How NORAD became the world’s official Santa-tracker

Santa Claus norad

An interesting article I came across from Los Angeles Times, written by Karen Kaplan.

U.S. Northern Command Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Charles D. Luckey and volunteers take phone calls from children around the world. A misprint in a newspaper advertisement kicked off NORAD’s Santa-tracking activities 60 years ago.

December 25, 2015, 5:44 a.m.

It was December 1955, the height of the Cold War, when the red phone on Col. Harry Shoup’s desk at the Continental Air Defense Command began to ring.

Only an elite few knew the number. Odds were good that a four-star general from the Pentagon was on the other end of the line.

Shoup reached for the phone.

“Yes, sir. This is Col. Shoup,” he said.

No response.

“Sir? This is Col. Shoup.” Pause. “Sir, can you read me all right?”

That’s when Shoup heard the little girl’s voice.

“Are you really Santa Claus?”

For the last 60 years, officials at the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., have tracked Santa’s whirlwind tour across the globe to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. Nearly 9 million people from more than 200 countries are expected to check in with NORAD’s Santa-tracking website before they go to bed on Christmas Eve.

And it all began with that phone call.

As Shoup later recalled in a home video, his first response to the unlikely query was that someone was pulling his leg — and he wasn’t amused.

“I said, ‘Would you repeat that please?'” he replied.

“Are you really Santa Claus?”

That’s when he realized two things: Something had gone wrong with his phone, and the question was genuine.

So he told the little girl on the other end of the line that he was, indeed, Santa Claus. Relieved, she informed him that she would be leaving him food by her fireplace, plus treats for his reindeer as well.

“I said, ‘Oh boy, they sure will appreciate that!’”

Then Shoup asked to speak to her mother. That’s how he learned that a Sears, Roebuck & Co. advertisement in the local newspaper had invited kids to call Santa at ME 2-6681 — the number for the red phone.

It was a misprint, of course, but that didn’t stop kids from flooding the line all the way until Christmas. Shoup assigned a couple of airmen to answer the line and act like St. Nick, Shoup’s daughter Pamela Farrell recounted to StoryCorps.

After a few weeks, someone at the Continental Air Defense Command (which is now NORAD) had an inspired idea. He went to the giant glass board where airmen tracked the planes in U.S. or Canadian airspace and added a drawing of a sleigh with eight reindeer. They were headed south from the North Pole.

Shoup studied the board. Then he picked up his phone, his other daughter, Terri Van Keuren, told StoryCorps.

“He called a local radio station and said, ‘This is the commander of the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object — why, it looks like a sleigh!’”

After that, Van Keuren added, stations would call every hour to ask for the latest on Santa’s whereabouts.

The military’s Santa-tracking efforts have become considerably more elaborate since 1955. NORAD’s online tracker plays Christmas tunes while flying reindeer pull a red sleigh over images of the Earth provided by NASA. The site shows Santa’s last stop and gives an ETA for his next destination. It also keeps a running tab of the number of gifts delivered.

Those who find websites passé can download the NORAD Tracks Santa app from the iTunes store, follow @NoradSanta on Twitter, “like” NORAD’s tracker on Facebook or keep tabs through a variety of other social media sites.

More than 70,000 children still call NORAD to talk to Santa on a toll-free line — (877) HI-NORAD or (877) 446-6723 — and another 12,000 or so send e-mails to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com.

All of this would have been impossible for Shoup to imagine as he spoke to the little girl who inadvertently kicked the whole thing off 60 years ago.

Before handing the phone to her mother, the girl asked a question that was certainly appropriate for an Air Force colonel: How is it possible for Santa to visit so many houses in a single night?

Years later, Shoup still remembered his answer: “I said, ‘That’s the magic of Christmas.’”

You can follow Karen Kaplan on Twitter @LATkarenkaplan and also ‘like’ Los Angeles Times Science and Health on Facebook.

Have you been tracking Santa with your kids or you’ve already told them that Santa is not real?

 

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Is Your Child Eating Too Much Salt?

Kids Eat too much salt

Whenever I eat at my parents’ or at the in-laws’, I always think the food has too much salt. And what’s worrying is that I’m the only one! Everyone keeps telling me I have a problem with my taste buds! You know what? I found out that I DID! It was my taste buds because I wasn’t used to eating that much salt in food. It’s all relative: my parents and in laws find the salt level ‘normal’ but for me it is not. It’s all a question of being used to salt. That’s why I am so amazed when mums tell me they add salt to their babies’ food when they start on solids, as early as 5 to 6 months old! They argue they want to make sure the baby likes the food by making it more tasty. What they do not know, unfortunately, is that babies do not need additional salt and they are the ones who are getting them used to that taste!

The Health Foundation in Australia recommends that an adult consumes less than 6 grams of salt a day, that’s about 1 teaspoon. And we are talking here not only about salt that we add to food when cooking but also to hidden salt in all the foods that we eat. The Health Foundation aims at reducing premature death and suffering from heart, stroke, and blood vessel disease in Australia. It warns about the high intake of salt which can increase blood pressure and lead to a high risk of many other diseases. It is alarming to know that the average Australian consumes about 9 grams of salt everyday. I don’t always check the labels of food products that I buy but I always try to buy healthy food and avoid processed food and take aways as these are so high in salt.

There is now evidence that a high intake of salt in children also influences their blood pressure and can lead them to develop many diseases later in life such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis and even obesity. How children eat when they are young heavily influences their food choices and likings in later life. If they have been used to eating salty food, this is what they will like later in life. It is better for them not to be encouraged to develop a preference for salt when they are little in order to avoid exposing them to all the health risks related to high salt intake. Children should rather be encouraged to eat healthy snacks such as fresh fruits, dried fruits, fresh vegetable sticks and yoghurt. Their food should be cooked without salt if possible. There is already natural salt in vegetables and the taste of other foods such as meat, chicken, etc. can be enhanced by adding spices and herbs. I have tried it and it does work. It is all a question of getting used to eating less salt or no salt at all. If you do it gradually then very soon you will find it hard to eat out or to buy take away!

According to the Health Foundation and other health institutions this is how much salt children can eat per day in order to stay healthy and to avoid risks linked to over-consumption of salt.

Age Maximum Salt Intake
0-6 months <1g / day
6-12 months 1g / day
1-3 years 2g / day
4-6 years 3g / day
7-10 years 5g / day
11 years and above 6g / day

Babies’ kidneys are too immature to deal with added salt and anyway, they require very tiny amount daily. Both breast milk and baby formula consist of that required amount of salt and do not need any added salt to their food. When babies start on solids, although their food may taste very bland to us (remember it’s all a question of being used to salt), salt must not be added. As far as possible it is best to feed baby home made food and avoid processed food as even sauces and other stocks contain too much added salt. 75% of our salt intake come from the ready-made and processed foods. It is always important to check the nutritional information on food products that you plan to give your children and choose those with low salt content. Be mindful of products such as bread, baked beans, crisps, olives, cheese and even biscuits which already contain salt. When choosing breakfast cereals, make sure you are choosing one which has a low salt level. I used the recommendations of Choice Magazine for my baby. It compares various products and lists their salt and sugar levels.

When eating out, be mindful what you are feeding your child. A large portion of chips can contain over 1g of salt and 4 slices of bread can provide 2g of salt; so in only one meal your child can eat much more salt that he is required to eat over a few days!You can use the following as a guide: food containing more than 0.6g of sodium per 100g is considered as high in salt.

Making sure your child doesn’t eat too much salt means you’re also trying to ensure that he doesn’t develop a taste for salty food; this will makes him less likely to eat too much salt as an adult. As mentioned earlier, if you are already giving your child too much salt, just decrease it gradually. It would be a good idea to do it for the family as a whole at the same time. The whole family will benefit from it. It makes so much sense that salt is often referred to as the slow poison and we definitely don’t want that for us nor for our kids, do we?

Sleep Training Baby: some tips

Baby self settles
One cannot imagine the importance of sleep until he/she is deprived of it. First time parents know exactly what I’m saying here. The first six months following the birth of my daughter, I was totally sleep deprived and nothing seemed enjoyable anymore. I was so tired all the time. Everyday I secretly prayed for my baby to sleep at night so that we could both be happy and healthy. I continuously told myself one day she would just start to sleep by herself. I never heard about self-settling, never heard about sleep props, never heard about growth spurts and couldn’t even imagine of her being able to put herself to sleep.

Then we discovered Ngala (an organisation in Western Australia), which helps parents whose babies have sleep issues, among others. I learnt how sleep patterns vary according to baby’s age, about sleep schedules, sleep routines and the whole lot! I started to read extensively about ‘sleep’ and with some advice from a friend and the help of my husband, we managed to train our baby to self settle. Some research and organisations support using self-settling techniques, particularly after three to four months old, when baby has developed the circadian rhythm. On the other hand, there is also research that totally condemn it (Read about what Sarah Ockwell-Smith has to say). I believe it’s up to the parents to decide what works best for their baby as each baby is different. Some babies do not even need to be taught self-settling techniques, some take quite long to learn it and some would start to do it straight away.

Although she could self soothe, it took my baby almost 19 months to start to sleep through the night. I could only have a decent night sleep after 19 months following her birth! That may seem surreal to some while I’m certain that even after 19 months many babies (and parents) still wake up at night. It will definitely help parents to read about self-settling techniques, sleep props and growth spurts. There are numerous websites out there but I can suggest some I have used and which I still go back to.
Ngala website

The secret of Good Sleepers PDF from Ngala

Raising Children website

Baby Centre Australia website

To this date however I still wonder if I have done the right thing. Would you recommend using self-settling techniques?