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How a 5-Year-Old Inspired Marvel to Create a New Superhero and Custom Iron Man Poster

Monday, March 4th, 2013

“Superheroes don’t wear hearing aids.”

When 5-year-old Anthony Smith uttered those words to his mother, Christina, one day last year, he had been wearing his hearing aid without issue for four months. But that morning he woke up and decided that since his favorite superheroes didn’t wear hearing aids, he didn’t want to either.

Born with mosaic trisonomy 22, Anthony’s parents knew he would suffer from hearing loss. Because of a complicated childbirth and other health concerns, Anthony didn’t receive his first hearing aid device until he was 2-and-a-half-years-old. “One of our big regrets is that we didn’t push harder, sooner, because it made a miraculous difference,” said Christina.

While the first device Anthony had to wear was painful, the second one — the blue Phonak hearing aid referred to by his family as “blue ear” — seemed to be a perfect fit until Anthony decided he didn’t want to wear it anymore. Not willing to give up on a device that was helping to improve his speech and language skills, Cristina came up with a solution: “I lied. I said superheroes do wear hearing aids.” Anthony, of course, wanted to know which superheroes his mom was referring to, so Christina wrote an email to Marvel, publisher of comic books and creator of many famous superheroes, asking for help.

Although her email was sent to a general catch-all “fan mail” account, the Marvel team saw it and responded. As it turns out, superheroes do wear hearing aids: Hawkeye, a member of the popular Avengers team, had lost his hearing during a fight and wore a hearing aid for a period of time in the 1980s. But the Marvel team went a step further and created a new character, Blue Ear, to be Hawkeye’s sidekick in a special one-off comic book created just for Anthony.

That private gesture didn’t remain private for long, though. Almost a year ago, the story of Marvel creating a superhero for one little boy went viral. CNN, Gawker, and the Huffington Post were among the news outlets that picked up Anthony’s story.

While media attention eventually died down, the Marvel team went to work figuring out how to make the specific character appeal to others. “We immediately thought of Iron Man,” said Bill Rosemann, Marvel Custom Solutions Editor. After suffering a chest injury, Tony Stark (Iron Man’s alter ego), relies on a suit of armor to live, similar to how Anthony relies on his hearing aid to hear. Iron Man is also one of the most widely-known and popular superheroes, thanks to two blockbuster movies in the past five years (with a third movie due out this May).

Iron Man was also a perfect fit for Kimberly Rawn and the team at Phonak, manufacturers of hearing technology for children and adults. “[Iron Man's story] was a complete parallel to what hearing technology does for kids and adults,” said Rawn. Together, Phonak and Marvel created a poster (see below) to educate children and lessen the stigma of wearing hearing aids.

The poster was revealed last week at the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York City. At the event, Anthony said his favorite superhero is now Iron Man. Christina added, “[The past year] has been amazing and I think the biggest impact on [Anthony] has been him being a great self-advocate.”

But what about Blue Ear? His turn in the spotlight may not be done just yet. When asked if there are any plans for him in the works, Rosemann said, “Well, you never know. The more we get asked about it, the more we think what could be done, so I always say, ‘Stay tuned.’”

Image: Anthony Smith and Iron Man by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Phonak/AP Images

Poster: Marvel/Phonak Iron Man poster by Christos Gage and Paco Medina

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Congratulations to the Red Tricycle Totally Awesome Award Winners

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Red Tricycle Award Winner

Our friends at Red Tricycle recently held their annual Totally Awesome Awards for the best products and services for parents.

The votes have been tallied (all 206,650 of them!) and below are the winners in the “Essentials” category:

Adorable Duds for Little Dudes: Little Z Kids
Amazing Kids Apps: Early Ascent (Makers of Reading Raven)
Artistic Art Supplies: Flax Art & Design
Baby Shower Gifts: Makaboo
Bedazzling Bedding: Baby DeeDee Sleep Nest
Beloved Bedtime Stories: Beautiful Oops by Workman Publishing Company
Big Birthday Ideas: Kara’s Party Ideas
Biggest Backyard Fun: Bilibo
Biggest Bargains: MamaSource by Mamapedia
Charming Clothes for Little Girls: Anthem of The Ants
Chic-est Kids Accessories: Bow Allure
Classic Cleaning Products: The Honest Company
Comfiest Cribs & Beds: PetitNest, Alouette Crib
Coolest Kids Flicks: Toy Story
Creative Card Suppliers: PosePrints
Daily Fix Parenting Site: InCultureParent
Dapper Diaper Bags & Backpacks: Ju-Ju-Be
Darling Drinking Containers: organicKidz
Exceptional Educational Toys: Little Pim
Extreme Weather Wear: Polarn O. Pyret
Extremely Eco Friendly Room Decor: Children Inspire Design
Fantastic Family Recipes: For the Love of Cooking
First Birthday Gifts: FunPod
Freshest Maternity Fashions: Boob Design
Gourmet To Go: GoGo Squeez
Raddest Ski Resorts: Sierra at Tahoe
Prettiest Pinterest Boards: Six Sisters’ Stuff
Spaciest Storage & Organizers: Delta Children’s Products
Monthly Must-Read ‘Zine: Babiekins
Wheely Cool Bike Gear: Tailwags Helmet Covers
Nicest Nursery Ideas: Honey + Fitz
Ship-Shape Family Cruises: Disney Cruises
Scintillating Summer Resorts: Tyler Place Family Resort
Perfect Playroom Pieces: The Imagination Tree
Most Amusing Amusement Parks: Oakland Children’s Fairyland
Rockingest Rollers, Bikes & Trikes: Sbyke
Zaniest Zoos & Animal Parks: San Francisco Zoo
Ultimate Car Seats: Britax
Smartest Stroller Accessories: SnoozeShadeUSA
Sublime Consign Online Sites: Trading Cradles
Sunniest Swimwear & Accessories: i play.
Stoutest Sun Screens & Lotions: TruKid
Surefire Shopping Sites: Diapers.com
Most Influential Blog: Raising Happiness LLC
Outstanding Outdoor Gear: Piggyback Rider
Top Family Travel Sites: Field Trips with Sue
Sparklingest Soaps & Shampoos: Circle of Friends
Sweetest Strollers: UPPAbaby
Greenest Games & Toys: Green Toys
Wonderful Wall Art & Accessories: Phyllis Harris Designs
Smoothest Skin Products: 100% Pure Kids
Snappiest Kids Shoes: Rileyroos
Snappy Snack Bags: Itzy Ritzy
Sleekest Slings & Baby Carriers: Beco Baby Carrier
Longest Lasting Lunch Boxes: EasyLunchBoxes
Super-Cool Subscription Services: Green Kid Crafts
Snuggiest Blankets & Comforters: Elonka Nichole Designs
Must-Have Travel Accessories: Lay-n-Go
Neatest Newborn Stuff: Aden & Anais
Tunes for Tots: Mo Phillips
Greenest Baby & Kids Gear: Gro-Via
Happy-Mom Healthy Snacks: GoGo squeeZ

Make sure to head over to Red Tricycle to see the winners in the Chicago, Portland, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Southern California, and San Francisco Bay Area categories.

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Nancy O’Dell Releases “Little Ashby: Star Reporter” App for Kids

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Little Ashby Star Reporter - SantaThis time of year can put children’s (and parents’) patience to the test — long trips in the car to visit family, seemingly endless shopping lines. Make the most of the time your kids will spend waiting with a fun new educational app, Little Ashby: Star Reporter.

Created by Parents’ celebrity correspondent and Entertainment Tonight co-host Nancy O’Dell and developed by StoryChimes, the app is an interactive storybook that allows children to follow TV reporter Ashby (named after Nancy’s daughter) and her crew on exciting assignments.

Ashby’s first job? To interview Santa! Children will love joining Ashby on her journey to the North Pole. Along the way, they’ll learn educational facts, values, and morals that will be reinforced with engaging activities and games.

Little Ashby: Star Reporter – Santa’s Big Premiere is available on Apple devices now for $2.99. A portion of the proceeds for the app will go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) in honor of Bryson Foster, MDA’s 2012 National Goodwill Ambassador and the voice of Arty, the little cameraman, in the app.

Remember to keep an eye out for more adventures with Ashby and her crew in the new year!

Read more from Nancy O’Dell on Parents.com:

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Sitting Down With Mom and Former Softball Player Jennie Finch

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Jennie FinchWith the end of the London Olympics rapidly approaching, you may have noticed that there hasn’t been much coverage of baseball or softball at the Games. Actually, neither sport has been at the Games; after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to remove them.

Jennie Finch is a strong supporter of returning softball to the Olympics. Once called “the most famous softball player in history” by Time, Finch led the U.S. women’s softball team to a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics. Finch retired in 2010 and now spends most of her time taking care of her children with her husband, baseball player Casey Daigle. They have two sons together, Ace, 6, and Diesel, 1, and Finch recently announced that she is pregnant (congrats, Jennie!).

Finch came by the Parents.com office to talk to us about being a mom and about her work with the Hershey’s Moderation Nation campaign:

Tell me about your work with Hershey’s.
The program is something I’ve always been about: balance. Finding balance in your life, and happiness through well-being, and enjoying precious moments that we don’t get very often. I’m excited about putting the “active” part back in family activity. My role within the campaign is promoting a way to live in the moment and enjoy it. I’m one of the Good Life Gurus, and we have a Good Life Promise to live in the moment; for me, it’s finding time to be present with my boys.

You’re promoting how to make physical activity fun for the entire family. What are some ways you keep active with your family?
With our boys, we have so much fun with just a cardboard box or a ball. My husband gets involved with playing games of Wiffle ball or setting up a goal and playing soccer.

What about your little one?
He just takes off in his walker and chases, follows, and bounces a ball — his favorite toy. On rainy days or days when it’s too hot outside, we build forts inside. We make little treats like banana chocolate chip cookies using Hershey’s recipes. These are the little ways we engage the whole family. We also have a trampoline and play games like tag or hide-and-seek.

Will you encourage your sons to play sports?
Definitely. Having played my whole life, I’ve been able to see firsthand the benefits of sports. There are so many life lessons that transcend the playing field, such as teamwork, leadership, discipline, and sacrifice. My older son is playing T-ball now and we’ll see if he likes it. There is so much pressure at a young age to be part of individual and team sports, but whatever his passions are, we’ll let him decide what he wants to do.

You showed the world that it’s possible to be feminine and an athlete. What’s your message for little girls who want to play with dolls but who also want to get dirty?
I loved having a bow in my hair and I did wear makeup on the mound, but to each her own. You can still compete and be whoever you want to be, in whatever makes you feel comfortable. One of the greatest things about sports is the diversity within it. There’s room for everything. It doesn’t discriminate against anybody. It’s about ability and having fun, being outside, being active. Off the softball field, I always tell young kids, young girls especially, to find their gift and run with it. We’re all made differently. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Instead of constantly comparing ourselves with others, find your gifts and let them shine.

What did you learn from being an athlete that applies to motherhood?
Sacrifice and discipline. Also, not to take things seriously. With my 6-year-old, I may say, “Crying will only get you a snotty nose and all worked up over nothing.” As an athlete and a mother, you just have to let loose and have fun with your kids while being a kid with them.

Read More Parents.com Olympics Coverage

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

CDC: 1 in 13 Pregnant Women Say They Drink Alcohol
A government survey shows 1 in 13 pregnant women drink alcohol and some even go on binges. (via AP)

U.S. Whooping Cough Cases Could Be Worst In More Than 50 Years
Whooping cough is causing the worst epidemic seen in the United States in more than 50 years, health officials said Thursday, and they’re calling for mass vaccination of adults. The epidemic has killed nine babies so far, and nearly 18,000 cases already have been reported nationwide this year. (via TIME)

Entire Genetic Sequence of Individual Human Sperm Determined
Stanford University researchers have sequenced the entire genomes of 91 human sperm from one man. The results provide a glimpse into naturally occurring genetic variation in one individual and are the first to report the whole-genome sequence of a human gamete — the only cells that become a child and through which parents pass on physical traits. (via Science Daily)

In Utero Exposure to Diesel Exhaust A Possible Risk Factor for Obesity
Pregnant mice exposed to high levels of air pollution gave birth to offspring with a significantly higher rate of obesity and insulin resistance in adulthood than those who were not exposed to air pollution. These findings suggest a link between diesel exhaust exposure in utero and bulging waistlines in adulthood. (via Science Daily)

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Sesame Street and Cookie Monster Spoof “Call Me Maybe”

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The popularity of Carly Rae Jepsen’s song “Call Me Maybe” is undeniable. Jepsen’s original video for the song has been seen almost 150 million times on YouTube and it has spawned countless spoofs.

But just when we thought we had seen all of the “Call Me Maybe” parodies of note, Cookie Monster surprised us with his own take on the summer anthem: “Share Me Maybe.”

We love Cookie’s singing and dancing skills, but we’re most impressed that he remembers the importance of sharing — a difficult skill for monsters and toddlers. Great job, Cookie!

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

‘No Child’ Law Whittled Down by White House
In just five months, the Obama administration has freed schools in more than half the nation from central provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, raising the question of whether the decade-old federal program has been essentially nullified. (via NY Times)

Schizophrenia, Autism May Be Linked in Families
Families with a history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are also more likely to have a child with autism, new research from Sweden and Israel suggests. (via Reuters)

Does Being an Intense Mom Make Women Unhappy?
According to a new study, women who believe in intensive parenting — i.e., that women are better parents than men, that mother should be child-centered, and that children should be considered sacred and are fulfilling to parents — are more likely to have negative mental health outcomes. (via ScienceDaily)

Video: Watch a Face Formed in Womb
An eerie animation based on scans of a developing embryo has captured the formation of the face in the womb. The video, produced for the BBC series “Inside the Human Body,” reveals how sections of the face grow and fit together like a puzzle just three months after conception. (via ABC News)

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Mother’s Blood Shows Birth Defects in Fetal DNA
Researchers said they were able to sequence the entire genome of a fetus using only a blood sample from the mother, an advance in the effort to find noninvasive ways for expectant parents to determine if their babies will be born with genetic conditions. (via Fox News)

Smoking Mothers’ Embryos ‘Grow More Slowly’
French academics in an IVF clinic took regular pictures of an egg from the moment it was fertilized until it was ready to be implanted into the mother. At all stages of development, embryos from smokers were consistently a couple of hours behind, a study showed. (via BBC News)

Too Much Coffee Could Hurt Women’s Chances of IVF Success
Women who drank five or more cups of coffee a day were about 50% less likely to get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization than non-drinkers, according to a recent Danish study. The authors noted it was “comparable to the detrimental effect of smoking.” (via TIME)

Company Studying OxyContin’s Effect in Children
The maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin confirms that a clinical trial is currently underway to measure the opioid’s effects in children. Although doctors can prescribe OxyContin off-label to pediatric patients, the drug — which was overwhelmingly tested in adults — is not approved for use in children by the Food and Drug Administration. (via CNN)

Premature Birth May Raise Risk for Mental Illness, Study Reports
Young adults born very premature — at less than 32 weeks’ gestation — were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized for schizophrenia or delusional disorders, almost three times as likely for major depression, and more than seven times as likely for bipolar illness. (via NY Times)

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