Category Archives: Parenting News

Dear Mr. Thompson, THANK YOU.

For the second time in as many weeks, there has been a story in the news about students’ lunch accounts being overdrawn and lunches being thrown away. Luckily, this most recent story had a happy ending. That’s because Kenny Thompson in Houston, TX decided to do something about it. When he learned that children at the elementary school where he was a mentor and tutor were eating cold cheese sandwiches or going without lunch because they didn’t have enough money in their accounts to pay for a hot meal, he decided to pay off all of the overdrawn accounts—to the tune of $465.

I was overcome when I read about what Mr. Thompson had done for those children—because I used to be one of them. There was a time growing up when my family struggled financially. My brother and I qualified for the free or reduced lunch program—it was the only way my mom could afford for us to have lunch everyday. Though I was by no means the only person I knew of in the lunch program, I was terribly embarrassed. So I either chose to skip lunch, saying I just wasn’t hungry, or I secretly used what little money I had saved to pay for my own lunch so that my friends wouldn’t know the truth. It’s been 20 years, and I can still remember how embarrassed I felt and how scared I was that I would be found out.

I ache to think how those children must feel when their trays full of healthy, hot food are thrown away in front of them, their shame for something over which they have no control put on display. I am beyond thankful that that was not common practice when I was in school, and I pray that my girls never have to endure such cruelty.

We try to teach our children empathy and compassion for those less fortunate, but this is the model they are seeing at school from adults who are supposed to help set an example. And we wonder why we are noticing more and more behavioral and emotional problems in kids today. I would challenge any adult to walk away from a similar humiliation unscathed and with their self-confidence and self-esteem fully intact. I am 32 years old—I have years of cognitive and emotional development on my side, and I think it would still reduce me to tears. Just think about how children process that type of behavior when they might not have the skills necessary to understand it or deal with it. Think about how they may emulate it in the future because they think it’s acceptable.

I understand that schools are businesses, with budgets and policies just like any other business. But taking away a child’s food is not the way to address a parent’s financial issues. Contact the parent, document the debt and then eventually turn it over to a collections agency—just like any other business would do. There is a serious flaw in our society when an inmate is fed better than a third grader, and even more so when people think that is okay.

So thank you, Mr. Thompson, for showing us that not everyone can just look the other way while a child goes hungry or is publicly shamed in the name of “policy.” Thank you for showing us that there are still kind and compassionate people in the world. Thank you for serving as a role model for children and parents alike and showing us all what acceptable behavior truly looks like. Thank you for inspiring us to open our eyes—and to do something about what we see.

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Children’s Books About 9/11

This post is from last September 11th but the resources are still very relevant for those looking to find ways to talk to their children about the events 12 years ago … Never forget.

Olivia is just now getting to the age where she can hold a mini conversation and ask us about things she sees and hears. I am thankful, however, that on this day, she is not yet asking me what the flags are flying for, why people are wearing pins, or what 9/11 means.

I am thankful because I am terrified of the day when she will ask me and how I will answer that question truthfully without scaring her half to death or making her mistrustful of others.

It’s going to be a tough conversation and one that I will need to be prepared for. For those of you who have little ones already asking the tough questions, here are some children’s books to help you through those discussions.

America is Under Attack by Don Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September Roses by Jeanette Winter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Still a Dog’s New York by Susan Roth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Survivor Tree: Inspired by a True Story by Cheryl Somers Aubin and Sheila Harrington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right by Masterson Elementary Students

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Chapel that Stood by A.B. Curtiss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 11, 2001: A Day in History by Evelyn B. Block

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Not Be Sad- A Chronicle of Healing by FDNY Engine 24 Ladder 5


Breastfeeding: Second Time’s a Charm?

I saw this article on Babble today, 9 Reason I am Dreading Breastfeeding. (Again.), and had such a visceral reaction that I was compelled to comment for maybe the fourth time ever. Then, as I thought about what I wanted to say, I realized it was way too much for one tiny little comment box. What I needed was a post purge.

While I was lucky enough to not have to deal with reflux and I did eventually make it to a point where I actually enjoyed nursing, I might have written every other word of this article. Just reading it brought back so much emotion and, now that I am expecting my second baby, some serious anxiety. I too am more than a little bit terrified of how my next breastfeeding experience will compare with my first.

When Olivia was born, the nurses at the hospital exclaimed over how easily she took to nursing, how strong she was, how well I was doing … for two glorious days I thought I was nailing this mama thing. And then we went home and it all went to shit. She went on a feeding strike for 24 hours, leaving me an exhausted, panicky, blubbering mess sitting in the pediatrician’s office and Olivia labeled a “failure to thrive.”

What followed was a litany of good times: plugged ducts, nipple shields, tongue tie, over supply, bleeding, thrush. My daily routine read like the troubleshooting section of a breastfeeding book.

Then there was the pain. Oh, the pain. I had friends who were also nursing at the time who reported some discomfort and soreness. If only. Picture someone putting your nipple in a vise and then slowly driving a dozen tiny nails into it. Yep, that was more my reality. I dreaded each feeding and cringed in pain, tears running down my cheeks, every single time.

Things got so bad that everyone I knew was trying to convince me that it was okay to give up. My husband, my parents, our pediatrician, my OB, my lactation consultant, everyone. Many of these people saw my struggles firsthand and I think, especially for my husband, they just hated to see me in so much near-constant pain. But I was determined.

And then something amazing happened—it just … got better. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment or even the cause, but sometime between months four and five I finally got what everyone was going on about. I continued nursing my daughter until she was 13 months old and was genuinely sad when she decided to give it up.

I am praying that things are easier this time around. But if they aren’t, I like to think that I’m a little older, a little wiser, and I have more than a few tricks up my sleeve—like popping soy lecithin supplements the minute this little girl is born to help combat the plugged ducts!

At least this second time around, I have something that I definitely didn’t have with my first: some perspective. To know what to expect. To give myself a break. To know that I can make it through it and that, when I do, the reward is being able to stare down into my baby girl’s eyes without a care in the world.


Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Father’s Day is Sunday, June 16, so I am assuming most people will be out doing a little shopping this weekend. I know I always struggle with Father’s Day gift ideas; there’s no way I’m alone in this. So to help give you (and myself) a little gift inspiration, I’ve pulled together these fabulous gift guides.

POPSUGAR Moms’ 10 Great Father’s Day Gifts for Sports-Fanatic Dads

In the Powder Room’s Father’s Day Pinterest board

Real Simple’s 36 Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Huffington Post’s Father’s Day Gift Guide

Cool Mom Picks’ Collection of Father’s Day gift posts (everything from “Gifts for the Stylish Dad” to “11 Great Homemade Father’s Day Gift Ideas”)


Family Vacations on a Budget

With a new baby on the way, my brother’s wedding coming up this fall, and my husband’s limited vacation time (which we want to conserve for after the baby is here), we decided that it would be best for us to do “Family Vacation Lite” this year. So I started looking into ideas for a short three- to four-day vacation that won’t break the bank. I found some really great options, so I thought I’d share my findings in case anyone else was trying to plan a quick family vacation this summer.

Since we’re in the Washington, DC area, most of what I found that will work for us is on the East Coast. But since I know not everyone lives on or near the right coast, I’ve included some of the other ideas as well.

Washington, DC
While it’s not much of a vacation for us, living here, DC is really a great spot if you’re trying not to spend a ton during vacation. There are so many free museums, inspiring memorials and monuments, great cheap eats, farmers markets, and inexpensive entertainment options—like $15 tickets to Nationals games—that your family won’t get bored and you won’t go broke!

Yellowstone National Park
Between Old Faithful and the beautiful views, Yellowstone is a great vacation spot for outdoorsy types. In fact, national parks in general fit this bill. Many of them have inexpensive cabins, campsites, and inns on the property, so you’re only steps away from hiking trails, fishing, waterfalls, and more.

Sedona, AZ
If you’re in Sedona, you have to go to Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon. The rocks have been worn smooth and are covered in soft slippery algae that it makes for some awesome natural water slides. Yes, it sounds a little strange, but trust me—it’s so fun! I went when I was younger and LOVED it. Plus, Sedona is just two hours from the Grand Canyon, so you can easily make a day trip out of it.

Ocean City, MD
We have gone to the Maryland and/or Delaware beaches nearly every summer since moving to DC. While we love Rehoboth Beach, there are more inexpensive hotel and resort options in the more commercial Ocean City. The best part about a beach vacation is that it doesn’t cost a penny to build sand castles and ride the waves. And after you’ve left the beach, there are lots of restaurant options for every type of family and budget, as well as miniature golf and the boardwalk.

Williamsburg, VA
I grew up in Hampton Roads (just down I-64 from Williamsburg), so I’ve spent a ton of time in this colonial town. Jamestowne, the first English settlement, is a must-see, and children 15 and under get in for free. Step back in time as you stroll through the Revolutionary City and learn what life was like in Colonial America. If you can swing it, Busch Gardens and Water Country USA—always a hit with kids—are just up the road.

Have you planned a great family vacation on a budget? Share the details!


Strategies for a Stress-Free Vacation

Today we have a guest post from travel expert Kendra Thornton! Kendra is a travel advocate, TV spokesperson, PR businesswoman, wife, and mama of three. Follow Kendra on Twitter @KendraThornton. I’ll let her introduce herself in her own words:  “I am a long time travel expert who has been packing my bags and traveling the world since I was 3 months old! I’ve found my utmost desire in life is right here in my own home. I have taken my excitement for travel and brought it to you with some of my favorite travel tips and tricks. Enjoy!”

Whether it is an amusing anecdote about getting to a vacation destination or the memories of a favorite sunset, family vacations are worth the time and cost.  However, a vacation with small children can be exhausting, unless you have prepared yourself with tips and tricks to help your vacation run smoothly and keep you relaxed.

1. When you are planning a vacation, try to choose your hotel based on your family’s needs.  A hotel with a small fridge can be a godsend for families with tired and cranky children.  You are able to store snacks and healthy drinks to help ward off the temper tantrums. Whether it be hiking in state parks or visiting a unique museum, a family friendly resort may be an option for you.  My family’s trip to Hawaii was spent at a family friendly resort that offered a plethora of activities for adults and children and was still ranked as a top Honolulu hotel.  Another benefit to family friendly lodging?  The amenities that appeal to children, such as an onsite playground, pool or kids club.  In addition to keeping children happy on vacation, it will also allow them to burn off energy so they fall asleep faster at night.

2. When traveling with toddlers, it’s especially important to stick to a routine.  While you may want to stay out longer at a tourist attraction, naptime and snack time are essential to children of this age group.  When on vacation, you tend to get more exercise walking than at home, and this additional exercise means that children, as well as adults, need time to rest.  Giving family members this relaxation time will make their trip more enjoyable.   

3. When you are packing for the vacation, don’t forget to bring a few essentials that will make your trip easier on you.  Zip lock bags in a variety of sizes, baby wipes, a first aid kit (with blister band aids), and your child’s favorite sippy cup will make the trip run smoothly.  Of these listed supplies, zip lock bags can be used to store dirty or wet clothes and treasures the children pick up on their adventures.  If you go to a beach or water park, slip your camera and phone inside one of the bags to prevent it from water or sand damage. You may find other items to bring as well that will help your family on the vacation.

4. If your vacation includes a long car or plane ride, you may want to think about occupying that time with technology.  Tablets can be loaded with apps that are appropriate to your children’s ages, and they can pass the travel time learning and playing with these apps. If you are worried about children breaking the iPad, there are videos on the Internet on how to child-proof it.

5. It can be difficult enough to spot your luggage at the airport when you are by yourself, but with children, it becomes a monumental task.  Tie a ribbon to your luggage to help you quickly identify the luggage and get you out of the airport and on the way to your hotel.

By implementing these tips into your next family vacation, you can help create lasting memories for your family of your stress-free and fun family vacation.


Planning the Perfect Babymoon

The other day I was watching a new special on E! called Blinging Up Baby, all about how ridiculous celebs can be when in comes to their offspring. One of the segments was about over-the-top  babymoons and while I’m not likely to drop the celeb standard $17,000 a night, I do like the idea of a little getaway before baby arrives.

My husband and I have been talking about going somewhere for a long weekend for a while, but now that the clock is really ticking, we have kicked our planning into gear. So I have been researching babymoon ideas that aren’t crazy expensive and are doable for a long weekend. Here are my top five picks:

1. New York, New York
New York City is a great option for city lovers.  There are amazing museums, excellent and diverse food options, theatre, shopping, and no shortage of luxury hotels to choose from. And a bonus if you go see a show: expectant moms get access to a special bathroom during intermission in many theatres, so no waiting in line!

2. Miami, Florida
Sure, Miami is known for its nightlife (which moms-to-be obviously cannot partake in), but it also has stunning beaches, fabulous restaurants, and some of the best shopping in the world. Soak up some sun on South Beach with a virgin daquiri and just relax!

3. Stowe, Vermont
A seemingly random selection, but this town, and specifically the Topnotch Resort and Spa, kept showing up in my research as a sought after spot for moms-to-be. With beautiful views and maternity spa treatments, it doesn’t take long to figure out why it makes so many travel lists.

4. Scottsdale, Arizona
Another spot that kept cropping up in my research, Scottsdale is home to some of the country’s best spa resorts.  The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa has a “Bundle of Joy” package for expectant mamas and they even have a 24-hour “cravings chef”!

5. Amelia Island, Florida
I had never heard of Amelia Island before looking up babymoon ideas, but this destination appeared on several of the lists I came across. Off the coast of Florida, just a stone’s throw away from Georgia, this island has beautiful beaches and ample southern hospitality. Both the Ritz Carlton-Amelia Island and the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge came highly recommended through my research.

So what about you—did you go on a babymoon? Share your suggestions!


I’ve Been a Bad Blogger

I admit it, I haven’t been my usual blogging self lately. I’m normally good about posting three times a week and following my editorial content calendar, which I put a lot of time and thought into. But recently, I’ve been too exhausted to finish a sentence let alone type one. My exhaustion is due in part to work ramping up a bit, but it’s mostly because this mom machine is busy baking a new baby. Yep, baby number two will be here in a little over six months!

We are so excited to add another layer of crazy to our home, and Olivia is thrilled that she’s going to be a big sister. She’s already been practicing her lullabies on her baby dolls, though her baby burping skills still need a bit of work—it looks less like burping and more like beating the crap out of her baby dolls!

Anyway, please just bear with me for a little bit longer as I drag my feet into the second trimester and get back to my normal self (rather than my current self who is usually asleep on the couch by 8:30 p.m.). I’ve already started filling in my editorial calendar with fun new posts and recipes to share!

This weekend, I am planning on making some healthy coconut bars that we recently had at a birthday party for Olivia’s little friend. They were a huge hit with both the little ones and their parents, so be sure to stay tuned for that recipe. I’m also going to try recreating this delicious spicy black bean hummus I just had—fingers crossed that turns out share-worthy.

In the meantime, thanks so much for your patience and for reading. I can’t wait to share this next adventure with you guys!


5 Ways to Involve Kids in the Kitchen

There are several benefits to getting your kids in the kitchen and cooking. Aside from teaching them basic cooking skills, being included in the cooking process and seeing the ingredients makes children, especially picky eaters, more likely to want to try new foods. It also takes the mystery out of exactly what you put into those meatballs.

Even toddlers can help out with easy tasks, and it builds self-confidence for them to be able to contribute to a family activity. It goes without saying that all tasks should be simple and safe {nobody needs a two year old running around with a butcher knife}. Just prepare for a mess and allot some extra time for clean-up!

Use cooking as a teaching tool   Have your child measure out ingredients, count how many different vegetables there are in a dish, identify the color of each ingredient, practice spelling and reading using the recipe, and hone fine motor skills by doing some of the tasks listed below.

Give your little helper a job to do   Wash veggies, crack eggs, stir batter, mash potatoes, measure sugar, hand you ingredients, crumble crackers, tear lettuce, sprinkle seasonings, knead dough, snap beans—you get the picture.

Have a Make-Your-Own night   You can set all the ingredients out for everyone to make their own mini pizzas, taco salads, mac and cheese with mix-ins … it can be anything your child can easily build and put together.

Involve your child in the clean-up   It’s important for children to learn the whole process from cooking to cleaning to eating. Plus, it teaches them that cooking is just like playing with toys—you pick up when you’re done—which is a good habit to enforce early on.

Make it fun!   Get your little helper a child-sized apron, pick up a few colorful cooking utensils, make sure he has a safe way to reach the counter so he can work right next to mommy and daddy, play some fun music, and let go a little bit. It probably won’t be your most impressive culinary achievement, but the time you spend with your child will be totally worth it!


How Much is too Much Sodium for a Toddler?

In the March 2013 issue of Cooking Light, there was an article about watching your salt intake and ways to lower sodium. I’m always on the lookout for this type of thing since I know kids are really susceptible to having too much sodium in their diet. For example, I buy organic canned black beans because they have 15 mg of sodium per serving as compared to the 460 mg (!!!) per serving of regular canned black beans. Even the low sodium non-organic variety have around 125 mg of sodium per serving. Shocking that the “low sodium” beans have more than the regular organic beans, right? Precisely why it’s so important to look at the labels.

Anyway, I was planning on posting about this today anyway, but then Cooking Light published a newscast yesterday about sodium intake for toddlers and the timing was just too perfect.

It’s no surprise that processed and prepackaged foods, such as hot dogs, boxed mac and cheese, and cereals, are the big offenders when it comes to high sodium. But did you know that 75% of foods aimed at children were deemed too high in sodium by the study? I found that staggering (and sobering).

The study was conducted by the CDC and monitored 1100 different foods all targeted toward children ages 1-3 years. The study concluded that a food was too high in sodium if it contained 210 mg or more of sodium per serving. The recommended daily intake of sodium for a toddler is 1500 mg per day.

Aside from checking the labels on your canned beans, here are a few other ways to watch your family’s sodium intake:

  • If you buy frozen veggies, make sure they say no salt added.
  • Use kosher salt instead of regular table salt—it contains 25% less sodium.
  • Drain and rinse your canned beans, even the organic or low-sodium ones, to save even more in the sodium department.
  • Be wary of prepacked, prepared foods—convenient usually = LOTS of salt.
  • Try not to add salt to your food, especially for your kids, where possible. It’s totally fine to add as a seasoning, but just don’t overdo it.
  • Make your own or buy organic/low sodium marinara since it’s notoriously high in sodium.
  • CHECK THE LABELS! Even so-called “healthy” foods can surprise you—wheat bread, cottage cheese, and peanut butter are all known to be high in sodium.

Of course, cooking fresh, healthy meals is always a great way to watch what your family is eating and control the bad stuff!