Fat nation.

Atul Gawande linked to the obesity report released yesterday and suggested it was reasonable for fat to be an issue in the next presidential campaign. I gotta say, just a glance at the stats was jaw-dropping, and he may be right.

I tell my journalism students, when considering data, the news is in the change. This is a lot of change in a short time:

Twelve states now have obesity rates above 30 percent. Four years ago, only one state was above 30 percent. … Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent. Today, more than two out of three states, 38 total, have obesity rates over 25 percent, and just one has a rate lower than 20 percent. Since 1995, when data was available for every state, obesity rates have doubled in seven states and increased by at least 90 percent in 10 others. Obesity rates have grown fastest in Oklahoma, Alabama, and Tennessee, and slowest in Washington, D.C., Colorado, and Connecticut. …Adult obesity rates increased in 16 states in the past year and did not decline in any state.

This isn’t change over the course of a generation. This is change in, what, five years? Appalling. What is most disheartening is how swiftly this is becoming an economic issue. Michigan is now No. 10, down from 1995’s ranking, when we were tied for fourth, but that’s mainly because everyone else surged (particularly the American south). In that time, we still managed to increase our obesity rate 77 percent, from 17.2 percent to over 30 percent. Final, the-news-is-the-change comparison:

“Today, the state with the lowest adult obesity rate would have had the highest rate in 1995,” said Jeff Levi, Ph.D., executive director of TFAH.

That’s only 16 years ago! I remember 1995! (I was 30 pounds lighter.) So, a question for the room: Why? I’ve always believed complex problems do not have simple answers, but off the top of my head, I can think of a double handful of reasons that have all dovetailed, one way or another, to drive the problem: Portion size, the loss of cooking skills, an aging population (we gain weight as we grow older), agricultural policies that encourage the production of crops that become cheap, calorically rich additives (I’m looking at you, corn). Fast food, restaurant food in general, 20-ounce soda, a culture that cements overeating in place by encouraging portion sizes once only found in stuff-your-face contests. Taco Bell runs specials from time to time, which packages six deluxe tacos in a single combo meal. Six. For one person. Supersize it, biggie-size it, etc.

I mentioned economics. I live in an affluent area, where people are generally normal-size. There’s a running club for kids. I see people exercising with their children. People are always bitching that the nearest Whole Foods is too far away. I walk through Kate’s school during class change, and fat kids are distributed in about the same proportions as they were when I was young — one in 10, maybe, one in 15. I drive past Detroit schools at dismissal time, and half the kids are waddling.

Gawande says this is a presidential issue because of health costs, obviously. Twenty-seven percent of Army recruits are disqualified from enlistment because of obesity.

In other news at this hour, my pants felt loose yesterday, so I stepped on the scale. Down five pounds. How the hell did that happen? Short answer: Summer cycling, plus an absent kid means I don’t feel obligated to make the dishes she prefers. Last night’s dinner was a frittata with sautéed spinach, garlic and goat cheese. Took me 10 minutes to make.

Well, having children will pack on the pounds. Every mother knows this.

A few more tasty bits of bloggage, then I’m off to edit video.

Every copy-desk chief knows you have to have at least one pervert on the crew, someone who will see the dirty joke in everything. It saves you from some of the more embarrassing exampled detailed here. (Although it doesn’t save you from one of the worst of my career, the time a front-page story reported a phone number for some worthy charity effort, and transposed digits sent readers to a sex line. For that one, the only cure is the plain old boring rule of copy editing: Last thing you do before releasing a page with a phone number? DIAL THE NUMBER.)

Here’s another question for the room: I’ve been reading a lot of stories of late about children misbehaving in public. This column is typical, and pretty restrained, as these things go; I’ve read some truly nasty rants from others, whose day can apparently be ruined by the presence of one whiny kid in a public place. I was always pretty lucky in this regard; Kate wasn’t much of a misbehaver when she was little, and the few times she cried in public, I whisked her out of there so fast, trailing apologies in my wake, that once I startled a couple at a nearby table, who weren’t even aware there’d been a baby in the room.

But I only had one, and a girl, and an easy keeper at that. And a restaurant is not an airport, or an airplane, the latter two of which are far harder to leave. Since then, I’ve aged, and mellowed, and now I’m far more likely to be that couple in the restaurant. I have tune-out skills, and I accept that children are part of the human family, and that overhearing an occasional blowup in a mall or elsewhere is part of the price we pay for a public space. (In any event, I find them far less offensive than hearing some Neanderthal shout curses into his cell phone, an increasingly common occurrence these days.) So my question is: Are kids really worse than they used to be, or does the internet simply give more people a place to complain about them?

Also, I direct your attention to this blog from Lisa Belkin at the NYT, which provides a counterpoint from the mother of a particular noisy child.

OK, the weekend is officially in progress. I might make it to the pool today. Enjoy yours, whatever the weather.

Posted at 9:33 am in Current events, Popculch |

78 responses to “Fat nation.”

  1. Jeff Borden said on July 8, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I would like to see the stories on our growing obesity problems paired with a story on how much we spend on diets and fitness clubs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the latter has increased, too. We’re a nation of great extremes –Puritanism lives side-by-side with pornography; we decry violent video games and keep buying more guns, etc. — and we just loooooves our choices

    Isn’t the theory that poor kids are so much fatter based on the idea that they eat a boatload more starches? When you’re trying to stretch meager dollars or food stamps, aren’t potatoes and corn and rice very filling foods? I’m sure the issue is far more complex, but I can recall a year or so ago when the local Mickey D’s was offering a double-cheeseburger for $1. If you have some hungry teen kids, a five-spot buys a lot of food but good Lord, it’s bad, bad stuff.

    If this does become a political issue, it will be interesting to watch the divide. Already, $heWho has criticized Michelle Obama’s efforts at addressing child obesity, snarking that she would bring a tray of brownies to a school she was visiting. Many of the major political figures on the right are pear-shaped slobs, ie., Rush, Sean, Newt, Rove, Ailes. How will they react?

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  2. Bitter Scribe said on July 8, 2011 at 9:55 am

    On the rare occasions when a kid in a public space annoys me, I just console myself with the thought that in 20 years, the little bugger will be paying my Social Security.

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  3. nancy said on July 8, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Starches are part of it, but as I said, it’s a complex problem. Asian diets are starch-heavy as well, and you don’t see the numbers of fatties we have here. Although I can tell you from my health-care web-surfing, this problem is global. The UK is fattening, India is fattening, Australia is fattening.

    I think it has more to do with sugar, personally, but I could be wrong.

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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 8, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Intriguingly, all the aspects of the obesity problem trace back to oil, aka cheap energy. Not to go all Jimmy Kunstler on y’all, but when gas goes next year to above $4.50 a gallon and never comes back, we’ll start to see aspects of this roll back, in the worst ways for the worst reasons, but it will.

    Sprawl & un-communities help to promote auto-hypermobility which leads almost directly to Hometown Buffet (aka the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse); cheap oil makes corn an uber-crop making fertilizer, powering giant harvesters, moving tanks of LFCS around the country: all of which feed into the rolling cup-holder racks careening about the landscape wrapped in a vehicular exterior, filled with a flotilla of Big Gulps sloshing full of various fructoidal fluids.

    Obesity, cheap oil, happy motoring. I think Kunstler.com tends to let James wallow too delightedly in a coming crack-up which won’t play out quite the way her predicts, but his warnings are mostly on point.

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  5. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 8, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Poor kids are so much fatter because they don’t go anywhere and don’t do anything, and when they end up in my conference room they tell me in listless tones they’re going to be either a sniper in the military or a video game designer, even though they have no idea what the letters “HTML” stand for, let alone C++. Mobility is seen entirely through the lens of “do we have a car/vehicle that runs well all the time and lets us go wherever.” Given that we’re undesigning sidewalks and pedestrian passage everywhere except retirement villages, where they’re mostly used for golf carts, you can’t quite blame them, but physical activity is more and more an un-cool thing, unless you’re training to be an extreme/MMA fighter.

    Poverty is part of it, but there’s a cultural aspect that you can just feel draped across entire neighborhoods; people just don’t move or go or do, they sit and absorb. That’s the violence of TV — it reinforces passive absorption to the exclusion of all other “activity.” That’s violence that really & truly is hurting people.

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  6. Heather said on July 8, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I think it has a lot to do with portions and our sedentary lives. I never really ate all that much, but this year I realized that I was going to have to make some changes if I didn’t want to be really overweight when I’m 50. Simply put, with a job that requires me to sit at a desk for eight hours a day (which is what more and more people have these days instead of manual labor or working on the farm) and an average metabolism, I can’t eat that many calories, and a “normal” dinner every night was too much. I made just a few small changes–already biked a lot but added swimming, cut out a lot of carbs and replaced them with more protein (that was tough at first, since I love pasta), eat less red meat and more vegetables, and realized I couldn’t eat dessert every day. Et voila, 12 pounds in six months. Which doesn’t seem like much but I definitely see a difference, and the lifestyle changes are so easy, they are here to stay. I discovered I LOVE swimming and now I can’t imagine not doing it on the regular.

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  7. nancy said on July 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Fascinating observation, Jeff, and thanks for reminding the room that you’re in a job where you actually see these kids, and talk to them, on a daily basis.

    We had a family of fatties in my old neighborhood in the Fort, and while they were middle-class, they had to stretch to make ends meet. I was struck by their idea of family entertainment: Every Friday, they all piled into the car to go to a local gas station/mini mart, where every kid could select anything they wanted from the snack array, plus a ginormous pop, after which they’d drive around and consume. That tells you something right there.

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  8. Jeff Borden said on July 8, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Well said, Jeff TMMO. To television and automobiles, we could probably add computers and video games. Not to go all Bob Greeney on anyone, but when I was growing up, my pals and I were constantly putting our baseball gloves, balls and bats into the baskets of our bicycles and pedaling over to the local park, where we would play baseball for hours on end. (Since there were usually only four or five of us, we had a pitcher, catcher, first baseman and one outfielder, so you had to call your shot, lol.) My nephews started out playing real sports, but it wasn’t long before the games they were truly interested in were on a Playstation console. Why toss a football in the backyard when you can quarterback the Packers?

    Engaged parents can play a role. The girls next door to us are ultra-active. . .soccer is their thing. . .and the parents encourage it. The girls travel primarily by bicycle and have their hours of TV and computer strictly limited. The family also does a lot of physical activity together. Mom and oldest are in a running club. They take long bike rides every weekend and camp out a lot. Needless to say, they are healthy, lean kids as are the parents.

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  9. Peter said on July 8, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I agree that the obesity issue is pretty complicated. And I don’t want to sound like some left/right wing nut, but Big Ag does have a heavy hand in this.

    Nancy, you’re right that many asian diets are starch heavy but you don’t see many fat asians. However, you’re also right that Indians (and Chinese) are gaining weight as well.

    I think that really cheap starches – and really large portions – are behind the weight gain. France is battling an obesity epidemic as bad as ours. While they don’t use their cars nearly as much as we do and they have better access to better food, they’re bulking up as well at the cheap fast food places.

    When I worked in Brazil, I noticed that the poor people weren’t malnourished nor obese like here – one reason is that fruit and vegetables are dirt cheap and available. Other Brazilians are heavy, however: McDonald’s is the no. 1 chain, and there are as many McDonald’s in Sao Paolo as there are up here.

    Let’s face it – McDonalds and the rest serve really cheap and rather tasty food (Sure, tasty is a matter of opinion, but I’ll never turn down a Big Mac). On top of that, large mid-price chains and local restaurants that mimic them rely heavily on pre-made items heavy on the fat – how many places have their version of the Blooming Onion that was made at the same central processing plant in Iowa?

    My friends are really big on Panda Express – I went there once and noticed that, despite the guys handling the woks, almost everything was deep fried.

    There are very few coffee shops, snack shops, and diners left. When’s the last time you saw a steam table other than Golden Corral and Old Country Buffet? We used to complain about cafeteria food; now it seems that they were the last bulwark against the bulge.

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  10. 4dbirds said on July 8, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I never had a weight problem (aside from post pregnancy pounds) until I got out of the army. I got quite heavy when my daughter was undergoing cancer treatment and I ate to consol myself. So for me it was a combination of snacking and not being active. I lost most of my added weight about 4 years ago and have managed to keep it off.

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  11. Michael said on July 8, 2011 at 10:32 am

    We’ve dealt with a previous health crisis, smoking, largely by stigmatizing the smoker. What kind of moron are you that you smoke? Stigmatizing obesity would be trickier. I’ve heard of civil rights type of organizations that fight prejudice against overweight people. Yet it makes sense to look at overweight people as those that make bad choices that ultimately harm their health.

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  12. 4dbirds said on July 8, 2011 at 10:35 am

    I generally don’t have a problem with children on planes. Children are citizens also and they have a need to go from one place to another just as we all do. I do however get angry at parents who take children out to places very late at night or to someplace where they’ll get overstimulated and then make the rest of us suffer when they cry and act out. My mother told me long ago when I was pregnant with my first child, “Children need and deserve schedules. They’ll be happy and you will be too.”

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  13. Jeff Borden said on July 8, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Michael, I believe there actually is a group that fights for the rights of the overweight on a civil rights basis. (Sorry, cannot recall the name.) And they may have a point: physical attractiveness is a factor in hiring and promotions, so overweight people who may be just as qualified as a leaner applicant don’t get the job.

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  14. Jen said on July 8, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Portion control is a HUGE part of it, I think. Through eating a lot less and exercising a bit more, I’ve lost 60 lbs. in the past year (and my husband’s lost 75), and the biggest thing I notice now is how much food you get everywhere! And a lot of times, it’s cheaper to buy the bigger portion. For example, popcorn at the movies. It’s cheaper when my mom and I go to the movies to split a large bucket of popcorn and two large pops in a combo than it is to buy a medium popcorn and two medium pops separately. It’s insane. I think it comes from an idea of getting more for your money, which includes more food for your money. It’s why buffets are so popular too – hey, let’s stuff our faces for $9.99. Blech. It makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it.

    But, I can’t always blame people – since we started eating more healthy, our food costs have gone up. It’s no wonder that people buy junk food rather than fresh produce – it’s cheaper! However, when I see people with a 24-pack of Mt. Dew, Doritos, white bread (which has virtually no nutritional value) and bologna in their cart, I think that if they didn’t buy the full-sugar pop, they could afford to buy wheat bread, turkey and baked chips or crackers instead. People need to be educated on how to make good choices, and those good choices need to be available to people – both stocked in the stores and priced so that they are affordable.

    The other problem is, a lot of times, when people “go on a diet,” they go extreme and it’s unsustainable. They get to their goal weight and then they relax too much and go right back up to the weight they were plus ten pounds. Moderation is the key. Yes, I eat smaller portions and I generally choose better things to eat (grilled chicken sandwich instead of a burger, frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, side salad instead of french fries) but when somebody brings cake into work, I eat a piece. Or when I’m really craving french fries, I order them (but I order a kid’s size or small portion, not a large). If you completely deny yourself, it’s unsustainable.

    I think extremes are one of the biggest problems – people are either eating six tacos or none, when the best answer is to eat one or two.

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  15. Deborah said on July 8, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I overheard a highschool coach on the elevator say that kids are fatter now because of “twinkies combined with Gameboys”. I gained 10 lbs in the 4 months I had a fractured foot healing. Have been back to walking to work and back (3 miles a day)and doing all my weekend errands by walking (about 7 miles a day) and I still haven’t lost the 10 lbs. Sometimes if I’m not too busy I walk home for lunch and back so I get another 3 miles in on those days. I tend to gain 8-10 lbs during the winter months and then lose it during the summer but this year it’s not going away. I sit at a desk all day long and this year I turned 60 so maybe it’s not going to go away. I eat fairly healthily, lots of veggies, very little meat but I do like eggs and cheese, and wine.

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  16. Hank Stuever said on July 8, 2011 at 10:41 am

    So, with the mom on the San Francisco to Paris flight (in the Belkin mommy blog), I seem to be missing the reason why a baby needs to go to Paris? Why any American under 10 (heck, 20?) MUST go to Paris? I’m about to turn 43 and I have not yet been to Paris.

    I first flew commercial at age 9, unaccompanied, from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City on a TWA flight in 1977, dressed in my best Garanimals and striving to be a perfect gentleman. I didn’t fly commercial again for three more years.

    I’m no grouch. I have volunteered to hold crying kids on airplanes, just to give the parents a break, which sometimes helps calm the baby down (perhaps because he finally thinks the jig is up, he’s cried too much, and they’ve sold him cheap to the nice gay man across the aisle). But when you talk to parents about why they’ve packed one, two or more small children into coach for a cross country flight with two layovers, the answer is nearly always GRANDMA. Not a funeral, not a wedding, not a “Today” show appearance. Just the twice- or tri-annual slog to see Grandma. And at some point you learn Grandma is 63 and in perfect health.

    That’s the big difference now. Relatives live thousands of miles apart in ways they didn’t use to, while the children have all been promoted to the status of A-list celebrities. Skype and constant tele-contact just won’t do it, I guess.

    And to bring it all around, THAT’S why we’re fat. I remember one hell of a teenage tantrum one of my sisters threw one day during an argument with my mother — screaming, slamming doors, the whole drama. My sister stormed out and walked, in sandals, eight or nine MILES to … Grandma’s house. Where she promptly called home and demanded to be picked up. I think she was invited to walk back home, but I’ll bet anything Grandma drove her home. Anger kept us thin and the only child in any airline’s business class would’ve been Rodney Allen Rippy.

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  17. Dorothy said on July 8, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Good for you, Jen. My daughter started on Weight Watchers in April and she’s lost 25.2 lbs. so far. I found a pretty top last week when at the mall and mailed it to her as a surprise, along with a note that told her how proud we are of her. She told me this morning it made her cry when she opened it after work around midnight last night. She’s got lots more to lose, but she’s on the right track and I’m not as worried about her as I had been.

    I’m having surgery on my left hand (basal joint arthroplasty in the thumb) in 11 days and I’m really hoping to get out and walk a LOT while I’m off work for 4-6 weeks. I need to get some weight off, too, and we’re trying very consciously to change our eating habits. Thyroid problems and such have not helped me either.

    *edit* Hank, I’m sorry but that’s a pretty snotty response to Lisa Belkin’s explanation of her trip. Maybe her husband is French and this might have been the first time his relatives are meeting his children? She said they (the relatives) had all taken steps to take time off from their jobs, other side trips were planned, and it sounded rather involved and would have caused disruption to many people’s schedules (not just Lisa’s, her husband and children’s) if they canceled. Just because you haven’t been to Paris, does that mean no one else deserves to go? Really, now. Grow the hell up!

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  18. Suzanne said on July 8, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Obesity is complex. For kids, I think some of it is the extreme nature of kid sports. By fifth grade (heck, by third grade!) you can’t just play basketball or baseball for fun. You better eat it, sleep it, drink it, or no one wants you on the team, parents included. Phys ed. classes are set up more to teach competitive sports than lifelong fitness, but I hope that is changing. Why not have phys ed classes simply spend the hour walking?

    The nature of our jobs–sitting all day–and the layout of most of our cities–you can’t walk anywhere–also contribute. Changing it will be hard, because, as someone said, you have a whole contingent of Americans who feel it is their God-given right to make their own dang choices, even if that sends them to an early grave and takes society with them.

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  19. wade said on July 8, 2011 at 10:49 am




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  20. brian stouder said on July 8, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I think Jeff’s thoughts have, as usual, the ring of truth.

    Pam and I made no over-arching and conscious decisions about how our young folks would grow up, and yet we have talked about how different their childhoods have been, from our own. For example, my mom used to simply say “Go play” – and I’d get on my bike and ride off, and maybe come back for a sandwich, but in any case be home before dark. Pam and I cannot imagine operating our household that way, even despite that our young folks have cell phones nowadays. I will say that, when I get home from work, the kids are rarin’ to “go somewhere”, so pile into the car (nodding toward Jeff!) and either go to “the wooden park” (Lawton) or “the castle park” (Indian Trails) or our current favorite – “the splash-pad park” (Buckner); and we spend 2 hours or so doing the park things. We sort of gave up on “the hilly park” (Hamilton) as the ambient conversation/exclamation cloud there largely consists of variations on the f-bomb, which gets old.

    One great thing we fell into this summer is – marching band! Since summer vacation began, our fine young son Grant has gone to 8 am practice every weekday morning, and is out cold every night by around 10 pm. Honestly – year-round school, with an active, outdoor summer program, may well be a part of the solution. And before any resident tea-leaf pipes up about guh-mint schools, and how our Founding Fathers didn’t try and “run our families”; they also didn’t have 300,000,000 citizens to consider, nor the inherently complex and ever-changing needs of such a large (and growing) population.

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  21. Randy said on July 8, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I hear what you are saying about food, Nancy. I am lucky to be a skinny guy no matter what I eat, but that hides an uglier truth – the cholesterol count. Mine stays up there, and I watch my diet carefully, except when I don’t, which is often. My doctor is adamant that for the vast majority of people, high cholesterol is directly caused by what you eat. Every time I see him, he tells me to get serious about eating healthy food. I do like food that’s good for you, but somehow the junk food gets in there and jacks up the cholersterol. Blergh.

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  22. Sue said on July 8, 2011 at 10:54 am

    For fat kids hooked on fast food, I blame working mothers.
    For misbehaving children taken everywhere, I blame stay at home moms who probably breastfed in public too.
    For fat misbehaving kids, I blame mothers who work part-time.
    That should cover it.

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  23. Deborah said on July 8, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Roaming kids in restaurants really, really bug me. I never let Little Bird get up from her seat or get noisy when we went out to eat, if she started to get squirmy I’d take her out and walk around with her even if my food was getting cold. It’s just not fair to others who’ve paid good money to be there. I expect that from parents now and I’m often disappointed. Mainly I avoid restaurants where I know people often take kids. I don’t blame the kids at all, I blame the parents. It starts at home, you sit at the table when you eat with your children and don’t let them stand on their chair etc. It’s not always easy but they eventually learn what’s expected. My step daughter has a three year old who is a holy terror. When she comes to our place during dinner or goes out to eat with us she sits quietly, when her mother’s there that’s another story

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  24. FlaJim said on July 8, 2011 at 11:08 am

    One grain of salt to ake with the statistic that obesity rates have radically changed since 1995 is that the definitionas of obesity were revised by the NIH in 1998 and they considated the consolidated the threshold for men and women, even though the relationship between BMI and body fat may be different for each, see: Beyond BMI,Slate 2009, http://www.slate.com/id/2223095/

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  25. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 8, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Hat tip to Jen on “unsustainable” diets; I like the “eat 1 or 2 tacos” vs. eat 6 or eat none model. And don’t overlook the role cheap oil/energy plays in creating the empty calorie regime, from field to processing to driving to Buy-n-Large to get the bag of “natural” chip products and bottle of “real” citrus-ish flavor. Unsustainability is underlying both ends of the obesity teeter-totter.

    Can’t resist, semi-inappropriate but no ID possible, I’m sure; just heard about family trip to [major amusement park] while waiting for rest of parties to mediation. A large family, which enjoyed a long day, almost entirely waiting in line for 3 (three!) rides, five-plus hours for a total of what, ten minutes experience? Sitting. And while in line, drinking large iced beverages, which no decent person could begrudge them. But I’m just thinking the total expenditure of time and money, in ratio to the calories consumed versus calories expended. Plus they plan to go a couple more times this summer (lather, rinse, repeat).

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  26. Hank Stuever said on July 8, 2011 at 11:14 am

    @Dorothy. I’m pretty sure I’ve grown up, but thanks for the advice. You really might be surprised to see how friendly I am to parents on airplanes, who are almost always panic-stricken that the man in the seat next to them is going to be annoyed by their kids and shoot them hate daggers out of his eyes for the next 4 hours. HE NEVER DOES, and he has been to known to offer help, even if it just means making funny faces and peek-a-boo, etc.

    To review, it’s not Lisa Belkin’s child. Read it — that was a commenter’s tale of woe; not Belkin’s. And even if we assume the husband is French and this is the first time his relatives get to meet the child — fine, that’s a nice thought. But the thing about all the side trips planned, etc., for six months in advance? For a 15-month-old to see France? Mmm-hmm. Doesn’t it make more sense for the relatives to come see the 15-month-old? Isn’t this what we have Skype for? I know, I know: there are 1,000 reasons why not.

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  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 8, 2011 at 11:19 am

    This is why my parents were glad for our great-aunts; they could leave for somewhere exotic and leave us kids behind for a couple of weeks. Of course, it was Cleveland they went to; I didn’t see Cleveland for myself until I was almost 40, yet never resented them for it.

    Possibly they don’t have great-aunts in the family, more’s the pity.

    (Hat tip to Wade; King Tut was the best villan in the Batman TV show, IMO.)

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  28. coozledad said on July 8, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I miss the days when parents used to take their kids out and demonstrate their hairtrigger disciplinary reflexes. The first job I had, busing tables at a truly shitty frozen seafood restaurant, was a window into the grim world of ranch house child rearin’. You just don’t see kids slapped around the same way anymore. And even if you happen to, it’s just not the same if the father isn’t sporting a buzz cut and missing a few teeth.
    You always wondered what kind of shit those kids caught back at the dungeon.

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  29. Deborah said on July 8, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Hank, Wow I’ve never seen Dorothy so worked up before. I agree with you I have a friend who took her very young toddlers to Europe, it seemed like such a waste of money to me, the kids who are about 8 and 9 now don’t remember a thing about it of course. The parents were worn out from the experience of trying to keep the kids happy along with all the normal stress that goes with international travel. Why they did it made no sense to me.

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  30. Connie said on July 8, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Brian, you are now an Indiana band dad! Having been an Indiana band mom (Yup that’s what we call it) I hope you find as interesting, strange, and fun as we did. I can point out the nearest BBQ ribs place to most of the major competition venues when you get going this fall, that was a tradition for our gang of band parents in places like Carmel, Chesterton, etc. I would say hope you make it to the Dome like we did (4 times, Class B, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 1st) but the dome is gone. Will Indiana marching ever be the same. And do link up with IndianaMarching.com to keep track of results, standings etc. Have fun!

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  31. Sue said on July 8, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Grocery store, checkout line after at least half an hour of rampaging misbehavior, a few weeks ago:
    “Honey, honey, calm down! Sit down, ok?” (Voice pitched slightly louder, indulgent tone, no chance she didn’t want everyone in the vicinity to hear her): “Guess I shouldn’t have given you that Mountain Dew with dinner, huh?”
    Yes, sugar, I guess you shouldn’t have. Newsflash, it’s nothing to be proud of.

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  32. Dorothy said on July 8, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Didn’t realize this was not Lisa so I apologize for that. Sorry but I have to admit that even though it’s not something I would do personally with such a young child, I don’t think people should judge others who can afford to do a trip like this with their kids. There were two children on the trip. One of them might be old enough to remember such a great experience. I’m sorry to be cranky pants but I really hate when people heap derision on the heads of parents when they don’t know all of the facts. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. And I’m sure you’re a really nice guy, Hank. I just thought you were being overly judgmental about them, that’s all.

    (I come from a big family – 9 siblings. Since this was a family visit trip, I’m just guessing that “side trips” might mean they have to drive 50 kilometers to see Aunt Susie, another 125 kilometers to Uncle Francois, etc.)

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  33. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I sat on a flight from Phoenix to Boston one time in front of a kid whose parents allowed her to play the Lion King over and over on a tape player with no earphones. Well not actually, it was Hakuna matata incessantly. Most people on the plane would have likely strangled the kid or stepped on the tape player, but this was obviously an obtuse adult transgression. I think the flight crew should have had them arrested upon landing at Logan.

    I cannot remember my (only)child ever throwing a tantrum in a public place. In fact, I only remember one in her entire childhood, inexplicably about wearing a turtleneck shirt to kindergarten. She was quite inclined to make arch and derogatory comments about other kids behaving badly. My worst experience along these lines was a trip to Boston Garden for the Circus (RB,B&B). We brought Emily’s cousin Mikey along. Walking up the ramps to our seat the poor ittle guy was confronted , for the first time in his life, I’m sure, a clown about 6-5 looming in front of him. He broke immediately into paroxysms of sheer terror, wailing hysterically. I’ve never understood coulrophobia, but I know for sure it’s very real. I have never seen anyone more frightened of anything. Of course, other aadults looked at me suspiciously, and my kid started to understand she might not get to see the circus and was dangerously close to losing it. Somehow I convinced Mike that he needn’t be afraid of anything since I was with him, and he calmed down and agreed it would be unfair to his cousin to keep her from the circus. No misbehavior involved, but the scrutiny from the crowd was excruciating.

    What Suzanne says about sports programs these days is quite true. My brothers sons (seriously ectomorphic) are superb athletes and have been playing

    Em and I were riding the train one time, and she was drinking a diet soda. Some clueless rude bastards made a comment about body image or something, loud enough for us to hear. I was annoyed as shit, but wasn’t about to say anything. It was gratifying when my daughter disdainfully informed these dumbasses, “it’s better for my teeth.”

    For some reason, my daughter took to adult food very early in life. She consistently ordered lobster in restaurants, took an interest in cooking as a little kid, and has always been athletic and maintains a very healthy, mostly meatless diet as an adult. None of this resulted from any plan on her parents’ part. She got happy meals when she wanted but it was uncommon and considered a treat, and mostly for the worthless toy and never with a burger, she wouldn’t eat them. She could take apart a lobster by herself by the time she was five, which caused a lot of double takes from adjacent table.

    I may have reached 155 in HS. I’m 6-1 and these days 170-175. We live on a Mediterranean diet based on pasta, olive oil, tomatoes and salads, mainly because it’s easy and suits our tastes. We get pizza and go to Outback a few times a month. I’ve been known to eat entire whole-loaf muffulettas at times, and can still pack it away like I did as a kid. We only crank the car to leave the island, or to go out at night (unsafe as hell around here to bike after dark. Enjoying cooking and cooking well is surely a part of battling American Lardass Syndrome, the cost of which to everyone in terms of health care is immense. The First Lady has got this right, and look at the fat turds criticizing her efforts with moronic shit like “nanny state”.

    Shouldn’t it be obvious to anyone that isn’t an idiot ideologue that much of the sort of medical care the ACA promotes would address these concerns directly?

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  34. Joe Kobiela said on July 8, 2011 at 11:57 am

    By the way, that Jen that has lost 60lbs is my kid!
    Her mom has lost 75 and sister has lost 50 something and I have had the pleasure of running 2- 5ks with her.
    Proud,Pilot Joe

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  35. moe99 said on July 8, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I remember coming back to Seattle in ’91 from a very trying visit with my family by myself with two of the kids (then 6 and 4). The ex was home with the baby, because this was the first of our major marriage crises–he wasn’t sure he wanted to be married anymore, so he did not come. My 4 year old son was misbehaving terribly before we boarded so I pinched his ear, at which point I discovered he was running a high temperature and had come down with an ear infection! He slept most of the way home on the plane after I gave him tylenol but after that I vowed never to deal in physical punishment again. I have a great deal of sympathy for parents traveling with children as a result of my own experiences.

    As to our increasing obesity rates, I wonder what the role of corn sweetener is in all this as well as the other factors mentioned so far. I am at the opposite end of the spectrum. Because I have cancer, losing weight is seen as a bad thing. So I have to try to maintain my slightly overweight status because of that. It’s very odd.

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  36. brian stouder said on July 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Connie – thanks for the tip on the website.

    The Very First Major Event for our South Side High School Marching Band is – the parade through the streets of downtown Fort Wayne, which kicks off the Three Rivers Festival – TOMORROW MORNING!

    Much excitement (and a few frayed teenaged nerves) abound, and Grandma from Cass County is on the way this evening.

    Moe – I’m with you 1000 percent on the physical punishment thing. Many many years ago (about 20) I slapped my oldest son’s face – and I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse in my life*.

    I occasionally bellow and bray, but I believe I can honestly say that our young folks have never been struck by me, nor verbally belittled. (I do reserve the right to contest their opinions, where necessary, on music, Formula One, movies, books, and current events)

    *thinking about it, I recall telling Madam Telling Tales her-own-self about that, at the one and only party that I invited her to, way back in the day. It was (more or less) a ‘company party’, and she was our star “get”…but we digress!

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  37. ROGirl said on July 8, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    I wonder if there’s a correlation between the rise of obesity in children and public misbehavior, i.e., diminished parental involvement.

    Gary Taubes has written some interesting stuff in “Good Calories, Bad Calories” on the rise in obesity not just in this country, but all over the world whenever and wherever the western diet of white flour and refined sugar was introduced. It wasn’t just obesity, but western afflictions like heart disease and diabetes accompanied it.

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  38. nancy said on July 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    My sole kid-on-an-airplane story: Chicago to Heathrow, mid-90s, a dirt-cheap flight and hotel stay, one of those bundled by British Airways for the slow season (December). We get the aisle and middle of a three-seat row, the window taken by a young Indian woman, who was taking her 9-month-old baby home to meet its grandparents in Mumbai. She was traveling with her husband, too, but they could only get two seats together. The husband, she said, insisted the child sit with him. (No, I don’t know why.) But, being a man, he considered diapers her job.

    You know how brutal those overnighters to Europe in coach are — fitful sleep, 15 minutes here and there, interrupted several times by this sexist douchebag, who would carry the kid to our row, holding it at arms’ length, to signal when it needed a change. I offered to give her the aisle seat, but she didn’t want to switch. She was content to make us get up every frickin’ time. I asked why her husband couldn’t take the single and she could sit with the kid, but I don’t think she understood the question. Maybe because the baby was a boy? Hard to say. God bless America.

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  39. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    But, being a man, he considered diapers her job.

    Whoa, Nancy, that’s grossly unfair. I’ve done several hundred diaper changes. And handled toilet training. I think the guy being from Mumbai had as much to do with this.

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  40. nancy said on July 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I’ve read Taubes on those topics too, ROGirl, but I can’t follow him all the way to his lifestyle. He (it might have been one of those other zero-carb/paleo people) described his daily diet: bacon and eggs for breakfast, a whole roast chicken for lunch, steak and some green beany-type vegetable for dinner. Snacks of cheese and sausage — you know the drill. It sounds awful, and totally boring.

    Plus, look at these growth curves. People in this country have been eating white bread, ice cream and pastry for generations, but epidemic obesity has only arrived in the last 20 or so. I have to think it’s more complicated than that. It’s portions AND sugar AND exercise AND about a million other things. I totally understand that low- or no-carb works to help people lose, and that it upends the calories in/calories out formula, but it’s very hard to sustain. I think Jen’s got the right idea: Less of everything. Or, put another way: Everything, but less.

    One aside: Those paleo people are AWFUL. I read a blog by that caveman guy I wrote about last fall, and sometimes follow his links here and there, and good lord, what a bunch of Judgy McJudgingtons. They’re always bragging about how they don’t need any sleep, their sex is better, etc. (One guy claimed his dick is bigger since he gave up carbs. Right.) Meanwhile, they swallow more supplements than a real housewife, and do everything short of stir their feces in the bowl to examine their consistency. It takes self-obsession to an unheard-of level.

    OK, Prospero, let me edit: “…being a man from a sexist culture, he considered diapers her job.” That’s what I meant.

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  41. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Maybe the obesity epidemic is Weird Al’s fault.

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  42. Sue said on July 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Prospero and Nancy: yeah, like husbands who refuse to diaper can’t be found in the US.
    Although to be fair to our guys, most of the men I know who don’t diaper can’t do it more than won’t do it. Mom ends up cleaning up after both of them.
    On that subject, when I hear ‘I’ll do anything for you’ songs, in my mind I always attach an extra line sung by a female backup singer: ‘yeah but would you change a diaper for me?’ Bruno Mars, I’m talking to you.

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  43. moe99 said on July 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm


    >picks jaw up from floor<

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  44. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I have not only done diapers in the middle of the night, I’ve gone out at all hours to buy feminine hygiene products, which amazes sales clerks of both genders. Big deal. I was just objecting to a statement that, in its original iteration was a far too generalized condemnation of half of the human race. And when I think about it, I really can’t think of any dads I know that can’t or won’t change diapers. I’d be embarrassed to admit any such thing if it were the case. It ain’t rocket science.

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  45. ROGirl said on July 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I agree that there are a lot of factors contributing to the rise in obesity, including portion size growth, kids in front of video games and computers instead of running around outside in the fresh air, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Nor could I sustain a low to no carb diet and feel satisfied stuffing myself with meat, cheese and green vegetables, but I think there has been a huge rise in refined carbs and processed foods in general (often with sugar and hydrogenated oil) over the past 20 or so years and that is a big part of the problem. When did gas stations become convenience stores? Combining Dunkin Donuts with Baskin-Robbins was a stroke of genius. Places like Costco and Sam’s Club encourage people to purchase massive quantities of food and food-like substances to keep on hand in case they run out of stuff when there are natural or unnatural disasters. You never know when you’ll need a case of granola bars, I guess.

    I’ve read some of the paleo blogs and they ARE awful, body builder types who like to show off their bodies a lot, often with scary looking blonde wives.

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  46. Julie Robinson said on July 8, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Some kids are just bad travelers no matter what the parents do. Our daughter was great, our son was holy hell, mostly because of the little engine inside him that kept him in constant motion. Long car trips in particular were misery for all of us because he never, EVER fell asleep until we were 15 minutes from our destination. He wasn’t ornery; it was just his metabolism.

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  47. derwood said on July 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    @Brian My wife’s nieces play in East Noble Marching band and we generally try to get to most of their performances in the Fall. It was very cool to see South Side’s band last year at Wayne. I posted pictures of them on my FB page…if you weren’t there they got a standing ovation twice. They were all of 12 kids out there…very cool to see.


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  48. Jeff Borden said on July 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Wow, Moe, thanks for the link.

    It is clear that Michele Bachmann is really going after the black vote, LOL. It takes something special to suggest black children were better off under slavery than they are today. Breathtaking stuff.

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  49. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Family Leader Pledge Bachmann signed, aside from touting the family values inherent in slavery, requires signing on to the idea that “married people enjoy better health, better sex.” Oh, and condemning the apparently widespread application of Sharia law in the USA, of which nobody has produced a single example. They take a shot at Huntsman and Mitt by rolling up homosexuality and polygamy. The basic claim of this Pledge is that”

    “Social protections…have been evaporating as we have collectively ‘debased the currency’ of marriage…in complete absence of empirical proof, that non-heterosexual inclination are genetically determined, irresistible and akin to innate traits like race, gender and eye color; as well as anti-scientific bias which holds, against all empirical evidence, that homosexual behavior in particular, and sexual promiscuity in general, optimizes individual or public health.”

    They are also agreeing to ban “pornography in all forms”, without of course defining the term. I guess they’ll know it when they see it. Sayonara, James Joyce and Robin Tyner. Goodbye to that stalwart newly-coined neocon David Mamet.

    Try this from Bachmann, making ads for the opposition. Aside from flat out saying she is rooting for continued unemployment trends, anybody that claims tax policies, other than direct government subsidies in the form of targeted tax breaks, ever had anything to do with employment is a GD liar or a mindless cretin spouting a manufacture shibboleth, or blowing really hard on a dog whistle.

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  50. Dorothy said on July 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    *clapping hands happily for Prospero’s diaper comments @ 44* My hubby and nearly all of my brothers-in-law were diaper changers with no complaint. The sole hold out is now divorced from my youngest sister. That’s not why, but I’m sure it didn’t help. He was (and still is) a shitty (no pun intended) father.

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  51. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Dorothy. I think that a combination of breast feeding and diaper service is conducive to male cooperation. I’m sure that a lot of my diaper changing duties came from an arrangement in which I’d get up with the babby, change her and bring her back to our bed to nurse a bit. Then I’d bring her back to her room and rock her to sleep. Both her parents knew dad was far better with sleep deprivation than mom, so this always seemed eminently fair to me. And I would never trade those times for anything else. A favorite for getting Emily to sleep was singing Mr. Kite with hurdy gurdy sounds included. Oh, and anybody that wants can claim it’s not true, but breast-fed babies’ diapers are not nearly as stinky. And the diaper service means you just get the dirty on off and drop it into a deodorized diaper pail. Leave the used on the front porch Fri. morning come home to a week’s supply of fluffy clean. No muss no fuss, no 40,000year landfill half-life. The diaper service waas a gift from my parents, which I turned into a tradition when my grandson was born.

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  52. Jolene said on July 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    More than kids acting out, I’m troubled by the instances of parental neglect and other forms of malfeasance I see around me–yelling at kids for completely normal behavior, harsh corrections, and small slaps. I wouldn’t say this happens often, but it’s nonetheless disturbing when it does. My instinct is to snatch up the child and run away, but there doesn’t seem to be any practical or constructive way to intervene.

    Of course, what I’m witnessing is mostly the behavior of people who are much too young to be parents. They don’t seem to be cruel so much as they would simply rather not be bothered. And it’s probably not far-fetched to think that the “don’t bother me” orientation revealed in their public interactions w/ babies and young children leads to the “parked in front of a screen” lifestyle that we’re talking about here, especially because as Brian points out, few parents feel comfortable simply telling their kids to go out and play these days. Providing opportunities for kids to be active requires some effort and forethought.

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  53. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    ROGirl, I think a lot of those scary blonde wives, might not actually, um, be blondes. Body building is at least as grotesque as anything but the most extreme piercing and taattooing, and the instinct and intention is obviously similar. And hell, there is no way it’s healthy. When I see that shit on ESPN once in a while and see those blood vessels popping out on bulging muscles, I always wonder about ischemic incidents, especially with the ‘roids. I am mostly unfamiliar with this paleo shit. Is it paleo because you’re supposed to eat like Fred Flintstone? I mean Betty and Wilma had great figures, but Fred looked like Ralph Kramden. They make some wild claims about alleviating arthritis symptoms that simply make no sense at all.

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  54. brian stouder said on July 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    It was very cool to see South Side’s band last year at Wayne.

    Derwood – indeed. Our fine young Freshman and I went to some South Side football games last fall, and he had me take him early, and marched right up (so to speak) to the new band director, Mr Roddy, and volunteered to lug things here and there, at the proper moment. It was amazing, amusing, and more than a little exhilarating to see that small band of people down there on the field, working very hard, and with a credible sound; especially considering that South Side is a school of about one thousand eight hundred students, and Pam’s old school – the Pioneer Panthers of Royal Center, Indiana, consists of about four hundred students and had a band five times larger, at that time.

    Mr Roddy and his peeps started at zero, and have put lots and lots of work into the band, and it will be great to see them march down the boulevards tomorrow

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  55. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Building McMansions on half acre lots isn’t helping either. We lived in typical Pulte subdivisions in Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham when i was in grade school, and there was always room for ballgames and lots of kids around to play, and anybody not entirely useless played. It took some imagination. We couldn’t use actual baseballs, or we’d have been fixing broken windows more than playing ball. we found that a baseball sized India rubber ball like the ones supermarkets used to sell and one of those jumbo whiffle bats was perfect for the scale of our yards. With “invisible men’, you could actually play one to a side (this did inevitably lead to arguments).

    Two summers in a row, my brother Chris and I had a league of our own. We’d clip boxscores from the Free Press (he the Yankess, me the Dodgers), make scorecards, and follow the lineups exactly, hitting and pitching righty, lefty as appropriate. We kept records, some of which I still have. This was a wonderful passtime. We were overly competitive between ourselves (although let somebody else get into it and it was hell to pay from both of us). Chris was a better athlete, but I could pitch offhand better and switch hit better, so we played close games. I’d be amazed to find any 10 or 11 year old kids doing that sort of thing nowadays. Now it’s electronics and the myth of Wii Fitness. We still played Stratomatic and buzzing electric football, but outdoors was better. We also played catch over the roof of the house, which undoubtedly made us better baseball players. And all football was tackle, and somehow nobody got hurt. We never walked anywhere, we either rode bikes at breakneck speed or ran.

    We were all also involved in summer swimming leagues. And I have to say, swimming coaches were very conscientious to make sure that anyone that showed for practice got to swim in meets, even if only in exhibition lanes. I don’t remember and snobbishness or looking down on kids that showed up everyday but just weren’t very good. I do remember some of these kids improving a great deal and sharing the satisfaction of contributing to a team, when they’d probably always been picked last in pickup sports. Maybe this egalitarian aspect has vanished these days. I certainly hope not.

    At our (Jebbie) HS, my brothers and I played varsity sports, but there was a sprawling lunchtime organized intramural sports program, nearly as prestigious as varsity and open to all. Swimmers, for some reason were frequently really good hoops players. When I was the Sports Editor of the school news magazine (slick paper, Time-style format), I introduced coverage of intramurals. Seemed like the right thing.

    I know this all sounds like walking to school through snowdrifts barefoot, but actually fat kids were few and far between back then.

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  56. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    My wife said I earned any “Best Dad Ever” stuff I would get through the rest of my life for having done a diaper change in a 737 restroom during heavy turbulence from SLC to Cincy. One hand pressed to a bulkhead, one hand securing the Lad circa 13 mos., one hand to maneuver the wipes & diaper, and me only having two hands. This is where I had an unfair advantage over the Lovely Wife: at 6’5″, I may not be able to allow the person in front of me to recline their seat, but I was exactly the right height to wedge my skull against the overhead bulkhead, and a shoulder into the crease next to the vanity, allowing me to use both hands freely. The flight attendant gave me a round of applause when I came out with an intact baby, and without baby output all over me or the walls (which she apparently expected).

    We only had three flights with him pre-ten-years-old, and I’m happy to say we were lucky. Sometimes, the calmest kid will put up a squall for hours on end, and I’m unnerved by how quickly people in the NYT thread strongly commend Benadryl & Valium. Seriously, down that road is chloroform etc., and I don’t get how people are so cavalier about medicating kids . . . but it does explain how the majority of our prescription abuse cases in the j-court are or at least began with parents/relatives handing kids their own pills and saying “hey, this might help.” Whether with pain, depression, or ennui. Next they break into g’ma’s house to steal the rest of her next bottle’s worth.

    Hey, Prospero, did you say your daughter “was quite inclined to make arch and derogatory comments”? Heredity is a wonderful thing, no? My son reminds me of apples and how far from the tree-ness, too.

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  57. brian stouder said on July 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    And I think Jeff ices the thread-win, there (if it wasn’t already)!

    And while I don’t know but it’s been told that naval aviators have wings of gold; and indeed, it’s been said that Air Force pilots have wings of lead; still, I think in this group, good ol’ Jeff earned his wings of poop

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  58. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Yeah, Jeff, generally I’m as proud of her sarcastic bent as I am of her four-year war agoinst tyrannical nuns in HS. Sometimes not. Shortly after her mom and I spilt up, we were down here at the beach and Emily was playing with another kid about her age who had a stunning apparently single mom with her. Things went well until Em’s playmate asked if she’d seen tha Smurfs that morning. My kid said, at age 6 or so, I swear, “Smurfs aree asinine. So much for that scenario. She may have been quoting me verbatim.

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  59. lisa said on July 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    OK, a weigh-in on the “unruly child” issue. With acknowledgement that I’m childless by choice.

    I don’t think kids are more unruly today than before. I think there are just more kids than before, and so there are more unruly kids, too. Whereas 20 years or so ago you might have seen one child in the store running around, grabbing toys from the shelves, stomping on them and then taking their destructive energy to the next aisle—today you might see three kids doing that.

    I do agree with others that parents seem less able to deal, but again maybe that’s just an increase-in-population thing, too. Still, my sister was one of those parents who thought it was cute that her toddler daughter walked around the restaurant, visiting people at other tables. I tried to tell her it was not a universally shared sentiment, and that there was something to be said for everyone, children and adults, to only visit other diners if invited. But she told me I was a scrooge biased by my childlessness.

    If you aren’t a parent, you’re not supposed to have any opinions about parenting because “you don’t know what you’re talking about.” I think maybe bad parenting is like porn, though: I know it when I see it.

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  60. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Way cuter than any kitten or bunny picture.

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  61. MaryRC said on July 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    It’s not just bigger portions and more sugar-laden foods. It’s become a social habit for us to be constantly grazing. People never used to walk down the street or into stores with cups of coffee or pop the way we do now. I noticed this after spending a couple of years in Europe in the 90s, just around the time that Starbucks took off here. When I came home, suddenly it seemed that coffee and pop cups were everywhere, every street wastebasket was full of them. In Paris if you wanted coffee or a cold drink, you sat down at a sidewalk cafe and drank it there. I’ve heard that now it’s the same way in London and Paris, people walk around with drinks in their hands all day. And those frappucinos and Big Gulps are full of calories.

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  62. Joe Kobiela said on July 8, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    As a former band dad the best advise I can give is never try to figure out the judging.
    I have seen bands that march like a one legged man in a polka contest score signifinly higher than a band that sounds like a Broadway show. Just sit back and enjoy the talent, those kids work hard and deserve a lot of praise.
    Pilot Joe

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  63. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 8, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    The thread-win, regrettably, goes to Trenta, as MaryRC just said.

    Wife, son, and self are going to Greenfield Village on Monday; I’ve not visited since 1981 — any “must see” suggestions? Then going as far as Frankenmuth before spending the rest of the week in Mackinaw City eating fudge & pasties.

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  64. Dexter said on July 8, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    J-Mo, you kindled a 737 memory for me, too, just being airborne in a Boeing 737 at 37,000 feet altitude during a bad storm is unnerving, and I had three really memorable flights like that in 737s. One was from LAX to Monterey, a few hundred miles of pure buffeting. One was from ORD to FWA, gratefully finally on the ground after massive continual lightning strikes on an early summer afternoon, and one was really scary , also from ORD to FWA, but forced to make an emergency landing in South Bend when “mechanical problems” were detected on cockpit gauges. That plane sat there all night, I guess, and another 737 was sent to get us back to FWA. That was nice of them.

    Fat. Tempura…ever eat tempura? Pure oil soaked breading entombing fried anything, maybe broccoli, usually summer squash. Or onions or fish, or anything at all.
    I lost 50 pounds in 1994 and last year I lost 57 pounds.
    The 1994 weight loss was the result of giving up mostly all sugar, all I could detect anyway, and just eating sensibly.
    The 2010 loss of 57 pounds was the result of a medication switch. One pill I was taking was dropping my blood sugar and forcing me to head for the kitchen on convenience mart or wherever, looking for anything to eat.
    Maintaining low blood sugar is simple if you avoid hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is scary as hell. You are one minute or less away from a coma and you have to eat eat eat like a maniac for a little while to keep from blacking totally out.
    Yeah, I was DX’d with hypoglycemia in 1974, not even knowing it’s close cousin, Type Two Adult Onset Diabetes was waiting in the wings. Thank the Powers that be I have a great doctor who makes managing this complex battle of extremes very easy.
    No more rushing to the kitchen, sweating in the winter, shaking and weak , absolutely needing a PBJ sandwich RIGHT NOW or I would have passed out. There are all kinds of pills out there for this condition, and my fistful of pills every day make life joyous.

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  65. brian stouder said on July 8, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    My fave thing in Greenfield was the docent at the Wright Brothers home; she gave an enthralling little talk about the (somewhat strange) Wright family; which reminds me that I meant to search out a book about them.

    ‘Course, I loved the Henry Ford boyhood farmstead, too, where they were cooking something that smelled heavenly….up until I spilled my Official, Refillable Henry Ford Museum Big Gulp drink on the carpet in the parlor (that was a genuinely distressing moment) – but we digress!

    And the locomotive roundhouse was very cool; and if you wander into the….mill? machine shop? – near the top of the hour, you might get to pull the rope that blows the steam whistle

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  66. coozledad said on July 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    We’re starting to harvest cukes here, and I’ve been grating them and mixing them with soda water as a midday drink. Today I used the grated cucumber along with some grapefruit juice, ume plum vinegar, and a pinch of black pepper. It’s sort of a salty dog, but chewier. It would probably be good with gin, or a black pepper vodka.

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  67. Dorothy said on July 8, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    fudge & pasties? They serve chocolate at strip bars?! ; )

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  68. Linda said on July 8, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Re: your aside on badly behaved grownups. We had a lady in our library last week who hollered into her cellphone, “I can’t get into this fucking stuff with you right now, I’M IN THE LIBRARY.”

    Sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

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  69. brian stouder said on July 8, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Didn’t one of our bigger, fatter presidents drink lots and lots of cucumber juice, and then become horribly sick and die? (Old Rough and Ready?)

    Just wonderin’…

    edit: well, he wasn’t that fat, and he was apparently drinking milk? Oh well

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  70. coozledad said on July 8, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Paulie Ryan’s got more expensive tastes. Most bartenders will tell you anybody who orders a bottle of anything this expensive is just showing their ass like a downmarket ponce.
    Bring out the goddamn tumbrils.

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  71. prospero said on July 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    My HS prom was in a ballroom in some sort of preserved or reproduced mansion at Greenfield Village. It was s beautiful place. Third Power, Detroit’s unsung, worthy version of Bruce, Clapton and Baker, played except the Ass. Principal threatened to toss them out and play the Johnny Mathis collection when the band did their infamous cover of 5 to 1. My mom was a chaperone and talked the shitheel out of it. She was beautiful and wore a short dress the color of pale orange hibiscus blossoms that really set off her luxurious long auburn hair. I’m not embarrassed to say, I went shopping with her and picked out the dress. Half the senior class asked her to dance.

    Mr. Discipline’s name was Mr. Garvin, and while most of us looked upon the majority of the faculty as latterday Messrs. Chips, this sucker was widely despised for being kinda dense, hyper about discipline, and prone to public humiliation of weaker students (he was afraid of a lot of us).. Anybody else go to a school where you had to surrender a demerit card to a faculty member upon request, be cited for behavioral infringements and show for jug on Saturdays when this happened five times? Keep in mind this was late 60s and there were hair rules. Fortunately, athletic practices could keep one out of jug. Anyway, Mr. Gargin had massive baleen front teeth, that actually resembled tusks. He was tormented, presumably, by kids singing Goo, goo, joob in his presence. Though. why anybody thoughrt he’s get it is beyond me. This may seem cruel, but this fat ass was an officious ahole, and deserved what he got. This was the closest my school ever came to William Golding behavior. No matter how weird any kid was, nobody picked on him for any reason. There were student leaders that would not stand for it, and a lot of this had to do with the Jesuit orientation of our religious instruction. At that time, there were probably 900 in the student body, each one who had taken a city wide entrance exam incompetition with something like 7500 kids from greater Detroit. Bullying was basically nonexistent, and just about everybody was friendly with everybody. I wish every kid could have a secondary education like mine. The GOP would disappear in a generation, for one thing.

    Anyway, it was one great night to cap my HS experience. I had a rented midnight blue tux, with a vest. I dislike cummerbunds, which were of course meant to keep crumbs off your pants, and make people look like fatass robber barons. And my shirt was a midnight blue satin calypso sleeved shirt with little white appliqued stars, purloined by my girlfriend from Hudsons. She wasn’t my date. She broke up with me a few days earlier. Like a bastard, I asked another girl to the dance, an in-country exchange student, whose host family was my erstwhile date’s family. They were pretty good friends at that point. I know I was peevish, but did I act like a dick? I was quite attracted to my date, Barbara, who didn’t think so, but I regret their friendship didn’t survive. Anyway, prom night was brilliant. I suppose this whole experience is why I find some common ground with some of y’all enjoying Nancy’s favorite fashion commentators despite being a died-in the wool heterosexual that sees the babes…er clothes horses, through, I mean, beyond what they are wearing.

    My thing at
    Greenfield Village when I was a little kid, and I’m sure would be today, my favorite thing is Gog and Magog, it’s like John Gardner made it up for Freddie’s Book, and Nancy, given your stated antipathy toward fantasy writing, I’d suggest Freddie’s Book strongly. Book within an engaging book, and very affecting, and wouldn’t take a day. I have no idea what you think about John Gardner, or indisputable masterpiecews like October Light, Micklesson’s Ghosts, or the Sunlight Dialogues. ( (Oxford comma applies, because these are incomparable works). Have you read any of these? No shit, Nancy, it’s not fair that you never peeped about Riding on the Rims. I couldn’t care less so far as my reaction is concerned. I think he’s got back to some sort of center like what produced The Sporting Club, which was surely intended to mean, I can outduel Hemingway, and I can be hilarious as the actual human condition at the same time. Hemingway is unintentionally hilarious. I shoot big animals, I’m a big man? sorry Ernie.

    And the fireball candies at the general store, at Greenfield Village. One of my brothers popped one in his mouth, raced outside, and put his mouth in the horse trough. I won’t say which. We have all embarrassed ourselves more than enough. It was the same brother that prides himself on being moredown-to-earth than the rest of us, but asked a stew how to open the windows on the plane, and then, with headset on said, “Hey you guys, this is really great.” loud enough to be heard back in the terminal.

    Brian, was it the docent or was it what she had to say? The whole place is like going back in time., if you have an actual imagination. I’ve told y’all more than you ever wanted to know about my adolescence. I would like to know whether y’all agree I wasn’t the proverbial dick about my prom daqte. I admit I meant it to hurt, I’d beenn hurt. And this had to do with parents and whatever.

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  72. Jeff Borden said on July 8, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    I’ with you, Cooz. The way we’re getting screwed by the uber-wealthy and their puppets in the GOP, I’m ready to take up a torch and a pitchfork. The middle-class has been decimated and we’ve gone to slaughter without so much as a moo. Let’s start with the Randians and work our way up.

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  73. brian stouder said on July 8, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Betty Ford, RIP. Her like – and Republicans like her husband – are (apparently) not to be seen much on the national stage, anymore.

    Prospero – it was both the docent and her story. And you’re right; the genius part of Greenfield is that it stes out to do a thing well, and it succeeds magnificently. There are smart people at every turn, who genuinely seem to love their subject matter – whether it’s Henry Ford’s love of trains and locomotives, or the finer points of Ford Motor Company’s history, or this or that car, or the Wright Brothers, or Thomas Edison.

    I love that place; very pleasant, and with history all over, for the taking – like apples in an orchard at harvest time.

    And Prospero – you weren’t a dick; you were a kiddo, and we all had to learn how relationships work, back in the day. Now, if you’d have overtly done something actually unfriendly toward the ex-girlfirend (the 2011 thing would be to say something impolite on Facebook, or whatever), THEN you’d have been a dick.

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  74. coozledad said on July 9, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Borden: One of Ryan’s tablemates, Clif Asness, is a hedge fund manager and pension raider. He’s likely the one who purchased the wine, which is illegal. Ryan and his friends remind me of the assholes I knew who wiped out every vestige of their human sensibilities by using (in the immortal words of Dr. Eugene Chadbourne) an ice cream cone for a cokespoon.
    One can only hope that these days they’re tooting the shit cut with Levamisole, and soon enough we’ll know them by their missing noses and earlobes.

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  75. Jeff Borden said on July 9, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Ryan and his cronies are such freaking phonies. There’s another right-wing douche up in Wisconsin who was elected by the teabaggers named Sean Duffy, who has been videotaped boo-hooing about how he can’t make it on his Congressional salary of $174K. And now Ryan is sucking down $350 bottles of wine, while he asks all of us to suck it up and give up programs that have worked beautifully and benefitted millions for decades?

    Assholes all.

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  76. brian stouder said on July 9, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Atlas shrugged

    (and then he slurped)

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  77. maryinIN said on July 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Once I had arranged for plumbers to come to our house and the appointment was right after the lunch hour. These were two fairly large guys and they were grunting and groaning as they hunted around for their tools on the kitchen floor. I actually thought they were going to be sick what with their burping, belching, etc. They apologized and said they had gone to McDonald’s for lunch and there was a special: buy two Big Macs for the price of one. So that’s what they did — each. It hadn’t occurred to them (I asked) that they could have bought one and got one for free and split the order.

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  78. Rana said on July 11, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Yet it makes sense to look at overweight people as those that make bad choices that ultimately harm their health.

    Actually, Michael, no, it doesn’t. Some people are quite healthy, and fit, yet fat, while many thin people are making horrible choices and are very unhealthy (but don’t come in for similar levels of judgement or concern, because their bad lifestyle isn’t aesthetically displeasing). Others are fat because they are disabled, or on medication that makes them gain weight, or because they can’t afford better food. Reducing this problem down to “oh, those ignorant fatties who we need to help because they can’t help themselves” does no one any favors, and doesn’t solve the problem. Cut out the blaming and shaming, and look to the reasons why people are not healthy – fat or not – and you’ll get better results.

    Moreover, people have known since the time of Aristotle that eating less and exercising more tends to lead to trimmer figures for most (but not all!) people; the fact that we’ve been giving that advice for thousands of years suggests that knowing what to do and accomplishing it are very different things. We’re mammals with a taste for sweets and fat and an innate desire to conserve energy, after all.

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