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Prom and Circumstance by The Mom Vivant / Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2013 12:00 pm

By Debbie Baldwin

Depending on your age, this time of year can mean many different things. It can mean time to plant your garden or hose off the patio furniture. It can mean time to swimsuit shop or time to make your summer travel plans. However, if you are a high school junior or senior, this time of year means one thing and one thing only: prom. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Some of us spent prom night at home watching horror movies, eating Mint Milanos, and dreaming about how much Tom would regret not asking me after I make my first billion creating a social networking website…theoretically speaking. Nevertheless, most kids that age, whether in groups or on dates, go to their high school prom. It is the ‘date’ aspect that I now find interesting.

When I was in high school and it was prom season, I got a phone call, asking, “Hey, do you want to go to prom?” And I would answer, “Sounds good.” That was that. Hardly the stuff of great romances, but I had a date to prom. Apparently, now things have changed.

To say that inviting a girl to prom these days requires a grand gesture may be the understatement of the 21st century. I’m not quite sure when it began–and I’m sure most of the teenage boys in America want to beat the living daylights out of whomever started it–but now an invitation to prom makes a marriage proposal at a sporting event look like small potatoes. I have heard stories of ‘police officers’ pulling girls over and issuing a ticket, only to have the girl look at it and see ‘prom?’ written on the slip of paper. Boys are spelling girls’ names out in candles along the path to their front door and skywriting their invitation in the clouds above their houses. There is one story that involves a duckling and several dozen roses that I’m still not sure I fully grasp.

Well, I feel sorry for the boys–how high can they set the bar? What next? The boy in gladiator garb riding a chariot pulled by a team of horses riding across the front lawn? A Mission Impossible ceiling drop in the middle of the night? I don’t know. It’s all very fun and creative (and completely premised on an affirmative response, might I add), but in a strange way it kind of makes me miss the phone call.


The Mom Vivant / The Birds by Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

The Mom Vivant / The Birds by Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

By Debbie Baldwin

So last week my family and I were spending an uncharacteristically quiet evening at home. Homework was finished, and Cranky Whiny and Punch inexplicably were not bickering (I wondered idly if they had run out of ideas). Anyway, we were lolling around the family room, watching some vaguely inappropriate crime show when Pebbles, our puggle, hopped onto my lap and settled in. Wow, how Norman Rockwell! I guess every family deserves one night like this…and then I heard the noise.

You see, I had made lamb chops for dinner that night, and after consulting everything from Wikipedia to Google, I came to the controversial conclusion that dogs should not be given lamb bones. That apparently is not an opinion dogs themselves share. So there I sat, dog on lap, clearly aware that she was munching on a bone that she shouldn’t be. I also was aware of the fact that I should probably take this bone away from her. The puppy, however, does not share this sentiment. I weigh my options, and a content dog and quiet family win out. I scratched the puppy behind her ears, and smiled as the kids tried to figure out who the killer on the TV show was—it was almost serene. And that’s when things took a turn for the worse.

My husband came home from the office and shattered our familial bliss with one simple horrifying comment: What are all these feathers doing all over the floor? I still. Pebbles—almost sensing the firestorm—hops off my lap and scuttles under the couch. The realization dawns: I have nestled this dog gently on my lap while she quietly lay there and ate a bird.

My long and sordid history—a.k.a. phobia—with birds goes back decades. I think it started when, as a child, I found a colorful bird feather in our yard. My mother smacked it out of my hand, cautioning me that bird feathers are filthy and spread disease.

When I lived in New York City, I was getting ready to go for a run around Central Park one day when a bookishly handsome man wearing a Harvard Medical School sweatshirt started stretching next to me. I was just about to give him the smile/hair toss combo when a pigeon—shall we say—relieved himself on my head. Although in retrospect the pigeon was probably saving me from myself—that guy was way out of my league.

Then, there was the goose incident. Walking into work one spring day at a renowned local performance improvement company, I apparently wandered too close to a nest of hatchlings. I won’t sugar-coat it. I was attacked. The mother goose—quite unlike the sweet lady from the nursery rhymes—chased me across a lawn and into a parking lot biting me soundly on my backside until I beat a hasty retreat to my Honda Accord.

I won’t get into the bird nest in the chimney story—I’m still in therapy. I also did get a very nasty look from a peacock while touring Monticello while in graduate school. He didn’t try anything, but he was thinking about it.

So there I stood in my living room, my dog cowering, my children convulsing with laughter and my husband quickly gathering up the carnage. I rolled my eyes and realized something: I do not like birds; and apparently, they are not too crazy about me, either.

Boost that immunity!

Boost that immunity!

Photo and article courtesy of Ladue News

By Connie Mitchell

How are you faring during this cold and flu season? The answer depends, at least in part, on how your body’s immune system is protecting you from the many viral and bacterial illnesses that gets passed around every winter.

A strong immune system is crucial to our ability to fight off potential illness-causing pathogens, and there are several ways in which the body fortifies its defenses. “Innate immunity is what we’re born with, and includes the normal barriers that we have, such as our skin or the lining of our digestive tract, and even some of the secretions in our sinuses and airways that help protect us and keep bacteria and viruses out,” says Washington University Clinical Associate Dr. Matthew Bonzelet, a physician specializing in internal medicine with Maryland Medical Group. “We also have some cells and proteins that are our first responders to infections. They’re called to sites where we’ve had (bacterial or viral) invaders to set up our first line of defense and to call upon more specialized defense cells to come and lend a hand,” Bonzelet adds.

Acquired immunity develops through exposure to specific pathogens. This is the type of immunity built through vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine, which exposes the body to the same antigens or parts of antigens that cause disease. While the antigens delivered via vaccine are not strong enough to cause the actual disease, they do stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against them.

A third type of immunity, passive immunity, develops through antibodies passed from mother to child during pregnancy and via breastfeeding. This type of immunity helps babies defend against illness in the first months of life.

Besides what we’re born with and what we can achieve via vaccines, maintaining a strong immune system is largely a matter of good self-care. “The best thing to do is stay as healthy as you can,” says Dr. Sarah George, associate professor of infectious diseases at Saint Louis University. “Eat a good, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, keep within a normal body weight, and get good sleep. It’s been reasonably well shown that people who are not getting enough sleep, who are extremely fatigued or extremely overweight have weaker immune systems and are more prone to infection.”

George notes that the mechanisms around these findings have not been thoroughly explained, but studies indicate that children who eat a diet containing a lot of fast or processed food and sugar experience more respiratory infections.

Over-the-counter immunity boosters crowd drugstore shelves, but Bonzelet and George agree that little to no real evidence exists to support manufacturer claims. “We do know that a lot of the substances that are in these products, like vitamin C and zinc, are important in the role of the immune system, but we haven’t seen that people who have normal levels of vitamin C and zinc have any benefit by increasing the amount that they have,” Bonzelet says. He adds that some studies have been touted to support claims that products shorten the duration of a cold or help prevent the common cold. “But when these studies are looked at more closely, they’re not great studies,” he explains. “The jury’s out. We’re not convinced that this works well.”

Although George is “dubious” about over-the-counter immune-boosters, she has a final word of advice: “Get your flu shot, please. It’s still effective and available, so if you haven’t had it, please get it.”