Category Archives: Kids

Teen Pregnancy and Plan B

The Obama administration has allowed age restrictions on Plan B to prevent anyone under 17 from being allowed to purchase it.  Plan B is a high dose hormone pill that can prevent pregnancy if it is taken within 3 days after unprotected sex.  Obama’s reasoning is focused on the red herring of an 11 year old, like his daughter, becoming pregnant.

Melissa McEwan says it best:

“You know, I don’t want 11-year-old girls having the need for Plan B, because an 11-year-old girl who has the need for Plan B is an 11-year-old girl who was raped. But in the imperfect world in which we live, where 11-year-olds are raped and made pregnant, often by the family members on whom they have to rely to get access to emergency contraception, the only real options are giving access to Plan B to 11-year-olds who need it and leaving those 11-year-olds with one less option.”

So lets look at teen pregnancy in terms of a kid’s life.  A normal pregnancy lasts longer than a school year.  It is likely delivering a baby will disrupt one of her semesters at school and she will get to repeat those classes. Girls who have babies before the age of 18 drop out of school at a much higher rate.

When they realize they are pregnant, many teenagers will hide the pregnancy from friends and family.  Even if a teenager is not hiding the pregnancy and getting prenatal care, there is a big chance that baby will be born with health problems, from the March of Dimes:

A baby born to a teenage mother is at higher risk than a baby born to an older mother for premature birth, low birthweight, other serious health problems and death. (emphasis mine)

Babies of teenage mothers are more likely to die in the first year of life than babies of women in their twenties and thirties. The risk is highest for babies of mothers under age 15. In 2005, 16.4 out of every 1,000 babies of women under age 15 died, compared to 6.8 per 1,000 for babies of women of all ages (9).

Teenage mothers are more likely to have a low-birthweight baby. Most low-birthweight babies are born prematurely. The earlier a baby is born, the less she is likely to weigh. In 2006, 10 percent of mothers ages 15 to 19 had a low-birthweight baby, compared to 8.3 percent for mothers of all ages (2). The risk is higher for younger mothers:

11.7 percent of 15-year-old mothers had a low-birthweight baby in 2006; 18,403 babies were born to girls this age, with 2,153 of low birthweight (2).
9.5 percent of 19-year-old mothers had a low-birthweight baby in 2006; 172,999 babies were born to these women, with 16,362 of low birthweight (2).

Babies who are premature and low birthweight may have organs that are not fully developed. This can lead to breathing problems, such as respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, vision loss and serious intestinal problems.

Very low-birthweight babies (less than 3 1/3 pounds) are more than 100 times as likely to die, and moderately low-birthweight babies (between 3 1/3 and 5½ pounds) are more than 5 times as likely to die, in their first year of life than normal-weight babies (2).

The age of consent in most states is between 14 and 16 years where the age of the partner is within 2-5 years, here is a table illustrating the age of consent by state if you are curious.

It is really hard to find good data on the ages of the fathers.  Most of the data is incomplete and the authors of the papers I could find would extrapolate the data out to be consistent with the reported ages of the fathers.  This paper (from the references sited by the Wikipedia page about Teen Pregnancy) makes the amazing statement that 2/3 of the pregnancies involving teenage girl’s are fathered by men over 20.   In other words, many of the teenage pregnancies are the result of rape even though popular wisdom would suggest teen pregnancy is the result of two teenagers “getting carried away”.  The Education Training Resource Associates map out the ages of both partners that show how many of the pregnancies involve men much older than the girls.  See this table illustrating the ages of both partners where the mother is a teenager.  There is also a contrasting illustration at the bottom of the same paper showing the boys who become fathers as teenagers with women who are over 20.

Why would Obama and Kathleen Sebelius deny girls the ability to prevent pregnancy using Plan B when so many of the girls are being raped through violence or coercion?

Santa Visit at The Pet Market

I’m catching a cold, so I really didn’t want to do anything today.  Unfortunately, I had made a reservation to have a Santa picture done with Izzy the dog, Kiki and Apple the cats and the girl.

Now won’t that be cute?

First, I had some trouble getting motivated to move, let alone take a shower.

I also lacked the energy required to repeat the reminders to the girl that she get dressed in matching clothes, brush her teeth and hair and maybe wash her face.  The moment I ask if she has her coat, she runs into my bedroom with a hairbrush asking for help.  She is wearing a black sweater with pink t-shirt sleeves (I think it may have been a sweater-dress a couple years ago) and white shorts with big blue and orange flowers.  I realize my description does not do this ensemble justice, so I guess it will remain one of those things you had to see.  Just in case the “Santa pictures” weren’t an indicator, we do have winter weather here.  I help her brush her hair where I find a bit of gum but I think it goes nicely with the shorts.  I get the front of her hair smooth and off we run, but as we are going out of the room, I notice she has one of those poofy spots on the side of her hair from her pillow.

She decided to take a detour and put pink stretch pants on.  I might have told her those shorts would be cute FOREVER in the picture, helping her to decide to change.

I grab the three kennels and Kiki foolishly hangs around to check them out, so I grabbed her and stuffed her into the first kennel.  Easy cheesy! We still have 15 minutes before we need to see Santa!  I found Apple next, sleeping on a chair, so I scooped her up and carried her to the kennels.  I think Kiki tipped her off because she started to struggle as we approached.  I got the kennel open and was getting Apple positioned to squish in, when Izzy the dog rushed in.  Crap!  I pulled Izzy out of the kennel and by this time, Apple has become a gloopy mess of liquid cat pouring herself through my arms to escape.  She also has extended her rear claws with lethal force, so I let her go.  Meanwhile, Izzy the dog has rushed back into the kennel.

I pulled Izzy out of the kennel (we still have 12 minutes!) and put a pony tail on top of her head.  She isn’t really a dog, she’s a Yorkie, so pony tails are requisite for Santa pictures.  Izzy loves kennels, so she hops right back in.  Now we rush to the car with the two kennels filled with our most compliant pets and off we go.  I made one more attempt to catch Apple but she managed to have even more claws while being boneless – so I gave up.

We got to The Pet Market just in time for our appointment.  Izzy was terrified and started shaking uncontrollably, I had to close the kennels to keep her from hiding inside them.  Kiki acted like she owned the place and just sniffed around checking out Santa and camera equipment.  Everyone piled onto Santa’s lap and then Kiki started her boneless act, slipping through Santa’s arm.  I sneaked behind them and poked her back into Santa’s lap.  Then I ran and stood behind the photographer and called Kiki the cat (in my best squeaky cat voice) but she studiously refused to look in my direction… then the lady with the camera blew a duck call and everyone looked.


Bake Sale

If you ever find yourself needing to contribute to a bake sale for a school with a cat/dog mascot, probably bobcats, wolves, tigers, etc… would work too:

Marshmallow Truffles:

40 large marshmallows (the old kind of large, not the new huge – large)

1 package chocolate melts

1 large jar of chocolate sprinkles

Dip the marsmallows in melted chocolate and then roll in sprinkles.  The result will look, um…

After these are done, package them in unfancy, clear baggies and make a cute label for them claiming they were made by the mascot animal.

Husky Snacks (made by real huskies!)

They don’t look edible but that’s the whole idea.

There will be some people who don’t think this is funny, but even that is kind of funny!

The Homework Project

The girl is working on a project for school called “All about me”. It is a poster she has to fill out with pictures of her, her family, what she likes to do and stuff like that. The poster can include drawings, clippings from magazines or actual photos.

Because nothing is simple in our world, she decided to make a diorama of Santa’s Workshop to show how she “wishes for a reindeer” (in case you don’t remember, a diorama is a 3-d design using various messy objects to demonstrate an idea in a picture form – all inside a box.) I’m thinking the resulting “display” will now be sacred and I will have to be careful about how I dispose of it.

After assembling this elaborate diorama, she took pictures of it and I helped her print those so she could glue them on her poster.

She set up a desk of a folding TV table and put her name on it (like a name plate) and some art supplies.  I took her picture sitting at this “desk” so she could show herself as an art teacher when she grows up.

She has been spending a couple hours messing around with these props for her photos. You’d probably get quite a kick out of it – other than the fact that there is now a bunch of crap all over the house from this “project” and we have a girl scout meeting here tomorrow after school.

Bring on the puppet show book reports!

American Schools Have ALWAYS Scored Lower on Math Internationally!

Did you know that? I sure didn’t! 

Myth of Declining Schools

“…in the latest report by the wonderfully contrarian Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, that the notion of America on the downward track is a myth. The data show that we have been mediocre all along, as far back as 1964. If anything, we have lately been showing some signs of improvement.” (emphasis mine)

Wow!  Who knew?  All this time we’ve been told crap like this from CNN Money on-line: Hey, Americans: you suck at math, so we are moving the call center to India!

“If you want to get a sense of what’s in store for the American workforce, just take a look at how our students match up against the rest of the world in math and science.”

The thing I find most disingenuous about this debate (besides the fact that the US has actually improved at math) is that many of the top performing countries only educate and test the richest kids.  That is WAY different from our concept in the US where ALL children are required to attend school until they are sixteen.  Our tests include pretty much all public school students with only the most disabled students being excluded.  I did find some data that shows kids who attend private schools do better on these standardized tests, but consider who these kids are: they come from families who can afford to pay private school tuition and many private schools are very selective in the first place.  To me, the comparisons with other countries aren’t equal to begin with, when the countries performing at the top only include the rich and highest performing students.

The “myth” of losing ground leads to corporate CEO’s complaining about the state of American education and using lower math scores to explain moving a factory to China. It also leads to the US Department of Education funding fact-finding commissions (because, you know those CEO’s can’t be blowing smoke!) where they identify the “source” of poor quality of math instruction.

Guess what the source is?

I’ll give you a minute…

Of course! Teachers!! 

Admittedly, I am not big on the “blame teachers game”. I have certainly had my share of run-ins with teachers over the usual collection of goofy things, but that doesn’t mean that teachers aren’t doing their best to educate all American kids.

The US has always been mediocre at math. That means my generation wasn’t any better at math than our kids. My parent’s generation wasn’t better either. This means support at home for math will not be super. I can’t even tell you how many parents I know who complain that they can’t help elementary students with math homework. I will admit that part of this is because kids argue that their teacher “told them to do it THIS way” and of course, that would be the ONLY way.  But part of it is that the parents, themselves, have a hard time seeing the pattern being taught because it looks different from the “drill and kill” method we grew up with.  

Next, consider teaching is largely a female profession, particularly in the lower grades where the foundation for future math competence is built.  I am female, and honestly, I had NO IDEA that I was good at math until I was an adult and in college.  Girls of my generation were routinely pushed away from math and science through unsupportive messaging and more direct “you don’t really need all that math!”, even in today’s world, the message that girls are terrible at math is loud and clear – just ask Larry Summers. I don’t buy that theory, but many of today’s teachers were hearing the same messages when they were students and being steered away from higher math classes, just like me.

So now Americans fund studies to “examine” the so-called decline in mathematics that demonstrate how our teachers don’t do a good job teaching math and the usual prescriptive “what can we do?”.

Seems like the first thing would be to admit that we were always barely OK at math when compared internationally and the next thing would be to set our improvement bar to increase our scores incrementally. Mostly, Americans need to admit that the comparison of ALL American kid’s average scores to the average of the rich and privileged of the Asian countries is a bad comparison to start with.