Possibly Educational

You Don’t Have to Share a Room with Your Baby

Maybe this is just the perma-grouch stage of pregnancy talking, but I’m bugged by some of the (really pretty benign) articles about the new SIDS recommendations. Namely the ones that put emphasis on the room-sharing suggestion.

My issues with this go several layers deep, but let’s start shallow: The official AAP report all these articles are based on only dedicates 6 sentences to this specific suggestion. This isn’t a little report, people. Six sentences is a drop in the bucket. And half of those 6 sentences refer to room-sharing just in terms of being safer than bed-sharing. One sentence states the convenience of room-sharing, and just one sentence refers to a startling statistic with accompanying citations (but more on that in a moment). If the official report can’t come up with more than 6 (not particularly well articulated) sentences on this suggestion, it must not be that important. Even if this is the only new addition to the recommendations, it certainly doesn’t warrant a full article highlighting the change.

What the report does describe at length is the risks of bed-sharing and also the dangers of falling asleep while feeding/holding a baby. It also devotes at least a paragraph each to about a dozen other recommendations for parents, including prenatal care, breastfeeding, immunizations, pacifiers, avoiding cigarette smoke, avoiding alcohol, avoiding overheating, avoiding breathing/pulse monitors etc. Several of these recommendations I hadn’t heard of before! All of this information in one report and journalists are choosing to do an entire article on a flimsy 6-sentence excerpt?

But let’s go back to that impressive-sounding statistic I mentioned. “There is evidence that sleeping in the parents’ room but on a separate surface decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.” Fifty percent!? Wow, that’s a significant decrease! But compared to what? Compared to bed-sharing? Compared to sleeping in separate rooms? It doesn’t actually specify, but the difference changes the meaning of the stat drastically. And given how much they they talk about bed-sharing in the subsequent paragraphs (and in the statistic sentence itself) I’d guess there’s a 50% decrease in SIDS when parents aren’t bed-sharing. Just a guess, though. I looked through some of the citations and couldn’t find which one had the 50% number.

Also, a 50% reduction may not be as significant as it sounds. Potentially it could mean that in the sample there was one case of SIDS that room-shared and two cases that did not. Fifty percent reduction! In a sample of 20 total babies this is kind of a significant fraction (but only kind of–the sample size is much too small to apply any sweeping statements to the general population), but in a sample of 500, that ratio isn’t really a big deal. Percentages can be so misleading without the context of the actual numbers from the sample.

Let’s also talk a moment about the logistics of this kind of research. The best type of research is randomized and all the other potential factors are controlled for. So to prove that the location of the crib is better in the parents’ room, participants would be randomly assigned where to put the crib (at a predetermined, exact distance from either the parents’ bed or the parents’ room). And then everything else across the participants would have to be the same–same crib, same bedding, same pajamas, same temperature, same feeding, same immunizations… all of the known factors in SIDS would have to be the same, and there are tons. The crib location has to be the only difference in the participants in order to conclusively say whether the crib location (and no other contributing factor) impacts SIDS.

But I can guarantee none of the studies were conducted like this. Partly because it’s unethical, and partly because it’s impossible. When measuring risk, researchers can’t make random assignments. For example, when measuring the risk of smoking vs non-smoking, it’s unethical to assign someone to be part of the smoking group when it’s suspected that smoking has a negative impact on health. It has to be voluntary. Likewise, crib placement would be left up to the parents, along with all the other factors that may or may not contribute to SIDS. And ethics aside, it would be physically (and financially) impossible to ensure that every single factor is the same across all participants. It’s just too much–this is sci-fi territory.

So the best researchers can do is ask as many questions as possible about decisions parents make and hope to notice some trends. And even then, trends aren’t a slam dunk. Repeat after me the stats 1010 mantra: Correlation does not imply causation, correlation does not imply causation. Even if a researcher notes, “Hey, SIDS happens 50% less often in the people who room-share vs people who put babies in a separate room!” this doesn’t necessarily mean room-sharing itself reduces SIDS. It could be that in the sample, people who room-shared were also more likely to breastfeed than non-sharers, and breastfeeding caused the reduction. Or maybe the non-sharers just coincidentally happened to over-bundle their babies more often than room-sharers and that’s the cause. But more likely it’s a combination of multiple factors. Hence the medical mystery that is SIDS–apart from cases of suffocation, it’s not known what causes SIDS, so it’s also not known what prevents SIDS. It could be environmental and preventable, but it could also be something inevitable due to undiscovered physical problems with the baby.

Lastly, with all research complications and poor reporting aside, this recommendation of room-sharing is basically saying, “If you listen to your baby’s every breath while he sleeps, SIDS is less likely to occur.” Which is true, but not actually helpful advice. Constant, 100% vigilance is not a sustainable parenting method. It’s not possible! And frankly, it’s not safe. Sure, you might reduce the risk of SIDS by never sleeping, but you simultaneously increase the risk of car accident, falling asleep while holding the baby, forgetting the baby in the car, and just a multitude of bad decisions. As parents and human beings in general, we have to be ok with allowing a certain amount of risk in our lives, and in the grand scheme of things, the placement of a baby’s crib is a really low-risk parenting decision.

The point is: put the crib wherever works best for you, and don’t feel obligated to share the room because it’ll magically protect your baby from SIDS. Some parents prefer sharing a room with their babies–maybe the parents sleep better having them in the room or maybe they like the convenience. And some parents share out of necessity. But for some of us, not sharing a room works best. Do your thing.

Possibly Educational

The Whole Bathroom Thing

I’m so sure you’ve heard about the whole Target bathroom debacle that I’m  not even providing a link to a story. I’m not going to go into my general opinions on the matter. But as a social worker who specialized in child welfare and worked as a child sexual abuse prevention educator, there are some things that must be cleared up.

The biggest argument (in my circles) against what Target has done centers around the risk of sexual assault in bathrooms. A common thread has been, “Now I’m scared to send my girls into public bathrooms alone! There could be pervert men pretending to be women in there!”

This gives me so much pause. This implies that there was a time in recent history where there was no risk in sending children (boys or girls) into public restrooms alone. This implies that sexual assault doesn’t already happen in public restrooms. This implies that we don’t need to worry about our little boys because perverted men are only interested in girls.

I have sad news for you. There has always been a risk for sexual assault in public restrooms for both boys and girls. And sexual assault in public bathrooms has been going on probably since the beginning of public bathrooms, which was centuries ago (at least).

It’s not a recent concept for a guy to sneak into a lonely public restroom and assault a girl. It’s nothing new for boys to be assaulted by boys or men in the men’s room. And it’s not unheard of if a girl is assaulted by another girl in a bathroom. Boys and girls, adults and children alike have been cornered in private nooks of public spaces for a long time. And it’s not OK. It’s never been OK. But it’s certainly not a new threat.

But is assault in public bathrooms a super common thing? Not really. Roughly 90% of child sexual abuse is committed by acquaintances–neighbors, relatives, friends, coaches, classmates, etc.–so the chances of being assaulted by a stranger are fairly slim to begin with. The chances of being assaulted by a stranger in a bathroom is even less likely.

Now let’s talk about who is most likely to be assaulted in a public restroom. Children, obviously. They’re small, and more easily emotionally manipulated. And I think it goes without saying that a child going alone into a public bathroom is at a much (much!) higher risk of assault, boy or girl. So who is going in public bathrooms alone more frequently–boys or girls? Women are often the primary caretakers of children, so when children are out and about and need the bathroom, boys are generally the ones going in without an adult.

But does this make boys more likely to be assaulted? I mean, generally speaking, stats say girls are assaulted more often. However, these stats are solely based on reported sexual abuse. So in all likelihood, boys are equally prone to sexual abuse, but less likely to tell you, which is an even bigger problem. Sexual abuse is not a “girl thing” and perpetuating that myth will make boys that much more hesitant to tell someone if they experience sexual abuse.

Also, it takes zero preparation for a guy to assault a boy in the men’s room. If the opportunity presents itself, he’s ready to go. He didn’t have to sneak in there. He didn’t have to disguise himself. And often sexual abuse by strangers is very opportunistic because it’s difficult to plan the perfect circumstances when he’s dealing with a victim he’s never met–things need to line up perfectly on their own. We’re dealing with a garden variety pervert here.

It does take planning for a guy to assault someone in the women’s room. Some thought had to go into a convincing woman getup (but only sometimes–it’d be easier to pull an “oops, I’m in the wrong bathroom” if a guy is found in there). He had to find a bathroom rarely used so he’d be more likely to be alone with a victim and less likely to be found suspiciously hanging out in the bathroom. And honestly, this kind of meticulously planning perpetrator isn’t common. That takes very unique kind of psycho, and they are few and far between, fortunately.

And although women do assault other girls or women sometimes, it’s really pretty rare in a stranger situation, and frankly not likely to happen in a public restroom.

But we must point out that a perpetrator’s risk of being caught is so high in a public bathroom. He has to be so freaking lucky, because he has no control over when the next person will come in and catch him in the act–unless there’s a lock on the main bathroom door, but I hope that’s not common in stall-type restrooms.

So what do we take home from this? Kids are much more (9 times more!) likely to be sexually abused by someone they know rather than a stranger in a bathroom. However, boys are more likely to be the target of assault in a public bathroom. Your children–boys and girls–are never completely safe in a public restroom unless a parent is in there. And perhaps not even then. The presence or absence of transexual individuals does not change this.

Can you always be in there with your kids? No way. But can you reduce your kids’ risk when they are alone? Absolutely. Your kids should know what sexual abuse is. They should learn to be aware of their surroundings while in a public restroom, and observant of anyone that seems suspicious. They should know to high tail out of there the second things get weird–washed hands or not. They should know to make a lot of noise if necessary (bathroom acoustics are awesome). And above all they should know to tell you right away if they see anything weird in a bathroom, whether or not they think it’s wrong.

Personally, when I have kids old enough, I think I’ll keep some rape whistles on lanyards in my purse specifically for solo public restroom trips–it’s an easily heard distress call, a physical reminder for my kids to be watchful and careful, and hopefully an obvious deterrent for any would-be evil-doers. Because nothing says “my mom is a social worker, so don’t even bother” like children wearing rape whistles.

You’re welcome to have a multitude of opinions and feelings about the great bathroom debate. But regardless of what happens politically and what public bathrooms you choose to support or boycott, just remember that sexual assault always has been and always will be a potential danger. Be safe out there, friends.

Possibly Educational

Family History for Friends

This is a series on finding your niche in doing family history.

One of the coolest parts of doing family history is realizing how interconnected you are to so many people. Relative Finder helps you explore your relationships with famous people from history or even relationships with your friends.


When you first log in through FamilySearch, it pulls up a list of your historically significant relatives, starting with the ones most closely related to you. It tells you their name, how you’re related to them, and how they are significant in history. You can click on their name to see more information, and in some cases it will link to Wikipedia. For example, one of my 9th great grandmothers was hung during the Salem witch trials, so it linked to a Wikipedia page about her life and her witch trial.


You can connect to friends and neighbors by creating a group. My ward has a group, and there I can see how I’m related to the people in my ward, which is kind of fun. It’s really easy to create a group or join a group someone has already created. Just keep in mind groups work best between people who aren’t obviously related. A group with your cousins, aunts, and uncles will be pretty boring, because you already know how you’re related.


Unfortunately getting to where you can see the groups you’ve joined isn’t very intuitive. If you click the down arrow labeled “Show Groups” you can filter the list down to specific groups. So if I select my ward group (under the Private heading) I’ll be able to see the other ward members who have already joined and how we’re related. You can also filter down to a specific public group from here.


For example, I filtered down to Movie Stars. Jimmy Stewart is my 6th cousin, twice removed, and Lucille Ball is my 7th cousin, 4 times removed.


If I’m curious exactly how I’m related to Lucille Ball, I can click View and it’ll pull up a chart showing our relationship. You can even download a pdf.


The last fun thing you can do with Relative Finder is connect with a friend temporarily to see all the ways you’re related (groups only show the one closest way you’re related). I’ve done this with both a friend and my husband, and it’s mind-boggling how many connections we have. Just click the connect button, and it’ll give you a session ID to share with your friend. As you can see below, the password to join a session only lasts for 1 minute, so you both have to be at the ready–one to give the password and the other to join by typing it in. I did it over text with a friend, and we didn’t have a problem joining in time. But if you do miss it, just try again. This seems like a pain, but it’s a good security feature.


Possibly Educational

Family History for the Storyteller

This is a series on finding your niche in doing family history.

I recently came upon a gold mine of audio cassettes containing memories and stories from one line of my family tree. These tapes had been languishing in a box at my grandparents’ house for years and years, and I wanted to give them new life and make them more accessible to the rest of my family.


Importing the audio into a computer is actually a surprisingly low-tech process. Basically all you need is a cassette player and a cord with normal headphone jacks on both ends. I lucked out and found my cord at Ross for $4, but the cheap ones are about $5 on Amazon. And you don’t need anything fancy.


You plug one end into the headphone slot of a cassette player. I used a stereo I’ve had since I was a teenager. You could probably find a cheap one at a thrift store if you don’t have one hanging around.


The other end goes into the input slot on a computer. Be warned that the mic slot doesn’t work nearly as well.


Then I started up a free audio editing program called Audacity. First I made sure the input (the drop down menu to the right of the little mic icon that says default) was set to the right setting. This will vary depending on your computer, so you may end up trying a few things before you get the right one. Then just hit the record button and press play on the cassette player. When the tape is over, click the stop button. Trimming it up a little is pretty intuitive–click and drag to highlight the parts you want gone, then hit the delete key on your keyboard. Just remember to click the stop button first, otherwise nothing will happen. When you’re done, click File then Export As, then set it to mp3 (or whatever format you prefer) and save. Easy as that!

From there you can burn it to a CD, put it on a flash drive, share it with family on Dropbox, etc. You can even put audio files on FamilySearch, but use care if the audio goes into detail on people who are still living, or if the people talking are still living.

Possibly Educational

Family History for the World Geographer

This is a series on finding your niche in doing family history.

Our families end up doing a lot of moving over time. Across the ocean, across the country, or even just across the street. Rootsmapper is a fun site to visualize how different branches of our family tree moved around the world. I’d recommend watching their official demo video to get a feel for how to navigate the site, but I’ll share a few cool things you can do with it.


This is 6 generations of my tree mapped out. I’m a 0, my parents are 1’s (pink and blue), my grandparents are 2’s, and so forth.


From here you can also see how many of your ancestors were born in each country.


You can isolate individual lines from your family tree. This is my Keating line as far back as it goes.

The possibilities are endless!

Possibly Educational

Family History for the Finisher

This is a series on finding your niche in doing family history.

If you’re married, chances are your spouse’s family won’t automatically appear on your tree in FamilySearch. This isn’t really a big deal, but if you’re a finisher you’ll probably want to have it in there anyway. You know, just in case. Adding a spouse’s tree isn’t very intuitive, so here’s a quick tutorial.

Public v private tree

To begin with, you need to understand how both the public and private spheres of FamilySearch work. The public part of FamilySearch is only the deceased, and it’s shared by everyone–anyone can contribute to and edit this big tree. The living people in your tree are private, and only you can edit the ones in your tree. For example, if I add pictures or edit details about my parents (who are living) on my tree, it does not add the pictures or change the details on either of their trees. Only I see it. So while in the public tree duplicates are a big problem, between private trees there will be many, many duplicates. I appear in my own tree, my husband’s tree, my mom’s tree, my dad’s tree, each siblings’ tree, etc. each under a different ID–I’m duplicated many times, and this is ok.

To walk you through this process (because I already added my husband’s family to my tree a while ago) I’m on the FamilySearch sandbox. The sandbox is a replica of FamilySearch, but with no real people. You can play around in the sandbox here, but there is also a comprehensive course that will walk you through pretty much anything you want to do on FamilySearch in the sandbox, but without the pressure of messing up your family tree. Also, for your information, you can click on any of these images to see a bigger version.


This is what your tree may look like to begin with. If you’re on LDS church records, your spouse and kids will probably already be on your tree. In this case, Husband Cartwright has his family branching off from him, but nobody from his wife’s side of the family is on there. Husband will start by clicking “Add Husband” in the box branching off from Wife Hall.

A search form will pop up, and since Wife Hall’s father (Daddy Hall) is living, Husband Cartwright will select the living option along with any other information he has on Daddy Hall. He’ll then click search, and since there are no duplicates with living people, there will be no results, so Husband will get a window prompting him to “Add New.” And then voila! Daddy Hall now shows up on Wife Hall’s side of the family (in Husband’s tree).

Now we need to add Daddy Hall’s father (Grandpa Hall), who is deceased. Husband will click “Add Husband” in the box branching off from Daddy Hall. There are two ways to add a deceased person, and in this case we’ll do it by ID number. Select “Find by ID Number” in the bottom right corner of the search window, then you’ll have a window asking for the ID number. Husband borrowed Wife’s phone (with the FamilySearch app) and found Grandpa Hall’s ID number on her tree, and Bam! There Grandpa Hall is in the search results. Husband will click the blue “Add Person” button, and now Grandpa Hall is on Husband’s tree, along with Grandpa Hall’s ancestors.

You can also add deceased relatives to your tree by searching. Normally Grandpa Hall’s wife (also deceased) would have automatically been attached, but they aren’t connected on FamilySearch for some reason. Husband Cartwright will click “Add Wife” in the box where Grandpa Hall is and fill out the search form as much as possible. He’s floundering and can only remember her name is Mary, so he’ll click “Search.” At the top of the results is the information Husband entered in about Mary, and if she didn’t exist on FamilySearch yet, he’d click “Create New.” But it’s important to not have duplicates in the deceased, so he’ll scroll through the results first. If he finds her, he’ll click “Add Person.” If he decides to narrow the search down a little (guess a date or place) he can click “Refine Search.”

In summary:  First add your spouse’s living relatives by creating a new (living) person, then you can add the deceased ancestors to those living relatives.

FYI:  It’s best to keep the living people on your tree to a minimum. You can have your living parents, siblings, and in-laws on there, but cousins are a little excessive. Even aunts and uncles aren’t really necessary unless they’re needed to link to someone who has already died. For example, both my aunt and her daughter died when I was young, but since my grandparents are still living, my deceased aunt and cousin weren’t showing up on my tree. I had to search for my aunt to add her to my tree, then I added her (still living) husband so that both parents of my cousin showed up on my tree.

Possibly Educational

Family History for the Shutterbug

This is a series on finding your niche in doing family history.

There is something about old photos that help us form a meaningful connection to those ancestors we never got to meet. It can also be a special thing to see those we love at a time before we were figuratively “in the picture.”

There are four basic ways we can be contributing to this visual aspect of our family trees:
1. Finding photos
2. Identifying photos
3. Restoring photos
4. Uploading to FamilySearch

Finding Photos

Best case scenario, you’ve got an old family album hanging out in your attic. However, most of us don’t have that ideal situation going on. The originals–in albums, picture frames, or cardboard boxes–are probably going to be living with your parents, grandparents (if still living), aunts and uncles, or great-aunts and uncles. If the photos live with someone not-so-tech-savvy, chances are they haven’t been scanned and uploaded to FamilySearch yet. You can ask around your family (and several sides of your family) to see who has pictures. One side of my family has a Facebook group dedicated to sharing old family photos with everyone.

You can also just be on the lookout for older framed pictures while at relatives’ homes. If at least one of the people in the photo is deceased, you can look them up on your FamilySearch app on your phone right then and there to see if that photo has been added to FS yet.

There are also many sources online where you can find photos of your ancestors. The source I’m always looking for an excuse to use is college or university yearbook digital archives. Many universities have their yearbook archives available to the public, and I’ve found googling “[college or university name] yearbook archives” generally pulls it up easily.


I knew my great grandma attended Utah State University (then Utah Agricultural College) when she was young, so I was able to find her in the 1928 Buzzer yearbook as a freshman. I found several clubs she was involved in, and also learned she was the captain (and top scorer) of the freshman women’s basketball team. I zoomed in on her a little, then used a free photo editing program called GIMP to take a screenshot (zooming in was buggy on my phone or tablet, otherwise that would have been simpler). There may be the option to download a pdf of the page, but I found it was usually terrible quality. I cropped the screenshot down, and then it was ready to be uploaded to FS.


DeadFred.com is both a bit of a wildcard and an opportunity for service. You can search by surname or geographic area, and you may find an ancestor someone else has posted. Alternately, if you’re looking through your own family pictures and notice non-relatives in a photo (a neighbor or friend, maybe), you can post it on DeadFred to hopefully share the digital copy with that person’s descendents. There are also people who snatch up vintage photos at flea markets and antique shops so they can post these long-lost photos and reunite them with their families. This can be an incredible service to someone who has very few photos of their ancestors.

Lastly, searching family trees on Ancestry.com is another way to find photos, especially of ancestors a couple generations back. And members of the LDS church have free access to this. However, I think it’s good form to message the owner of that family tree before hitting “save image as.” Maybe they’ll even email you the original file.

Identifying Photos

The easiest way to identify people is checking the back of the photo for names, dates, or places. If that information isn’t there, ask other members of your family if they know. You may also use a little detective work to solve the mystery. This site has many articles on how to analyze facial features to identify people. Or you can also pin down a general time frame by looking at the clothing styles of the people in the photo. It can be interesting to take note of your ancestors’ clothing styles even if you know when the photo was taken. It can give great insight into whether great grandma had the means and interest to keep up with current styles, or if she was frugally-minded and wore her (perfectly good) clothes even after the styles had changed.

Restoring Photos

If you’re handy with photo editing, restoring photos damaged by time, mold, creases, rips, or just bad lighting can be a satisfying way to contribute. This is an example of a family photo my sister restored.

GIMP is a great option for people not wanting to shell out cash for Photoshop.

Uploading to FamilySearch

This is really the easiest part. If you have a scanner that’s probably the best way too get a high-quality digital copy of the original photo. If you don’t have a scanner, try your local LDS Family History Center or even a public library. You may even be able to get a nice scan using your smartphone camera. Photos can be uploaded via the FamilySearch app or on the desktop version. I prefer uploading photos from the app, but the last time I checked you couldn’t tag photos in the app. They’re continually adding more to the app, though, so that’s a feature that may be available in time. For now, go to the desktop version to tag photos. Tagging photos works pretty much exactly like tagging photos on Facebook, and it’s an important part of the process, especially if it’s a group shot.


A new feature on FamilySearch is the memories tab. In the gallery you can view and organize all the photos, documents, and audio you’ve uploaded to familysearch. You can also upload photos from this page. Under the People heading is a master list of people you’re related to, and you can quickly view photos that pique your interest. In the Find section you can type any name to find pictures and
stories quickly and easily.