Archive for March, 2013

Babe Ruth played the majority of his career in...

(Babe Ruth: Wikipedia, Public Domain)

The State of Maryland has many noteworthy “sons and daughters” in the field of athletics.

In 2004, Michael Phelps won eight swimming medals in a single Olympic Game—collecting six gold and two bronze.  Since 1870, the Preakness Stakes (second event in the Triple Crown of horse racing) has been hosted at Pimlico (see http://www.baberuthmuseum.org/pagebank/index.html?id=176 ).

However, nothing quite compares with Baltimore’s privilege to have been the birthplace of Babe Ruth, a major baseball icon who continues to attract children of all ages.

Au Pairs from around the world may not have experienced the American passion for baseball. In many countries of the world, soccer is “King”—but in America, the longest-standing and deepest passion is arguably still baseball.

The Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore provides unique in-depth history. A very special exhibit in that Museum is the home where Babe was born.

In 1895 Baltimore’s harbor area was a rough place. George Herman Ruth, the son of a German saloon keeper, was born in this tiny row house on Emory Street (http://baberuthmuseum.org/pagebank/index.html?id=245 ).

Batter Up!

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There is nothing more charming than a child asleep beside a beloved cat or dog.  Should, however, a pet sleep in the child’s bed? WebMD speaks to these questions:

Jambo looks up from a playful session with his...

(Jambo: Wikipedia, Public Domain)

Sleeping with pets isn’t unusual in this country. According to a recent survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association, nearly half of dogs sleep in their owner’s beds. The survey found that 62% of small dogs, 41% of medium-sized dogs and 32% of large dogs sleep with their owners.

A study released by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center found that about half the patients in the study had a dog or cat, and 53% of those pet owners said their pets disturbed their sleep in some way nightly.(http://pets.webmd.com/features/pets-in-your-bed )

The main opinion from the docs was that, unless allergies are a problem—or unless pets prevent a good night’s sleep—there is no real reason why a cat or dog cannot sleep with a child. The animal’s presence may be soothing. However, an animal who causes health problems, or who has behavior problems, may have to be removed from the bed or from the room.

Au Pairs often live in Host Family settings with pets and children—and au pairs may be asked to be part of the “team” if rules for children and pets have to be set or changed. This article from WebMD gives the whole family a “heads up.”

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…consistent evidence shows that all manner of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and cashews, promote healthy arteries and cholesterol levels when we consume them in moderation. Eating a small handful of nuts about five times a week is perfect (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/food-guides/nuts-seeds ).


(Pepitas:Public Domain)

Children form their tastes for foods at home, especially in the years before they go to school. A taste for a variety of nuts and seeds can lay the foundation for a longer and healthier lifestyle, and au pairs (in partnership with their Host Families) are uniquely positioned to encourage the children in their charge.

The list of yummies on the above page from Whole Foods includes “almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, flax seeds, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistaschios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.” Then, these superfoods can be roasted with or without salt, eaten out of hand, or included in a variety of recipes.

A simple recipe for freshly roasted pumpkin seeds (aka “pepitas” in Albuqueque) follows:

  •  Less processed oil (try olive, flax, or coconut) to cover the bottom of an aluminum pie tin
  • Pumpkin seeds stirred into the oil, and
  • Natural sea salt to taste

Preheat an oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pie tin in the oven and bake, stirring or shaking the seeds as they begin to brown. Some people like their pepitas golden brown—and others prefer just a bit of charcoal. The choice is yours!

Al Ataque!

(Further resources for your pleasure: http://www.nuts.com, and http://www.nutsnberries.com).

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brain glow

(Brain, Public Domain)

Scientists and educators used to believe that the human brain matured in childhood and stayed pretty much the same through adulthood–until an eventual decline in old age. We now know from studies such as The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) that the human brain continues to learn and change well into later life. This is called “neuroplasticity.”

Studies with children, such as those conducted at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm regarding “the effects of a working memory training program on children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)” show that brain training also creates neuroplasticity  in the young.

Lumosity.com provides membership access for over 40 brain training games which appear to be simple and fun video games, but which are actually based on neuropsychological  and learning principles.  Most games presently available are suitable for children aged 10 through high school—and for host moms and dads who also want to play. Some games may be suitable for au pairs, as they acclimate to linguistic and cultural changes in their host country.

Lifetime membership at Lumosity.com is $299.95, and monthly rates are as low as $4.99 per month. A limited access free trial is available.

Brain games, anyone?

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“How long have you been in the United States?” “Six months” “And you?” “What do you miss most?” “


(The Julia Set, Public Domain)

I miss my family.” “I miss the bakery down the street.” “ The music is so different here!!!”

The dialog above describes “culture shock.” Culture shock comes with separation from one’s own family and country, and with living in the midst of a very different culture. Culture shock doesn’t mean it isn’t a good experience to live abroad, but it does mean things are very different. How can au pairs cope gracefully?

One simple way to keep in touch with “home,” while remaining open to new cultural experiences, is to create a “home space,” a place that contains colors, sounds, smells, books, and other things from “home.” This little space becomes a retreat, especially in the evening when activity has quieted in the Host Family home.

There is a psychological principle involved in spending “home time” just before bedtime. We remember best what we learn first (e.g., early in the day) and last (e.g., just before bed)—and we remember less about what happens in-between.  The former increased memory and learning is called the principle of primacy; the latter is called the principle of recency.

Culture shock means that old and the new cultures needs to be clarified and integrated. Au pairs are busy all day, and modern American culture (which they came to the United States to experience) fills the beginning and the middle of the day. Making a little time for “home meditation” at the end of the day helps keep the whole picture in focus.

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cranes wiki public domain

(Cranes, Wiki, Public Domain)

In winter, Canada geese have long gone south and are no longer visible along the Rio Grande corridor that marks the almost-western border of the Albuquerque, New Mexico metro-plex. However, cranes have taken their place.

As the earth is plowed and turned to rest before the start of the busy growing season later this month, it is a common sight to see small flocks of migrant birds resting on the soil, as they quietly seek out last fall’s remaining seed in the soft dirt.

For au pairs in the Albuquerque area, the Rio Grande corridor is a journey into nature—and into history. The beautiful horse farms that border this road are back away from the road, behind agricultural fields in which birds rest. Many homes are adobe, and date from the middle of the past century or earlier.

Los Poblanos  (famous for their lavender fields in summer) draws international visitors to their farm. Near the Old Town end of the Rio Grande corridor are shops and restaurants with a local flavor, and Old Town Plaza itself is a world class tourist area.

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