Jeremy Olson writes about children and families, and is an overscheduled father of two. His blog tackles the best and worst of parenting, families, health and love. He wants to hear from you - what's going on in your house?

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Child custody reform bill inching close to passage

Posted by: Jeremy Olson Updated: May 10, 2012 - 1:17 PM

Update: On late Wednesday night, the Senate voted 46-19 in favor of the bill that would increase the presumption of time divorcing parents should each get with their children. Under the bill now before the governor -- a divorcee himself -- courts would presume that each parent is entitled to 35 percent of custody of their children. The remaining 30 percent would be negotiated, or the divorcing parents would reach their own child custody agreement.

With attention fully on the Vikings stadium issue, a bill that would change child custody proceedings for divorcing parents in Minnesota is quietly inching its way closer to the governor's desk.

The latest version of HF322 would simply increase the presumed time each divorcing parent would get with his or her kids from 25 percent to 35 percent. (The remaining 30 percent of time would be figured out through mediation or divorce proceedings.) The Senate held a second reading of the bill Monday.

Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, had initially authored the bill with more complex reforms that would affect the calculations of child support payments. She also wanted to create a presumption of true shared custody -- at 45.1 percent for each parent. The bill also included a new concept for Minnesota law -- virtual parenting time -- and would have required courts to consider the use of wireless and video technology to help children remain connected to both of their parents. A version of her bill with these provisions passed the House last month by an 80-53 vote.

Those concepts don't exist in the bill before the Senate. While Scott said that was somewhat disappointing, she would be happy with the passage of a bill that would take an incremental step toward shared custody. The percentages in law are just starting points for negotiations. But Scott said she felt 25 percent is too low, and encourages parents to fight too much in divorce proceedings to claim the remaining time with their children. A presumption of shared custody, she argued, would compel more constructive negotiations.

Not everyone agrees. In committee hearings, opponents argued that a presumption of shared custody is unrealistic and potentially harmful if it requires children to ping-pong back and forth between parents too much. They argued that a move toward shared custody might be easier on parents, but might not necessarily be in the best interests of their kids.

Ex-Viking QB endorses concussion screening for young athletes

Posted by: Jeremy Olson Updated: August 19, 2011 - 12:28 PM

Brad Johnson, the former Vikings QB, is at Dick's Sporting Goods in Richfield from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. today (Friday) to promote the use of ImPACT concussion screening by young athletes.

While concussion screening has become standard for pro and college teams, Johnson said it remains "uncharted territory" for many youth sports organizations. He hoped his advocacy would encourage more teams and athletic clubs to use it, and to be cautious when young athletes suffer head injuries.

"It's a no-brainer," he said. "I've got two boys, they're 8 and 10."

Dick's has created the Protecting Athletes through Concussion Education (PACE) program, by which it will fund ImPACT concussion screening at more than 3,000 schools (with the goal of screening 1 million kids). When athletes sustain injuries, they take the ImPACT test again and then compare their latest scores with their original baseline scores. A variation suggests that an athlete is still suffering from concussion symptoms and in need of rest.

To get an idea of what the test is like, remember these four words:

king, sand, fire, bird

More on that later.

Concussions are being taken more seriously in Minnesota. Several high schools and colleges in the state have been using ImPACT, which helps doctors and athletic trainers decide when athletes can safely return to play. Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law this summer that requires concussion training for coaches and sets limits on when athletes with concussions can play again.

Dick's has been hosting ImPACT promotional events with NFL players across the country. Johnson was a late sub for John Randle, the former Viking who couldn't make today's event due to a family emergency. Johnson said he suffered a severe concussion once, losing consciousness after a collision during a basketball game at Florida State. He said the injury caused him to forget the entire offensive playbook, and to flunk a math final for which he had been studying.

 

 

In his pro football career, Johnson admitted there were times when hits caused him to become forgetful. He said he is glad that the NFL and other organizations are using ImPACT and taking concussions more seriously.

"I've been in football games where I was asking the running back, 'which way are you going?'" he said. "It's a part of sports where you've got to suck it up and play through some stuff. But then there's also the part of sports where there can be an injury that is damaging for a lifetime."

Johnson now coaches a varsity basketball team in Georgia and his son's fifth grade football team. Having access to reliable concussion testing should make it easier for volunteer coaches and youth coaches to be cautious and to pull injured children from games or practices until they are checked out, he said.

So back to those words you were supposed to remember. No peeking. Look below and try to recall which ones you saw on the list before.

queen, sand, blaze, duck

This was a crude example -- based on my recollection from taking the baseline test a few years ago -- but you get the idea of how the test works. The level of concentration necessary is going to be tough for athletes with concussion symptoms. So they won't be able to fake it and convince their coaches they are OK to play right away.

Top baby names in Minn.: Mason, Ava

Posted by: Jeremy Olson Updated: May 10, 2011 - 11:37 AM

Minnesota loves its Masons and its Logans. Both names rank top five for the most popular baby boy names in the state in 2010, even though those names only rank 12th and 17th, respectively, on the U.S. list. The state version of the most popular 2010 names was released Tuesday by the Social Security Administration.

Here are the top 10 lists for comparison:

Rank Top Boy Names, 2010, MN  Top Boy Names, 2010, US  Rank Top Girl Names, 2010, MN  Top Girl Names, 2010, US
1 Mason Jacob 1 Ava Isabella
2 Ethan Ethan 2 Olivia Sophia
3 William Michael 3 Sophia Emma
4 Owen Jayden 4 Isabella Olivia
5 Logan William 5 Emma Ava
6 Jack Alexander 6 Abigail Emily
7 Samuel Noah 7 Ella Abigail
8 Jacob Daniel 8 Addison Madison
9 Jackson Aiden 9 Grace Chloe
10 Carter Anthony 10 Emily Mia
 

Interesting that Minnesota only shares three names in common with the U.S. list of most popular boy names. Owen and Carter barely rank top 50 in the U.S. No doubt Minnesota's larger white population, compared to other states, has an influence on which names reach the top of the list. But its Scandinavian roots don't exactly show up, even in the top 100 list. No Sven, no Ole or Lena, no Kirsten. Not even an Erik, or Eric, for that matter.

Politics don't matter much, either. Neither of Minnesota's rumored candidates for president, Tim Pawlenty or Michele Bachmann, cracked the state's top 100 lists for boy and girl names. (Their names didn't make the Iowa list, either, but at least Timothy ranked 110th among boy names in New Hampshire!)

What does show up is the influence of pop culture. Does the popularity of Carter in Minnesota owe to dads who were star-struck by Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter? Brooklyn didn't crack the top 100 list until 2004, but the name ranked 29th last year -- when Brooklyn Decker made the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

The rising popularity of the boy name Bentley (82nd in Minnesota, 101st in the U.S.) apparently owes to a reality TV show in which a teen-age mom's baby bears that name.

Levi likewise has become popular again, perhaps because of headlines featuring Levi Johnston and his on-again, off-again relationship with Bristol Palin. Levi shot up from 51st in 2009 in Minnesota to 32nd last year. Bristol doesn't crack the state's top 100 list, though.

Names that dropped off Minnesota's top 100 in 2010: Ashton, Aidan, Caden, Cody, Gage, Jonah, Kaden, Kevin, Lincoln and Preston. Also Alivia, Annika, Bailey, Greta, Isabel, Jasmine Kaitlyn, Keira, Kendall, Lyla, Maria, Mckenna and Sadie.

Names that weren't on the top 100 in 2009 but made the 2010 list: Asher, Bentley, Calvin, Easton, Emmett, Hudson, Miles, Ryder and Tanner. Also Aaliyah, Ashlyn, Brielle, Brynn, Clara, Elise, Harper, Hazel, Jocelyn, Khloe, Naomi, Norah, Rylee and Teagan.

 

      

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