Monday, April 28, 2008

Can a Woman's Diet Determine the Sex of Her Baby?

I’d always been taught in biology class that the sex of a baby is determined by the father. If he contributes an X chromosome, you’ve got a girl. If he gives a Y chromosome, it’s a bouncing baby boy. But at the same time, being the mother of four boys, I’ve always wondered if I played a part somehow in attracting all those Y chromosomes. Now a study released by British researchers says that I could be right.

According to researcher Fiona Mathews at the University of Exeter, a woman’s diet may affect whether she conceives a boy or a girl. An Associated Press story about the study states that “certain nutrients or eating patterns make women’s bodies more hospitable to sperm carrying the male chromosome.” For instance, having a good appetite, eating foods that are rich in potassium (like bananas) and not skipping breakfast appeared to increase the odds of having a boy.

A fertility specialist at University of Illinois at Chicago says these findings correlate with evidence from test-tube fertilizations that male embryos thrive better when they are exposed to more “nutrient-rich lab cultures.”

According to a press release posted by The Royal Society, “Researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Oxford show a clear link between a high energy intake before conception and the birth of sons. As well as consuming more calories, women who had sons were more likely to have eaten a higher quantity and wider range of nutrients such as, potassium, calcium and vitamins C, E and B12. There was also a strong correlation between women who ate breakfast cereals and the production of sons” (Source: http://royalsociety.org/news.asp?id=7622).

Well, it is true that I’ve never dieted and I’m a big fan of bananas, so perhaps there is some truth to this study! In any case, there’s no harm in heeding its advice if you’re trying to conceive a baby of a particular gender. Hey, guys, want to get that son you always wanted? Seduce your honey with a banana daiquiri tonight!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Celebrate Mother’s Day and Win Braincandy DVDs!


I recently received a beautiful set of Braincandy DVDs. These award-winning DVDs are the brainchild of Sam Reich-Dagnen and her husband John, who created them for their twins, Blaise and Logan, when they had difficulty finding “developmentally appropriate content that truly engaged our children rather than just putting them to sleep.”

Each DVD in this 5-disc series covers one of the 5 senses:

See My World
Hear My World
Taste My World
Touch My World
Smell My World


Through characters in the “Sense Gang,” children explore the world through their five senses. Lots of music, puppetry, games and fun entice young children to engage in their surroundings.

In celebration of Mother’s Day, Braincandy’s creators have generously offered to send a set of Braincandy DVDs to one lucky winner. Here’s how to enter to win:

• Visit Braincandy's DVD collection and email contest@braincandykids.com with “TwinsTalk” in the subject line. In your email, name one of the Five Senses characters (click on the DVDs in the online collection to learn more about the characters).

• One entry permitted per person; US and Canada entrants welcome.

• Entry period is between today (April 25) and Sunday, May 11, 2008 (Mother’s Day) at midnight EST.

NOTE: This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Amy McCullough, winner of the Braincandy Mother's Day drawing! Amy wins a full set of Braincandy DVDs for her twins, Jack and Olivia.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Celebrate the International Day of the Book

In my previous post, I wrote about our family’s newfound love of the library. Coincidentally, I just found out that April 23 is an international celebration called World Book and Copyright Day. So, I can’t let this event pass without talking about reading one more time. First, here’s what the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) web site has to say about this special day:

More than 100 countries will take part on 23 April in the 13th celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, proclaimed by UNESCO in 1996. Publishers, book shops, libraries, schools, cultural institutions and authors’ societies from all over the world have undertaken to celebrate the Day and promote the enduring importance of books.

As an author and a mother, I couldn’t be more thrilled with any event that encourages people to read. I can’t imagine my life without books, and I know my children can’t either. My teenage boys are currently engrossed in reading the Dune sci-fi series. My preschoolers beg me to read to them every night (which I gladly do). And my husband and I always have several books going. I alternate between fiction and nonfiction books. Mike is usually reading books about investing, mountain climbing, or other interests.

For those of you who are going to say that you just don’t have time to read (and I’m guilty of saying that myself), why not try out an audiobook? You can listen to it while you’re using your computer, driving in the car or working out at the gym. I recently discovered audio books, as well. (Yes, I know they’ve been around for a while, but I can be a little slow in catching up on the latest trends!) Moreover, you can download them right from the computer. Audible.com has a great selection of audiobooks for adults, and they now have a new service for kids called AudibleKids.com. They describe themselves as “an engaging, interactive community of parents, their kids, and educators that promotes the fun of storytelling through audiobooks. Listen to books, read and post reviews, and share your favorites with others.” AudibleKids has a huge selection of books (more than 3,500), ranging from simple “easy readers” to books that are enjoyed by teens and adults. There’s a parents’ guide and even a way for parents to set up an “allowance” for their kids so they can pick out their favorite books, but stay within your budget. You can listen to samples of books, and the stories are downloadable to most MP3 players. You can search for books by category, age, grade, title, author, keyword, award winners and more. There are even 99-cent specials so you can try them out with minimal investment.

So, don’t let International Book Day pass without resolving to incorporate more books into your family’s life. There’s no excuse for not reading. Head to the library; go to the bookstore; dust off the books on your bookshelves; or check out AudibleKids.com for an audiobook. As Heinrich Mann said, “A house without books is like a room without windows.”

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fun at the Library

Welcome to National Library Week! My family and I have just discovered the joys of the library. We kind of got away from it for a few years, assuming that the Internet and TV could meet our every need for information and entertainment, but we recently started heading back to the library, and now we’re addicted!

My eighteen-year-old loves music, so he goes through the library’s stacks of CDs so he can check out various artists and their songs to see if he likes them. It’s a great way to “preview” a CD or a new group he’s heard about without having to buy it (and then waste his money if he decides he doesn’t like it).

My fifteen-year-old likes to watch movies, so he explores the library’s movie selection. It’s less expensive than going to the video store, and he has found some real treasures that he has missed. He recently had to set up a booth on Russia at his school’s World Fair, and he found a National Geographic DVD about Russia, which he played on a portable DVD player as part of his display.

My husband likes to catch up on his TV shows, so lately he’s been getting the older seasons of Stargate SG-1 to watch. And I like to discover PBS movies I haven’t seen, such as the various re-enactments of Jane Austen novels.

Finally, my four-year-old twins benefit most of all. We attended the library’s weekly story and craft time after preschool for six weeks. And they love to pick out videos and books to bring home. It’s a great way to read old favorites (Berenstain Bears, Franklin, etc.) while uncovering new books they’ve never seen before. It also gives us a revolving selection of children’s movies for our car’s DVD player.

There are so many more things at the library that we have yet to uncover—the latest novels, audio CDs, and much more. I hope you’ll support your local library and encourage your children’s love of reading. Make a visit to the library several times a month and discover the entertainment and information that awaits you there!

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

There's No Such Thing as a Brisk Walk with Preschoolers

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that my chiropractor wants me to walk more. He’s been telling me this for several months (which I’ve been obeying off and on . . . okay, probably more off than on). But then I had the misfortune of wrenching my lower back last weekend while swinging a forty-pound kid in the air, so I figured I’d better start getting a little more exercise or I’d end up in a wheelchair before the age of 45. Fortunately, after a little acupuncture (very cool) and some help from Mother Nature, I’ve graduated from the “knife-like pain” stage to the “merely sore” stage. Nonetheless, my chiro says now that I’ve got to keep walking so I don’t stiffen up. Sigh . . . I’ve always found walking a little dull when I’m by myself. (By the way, I’ve added an MP3 player to my Mother’s Day wish list. Perhaps a few motivational tapes will inspire me to walk briskly! I figure if I add a few items like a new car, a kitchen makeover and a luxury cruise to that same list that I’ve got a pretty good chance of getting the MP3 player.) Therefore, to ward off the boredom, I recruited my four-year-old twins to go along for my walk. I envisioned that I’d be so busy trying to keep up with them that it would be a good workout. I couldn’t have been more wrong; I have never been on a slower walk in my life!

First it was the flowers. “Mommy, look at these beautiful flowers! I’ll pick some for you!” Well, they were actually weeds, but I didn’t want to discourage their generosity, so I let them pick them. Then we saw the neighbor’s kitty out in the yard. “Maybe we could put some of our flowers on her,” they suggested. No, I didn’t think kitty would be too happy about that. We continued on until they discovered a sewer grate. It was a new game. How many things can you drop down a sewer grate, and what kind of sound will they make? I discovered, actually, that our neighborhood is filled with these sewer grates, and we had to stop at every single one of them. The boys picked up worms (dead and alive), grass, sticks and bugs, all of which either went into their pockets or down the sewer grate. I finally got the boys headed in the general direction of home when another neighbor passed by with her two little dogs, which the twins had to pet, of course. “Why are the dogs so little?” “What are their names?” “How come that one is black?” It was 20-questions time.

At long last, we made it home. I don’t think I got much exercise from walking, but I definitely did some great squats as I inspected various weeds, bugs and rocks on the ground. I’m certain that my chiropractor wouldn’t be too impressed with my walking regimen, but I wouldn’t trade my “walk on the wild side” with the twins for anything. I know the days are numbered when a flying bird, a leaf or a scurrying lizard will be a source of fascination. I’ll walk alone sometimes, too (perhaps after I get that MP3 player), but I’m also going to make sure I take the time to just explore the neighborhood through my children’s eyes. Wanna see a cool bug?

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Experienced Mom Is Still Clueless with Sick Kids

You would think that after four children and eighteen years of parenting experience, I would have all the answers. My mother’s intuition would be finely tuned, and I would know what to do in every situation. Unfortunately, when it comes to having sick kids, I’m still totally clueless.

Take this week, for instance. Austen (one of my four-year-old twins) started complaining of a stomach ache on Sunday. For the next two days, he had a high temperature and a cough. We debated whether to take him to the doctor. Was it a touch of flu, or something worse? We finally decided that if he was still feverish the next day, he was definitely going to the doctor. Fortunately, his fever broke the next morning, and he was noticeably spunkier the rest of the day. I’m still not sure what he had, but I’m grateful he’s better!

On the other hand, Austen’s twin brother, Caleb, experienced much lighter symptoms. He had a runny nose and complained of a slightly sore throat, but he never had a fever. He seemed just as happy as usual. I took him to preschool and got a phone call a half-hour later. “Caleb’s eye is all red, and there’s a discharge. You’ll have to pick him up, and he can’t return to school without a doctor’s note.” I have to admit, I thought the school was overreacting. Of course his eyes are a little red, I told myself. That happens often when the sinuses are involved. As for the discharge, well, he probably just has a little sleep in his eye. I resented that the school wanted me to take him to the doctor for a simple cold. Huffing and puffing, I picked up Caleb and called the doctor from the car. When we got to the office, I noticed that Caleb’s eye was “gunky” again and wiped it with a tissue. In the waiting room, more gunk appeared. I had to admit that the school had been right: The poor kid had pink eye and, to top it off, an ear infection!

The moral of this story is that you’ll never know it all. Every day in parenting is a new learning experience—perpetual on-the-job training—even after eighteen years! Forgive yourself for any moments of cluelessness and know that you’re doing the best you can. Uh-oh, is that a rash I see popping out on Austen’s face??? Clueless Mom to the rescue!

Postscript: The rash is getting worse...I'm diagnosing Fifth Disease!

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