Feeling Down? Pet a Dog

It is no coincidence that dogs are known to be man’s best friend. Playful and interactive; protective and observant – many individuals and families choose to adopt dogs, taking them in as integral members of their household. But, a recent study has shown that dogs are not simply fun playmates. Rather, physical contact with our furry friends serves an important role in our emotional and mental health.

A study published in PLOS ONE last month uncovers a lot of information about dogs and the benefits they provide to their owners. When petting a dog, the frontal cortex of the brain is stimulated. This is the area which regulates our thought processes and feelings. The lead author of the study, Rahel Marti, explains the premise of the study: “We chose to investigate the frontal cortex because this brain area is involved in several executive functions, such as attention, working memory, and problem-solving. But it is also involved in social and emotional processes.”

The fact that physical contact has this effect on human brains is a critical finding. It emphasizes the idea that animal therapy can positively impact cognitive and emotional activity in the brain. It also strengthens existing research on using animal-assisted therapy on people who have experienced trauma related to the nervous system, such as strokes, seizures, certain infections, and more.

Furthermore, the study demonstrated that brain activity increased when participants were physically closer to the pups, and boosted even further when actually touching the dog. It also showed that the brain response was more present when touching a real dog versus a stuffed animal.

So, next time your children beg for a pet dog, you may consider the benefits of giving in to their wishes.

Say Goodbye to Heavy Backpacks

The final week of summer is always filled with last minute shopping, organizing school supplies, planning lunches, and so on. Often, both parents and students get caught up in the race of getting everything ready that one of the most important parts of school year prep can easily be forgotten – the backpack. No, I am not referring to the trendy logo or character design your child has been begging for, but rather the physical makeup of the bag and how much is going inside.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of about 7,500 schoolkids under the age of 19 were treated for injuries due to backpacks between 2017-2019.

The first step in preventing more incidents like these is to learn how to identify if there’s a problem.

Look out for the following signs that your child’s backpack is too heavy:

  1. Your child struggles when getting the backpack on and off.
  2. Your child leans forward or to the side when wearing the backpack.
  3. Your child’s arms or legs are tingly or numb.
  4. Your child has red marks on the shoulders.
  5. Your child experiences pain when carrying the backpack.

Experts have been trying to spread awareness regarding the impact carrying a heavy load can have on a child’s physical development. Dr. David Gentile, an osteopath physician, warns that wearing backpacks that are too heavy can change the natural curve of the spine and prevent the ability to maintain proper posture. He points out that while we have made significant progress in encouraging good ergonomic practices at work with quality office chairs, standing desks, etc., the same must be addressed among students. For the healthiest results, he recommends choosing a lightweight backpack with wide shoulder straps, and to ensure even weight distribution by wearing the bag on both shoulders.

The following are some additional tips offered by physical therapists regarding backpacks:

  1. Choose a lightweight backpack with wide shoulder straps, a waist belt, and multiple compartments.
  2. Ensure the backpack rests in the middle of the back, no more than 4 inches below the waist line.
  3. Limit the contents to no more than 10%-15% of the child’s body weight (e.g. A child who weighs 100 pounds should not carry a backpack that weighs more than 10-15 pounds).
  4. Distribute books and supplies among all the bag’s compartments, placing the heaviest items closest to the spine.

Keeping in mind the advice from the experts and knowing the warning signs should help families with a smoother back-to-school process. Best wishes for a successful school year!

The Journey of a Book: How Books Are Made

If you have a New York Times account, this is an absolute feast for the eyes and an incredible experience about how books are printed. It feels reassuring to know that, even in our technological age, some things are still done by hand and that there are still master craftspeople ensuring that we can all enjoy the weight and feel of an actual book.

Here is another fun video that shows the entire book printing process. Enjoy!

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10 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

holiday stressWhile the holiday season is one of the most exciting times of the year, it often comes hand-in-hand with enormous amounts of stress. Here are 10 tips to stay organized and sane until after New Year’s:

1. Only shop during off hours. Aim for opening time, or late evenings to avoid large crowds.

2. Prioritize and schedule the different tasks on your list.

3. Try organizing a cookie exchange. Instead of baking several different kinds yourself, make a plan with a couple of friends and then get together to swap. You’ll all leave with a large assortment of cookies your family and loved ones can enjoy.

4. Don’t address long-standing family conflicts during this overwhelming period.

5. Call a babysitter far in advance!

6. Always underestimate how much you can accomplish in a day, and overestimate how long each activity will take. Everything will get done, with a lot less pressure.
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7. Try starting a new tradition. Maybe Dad and the kids should make breakfast on Christmas morning?

8. On occasion, treat yourself between errands. Consider taking half an hour of your day for a manicure or pedicure, haircut or afternoon coffee with a friend.

9. Look for out-of-the-way cashiers to avoid waiting in long lines.

10. Buy group presents whenever possible. For example, don’t buy each child a gift- invest in something everyone will enjoy, like a board game or a ping-pong table. Similarly, organize a girl’s night out instead of exchanging gifts with friends.


The Biography of Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak Google DoodleYesterday’s Google Doodle has left people of all ages buzzing with memories of Maurice Sendak’s stories. The children’s author passed away last year, and would have just turned 85. His most famous and beloved work is Where the Wild Things Are, though he wrote over 50 books, including In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There. Later in his career he worked on the musical Really Rosie with Carole King as well.

Born in New York City, Sendak was a sickly child. He turned to drawing to pass the time, and, once he got to high school, began working at All-American Comics. He went on to work on window displays for F.A.O. Schwartz, one of the most famous toy stores in Brooklyn. In the late 1940s, Sendak met Ursula Nordstrom, the legendary children’s book editor, who helped him get his first position as a children’s books illustrator. His works include books by Ruth Krauss and Else Holmelund Minarik.


Sendak wrote and illustrated his first book in 1956, titled Kenny’s Window. His 1963 Where the Wild Things Are won a Caldecott Medal and changed the world of children’s books, captivating the public with its imaginative journey of a boy in a dark, moody world of monsters. Sendak explained that the protagonist, a child named Max, acted like a real child as opposed to a light, happy, idealized version of youth.

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“In plain terms, a child is a complicated creature who can drive you crazy,” Sendak said. “There’s a cruelty to childhood, there’s an anger. And I did not want to reduce Mac to the trite image of the good little boy that you find in too many books.”

Maurice Sendak passed away in a Danbury, Connecticut hospital in 2012 after suffering a stroke. His incredible contributions to children’s literature and unparalleled illustrations have left lasting impressions throughout numerous generations.

Hawk Eggs Hatching Live From NYU Bobst Library

Red Tailed Hawk

The last time we looked, on April 29, Violet and Bobby still did not have their babies. Along with the fine-feathered parents, anyone else who wants to can keep a wary eye on the overdue eggs as well as the proud parental pair of red-tailed hawks  via the “Hawk Cam: Live From the Nest.

Expert Cautiously Optimistic

As viewers begin to lose their patience in their anxious anticipation of the great moment of birth, master falconer and hawk breed John Blakeman from Ohio reassures the impatient crowd of hopeful godmothers and godfathers that everything is fine and the babies should arrive at any moment.

Violet has been frequently turning her eggs,and showing other signs of agitation lately, a good sign says Mr. Blakeman:

“The more agitated she looks, the better the chance that she feels an eyass in there trying to get out,” Mr. Blakeman said, using the technical term for a hawk baby. “If it’s just a dead egg there, she doesn’t have the impulse to do that. She just sits.”

Mr. Blakeman explained that having them cool off a little allows for better exchange of the gasses oxygen and carbon dioxide, allowing the chicks inside to breathe easier.

Dates Could be Incorrect

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Mr. Blakeman also said that there is a chance that the eggs have not actually been incubating since March 23; the assumed date until now that the eggs seem behind schedule. Apparently hawks can hover above their eggs for quite a while before they settle down to the business of incubation.

“The whole business of when incubation starts is pretty fuzzy,” Mr. Blakeman said. “They can sit over the eggs for almost a week and not drop down on them. The eggs begin to heat up to the temperatures required for gestation to begin only after they have maintained contact with the mother’s brood patch for hours at a time,” explained Mr. Blakeman.

Hawk eggs need between 28 and 35 days to incubate. If incubation began on March 24, then the chances of them still hatching 37 days later, which would have come last Friday, are “essentially nothing.”

Babies Will Hatch Soon, or Not At All

But if incubation really began several days later, then there is still a chance we can see babies in the next few days.

“Things better happen in the next three or four days,” Mr. Blakeman added.