Friday, October 25, 2013

Family Time

"Family Time," a collection of more than 100 fun, funny, poignant comics by "No Ordinary Life" comic Justin Baglio is now available through Raburn Publishing. To order a copy, click here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tips to Keep Children Safe and Happy on Halloween

‘Tis the season for frolicking fun, festive parties, dressing up in ghoulish costumes, trick-or-tricking and, of course, lots of yummy sweet treats. It can also be dangerous. Each year accidents and injuries ruin Halloween for hundreds of children across the U.S. 

Droves of children will be out and about on Halloween night, which ups the odds for all sorts of accidents, including being hit by a car. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates deaths among pedestrians aged 5-14 is four times higher on Halloween than any other evening of the year. Remember, this is a festive occasion for grownups too and some of them may not be on their best driving behavior.

And it’s not just cars our kiddos have to worry about. Danger lurks everywhere.

Below are some tips to keep in mind to make sure this Halloween is a fun, safe one for your family.

Pedestrian Safety
When romping around the ‘hood on Halloween night, make sure your kids wear brightly colored costumes and/or reflective tape on costumes and bags. Have them take a flashlight, too – not just so they can see better, but for drivers to see them better too. Make sure kids walk in groups, in well-lit neighborhoods, and on streets with which they are familiar. Remind them to use sidewalks and crosswalks and cross streets together as a pack. 

Picking out a pumpkin at your favorite pumpkin patch is a fun family tradition for many. Carving the pumpkin can be dangerous, though. Pumpkin exteriors can be oh so tough which means you need a sharp knife to cut through them. Sharp knives and kids is a bad combination. Suggestion: let the kids draw the design on the pumpkin with a marker and have the adult do all the cutting. Or, skip the carving part altogether and decorate the pumpkin with paint or sharpies or glitter glue.

Whether home-made or store bought, it’s important that whatever mask your child wears fits properly so that it doesn't obstruct her vision. Chances are your child will be climbing up and down doorsteps, most of the time in front of houses dimly lit for an extra spooky effect, with lots of distractions and excitement all around. That’s tricky enough. If her eye-holes are too small for her eyes or are somewhere over her ear and nose, her vision will be impaired and her chances of tumbling down the steps greatly increased - spewing Skittles and candy corn as she goes. Not that I remember something like that actually happening to me or anything.

Remember, you can always cut the eye-holes to make them bigger and enhance your child’s peripheral vision. 

Oh, and make sure your child can breathe well under that mask. Breathing is important.

Candy Safety
It’s the one night of the year when the “never take candy from a stranger" rule is suspended. You still need to be cautious, though. Make sure your child knows that no candy should be eaten before a parent properly examines it. Avoid eating home-made treats handed out by strangers (no matter how yummy it looks), unwrapped candy, or any treat that just looks odd or suspicious for some reason. There will be enough perfectly safe candy to last for weeks. No need to risk your health by eating something funky.

Houses to Avoid
Not everyone celebrates Halloween. Heck, not everyone even likes kids. Avoid those people. It’s pretty easy to determine who in the neighborhood is in the Halloween spirit. Avoid the houses with no lights on and not even a smidgen of Halloween decoration on the porch or windows. They’re either not home or they do not want little Zombie ringing the door bell. Also, NEVER enter the house of someone you do not know. Adults know the protocol: kid in costume rings doorbell, adult answers door, child screams "Trick or Treat," bemused grownup says something along the lines of “…well, aren’t you just the most darling Fairy Princess” then hands kid Snicker’s bar, child says "thank you" and promptly proceeds to the next house. That’s the way it’s always been done. No reason to go inside.

Beware the Shenanigans
Remember, there will be a lot of shenanigans and mischief-making on Halloween night, most of which is fun-spirited, but some of it could get out of hand. Be sure to warn your child about pranksters and also remind him that Halloween doesn’t give him an excuse to vandalize property or play mean tricks on people. Rolling yards with toilet paper or tossing eggs at cars may seem like a harmless prank, but it could land your child in serious trouble.

Check in
If you allow your older child to go out trick-or-treating in a group without adult supervision, which I don’t advise, be sure that she or someone in the group has a cell phone and reports in at designated times, makes regular stops back home to check in, and is clear about a definitive curfew. Stress to your child that she should NEVER accept a ride in a car from an older kid or stranger.

The Spaghetti Effect
Finally, if you don’t want your child to consume huge amounts of candy on Halloween night, one trick is to make sure she eats a filling dinner before trick-or-treating. This will result in either one of two outcomes: she won’t eat so much candy; or, she’ll still eat too much candy and there will be a large pile of spaghetti in the lawn of someone in the neighborhood. Your call.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Amazon Review

A recent review of “There’s a Bully on the Playground” on Amazon. com: 

“Like the author, I have two kids in elementary school. Bullying has been a problem the past couple years and nobody seems to be doing much about it. This book is packed with useful info not only for parents like me as I try to help my kids deal with the issue, but also for kids themselves (whether they're being bullied, bystanders to bullying or the bully themselves) and for teachers and principals too. I highly recommend it. It's a combination of sophisticated researched-based info and common sense advice based on the authors own experiences. Quick, easy read packed with helpful info and ideas.” -Daddio

Would You Let Your Child Play Football?

Would you let your child play football?

That’s a hot question these days as information about long-term medical problems among former players in the National Football League (NFL) continues to be revealed.  The NFL recently settled a lawsuit for $765 million involving thousands of its former players. The players claim that the league knew of the potential risk of brain damage due to repetitive concussions, but did little to educate them or prevent the injuries from occurring.

Some former players link their current medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and other neurodegenerative diseases to their football playing days. A recent study suggests that professional football players are three times more likely to have such conditions than the general population. 

The study, which was published September 5, 2012 in the medical journal Neurology, surveyed nearly 3,500 retired NFL players who were in the league between 1959 and 1988.

The NFL has taken major steps in recent years to make the game safer for its players, both in terms of equipment and protocol. In the past, though, whenever a player got his “bell rung” and wobbled to the sideline, he was sent right back into the game as soon as possible, exposing the player to further head injuries.

Obviously, there’s a big difference between Little League and the NFL. The massive size, speed and power of players competing at the highest level is in no way comparable to young kids just picking up the sport in elementary school. You won’t see the kind of violent collisions in Pee Wee games that you do on Monday Night Football.

On the other hand, there’s also a big difference in the quality of protective equipment used by pros versus youngsters. 

And, whereas qualified medical staff is always on the sidelines at practices and games for college and pro teams, that’s not the case for younger players.

The barrage of recent media coverage regarding the NFL lawsuit is shining a light on the dangers of the sport and making parents across the country wonder whether the risks are worth it.

Undeniably, football at any level is violent. Toughness is rewarded. To “shake off” an injury and get back in the game is seen as admirable.  That’s just part of the culture of the sport and true whether it’s the New York Jets or some Pop Warner team in Chapel Hill. Taping an ankle and limping back to the gridiron to the applause of the fans in the stands is one thing; returning to the line of fire once you’ve “shaken the cobwebs” after a blow to the head is an entirely different matter.

It’s hard for a parent to draw the line. Maybe youth leagues are safe but reservations start to creep in along about the junior high or high school level as the size, speed and power of its participants increase. Regardless of the dangers, the sport remains a very popular activity among young people. It is estimated that 3.5 million kids play in youth leagues and one million play in high school.

Most youngsters who play football don’t sustain serious injuries, although almost everyone who plays long enough will get a little banged up from time to time, a twisted ankle or bruised knee here and there.  Head injuries, however, aren’t as easy to detect as a twisted ankle and a bruised brain poses a much greater risk for problems down the road.

But how risky is it? A group of researchers in North Carolina and Virginia is hoping to shed some light on the subject, according to an article in Technology Review. The researchers worked with two youth teams and one high school team, representing children aged 6-18, during the 2012-2013 football season. With helmets equipped with accelerometers, more than 16,000 head impacts were recorded and measured over the course of that season. Players were given neurological tests and brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging and magnetoencephalography to look for changes in the brain before and after the season. Results are still being analyzed.

The researchers hope to develop tools to identify when a player has been hit hard enough, or repeatedly enough, to risk a concussion or other brain injury.

The decision can be a tough one for parents. Most of us want our kids involved in extracurricular activities and believe participating on an athletic team builds confidence and discipline. We may wonder whether football is really more dangerous than soccer or skateboarding or surfing or driving a car or other activities in which we allow our child to participate. Many of us have fond memories of Friday nights under the lights and feel like a hypocrite denying the same experience to our children.

Still, keeping our children safe is a fundamental task as a parent. Each family must consider the pros and cons and make a decision that’s right for their child. 

Family Time

Raburn Publishing is just a few days away from the release of "Family Time" a collection of more than 100 awesome, funny, poignant, quirky comics from the brilliant (and kinda strange) mind of "No Ordinary Life" artist Justin Baglio. We're in the final stage of layout... Melanie's crossing t's and dotting i's. Check back for updates.