TIME Profiles

Meet the Woman Trying to Save Your Kids From Their Screens

Jefferson Pitcher Author and artist Keri Smith just released her latest book this fall, The Imaginary World Of ... (Perigee; 192 pages).

A conceptual artist and author is luring kids into questioning the world and appreciating every smell, texture and mystery in it

At 42, Keri Smith still writes to a pen pal. She deeply appreciates secret passageways. And she sometimes rolls dice to determine which way she walks down the street. That won’t surprise her readers who have followed instructions from her bestselling books like Wreck This Journal — a tome that asks “users” to cover the pages in dirty fingerprints, smells and drawings made by strangers.

What they might not know is that Smith, a rosy-cheeked Canadian now ensconced in Northampton, Mass., is secretly trying to spark a political movement with her whimsy. “What I’m doing is trying to get kids to pay attention, to look at the physical world more, and to question everything,” she says, leaning across a bowl of yellow heirloom tomatoes on her kitchen table. “I am trying to get kids out of the house and away from screens. Someone is needed in this culture to speak up and say this behavior is dysfunctional.”

Courtesy of Perigee

Out this fall is Smith’s 12th book (depending how you count books that often defy what a book should be), The Imaginary World Of … . Readers can complete the title with their name. Inside, they won’t find aspersions against the corporations Smith believes are “blandifying” the youth or commands to live without TV, as her family does. Instead they’ll be asked to make a list of things they’re drawn to: textures, people, sounds, colors. Then Smith will guide them through painting their own universe with that palette. Her unspoken message may be discovered along the way, if kids or adults notice their utopia didn’t include a Target parking lot or seven hours of media use per day.

In Wreck This Journal (2007), her best known work which now has more than 3 million copies in print worldwide, readers are asked to rip a page out, write a note on it and sneak it into someone’s pocket. In Guerilla Art Kit (2007), Smith presents a how-to guide on pastimes like seed-bombing, flashmobbing and situational graffiti. In How to Be An Explorer of the World (2008), she encourages readers to wander aimlessly until they have lost all sense of time and place. In Mess (2010) she instructs readers to bury the book, to do everything with the “wrong” hand for a day, and to take an existing mess and make it much, much bigger. Sometimes her fans turn those messes into more organized art.

Smith knows it’s hard to muster the kind of abandon it takes to eat colorful candy and make “tongue paintings” in one of her books, if you’re not a carefree toddler. She was once a middle-class girl in the suburbs of Toronto, where her mother suffered from a brain tumor and a rather unhappy marriage. Fights would send Smith retreating to her room to draw. By high school, Smith had turned to more destructive tools, experimenting with drugs and cutting herself in an effort to cope with home life.

Her first muse on the road to success and inhibition came in the form of a teacher who reminded her that she found solace in art. On his advice, Smith entered the Ontario College of Art and Design as a mature student a few years after dropping out of high school, a place where she was given “the permission to do whatever.” The second was her husband, an experimental musician who moved into her small farmhouse in the town of Flesherton, Ontario (pop. 700) after they wed in 2004.

Jeff Pitcher, a California native, was unprepared for the dark days that last nearly half the year, and in a moment of stir-crazed desperation, he and a friend put on headphones, walked out into the snow and started wildly dancing on the side of the road to music no one else could hear. That exercise eventually became the documentary short The Winter of the Dance, a study of “shedding predictability” and returning to a child-like state. Eventually Pitcher convinced his wife to try ecstatic heel-shaking beside a busy street. “It was life-transforming,” Smith says. “You have to force yourself into a situation that is slightly uncomfortable, because when you come out the other side it is the most freeing thing imaginable.”

From that well sprung Smith’s obsession with the precise moment a person decides to do something they are hesitant to do — like jump off a dock into numb-cold water. And her books are training manuals that make people more willing to leap. Of course, not everyone takes kindly to her exercises, which repeatedly flip the bird at convention. “In order to be who you are as a human being, you need to be willing to upset people,” she says. Smith certainly has, almost being sued after young readers followed (now defunct) instructions to “burn this page” and rub a blank page on a dirty car (which can scratch up a vehicle fast).

Despite a few detractors, Smith has a bevy of loyal followers and gets flooded with thankful letters from recovering perfectionists, school teachers and unhappy teenage girls who have been drawn to harming themselves as she once was. “I think they respond to what was my healing process, my journey out of that bad place,” she says, a combination of art and looking outward through books. Smith is a big believer in books as therapy (so long as they’re not made for that purpose), just as she is a big believer in long strolls, playing with one’s food and clandestinely chalking inspirational quotes on sidewalks instead of playing video games.

Her way of thinking may be a hard sell to children weaned on the bright, cartoony, introverted stimulation of an iPad or to parents scrambling to get their kids into computer programming classes. But she says that to fight technology doesn’t necessitate being against it forever. She knows her two young kids will have computers. “You need it to be a part of society,” she says. “I’m just hoping my children will get enough of a foundation to remember what it was like before technology, how good that feels. Because I remember.”

TIME Family

Men Want to Remarry; Women Are ‘Meh’

Ojo Images—GettyImages

Nearly two thirds of ex-married men would consider doing it again

Americans, who have lost a little of their ardor for marriage, are still pretty game to remarry. About 40% of all the new marriages in 2013 were not first marriages and in half of those cases, both spouses had ridden in that rodeo before. And new analysis from Pew Research finds that men are much more enamored of remarriage than women are.

“Most currently divorced or widowed men are open to the idea of remarriage, but women in the same circumstances are less likely to be,” says the report, which draws on figures from a survey it conducted in May and June. Almost two thirds of men either want to remarry or would at least consider it, while fewer than a half of women would.

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Perhaps it’s not surprising then that more guys do get remarried than women. Almost two thirds of men who have been married before and got divorced or were widowed wed again, whereas only a smidgen more than half of the women do.

There are lots of possible reasons for the gender discrepancy. Women tend to live longer, so they may outlast all their potential suitors. Or, since women now have more economic freedom than they did 50 years ago, they may feel less need for a partner. And while women still bear the bulk of the home care duties, once liberated, they may feel disinclined to enter into another legally binding agreement to look after somebody else.

However, the Pew analysis seems to suggest that the guys are being the shrewder partners, at least financially. “On key economic measures, remarried adults fare better than their currently divorced counterparts and about as well as those in their first marriages,” says the report, which gets its figures from analyzing American Community Survey data. Only 7% of people who are remarried live in poverty, compared to 19% of people who are divorced and still single. “Homeownership, which often reflects wealth, is also much higher for the remarried than the divorced—79% versus 58%.”

Of course, it may not be that the spouses are more financially stable because they are married. It might be that more financially stable people are in a better position to attract partners, build sturdy relationships and get married.

Slightly less than a quarter of all people who are married in the U.S. today are actually remarried people. Fifty years ago, they only represented about 13% of married people. In the same half century, marriage has fallen quite markedly out of favor among the young. But so far, the majority of people who have tried it are willing to give it another go.

TIME career

Being Rich Is Not a Priority for Women, Survey Shows

In a global survey, a majority of women did not list wealth as their top goal

When women are asked to imagine success, becoming extremely wealthy is not the first thing that comes into their minds. Instead, across countries and continents, mothers, daughters and wives are more concerned about financial security for their families.

That’s one of the main findings of a survey of women and men ages 21 to 69 in the United States, United Kingdom, China and Brazil. While economic concerns among both sexes continue to decline, most respondents are still worried about just getting by.

Nearly 80% of women said they’d rather have more money than power or sex in their lives, according to the survey, which was backed by public relations firm FleishmanHillard and Hearst media. Yet a deeper dive suggests the drive behind the money is for security as opposed to excelling financially.

The results have dramatic implications on not just women’s ability to accrue wealth, but also on financial planners. Women are expected to earn $18 trillion in the U.S. this year — 50% more than they earned five years ago. On a global level, by 2030, women will control two-thirds of our nation’s wealth. As taking smart risks with their money falls to the wayside in place of more practical bets like planning a family trip or going out to eat, women are less likely to invest their money.

What’s more is that women feel increasingly untrustworthy of financial institutions. Only about a third of women surveyed in the U.S. said they were loyal to one financial services company. That figured dropped to just 16% among women in the U.K. Also, more than half of women in the U.S., U.K. and China reported to be “overwhelmed” by the products and choices available today for financial services.

The cautious and overwhelmed attitude toward financial planners breeds an attitude of self-reliance, says Steve Kraus, senior vice president and chief insights officer Ipsos MediaCT’s audience measurement group, the third-party organization that conducted the report’s research. This leads women to believe that saving their money for a rainy day is better than taking it to a big bad bank.

“It is men who are more likely to say that they want to start spending again, and it is men that are most likely to say that I am going to invest in the coming months,” says Kraus. “There is not a lot of trust in financial brands right now, and we see growing numbers of women feel more self-reliant.”

Eve Ellis, a financial adviser with the Matterhorn Group at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, says it is too easy to generalize among an entire group of women about their attitudes toward financial planning and investing. Yet she has seen some women, in their desire for financial security, be overly cautious in their investment choices.

“Sadly, investors who are too cautious as they invest in the markets may miss opportunities to achieve the very security they seek,” she said. “The old credo too often stands true: No risk, no gain.”

The report did include a silver lining for financial planners looking to recruit more female clients. More than ever since the end of the Great Recession, women are thinking longterm about their financial strategy. Some 75% of women would opt out of a significant promotion if their child could get into a top college. This gives financial advisors a clue of how to talk to women about their future.

Fidelity is the most-trusted financial services brand among American women, according to the report. Kristen Robinson, senior vice president of women and young investors for personal investing at Fidelity, said women are looking for a holistic approach to investing. Partly to solve the common problem of feeling overwhelmed by investment choices, Robinson said the company is also working to increase its visibility among professional women by hosting more educational workshops.

“Women work very hard to make progress in so many ways. Yet only when they have the ability to control their own financial futures will they realize the full extent of their true power,” Fidelity CEO Abby Johnson and President of Personal Investing Kathy Murphy wrote in the October 6th issue of Fortune.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Parenting

What We Can Learn From the Lena Dunham Debacle

Lena Dunham at her book launch for 'Not That Kind Of Girl' on Oct. 31, 2014 in London, England.
Stuart C. Wilson—Getty Images Lena Dunham at her book launch for 'Not That Kind Of Girl' on Oct. 31, 2014 in London, England.

While I'm not sure that this unfortunate lapse in judgment should be a teachable moment, it does illustrate a need for a broader discussion about children and sexually harmful behavior


This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I know, I know: you’re already tired of the Lena Dunham conversation.

I can’t blame you. It has been a seemingly endless conga line of vitriolic, ill-conceived thinkpieces that do little to advance the discussion. The National Review’s Kevin Williamson wants you to shame and pity her. Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams wants people to stop calling Dunham an abuser and taking her out of context. Katie McDonough hates that Dunham detractors are ignoring her sister’s perspective. Dunham herself considers the scandal a right-wing smear campaign and is threatening to sue Truth Revolt, the conservative outlet that broke the story. The conversations currently happening on social media aren’t much different; a number of high-profile feminists and celebrities are taking to Twitter to defend Dunham, dismissing the encounter as childhood curiosity.

By now, you’ve already seen the disturbing excerpt from Dunham’s New York Times’ bestseller, “Not That Kind Of Girl.” If you haven’t, the passage is one quick Google search away. In it, she describes how she would bribe her baby sister with affection. It comes off as predatory and abusive, and naturally, people were alarmed. It is handled with all the finesse of a bad sketch comedy writer. It’s the type of thing that no decent editor should ever, ever greenlight.

On one hand, I can understand the vigorous defense: Lena Dunham is, quite possibly, the most accessible and relatable feminist celebrity in recent history. She’s a Girl-Powered Everywoman who abashedly lays herself bare, literally and figuratively, for the world to see. She isn’t model-thin or classically beautiful. And she is rarely, if ever, apologetic about how she lives her life. Ideally, she is the Fourth Wave Prototype.

But no hero is without imperfection, and when said hero messes up on a nuclear level, it’s okay to not only acknowledge it, but to hold the hero accountable for their actions. We don’t have a problem with doing it when it’s Woody Allen, or Roman Polanski, or Chris Brown; it’s always easier to call out the folks we don’t like. But mainstream feminism’s outright refusal to even approach this objectively alienates those of us who identify as abuse survivors, and it reinforces the idea that certain people can get away with bad behavior if the others really, really, really like them a lot.

While I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with the idea that this unfortunate lapse in judgment should be a teachable moment, it does illustrate a need for a broader discussion about children and sexually harmful behavior.

According to Stop It Now!, a non-profit that focuses on child abuse prevention, over a third of all sexual abuse is committed by someone under the age of 18. (My abuser, a family friend, was 17.) A child using tricks and manipulation to gain sexual favors from another may not even realize that she’s engaging in harmful behavior, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the child will have a predilection for sexual violence. Still, Stop It Now! suggests that professional help is the best route for any child struggling with impulse issues.

It wasn’t until the week before I left for college that I told my mother what had happened with that family friend, but there were definitely warning signs along the way. One particular incident involved a seven year-old me “acting out” with a couple of other kids in my afterschool program, and I hated getting undressed for anything. But I was too afraid to tell my mother because didn’t want her to fall out with one of her dearest friends. Though she was an abuse survivor herself, she probably wouldn’t have known what to look for, or what to do besides ripping off the boy’s genitalia and throwing it in Lake Michigan.

Stop It Now! has a checklist for parents and caregivers to know the signs. Here are a few:

  • Has nightmares or other sleep problems without an explanation
  • Seems distracted or distant at odd times
  • Has a sudden change in eating habits
  • Refuses to eat
  • Loses or drastically increases appetite
  • Has trouble swallowing
  • Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity or withdrawal
  • Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
  • Writes, draws, plays or dreams of sexual or frightening images
  • Develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places
  • Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child
  • Talks about a new older friend
  • Suddenly has money, toys or other gifts without reason
  • Thinks of self or body as repulsive, dirty or bad
  • Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language and knowledge

Also, trusting your gut could make all the difference, according to the site. Most parents expect their children to come to them when they’re being abused and that rarely happens, which contributes to denial, along with common misunderstandings about sexual abuse, says Stop It Now! Speaking up is the best form of prevention.

The Dunham debate will probably rage on for the weeks and months to come, and people will continue to rehash and regurgitate eveything that’s already been said. But the silver lining, as I see it, is that we will finally be able to talk about this in a more thoughtful, productive way. And, hopefully, spare some children a lot of pain.

Jamie Nesbitt Golden is a journalist originally from Chicago.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME health

We Talk So Much About ‘Natural Birth’—When Can We Discuss Natural Death?

Getty Images

We can keep people alive to the point that their lives have almost no value, but doctors tend not to be trained to address the subject of mortality with their patients


This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Call it a run of bad luck, but I’ve had to watch a few people die lately. First, my grandmother descended into dementia and finally faded away. Then, my mother battled leukemia and lost her life to its treatment. Next, a great aunt died at age 102 in her home, very peacefully. And now I take care of my 92-year-old grandfather, and his time is drawing near.

In the six years since I had my son, I’ve watched my kid grow up while I’ve watched the rest of my family grow down. My son went from being wheeled in a stroller to toddling to walking. My elders went from walking to falling to wheelchairs.

Poised as I am between the beginning and the end of life, I had to ask myself, why do people talk so much about natural birth but not much about natural death? My friends with babies spent inordinate amounts of time discussing how and where to have them. Should they give birth in a hospital or in a kiddie pool? Should they use pain killing drugs or not? Google “natural birth,” and you’ll be treated to YouTube videos of moms popping out kids in the woods, heated debates about homebirth’s merits and dangers, and tons and tons of books, blogs, and so on.

A Google search on “natural death” doesn’t turn up much. Searching “hospice” brings up boilerplate readings, more about spiritual advice than concrete decision-making about end of life care.

I won’t start a debate here about the best way to give birth; it will suffice to say that being born is one of the most dangerous things you’ll ever do. But the risk of death when you die is… well, there’s no risk anymore. It’s 100% inevitable. Still, we don’t talk about it quite as much.

At least, I thought no one was talking about it, until, while doing some research to write this piece, I discovered and devoured Atul Gawande’s book, “Being Mortal.” Reviews are just coming out now, praising this book all over the place, and the praise is deserved.

The question I was struggling with is a big one. What is “natural death,” with all the advances of modern medicine? We can keep people alive to the point that their lives have almost no value, but doctors tend not to be trained to address the subject of mortality with their patients. Decision-making at the end becomes very difficult, as I can tell you from too much experience.

Gawande characterizes one type of doctor, the “information doctor,” who gives options but doesn’t truly explain what each means. That resonated with me. My mother consulted two oncologists, who gave different treatment paths but no accurate big picture.

What Mom’s doctors avoided telling us was that acute myeloid leukemia had her backed into a corner. She would not gain any meaningful additional days through treatment. Her only choices were how to make the best use of her remaining days. She certainly would have lived longer, and arguably better, without chemotherapy.

I can only see this now in retrospect, because I did not know what questions to ask when I needed to ask them. Even as a lifelong nurse, neither did Mom. She opted for aggressive treatment, which killed her very quickly. Chemotherapy weakened her immune system, and a fungal infection took over her lungs. She died on a respirator, in a way she would not ever have wanted, while searching for a cure. Only now do I understand that there simply was no cure for her. She was not a good candidate for aggressive treatment, due to numerous other health issues. She would have done better to live out her remaining few months peacefully, but she went suddenly, and the effect was traumatic for us all.

Living with my grandfather has made me consider my own old age and how I will spend it, should I be so lucky. Gramps won’t have a “natural death,” either, since he’s been essentially kept alive artificially for decades by medicine, from his pacemaker to the 20 medications he takes every day to keep his lungs absorbing oxygen properly, his insulin levels normal, his blood thin enough not to cause another stroke or heart attack, his gout at bay, the fluid from building up in his ankles, his Parkinson’s from advancing too quickly, his kidneys functioning, and his colon pooping regularly. He can no longer pig out on potatoes (too much potassium), eat cake (too much sugar), or have more than a smidgeon of wine per day. He can’t walk anymore. He needs help doing everything, from dressing to eating to toileting. (It’s really only when we’re very young and when we’re very old that we use toilet as a verb.)

All of that would drive me absolutely bananas. I wouldn’t want to live that way. Given a choice between old age and cake as means to my end, I choose cake! Give me some chocolate frosting and a martini, and I’ll live 20 fewer years. Anyway, that’s what I think now. Maybe I won’t feel the same when I have grandkids.

My grandfather, on the other hand, loves his life. He loves waking up, having coffee, and reading the paper. He loves going to the park and watching the dog. He loves “Judge Judy” and “Dateline.” He loves listening to classical music. For him, life is still worthwhile. He may not have long, but he’s going out in style — his style. If you have spent your life in a recliner, watching TV, old age isn’t so bad. I’m not being sarcastic; I think his outlook is pretty great. I don’t share his values, but with lifting the remote control as his only exercise, Gramps made it to 92. Who can argue with success?

Still, even for Grandpa, things will get to a point when medical interventions don’t make sense anymore. He has filled out an advance directive, so I know he doesn’t want to end up on life support. But there are other matters to consider when one gets old. Recently, his doctors advised him to have a prostate procedure. He went through with it, but it did no good at all. He pees on himself even more than before. Why did he have this pointless surgery, at the age of 92, when his other health issues are probably going to end things fairly soon? It didn’t make sense to me, and that is the kind of stuff you have to start to think about when you are old. Do you want to be in the hospital ANY longer than necessary when you might not have much time left? At a certain point, it’s better to just let nature take its course.

After reading Gawande’s book — which I’d recommend to anyone who, you know, might be planning to die someday — I stopped thinking about my grandfather’s medical care as much, and am focusing on trying to fill the time we have with meaningful activities. I watch football with him. I wheel him over to the park. He has a music therapist through his hospice program, and he plays the flute with her sometimes. Before this book, I was always dragging him to the next critical medical appointment and ordering his prescriptions and talking to doctors. I do that less now. Now I try to hang out with the guy. I think he’s feeling that the end is near, too, because he’s less anxious lately. He sleeps more. We’ll get to the cardiologist and the podiatrist soon, but eh, is it really something to stress out about, when it’s a nice day outside?

We’re looking more at how to make the next months or year or two as comfortable and meaningful as possible, rather than trying to “fix” a bunch of physical problems that are ultimately unfixable. Surgery for comfort is one thing, but in the end, our bodies just wear out. It’s coming, there’s no fighting it, and sometimes medicine just makes it worse than it needs to be.

As it turns out, doctors agree. Physicians tend to die with less treatment than the rest of us, because they know the limits of their practice. Recent coverage of Brittany Maynard shows us that end of life choices are definitely on the minds of the public now.

But most of us will not resort to taking our own lives in the face of a swift terminal illness. For most of us, the decline will be more gradual. If you are lucky enough not to die a sudden death, the end is slow and there are some terrible decisions along the way. So it’s worth thinking about how we exit—and it is as important, and can be as meaningful, as how we enter.

Julie Cross is a screenwriter and graduate of UCLA Film School.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

Why Your Sibling Is Good for Your Health

Reggie Casagrande—Getty Images

When they're not stealing your clothes or hogging your parents' attention, having a brother or sister can actually make you happier and healthier

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

Sometimes we get along. Other times they drive us bonkers, but overall (most of the time) we love our brothers and sisters. And research shows that the sibling bond is about more than family dinners and spontaneous wrestling matches over the remote. Growing up with a brother or sister may actually have an impact on our mental and physical health, not to mention it can shape who we become later in life. Here, the many benefits of siblings.

Having a sibling may make you more selfless.

New research suggests that having a sibling may help children develop sympathy. Researchers examined the relationship between siblings in more than 300 families and found having a quality relationship with a brother or sister may promote altruism in teens, especially boys.

“In our study, most relationships were not as important for boys as they were for girls,” study co-author Laura Padilla-Walker said in a university release. “But the sibling relationship was different—they seemed to report relying on sibling affection just as much as girls do. It’s an area where parents and therapists could really help boys.”

(MORE: 30 Secrets Your Body Language Gives Away)

They may improve our mental health.

Some of the same researchers at Brigham Young University found that sisters, specifically, seem to give siblings a mental health boost in ways that parents don’t. Results of a statistical analysis of nearly 400 families showed that, regardless of age-distance, having a sister protected adolescents against feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious, and fearful. Even fights help by forming important tools, like how to better control emotion, according to Padilla-Walker.

(MORE: 7 Tips to Keep You Calm)

They make us happier.

For many, that sibling bond means a lifetime of emotional support, a close friendship, and an endless number of inside jokes. That’s why it should come as no surprise that holding onto a tight relationship with your brother or sister can lead to happiness later in life. Research shows that older people with living siblings have a higher sense of morale, so bonding with our brothers and sisters isn’t only important as we grow and mature, but may also bring major benefits later in life.

(MORE: Busting 10 Diet Myths)

Siblings keep us physically fit.

Although it may be fun to grab second helpings of dessert with your brother or sister, research shows that our siblings (and family and friends in general) can help us stay active. When it comes to fit-inspiration, 43 percent believe that friends and family have the largest impact on how healthy our lifestyles are. And staying fit together may help grow that sibling bond. Nearly one third of people with healthy habits distance themselves from those with less healthy ones.

(MORE: 5 Types of Friends Everyone Should Have)

They could help you live longer.

Not only can siblings boost mental health and physical fitness, but strong social ties may help you live longer, according to research published in the journal PLoS Medicine. On average, those with poor social connections died about 7.5 years earlier than those with solid bonds to friends and family. That’s about the same difference in length of life as the gap between smokers and non-smokers. This may be because caring about our friends and family inspires us to take better care of ourselves or it may be because we turn to loved ones to provide us with support when we’re sick or stressed, Time reports. No matter the reason, keeping that strong connection with our siblings could help us live a longer, happier, and healthier life.

(MORE: One Sneaky Trick to Boost Your Mood)

TIME Opinion

Is Your Kid Still Eating Halloween Candy? Read This.

What is a parent to do when it comes to squaring off against a bag-full of treats?

It’s Day Seven post-Trick or Treating and while the Halloween costumes are old news, the siren’s call of that big stash of processed sugar goes on. And good luck trying to stand between a child and their yearly candy harvest. It becomes a daily battle that almost always ends with someone near tears. (Usually me.) Is the only course of action left to eat all the candy myself?

I could always blame Jimmy Kimmel. The late night comedian staged his now-annual Halloween prank where he has parents inform their children they ate all their Halloween candy and record the inevitable meltdown. The reactions are both funny and sad, but while some saw the prank as uproarious and others viewed it as a cruel hoax, I thought: Hey, that’s not a bad idea. If the candy just disappeared, the struggle would be over in one fell swoop. Off with the proverbial band-aid and on with the limited intake of sugar. But it’s kind of mean and the ensuing tantrum would not be fun to weather. As a parent, though, do I need to make the healthy choice for my kid, whether he likes it or not?

In general, my kid can usually take or leave sugary junk food, but he spent a lot of energy collecting his plus-sized bag of Halloween treats and seems to view it as his own personal Candy Land version of Mt. Everest. Like a wizened mountaineer, he must surmount it, simply because it’s there. At this point, if the FDA had an RDA, or Recommended Dietary Allowances, of carnauba wax, I assure you, it’s been met as he determinedly makes his way over Mt. CandyCoatedChocolate. He doesn’t care about my equally large mountain of studies showing that while delicious, copious amounts of sugar are simply not healthy.

But what is a parent to do when it comes to squaring off against a bag-full of treats? Some parents are lucky enough to live near wily dentists who will buy Halloween candy for cold hard cash and deliver them to troops via Operation Gratitude. The more organized among us plan in advance with the brilliant Switch Witch gag where a “witch” steals the candy in the middle of the night and switches it out for toys. It’s a great ploy for those of with enough free time to pull it off. (Some of us would pay $2,700 for an extra hour in the day in which to plan a Switch Witch-style swap.)

If a parent doesn’t want to be seen as a real witch, though, what are the options? It’s just us vs. the candy and currently, the corn syrup is winning. At the risk of getting that Frozen song stuck in your head again, should we just let it go? Double up on the vegetables and double down on the flossing and brushing and let the kids eat every last fun-sized morsel and just let the sugar industry win this round, despite the studies that show that sugar is the only cause of tooth decay?


I know it’s something that my hippy mother struggled with when I was a child. Normally we were allowed no processed sweets—seriously, I got a box of sugary cereal from Santa each year, otherwise it was all health food store versions of Cheerios—so Halloween was a bonanza for us and a nightmare for my mother. Each year she had a new approach to the onslaught of sugar. One year we were allowed two pieces a day, which stretched the candy consumption until March and quickly became a supposedly fun-sized thing she would never do again. The next year we were told to eat all we wanted on Halloween and the rest would be done away with, the result being a now-infamous evening of candy-colored vomiting. After that, each year the candy trove seemed to be eaten by the dog, despite the fact that the stash was hidden on a tall shelf in the back of a closet and the dog was an overweight corgi with no vertical lift.

As a parent now, blaming the dog for a disappearing candy hoard doesn’t seem like a bad option at all, but I think I am going to attempt to strike a balance. I’ll let him have a few pieces a day for a few more days, while carefully supervising brushing and flossing and vegetable intake and side-eying a copy of the Year of No Sugar. After a week of daily candy intake, though, it might be time to take a page from my mother’s book and blame the dog when the stash disappears.

And if you don’t have a dog, well, there’s always Jimmy Kimmel to blame.


MONEY online shopping

There’s a New Way to Get Free Shipping—Overnight, No Less

Amazon.com packages move along long conveyor belts at an Amazon.com Fulfillment Center.
Ross D. Franklin—AP Three Amazon-owned companies are offering free overnight shipping on purchases—a perk that Amazon Prime members don't get.

Three Amazon-owned sites just introduced free overnight shipping on purchases of $49, but only for customers who live in the right zip codes.

On Wednesday, Quidsi, the Amazon-owned company that operates several e-retail sites, announced that consumers in the greater New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco areas will get free overnight shipping on all orders of $49 or more placed at Diapers.com, Soap.com or Wag.com.

The three sites specialize in baby products, health and beauty merchandise, and pet supplies, respectively, and the unprecedented overnight-shipping service, which requires no specific membership or annual fee, is clearly a play to win over suburban shoppers—moms in particular.

“An important part of our mom-centric mission is to deliver products to mom at the moment she needs them,” Quidsi CEO Maria Renz said in a statement announcing free overnight shipping. “We’re excited to further this commitment to moms by offering the greater convenience of free overnight shipping to our New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles customers. Order today, get it the next day. It’s that simple. Helping moms by making shopping easier and delivery even faster is what we’re all about.”

It’s not necessary to live within the actual bounds of each city to take advantage. Check out this link for a list of the hundreds and hundreds of zip codes where free overnight shipping is now available, so long as your order total is at least $49. From a quick glance, it looks like the offer is extended to virtually all of New Jersey, as well as parts of New York including Long Island and Westchester, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, and Putnam counties. Likewise, in addition to San Francisco and Los Angeles proper, the free shipping service is available for California residents who live in counties including Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Mendocino, Santa Clara, Marin, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and Napa. In most cases, customers elsewhere in the country can get free two-day shipping for orders of $49 or more at the three Quidsi sites.

On the one hand, the new service—which is being offered indefinitely rather than as some short-term promotion—makes sense as an offensive in the ongoing battle for moms involving Target, Amazon, Walmart, and plenty of other retail players. Women reportedly account for 85% of all consumer purchases, and despite the fact that today’s dads are taking care of more responsibility around the house, moms tend to still be in charge of most traditional household purchases—including but not limited to baby, pet, and health and beauty products.

On the other hand, however, the easy availability of free overnight shipping for goods you need regularly, with a reasonable minimum purchase, serves as an argument against the worthiness of paying $99 annually for Amazon Prime, which comes with “free” two-day shipping on most purchases. In other words, the new service—from Amazon companies, remember—makes it much easier for customers to stop paying for another Amazon service, one that has been enormously powerful and profitable for the world’s largest e-retailer.

TIME society

Every Infant Should Dress as Ruth Baby Ginsburg for Halloween

Stop trying. This is the best costume of 2014

Considering reproducing? We now submit Exhibit A for why having a baby could be the right choice for you: This infant dressed up as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Quick, someone give this kid a Notorious RBG shirt immediately. The Ruth Baby Ginsburg Halloween costume should be every infant’s Halloween costume.

(h/t: Elle)

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