Monday, November 27, 2006


Since my son was born I spend more time thinking about sleep than anything else. I was already sleep deprived when he was born, having been woken up at 3am by mild contractions the morning before he was born and, except for one two-hour nap, not sleeping until he was born 29 hours later. He slept almost his entire first day while people visited and took pictures, then finally woke up about 10pm and, after nursing for two hours straight, cried until we let one of the nurses take him for a couple hours so we could get some sleep. She managed to get him to sleep with a pacifier, but that has not worked since. The first few weeks he liked to stay up until two in the morning. Then he would go to sleep around midnight -- an improvement, but still challenging for me, being a morning person.

He started sleeping through the night when he was ten weeks old, but getting him to sleep was still a big production involving lots of crying and bouncing/walking around with him, and still he would not go to sleep until midnight. Hubby asked when we would be able to just put him in his bed, say goodnight and turn out the light and have him fall asleep. I said, probably not until he is two or three.

We implemented a routine of putting him in his pajamas around 9pm and then going into the bedroom for his last feeding and then staying in the bedroom until morning, whether he was sleeping or not. That way the bedroom would hopefully be a cue that it was nighttime and time to settle down. This routine has helped a little, but the biggest change came this last week.

He is four months old now and has been practicing rolling over onto his tummy for about a month. Sometimes he would do it when we put him down in his crib. Usually he would grunt a while on his tummy and then start to get worked up and we would pick him up and try again to get him to sleep. But one night last week after I thought I had got him to sleep I put him down and his crib and he immediately rolled onto his tummy. I groaned (silently) and prepared myself for him to start fussing, but he didn't. He fell asleep! Since then we have been putting him down, sometimes even when his eyes are wide open (but we know he is tired) and he will roll over and fall asleep. Sometimes he sucks on his hand for a while before falling asleep, and I think this is one of the big benefits of laying on his tummy -- his hands don't fall away from his mouth when he is trying to suck them to sleep.

So, we are really enjoying his new ability to fall asleep on his own. Unfortunately, he has also recently started to wake up again during the night, sometimes more than once. I'm sure he's not teething, despite the fact that he there is a continuous stream of drool coming out of his month, because both hubby and I were late teethers -- my first tooth came in when I was 12 months old. Maybe it's a growth spurt. Whatever the reason, sleep is probably still going to be the thing I think about most, for at least the next few years.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Testing Improves Memory of Non-Tested Material

Here's some research that is applicable to law school students:

A study done at Washington University in St. Louis found that students who were tested on material they read had better long-term memory of the material -- even of the stuff that wasn't on the test. All students read a passage about toucans. Some were tested on that material, some were given extra study and some were sent home. The next day all the students were tested using a test that contained the questions from the previous day's test as well as new questions. The students who had been tested previously did better on the new questions than either of the other groups. Another finding was that students who spent more time answering the questions on the first day did better on the second day. So, since law school classes typically only have one exam at the end of the semester, it is probably a good idea to take a practice exam if you can, and take your time thinking about the questions.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Babies don't look like Fathers

A recent study found that while most moms say that their baby looks like its father, independent observers do not agree. The researchers speculated that perhaps the mothers had evolved this strategy of deceiving the fathers in order to convince the fathers of their paternity and ensure that they would stick around to help raise the baby. That's an interesting theory, but it seems more likely to me that it is just a cultural thing. I don't think the women are intentionally deceiving the dads -- they are probably just trying to be nice and don't want the dads to feel left out. And it probably is partly to help the dad's be able to relate to the child so that they will be more likely to help out, but I don't think Darwin has anything to with it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Acceptance #1

I received my first acceptance into law school today. It came by email from what is currently my third choice school. I expected my first acceptance to make me excited about the fact that I am really going to law school next year, but somehow the email did not do that for me. Maybe the excitement will come with the official letter and other hard-copy materials from the school -- there's still something about dead trees that can't quite be replicated digitally.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

No conspiracy in free software

In a case heard by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Daniel Wallace argued that IBM, Red Hat and Novell were conspiring to deter competition by offering Linux for free under the GNU General Public License (GPL). After all, how can anyone compete with free? The court found that the companies were not guilty of predatory pricing, in which companies use artificially low prices to bankrupt the competition and then raise prices, because the GPL does not allow them to raise prices ever. "The GPL and open-source software have nothing to fear from the antitrust laws." Wallace v. IBM, No. 06-2454 (7th Cir., November 9, 2006).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Playing with BLOKS

MEGA Brands recently commissioned a study on the effect of their blocks on language acquisition, attention and television viewing. The study participants were divided into two groups, one of which received two sets of MEGA BLOKS as well as suggestions of ways the parent and child could play with the blocks together. The other group received nothing. After two months the children's language development and attention were assessed. The children who received the blocks had a higher score on the language development test than those who did not. MEGA naturally attributes this difference to their blocks. I would suggest that it probably has more to do with the fact that the parents were encouraged to play with their children. Playing with someone involves communicating with them and so it seems natural that a child who spends more time playing with an adult would have better communication skills than one who doesn't. I bet they could have done this study with any type of toy that allows for collaborative play and would have gotten the same results.

Another interesting finding was that the children who were given the blocks were 80% less likely to watch TV on any given day than the children who were not. This is important given some of the concerns with TV that I mentioned in a previous post. But I wonder whether the children who received the blocks still spent less time in front of the TV after the study was over and the novelty of their new toys wore off. Some of the children who weren't given blocks as part of the study already had blocks of their own, so it would be interesting to compare the language development and TV time of the kids who already had blocks with those who were given blocks to see if the results are just due to the way the study was carried out rather than to having blocks to play with.

Despite the possible limitations of the study (and I haven't seen the whole study, just MEGA's press release), it is clearly beneficial for kids to engage in imaginative play. And blocks of any brand are great for that. In a study on the importance of play the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes "the benefits of 'true toys,' such as blocks and dolls, in which children use their imagination fully, over passive toys that require limited imagination."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Applying to Law School, Part II

So, one of the reasons I started this blog is to talk about being a mom and going to law school. I won't be the first person to blog about this (LawMom, transmogriflaw, yayarolly and MadMom are a few of those who have gone before me) but it seems that there are few enough that it is worthwhile to have one more. But I am not in law school yet -- which would explain the dearth of posts about law school. I am, however, pretty much done with my applications. The only thing I still have to do is write some essays for some scholarships I am applying for. I have been procrastinating on writing those essays for a while now. It's not hard to procrastinate when you have a three-month-old. When he takes a nap the first thing I do is eat, the second thing I do is take care of the most urgent household chores (laundry, dishes). Since most of his naps are less than an hour, that might be all I get done. However, if I have extra time I will probably check my email, order diapers on Amazon (you can get $10 off every $50 grocery order through November 30 and it's mostly all eligible for free shipping, so stock up!) or write something for this blog. I figure writing this blog is giving me practice writing, which will help when I get around to writing my essays. It's a pretty good rationalization, so I'm going to use it for now.

Anyway, one of the reasons I am procrastinating is that the scholarships I am applying for (five of them) are all awarded by the same committee, and yet they want a separate essay for each scholarship. So I have to write five entirely different essays explaining my committment to whatever each scholarship is for. I could probably cover the requirements of all the scholarships in one essay (none are mutually exclusive), but they want five seperate ones. I am planning on thinking of them as one essay with five parts. I actually have two written so far, and I have until January 1st. So I'm really not in bad shape. But I need to take advantage of my current easy access to my mother in law and spend an hour or two sans baby working on these essays and get them done before the holiday craziness starts.

So, the point of all this was to explain that not much is going on law-school-wise at the moment, which is why there are so few law-school-related posts. But things should get interesting pretty soon, as I hope to hear from a couple schools in December, and then will get to start filling out financial aid applications in January. So, stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Kids and TV

There are lots of mixed messages about kids and television. On one hand, television can have positive effects on kids: it can increase knowledge, improve imagination and improve racial attitudes. On the other hand, studies have shown that children who watch a lot of TV are not only likely to be overweight as children, but are also more likely to have health problems in adulthood.

Even scarier is a recent study showing that television viewing by children under three may be linked to autism. Perhaps, as the author of the article linked above suggests, if children are exposed to too much television while their brains are still developing they don't learn to interact with the real world. It doesn't seem that far-fetched that television could affect children's development when children aged six to eight are more likely to look at a picture of a blank television than a human face.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two years old not watch any television, and yet there are videos aimed at babies (I have a couple). But even if you don't intentionally sit your baby down in front of the television, if you watch television your baby probably watches some too. Television and other screens are so pervasive in our society that more research should be done to find out whether spending time staring at a screen as a baby or toddler can interfere with normal development.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Case in Point: Breastfeeding does not Increase IQ

As I said in a previous post, many of the differences seen in children who are breastfed may have more to do with who chooses to breastfeed than anything else. Research published in the British Medical Journal online shows that breastfeeding does not make children more intelligent, as previous research had suggested, rather mothers with a higher IQ are more likely to breastfeed. So, children who are breastfed are smarter because their mothers are smart, not because they were breastfed.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Boobalyzer Test

Say you left the baby with a sitter for the evening and went out for dinner with your husband. You had a drink or two and now your back home and the baby is hungry. Wouldn't it be nice if there was an easy way to check whether there was any alcohol in your breast milk, sort of like a breathalyzer test for your boobs? Well now there is.

Milkscreen has introduced a new at-home breast milk test. You saturate one of the test strips with breastmilk, wait two minutes, and if it changes color that means there is alcohol in your milk. You get 6 strips for $19.95.

Is this test necessary? One of my favorite breastfeeding sites says that the consumption of one to two alcoholic drinks by the breastfeeding mother is not harmful to her baby as less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by the mother reaches her milk. However, waiting two to three hours after drinking will give the mother a chance to metabolize the alcohol and get it out of her system. As soon as the alcohol is out of your blood it is out of your milk.

The Milkscreen site lists several possible negative effects of alcohol in your milk (all of which are also listed on the kellymom page linked to above). These include some that are irrelevant to their product (alcohol can inhibit let down and milk production -- obviously if you are using their test you already drank so you can't do anything about that); some that are not really problems unless you have been regularly feeding your baby alcoholic milk (your baby may drink less milk if it contains alcohol and may fall asleep sooner but sleep less soundly); and one that is extreme (gross motor development may be affected). It turns out that the decrease in gross motor development was seen when the mother consumed one or more drinks a day (Little et al. 1989). If that's you then you're going to need the economy pack (36 strips for $107.73).

This product really is a great idea because it plays on a mother's paranoia, and that's probably the easiest way to sell something, but it seems like only a heavy drinker would really need this.