay with making my kids uncomfortable. I’d rather they squirm and not have the words for things with me, in the car, so that they’re not blindsided when they’re alone with someone they’re thinking about intimacy with. Most women I know have at least one story of a man asking for something odd in the bedroom that he must have seen in a video. If you are an adult and you know that this is something that’s happened to you and your friends why would you not discuss it with your children?

I won’t be telling my kids that porn is bad or dirty. The rest of the world can go ahead and tell them that. Kids know that it’s for adults the same way that they know alcohol, smoking and gambling are meant for adults. Those age restrictions are ignored daily so I’d rather not pretend that they’ll see porn for the first time the day they turn 21. If I want my kids to talk to me (and it’s very important to me that my kids do talk) then I have to talk to them about the real world and not a world that we’re pretending exists.

I don’t know who it will be, but one of Jane or Alexander’s friends or classmates will have at least one nude photo of themselves made public. This isn’t a good thing but, like the teenage drinking, smoking and sex, it exists. The TedX talk that I refuse to link to because it’s so ridiculous talks about girls killing themselves after taking naked photos. Well, if a whole lot of people are able to look at naked photos and sort of shrug that seems like the first line of defense. It seems to me that teenagers (and plenty of adults) are going to make bad decisions. Rather than putting obscene amounts of energy into protecting the purity of every horny kid how about we train ourselves and our children to look at these photos without condemnation.

How about we all tell our kids that although it’s a bad idea to take naked photos of ourselves it’s a worse idea to make life difficult for someone who has? How about we talk to our kids about the sexy photos and mention something about the fact that we ourselves have made bad decisions in the past? What if we taught our kids to be better friends? What if we separated teenage sexuality from promiscuity? What if we stopped pretending that everyone was a virgin on their wedding day?

So I continue talk to my kids about porn. I don’t tell them to not watch it. I can’t bring myself to say that to them. I try to prepare them for what they might see and I express my hope that they won’t be watching porn at their ages but that I understand that kids are exposed to it every day. I ask them about the billboards they see and the parents they’ve googled (thanks Mr. Skin).

I won’t let anyone tell them that porn is all bad. I also don’t trust anyone else to discuss porn with them in a way that will actually help them. The same way we remind our kids life isn’t like the movies we need to remind them that sex isn’t like porn.

It seems simple enough but it’s not a discussion I’m hearing many people have. What discussions are you having with your kids about porn?

Image via flickr creative commons. 

Solo Parenting Day 3

01.28.14

The house is now as dirty as my hair. I’ve sharpened my knives because Alexander requires endless amounts of fruit. He has a sweet tooth and just today ate a pint of strawberries, a pint of blueberries, half a small watermelon and then all his regular food. He just sort of sits down and inhales it all watching quizzically as I slice my hand open.

I’ve decided that my cut hand is my son’s fault because I still can’t sleep. In addition to missing Mr. G I have Junior the wonder poodle who has issues with boundaries. The first nights he just slept of Mr. G’s pillow and last night he slept on my leg. I do believe that Junior’s core temperature is somewhere around a hundred and fifty fucking degrees. I suckled a quarter of a Xanax at midnight so I could sleep through the overly affectionate dog and the taste of it is so revolting that I ended up brushing my teeth in the middle of the night and then I realized I was brushing my teeth all wrong because Reddit told me so and it must be true so even with Xanax there was no sleep for me.

I have to be up at 6am with Jane. Not because she needs my help but because I don’t like her waking up at 6am and being the only one awake. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. It just seems like something a good mother would do, like baking cookies. Which I did at 9pm last night for Jane’s film teacher’s last day.

I baked snickerdoodles and I used organic kirkland brand butter. I’ll throw the rest of it out as it’s white and not very yellow and tasty like butter ought to be. I renewed my Costco membership for the cheap gasoline and top rate trash compactor bags. There are no compactor bags in existence that can rival the Kirkland brand. Of course I now have ceiling high stacks of roasted seaweed and I’m buying milk in bulk but it’s 2% and tastes like shit because everyone knows that the only way to enjoy milk is whole milk. The only whole milk Costco has is not organic and I’m pretty devoted to Horizon so I’m drinking watery milk and wondering why I don’t just say fuckit and drink whiskey. So I did. And maybe that’s why I didn’t sleep so well too.

There are two ways to make snickerdoodles. I can make them quickly and efficiently with zero mess on the counter or I can teach my kids to bake. These snickerdoodles took about an hour and I railed against terrible recipe writing when the cinnamon sugar called for three tablespoons of sugar and three teaspoons of cinnamon. Everyone knows that three teaspoons is a tablespoon, right? Right?! I question yelled at my kids. And they sort of looked at the ceiling because my sweet children would never roll their eyes at me.

I didn’t make anyone’s bed or even do the dishes. I just sort of did my best in a limited way and tried texting Mr. G a few times today but he’s in overdrive work mode and return texts came four hours later when his meetings were done. How do you even have a four hour meeting? I mean 30 years ago when you could sit and smoke and drink I totally get it but just sitting there? I’d be tweeting about what everyone was wearing and planning my dinner.

I am certainly not cut out for corporate life. I’m also certainly not cut out for solo parenting.

We have another week to go. I’m sure in a few days feral cats will set up camp in the yard and squatters will move into the living room. Or maybe I’ll get my groove. It’s more likely that the squatters are coming. I do have extra snickerdoodles for them.

Don’t Freak Out on Me but I Want Mom Bloggers to Read This GOMI Post

01.21.14

I know, some of you will never read a thing I write again because GOMI has been described as a hate site or a bully site. They’ve been no friend to some of the people who I consider to be friends and colleagues (oh god do bloggers have colleagues? That’s weird). This morning I was directed to something at GOMI and they have it completely right there.

Apparently a mom blogger had her child in the emergency room for stitches and decided to instagram the moment where her husband held the child down for the doctors. She also talked about him flirting with the nurses, him being the child, which made me want to retch.

Last night was probably the hardest day of being a parent for me to date. Little sailor took a nasty spill in the kitchen and needed 5 stitches on his forehead. All the other parents out there who have spent lots of time in doctors offices and hospitals, I salute you. Sailor was a champ and was flirting with every nurse there. The kid is relentless and amazing. Starting 2014 off with house floods and ER trips, piece of cake. It can only get better :) Instagram

Can we talk about the fact that toddler children don’t flirt? Is there any mother of a little girl who would ever say that their toddler daughter was “flirting with” adult men? Why is it okay for mothers to say that little boys are going on dates or flirting? Nevermind that it’s okay, why am I the only person who seems to recoil from these women in horror? Make me feel less alone please.

The sexy baby thing isn’t really the problem. Obviously this lady and I see parenting a little differently but GOMI points out something that all of us mom bloggers should pay attention to. Why do we Instagram our children in vulnerable moments? I know why we take pictures. I know why we pick up our phones. I don’t necessarily know why we feel a need to share them with strangers. Do we need validation that we are good or even just competent parents? When our blogs are wildly popular (which does come with an expiration date) do we get addicted to accolades or do we just believe our own hype and think that every bump and scrape is breaking news?

How much is too much? And why is mom blogging about kids and not about moms?

I’ve been guilty of overexposing my children and our lives. We all have. So I’m not going to go out and say that this Instagram photo couldn’t have been mine in another setting but I’m wondering how mindful all of us are about our children and their right to a private life?

Also, what’s the point?

This is Why UBER Should be on Every Kid’s Smart Phone

07.29.13

I’m at a party with my friend Laurie and we’re talking to this really nice guy who has a seven month old daughter. I’m typically really cautious when I talk to new parents because I don’t want to scare them. Especially Dads. Especially the Dads of daughters.

We totally failed when I started talking to Laurie about how unpanicked I am about leaving Jane to wander Century City with her friends. “She has Uber.” I said. And sort of shrugged.

Then Laurie and I started talking about why every kid should have Uber on their phone and when we got to the part about being a teenager and on occasion not wanting to get into a car with a Dad who plays grab-ass the new Dad looked at us with horror in his eyes. Even though 100% of the adult women at the party sort of nodded and knew what that felt like I was all, “Oh but times have changed. I’m sure it will never be an issue.”

Because ya know… new parents… sometimes you’ve got to lie to them.

Laurie was insistent that I’ve got to blog about it so, here’s how I use Uber with my kids.

I’ve installed the app on Jane’s phone because she’s out and about with her friends both during the day and at night. She also goes to parties and not all of them are with close friends. I’ve told her that she should use Uber to get herself home if she is ever uncomfortable getting into a car with anyone for any reason. Some of the reasons I’ve talked to her about are parents who have been drinking, parents who make her uncomfortable (and there doesn’t have to be a name for the discomfort), teenagers who make her uncomfortable (same thing, no reason needed) or if there’s anyplace she wants to leave and she doesn’t want me picking her up.

I’ve told Jane, and I will honor this, that if she gets herself home with Uber from a sticky situation at noon or at 2am there will not be any negative consequences. She won’t be in trouble for going to a party with alcohol or drugs. She won’t be in trouble for being out with friends. She will never be punished for getting herself home safely.

I’ve decided to give the kids Uber for a variety of reasons. Each and every reason in it’s essence is because I love my children.

When I met the Push Girls last year I noted that four of the five women I met were in wheelchairs because of car accidents. The accidents were all excessive speed or alcohol fueled. If a smart phone app can get my child home without risking dangerous driving conditions I’d be a fool to not use it.

Parents of teens: I’m going to ask you to do something we should all do at least once a day. I want you to be still and quiet and try to remember being 14 or even 17. Now put yourself at your friend’s house and their parents have just left. All of a sudden 5 other kids appear and they’re thinking about drinking a beer and smoking some pot. What does the 14 year old you do?

The only answer I have is that I know the 14 year old you doesn’t call Mommy for a ride home.

Now imagine the same scenario. The 14 year old you pulls out a smart phone (it’s probably already out) and texts for a town car. 14 year old you can hop into the back seat of a limo and get home. My credit card information is already stored in the app, no money changes hands and your private driver gets you home.

Boom. Done. Decision made.

Taxis in Los Angeles are filthy, dangerous and unreliable. Public transportation is something we struggle with and is only marginally safe. Plus there could be walks of up to a mile, kids can’t do that when they’re already feeling unsure. Los Angeles is not the worst city for public transportation but it’s close.

I’m totally okay with UberX and I’ve loved my drivers but I’ve asked my kids to use a black car first. I’d rather have a professional driver with them but if there’s an exceedingly long wait they should use UberX. With little kids I like that extra level of vetting but at the end of the day UberX would probably be just fine.

Thus far Jane’s only used Uber with friends during a scavenger hunt (long Hollywood story). I wasn’t exactly thrilled but part of me is delighted that she and her friends can get themselves around town and have experienced the app without me.

Remember when you’d go out and your parents wanted to be sure that you had $20 on hand to not spend, it was just in case money? Well, this is the just in case app and I think it’s brilliant.

If you haven’t signed up for Uber you can use my link here to get a $10 credit.

Uber ratings safety

This is my Uber account history

 

When Communities Erode

07.12.13

Thanks to William for another spectacular guest post. You can follow him on twitter at @willibaldoea

We live in a time when no one wants to remember. We pretend we are where it starts. Look at the way we live—we build houses on cliffs, on fault lines, in the path of things, and when something happens, we don’t learn history, we build it again, right on the same spot, bigger, better… Fallout accumulates. What we’ve got now is a blend of fact and fiction that we’re agreeing to call reality.

– A.M. Homes, This Book Will Save Your Life

There’s a fantastic article titled “From Coast to Toast” in the August issue of Vanity Fair. It looks at two communities, one in Malibu and another in Nantucket, that are facing serious erosion problems and the increasing possibility of disappearing for good. I’ll let you read it for yourself, because I think it’s a fairly interesting and involved piece that merits attention and thoughtful consideration. Besides, I can’t tell you what the right answer is.

What I can say is that moments like this reveal something that goes beyond who’s rich and who’s not, which the debate here appears to be about. Admittedly, the debate is also about man and Nature, and we can’t seem to untangle the issues long enough to know what the most pressing facet of the problem is. Or what the most pressing facet is at this moment. That’s the real problem, in my eyes, and also the saddest part about this entire debate.

I can’t help but think about The Bling Ring, a film that’s simultaneously lauded for its beautiful direction but critiqued for its lack of anything resembling a moral stance. Sofia Coppola lingers among the teenagers she depicts in all their delusional and raucous splendor. She doesn’t say much about them, but her lingering instills a sense of discomfort. Or at the very least it did in me, because I recognized those teenagers. They were the same ones I went to school with who are now detoxing from heroin and cocaine addictions, removing tattoos they grew to regret, and dealing with the legal consequences of lives they put on the fast track long before the time was appropriate.

I can’t say my friends made the wrong choices and that I made the right ones. That all remains to be seen, really. What they do with their lives from this point forward, and what I do with mine, are the only true indications of what successes we’ll be able to claim later in life. So as Coppola did, I invite you to linger with the people you meet in the Vanity Fair article. Don’t judge them – because you’ll want to, and there are two sides that are equally understandable but also infuriating.

Just sit with them. Listen. And hope, for everyone’s sake, that this is something we can figure out.

If you want my opinion, I’d say let nature takes it’s course. It seems like the only humble approach possible, and maybe it’s what will ultimately save us from ourselves.

 

Poison & Rock and Roll

05.19.13

I’d arrived in Perth midday when text messages started flooding in from Mr G. Understand that I’d left the three of them home while I ran off to Australia for another conference and was feeling incredibly guilty about it. Mr G is on antibiotics, Jane and Alexander need me and if the dog gets walked it will be a miracle. I’m feeling like a terrible mother and an even worse wife when I read the first text.

It started with a picture of my family eating at Hooters.

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The text said: Saturday night…. Part 1…. Dinner at Hooters. Stay tuned more to come

And my head started to hurt because everything about Hooters is wrong.

Then the next photos arrived.

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The text: Saturday night part 2

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Text: show about to start. Kids don’t know what to make of this. Last second Saturday night surprise I dumped on them.

And then there was video

I’m dying of envy in a very small part because I’d have liked to see The Stones, but in a much larger part because I’d have liked to be there when my kids saw The Stones.

The Hooters… that’s just unspeakable.

The Cinnamon Challenge is KILLING OUR KIDS

04.23.13

Or maybe it isn’t. Who the hell knows?

Sometime around last September there was a media query looking for parents whose teens had tried the cinnamon challenge. I responded that my kid had and a producer from the Dr. Oz show wanted to know if she had any bad experiences from it? I stated that she hadn’t and asked why they were looking for teens and the reply was: BECAUSE KIDS ARE DYING.

Well, no. They actually aren’t but that was a nice try.

Is the cinnamon challenge good for you? Probably not. Is it smart? Nothing that makes a mess on my kitchen counter is smart. Is every news outlet in America going to spend the week getting shrill with Oh My Gawd Collapsed Lung!? Yes. That will happen. We love to save the children, social media is bad for the children, memes are bad for the children, ingesting spices is bad for the children and while you’re at it stop saying The F Word so much the children have delicate ears.

This new breed of hysteria is obscene.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (the same folks who want your toddler to have zero screen time and think that you should engage your 0-2 year old every second of the day):

Videos of people attempting the Cinnamon Challenge have become an Internet sensation. Typically, a video reveals a group of adolescents watching as someone taking the challenge begins coughing and choking when the spice triggers a severe gag reflex in response to a caustic sensation in the mouth and throat. As of August 10, 2012, there were 51 100 YouTube clips depicting the Cinnamon Challenge. One video was viewed 19 million times, predominantly by 13- to 24- year-olds, ages similar to people taking the Cinnamon Challenge and associated with the greatest need for conformity. These videos have raised concerns of choking, aspiration, and pulmonary damage. In most cases, the effects are temporary, yet the Cinnamon Challenge has led to dozens of calls to poison centers, emergency department visits, and even hospitalizations for adolescents requiring ventilator support for collapsed lungs.

These “hospitalizations” are referenced in a footnote that links to this video which is hosted on the Akron Children’s Hospital website. Below the video it reads: Related to Conditions: Asthma

If you don’t feel like watching a local news channel (can’t really blame you) I’ll give you the highlights. People post the cinnamon challenge online, it’s funny, people do it at home, more than 100 people called poison control, 30 people sought medical attention one collapsed lung in an asthmatic child.

From the American Association of Pediatrics:

The temporary responses to cinnamon are common to several substances and probably do not increase the risk of long-term damage.

Thus, the Cinnamon Challenge may pose greater and unnecessary health risks for persons allergic to cinnamon or with bronchopulmonary diseases, including asthma.

I assure you that the three researchers who published this very preliminary study were careful in choosing their words. I was going to throw in some interesting statistics about how many kids break their arms on school yards or lose limbs crossing the street but then I remembered that some of y’all might completely lose it and wrap your precious kids in bubble wrap after hearing those numbers.

To be perfectly clear 100+ phone calls to poison control doesn’t matter and it’s important that smart people understand why it’s a meaningless number. What happens is that people call Poison Control and say that their child has done the cinnamon challenge and that they coughed. Then Poison Control tells them that their child will be fine. They hang up the phone and shortly thereafter the child is fine. That 100+ people called Poison Control only matters if there is actual poison involved.

If you read the whole study you’ll get this paragraph:

According to the Florida Poison Information Center–Miami, between July 2011 and June 2012, there were 26 calls regarding cinnamon exposure in individuals ranging from age 1.5 to 83 years. Most patients had only minor consequences that resolved after dilution, irrigation, and washing the affected area, and most did not require follow-up. Of the 5 cases that did involve follow-up, symptoms resolved in 1 to 2.5 hours. Of the overall 26 cases, 13 (all youths aged 8–18 years) involved the Cinnamon Challenge. Of these 13 cases, 2 had “potentially toxic” exposures. Common symptoms included coughing and burning of the mouth, nose, and throat. More serious symptoms included extensive coughing, vomiting, nosebleed, and chest tightness. With only 1 exception (emesis), possible aspiration and pulmonary symptoms were limited to adolescents, all of whom had ingested dry powder from the Cinnamon Challenge. Although the known health risks of the challenge are relatively low, they are unnecessary and avoidable.

Now I understand that if you’re a researcher your job is to recommend that children avoid anything painful or irritating but by their own words the health risks are low. I’d say they’re infinitesimal. We have one meaningful injury where an asthmatic child was injured and there are 763,000 results for cinnamon challenge on YouTube.

The moral of the story is that if your child has asthma the only thing that they should breathe in is air. Everyone else might have a sore throat or watery eyes, it’s dumb, but we have to let kids be a little dumb. If you tell your kid that the cinnamon challenge is going to kill them and 763 million videos show them that you’re wrong they will never believe you when you tell them about the things that really are dangerous. And I wouldn’t believe you either.

Do we really need the every major news outlet to pick up on this as a dramatic story?

Push back. Tell the media that you aren’t buying the mindless fear they’re selling.

And none of this would be complete without showing you my daughter’s cinnamon challenge video which is so 2012….

cinnamon challenge

The Worst Mother at Little League

04.9.13

batting practice in the house

I didn’t play softball as a child. I’m not even sure that Manhattan Beach had softball but I think that when we were tiny some of the girls played Little League. If you didn’t play soccer and volleyball you didn’t have a social life so I’m pretty sure those girls didn’t last long and joined us at the beach or on the fields.

I like baseball. I love going to a Dodgers game though I much prefer the cleanliness of Angels Stadium. This should surprise no one who knows me well.

My son plays Little League. I bring him to practice and check out everyone else’s pants. This year they are grey so I can’t compare laundry skills as well as I could when the pants were white. I decide who is good at laundry and that’s pretty much where the competition ends for me.

This afternoon (evening maybe? The games last until 7pm) I was watching Alexander play and listening to Howard Stern on Sirius when Mr. G called. He wanted to know how the game was going. I explained to him that Alexander had only one play in the field and it was at first base where he dropped the ball. Mr. G went back to work and was probably a little bummed about his son not playing great ball. I just clapped when the other moms clapped, turned in my raffle tickets and tried to catch the last rays of sun. I managed to catch up with a friend at the snack bar (and really they shouldn’t call that shack a bar unless they’re willing to put some booze in it) and marvel at her kids who are tall and beautiful and in my mind will always be one year olds in diapers.

So after the game I drove the kids home and talked to Alexander about the game. He was like, “They didn’t win that game, we lost it.” So I tentatively brought up the missed ball at first base which was when I got a chorus of “Mo-om, you’re the worst baseball mom EVER.”

Apparently the kid who dropped the ball at first base wasn’t my son. He was some other kid (kudos on the laundry mom… I totally thought those were the grey pants I got very clean) and in addition to being not-my-son the ball wasn’t missed so much as it was thrown wrong. So you see I know nothingWhich is actually preferable to him having screwed up a play that may or may not have existed.

But I do know for a fact that he was walked once and hit it to second base another time and if there was a third at bat I might have missed it because I was chatting with the mom at the snack not-a-bar.

Worst baseball mom ever. But the uniform is absolutely glistening clean. So I win.