Annapolis Shooting: 5 Lessons from the Heroes We Lost

Annapolis shooting

After the Annapolis shooting, parents asked, “How will we explain this to our children?” It’s the refrain to the mournful, never-ending rock ballad that is our national conversation on gun violence. I usually tell my kids, ages three to 10, the truth about a tragedy in an age-appropriate manner. I try to point out the helpers (thank you, Mister Rogers), and reassure them that they are safe. But I’m not sure that’s enough. While I appreciate the importance of honesty and preparedness, I want them to experience more joy than sadness and to value life. Kids should understand that each one of us is on this Earth to do amazing things. Every human being fulfills an awesome mission that couldn’t have been accomplished by anyone else. Even though most of us don’t get to see our achievements celebrated by people outside our own circles, we do, in our small way,        …read more

At-Home DNA Test Kits and Genealogy: Maybe Keep It in the Family

DNA test kit

DNA test kits claim to trace family trees and help people change behavior to prevent disease, but at what cost? My great-uncles on my mother’s side are both botanists. In fact, along with a fun little blood disorder and esophageal issues, botany runs in my family. Perhaps that’s why both of my uncles are fascinated by our family’s genealogy. Recently, my uncle Milton sent me a robust study — his true life’s work — that traces our family’s lineage all the way from the fields of Aquitaine to Cajun Country in Louisiana. Over the decades, he’s gone through every document he could get his hands on, from birth certificates to causes of death, following our family tree from its outermost leaves to a fair number of early roots. On my father’s side, a great-aunt was the dedicated recorder of our family history, from the original immigrants who traveled from Germany        …read more

Fostering Hope: Rising above Adversity in the Child Welfare System

foster, Child Welfare System

In honor of National Foster Care Month, get to know a former foster child now studying for her doctorate to help kids in the Child Welfare System. National Foster Care Month was first established by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Since the creation of National Foster Care Month, it has been designated as a time to acknowledge the hard work of the individuals, organizations and communities pulling together to improve the lives of America’s most vulnerable children. Those unfamiliar with the foster care system or the Child Welfare System as a whole might associate it with unfit parents and poor outcomes. However, while it’s true that the foster care system has a way to go in terms of ensuring the safety and stability of young people, there are successful outcomes to applaud too. Below is an overview of the Child Welfare System, which at times may seem downright depressing, if        …read more

Should Science Edit out Genetic Disorders?

genetic disorders

Is a new scientific breakthrough in the treatment of genetic disorders tantamount to eugenics? Some people claim it is. Scientists have successfully modified the DNA of a human embryo to erase a genetic and lethal heart condition. The experiment, published August 2 in the journal Nature, used a tool known as CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, and was the first to successfully “correct” a gene mutation in human embryos. Reactions to this news range from excitement to horror. Soon we could have the technology to help parents who carry genes for genetic disorders to conceive children free of those traits. But should we? Some of the strongest opposition to CRISPR has come from people with genetic disorders themselves. Far from hoping for a path to prevent their children from inheriting pathogenic genes, some people with genetic conditions fear science may soon “wipe out” people like them. They        …read more

5 Weird Wedding Traditions around the World

wedding traditions

If you’re thinking of getting married, you may want to consider incorporating some of these wedding traditions in your festivities. Though weddings are a universal celebration performed around the world, many of the rituals surrounding the practice vary greatly depending on the country and its culture. Listed below are five peculiar wedding traditions from around the world. 1. Kidnapping the Bride (Romania) In Bucharest, a tradition called “bride kidnapping” dates back to antiquity, to a time when most marriages were arranged. According to legend, the tradition began when Romans, wanting to populate the city, began inviting members of the Sabine tribe (famous for its beautiful women) to large celebrations for the sole purpose of snatching their wives, sisters and daughters. While today the ritual has taken on a frightening form in some countries, the tradition in Bucharest is a more lighthearted affair, often involving a party in which brides are        …read more

Love, Marriage and Sexual Beliefs in the World’s Oldest Cultures

sexual beliefs

Sexual beliefs and their social implications vary widely from culture to culture. In some cases, sexual rituals may act as a means of initiating adolescents into adulthood. In others, the practices may have a more practical, economic purpose — controlling an increasing population, for example, or ensuring that an estate survives for generations. Whatever the purpose, sexual beliefs and rituals, though sometimes shocking to outsiders, have a distinct function within their particular culture or tribe. Here are a few unique practices and rituals from around the world. 1. Polygamy (Wodaabe tribe of Niger in West Africa) In the Islamic Wodaabe tribe of Niger in West Africa, polygamy is not only accepted; it’s encouraged. In September, near the end of the rainy season, members of tribe gather to celebrate Gerewol, a festival of music and dance, which lasts for seven days and nights. The primary highlight of the festival is a        …read more

What Is Gender Neutral Parenting, And Why Does It Matter?

gender neutral

Gender neutral parenting is getting a lot of a buzz lately, but it might not mean what you think it does. Gender neutral parenting has become a hot topic in the last couple of years, with many people debating it before fully understanding it. Rather than trying to assess if gender neutral parenting is good or bad for children, I think we would do well to try to wrap our heads around what is actually happening in families with a less traditional approach to gender. At two and a half, my own kid hasn’t expressed any particular feelings about gender. Like many parents who don’t want to push gender on their kids, my approach has been something of a hodgepodge. While I’ve decided to use the expected he/him pronouns, I’m trying very hard not to push all of my gendered expectations on a two-year-old. This, for many folks, is weirdly        …read more

12 New Board Games to Add to Your Gift Wish List

board games

Retire the classics for these innovative board games. We live in a board game golden age, but sometimes it’s hard to take a chance and dedicate the time to learning a new one when there are so many classics that have remained popular for many decades. Given the sheer number of board games available today, the endless options often lead us back to a familiar game of Monopoly, Clue, Battleship or any number of staples in our storage closets. Maybe this is the year to break that pattern. Rather than playing the same board games over and over again, here are 12 great contemporary board games to add to the mix. 1. Codenames (2-8 Players) Codenames is Available on Amazon From Czech Games Edition, Codenames is a party game for up to eight players (it works best with at least four). You’ll spread 25 codename cards (out of 200) in a five-by-five grid,        …read more

Give Them a Tech Edge with 10 Fantastic Coding Apps for Kids

coding apps for kids

Get your children into tech with these excellent coding apps for kids. (Even better: Many of these are free!) With our increasing dependence on technology, coding has moved from a niche pursuit to a much-needed skill. Since computer programming is essentially learning (a) foreign language(s), it requires a vast amount of learning and practice. While a great many universities offer computer science degree tracks, too often the students who enroll in these programs are experiencing coding for the first time — at the collegiate level. This means that, in all likelihood, students who would’ve otherwise excelled in the field may be too wary to take the plunge during the ever-important college years. Or they may flounder from a lack of a foundation. The sad truth is only approximately 25% of middle schools and high schools offer computer science courses. While that percentage will surely continue to grow, as of now a        …read more

What Becomes of a Child Prodigy?

child prodigy

How likely is it for a child prodigy to blossom into a successful adult? She-e Wu essentially became a child prodigy the day she noticed a music store. When she was three and a half years old, she and her mother walked past a store where music was playing inside. Wu heard the sounds and pressed her little face to the window. “My mother said it was time to go, and my face was stuck on the door,” Wu says, describing her earliest memory. She refused to leave. “It was the point of no return,” she says. Wu’s mother signed her up for a trial class, and the toddler advanced to percussion lessons when she was six. With a two-step stool, she could reach her teacher’s timpani. Three years later, at the age of nine, Wu booked her first professional gig at the opera. Concertos and competitions soon followed. Wu        …read more