Parents know that stuffed animals eventually get dirty. Some children take them wherever they go, exposing the plush toys to soil, grime, dust, soot, and other forms of dirt. Other kids take better care of their animals, being careful to arrange them in a corner after playing with them, though they don’t notice the dust that slowly collects on the toys’ bodies. Regardless, all stuffed animals are guaranteed to get a stain or more throughout the child’s lifetime. This presents a problem to parents, because dirty toys, much like anything else that gets dirty, are a health hazard around the child; and while some stuffed animals can be thrown into a washing machine and come out clean, others are not so sturdy. Thus, the question becomes: how do you clean a stuffed animal without destroying it?
Stuffed animals have been around for centuries, and have served as toys for children since the moment humankind learned how to make them. Traditionally, they are viewed as a comfort zone for younger people, though they have developed a respectably large cult following among older generations as well.
What purpose do stuffed animals serve, however? Why do parents buy plushies for their children? And what is the basis for the child’s attraction toward stuffed companions? The answers are deeper and more scientific than most people think.
First of all, babies associate a number of traits with safety: the embrace of a parent, the softness of another human being’s skin, and the face of someone protecting them among others. These stimuli have been proven to raise levels of oxytocin in the brain. This hormone, often referred to as the love drug, is responsible for feelings of intimacy, trust, and attachment. Research suggests that hugging an animal – even a plush toy – also raises levels of oxytocin in the brain, possibly because the act of hugging a stuffed animal is shares several similarities with hugging a parent. Most stuffed animals have a face. Most are soft. The most basic interaction a baby can do with a stuffed animal is hugging it. These are often viewed as reasons children develop attachments toward stuffed animals, and are used to explain the sense of security they have around their plush toys. By feeling more secure around something other than the parent, the child is better taught how to handle separation anxiety.
Second, because babies are not as capable as the rest of the world in communicating their wants, needs, and thoughts with adults, they play with a stuffed animal to help deal with the frustration. When a baby grows old enough to understand, but not reply with adequate clarity, he/she experiences frustration with the difficulty of communication. Stuffed animals however, do not argue back at the child. They do not say no, or give orders the child doesn’t want. To a child, stuffed animals are always agreeable company. In addition to that fact, social interaction with stuffed animals gradually develops the child’s ability to communicate with others faster than would be possible without it.
Stuffed animals are also linked to the child’s creativity. When children role-play with their toys, their brains creates a simulation of the environment in which activity takes place. This exercises the child’s ability to think outside the box, and reinforces his/her ability to come up with ideas, problems, and solutions; a rabbit protecting a playhouse from dinosaurs? Why not?
The interaction between children and stuffed animals has in fact, become so deep, many companies keep such concepts as those mentioned above in mind when making new models of stuffed toys for children. Some modern versions of stuffed animals are designed and made specifically to amplify such positive traits babies find in plush companions; some light up or grow warmer when hugged. Some play music. Some are even programmed to have limited vocal interaction.
So whether it is a newer model that can actually talk with the child, or a classic cotton-filled brown bear, stuffed animals are here to stay for quite a while. While some people may see them as mere luxury items for child care, they do have significant importance with regards to the child’s well being and development. Remember: despite the fickle world we live in, the concept of the stuffed animal has barely changed since its early beginnings. That should tell you something.
I recently accompanied a friend to a local veterinarian; she wanted to have her pet dog (a six-month-old cocker spaniel) treated for fleas. At the time, I didn’t think a visit to the veterinarian would have been an iconic enough event to define my day. In fact, everything went well; until I decided to ask a rhetorical question: “What’s the worst thing fleas can do outside of causing an itch?” The vet replied with a shrug: “Liver failure seems pretty bad.”
I couldn’t believe it at first. I mean I knew they could pass on some diseases (cat scratch disease, plague, and breakbone disease) that have been notorious for fatality rates, but the way she went on with her lecture was downright terrifying.
Apparently, fleas – despite their size – are large enough in comparison to other smaller parasites to serve as transport vessels from one animal to another. They are very capable of serving as a form of mothership for another lethal parasite: the tapeworm.
Flea tapeworms usually leave their eggs in an afflicted animal’s feces. If the animal is also a host to fleas, there is a good chance that the fleas’ own larvae ingest the eggs. These eggs then hatch, and as the host larvae mature into adult fleas, make a life inside them. Eventually, the adult fleas begin to suck blood from the host, causing the host’s grooming behavior to kick in. When this happens, the fleas may be ingested by the host, effectively bringing tapeworms into the digestive system.
Do you think you’re safe just because you don’t groom yourself the way your pets do? Don’t think that, fleas can get on humans. Fleas have incredibly strong back legs that allow them to accelerate thirty to fifty times faster than a space shuttle. They can close the gap between the animal’s fur and the owner’s face, and make their way into a person’s mouth unnoticed when petting an afflicted animal.
That is where the real horror begins. The flea is incapable of surviving the intense conditions of the human stomach; but the tapeworm is designed specifically for such an environment. Over time, the tapeworm grows larger, feeding on the nutrients inside its victim’s gut until it reaches a length of one to two feet. It doesn’t stop there as well. A single flea tapeworm is capable of reproducing on its own, and eventually, segments filled with eggs drop off. These can be excreted along with fecal matter, but will often hatch and grow into more tapeworms. The worst part is that when food in the gut becomes insufficient, the tapeworms can spread to other systems of the body. They tend to make their way to the liver, where they continue their life cycle of eating and reproducing; and it is here where they leave behind their gravid segments, resulting in parasitic cysts that gradually eat away at the organ, causing intense liver pain and discomfort.
An article I read documented one such case of an Armenian man in his eighties. He had contracted tapeworms from his dog, and thousands of larvae had formed cysts in his liver, to the point its texture had turned bulging and rubbery. It was so bad that although the liver is capable of repairing damage to itself even if only a quarter of its living tissues are all that remain, the parasites were winning the battle.
Thankfully, such parasitic invasions, no matter how real, can be treated and –more importantly – prevented. By treating fleas as soon as they are diagnosed, and by having your pet checked for worms immediately afterwards, the risk of contracting tapeworms from fleas is greatly reduced. Proper hygiene for both you and your pet also lower the chances of contracting tapeworms. In the event that tapeworms are contracted, Mebendazole and other drugs can be used to interfere with the natural life cycle of tapeworms (though production of Mebendazole is done by doctor’s request). Surgery may also be done to remove tapeworms that exhibit resistance to medication.
Regardless, what I learned from the vet that day still gives me a bit of chill sometimes (I can’t explain the way she described it). But at least I know how to make sure it doesn’t happen to me.
Three weeks ago, I was woken up a few minutes past midnight by the shrill ringing of my phone. I was really tired, and had no interest in talking to anyone, so I decided to let it ring. When the caller didn’t take the hint and kept redialing, I grumpily took the phone and growled into the receiver.
The voice that responded was hysterical; I couldn’t make out a word it said, and only barely recognized it as female (though that might have been because I was still half-asleep). It took me about ten seconds to realize it was my friend Annie.
Since Annie and I had been close friends for a long time, my alertness level shot up. I tried asking her what was wrong, but she kept mumbling about “how to tell him,” and “she’s scared,” and “she wasn’t sure she was ready.” Realizing that the conversation wouldn’t go anywhere quickly over the phone – and starting to panic myself – I told her to wait at her place, and that I’d be around within the hour. I had gotten used to Annie being a jumpy person, but that didn’t stop me from looking out for her.
I got to her place, and found her teary-eyed and sipping on hot coco; a few of our friends had also showed up to comfort her. “So, what’s going on?” I asked them. One of my other friends – Marisse – answered: “Annie’s pregnant; ‘bout a month.”
And my response was: “How is that a problem?”
I realized on the spot my answer may have been rude and driven by my annoyance for being woken up in the middle of the night and summoned to a friend’s house when the situation wasn’t as dire as I had made it out to be. Still, I have never thought of pregnancy as something to panic about. In fact, panic is the last thing a pregnant woman should have in mind, especially in the early stages; so I stayed with them throughout the rest of the night and kept Annie calm.
By the time the sun came up, we had a plan on how to tell Annie’s boyfriend (Hugo) that she was pregnant. Marisse happened to work in the same department with him, so our pregnancy announcement idea was to sneak in a letter and a picture of the pregnancy test with some paperwork. While it took a full two days for him to dig through the pile and find out about Annie’s little gift, his reaction was worth it, as we found out for all his calm composure, he can end up hysterical as well.
As the feeling set in that they were going to be parents, things have been a roller coaster ride not just for Annie and Hugo, but for me and the rest of her friends as well. Things went crazier a week later when he used the same trick we used. He sent Annie a picture of an engagement ring and letter along with some mail she was expecting, and then he showed up that moment and proposed to her.
Despite how hectic things are, I suppose everything is okay. Annie takes some spare hours on a baby simulator doll, practicing how to deal with newborn hiccups, hunger, diapers, and the like. I guess I can’t really blame their hysteria and panic upon finding out. When I look at how much they changed in the past couple of weeks since then, I guess it’s true that having a baby changes your life. For most people, it’s for the better, and for some – God forbid – it’s for the worse. It’s just nice to see that for my friends, it seems to have been for the former.
I remember an encounter with one of my nephews a few years ago, when I was called to pick him up early from phys ed class; the teacher who called me up told me he was in some kind of trouble. I got to the gym fifteen minutes before the final bell, and was informed that he was waiting at the school clinic. The first thing I noticed when I saw my nephew was a big splotch of discolored skin on his right upper arm – a bruise the size of a grapefruit – and it looked very bad. Apparently, his substitute coach had noticed, and thought he had injured himself sometime during the session.
Naturally, I asked what happened. Being a bit paranoid at the time, I jumped from theory to theory, even asking him if he had gotten in a fight with a classmate, but he swore he didn’t know what happened, and that he only noticed the bruise when was removing his hoodie for phys ed. He also said he didn’t panic, because he had experienced unexplained bruising before, and didn’t think it was something to be worried about.
I like to think that my reaction was quite normal; after all, bruises can be an ugly sight. Thankfully, I did some research on what caused the bruising and found out quite a bit.
A bruise is a small leak of blood created in tissue when blood escapes from a vessel. This usually happens after an injury, but unexplained bruising can also be caused by several factors, such as weakened blood vessels, malnutrition, or intake of certain medicines. In less common, but real cases, unexplained bruising can be caused by bleeding disorders. Bruises usually last a week or two, but larger ones can last for a few months before the body is able to reabsorb the blood completely. As this process takes place, the bruise can be observed to change colors from purple and green, to blue, then eventually, yellowish and brownish shades before it heals completely. While most bruises are harmless however, they are cosmetically unattractive, and larger pools of blood under the skin – called hematomas – do pose a risk of infection due to the eventual death and decomposition of red and white blood cells (blood is also living tissue).
Fortunately, my nephew’s bruise faded away within two weeks’ time.
The doctor I had called to check on my nephew diagnosed him with mild vitamin K deficiency, which prolonged coagulation time, and made him more susceptible to bruising, even if he didn’t notice any excessive physical force. He instructed my nephew to follow the standard protocol when dealing with physical injury: get adequate rest, apply ice and cold compression on the bruise to reduce blood flow in case the blood vessels beneath were still damaged. He also said that I had to deal with my nephew’s vitamin deficiency with supplements and a proper diet. Despite how it seemed to me at the time, the doctor had told me that things could have been worse.
Unexplained bruising is mostly caused by unnoticed physical trauma; though blood-thinning drugs – most notoriously aspirin – can also make it easier for bruises to form. However, it can also be a sign of darker problems such as anemia, hemophilia, leukemia, or HIV. Just like all other things medical, it is ill-advised to diagnose things yourself; it is very possible to overreact to symptoms, and just as easy to underreact. ALWAYS seek a professional for a diagnosis.
As for me, I’m just glad what happened is over with, and even happier to have learned a thing or two on the matter.
Puberty has really been hitting my nephew, Daniel so hard. His face is bombarded with pimples like there is no tomorrow. It’s just like yesterday that I used to bring him out to theme parks and now, he’s almost as tall as me and relatively an adult. I have been spending more time with him lately because I always accompany him every week to Chris, his dentist. He often tells me stuff about his thoughts, crushes, dreams and aspirations and problems.
Last time that I was with him, he mentioned that he wants to get treated by a dermatologist because he is bothered by all his acnes not only on his face, but also all over his back. I offered that I can pay for him and he politely declined, telling me that I’ve done too much for him. After a few days, I thought of a very good solution for Daniel. He can work in the shop part-time as we are looking for part-time salesmen. It’s a very good job because it has excellent pay and very flexible time. He can take absences, but he needs to inform me first. I told him and her mom about it and they’re so stoked about it. I asked my nephew to make a good curriculum vitae and submit it to me to make it more formal. I asked his mom to help him as I know that she’s pretty good in writing.
After a few days, I called his mom and told her that he is hired. He can work at the shop every weekend and he’s going to be paid per hour. She told Daniel about it and he is so excited for his first day. I wasn’t able to check up on him on his first day of work because I had too many paper works and designs to finish, and my assistant told me that he is good in dealing with people. I’m so proud of him. Days passed and he finally have enough money for his dermatologist. I also gave him a bonus for a job well done. He asked his mom to accompany him to the doctor this coming weekend.
The dermatologist interviewed him first before checking his face and back for acnes. The doctor mentioned that he needs to clean it everyday and avoid using dirty towels or clothes to wipe them off. She added not to prick his pimples to prevent skin tears, especially the pimples under the skin which are harder to prick. She suggested him to come back every week for treatment and cleansing.
Jackie, her mom, told me that it was quite invigorating seeing her son listening to her doctor. I told her that I felt the same thing that he is growing up so fast. We are both happy that he is growing up as a mature and a very responsible adult. We both hope that he continues to be like that so he will succeed in whatever path he chooses to take.
It’s going to be my nephew’s birthday this weekend and I already know what to get him. We both share the love for pets that is why I’m really close to the child. He is also smart and a very curious child. He is a very good kid that he kept his promise to Mike, his dad that he’ll always take care of his yorkie poodle. I’ve seen his dog lately and he really is a very healthy dog. That being said, I know that when I give him another pet, he is responsible enough to love it and take care of it properly.
I asked the salesman of the pet shop to educate me more about the hedgehogs because it is the pet that I’m planning to give the child. He told me that they are very friendly, playful, active and the most important of all, they do not bite. They usually eat insects and they can also be fed with leafy vegetables like lettuce or cabbage. They do require exercise so it is wise to buy them a wheel. They just need fresh water every day and they are golden. They also aren’t that noisy compared to hamsters and rabbits.
I told Carrie about my plan to get her child two hedgehogs as pets for my gift on his birthday. She was surprised that hedgehogs can be pets. I told him that all pet shops that I’ve been to around our town have them. She asked me if they have leashes and I said none. Instead, I told her that they have big hedgehog cages to let them roam around and exercise on their wheels. They can also be given a carton of tissue because they like chewing on things. She finally agreed that I can give him a new pet and he asked me to please remind her son to always take care of it because she’s busy with chores around the house. I promised that I’ll tell that to Jack and I told her that her son is very responsible. When I was his age, I wasn’t as mature and responsible as he is now so I think he’s going to be better in the coming years to come.
Finally, it’s weekend and it’s my favorite nephew’s birthday. Its 7am and I called him on the phone to greet him. I tried to kid him that I’m not going to make it to his birthday this year, but I didn’t know that her mom already told him that I will be coming later. He is asking me what I got him and I told him that it’s much better if he just see it personally. I told him that I can come in an hour as I still have an errand to go to and he said that it’s okay. After an hour, I brought his pet’s cage and it is covered with a big cloth for a surprise. I think he saw me pulling over their driveway because I saw him running towards me when I was walking on the driveway on the way to their house. He was so happy when he took off the cover. He hugged me tight and told me that it’s his best birthday ever. I reminded and told him of the things that he needs to do to on how to properly take care of his new pet and he ran along happily to show his friends his new pet.
I read somewhere before that the average human being requires roughly two thousand calories a day to perform at its peak. However, as it turns out, that number isn’t a realistic figure for everyone; depending on your height, weight, age, and daily physical exertions, the calories your body needs to keep functioning on a day-to-day basis can vary greatly. Oftentimes, people eat far more than their body needs to run, and how does the body respond? It converts the unused calories into fats as fuel for later use.
If you follow those nutritional facts for a two-thousand-calorie diet thinking it’s healthy for you – and end up putting on more pounds than you feel comfortable with – then the most obvious way to lose weight is to reduce your calorie intake; and the most drastic measure to do so is to reduce that intake by half.
A 1000 calorie diet has proven time and again to be one of the most sure-fire ways to take control of your weight. However, like most things in life, it requires a fair amount of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice (trust me, that isn’t an exaggeration). Also, it is not necessarily a long term diet, rather a stepping stone meant to rapidly lose weight before a longer term plan. There are two reasons for this, the first one being that eating only sparingly will almost always result in malnutrition, and the reason being that long periods of time with low energy will trick your body into thinking food is scarce, and force its metabolism (the rate at which chemical processes take place in your body) to slow down. Extremely low-calorie diets can cause weight gain in the long run.
Extremely low-calorie diets vary from person to person, and it is always good to seek the help of a dietician when planning what to eat. However, one category of foods always pops up when talking about weight loss: vegetables.
Vegetables are naturally low in saturated fats and cholesterol. They are also rich in fiber, and depending on what you are eating, can contain sufficient calcium and protein to replace some meats. What they really contribute to a weight loss diet however, is their calorie content. A single leaf of lettuce for example, contains just above one calorie for every five grams you consume. Amaranth leaves are also a good contender for weight loss; a single cup of amaranth leaves barely adds six calories to what you eat. Low carb vegetables are almost synonymous with weight loss, because they are a great way to lose weight and still feel full after a meal.
In fact, most green vegetables are perfect for weight loss. Take broccoli. It contains protein, calcium, thiamine, iron, niacin, and a host of other vitamins and minerals, yet contains only eight calories per ounce.
Then, there is asparagus. This is also a popular weight loss food. It has very low levels of salt and saturated fats. Not many know this, but asparagus is one of very few individual foods that provides over 90% of all essential nutrients. In a sense, it is possible to plan a diet around asparagus, and supplement what it lacks with other foods for a complete and balanced diet.
Finally, there are those foods that blur the line between fruit and vegetable (unquestionably fruits, but we treat them as vegetables). Have you heard of bitter gourd? It’s better known as the balsam-pear. Both its fruit and leaves can be cooked and eaten, and, if you can get past the taste that gives it its name, you have another source of fifteen minerals without having to gain an ounce of body fat.
It is true that cutting weight to the extent of the thousand-calorie-diet is a difficult task. Still, it has been proven over and over again that it works; and with the very wide range of low carb vegetables that exist to supplement the diet, having your stomach feeling full won’t have to make you feel full after a meal.
My oldest nephew is Daniel and he is already thirteen years old. She is the only son of my eldest sister, Jackie. He is gradually becoming more and more conscious of his looks each day. He has an overbite and it needs to be treated. He told his mom about it and she told her that she still has to talk about it with his dad because they have really bad finances this year. Their winery business just became bankrupt last year and they are trying to cope with it as much as they can. Their right hand man took most of the company’s money and ran off.
I heard the news about Daniel wanting to get treated by getting braces and I felt bad for him. I immediately called Jackie on the phone to offer to pay for half of the treatment. I told her that I have some extra money hidden for special occasions like this. She was crying on the phone as she was so touched by my kind gesture. I asked her to calm down and tell her son the news. Daniel was so happy and excited. Both of them thanked me and told me that I’m a blessing to their family. I asked them if they already have a dentist preferred because if not, I have a friend who’d gladly treat my nephew and they told me that they don’t know any good dentist around.
After talking with my sister and Daniel, I immediately called my best friend Chris who is a great orthodontist. He was surprised that I called his office because I normally call his personal number. I told him that I need my nephew’s overbite fixed and he said that he needs to see his condition first, so I booked a morning appointment the next day to finally start his treatment. I called my sister again to tell her about the appointment place and time.
The next day, I saw Daniel and my sister and they hugged me so tight that I almost gasped for air. I joked that if they kill me, there will be no one who’ll to pay half of it and we all laughed. We entered Chris’ clinic and introduced them to him. He made Daniel gargle with water and sit on the dental chair. He asked him to say aaahhh and then he checked his teeth. He mentioned that it may take him one to two years of treatment and he needs to get some of his teeth extracted because he needs the space for the teeth to move properly. He also needs teeth x-rays and pictures for reference. He added that he also needs to put spacers for braces on his second molars for brackets and it might cause him pain, but it is tolerable. To help him cope up with the pain, he said that he can give him tooth pain relief just in case.
I’m glad that Daniel is still pushing this even when he heard about tooth extraction. When I was his age, I was so afraid of dentists and injections. I’m very proud of him, my little, brave nephew.