Monthly Archives: October 2007

How to survive a zombie attack

Watch out for those pesky flaming zombies.

Happy Halloween! (and thanks Alec for the lead).

Have we given up on public school?

Across the street from my house sits an empty brick building that used to brim with youthful energy. It’s a closed public elementary school now sitting vacant and empty, a victim of provincial budget cuts due to declining enrollment.

2 blocks away, a private elementary school is bursting at the seams with students, desperate to find bigger digs for their burgeoning population. It seems that this trend of declining enrollment does not extend to private schools.

A recent study by the province of Ontario (reported in the Globe and Mail) shows that enrollment in private schools is booming.

The study, titled “Ontario’s Private Schools: Who chooses them and why?” and released last May, notes that private school enrollment in the province grew to nearly 6 per cent of students in 2006, from 1.9 per cent in 1960.

Are we giving up on public education?

Neither of my kids are in school yet. But I worry about this, not only as a parent, but as a member of society. 6% of students represents a huge number of kids and parents who have chosen, for whatever reasons, to opt out of public education. And, if the numbers in the article are correct and consistent, if it does indeed cost $15,000 per year for private education, then you can bet that the population of private schools is predominantly upper/upper middle class. A massive block of high socio-economic people disengaged from the public system means that those in lower socio-economic classes become over represented in the public system. AS a gross generalization, lower socio-economic status is related to higher rates of challenging students, which places an increasing burden on limited public sector resources.

It’s a vicious circle. Take out the people who have the most resources to solve some of the problems in the public sector and leave those with the least resources available to struggle. Which then makes the private route seem even more attractive to those left in the public system.

I could be way off base here. I am not a social scientist, or an expert on primary education and demographics. I’m drawing broad conclusion based on anecdote and a single article. But my thoughts have been confirmed by a number of parents I speak with who are now beginning to ask themselves the question: private or public? And it is distressing to hear so many choose private.

So again I ask. Are we giving up on public education? Or is my perception being clouded by the fact that I am now just starting to examine these issues because my kids are getting closer to school age? Perhaps this is the way it has always been and I am again a victim of that myopic parent trap where things that have been a certain way for a long time suddenly have relevance now that I am a parent?

What kinds of conversations are you having at your house as your kids get closer to going to school?

That’s mighty cute giardia

giardia from Warehouse 23And then there is Warehouse 23. If you’ve got a bit of a bent sense of humor, check out their selection of stuffies. I quite like their germ section. Nothing like snuggling up with giardia (left), mad cow disease or a stomach ache, although cuddling up with a KISS doll might be pretty cool, too. Not to mention a Monty Python classic: the Black Beast of Aaaarrrggghhhh from “In Search of the Holy Grail”. Your kids probably won’t be getting these from Grandma this Christmas.

An allergy update (and why I wish we had a dog)

It has been 6 months since The Boy was been diagnosed with allergies (nuts, wheat, soy, dairy and eggs). A few weeks ago we had a follow up appointment with the pediatrician. We were hoping that he would suggest another round of testing to see if he had outgrown any, but instead he suggested we stay the course and retest in the new year. Staying the course means continuing on the elimination diet of all potential allergens.

Living with allergies has changed everything in our house. The obvious is learning how to cook and eat well balanced meals without wheat, soy, eggs, dairy or nuts. Thankfully, 2 books recommended to us have helped immensely. The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook: Two Hundred Gourmet & Homestyle Recipes for the Food Allergic Family and Food Allergy Survival Guide: Surviving and Thriving With Food Allergies and Sensitivities. Without either, I’m sure our lifestyle would be even more hampered. But, thanks to some of the recipes in this book, my wife and The Boy are able to still enjoy home baking. Six months ago, if you would have said to us that we would be able to make and enjoy muffins, breads and cookies without wheat, eggs, or dairy we probably would have scoffed. But these cookbooks have some great alternatives that are delicious and satisfy the food restrictions.

But, as we are discovering, living with allergies is much more than just cooking differently. Since we do not know the extent of his allergies, we have to be hyper-vigilante when he is awake and on the move or else run the (albeit low) risk of anaphylaxis. We are constantly on guard, especially now that he is 10 months old, mobile and like a Hoover, sucking up every morsel of food he finds on the floor.

Like many people, so much of our social life revolves around food. Parties always involve food, and there is always this low level anxiety hanging over you as you constantly watch for a dropped a nut, piece of cracker or cheese onto the floor or just within arm reach.

Birthday cake has been eliminated.

And, with the start of daycare looming in another month or so, the thought that we won’t be there to watch and supervise while he is in close proximity to a dozen other kids is frightening. Fortunatly, the staff are excellent and highly trained in dealing with kids with allergies.

We’ve bought our first Epipen Jr. Let me tell you, nothing drives home the point that things are really different than seeing an example of how to administer an Epipen to a kid in full anaphylaxis.

I suppose it is like living with any condition (for lack of a better term). It is always there. It hangs over everything, and colours everyday decisions. Our hope is that he will outgrow them (as 80% of kids do) by his third birthday. But maybe not. Perhaps this is the new reality of our life. If so, it is going to be made much more difficult when he starts to realize that he isn’t eating birthday cake at the parties.

Breast is Best

Some of you may know that I am a huge fan of the English soccer club Arsenal. One of their rising young stars is a kid named Theo Walcott. He’s 18 years old and has just lent his name to a major breastfeeding awareness campaign in the UK.

I’m not sure I know many professional athletes, let alone 18 year old guys, who are even aware that breasts have a function, so major kudos to Theo for stepping up and becoming an advocate for breastfeeding. True, he is getting a bit of media coaching from his midwife Mom, but still a big deal for someone like Theo to take this on. he realizes it isn’t without risks.

He seems unconcerned (or perhaps unaware) about the potentially lethal dressing-room combination of being baby-faced and advocating mother’s milk. “I know I’ll get the mickey taken out of me, but that’s always happening anyway. What can I say? It’s the right thing to do. It’s about healthy eating, getting healthy bones, right from the start of life, and men need to support their wives in that. That’s what I’ll be doing with my kids.”

The Breastfeeding Manifesto Walcott is promoting has been produced by a coalition of 39 organisations, including the Royal Society of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Midwives. It not only calls for health-care professionals to be fully trained to support mothers with breastfeeding but also for government support for breastfeeding in public.

Um, what did you say?

Our bedtime routine had an unexpected hiccup last night when, for the first time, a consequence was met with a shrug from The Girl.

One of the techniques we use in our family is natural consequences, which has been working quite well with The Girl for the past 2 years. Part of the nighttime routine is that after a bath, we dry off, brush teeth and then go upstairs to read 3 books. The consequence for stalling in the bathroom is less time to read books. If The Girl is jerking around in the bathroom during her bath-pj-brush routine, the number of books gets reduced from 3 to 2 and then 2 to 1. Usually, this works pretty well and all it takes is a threat that we’ll be down to 2 books if she doesn’t hurry up to get her going again. Not last night.

We just came back from a long weekend trip, so everyone was tired and a bit punchy. She was jerking around in the tub, so after numerous warnings I finally pulled out the book consequence.

“I am going to count to 3 and if you are not out of the tub you are going to be down to 2 books.”

“That’s okay with me, Dad.”


“Okay, then, maybe if I count to 3 we’ll be down to 1 book.”

Obviously giving up one book was okay, but giving up 2 books was too much as she hopped out of the tub.

So, it looks like she is beginning to weigh out the consequences with the behaviour. If the consequence stakes are not sufficiently high enough, she is now choosing to accept the consequences and continue on with her behaviour.

Suddenly consequences have become much more complicated.