Thursday, December 19, 2013

Evolutionary Parenting - Great Gift Ideas

Some Last Minute Solstice/Holiday Gift Ideas
Some items shown for the first time this year:

Fun toys for kids:

A really great development!  Charlie’s playhouse – which had great reality-based toys for kids, is evolving – and offering much more!  Check out their fun toys, kids’ books, interactive online games, and more!

DNA Kit: 
Pop Bead DNA (about the same cost, more versatile, but fewer step-by step lesson activities: with a description of how to use them here:
Element blocks for kids ages 2-4 (but also educational just to have around) 
For the Adults & Teens

The Big History Series on the History Channel is a cool overview of how we got here:  


Elemental Birthdays, for Birthdays 1-20, bring our Big History into our lives with fun birthday parties based on the elements:  (Full disclosure – this is the latest project of Heather and I)

Earth and Sky Calendar:, another way to bring our Great Story to your daily life.
Items mentioned earlier that are still the best resources around:
Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, now available on DVD).  
Essential Books for all Families:
For the youngest kids, aged 3 to 6, “Our Family Tree” by Lisa Peters is a great introduction to how we got here.  Next, for ages 5 to 10, is the “Born with a Bang” trilogy by Jennifer Morgan.  After that the child can read on their own, so Richard Dawkins book, “The Magic of Reality” is a good choice.  Here are pictures and links for all three:

The BBC “Walking with” series is also excellent – especially “Monsters”, “Cavemen”, and “Beasts”. - just search amazon or another provider starting with "BBC" and "Walking with......"
Lastly, a very useful collection of resources for parents and educators is at

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Supporting Mothers, Supporting their decisions

“New father, huh?  Not getting any sleep, are ya?”
“Actually, I’m getting pretty good sleep.  My wife co-sleeps with the baby, so the baby just wakes up to nurse, then goes back to sleep.  Everyone sleeps better. ”
“Oh………   (confused look)….Um, ….OK.  (uncomfortable silience)…Uh,… see ya ‘round.”
I can’t say how many times that conversation has happened.  Each time we have a new baby, people expect us to have a nightmare of a time sleeping at night for at least weeks after the birth.  It seems like everyone expects problems with what can be a normal, loving, and bonding part of our human lives, and when the relatively easy experience of my family comes up, it’s as if we had said that drugging our baby with heroin made it sleep through the night better.  Newsflash, everyone:  Co-sleeping is an option which is often easy, healthy, and safe – in fact, co-sleeping is still the norm in most of the world outside of our Western culture, and has been the norm for millions of years.  However, it seems that moms are often discouraged from co-sleeping - either subtly or not so subtly.
I know this is a contentious issue, and I encourage everyone to look into the relevant data.  If it were just about me- about whether or not I was getting a good night’s sleep as a father of a new baby, then it really wouldn’t matter much.  But there is much more at stake here - mothers need support, both in help with family work as well as support in making informed decisions free from pressure (especially factually false pressure). 
 It’s already known that babies and mothers who co-sleep also show better sleep coordination, less stress, and many other benefits1, including emotional security that, according to recent studies, helps them their whole lives2.    Mothers who co-sleep are much more likely to breast-feed, and breastfeeding has been shown in multiple studies to benefit us all by producing healthier babies and happier moms3. 
These are important, but there is another important topic that looks like it is being ignored – the possible psychological benefits such as attachment, comfort, and particularly, reduced post partum depression (PPD).  In Western countries, PPD affects a whopping 10-20% of mothers.  Just a quick reality check here – every 1% is 50,000 women every year in the United States.    If the rates of PPD were brought down to that reported in regions where co-sleeping is more common, then hundreds of thousands of our wives, mothers, and sisters would be spared the dark pit of depression, and perhaps some of the suicides and cases of impaired infant care associated with PPD would be prevented.  
But is there any way to reduce PPD?  As mentioned above, we don’t have sufficient research yet, but there are reasons to suspect that increased co-sleeping could help where it is appropriate4.  For one thing, co-sleeping has been shown to make successful breast-feeding more likely, which is known to reduce the likelihood of PPD.  There is another possible reason as well.
For at least millions of years, a baby that was not with its mother at night may well be lost or worse, and the only hope for survival was to cry in terror for mom.  That terror could well be as natural a response as the rooting or grasping reflexes, and it has saved millions of our Ancestor’s lives, or we wouldn’t have it as babies.  As a result, for many babies, sleeping in a distant room could well be forcing a child to experience terror night after night. 
What about the mom’s perspective?  For our Ancestors for millions of years, a birth was followed by co-sleeping, unless the baby was dead or lost.  Infant mortality and stillbirth were facts of life, and it seems plausible to me that millions of years of evolution have resulted in some mental response in the mother when the mother’s body tells her brain that the baby is dead or lost. 
Why is co-sleeping so strongly discouraged?  We all can see that it is the crib industry that advertises so heavily to discourage co-sleeping (such as the recent “safe babies” advertising campaign by JPMA), and the same crib group says that co-sleeping in unsafe on their webpage5.   A little math shows that every 10% of mothers the advertising convinces to use a crib instead of co-sleeping is worth around 50 million dollars in increased sales6.
Oh, that advertising is to help with safety, right?  Maybe not.  The numbers show that co-sleeping likely decreases the deaths from SIDS7, which were 2,000 a year in the United States8.   So if co-sleeping would decrease that by just half, then that’s 1,000 babies saved.  Oh, but doesn’t co-sleeping lead to smothering deaths?   Most of these are from improper sleep arrangements, and even if all of them were real, that still overshadowed by the much larger numbers that occur with crib use (half of 2,000 is much larger than a few dozen). 
Am I blowing this out of proportion?  I hope so, but the more I investigate the more concern I have. 
For me, the embrace of my infants has melted my heart in a way that is impossible to describe.  Just as importantly, I’ve seen how depression can destroy one’s world.  Even the thought of mental harm to anyone’s baby or any mother brings me to tears.  If we can help babies and spare some moms from PPD by co-sleeping, how could we morally fail to do so?  At the very least, we need to find out, based on controlled research, and we need to talk about this issue openly as a society.
This mother’s day, I hope we can agree to bring PPD into the open, as a serious problem affecting us all.  I hope we can pledge to prioritize (and fund) research on PPD and co-sleeping, free from industry influence, putting the interests of mothers and babies first.  I hope we can support all mothers in making informed and guilt-free decisions about what sleeping arrangements work best for them.
In hope, I wish everyone (especially all mothers) a Happy Mother’s Day-

Jon Cleland Host
1.      “Sleep and Psychosomatic Medicine” Pandi-Perumal S.R, Rocco R Ruoti, Milton Kramer, 2007,
2.      Crawford, M. "Parenting practices in the Basque Country: Implications of infant and child-hood sleeping location for personality development", Ethos, 1994, 22, 1: 42–82.
3.      Gartner LM, et al. (2005). "Breastfeeding and the use of human milk [policy statement]". Pediatrics 115 (2): 496–506.
4.      Yes, of course there are factors that need to be taken into account when deciding whether or not to co-sleep.  For instance, babies are not safe co-sleeping with mothers who are using any drugs (including alcohol or tobacco), or are obese.  It’s interesting that obesity and drug use are conditions that were not present in our Pleistocene past.
6.      With 5 million births per year in the United States, if half of those need cribs (the others have cribs from older siblings, etc.), and cribs cost around $100 to $400, plus the crib bedding at $60 to $300, plus other accessories, let’s conservatively say $200. 
5,000,000 x 0.5 x 200 = 500 million dollars every year.
So if their advertising causes just 10% of mothers to use cribs instead of co-sleeping, that’s 50 million dollars in increased sales.
Correct me if I’m wrong on those numbers.  Does anyone have the actual yearly sales of the crib industry?
7.      P. S. Blair, P. J. Fleming, D. Bensley, et al., “Where Should Babies Sleep – Along or With Parents? Factors Influencing the Risk Of SIDS in the CESDI Study,” British Medical Journal 319 (1999): 1457-1462

Monday, April 1, 2013

By the Glow of a Pig......

*Special April 1st Edition*

4:11 AM, 37 miles North East of Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

Nothing on the magnets.  Darn.  I’m going back to bed.  Excitement from a dream about finally catching a meteor fragment woke me up, and it’s only a matter of time now until I catch one.  Last week, I added 29 more magnets, bringing my total up to 472.   I am a little concerned I might pull in a random car driving by, but back here in the woods I haven’t seen much traffic besides caribou and mutant radioactive pigs. 

In Krasnoyarsk
The pigs are useful at least – they glow so brightly that I can see if anything is on the magnets by their light when they run past at night.  Plus, when my oil lamp in the cabin ran out of oil, I caught one and suspended her from the ceiling for light for a couple days until I could get more caribou oil.  I’ve still got a few bruises from where she kicked my head as I walked under her, but I guess that’s not too bad.  I wish I could figure out why my hair has started falling out, however.  Oh, yeah, there isn’t electricity here.  I’m a little ways outside of Krasnoyarsk, Russia.  Calculating an inverted quantum geometric mean from the GPS coordinates of Tunguska, Sinkhote-Alin, and Chelyabinsk luckily landed me within a few dozen miles of a major city.  Why those places?  Because those are the locations of the biggest meteor impacts witnessed & recorded by humans (on Earth), and if I’m going to catch one, this seems to be the place to be.   
Why have all the biggest meteor impacts recorded by humans hit in Russia?  I don’t know precisely.  Yes, Russia is big, but not that big – only 15% of Earth’s land area, giving odds of 1 in (0.15)3 =  or 3 in a thousand.  It must be some kind of massive quantum field vortex.  When the Chelyabinsk meteor hit back in February, it confirmed my suspicions, and my plan began to take shape.  First, I’d need lots of magnets to catch a meteorite (many meteorites are mostly iron).  How to get a lot of magnets quickly?  So I posed as a Mormon missionary (Elder Jon) to get into homes, and quickly grabbed some magnets from their refrigerator when the resident turned around.  I paid a teenager to pose as my mission partner (Elder Josh). Getting through TSA was a little tricky.  I had to explain why I had hundreds of refrigerator magnets in my carry-on luggage, but after I explained the massive quantum field vortex to them, the TSA agents kinda looked at each other and then let me go through.  I guess they realized how important this was.  I kept having to return cell phones and other devices that attached themselves to my carry-on luggage as I walked through the airport and onto the plane, but that’s not as bad as getting to my new home in Russia and finding that all the data had been erased from my flashdrives and credit cards.  So I had to go into the woods, make a bow and arrow, shoot a caribou, and barter to get basic necessities.  Funny, the mutant radioactive pigs were easier to shoot, but no one would barter anything for them.  Well, back to sleep for me, just as soon as I finish a logbook entry for today’s date…….

Friday, February 22, 2013

No Flux Capacitor Needed!

Would you like to own a time machine?  Of course, right?  OK, just to avoid the grandfather paradox, how about a time machine that allowed you to go back in time to watch what happens, not to actually change history?  Still cool, huh?  But we don’t have time travel technology, do we?
One of the many incredible marvels of our modern life (compared to the lives of our Ancestors) is how much we can know about our history.  Today, just by popping in a DVD, we can see many segments of that history, such as the American Revolution, the middle ages, or the building of Stonehenge.   For all of these events and so many more, we know many details with decent confidence, based on scientific evidence.  Not only do we have details, but for many of them, we even have video portrayals. 
But how can we know where to start?  For me, comets can help.  While being fascinating in their own right, the appearance of a comet can be a time machine, a reminder to revisit the events in our Ancestry occurring at earlier visits of that same ball of ice and rock.  For instance, Halley’s Comet visited us in 1986, and can prompt us to consider what our world was like at earlier visits, such as in 1910, 1835, …  1066, … 141 CE, … 240 BCE,  or how our distant grandkids will be doing when it returns in 2061, … 2365, etc.   We saw Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, but it was last here around 2,200 BCE (well before the iron age), and around 6,400 BCE (when many humans were still in the stone age) before that.  What will Earth look like when Comet Hale-Bopp returns in about 4,000 years? 
This year we are lucky to have two comets coming to connect us to our past and our future.   The first will be Comet L4, a small comet (not much brighter than most stars), which will be visible in just a few weeks (mid-March), and which returns every 100,000 years or so.  When it was last here, our Ancestors got their food by hunting and gathering!   Who can guess what our world will be like 100,000, 200,000 and 300,000 years in the future?
The other comet is Comet Nevski, which could be spectacular in December of this year. Comet predicting is notoriously difficult, but Comet Nevski might end up being something to tell the grandkids about, or it could disintegrate.  Regardless of its brightness, its orbital period of perhaps 10,000 years brings us back to the dawn of farming. 
While we haven’t yet invented a time machine, our knowledge of comets and history can give us a moving substitute for one.  It does for me.

Jon Cleland Host