Kars4Kids Jingle: At Last, A Fan!

Everyone hates the Kars4Kids jingle. Well, almost everyone. We do have a few hardcore fans.

Take Jamie Smith’s baby, for instance. Jamie posted the following clip to the Kars for Kids Facebook page with the comment, “I don’t know why but, My baby is obsessed with the kars4kids commercial, lol.”

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But hey, I’m not really surprised. My eldest is now 34 years old and I still remember the text of her favorite book when she was oh, about 6 months old. “Little chick takes a ride. It’s lunchtime for Squirrel!”

We, the wife and I, must have read that book to our daughter at least 8,000 times. We could recite the lines in our sleep. Which was a good thing at the time because we were SO sleep deprived.

Kids latch onto things and hold on fiercely. They like the familiar. It comforts them to know what to expect from an environment that puzzles them at every turn.

They like simple rhymes and melodies and single-syllable words. So yeah, we can see where a six month-old baby might fall in love with our jingle. We respect that because really, it’s a force of nature.

You can’t argue with a baby. You can only give in.Mom earplugs

Jamie, on behalf of the entire Kars4Kids family, my colleagues and I would like to offer you our sympathies for the upcoming months when you will be subjected to our jingle ad infinitum. May we suggest a REALLY GOOD pair of earplugs?

*sigh*

Kid-Friendly Linguine With No-Cook Pasta Sauce

It’s summer and you know you should do some kind of activity with the kids. But it’s HOT. Sounds like the perfect time to teach the kids how to whip up some kid-friendly linguini with no-cook pasta sauce!

The sauce gains flavor as it marinates (photo credit: Varda Epstein)
The sauce gains flavor as it marinates (photo credit: Varda Epstein)

This is a great recipe to have in your repertoire. The longer the sauce ingredients marinate, the better the pasta. So you can leave the sauce in a covered bowl on your counter until just before you plan to eat. All you have to do is cook the pasta, drain, and mix with the sauce.

But being make-ahead is not the only benefit to this recipe. There’s no slow-cooking red sauce to heat up your kitchen and because the sauce is uncooked, it’s lighter and fresher tasting. It’s the taste of summer in a bowl. The colors remain brighter, too, with their red, white, and green echoing the colors of the Italian flag.

The fresh basil is packed with vitamin E, of course, and the bright herbaceous flavor is irresistible in summer, when it can seem too much effort to eat. Extra bonus: because your children are making this dish, they’ll be eager to eat it, even if they usually shy away from herbs or tomatoes.  What could be bad?

A six year-old should be able to prepare the sauce ingredients with some guidance from a parent or older sibling. You can cook the pasta yourself and toss it with the sauce. Make sure you take photos of your proud little cook, honing his or her knife skills!

Kid-Friendly Linguine With No-Cook Pasta Sauce

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
  • 4 large tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 ½ pound linguine, uncooked

Method:

  1. Put first seven ingredients into large serving bowl. Stir to combine. Allow to sit for at least an hour and a half at room temperature.
  2. Cook linguine according to package instructions. Drain. Toss with sauce. Serve.

Expectant Moms Turn To Doctor Google

Expectant moms are turning to Doctor Google for advice. That is, they are seeking answers to their questions about pregnancy that they can’t get in the early weeks of their pregnancies. That’s because the first prenatal visit for a mother-to-be generally takes place at eight weeks into the pregnancy.

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That’s pretty late in the game, especially with early pregnancy tests easily available over the counter at drugstores everywhere. Women find out they’re pregnant and then have to wait for two months to get answers to their questions. Is it any wonder they’re excited and curious? Is it any wonder that in the absence of access to a medical expert, moms-to-be turn to the Internet seeking the information they crave?

Penn State researchers discovered that the trend toward getting pregnancy information online is more common than one might have thought. But it’s not that women are happy about turning to Google for answers to their early pregnancy questions. Jennifer L. Kraschnewski, an assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine discovered that expectant moms were annoyed at being forced to turn to the web with their questions. “We found that first-time moms were upset that their first prenatal visit did not occur until eight weeks into pregnancy. These women reported using Google and other search engines because they had a lot of questions at the beginning of pregnancy, before their first doctor’s appointment,” said Kraschnewski.

Worse yet, even after the first prenatal visit to the obstetrician took place, women still found themselves turning to the Internet, whether to search engines or social media, with myriad questions. Mostly because the literature dispensed to them by their doctors was found wanting. The women discovered they still had more questions than answers.

Expectant Moms Turn To Doctor Google

The researchers involved in the Penn State study concluded that prenatal care hasn’t really changed all that much, in spite of technology. The schedule for prenatal visits has, in fact, remained much the same over the past century. The funny thing is that this isn’t at all what the researchers set out to find. Originally, Kraschnewski and her team were attempting to collate information in order to develop an app for smartphones that women could make use of during their pregnancies. Only by accident did the researchers happen on the information that women felt dissatisfied with the way their prenatal care had been structured.

In this study, the researchers looked at 17 expectant women over the age of 18 who owned smartphones. The women were placed into four different focus groups. The major finding was that the majority of the women felt that prenatal visits don’t really address the needs of the individual pregnant woman so that expectant moms felt forced to use technology to fill in the blanks of their prenatal education.

In addition to this fact, however, the research team found that women were dissatisfied with the information available to them over the Internet as well as by the information provided to them by their obstetricians. The pamphlets the women received at their first prenatal visits, for instance, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” were way outdated. On the other hand, the medical information available online is not regulated, so that the quality and accuracy of the information varied widely.

Expectant Moms Turn To Doctor Google

Still, the women mainly preferred watching video clips, social media, apps, and websites to get their pregnancy information. They liked getting information in the varied formats available thanks to technology. “This research is important because we don’t have a very good handle on what tools pregnant women are using and how they engage with technology,” said Kraschnewski, who is also affiliated with  the Penn State Institute for Diabetes and Obesity. “We have found that there is a real disconnect between what we’re providing in the office and what the patient wants.”

Kraschnewski underlined the problems inherent in the unregulated information available to patients through Google by citing a 2008 study on search engines and common pregnancy terms. This earlier study found that while the most common pregnancy terms generated millions of hits, fewer than 4% of the websites cited in the search engine results for these terms had been created by or developed under the auspices of actual physicians. “Moving forward, in providing medical care we need to figure out how we can provide valid information to patients,” said Kraschnewski. “We need to find sound resources on the Internet or develop our own sources.”

 

Nearsighted and Brainy? Go Outside

“Nearsighted” and “brainy” have long gone together. They’re every bit as much a thing as “ditzy” and “blond.”

How ever much you shake your head at that, think about it: if you were given an assignment to draw a studious nerd, er, person, wouldn’t you draw shutterstock_155109122a guy with glasses and a pocket protector (cowlick and protractor optional)?

Sure you would.

Now I live in a house filled with readers. It was something we could anticipate—the wife and I—that sooner or later, a trip to the ophthalmologist would end in a prescription for spectacles, to correct the myopia that was bound to occur in our children, as it had in their parents before them.

We tried to stop it, tried to forestall the inevitable issue of four-eyed children, their perfect little faces marred by the addition of (designer!) plastic frames and lenses. We told them not to read under the covers with flashlights after lights out. We told them not to sit too close to the TV. But none of it worked.

A new study suggests we were on the wrong track. It seems myopia (nearsightedness) is about spending more time in school and getting a higher education. At least these are the two factors that were found to be associated with both a higher prevalence and a greater severity of myopia. The study, performed by researchers at the University Medical Center of Mainz, Germany, was just published in Ophthalmology, a journal associated with the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The research trial is unique for suggesting that a person’s environment may contribute more to nearsightedness than genetics.

Apparently, more people are nearsighted than ever before. So it’s no longer just about looking like a nerd—it’s become a global health issue and an economic one, as well. Severe myopia is one of the chief causes of visual impairment, glaucoma, and premature cataracts.

Just how prevalent is nearsightedness? It seems that in the U.S., approximately 42% of the population is nearsighted. But it’s even worse in the more developed countries in Asia, where some countries have myopia rates as high as 80%! The fact that the rate is rising quickly suggests that environmental factors are in play. Some of the environmental factors that have been implicated in nearsightedness include close work (think embroidery, computer work, and reading), limited time spent out of doors, living in the city, and level of education.

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In an attempt to pin down the link between the development of nearsightedness and education, the researchers examined 4,658 Germans aged 35-74, eliminating those with cataracts as well as those who had experienced refractive surgery. The results of their research, entitled the Gutenberg Health Study, found that the incidence of myopia increased as the level of education rose.

Among the findings:

  • 24% of the participants with no high schooling or vocational training were found to be myopic
  • 35% of high school and vocational school graduates were myopic
  • 53% of those with college graduate degrees were myopic

But there’s more. Nearsightedness wasn’t only associated with higher learning but with those who spent more years in school (think flunking, if you like—or just plain old graduate studies—either way, it comes out to more years in school). The severity of nearsightedness worsened for every year spent in class!

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Not convinced? So okay, the researchers also took a look at the effect of 45 genetic markers in relation to nearsightedness, but just didn’t find a significant link to genetics as a factor in the degree of myopia as compared to the level of education.

What’s the solution? It may be as easy as pushing kids out the door. It seems that recent studies, say over the past half a decade or so, studies performed in Denmark and Asia using kids and young adults as participants, discovered that more time out of doors and a greater exposure to sunlight is linked to lower rates of nearsightedness.

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Lead author of the study, Alireza Mishahi, M.D., is erring on the side of caution, “Since students appear to be at a higher risk of nearsightedness, it makes sense to encourage them to spend more time outdoors as a precaution.”

One caveat from this dad: make sure you slather them all over with sunscreen and get them some decent sunglasses, too. You want to protect their skin and eyes from too much sun, which is just as bad as not enough.

*sigh*

Sometimes it seems impossible that we’ll ever manage to get the balance just right.

Sources:

[1] Increased Prevalence of Myopia in the United States Between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004. Arch Ophthalmol 2009;127(12):1632-1639
[2] The Association between Time Spent Outdoors and Myopia in Children and Adolescents, Ophthalmology 2012: 119(10): 2141-2151
[3] Evidence Mounts That Outdoor Recess Time Can Reduce the Risk of Nearsightedness in Children, AAO.org

Store Bought Granola Bars? You’ve Got Competition

Store bought granola bars? You’ve got competition. And that’s saying a lot, considering your homemade treats don’t have the built-in advantages of the ubiquitous but glitzy supermarket store bought breakfast bar.

You haven’t, for instance, set up a focus group for the purpose of finding out what they do and don’t like about your homemade cookies. You don’t Store-bought granola bars? You’ve got competition.have an advertising budget that runs to seven digits. And you certainly don’t pack your homely sweets in “convenient crush-proof packaging.”

That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Real cookies. You know. Those things your grandma used to make?

Cookies?? Who the heck has time to make THOSE?

But yeah. When you pull yet another box of those supermarket store bought granola bars off the shelf and pile it into your cart, you feel a little pang that might just be guilt. You could make those yourself, you’re thinking. You could make them at a third of the price. They’d be healthier and tastier.

And when you rush your kid out the door on a hectic Monday morning when NO ONE had time to eat breakfast and you shove another one of those store bought granola bars into his little hands saying, “Here. Eat this,” aren’t you just a wee bit disgusted with yourself?

Yeah. You are. But hey. What can you do? There’s just not enough time for you to do more.

Cookies are a lot of work.

Cookies. Grandma made them a long time ago. Your mother too. But that was before women were liberated and joined the workforce. Now, instead of wearing frilly aprons and cooking their little hearts out, women are no longer little and no longer in the kitchen. For the most part they’re in the office. In between dropping off the dry-cleaning, picking up the kids from daycare, and balancing their checkbooks.

It’s true. But do you honestly know ANYONE who doesn’t like cookies?

Of course you don’t. The person who doesn’t like cookies does not exist.

How’s About A Compromise?

So let’s talk a compromise. Let’s say that once in a while, you’ll make cookies. You’ll carve out the time, just as you do for romance with your husband, and quality time with your kids. You’ll find a way to do it, because, hey! You’re Superwoman. You can do everything.

Your husband believes that. And so do your kids.

So you’ll make cookies and they’ll be cookies TO DIE FOR. The other kids will be begging your kid for a taste. They’ll trade him things: marbles, a half-dead turtle, iPhone 5’s.

He’ll come home and tell you about it. And this big ole smile will light up your face and you will feel vindicated. For a while.

And when the cookies are gone, you can look to the right and left of you in the breakfast bar aisle of the supermarket before you stealthily slide another box of those store bought granola bars off the shelf and into your cart, covering it up with fresh kale leaves (seriously???) lest anyone see. Even though they all buy them too.

Chewy Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Date Cookies

These giant oatmeal cookies are irresistible with their full tablespoon of cinnamon goodness and moist chunks of dates. They’re healthy as well as filling. Small children will find half a cookie fills them up. They can save the other half for a snack—or perhaps for sharing with a very good friend!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (NOT quick-cooking oatmeal)
  • 3 cups roughly chopped moist dates

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Line 3 cookie sheets with baking parchment paper.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar in large bowl. Beat in honey and eggs until mixture is smooth.
  3. Sift flour, cinnamon, and salt together. Stir into creamed mixture with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add oats and chopped dates. Stir until well combined.
  5. Shape dough into 2-inch balls. Place 8 balls on each cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with your palm.
  6. Bake until lightly brown, around 15 minutes. As soon as you take the cookies out of the oven, carefully remove each cookie from the cookie sheets with the aid of a spatula. Place cookies on wire racks to cool.

Makes 2 dozen large cookies

 

Teens and Sudden Vegetarianism: When Teens Suddenly Veg Out

Teens and sudden vegetarianism. It goes like this:

You serve your daughter’s favorite meatloaf, expecting praise. Instead, she looks at her plate as though she’d been served a hefty portion of steaming cow manure. “Um, Mom?” she says. “I no longer eat the flesh of living creatures.”

Inwardly rolling your eyes, you try a snappy comeback, “No worries then. This cow’s been dead for at least 24 hours!”

“Oo-oh MOM!” she says, pushing her plate away with a hard shove. “I HATE YOU,” she says and storms away from the table and up to her bedroom where she slams the door for emphasis.

*sigh*

You’re used to it by now. A stud in her tongue? Par for the course. A tic tac toe board shaved into the side of her (purple) hair? No biggie.

And now, for the pièce de résistance, sudden vegetarianism.

Teens do this kind of stuff. You know that. But this is your teen and you have to deal with it.

Your first concern is whether her sudden vegetarianism isn’t just a cover-up for some sort of fad diet or eating disorder. In other words, you want to make sure her little rebellion doesn’t harm her health.Teens and Sudden Vegetarianism: When Teens Suddenly Veg Out

As it turns out, your concern is not out of place. For many teens, assuming a vegetarian diet is a way to avoid eating a whole bunch of foods without drawing attention to the fact that it’s really about food avoidance and not really about vegetarianism. It’s a way to say no thank you, as the food gets passed around, “I’m a vegetarian,” a universally accepted excuse.

A 2009 study led by a nutritionist, Ramona Robinson-O’Brien, affiliated with two academic institutions in Minnesota, found that vegetarian teens and young adults were less likely to be overweight but more likely to binge. While most of the teens in this study professed to lofty reasons for their vegetarianism (saving the animals/the environment), when questioned they were ultimately much more concerned with losing weight. Moreover, they didn’t realize that eating chicken (25% of the study subjects) broke their own rules, while up to 46% of the study participants had no problem eating fish.

Going back a bit further, a 2001 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded that the commonest reason teens supplied for vegetarianism was to either lose weight, or to prevent weight gain. Still other studies suggest that vegetarian teens are way more likely to try risky fad diets and unhealthy weight loss measures such as purging, while teens with diagnosed eating disorders are more likely to be vegetarians than any other age group in the general population.

The findings of these various studies on teens and vegetarianism suggest that parents should have a talk with teens that decide to become vegetarians, to determine the cause of this sudden, dietary turnaround. Perhaps your child saw a film about animals and it hit her: animals are living creatures—how can we eat them?? If that’s the sort of thing that’s going on with your child, you probably don’t have to worry about an eating disorder. But you do need to try to get your child to plan out her new style of eating so that she continues to get all the nutrients she needs for good health. Moreover, it’s going to require a whole new repertoire of supper recipes that suit your teen as well as the others in your family.

Of course, a lot depends on how far your child takes the vegetarian thing. Is she going to adopt a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet in which eggs and dairy products are included? That would make it a lot easier for you to ensure your teenager is getting much-needed nutrients. Or is your teen taking on a lacto vegetarian diet which includes milk products but no eggs? Slightly harder in terms of accommodating the family and in obtaining the minimum daily requirements of vitamins and other nutrients.

Last but not least there is the vegan diet thTeens and Sudden Vegetarianism: When Teens Suddenly Veg Outat excludes living creatures (meat, chicken, fish) and their byproducts (milk, cheese, eggs). This diet is the riskiest of all and makes it darned hard for your teen to get enough vitamin B12 and vitamin D. No matter which type of vegetarian diet your child chooses, it is wise to invest in a good multivitamin supplement and to make sure she uses it. It is almost impossible for a person to get enough vitamin B12 from plant sources alone. VeganHealth.org offers interesting (and persuasive) material on the subject (click HERE).

Vitamin B12, along with folic acid and iron, is one of the building blocks for making blood. Without enough B12, serious anemia can develop, along with symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, numbness, depression, and moodiness. Your biggest challenge (after checking for eating disorders) is in getting enough B12 into your child to prevent anemia.

Compared with keeping your child healthy, adapting meals to suit your teenager’s sudden vegetarianism may seem like a minor concern, but of course, it’s a very real issue, especially when the family has become accustomed to eating certain favorites on certain days of the week. Pleasing everyone is difficult. Some parents cope by keeping the meat separate for the family carnivores. You could, for instance, leave the meatballs on the side to add to spaghetti and red sauce. Or you could make a taco bar, leaving the ground meat separate from the other taco fixings.Teens and Sudden Vegetarianism: When Teens Suddenly Veg Out

What you really want to watch for are teens using vegetarianism as an excuse to avoid food groups they don’t enjoy, so that they end up with a nutrient deficient diet that is heavy on carbohydrates and junk food. Does your child’s “new diet” seem to consist mostly of pasta, bread, snack chips, cheese, and sweets? If so, see if you can’t have a talk (enlist your child’s physician, if necessary) about diet and health. It’s one thing to be a vegetarian and eat a lot of beans, pulses, tofu, leafy green vegetables, and other healthful foods, quite another to load up on white flour and white sugar and call your diet “vegan.”

If you’re the parent of a teen that has suddenly announced he or she is a vegetarian, what you may be seeking most of all are some tips and guidelines. Here are 8 great tips for coping with sudden teenage vegetarianism:

  1. Have your child checked out by a doctor and schedule regular check-ups to ensure she maintains an appropriate weight and is getting the full complement of vitamins and nutrients. You can ask the doctor to recommend a good supplement.
  2. Make sure your child is getting enough protein by serving pulses and legumes (beans, lentils, peas, tofu, and tempeh).
  3. Look for “calcium set” tofu and soy milk fortified with calcium.
  4. Use almond or cashew butter instead of peanut butter in cookies or spread on apple slices. These nut butters contain less protein than good old peanut butter, but they make up for it in a higher ratio of important minerals, for instance, zinc.
  5. When purchasing breads, grains, and cereals, choose whole grain items over bleached white and look for items fortified with iron.
  6. The right kinds of fats, such as long-chain Omega 3 fats are important for brain development. The best source is fish but if your child won’t eat it, make sure her diet includes olive oil, whole grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
  7. Make sure your teen eats vegetables and fruits with high concentrations of vitamin C to help with iron absorption, since the vegetarian diet is low in iron. Citrus fruits and broccoli are winners.
  8. Stock your pantry with healthy items so that an urge to nosh is answered with healthful treats, such as a handful of walnuts instead of a handful of corn chips.

Toilet-Training Regression: Who Else Wants Kids That Stay Dry?

Toilet-training regression has got to be among the top three universal parenting issues, along with teething, and getting babies to sleep through the night. That’s probably the most important thing to know about the subject: it’s not just you. It happens to most parents at one point or another.

The other important point to note is that there really is no difference in whether your child regresses at 3 years old or at 4. No matter when it happens, toilet-training regression boils down to the same underlying causes. More to the point, the strategy for dealing with the problem from the parents’ perspective is exactly the same.

Now we’re not talking about an occasional accident. That can happen to anyone. Unless it happens on a regular basis, there’s no reason to become alarmed. In fact, if the nursery school bus driver takes a longer route home on Thursdays and your daughter always gets off the bus with wet panties on a Thursday, it’s fairly clear what’s going on. You can ask the nursery school teacher to remind her to use the toilet before getting on the bus.

Clearly we’re not talking about that type of “regular” accident, but an ongoing, everyday occurrence in which a child fails to make it to the toilet after toilet-training has long been successfully past tense.

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So let’s begin at the beginning: it’s crucial to determine whether your child has a physical problem that is causing the regression. Does your child cry when she wets? Does she hold herself and grimace? A urinary tract infection (UTI) or constipation may make it difficult for your child to control urination (peeing) and defecation (bowel movements).

That said, while health issues must obviously be addressed with a visit to the pediatrician, perhaps the primary concern with toilet-training regression goes back even further. The real beginning starts with your reaction to an accident. Your job as a parent is to refrain from blaming or resenting your child for wetting or for a lack of bowel control. But of course, this is easier said than done.

Toilet-training regression, first of all, is a step back. That’s hard to take. No doubt you and your child worked hard at toilet-training and felt some pride at the accomplishment. It’s normal to look forward, not backward.

It feels like a failure for both of you.

In addition to feeling like your good hard work has been undone, there is the mess and the smell. There is the sense of embarrassment.

These feelings are understandable. Any parent would relate. But the better you are at NOT showing these feelings, the sooner your child will get back on track with toileting.

How Good An Actor Are You?

So here’s your chance to show your star quality—to find your inner Sarah Bernhardt. It may seem a little dishonest, essentially not being real with

Toilet-training regression
How much Sarah Bernhardt do you have in you as a parent?

your child, especially if you’ve always said you’d never lie to her, but keep in mind that the charade is for her sake. Only by persuading her that accidents are no big deal will you be able to get her past this time in her childhood. That means bucking up and showing how utterly unmoved you are by what has happened.

You can just note the fact that an accident has occurred, clean it up with your child’s assistance, and offer an encouraging word. For instance, you might say, “I see you’ve had an accident, let’s clean up. Can you put your underpants in the sink? No worries, soon you’ll be staying drying again, I’m sure.”

You need to be so chill. Just remain matter of fact and blasé. That’s the ticket to getting you both back to the high ground of dry underpants!

Now that we’ve ticked off health issues and appropriate parental reaction to accidents, it’s time to talk emotional cause. Cause is critical here because if you can identify the cause of the accidents, you gain the key to the solution.

The reason you want to eliminate physical cause is because that’s something that can generally be solved with a visit to the doctor. But the fact is, 9 times out of 10, toileting regression is emotional, rather than physical. And unlike a UTI, there’s no magic pill to make the emotions go away.

Not only is there no magic pill to make the emotions go away, there are so many possible emotional issues that could cause toileting regression that they are too numerous to, um, enumerate, as opposed to the possible physical problems that might cause accidents, which are not very many. Still, some examples of emotional causes can be cited, and may be used as a loose guide for parents seeking a cause for a child’s distress. The emotional causes have one thing in common: they result from major changes to the child’s life.

Some examples of life-changing issues that might cause toilet-training regression:

  • A parents’ divorce
  • The death of a loved one, such as a grandparent or even a pet!
  • Moving
  • Going to a new daycare center, nursery school, or elementary school
  • Bullying
  • Social problems with peers
  • Birth of a new sibling
  • A parent’s hospitalizationtoilet-training regression

Once you identify the cause that is behind the toilet-training regression, it becomes possible to address the cause. That doesn’t mean you can reverse the problem. You can’t exactly wind back the clock to before the time of a divorce, death, or birth. But you can talk about the situation with your child, show sympathy and patience. You can help your child work through the issue.

The thing is, that letting her know you know what’s bugging her, gets you halfway through the rough patch. The accidents are her way of telling you something is wrong. If you give her recognition and show her you understand, she may be able to stop “notifying” you about the problem. She may not feel the need to continue signaling you with her accidents. You already know what’s wrong, so there’s no need for her to keep wetting or making number two.

Children don’t have much control over their environments. Things seem to happen despite them. Parents divorce without consulting children. People move for the sake of a job sometimes despite the difficulty this will necessarily cause the other members of the family. Toileting is often the one area in which a child can exert control. So this is the natural place for the child to signal to the world that something is wrong, something that makes her feel a loss of control. This is the way a child says, “Look at me. I have a problem that needs solving. I’m in pain. I’m confused.”

An infant can only cry and the parents must guess at the source of discomfort. When a child is old enough to toilet-train, accidents may take the place of crying, especially when the child has no words for what is bothering her. She may not understand what divorce means. She just knows that the atmosphere is different and that one of her parents is less often at home. Something feels different.

“There ARE No Accidents”

The only way she has to express that is to regress in toilet-training. Which makes you wonder why they call them “accidents” to begin with. There’s usually nothing accidental about them at all. The issue is found in discovering the purpose!

A child having accidents needs extra attention and love. Yes, you may have to begin toilet training all over again, with treats and prizes and praise. We all wish there were a magic wand to wave instead because learning this parenting lesson is surely not easy.

You’ll need to take lots of deep breaths. Because this too, is part of being there for your child with unconditional love. It’s about loving your child enough to go backward, because sometimes going backward is the only way forward.

 

 

 

 

 

Make Kid Friendly Breakfasts to Go, Boost Your Child’s Brain Power

Who doesn’t want to make kid friendly breakfasts? We all want our kids properly fed before school, right? And we want them to like what we serve them. But how can you get a decent breakfast into your child when mornings are so hectic? The best answer is the portable breakfast that is grab and go.

By now, we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast, however, is likely the most problematic meal, as well. In many homes, chaos reigns in the early hours. There are kids to dress, not enough bathrooms, papers to gather, and a need to get on the road before morning traffic sets in (actually, mornings are far worse than this in most homes, but you get the idea).

So this being the case, how is a parent expected to get breakfast into a child, let alone, get her dressed and out the door before the school bus drives away without her. Not to mention nutrition: on those rare days your child leaves home with a full tummy, it is thanks to the companies that produce sugar-laden packaged cereals that only require a splash of milk to be called “breakfast.”

Advanced Planning

You know what’s coming next, don’t you? That age-old solution called “Advanced planning.” Ugh. There it is again: someone telling you to prepare something ahead. If you prepared in advance, everything the experts suggested, you’d likely find yourself in the Dark Ages. There aren’t enough hours in one day to do it all.

We know. But there just isn’t any way to get around it. So instead of fighting it, go with it and make it work. Make lists. Lots of lists. And follow through.

Schedule a time to stock the ingredients you need for the following breakfast recipes and schedule the time to prepare them. Here’s why:

  1. Kids need protein, omega-3 fats, and vitamin B, among other nutrients, to fuel their brains during the long school day. You don’t want them slumped over their geography books. You want them to have the energy and brain power to take in all the knowledge they can in the classroom. They get that from breakfast.
  2. If you send them off with food they don’t like, they won’t eat it. It’s as simple as that. If you put some thought into what they like and what they need, you’ll definitely find a way to satisfy both their nutrition requirements and their taste buds. There’s no way they are going to give away their breakfasts or toss them in the trash when you make them things like our Tropical Fruit Parfait.

By the way, the following recipes aren’t only for kids. Even adults will enjoy these breakfast treats and will find they have better concentration, improved memory, fewer mood swings, and more energy when they do. Here are four of our favorite healthy breakfasts to grab and eat on the run.

Tropical Parfait

2 servings

Use tall disposable see-through cups or clear reusable containers to show off the pretty layers. Add a plastic spoon and you and your child are good make kid-friendly breakfaststo go!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups diced, peeled tropical fruit (such as mango, pineapple, and kiwi)
  • 2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons minced candied ginger, plus more for the garnish, reserved.
  • 1 1/4 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 1 cup purchased granola

Instructions:

  • Mix first 3 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Divide half of yogurt between two cups.
  • Top the yogurt with the granola, divided evenly between the two cups.
  • Spoon fruit mixture over the granola, half for each cup.
  • Spoon half of the remaining yogurt over the fruit mixture in each cup.
  • Top with reserved chopped, candied ginger and serve.

Blueberry Banana Muffins

Makes 12

Your child’s eyes will light up when you offer these fruit-studded nutrient-dense breakfast muffins. You can whip them up in less than an hour and make kid-friendly breakfastsfreeze them for convenience.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unflavored soy milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (6-7 ounces, unthawed). You can also use rehydrated dried blueberries. Use 1/2 cup water and 1 cup dried blueberries. Leave in refrigerator for 12 hours before using.

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake papers. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to blend.
  • Place mashed bananas in large mixing bowl. Whisk or stir in soy milk, egg, canola oil, and lemon juice. Mix in the dry ingredients until just mixed, and then the blueberries. Place the batter into the prepared muffin tin, dividing batter evenly.
  • Bake the muffins until a tester, inserted into the center of a muffin tests clean, around 20 minutes. Turn the muffins out onto a cake rack and cool at least 10 minutes.
  • Cool completely before freezing. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Morning Milkshake

Makes 1 serving

Bananas are a wonderful source of potassium and vitamin B and the peanut butter adds some much-needed morning protein. Put the shake in a make kid-friendly breakfaststravel cup with a straw. This is a FUN breakfast!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vanilla soy or rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Homemade Granola Bars

Makes 16 to 24

Instead of buying the expensive, overly-sweet supermarket granola bars that have all sorts of additives, make your own to have some control over make kid-friendly breakfaststhe ingredients. Your kids will like them just as much, maybe even better! You’ll save money, too.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit or packaged dried fruit bits
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Instructions:

  • Heat oven to 350º F. Coat a 9- by 13-inch rectangular pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Melt the butter in large pot over low heat. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar, honey, whole wheat flour, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Transfer the mixture to baking pan. Using a sheet of waxed paper and the palms of your hands, press the granola firmly into pan, until it is level and of even thickness.
  • Bake 20 minutes until golden.
  • Allow granola bars to cool 1 hour in pan, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before cutting into rectangular bars.
  • Wrap individual bars in aluminum foil.

 

 

What Every Parent Should Know About Teenage Drinking at Home

Teenage drinking at home: are you under the impression that within reason, this is a good thing?

I know my parents thought so. They felt that if given sips of good liquor, we would relate to alcohol as something delicious to be had in moderation. That’s as opposed to tippling large quantities of drink for the sake of getting wasted.

Not that my parents were into drinking. They totally weren’t. In fact, I don’t even think their friends were into drinking, except for one woman they murmured about in low voices punctuated by the occasional tsk.

But my parents prided themselves on being good and generous hosts, so when there was a party, the liquor cabinet would be unlocked and there, revealed in all its glory, would be the four-tiered built-in, pull-out well-lit bar, with all the different sorts of glasses, swizzle sticks, and soda dispensers a tippler could desire.

Back then, there was none of this single malt scotch snobbery. Chivas Regal was considered top of the line. Ditto Bristol Cream Sherry, deemed  shutterstock_169020203elegant and therefore more appropriate to the ladies. Both these classics were present in my parents’ liquor cabinet, but there between them were such oddities as the tall-necked bottle of Galliano liqueur with its distinctive yellow color, and a wonderful chocolate liqueur from Switzerland with yummy cocoa nibs, to be drunk in small glasses as an aperitif. Whenever there was a party in our home, my siblings and I were given a choice of what we would like to drink and we could each have a modest portion of whatever we chose.

The liquor cabinet had a lock but we always had access to the key, because we also stored treats in the liquor cabinet; the kind of treats you eat while watching TV. It was understood that our parents trusted us not to abuse the privilege of access to liquor. For the most part, we never did.

Except once.

I was the youngest child at 11. My sister Margery was meant to mind me. She was 14.

Margery decided that my cultural education would remain incomplete until such time as I tasted a Harvey Wallbanger, which is basically vodka, Galliano, and orange juice. She mixed up two tall ones then and there. The next memory I have is of being passed out on the floor only to have my left index finger impaled by the spikes of my mother’s golf shoes. My sister had decided it was a necessary skill to learn how to walk in golf shoes, indoors on my mother’s new linoleum flooring. And since I was so rudely unaware of the importance of her learning experience, she decided to pretend I was simply part of the floor.

shutterstock_38317960

I have the scar on my finger to this day.

Interestingly enough, my mother came home right at that moment and found me crying and bleeding on the floor. Naturally, I wanted to lay the blame on my sister who was, after all, supposed to be taking care of me. “Margy made me drink Harvey Wallbangers and walked on my hand in your golf shoes,” I sobbed.teenage drinking at home

My sister did get in trouble, but not in as much trouble as one might have imagined. It was deemed that we had learned our lesson about drinking and could now be trusted to never become crapulous again.

Now I won’t say we never got tipsy after that, but certainly not at home, and certainly not until we were grown-ups. We enjoyed the taste of liquor and yes, the pleasant glow of having a buzz on. I won’t deny that this is true.

All this occurred to me as I tried to formulate a policy vis-à-vis how I would handle the subject of alcohol with my own children. On the one hand, genetics were on my side. I didn’t come from drinkers, nor did my wife. So that eliminated one risk factor for my children. Happily so.

On the other hand, I wondered about the parenting theory my parents subscribed to: allowing children to drink in moderation in the home. Did this serve to foster “a healthy attitude about alcohol?” And what does that mean, anyway, a healthy attitude about alcohol? Is there such a thing?

So I looked into the issue and found that there is a preponderance of evidence against the practice of allowing children to drink in moderation in the home under supervision.

Studies On Teenage Drinking At Home

For example, one study of children in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades whose parents let them drink at home had the steepest rise in drinking compared to their peers. See: Komro, K.A.; Maldonado-Molina, M.M.; Tobler, A.L.; et al. Effects of home access and availability of alcohol on young adolescents’ alcohol use. Addiction 102(10):1597–1608, 2007.

A second study found that teens allowed to drink at home will drink more than their peers when outside the home. See: van der Vorst; H., Engels, R.C.M.E; and Burk, W.J. Do parents and best friends Influence the normative increase in adolescents’ alcohol use at home and outside the home? Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 71(1):105–114, 2010.

A further study, showed that teens will drink less outside the home if their parents forbid drinking from an early age and who take care not to overindulge in drink themselves. See: van der Vorst, H.; Engels, R.C.M.E; Meeus, W; and Dekovic, M. The impact of alcohol-specific rules, parental norms about early drinking and parental alcohol use on adolescents’ drinking behavior. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47(12):1299–1306, 2006.

Lower Drinking Risk?

I came across only a single study that suggested that teens allowed a sip of a drink at a family gathering may have a lower risk factor for heavy drinking. See: Foley, K.L.; Altman, D.; Durant, R.H.; and Wolfson, M. Adults’ approval and adolescents’ alcohol use. Journal of Adolescent Health 35(4):7–26, 2004.

Taken as a whole, the literature on the subject is persuasive: teenage drinking at home is something that is best forbidden by their parents. Mom and Dad did a good job raising me. But the evidence suggests that my kids might not be as lucky as me and my siblings were in relation to drinking habits. The key to the liquor cabinet is therefore going into hiding.

I’d rather not take the chance.

 

 

Does Your Child Have These 7 Signs Of ADHD?

 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is, surprisingly, categorized as a mental health disorder, rather than as a learning disability. This in spite of the fact that the main manifestation of ADHD is that it can affect a child’s academic success. It is said, however, that ADHD is often “co-morbid” with learning disabilities. That is to say that a child with ADHD often has accompanying learning difficulties, as well.

In addition to affecting a child’s school performance, ADHD can also affect a child’s relationships with his peers.

ADHD

ADHD affects children all sorts of ways, and the signs of ADHD will be different in every child. That means that some cases of ADHD will escape unnoticed and undiagnosed. There are, however, some seven common behaviors that can suggest ADHD:

  1. Self-Absorption—A child with ADHD may find it difficult to place other people’s needs above himself. For example, a child with ADHD may not understand the concept of waiting for one’s turn in a game or activity. He doesn’t understand why he can’t take his turn now. If someone is talking and the child with ADHD wants to speak, he’ll simply interrupt the speaker. He doesn’t understand the concept of allowing the other person to finish his thoughts. His own thoughts are what is uppermost in his mind.
  2. Effusively Emotional—A child with ADHD may respond to a situation with excessive emotion. For instance, his temper tantrum may ADHDseem way out of proportion to the trigger. Or his laughter may continue way after everyone else has stopped laughing. He can’t seem to “lower the volume” on, or control his responses.
  3. Always in Motion—The child with ADHD may find it difficult to sit still. It helps him to get up, roam around the room, and then sit down again. Or he may tap his fingers or feet while sitting or squirm and wiggle the entire time.
  4. Leaves Tasks Unfinished—The child with ADHD may start out with the best intentions but ultimately may not be able to see projects through. He starts his homework but gets distracted or bored and goes on to something else before he manages to complete the work. The same goes for chores. A child with ADHD may be very excited about a project and then suddenly lose interest.
  5. Inability to Focus—A child with ADHD finds it difficult to stay focused. Given direct instructions, he may swear he heard you, but if you ask him what you said, he won’t have a clue.
  6. Carelessness—A child with ADHD may make many mistakes that on their own, would be unimportant. It is the accumulation of mistakes shutterstock_68372572that might have been avoided with a bit more care that may signal that a child has ADHD. These types of constant typos or small mistakes in carrying out instructions have to do executive planning. In most people, the brain remembers the correct way to carry out a task from past experience. In the child with ADHD, the brain may not remember so that the task seems new each time, and becomes awkward in its execution.
  7. Spaciness—In some children with ADHD, and often in girls with ADHD, the constant movement is absent and instead the child may seem quiet, dreamy, and out of touch with the classroom. There’s a certain lack of awareness, as if the child is a million miles away.

All children will exhibit one or the other of these behaviors from time to time. What you want to watch out for is the child that frequently displays these behaviors, singly or in combination. Then it’s time to consider the child’s academic performance and his social interactions.

There are many good treatments for ADHD and early intervention increases the effectiveness of these treatments. It’s best to have a child diagnosed by the age of 7 if there is a suspicion of ADHD. It may be possible to wean the child from ADHD medication before high school, if the medication is begun early on.

 

National Teacher Appreciation Day: I Love My Teacher Because

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day. Teachers often get a bad rap when they have to be strict or when they inevitably err, because hey! To err, is human. And yes, teachers are definitely humankind.

We can all remember teachers who were strict or mean. We can remember teachers that EMBARRASSED us. But most of us, if we try really hard (and we’re not trying to top each other while playing the game of, “Oh yeah? My teacher was so mean he or she fill in the blank“) can remember the truly awesome teachers who straightened us out, made us feel we had special talents, and made us feel like they CARED about us.

Those are the teachers we remember today, on National Teacher Appreciation Day, because face it, it takes a bit of effort to give credit where credit is due, but it’s all too easy to bash a person. Teachers take over where our parents stopped, every single school day for years on end. If we are holding down jobs, there was a terrific teacher in our pasts. If we remember when Columbus discovered America it is because a teacher remained patient with us. If our kids are having difficulties in class, we appreciate the kind of teacher who really listens and tries to help.

In that spirit, we decided to show you this clip which has kids tell you in their own fashion, why they love their teachers. It used to be we gave those kind of teachers shiny red apples. Today, we just post YouTube videos.


Apple or video clip, the sentiment remains the same.

Is there a special teacher in your life? Let her know. Tell her she’s making a difference in your life for the better. We know she’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness.