Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cocooning: A vaccine strategy to protect infants

Son after immunizations (4 months old)
I just learned a new way to use a familiar word. Cocooning is the strategy where close family members of infants are vaccinated to protect infants who are too young to get shots themselves. Babies have to be at least six weeks old to get vaccines like TDaP and six months old to get the flu shot.

My husband and I tried to institute a smaller version of cocooning when our son was born. We asked that all family members make sure that they were current on their vaccines, with particular note paid to more rare immunizations, like the one for pertussis (whooping cough). Our request was only partially successful.

Cocooning is backed by the CDC, as evidenced in many of their vaccine recommendations that adults who have close contact with infants should also get a dose of _____ (recommended vaccine). However, not much research has been done on the practice.

One barrier to the use of cocooning is the hefty price tag. Canadian government researchers estimated that preventing one infant death would require vaccination of at least one million parents. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports on cocooning, released in the journal Pediatrics, do not directly recommend that pediatricians start offering shots to parents. "What it says is, if you choose to do it, this is OK," said the AAP's Dr. Herschel R. Lessin, who worked on the report.
"The goal here is to get everyone immunized," said Lessin. "As pediatricians, we think immunization is the greatest thing in the history of mankind."

Lessin acknowledged that there isn't much evidence on how effective cocooning really is. "It's a relatively new concept," he said. "I don't know that anyone has looked at whether it works." The Canadian study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, takes a stab at that, although it's based on calculations instead of an actual experiment.
From past research, Skowronski and her colleagues estimated that whooping cough in infants could be blamed on parents passing the disease along some 35 percent of the time. (from "Cocooning: Doctors Divided on Vaccine Strategy to Protect Babies")
I think it's a simple enough thing to add myself and my family to the ranks of the well-vaccinated. Each person vaccinated creates a small but important measure of protection for themselves and those around them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Son as blogger, hives, and story structure

Proud of his decorating
Son is sitting at the computer to the right of me in our small, home office. If he had a blog it would be all about his favorite things: trucks, elephants, books, outside, and (more recently) Christmas decorations.

As I write, son is imitating my typing and occasionally pausing to scribble an imaginary note. He keeps switching the pen from one hand to the other. Time will tell whether he is a left-handed like his daddy and Papa.

The past couple of days have been hard. We arrived at day care on Tuesday to find son covered in hives. Today included a trip to son's Pediatrician, who said it was one of the worst cases of hives he had seen (75% of son's body), but he also gave us a good prognosis (recovery in 3-5 days) and a prescription. Son already looks a bit better, just hours later. Still, our family photo session tomorrow is out.

In light of this and other holiday preparations still to come, I'm going to depart from my usual detailed thoughts on what I have been reading and just insert a link. This is an interview with Rebecca Skloot, the author of one of the real gems of my extensive reading experience. If you haven't read the book, I urge you pick up a copy.

How Rebecca Skloot built The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas preparations, family traditions, and the joy of the season

Yes, I'm still here, though I'm caught up in the Christmas rush. My list might look familiar to most of you, though I feel like I'm a bit behind on a couple of things.
  • I started decorating a couple of weeks ago with Christmas garland and snowflake window clings.
  • Lights are mostly up. We still have a string of lights to add to the outside of the house, but there are color-changing stars and flickering candles in the front windows. I love Christmas lights! My son is thrilled as well; we're hearing a lot of, "iiight, iiight!"
  • The tree has been up for a while, but it only had lights and our star topper on it until last night. The photo at right is a cell phone snap of my work-in-progress. I'll be putting on the finishing touches over the coming evenings.
  • Goodies (Christmas and birthdays) packed and mailed to Korea for my parents. The postage was painful, but I like knowing that they'll have something from home to celebrate the holidays.
  • Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers went out to my sister and her family yesterday. The post office loves me!
  • We have our Christmas cards, personalized with photos of our family, but we still need to get them ready for mailing.
  • I'm working on the third edition of our family cookbook, which will be released on or around Christmas.
  • I made Red Velvet cake for an office holiday party and plan on making it again for my Newsletter Committee. The red looks so festive, particularly with the addition of green-tinted sugar crystals. More baking and cooking to come over the holiday.
I also planned a Christmas art project to do with my son. Last year we made clay ornaments with his hand and foot impression. This year it's a snowflake-shaped blank ornament for him to color. It will be more of a scribble, but he loves crayons so markers should be even more fun. I plan to make this a Christmas tradition, choosing a project each year that suits his interests and development level.

I still need to purchase a couple of gifts, but I'm almost done. The gift-wrapping frenzy will commence this weekend. It's a task I enjoy, but not all at once, so I will be working on it over several days. Hopefully I can put my house in order and get rid of the excess boxes (saved for wrapping purposes) before my husband's family arrive on December 23rd.

We will have our Christmas feast and present unwrapping on Christmas Eve night. I'll have my camera charged and ready to snap lots of pictures, particularly of my 20-month-old toddler. My son was too little to really understand last year (he fell asleep in the midst of the package unwrapping), but this year he'll be in the thick of it. Don't tell, but Daddy and Mommy are giving him red wagon for Christmas. Good thing he can't read yet (though books, "buk, buk," are one of his favorite things).

In the midst of the rush, I try to remain mindful of the true spirit of the season. Often, all I need to do is to take a look through my son's eyes. His joyful exclamations over Christmas lights and decorations, giggles and grins while reading Christmas stories, and cheerful insistence on praying after reading are all reminders of the joy of this special, family-oriented season. 

What are you doing as Christmas approaches, and what are your plans for celebrating? I'd also love to hear about your family traditions. We wouldn't mind adding a few new traditions of our own.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Searching for Kindle Fire accessories: New covers released by JAVOedge

As I mentioned in my Kindle Fire first impressions blog, I'm hunting for the perfect cover. Hopefully the search will soon be over. My beautiful teal Kindle Keyboard cover will shortly be match by a version for the Kindle Fire.

JAVOedge just announced that they are taking pre-orders for Fire covers. The flip style is what I have for my Kindle Keyboard, but I may wait until the book style is available for my next purchase. Most of the time I like to prop up my Fire resting horizontally.

I have the AYL Frameless case, which I managed to snag for about $8, but I'm still looking. Despite the ingenious stand that allows both horizontal and vertical viewing, this just isn't the optimum case for me. My problem is the attachment system. The silicone adhesion method holds securely, but it does not allow me to easily remove and re-attach my Fire. This is a problem because I prefer using the naked device while at home.

My JAVOedge Kindle Keyboard cover is a nice combination of protection without added weight, aesthetics (love the teal), and functionality. I'm hoping that I can find all of that in the new JAVOedge offerings for the Kindle Fire. I'm certainly going to give it a try.

Now if only someone would come out with an orange cover with a stand; the color seems appropriate for a tablet named Fire, and it would go so nicely with the DecalGirl Flower of Fire skin on my wish list.

Update 12/9/11
DecalGirl gave me something new for my wish list. They color-adjusted the Flower of Fire pattern to my preference. The resulting shades of teal and blue are very pretty, and I like the unique twist. A company representative replied to my question quickly and was very helpful with the customization, so consider that option if you love everything about one of their designs, except the color. I own several of their skins and my experience with them has always been positive.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Google pilot testing to compete with Amazon Prime

I'm in the midst of wrapping up final Christmas gift-giving details. With the added lead-time needed to send a care package to Korea, boxes are landing on my doorstep daily.

As I mentioned in my last blog, online shopping is a great way to avoid exposure to all kinds of germs. My personal reasons go beyond that. I prefer to avoid as much of the commercial holiday rush as possible. A recent trip to a well-known super store (after Christmas lights for our house, along with a few groceries) left me feeling exhausted. Why deal with that when I can get what I need with a few clicks from the comfort of my home computer, iPhone, or Kindle Fire? Online shopping does lack the thrill of instant gratification, but with Amazon Prime patience is quickly rewarded.

Next Christmas, Amazon's Prime service could have some hefty competition. Google appears to be feeling out various retailers to create a service to let customers receive their orders within 24 to 48 hours. Under the proposed system, when shoppers place an order on an affiliate's website, Google's system could kick in to offer them an option for same-day or possibly next-day delivery. I have used Google check-out on occasion, so I can imagine this being offered as an additional drop-down on the shipping options menu. Pilot testing of the new service is anticipated to begin sometime in 2012.

I'm all for a new shipping option. I hate paying shipping fees, but whatever Google offers will have to be both affordable and easy to use. Amazon already has a considerable lead in the ease-of-use category, particularly with their recent Kindle Fire release. It will be hard for any company to compete, but if anyone can, Google is it.

What do you think of Google's plans? What conditions would they have to meet for you to use their quick shipping service?