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Children's Medical Center

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Ask Barb!

Have a question about children, household products, parenting etc.?
Our research guru has the answer!


                                  Ask Barb a question
A Penny Saved
Cash it or save it?
Allowance Sense and Cents
Gas (Prices) Relief

Money Saving Tips

Balancing Acts
Sharing the Load
Dinner Time Chaos

Mama Juggling Act
Motivating Dad For Chores

Discipline
I Want, I Want
Hitting & Kicking

Mama, I want to stay!
Unified Discipline
Double Standard Discipline

Scratch & Hit

Growing Pains & Joys
Raising a Quitter?
First Bra
Putting Up With Picking Up
Sweaty Situation
Nail Biter
Private Playtime
Potty Training Help
Explaining Death
The Big Move
The End of Naps
Night Fears
Late Nights
Pain in the *Ear

Pull-ups vs. Diapers

The Sex Talk
Yes, Boys Have Penises
Pierce Be With You
Bath Time Blues
Toddler Bruises
Wet Nights
Diaper Swiper
Picky Eater

Toddler Gravity Test

Health & Safety
Time For Treats
Halloween Safety Tips
Best Time For Flu Vaccine

Butt Head Parents
A Spoonful of Sugar Does Help the Medicine Go Down
Organic vs. Regular Milk
Home Alone
SPF-What?
Transitioning to Whole Milk
Laser Hair Removal
The Steel on Stainless Bottles
Car Seat Houdini
Vaccines and Schools
Chlorine On Skin
Hot Tub Dangers
TV Close-Up
TV Time For Toddlers
Wear's the Buzz?
Tanning Hides
Thumb Up
Vapor Feet
Safety Seating
Midnight Munchies
Sweat the Sweet?

A Bath A Day?
Recall 411
Back Seat Rider
Hot Tot
Pick A Winner
Market-ing Friendly Products
S'no You Know
Buzz Off
Candy Can-do
Flu Shot In The Dark
Food Expiration
Big Turd
A Boost Up
Crib Mates
Lip Service
Out With the Peanuts
Sink or Swim
Car Seat Law Changes
Sun Smart
Alcoholic Sanitizers
Prenatal Workouts
Water, Water Everywhere
Probiotics?
Toying With Age
Caught In The Crib
Don't Cover Up Baby
Public Bathroom Paranoia

Troubled Waters
Don't Bug Me

Teething Relief

In The Kitchen & House
Lizards
Natural Microwave Cleaners
Lasting Produce

Washing Produce
Kiddie Pool Water

Backyard Buzz

Pesty Plant Problems
Produce Bags
Stinky Towels
Ashes, Ashes
Bath Toys That Need A Bath
Stinky Trash
Aloe Vera
The Family Table
Lunchability
The Scoop On Poop
Hard Facts About Wood Floors
Trash Talk
Smelly Washer
Ants-Be-Gone
The Stain Game
The Dirt On Lettuce
Green Potatoes

We All Scream For Ice Cream

Miscellaneous
The Pyramid of Friendship
A Tip On Tips
School Day Shuffle
Absentee Dad
Teaching The Gift Of Giving
Fall in to Bed
Fitting In Fitness For A Busy Mom

Ready for Kindergarten?
The CleanWell Earth Day Challenge
Make Me Up
Tidbits on the New Year
Bai Sui
The Hurricane Name Game
Do Not Not Call
Why Retail Store Clerks Suck at 3rd Grade Math
Left-in
Adding A Sibling
In Your Face
The Top 11 April Fool’s Pranks of the Past 11 Decades
Valentine's Day Rant
Multitasking Geniuses
Top Chef

A Visit to the Fair
Birthday Suits
Too Much of a Good Thing
How to make your own play-dough
Gray Wives Tale
A Speggtacular Hunt
Mean Green
Rodent Reporters

Stinky Feet
Daycare, Preschool or Moms Day Out?

Barb's Holiday Promises
School Fundraisers
Thinking Outside the Cable Box

Getting Postal
Holiday Headache

The ABC's and 123's of learning
Co-sleeping
In Your Face-book
Pacifying Pockets

Collect Them All
Movies at Daycare
CATS Testing
Car Seats: Little In Size, Big In Safety
My First Pet
Best Indoor Play Places
Choosing the crib & stroller

Messy Da Vincis

Paper cuts, shmaper cuts
Holiday Schedule Break
The Truth About Santa
A Bedtime Story
Barring Minors
Art Pile Ups

Kiddie Haircuts
HOV Baby

Mom-Etiquette
Wine Etiquette
Friends and Custody
Playdate Gone Bad
Split The Invite
Baby Shower Encore
To Shake, Or Not To Shake
Tips on Tipping
Take a seat!
LitterBugs Me
Color Commandments
Cart-Correctness
A Smoky Situation
In Your Face Book
Accommodating Sensory Issues

Ear Muffs
Party Protocol
Discourteous In Carpool
Who's Mess?
Mom-Mimic
Playgroup Pitfall
Going Out With The Rude Customer
Breaking The Chain Mail
Friends Who Won't Discipline - Chapter Two
Annoying Godmother
Sick To School
Friends Who Won't Discipline - Chapter One
Overbearing Mother

 

Product & Destination Reviews
Sun Smarts
Disney World Tips
Fighting Oily Skin
The Hair Not There
Organic Crib Mattresses
Dry Shampoo
Friction Feet
Noisy Pest Control
Black Out Bedtime
Teething Tablets
Nasal Aspirators that really Suck
Total Toothpaste
Ear Scope
Bumper Jumper
Sit n Stroll

Carrying Baby Without An Aching Back
An Aspirator For All
Family-Friendly Outdoor Camping
Miracle Blanket
Video & Digital Monitor
Don't Waste Your Money

 

 
Ask Barb
presented by
Children's Medical Center

Wine Etiquette

Q ~ Faith in Irving asks: Barb, when you invite people over to dinner at your house and they bring a bottle of wine, are you supposed to open it that night? What is the etiquette?

Barb ~ Technically, the ‘formal’ answer is that you are not expected to serve it on that occasion, but, you should consider how formal the affair is. If, for example, you are having a formal dinner party, as the host, you may have taken great care to pair the proper wine with each course. In this case, the guests have brought a bottle as a token of gratitude for the invitation. If the affair is a celebration of birthday or anniversary, it can be considered a gift and it is yours to enjoy when you choose to enjoy it. If you have a large amount of guests, it would not be expected as one bottle would not go very far. However, if it is a casual get-together, with just a few people, then you can consider the wine a consumable – just as if they had brought dessert. You wouldn’t save the dessert for later, but put it out to share. It’s a nice gesture or show of your gratitude to enjoy it with your guests.

Sun Smarts

Q ~ Casey in Southlake asks: Barb, I’ve been hearing so much conflicting information about sunscreen. How much do we need and do we really always need it? In the 80’s, when I was growing up, it seems we hardly worried about it unless we were going out all day to a waterpark or a beach. Otherwise, we just used accelerator and worked on our tan!

Barb ~ Yeah, I grew up in the 80’s too and am probably paying for all that accelerator with wrinkle eraser now. Times are different, and our environment is different, because we also loved big hair so much in the 80’s and put holes in the Ozone layer with massive amounts of aerosol hairspray (and, okay, other things too). Yes, you do need sunscreen, but you don’t have to go overboard with the SPF. Generally, an SPF of 50% is in order if you are going out more than 20 minutes in the sun, especially between 10 and 4. You should apply 20 minutes before going out so it can absorb. I’ve printed this before, but links have been updated and it’s a great refresher for us as we head out to buy our sunscreen: Ounce for ounce, an SPF of 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while the same amount of an SPF 100 blocks 99%. But guess what? An SPF of 50 also blocks about 99%. So anything over 50 only offers a negligible amount of protection and lends more to marketing and easing guilt than skin protection. The problem is we tend to go a little lighter and apply less often with a higher SPF. Even the higher SPFs need to be reapplied every couple of hours. FYI, an SPF of 15 blocks about 93% - or allows you to be in the sun about 15 times longer than without any product before you sunburn. Dermatologists recommend a minimum SPF of 15 for daily use. Remember that with the reflective properties of water and sand, heavy outdoor use would call for a minimum recommended SPF of 30 – still reapplying every couple of hours. If your children have very pale, sensitive skin, go ahead and go with the 50. Recent studies are showing that the brand you choose is very important to your skin health. Look for minerals as the main ingredients rather than chemicals. I highly recommend the thinkbaby brand. To see how your favorite brands compare, visit EWG’s Skin Deep Sunscreen ratings. You need to create an account (fast and free) to access the database, but you will find hundreds of brands rated, as well as do’s and don’ts. You will be surprised at which popular brands made the “don’t” list!

Lizards

Q ~ Kelly in Dallas asks: Barb, We recently moved to Dallas from Boston and have a lot to get used too. Our house has a very nice garden that you can tell the previous owner worked hard to maintain but I am afraid to go out there because I have noticed some lizards hanging around. One is small and bright green and likes to sit on the patio chairs. The other is fat and brownish and hides under a big rock edge. There are many more of different sizes and colors. I would like to take my baby outside on a blanket to play while I work in the garden but will the lizards hurt him if they see him? Is there a way to discourage them from coming around?

Barb ~ If they are smaller than your foot, I would welcome them to stay as they eat the bugs that would otherwise eat your garden. Depending on the species, they probably also eat the bugs that could possibly hurt your little one, like spiders and mosquitoes. Your beautiful garden attracts insects, and those insects attract the lizards. They are harmless to you, and would probably scurry off quickly if you or a curious baby tried to get too close. The patio guest may have found a favorite sunny spot. Lizards can’t regulate their body temperatures very well so they may move from sunny spots to cool spots under a rock ledge to cool off. Having them there really is a sign of a balanced and healthy garden. You may see some garden snakes one day – also good to have around! Welcome to Texas!

Disney World Tips

Barb ~ I just got back from a 4-day trip to Disney World and thought I would share some tips for other Disney Novices. As much of a planner and researcher that I am, I am also spread thin and having never been before, was overwhelmed at the thought of planning a Disney trip. We had only two months before our departure, and a short vacation time. I believe in using experts for expert results, so my first tip is my biggest tip for anyone that has never done Disney before.
Tip #1: Use an authorized Disney Vacation Planner. I was a facebook acquaintance with a gal for a while and noticed that she was a planner. She has a boy and a girl who are just younger than mine, and I could tell from her posts that her daughter and mine had similar personalities. So I reached out and explained briefly that though we are beach people that usually go to the Caribbean every summer, we thought maybe we would try to add Disney in to the mix. I let her know that we should be on a budget, that we would prefer to put our budget into convenience and reduce any waiting around, and that I was overwhelmed so to only send me up to three options of anything. She asked about the kind of food we liked and explained that prices went up when my oldest turned 10, and the better times to avoid crowds and still enjoy good weather were early May or September. I booked our flights and sent her the info. She did the rest. She emailed me a brochure on a resort that was actually Caribbean-themed and a more budget-friendly one to compare. She booked it, got us Park-Hopper tickets that allowed us to go from park to park (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios), booked our dinner reservations, and even communicated our flight info with the hotel so we quickly got a shuttle from the airport to the resort and back, and our boarding passes were delivered to our room the morning of departure. Without bombarding me with information, she sent me only what I needed to know about which bus to take to get where, and the schedule of special things like fireworks, and I stored the documents on my phone to refer to when needed. She actually mailed paper copies too, but of course I left those behind so was glad to be able to go digital. I emailed her lots of random questions and each one was answered. It’s like having a best friend who is a Disney Insider giving you all the tips you need and answering every question like “can I take snacks in and where can I get free refills.” A planner does not cost you anything extra, they are commissioned, and they can actually save you money. I had “heard” about all these extras I thought I needed to buy or was told my kids would love and she kept our budget of time and money (as well as the personalities of my kids) in mind explaining why I could skip those extras. She was right every time and saved me from many tourist traps. The only thing I wish I did was actually take the time to review the menus of the restaurants she booked before we left. She picked great ones and offered to change anything that didn’t look good, but my daughter and I are both really picky so we changed two of them once I bothered to look them up. The planner I used and can highly recommend is lissa@mymagicjourneys.com
Tip #2: Get the park maps/guides in advance and review them just before your trip – even if it’s just on the plane ride over. These are the maps you can get at the entrance to each park (the hotel lobby has them too) that have a park map and list rides with descriptions and height restrictions and places to eat with descriptions. We didn’t bother to look at ours until we entered the first park, and wasted time figuring out where we wanted to go, when we could have narrowed it all down in advance, circled where we wanted to go/eat, and planned a route. Which takes me to the next tip:
Tip #3
: Have a Fast Pass Plan. Some of the most popular rides have something called a fast pass option. If the line is really long, you scan your park passes at a kiosk near the ride and it prints tickets that tell you when to come back without having to stand in line. For example, signs above the Star Wars Tour at 10 a.m. told you the Stand-By wait time was 45 minutes. The Fast Pass return time was between noon and 1:00. So you decide if you want to wait the 45, or get a fast pass and come back any time between noon and 1:00 without waiting in line. We found if it was over a 30 minute wait, it was worth it to get a fast pass. You can only have one ride on fast pass at a time, meaning you can’t go collect a bunch of different ride’s passes at once. Fast passes run out as they only distribute a certain amount. Once you have that park guide, look at which rides offer the passes and decide if you want to go on that ride. We figured out that the wait times on those rides where very short in the morning, so we headed over to those first. Once the wait began to get longer, we used the fast pass option and then did the other attractions or timed snacks and lunch until we could go back.
Tip #4
: Take a well-packed back-pack with you into the park. You are allowed a bag or soft-sided cooler and can take in drinks and snacks. I packed a double-wall insulated refillable drink cup for each of us. These keep your drinks cool for over 12 hours with no cooler or ice packs needed so they went right into my backpack with money, sunscreen, snacks for the little one, camera, back-up batteries for our cell phones, mosquito bracelets for the evenings, tissues, hand wipes, a travel towel to dry us off from water rides, and a small medical kit – which I actually went through on multiple scraped knees so the first aid station was kind enough to restock me with Band-Aids and antibiotic ointment. I wish I knew to also include lightweight caps (the sun was brutal on our heads), and ponchos so our clothes didn’t get soaked on some of the water rides. The park did sell them for an inflated price.
Tip #5
: Manage Expectations. Even though we were there at only a moderately busy time of year, the kids were bummed that there were some rides we couldn’t ride. We got on Splash Mountain with an hour to spare before our dinner reservations. It had been raining a bit during the day so it, along with other rides, was closed till the weather cleared up. A 45 minute wait time turned to an hour and 15 minute wait time after multiple delays, only to then be told then that the ride had to close due to some technical difficulties. Once you have looked at your maps and ride descriptions, it’s a good idea to let each family member choose at least one attraction in each section of the park that they want to visit, so even if they don’t get to do everything, everyone at least got to do one thing they wanted.
Tip #6
: Consider the Dining Plan, (but know that it may not be right for you). Luckily, I saved all my receipts so I could do the math, but these are approximate numbers. During Peak Seasons, the dining plan for 2 adults, 2 kids for 4 days is approximately $605. This includes 1 quick service meal, 1 snack, and 1 dessert for each of us. Kids under 9 have to order from the kids menu. You can use the quick service for breakfast or lunch – but lunch ticket prices are higher so it’s better to use your credits for lunch and pay for breakfast. Lunch and dinner on this plan included an entrée, non-alcoholic drink, and a dessert for each of us. Gratuities and anything else went on a separate bill. For an average lunch, we spent about $40 that were charged to credit allotments. We spent another $8-10 on average additionally for an appetizer, side, or second kids meal because my 9 year old didn’t fill up on the small kids meals. They were plenty for the 5 year old, but he has a big appetite and he likes adult food over the chicken nuggets and cheese pizza. Our most expensive dinner was $104 that went to credits, and an additional $30 in appetizers and wine. Snacks, which were usually ice cream or slushies or drinks to cool us off were on average $4 per person, or $16 daily. Based on that (though our dinners were not always that high), we would have spent $624 give or take with taxes had we ordered the same things without the meal plan. So the meal plan saved us a small amount. But here’s the thing – we are not big dessert people. That’s TWO desserts every day, plus the snack. They did have healthier options like fruit, but we just don’t have to have something sweet after every entrée. I would have rather spent that credit on a salad or shared appetizer before my entrée. So in backing that dessert out (an average of $12 per meal), we may not have saved anything or spent less. I prefer convenience and flexibility and not having to ask what our choices are at each meal, so I think I would skip it next time. But if you do eat that much dessert and want to be encouraged to stay on a budget then it is worth it. Just remember that a snack allotment could go towards a $3 soda or a $6 coke float, so don’t waste it – pay for the drink, use the credit for the float.
Tip #7:
Factor in Bus Ride Times. If you are park hopping, there are buses or a ferry to take you from one to the other that run about every 20 minutes. So just factor that in and plan to make your dinner reservations at the park you will be in that day. And yes, reservations are definitely recommended! Though the adults learned that we are not really amusement park people, we had a fun trip and can finally cross it off the bucket list. Using a vacation planner (a good one – I’ve talked to some that are horrible) made all the difference for us. Everyone was so Disney – cheerful, helpful, and incredibly nice to you. At check-in, my son got a birthday pin with his name on it, so at least 50 park employees told him “Happy Birthday TJ.” I truly don’t know how they were able to spot that pin from 25 feet away and yell to him. My daughter is now pretty confident that she is a princess because of how she was greeted by everyone. She’s pretty put off that we didn’t recognize it before, but since Disney knows what a real princess looks like…

Fighting Oily Skin

Q ~ Nadia in Frisco asks: Barb, do the oil absorbing sheets really work or are they just marketing? Are they better than just blotting with tissues?

Barb ~ The short answer is they really work. Not only do they work at getting rid of the oil on your face, they do it without taking off your makeup, making your makeup last longer. With generic brands costing just a couple of bucks for 50+ sheets, they save you big time! Oil on your skin looks yucky, feels yucky, and clogs your pores, causing even more skin problems. Reapplying makeup over oily skin gets your brushes and applicators oily and ruins the product in the container. Oil blotting sheets trap oil between layers without absorbing makeup like tissues do. Only use them once, and use them by blotting, not wiping. Brands work differently so you may want to check reviews according to your skin type. I use them at least twice a day instead of reapplying makeup. Every friend that I have given a sheet to try has bought her own pack, so I’d say it’s definitely worth your small investment!

The Hair Not There

Barb ~ I haven’t shaved my armpits in in well over two months. Do I have your attention? I want to write this product review so much that I am going to embrace the embarrassment because I know some women will need to read this. You see my picture in the top corner, you can tell from my dark hair that my Mediterranean heritage translates to ‘hairy person.’ I’ve looked in to the laser hair removal places. 6 treatments every 6 weeks? Who has time for that? Not to mention the budget… I’ve been an Epilady user until recently. The results lasted, the pain was tolerable in most areas, and it was fairly quick. Down sides are that you have to let the hair grow long enough to use it, ingrown hairs, and the pain was NOT tolerable in some areas. So I started the research for my own personal use and long story short, I ended up with a Remington IPL i-LIGHT Pro, which is an at-home hair removal system. It looks like a competing product has come out since I bought my IPL on Amazon, and that may or may not be better, but I am happy enough to not replace my IPL. The machine was about $230. It has a base with level indicator and low bulb indicator, an attached wand, and a replaceable cartridge inside the wand. The wand delivers a hot flash that targets the hair under your skin and zaps the root. This is supposed to disrupt the hair growth. The machine is not perfect. Some areas hurt a lot. Cartridges are not dependable. But it works well. Here’s the lowdown. When I got the machine, it stopped working in the first ten minutes. I called Remington and they happily replaced it after I sent in my damaged unit so I had to wait two weeks. Second unit has been working fine, but let’s talk about the cartridges, which are $24 each. They are supposed to deliver approximately 1500 flashes, which should last two to three treatments each of underarms, lower legs and bikini area. At best, I got one session treating arms, lower legs, underarms and bikini area, and then perhaps a few flashes left for the next session. At worst, I got lower legs and it quit working. I decided not to go to Remington for that replacement, as Amazon’s customer service is so much better that they send out replacements immediately and gave me 30 days to return the duds. So I learned to buy two cartridges at once in case one did not work (twice I have had to return one to Amazon). This machine works best if you have fair skin and dark hair, and you have to put your skin in the treatment area up to a light sensor to unlock it for use. I used the inside of my wrist to unlock it each time. Remember it targets the dark root, so if you hit a mole or a darker patch of skin – it will burn. Amazon reviews described it as a sensation similar to snapping yourself with a rubber band. I’d describe it more like driving nails into your skin. And that’s on level 2. Level 1 was only tolerable in some areas. Luckily, I had left-over pain killers from childbirth so I got through it. The higher the level, the faster it works. I will note that when my very fair-skinned friend tried it, she didn’t feel anything until I turned it up to level 5, so it’s possible since my skin is darker the flash felt more intense. You have to shave before using it, which is very nice not to have to wait for hair growth first. So put the wand on the area, flash, move it a bit, flash again, repeat until the entire area is treated. You will think it didn’t work a few days later when the hair starts to grow back out. But that’s just the hair that was under the skin already out of the follicle. In 2 weeks, a gentle tug will pull it out, or it falls out, and you are ready for another treatment. The instructions say to use it every two weeks for three treatments, and then at 6 months as needed. Since I was a wimpy level 1 in some areas, I used it every two weeks for five treatments on those areas, but it has been a couple of months since I finished the easy areas. I thought about waiting the full six months to write this review, but wanted to publish it before you started tanning and your skin got too dark. Because even if I have to treat again at 3 or 4 months, it’s been worth it. Remington does not claim permanent hair removal. The FDA actually doesn’t let any product, including those professional lasers claim permanent removal – only reduction. Since my 3rd treatment nine weeks ago, the hair under my arms has not grown back at all (that’s the area with the least pigment). Since my 5th treatment five weeks ago, the hair on my arms (darker from sun) is reduced by about 90%, and what is left is so much thinner, it’s more like peach fuzz and barely noticeable. My legs have about 95% reduction, but there are a few spots where it looked like I missed the area, though I know I didn’t, those hairs are normal thickness. My bikini area, which is the most sensitive, is at about 85%, definitely less hair and the hair that was there is thinner. I hope that with continued use, I can update this review with an even better rate of reduction, but I am still pretty happy with the results as they are. Treatment times are about 10 minutes per leg and 2 minutes for underarm, and unlike in spas, you can take a break/breather/stiff drink as needed and curse freely.

Raising a Quitter?

Q ~ Jenny in Mesquite asks: My 7 year old daughter asked to join her school’s soccer team this year. She played a few practices and games (horribly) and now she wants to quit. I don’t think that she should be allowed to quit, she made the commitment and should learn that you have to follow through. But when she breaks down crying to her dad before we take her to practice or a game, he feels sorry for her and tells me we should let her sit some games out. Now she doesn’t even try and mopes through the hour! What do you think? Should we discipline her for the negative attitude and make her follow through on her commitment?

Barb ~ No, I do not think you should discipline her at all. I think you should listen to her, or she is going to be afraid to try anything new in the near future. I understand you want her to learn that when you make a commitment, you follow through. But our job as parents is to raise children to survive in the adult world, to become confident adults. Adults can be confident if they know and accept their strengths and weaknesses, and to humbly admit when they need help, or when they are not going to be able to tackle a job they have taken on. She is 7. She has plenty of time to practice this still, but if you push too hard, she will regret ever wanting to try it, be less likely to tell you she wants to try something else, and develop low self-esteem. The crying and defeated “moping” are signs that she has already developed an anxiety. You can still find ways to teach this very important lesson though. You still have the opportunity for her to practice problem solving, being able to admit when you can’t do something without being afraid to at least try new things, and adjusting her own self-expectations . She can still support her team in other ways. Talk to the coach and ask if she can be assigned other duties such as helping setup, or at the very least, sitting out the games and practice but still watching so she can cheer her team mates on. After a few weeks, she may be comfortable in trying a practice without the expectation of playing a game. Have a heart to heart and without putting her down, ask her what she wants – perhaps she really wants to learn but feels overwhelmed or discouraged because she is not as good as other players. Would she like private lessons? Does she understand the game or would she like to find some child-friendly books that explain the rules? Would you or her dad be willing to practice at home with her to help build her confidence?

The Pyramid of Friendship

Q ~ Kiersten in Arlington asks: A few of my friends have recently started selling things like jewelry and makeup from home and every social outing and phone call seems to turn to a sales pitch. I like my brand of makeup, and I don’t have the money or desire to spend on their jewelry. I have been changing the conversation and trying to ignore but they are starting to get pushy and I think they are using our friendship to guilt me into buying something or throwing a party in my home for them. I would never subject my other friends to this – how do I handle them without offending them?

Barb ~ You can politely and clearly decline. By ignoring or changing the conversation, you haven’t said “no” and that sends a message that there is still a chance. These sorts of multi-level marketing programs work best when the seller is in a large social circle. Just be honest that for whatever reason you do not want the product, it’s just not for you, you do not have the money to spend on it, or you have enough of it. Out of friendship, offer to go support them at their own parties (which is really just a group sales pitch), but be clear in what you can do. You can give their product an honest try if they have something you can sample, and then give them honest feedback on it. You can consider buying from them if you need gifts for co-workers/teachers, but don’t feel pressured into buying something you do not need. It they are persistent then it’s really not you in the offensive position, and let them know that you feel your relationship may be changing because of their behavior. Remember that if you do buy something out of guilt and there is a problem with the product, you will end up resenting your friend. Remind them that you’d prefer to keep business away from the relationship. You just have to be honest, and if they want to work on sales skills, they will have to learn how to balance and manage relationships, and a good friend would not use you for financial gain.

Friends and Custody

Q ~ Haley in Dallas asks: Barb, we just moved to Dallas this fall and my young daughter started a new school. She was very lucky to become friends with a little girl that has been so sweet in welcoming her. They are best friends and have been spending a lot of time together on weekends and after school. I learned recently that her parents are divorcing. It seems the parents are arguing over custody and it is awkward trying to know who to contact to plan something, I don’t want to take time away from either parent, but I don’t want to not plan something if the girls are asking so she doesn’t feel we are giving up on her. Does that make sense? She has not talked to my daughter about it, and I want to do what I can in this situation, but I don’t know how to go about this.

Barb ~ This is a tough situation and you need to be prepared to be flexible. If the situation allows for you to talk to your daughter and explain in an age-appropriate way that her friend needs her to be there for her, I would try to explain that your family just needs to be ready to support hers in any way. It is not inappropriate to ask her teacher if there is one parent that would be the parent to make the plans with, the teacher has most likely been made aware or kept in the loop. If the divorcing parents are trying to work out a joint custody, then you will want to communicate with both of them, but if there is a serious battle going on then you have to be aware of that and perhaps just let them know that you don’t wish to be nosey but want to offer your support in any way when it comes to making sure her daughter still gets to see her friend. This is going to be tough but you may have to back off until things are sorted out and a routine is established. Perhaps your daughter’s teacher can help make sure they get to spend a little special time together every now and then, or they can at least plan to speak on the phone or even video conference if that is doable. You can also suggest that they write letters or draw pictures for each other when they are home to give to each other at school.

A Tip On Tips

Q ~ Laura in Grapevine asks: My husband and I went to a quick dinner at a chain restaurant the other night and had awful service. The waiter was nice enough but he was forgetful, he forgot to bring out our appetizer and then brought it out with the meal, he didn’t refill anything, we constantly had to look around for him to get his attention to ask for what was missing, he didn’t check back on us – and it was not busy at all. I told my husband not to leave more than 10% for the tip but my husband didn’t want to leave anything. What is the right thing to do here? He did a minimal amount of work, I guess, by taking our order and eventually bringing it, but we also go out when we need to just relax and not worry about anything. I feel bad stiffing the server if they are not being rude. Is it ever okay to not tip?

Barb ~ If you experienced bad service then it is okay to leave a minimal tip. Ask yourself, “Would I expect a tip if I gave this level of service?” After having been in the restaurant business for decades, I can tell you that a server knows when they are not giving their best service, and they would not be surprised if they got a low tip. Try to consider all the circumstances. Does it seem busy, do they seem short on help, are they new or in training, could the kitchen be backed up. It is okay to ask them if they are short staffed when you notice that things are slow, or to find a manager and ask them so you give them the chance of turning it around for you. There are also times when a server is truly being lazy because they do not feel like being there. They should not expect an automatic minimum tip. However, keep in mind that a server must also “tip out” support staff. If they sell $100 in food that shift, they may owe $4-5 or another a percentage to the busser, and possibly to the hostess, regardless of what their own tips were. For this reason, I at least leave 5%. If service was truly awful then you can decide to leave nothing. If you do decide to send a message with no tip or a low tip, it is only fair to let the manager know why. They need to be able to address the problems and correct them.

Natural Microwave Cleaners

Q ~ Crystal in Mansfield asks: Barb, what is the best way to clean a microwave? We just started solids and I am making our own baby food and freezing it and need the microwave to thaw it. Now that I have a little one I am aware of the strong bleach smell in the microwave after cleaning it with my regular cleaner. Is there a safe product that I can use to clean with that doesn’t release chemicals back into the food?

Barb ~ The most natural, non-toxic, environmentally-friendly, safe cleaner you can use is Distilled vinegar. Its high acidity makes it effective for killing most mold, bacteria, and germs and does a great job breaking down icky, sticky messes. If the job is simple, a quick wipe-down with a vinegar-saturated cloth will do. You can deep clean the microwave by mixing 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl and bringing it to a hard boil inside the microwave. Let the steam build a bit and keep the door closed to allow it to penetrate for a minute or two. Baked-on food will come loose, making it easier to wipe clean, and odors will disappear. Common-sense warning: Use caution handling hot bowl and do not put your face directly over anything boiling.

School Day Shuffle

Q ~ Jane in Plano asks: Barb, we have moved my daughter to a kindergarten that starts an hour earlier than her previous one and we just can’t seem to get out the door on time without chaos. I am trying to stick to earlier bedtimes but evening classes keep us up later and then we scramble to get to bed on time. I feel like we are always scrambling. How can I get us out the door faster?

Barb ~ I have some tips to share that may help you develop an action plan that works for you. But your first step is to create a plan, communicate it, discuss it with all family involved, revise as needed, post it in multiple places and hold dress rehearsals to practice it! Write down all the steps that you are taking in your current routine. Take a look at each step and see how you can improve it. Can clothes be laid out the night before, or afternoon before since evenings are hectic? Can you pick out clothes that are easier for her to put on herself without help? Can backpacks and lunches and water bottles be prepared and packed in advanced and placed where they can be grabbed quickly on the way out? We put shoes and backpacks by the door. I make a few days worth of lunches when I am making dinner or while my kids are eating their dinner. Can you pre-prepare breakfast items? For example, if breakfast is a bowl of cereal, portion the dry cereal in a bowl the night before and cover it. What steps can be delegated to your daughter? What steps can be eliminated? If you spend too much time fixing her hair, try a simple style. Minimize her choices by asking things like, “do you want a pony tail or pig tails today” rather than “how do you want to wear your hair today” and getting into intricate braids. Investing in a kid-friendly alarm clock for her will help save you the time spent waking her in the morning to get her moving. Better yet, an ipod playing upbeat music! I also keep back-seat organizers in our car that have tissue packs, a travel hair brush, the school calendar, protein bars in case they did not get enough breakfast, melt-away allergy medicine in case we forget to take it at home, vitamins, chap-stick, and sometimes water bottles in case we forgot to pack one. Once in the car – let her know how great she did or maybe even keep a sticker chart or fun calendar that she can write the time she got into the car each morning on and set up positive reinforcements for a good calendar. Finally, make sure your watch, car clock or phone clock is set to the school’s clock.

Absentee Dad

Q ~ Miriah from Plano asks: How do I explain to a 3 and a half year old about his absentee Dad? He has never met him and never will. He is not a good person. His daycare friends asked me who is Dad is and why he has no Dad? I am stumped. I don't want him to feel it is his fault. If they are asking me, they have asked him I am sure.

Barb ~ Miriah, It's great that you are working to find the best answer to give him now. Though you want to be truthful so that he can trust you and feel he can continue to come to you with questions, he is very young and you have to be able to put things in terms that he can understand and accept. I would recommend that you ask your pediatrician to recommend child psychologists that you can interview. Children's Medical Center is also a great resource. When you find a good fit, they will help set a course of action so that you can be ready not only to answer this question, but all the others that will come up. He may have feelings come up over time from guilt to sadness to anger, so this will be an ongoing discussion. You only have one shot at the first conversation that may establish his trust in you, so it is best to bring in an expert to help prepare you to take all this on, and to help him build the confidence and skills he will need to answer these questions himself when you are not there.

Teaching The Gift Of Giving

Q ~ Christine in McKinney asks: How do you explain to children about donating toys to poor/homeless kids at Christmas time? My son is completely baffled why Santa doesn't take care of their presents and give them toys. He thinks even if the parents can't afford it, Santa can. My son gets a lot from Santa, so he thinks surely others do too.

Barb ~ Thank you to Dr. Christine Castillo, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, LSSP Board Certified Clinical Neuropsychologist Neuropsychology Service/Consult Liaison Service Children's Medical Center Dallas/Legacy Assistant Professor of Psychiatry University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for answering this week's Ask Barb: Every family is different with regard to how old they allow their children to believe in Santa. If a child is beginning to see the inequities of how Santa works, it may be time to start thinking about not attributing all gifts to Santa, or even to consider revealing when it may be time to discuss the realities of Santa. If the family is not yet ready to divulge such a secret, it may be possible to help the child by instead just simply thinking of Santa doing his part in a more limited manner, and others (those who donate) needing to help families who don't have as much.

Fall in to Bed

Q ~ Suzanne in Allen asks: I am dreading daylight savings time because my little one is barely a few months old, any tips?

Barb ~ In just a few short days on November 4, 2012, we turn the clocks back one hour. But while most of us look forward to the extra hour of sleep, parents of young children are panicked. Clock changes can throw off not just sleep, but our appetite, attention span, and mood. As adults, we learn to live by our watch but a child's body clock is set by patterns of light and dark and it can take a week or more for a child's internal clock to "reset." Ideally, you should begin preparing for the clock change several days prior and work on moving bedtimes in 10 to 15 minute increments each day. Don’t just let them tire out and hope they catch up in one day. An overtired child takes longer to settle down and wakes even earlier and irritable so you may be setting them up for behavior problems during that week. So, preferably a gentle push versus a harsh shock to the body’s internal clock. We know that melatonin regulates your body’s internal clock and essentially tells you when it is time to sleep. Since bedtime will be earlier than the body has been used to, you have to trigger the body to slow down and secrete melatonin. You can do this by: dimming the lights and using a bedtime routine. When you dim the lights your body starts to secrete melatonin. And a routine helps the body predict and be ready for what is coming next. A soothing bedtime routine might consist of a warm bath, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, playing with soft, cuddly toys, lullaby’s or a bedtime story. If you use white noise or a sleep crutch of any kind, make sure to include it in the new time change and leading up to it if possible to help train their mind to think “ah! I know what is coming next.” I simply love the Cloud b products, Sleep Sheep for babies and the new Tranquil Turtle for tots and young children. Parents should schedule their day with their usual routine but according to the new clock time. And stay consistent!

Time For Treats

Barb ~ It’s time to stock up on treats for this year’s trick or treaters. How much thought do you put in to the treats you give out? Hopefully, you are not THAT neighbor that is giving out last year’s leftovers, restaurant mints you’ve hung on to, or stuck-to-the-bottom-of-your-cup holder pennies. If you are; seriously, just turn off your porch light and skip it. You may be the neighbor that wants to be known for giving out the best stuff – king size, hard to find, gourmet, trade-ya stuff. But when it comes to being popular with dentists, there are lesser evils that you can opt for that will still please the kids, and be kinder to their teeth. Number one on that list is Chocolate. Dark chocolate, especially, contains theobromine, which has been shown to harden tooth enamel (as with any treat – in moderation). Anything containing xylitol is a good option including sugar free gum, mints and some hard candy. Xylitol is a natural sugar that deters plaque from forming. Sticky hard candy, taffy, caramel filled or any candy that sticks on and between teeth and takes too long to dissolve is not preferred though, the longer it stays in your mouth the longer cavity causing bacteria will be given to thrive. Sour candy is pretty bad too; the high acidic content breaks down tooth enamel. Parents, set some guidelines before your child brings a large amount of candy home. Discuss moderation with them. It’s okay for them to enjoy their treats, but plan how to spread them out. The best time to allow these treats is just after a meal instead of as a snack. The increased salivary flow after a meal acts as a natural barrier against cavity-causing acids. Some parents “buy back” their children’s Halloween candy. Another great idea is to consider donating it. Dentists are participating – and other groups and individuals can too – in a “buy back” or donation of candy that is sent to troops overseas: http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com/.

Halloween Safety Tips

Barb ~ Halloween is coming up and it’s time to start thinking about costumes, but don’t forget to review safety guidelines with your kids as well. We’ve recently put together a few helpful tips I wanted to share. I was astonished to learn that twice as many children are killed walking on Halloween as compared to any other day of the year (SafeKids.org). There are a few controllable factors that lead to avoidable accidents. Children are excited to run from one house to the next while trick or treating. Review pedestrian rules with them and make sure they walk in groups. An adult should always walk with children under 12. Costumes are usually dark and can blend in to surrounding decorations. Consider adding reflective materials or stickers to shoes, back and hems of costumes, and candy buckets; ask them to wear or carry glow lights or attach to buckets. When choosing a costume, stay away from long or baggy trains, hems or capes that they can trip over. Factor in how to layer for warmth. Insist on comfortable shoes that won’t lead to falls. Instead of masks or hats that can obstruct vision, consider using face paint as an alternative. Know where you are going trick or treating and discuss your choice with your kids. After all, we spend all year telling them not to take candy from strangers, but on Halloween, we let them take candy from strangers (some even wearing masks). Consider going to a community sponsored event that includes trick or treating as well as other fun family activities. These events typically have security, closed off streets, and are family-friendly. If you are going to neighborhoods, it is a good time to run your zip code through the State Registered Sex Offenders Site. Here’s a quick link for Texas. I hope everyone has a safe Halloween! If you have not purchased costumes yet, make sure you visit SpiritHalloween.com and enter promo code CHILDLIFE during check out to receive a 10% discount and raise money for Children’s Medical Center. Baby and tween sizes go pretty fast and this year the most popular choices will be what we saw for summer blockbuster movies: The Avengers, Spider-Man, Batman and Brave.

Fitting In Fitness For A Busy Mom

Barb ~ I have gotten multiple questions about how a busy mom is supposed to stay fit and recently helped with a news project on this topic. We all know now the formula is eat better and move more but the number one thing keeping most moms from balancing this is TIME. So, how do you maximize your time and your efforts? We came up with a few tips, gadgets, and apps that we ourselves use to at least get us by until our schedules allow us to make more time for the gym. The most important factors to pay attention to are Movement, Metabolism, and Calories that Count, and they all go hand in hand in your daily routine. Your metabolism is the sum of how your body uses the food you eat for the energy it needs to get you through your day. You have a serious amount of control over your metabolic rate. One of the quickest ways to almost halt it is by skipping meals. Your body goes into “starvation survival” and holds on to your fat stores. It’s like your metabolism saying, “Hey, I’m not sure when I am going to get anymore, better hang on to what I have.” Whether it is a breakfast shake, a protein bar, fruit and veggies, mixed nuts, a whole wheat bagel or dry Shredded Wheat – grab something. Alcohol also basically shuts your metabolism down, so even if you are opting for low-calorie drinks, your body cannot store alcohol like it can nutrients, so it makes it a priority to start metabolizing it immediately, which means it has to stop metabolizing anything else (like those carb-y bar snacks that go so well with those drinks). The best way to speed up your metabolism is to move. Find ways in your daily routine to move more. It doesn’t have to be a scheduled workout routine – take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the back of the lot and walk further to the entrance, do 15 squats every time you brush your teeth, 50 leg lifts when you are at the sink doing dishes or stirring dinner on the stove. Add some ankle weights and you can help tone your muscles. Muscle burns more calories even when you are resting. If you really want to get serious about it, we have a few product recommendations. The JumpSport Fitness Trampoline is one of the best on the market. It is incredibly stable, you (or the kids) cannot tip it even if you stand on the edge, it is quiet, and you can adjust firmness to make your time on it the most efficient. Recent research shows that bouncing on a trampoline is a more efficient form of exercise than running or cycling. It burns upwards of 250 calories per hour, tones muscles in legs and stomach, improves balance and relieves stress, and you can break up your time on it, use it in any room, and can even watch your favorite show when you are bouncing. JumpSport includes a fitness DVD. Fitness DVDs are great to use at home, but you may get bored with the ones you have, or not sure what kinds will work best for you. Check your tv listings for various workout shows, consider renting a variety, or search for online videos and video subscriptions to help you find what you like and keep it new. Jumping rope, which you can do even without rope, is a great workout. You can burn 12 to 20 calories a minute. That’s up to 300 calories in 15 minutes! If it puts too much strain on your knees, see above recommendation for the fitness trampoline. To keep moving throughout your day, try a pedometer to keep track of the amount of steps you are taking. We like the Striiv brand because it keeps you motivated. The average Striiv user is walking 3 miles a day! And finally, there is a free app to keep track of all your calories burned and consumed and how much you move: My Fitness Pal. It keeps a food diary that is incredibly easy to use, factors in your activity and your own personal goals to help you keep a perfect balance, wherever you are.

Best Time For Flu Vaccine

Q ~ Susan in McKinney asks: Barb, when should people get the flu vaccine? It seems early to see it out already in September, isn’t flu season later in the year and if we get it this early in the year, how long does it last?

Barb ~ If you have decided to get the flu vaccine then you should go ahead and get it when you see it is available in your area. Flu season can begin as early as October, and it takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for antibodies to develop and protect against the specific flu strains so now is perfect. The CDC encourages medical health professionals to begin giving the vaccine as soon as it is available. Protection begins to weaken at about 7 months so it should last just beyond the average flu season. Remember that the vaccine may change from year to year depending on the strains experts predict will trend so you cannot expect last year’s vaccine to still offer protection. There is a great amount of information about flu vaccines, who should get them, and other details on the CDC Website.

Organic Crib Mattresses

Q ~ Allison in Soutlake asks: Barb, I have heard a lot of talk lately about organic crib mattresses. We are about to have our third child and our second will still be using the crib mattress so we will have to purchase another. Is organic really better? It is hard to justify the huge cost. Any recommendations on brands?

Barb ~ I cannot tell you that an organic mattress is better for your new baby without insinuating that a conventional one is not good. I can say with confidence that there is a lot of concern not just among parents, but health professionals and environmental advocacy groups about the amount of chemicals in our children’s lives, especially compared to previous generations, and the effects of these chemicals on our children’s health. Chemicals that were used in baby mattresses and plastic bottles in the past have recently been banned. Some chemicals and plastics used in conventional mattresses do off-gass into the air our children breathe. A new mattress should be given time to air out before placing baby on it, so whichever you choose, allow it some time to do that. So we know that conventional mattresses have more chemicals than organic ones, we know that some of the chemicals off-gas, and we know that a baby can spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping on a mattress. We know that consumers and health professionals are concerned about the amount of chemicals our children are exposed to. In my opinion, an organic mattress is a great place to remove the concern of chemicals, especially when you consider how many hours your child may spend on it over the course of two to three years. So when faced with this purchasing decision, I personally would go for an organic mattress. There are many marketed under the category but I believe organic cotton is the way to go and while there are a handful of good brands, the brand I whole-heartedly recommend is NaturePedic. To be clear, I am not saying that you should not buy a conventional mattress or that you should replace a current mattress right away. I am stating that when faced with a purchasing decision, and if you are seeking opportunities to remove chemical exposure in your child’s environment, an organic mattress is a strong opportunity to do so. Price is often a deterring factor for parents that want to choose organic but simply cannot. NaturePedic is a brilliant company and spent years of research in designing the Lullaby Earth crib mattress. It is composed primarily of food-grade polyethylene and has the most important features of a good mattress without any harmful chemicals or allergens but the price is competitive with conventional mattresses. It’s also the first recyclable crib mattress. This is a great alternative when price is the deciding factor.

Ready For Kindergarten?

Q ~ Roberta in San Jose asks Barb: My daughter is an emotional wreck because my grandson started kindergarten 3weeks ago and they are saying he's not mature enough but when he was tested he rated #4 and they wanted him in a kinder/1st class.. she feels she failed him for not putting him in preschool ....help.

Barb ~ School policies differ from school to school and district to district, so while I cannot offer specific advice according to your district or school, I urge your daughter to insist on a meeting with the school director and the teacher. Preschool is a great practice to get children emotionally ready for Kindergarten. Even if they are academically ready, children may have a difficult time transitioning away from the home routine to the structure of a classroom. There has been a rise in the trend of "redshirting," where parents are purposely holding children back from Kindergarten until the age of 6 not based on readiness, but rather their urge to give them an advantage over the other kids. Inquire about the ages in his classroom, how many are 5, how many are 6? If his classroom is skewed older and he is being compared to older kids, then it may be affecting him negatively. She may, depending on your local laws, have the option to request that he be placed in a preschool classroom. If this school does not have a younger classroom, she may need to visit some preschools and move him. She can even have him repeat Kindergarten next year before going on to first grade. But before making this decision she should sit with the administrators and teachers and get all the information, their recommendations, and anything she needs an answer to. She has not failed him and he will not be permanently affected by this! She is clearly a mother trying to do what is best for her child and needs to give herself a break, and take a break from the guilt so she can focus on the next step. Good luck and please let me know how it is going!

Lasting Produce

Q ~ Carey in Lucas asks: How should you store different fruits and veggies to make them last longer? What should you store in a fridge vs on the counter? We started buying organic fruits and veg and it just doesn't seem to last.

Barb ~ While Organic foods do not have the preservatives to make them last as long as their conventional counterparts, Organic fruits and vegetables can be stored in the same way as conventional. If you find it is not lasting as long, ask your grocer about delivery dates to determine if supplies are not as readily available or take longer to get to the shelves and see if there is a specific time to shop that can help ensure you are getting the freshest delivery. If you are shopping at a typical store with a small organic section, the turnover is slower because the demand is lower. If you shop at a specialty store that carries mostly organic foods, you may find the selection better. How you store them does affect the shelf-life and taste. Refrigeration can extend shelf-life of some produce but it can also damage some, such as potatoes. General guidelines are helpful. Keep your refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Try not to wash produce until you are ready to eat, as storing them wet will make them decay faster. The specialty produce bags do a great job of making produce last longer. (See my explanation on why they work: http://metroplexbaby.com/AskBarb.htm#Produce_Bags). If some veggies need to ripen longer, you can let them do that at room temp, and then slow down the process by refrigerating. Eggplants, apples, tomatoes and melons are examples. Potatoes, avocados, bananas, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines and onions should not be refrigerated, but keep them away from heat and sunlight. Store bananas, potatoes and onions them separately as they each give off gasses that could age the other. I was able to find two helpful charts on specific produce and how to store each. For more information on these, visit: Storing Fruits and Vegetables, Weight Watchers Food Q & A.

Washing Produce

Q ~ Andi in Plano asks: Barb, is it necessary to wash organic fruits and vegetables with soap or will is rinsing them in water enough? Does it make a difference if they have soft skin like berries and grapes or will it spoil them faster? What about those expensive fruit and vegetable washes I see in the store?

Barb ~ While organic fruits and veggies are grown without the use of pesticides (a common reason to wash with soap), there are still other things that get on them you will want to remove. Mainly, bacteria and bugs. If there is a serious contamination that is in the root system, no amount of washing is going to help, but plenty of bacteria can get on to the food between the soil it may grow in and the many, many hands that touch it from picking to stocking. Remember how pesticides are not used in organic farming? Well, to keep the aphids and caterpillars off your food, farmers are controlling these pests naturally – with spiders. The spiders eat the little pests but not the food. They may also hide out between clusters in packaging, build a cobweb during transport and then surprise you during snack time. Or, no pest management is used and then you find yourself eye to eye with an aphid while eating a piece of fresh broccoli that you swear your rinsed long enough. Those suckers can really hang on tight. Properly rinsing alone does remove a great deal of bacteria and some pests (studies show a 80 to 98 percent effectiveness). The most effective way to safely clean your produce of bacteria and pests is to use diluted vinegar. Get a refillable plastic spray bottle and fill it with a solution of one part vinegar to three parts water and store it right next to your soap. When you are ready to clean your produce, spray or mist it just enough to cover the surface and then rinse it under tap water. If it’s not easily sprayed, like parsley for example, fill a bowl with the solution and dip, separating the leaves, then rinse in a colander. The washes you see, such as a product called Veggie Wash, can be as effective, but much more expensive than making your own solution. For softer fruit, make sure you do not store it wet so that it does not spoil faster.

Butt Head Parents

Barb ~ Though I usually ignore other people’s annoying habits, this week I saw something that really angers me. This is not a self-righteous bit that “frowns down upon” someone for having a bad habit (okay, it sort of is), and I do not give judgmental or dirty looks to people engaging themselves in a behavior I don’t agree with because adults have a choice, and I have bad habits too. I drink entirely too much diet soda. What would you think of me if I forced soda on my kids? If I cooked their food in it, replaced all their drinks with it? Mixed it in with their cereal? Would that be abusive?

This week I saw a woman driving her two young children, in car seats, with the windows rolled up, smoking. Let’s skip the “smoking is bad for you” routine, as well as the “second-hand smoke is just as toxic” bit because there is not an adult out there who can be surprised by either fact. Adults have a right to smoke, and it is none of my business if they choose to do so. Let’s instead go straight to the “How can you be so selfish as to subject your children to your bad habit? To force them to inhale poisonous fumes? To cause them to develop serious health problems?” This is the epitome of selfish, narcissistic, and yes, abusive behavior. It is no different than holding their heads down and forcing their mouths around the exhaust pipe of that car. Smokers don’t realize how bad their clothes smell but lady, do you realize how sad it is that your children’s clothes smell like smoke? How adults react to those children? My son had a friend who had a smoking mom. When I held the door open for him one day and he passed by me, I felt so sad for him because at 9 years old, he stunk like an ashtray. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke but to roll the windows up and give them no choice but to breathe it in? They don’t stop breathing it when you put that butt out – the fumes and all their toxic particles absorb into the upholstery and carpet of the car and then gas-off in to the air for days. So that smell on your clothes and your children’s clothes? That’s off-gasing. If you want more information on air quality in a smoker’s car, see this video: http://vimeo.com/42216879

Lady, you are a mom. That means protect your kids. This is something you have full control over. Smoke outside before you leave the house. If you really have to have it again while on the road – pull over into a parking lot and stand outside your car. Just don’t smoke in a way that will harm your own children. If it is illegal to smoke on airplanes and in smoke-free restaurants, or outside of the entrance to a public building, shouldn’t it be illegal to smoke in a car with minors in it? It is in some states, but not many, and not Texas. Arkansas’s Smokefree Provision (effective 7/27/2011) prohibits it in cars with children under 14. Louisiana and Puerto Rico for children under 13. Maine is under 16 and California has a Smokefree Car law for children under the age of 18. If you want to see a similar law in Texas, it can begin with sending a simple email to your representative or senator: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Resources/FAQ.aspx#2

First Bra

Q ~ Jennifer in Cedar Hill asks Barb: How do I get my daughter to start wearing a bra. She just refuses. She has expressed that she doesn't want it to show under her clothes and she doesn't like when the straps fall off of the shoulder.

Barb ~ It seems like she knows why she does not like it and is comfortable communicating it to you, so that is a good thing! As long as she is communicating, you can work together. First, empathize with her. Bras can be uncomfortable, and embarrassing if she is one of the first in her class to be wearing one, or she has seen other girls teased about wearing bras. The specific complaint about it falling off her shoulder may mean she does not have the proper fit. I am a firm believer in investing in comfortable shoes and comfortable underwear. These are things that should fit comfortably and do their job right so you can go about your business and not be slowed down to adjust or recover. Let her know that you understand, and that there are bras that do not have to show or be adjusted. Perhaps you can take her to a Victoria's Secret (or ask her where she would like to go) and have them measure her for a proper fit. They can then make suggestions on styles and cuts that would work best for her body type. It makes a world of difference! Opt for dark or nude colors without patterns (not white), smooth over lacey that will not show as much through clothes. Give her the option of wearing a tank with built-in shelf bra or a sports bra. Depending on her size and normal use, you may also want to check into silicone self-adhesive strapless bras. These are simply silicone "cups" with no straps or back that stick on to give light support and coverage. I would not recommend them for anyone that is active, but they may get you through the summer months if a big concern for her is being able to see that she is wearing a bra. You can find reviews on Amazon. Good luck!

A Spoonful of Sugar Does Help the Medicine Go Down

Q ~ Mindy in Plano asks: Barb, do you have any tips on getting children to take medicine? My twins (5) fight me every time, even if it doesn’t taste that bad!

Barb ~ There are only two things young children have absolute control over: What goes in, and when it comes out. You either need to find a way for them to make up their mind to take it, or sneak it in. Medicine is usually bitter, and the bitter taste buds are located at the back of the tongue. Make sure to ask the pharmacist about flavorings, and take it a step further from there. Mary Poppins had it right, a spoon-full of anything sweet will help make the medicine go down, but kids also decide to try something only if it looks good so pay attention to presentation. First, empathize. Then, let them know it is not up for negotiation, they have to take it as much as they have to be in a car seat. Finally, give them choices on how to take it- try to involve them and give them control in the decision. “I know it tastes yucky, and I don’t blame you for not wanting to take it. But you have to take it so do you think you would like it better if we mix it in Chocolate Pudding, Jello, yogurt, applesauce or a freezer pop?” You have given them a choice on how to take it, not if they are going to take it. Now you should have their attention with all the sweet treats you just listed. If you are making Jello or pudding, go ahead and follow the recipe exactly, portion it into small amounts – just a treat size (few bites) so they finish it all - and when the mix is cool enough, mix in the measured amount of medicine to each portion. To make freezer pops, use your favorite juice, and again, make it just large enough to mask the bitter taste but small enough so that it won’t melt before they are finished, or they get too full from it. You may have other treat ideas but remember to never heat the medicine itself. Other ideas are to mix it in to a spoonful of chocolate or caramel syrup or a small cup of sugar-free orange soda or root beer. Make a slushy from juice or sugar-free soda and mix the medicine in that. If you have portion cups that are fun for them, (perhaps the colorful plastic 1 oz. bathroom cups), anything that makes the appearance more child friendly, use it. Make sure to ask your doctor if you have any options for better-tasting prescriptions.

Organic vs. Regular Milk

Q ~ Susie in Arlington asks: Barb, why are the expiration dates on organic milk so much longer than regular milk? It almost scares me to keep milk around that long.

Barb ~ Nah, you’d be more scared to know why regular milk does not last as long as organic. The difference is all in the process of killing bacteria in the milk. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to kill the naturally occurring bacteria. It’s a good thing. But let’s back up a little. In conventional, non-organic dairy farming methods (regular milk), many cows are shot up with antibiotics and hormones. All cows have bST, a hormone that helps them make milk. Some dairy farmers give cows more of this hormone so that they can make even more milk. They may also give the cows antibiotics to kill a lot of the bacteria that would be in the milk before they even make the milk. Since they are treating with the antibiotics, they can choose to use a cheap, simple and quick moderate-temperature pasteurization to kill off bacteria. It doesn’t kill it all off, but let’s say it does meet government standards. Organic dairy farming methods (organic milk) do not use any hormones or antibiotics on the cows. The resulting milk is thereby higher in bacteria than regular milk. These farmers have to use a higher temperature to kill the higher amounts of bacteria. This ultra pasteurization costs them a little more, which accounts in part for the higher cost for you. Guess which method of pasteurization kills off more of the bacteria in the final product? That’s right kids, ultra pasteurization kills off more bacteria. Therefore, a gallon of organic milk has less bacteria in it than a gallon of regular milk. Remember bacteria is what causes foods to spoil, so organic milk spoils a lot less quickly than regular and hence a longer “Use By” date. By the way, the containers that are a solid white plastic (versus opaque or clear) or cardboard keep more light out of the milk. Light causes milk to spoil faster. According to the National Dairy Council website, “In terms of quality, safety and nutrition, there’s no difference between organic and regular milk. Both contain the same combination of nutrients that make dairy foods an important part of a healthy diet.”

Home Alone

Q ~ Sandra in Plano asks: At what age can you legally leave a child home alone? My son is 10 and very responsible, I trust him and we know most of our neighbors very well. Would it be okay to leave him home alone when I just run out to the store?

Barb ~ The State of Texas does not legally define a specific age at which a child can be left without adult supervision in their home. However, there is a state law against Neglectful Supervision, which is defined as “Placing a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child's level of maturity, physical condition or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or substantial risk of immediate harm to the child” (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services). The DFPS recommends a care giver considers factors including how mature and capable the child is, the layout safety and security of the house, and the child’s ability to respond to an emergency situation, as well as the length of time they will be without an adult, their accessibility to other responsible adults, and the knowledge of the parent’s planned time away. So if you feel your child is ready, then make sure he knows where you are going and how long you expect to be gone. Make sure you have an emergency plan in place that he has practiced if he gets hurt, if there is a household accident or in the case of an intruder. Make sure he knows the phone numbers of emergency contacts/trusted adults, and where all the locks are. And make sure the house is a safe environment – No pet boas roaming un-caged or shards of glass strewn around.

SPF-What?

Q ~ Christi in Lake Worth asks: Barb, what is the minimum SPF that I should use on the kids?

Barb ~ The answer really depends on how much you use and what brand you choose. Ounce for ounce, an SPF of 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while the same amount of an SPF 100 blocks 99%. But guess what? An SPF of 50 also blocks about 99%. So anything over 50 only offers a negligible amount of protection and lends more to marketing and easing guilt than skin protection. The problem is we tend to go a little lighter and apply less often with a higher SPF. Even the higher SPFs need to be reapplied every couple of hours. FYI, an SPF of 15 blocks about 93% - or allows you to be in the sun about 15 times longer than without any product before you sunburn. Dermatologists recommend a minimum SPF of 15 for daily use. Remember that with the reflective properties of water and sand, heavy outdoor use would call for a minimum recommended SPF of 30 – still reapplying every couple of hours. If your children have very pale, sensitive skin, go ahead and go with the 50. Recent studies are showing that the brand you choose is very important to your skin health. Look for minerals as the main ingredients rather than chemicals. I highly recommend the thinkbaby brand. To see how your favorite brands compare, visit EWG’s Skin Deep Sunscreen ratings. You need to create an account (free) to access the database, but you will find hundreds of brands rated, as well as a Hall of Shame that lists Children’s sunscreens that “Fail the Test” with hormone-disrupting chemical ingredients. You will be surprised at which popular brands made the “shame” list!

Kiddie Pool Water

Q ~ Sarah F. in Frisco asks: We have a brand new blow up kiddie pool and are ready to use it! I was wondering if you can treat kiddie pools like regular pools with chlorine to avoid having to empty and fill it each day. How long before it gets "gunky"? It just seems to be a waste of water to fill it each day, and if that's what we need to do, we may just play in the bathtub! And if we can treat it, will the chlorine kill our grass? Thanks!

Barb ~ The short answer is yes, the water in your inflatable kiddie pool should be chemically treated unless you plan to empty it daily. You should still plan to empty the treated water weekly. The key is to make sure you have the proper amounts of chemicals. Higher than necessary amounts can lead to rashes, burning eyes and itchy skin. Proper pool chemicals sanitize the water and kill harmful bacteria, prevent algae growth (which can begin after a few hours in direct sunlight), clears sweat and skin products, and discourages mosquitoes from congregating. You can find granule products made specifically for kiddie pools sold on shelves near the pools, or you can use household bleach or traditional pool chemicals. You can extend the life of the treated water by skimming debris after each use and keeping the pool covered when not in use. If you cannot find a cover to your pool, make one with a plastic tarp and secure it with weights or stakes. The chlorine in a kiddie pool should test at 3.0 or higher. Pool Solutions is very valuable website that features a kiddie pool calculator to help you figure out how much water is in your pool and how much chlorine you will need. Keep test strips (easily found at any home improvement store, pool supply store, online, and even some big box stores) on hand to test the water before each use until you are confident in the water safety. The Clorox website offers this standard: The standard disinfecting solution (3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach/gallon of water) yields a 2700ppm (parts per million) concentration. For pool use, we want no more than 1-2ppm (about 2 teaspoons for a 50 gallon pool). Never add bleach directly to a pool---mix with water first in a bucket then distributed across the pool surface. While traditional pool chemicals have added ingredients to help balance the water, if you are using household bleach, you may have to balance the ph levels as well. The Arm & Hammer website has an excellent guide on how to do that. If you decide to empty your pool after each use and not use chemicals, it is a great idea to re-use the water to water your plants, trees, and grass. You can still re-use the water even if it is treated. Remember that chlorine burns off quickly when it is in demand – as it works to kill bacteria, etc, it is used up. The sun can also make it dissipate faster. Your plants should be safe if you time the emptying of the water at least 24 hours after the last use (use your test strips to confirm lower levels of chlorine). On a final note, if your pool is in a grassy area, you may want to relocate it to a new area often so that the grass underneath is not killed. probably not the new

Backyard Buzz

Q ~ Beth in Arlington asks: Barb, we have a mosquito problem in our backyard. I have noticed it since we put in a lot of landscaping so I am not sure if plants are attracting them like they would bees? Other than spray, can you recommend something SIMPLE to use to help? Something with a good range – do bug zappers and candles go far? I don’t want to have to spray the family every time we go out and then have to wash it off.

Barb ~ It’s probably not the new plants that are attracting them but perhaps the watering of those plants. Any area with a lot of moisture is a great breeding area for mosquitoes, including standing water in pots, water features, French drains, fountains, or flower beds. The sprays may not only become a nuisance but they also don’t put a dent in the bug population. So your first action should be to address any standing water. If it is somewhere like a French drain or a pond, then look for a larvacide like Mosquito Dunks. These are pellets that are not toxic to pets or kids but kill mosquito larvae before they grow up to be biting mosquitoes. Next, consider adding naturally repellent plants to your landscaping. Talk to your local gardening store about mosquito repelling plants and see if you can fit some in to your landscaping. It will not necessarily limit the population but if you can place some potted ones around your sitting area it will be helpful. The bug zappers can work well if you get the right one. Conduct a simple search on Amazon.com to read reviews (Flowtron is a highly rated brand but you will need to choose the right model for the amount of space you have). This can definitely reduce the population. Candles and torches have a very limited range.

Putting Up with Picking Up

Q ~ Sondra in Rowlett asks: Barb, I am really tired of my son not taking care of his things. He leaves his toys all over and when I tell him to pick them up he says he is not done playing with them. Then it’s already bed time and he leaves them to the next morning, which of course never happens. I am tired of picking them up for him or helping him find lost toys. He is 5. How can I teach him to be more responsible with his things?

Barb ~ You can establish your rules and stick to them. He is capable of taking care of his things at this age. You just have to require it of him. I firmly believe that our job as parents is to help our children learn to survive as an adult in the adult world. That means teaching them to do things themselves, and giving them examples of real-life consequences. For example, in the adult world, if we don’t take care of something ourselves, we probably lose it, or it quits working, and it is up to us to replace it. Take a plant for example, or your car. What happens when we don’t take care of these things? What happens if we leave behind our purse at a restaurant? Right now it is just toys but right now is when he should learn and practice the habits that turn us into responsible people. I would sit with him and clearly communicate your rule. Give him some tools on how to best follow the rule. One easy tip that will help keep this simple is that only one thing can be taken out to play with at time. If he wants Legos, then he needs to put away the trucks first, and so on. Give him tupperwares or shoe boxes to help organize little pieces. Give him a clear consequence. Ask him to explain it all back to you to make sure he understands. Help him get his things in order for the last time and then stick to the plan. For example, let him know that you expect his things picked up and put away where they belong by dinner time. Make sure you remind him daily at the time he needs to start until this becomes a habit. So at 4:00, or whatever time works for you, remind him that it is time to start picking up. You can even give him a 5 minute countdown so that he can finish what he is playing and then start putting it away. If he leaves anything on the floor, that communicates to you that he does not care about it so you can donate it or throw it out. If he decides to test you, immediately follow through. That means quietly, with no yelling on your part, pick up the item and put it in the trash or donation box. That’s it. No turning back. It will sting, but it should be about the only time you have to do it. Remember when you touched a hot stove for the first time – how bad it burned for hours or days after? You probably never intentionally touched a hot stove again. If you don’t think you can throw it out, then just put it away and consider letting him earn it back – just make him work for it.

Pesty Plant Problems

Q ~ Karen in Dallas asks: Barb, every few years I think I want houseplants and spend a lot on ones that I like, only to toss them out because they get infested with fruit flies. I really want to keep plants this year, but after only a month, they have fruit flies, though we only see them around the plants. I only had them outside the short time I was putting them in planters and I used premium soil so I am not sure how they got there in the first place. I tried using the red wine in a cup trick but it only caught a few. Are there any solutions that are not harmful to my toddler?

Barb ~ They can appear from thin air, or just any small, near-invisible crack in a window or door, or even come buried in that premium soil. Trapping the adults with red wine or fly paper only gets rid of the adults you see, but there are many more in the soil you can’t see in the form of larvae. You can use an insecticide made for lawns, gardens and bushes, or you can just take away the one thing they need to survive: moisture. You may be watering your plants too much. Check the labels, most say to allow soil to dry between watering. These are probably fungus gants, they love to mingle, breed and feed in the top few inches of potting soil. Their life cycle is short, but they multiply fast. The larvae live and feed in the top few inches of soil so even if you kill all the ones you see, remember that in 2-3 weeks, the existing larvae grow up into adults and lay their own eggs in the soil. The larvae feed on roots so they can damage your plants and they can transmit disease, so get rid of them fast. If you can, remove the top 2-3 inches of potting soil. Let the remaining soil dry to prevent any remaining larvae from growing into adults and laying eggs. Replace the top layer of soil and then use sand or decorative rocks on top of that, giving it plenty of coverage, to keep them out in the future. Avoid overwatering in the future, let your soil, or at least the top of it, dry out between watering. When they are gone, use your wine for a toast!

Playdate Gone Bad

Q ~ Beth in Southlake asks: Barb, my son had a school friend over for a play date weeks ago. The friend was kind of aggressive in that he played rough, tossing toys around. He was mean to my youngest, he would just go grab things from the fridge or pantry to snack on without asking, he bragged and he broke something. He was flying a helicopter toy that my parents gave my son as a gift, and was so rough with it, it broke. My son is upset that he can not use it and I am upset that he was so disrespectful and careless with something so valuable. I really want to mention it to his mom in hopes she offers to replace it. Is it okay to ask her to replace it? Should I just come right out and ask her or just tell her what happened and let her offer?

Barb ~ Absolutely not. It’s a good lesson for everyone but you should not mention it or ask her to replace it. When you invite someone over to play with your things you are still responsible for those things. It is very different than lending things out with the understanding that the borrower is responsible for them during use. Your son’s lesson is to not bring anything out to play with that they are going to be upset over or worried about breaking, especially when the friend showed that he played aggressively. It doesn’t seem like he broke it on purpose, and even though it was his carelessness that led to it breaking, it was an accident.

The CleanWell Earth Day Challenge

Barb ~ I have always been a big fan of CleanWell, a manufacturer of hand and surface sanitizing products. They market responsibly, the products smell good and they sanitize safely, with no harsh chemicals that are harmful to my kids or their environment. This year, in celebration of Earth Day, they have issued a simple challenge: Change one thing. For many of us, the idea of becoming more “green” is overwhelming. But you do not have to change your entire lifestyle. Drastic changes don’t work, but simple, sensible, manageable lifestyle changes do. Change one thing. That’s it. Can you find one thing to change? One of my favorite bloggers, the Mama Maven, has taken this challenge and has decided to give up the daily juice boxes her 6 year old takes to school. She’ll fill a reusable bottle with juice every day instead. One simple lifestyle change, lots of juice boxes not sitting in landfills. I’m excited to follow her through this challenge and see where it leads her (you can follow too). Our school does not allow drink boxes and requires reusable cups so it has become a habit for us and I do not even think about it. One simple change that becomes a normal part of the way you live. That’s the challenge. I thought about what change I can make next. I do often purchase individually packaged snacks such as pretzels as packable treats for the kids. It should be pretty easy to just purchase larger bags and then pack portions as needed in reusable containers. So to those who have been too overwhelmed by the fear-based marketing, the idea of changing you the way you live, or the cost of “greener” products, I encourage you to take the challenge. Just one change at a time. If we can all just make one change, imagine the impact it would have on the Earth we leave our kids!

Sweaty Situation

Q ~ Alli in Southlakes asks: Barb, my 8 year old is stinky. He showers after school and sports, then is fine but sweats through the night and stinks again in the morning. He doesn't have time to shower in the morning unless I wake him up earlier. Is he too young for deodorant? Is it safe?

Barb ~ If I ask you to think back to your classroom years – from K through 12 – and tell me the name of the stinkiest kid in any of those years – can you give me a name? Whether it was the kid with horrible, stale BO that lingered in the hallways for hours after walking through it or the one that thought more was better when it came to cologne or perfume, you remember. You already know he stinks in the morning, when you first send him off to school. It probably gets worse after recess. You don’t want yours to be THE stinky kid. His nighttime sweating may be caused by increased body temperature while sleeping (totally normal). But more likely – brace yourself- you are seeing the onset of puberty. The age of puberty onset ranges from 8-14 in girls and 9-15 in boys. His hormones make him sweat more, and the bacteria that is naturally found on skin is brought to the surface. This bacteria is what stinks. He is not too young for deodorant. Deodorants make the skin acidic, an unfriendly environment for the bacteria. Since he is young, his skin may be sensitive compared to an adults, and his odor may not be as funky as an adults, you can get away with starting with a mild, hypoallergenic, unscented brand. There are some safer than others. Check the labels and avoid anything with Aluminum (build up of aluminum in the brain is associated with Alzheimers), parabens (preservatives that are suspected of being a risk factor for breast cancer), and propylene glycol (a neurotoxin that can cause dermatitis). Crystal Body Deodorant is safe for kids and uses all natural mineral salts. Tom’s of Maine makes a safe one for kids and teens (but they also make an anti-perspirant deodorant so check the label to make sure you are only getting deodorant). We’ve tested this brand on my son with great success. Alba Botanical is another safe brand that uses baking soda and witch hazel. Tom’s can be found in major grocery or big box stores, your local Whole Foods type of store will carry other safe alternatives.

Transitioning to Whole Milk

Q ~ B.T. in Richardson asks: Barb, At our 12 and 15 month appointments, our pediatrician wanted us to change the baby over from formula to milk, and transition her from her bottle. At 15 months now, she can drink out of a regular cup, with and without straws, most sippy cups, when it comes to water and juice. With transitioning her using formula, we've tried it all. Different sippy cups, straws, reg cups, and almost all transition cups. First she refuses to drink formula in anything other than her bottle. If i put it in a sippy for a cup she takes one drink and hands it back. Then we tried to just do milk (Whole, 2%, chocolate, strawberry), Carnation instant breakfast, Nido milk powder, and a few other non american milk power brands. Also tired mixing formula and milk too, same result , she takes one sip and gives it back. She just won't drink it. I am worried about replacing the calories from the milk she won't drink if we get rid of the bottle now... Any suggestions?

Barb ~ It's great that you have already introduced the cup with water and juice with success. This will make weaning from the bottle easier. But first, let's focus on the milk issue. Very few children transition to milk with more than a few sips to start. It is very normal for her to try it a few dozen times before she decides she will tolerate it, then gradually build from a few sips to half a cup and more. Don't stress about flavoring it, you want to try and avoid developing a preference for sweeteners. Author and Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene believes that children will "imprint" on healthy foods if they are introduced enough, and begin to crave them. Whole milk is recommended over 2% milk for this age because the fat content is needed for myelination. (The nerves in her brain will be insulated like wires by a layer of fat called myelin.) Ask her pediatrician what amounts she should be getting and if they could be from different sources such as Yogurt (made with whole milk and no added sugar or corn syrup), homemade smoothies or cheese. Too much can cause constipation, so discuss a balanced diet. Is there anything that you can stir milk solids or milk into such as her cereal or food? Or mix some formula powder into her food for the calories and nutrients if her pediatrician approves? You may be able to sneak in enough servings while she is slowly getting used to drinking it. Now for the bottle issue. She's probably clever enough to figure out if you are mixing milk into her formula in any amounts. Your goals can be separate of each other:
1) Encourage her acceptance of milk as an altogether new drink (not replacement for formula) in a cup.
2) Ensure her calorie and nutrient intake in the meantime by offering alternate sources of dairy.
3) Wean her from the bottle by gradually dropping each bottle every week or two. You can offer her a snack instead, or distract her with an activity if she wants it for comfort, but don't worry about replacing it with milk. Give her a lot of "big girl" encouragement during this time. It will eventually happen. Remind yourself that she won't go off to college with a bottle.

Make Me Up

Q ~ Genny in Southlake asks: Barb, I don’t wear makeup often but I can’t seem to find a pressed powder that I like. I think I found a color that I like and then bring it home to waste away because it looks completely different on. How can I find out which brand is right for me without trying every single one?

Barb ~ This is one item that I would spend a little extra on. I recommend you go to a department store with higher-end make-up counters and ask them to color match you. They have samples to try on you so that you can see which works best before you make the purchase. You can always be flexible on shades of eye shadow and lipsticks but foundation and powder can make you look silly if they do not blend well. The drug stores or grocery stores that sell makeup with just a printed color swatch can’t give you an accurate idea of how the color looks on YOUR skin. But department store brands usually have more pigment and come in more skin type options. If there is a celebrity look you like, or have similar skin tone to, try searching for their favorite brands or what their makeup artists use on them for ideas on brands to try.

Nail Biter

Q ~ Kelly in Dallas asks: Barb, my 3 year old won’t stop biting her nails. Her fingers sometimes start to bleed because she bites her nails them so far down. My mom tells me to put red pepper under them to make her stop but I think it’s cruel. What can I do?

Barb ~ You usually can’t reason with a 3 year old, but you should remind her that fingers in the mouth is a great way to get sick. The first thing I suggest you do is try to understand why she is doing it. Try to pay attention and see if it is just a habit, or something she does as a reaction to boredom, nervousness, or excitement. The problem with red pepper or other similar trick is that it doesn’t really solve her need to do it if it is a reaction, meaning, if you haven’t helped her deal with the emotion that leads her to nail biting, she may adapt another habit as a result. If it is an emotional reaction, talk to your pediatrician for ways to proceed. If it is just simply something to do, then you could try distraction first. If she is with you enough and you are able to consistently distract her, try holding her hand or giving her something to do that keeps her hands busy whenever you notice she is starting to bite her nails. You could also try to appeal to her sense of pride, if she has one, and make a big deal with a manicure and polish her nails. Let her know how pretty they look but that biting them would ruin the polish. You could try to reward her for each day she doesn’t bite them, but don’t punish her for something like this. Red pepper or anything under the nails may lead to skin infections so I do not recommend it. If you are looking for a product to help, I have used a product called “No Bite,” purchased from Amazon.com. It is a clear polish that does not taste good and stays on for days at a time. You can put it on her during a “mani” or when she is asleep. Read the reviews to see if this is something you may want to give a try. I used it with my daughter, a serious nail biter, twice. She never really complained or realized it was there, but she did decide to stop biting her nails within two weeks.

Produce Bags

Q ~ Laura in Frisco asks: Barb, do the specialty produce bags that are supposed to keep fruits and vegetables fresher longer actually work? I keep seeing the green ones in my store but not sure if they are worth the extra price.

Barb ~ These may be marketed under “Debbie Myer Green Bags” or “Evert-Fresh Green Bags.” Yes, they work by simple science. You may have heard that storing un-ripened bananas in a paper bag helps them ripen faster? Fruits and vegetables “breathe” and as a result, release an ethylene gas. This gas ages/decomposes/spoils the food over a short time. As this aging happens, vitamins are also lost. These specialty bags naturally absorb the gasses. They are made from low-density polyethylene that is coated with a natural clay. This clay is rich in minerals that absorb the gas. The result is a slow-down of the decomposition process. I have used these bags and yes, they do keep produce fresher longer. Though the cost of the bags seems high in comparison to regular produce bags or Ziploc bags, they are re-usable up to 10 times. You simply rinse and re-use. So you can cut down on the amount of bags you use, as well as the amount of food that is wasted. These brands are made in the USA.

Stinky Towels

Q ~ Karen in Flower Mound asks: Barb, My towels stink. It’s so weird, I can’t figure it out. We just moved a few months ago and we never had this problem in the old house. It’s my same bath towels, some new ones I broke out, the guest towels, and the kitchen towels. I use the same soap and washing machine, the cabinets don’t smell, I have been making sure lately that I run the dryer longer to make sure they are dry. They smell okay out of the dryer, and sometimes they smell okay when I get them out of the cabinet, and then the second I use them they stink again. Clothes come out fine – it’s just towels and it’s several different brands, colors, thickness and age. I’m stumped!

Barb ~ It’s mildew. Think back – did any of your towels ever sit wet during the move, at the bottom of a hamper, or for a few days in the washer before drying? Have any washcloths sat in the corner of your shower for more than 48 hours? Any one of those could cause mildew but washing them in normal cycles does not kill all the mildew. So the mildew grows again. You probably wash all your towels together so the mildew tumbles around with them all. Gather all your towels and get rid of the mildew once and for all. You can try a few things as there are a variety of molds and mildews. If your towels are white and chlorine bleach is an option, try this first. If not, try vinegar. A cup in your load, letting them soak for 20 – 30 minutes will get rid of most varieties of molds and mildews. Tea tree oil can also work in your washer but has a strong smell so you will need to run an additional cycle with soap. Make sure to divide them up into small loads to give them room to tumble. Temperature is important too. Wash on the hottest setting you can, if your washer has a sanitary option, utilize it. If you have a large enough stock pot you can even boil them individually, or at least the washcloths and hand towels. Make sure they are fully dry – never leave the house with the dryer running though (potential fire hazard). Even a deep freeze kills a variety of molds and mildew, you can throw dry towels into a deep freezer for two days or a regular freezer for three days. Your next step is maintenance. Wet towels left in the washer or dryer, or in the corner of your shower, balled up by your sink, buried in the hamper, or thrown over a door for as little as 48 hours can make a perfect haven for mildew. After you use them, hang them in a way that allows them to quickly dry. Wash and dry them fully right away. You can test a few of these methods on a washcloth or single towel to see what works in your case before tackling the rest.

Laser Hair Removal

Q ~ "Want to be hairless" in Plano asks: I have several friends doing laser hair removal. They purchased groupons. What is the difference between using the ones that heavily advertise and/or are super cheap and using my doctor? What should I look for?        

Barb ~ There are quite a few things that separate your doctor’s office from a medpsa, and even more that separate the good from the bad. Spas and salons that want to expand their service offerings to include “medical” treatments such as laser hair removal, skin tightening and dermal fillers can call themselves medspas. There are a few loopholes and gray areas because now they have to abide by the same regulatory issues as your doctor’s office. It’s in these loopholes that you separate the good from the bad. In many States, including Texas, medical grade laser hair removal devices can be sold to spas or salons even though they are considered medical devices and you can’t practice medicine without a license. If you have a physician on staff (and use of this device is included in their scope of practice), then you can do this legally, and ideally, this physician trains and oversees everything related to the device. What you want to avoid is the “oh yeah, we have a staff physician, but they are hardly here” places that employ a doctor on the books only or “off-site” and offer these services at lots of locations and are thus able to offer them at a cheaper price. Some institutions are both a spa and a school for technicians so they are able to get their equipment free or at a vary reduced price, which allows them to charge so much less than a spa that pays full price for their equipment. Texas and Florida are leading the way with legislation requiring laser certifications. A Laser Certification is a professional credential that recognizes a high level of academic knowledge or achievement in that area. Texas has recently passed a law that requires technicians to complete 40 hours of classroom training and perform 100 supervised procedures before becoming certified for laser hair removal. Still, it is important that a medical doctor is there to consistently oversee operations. There are medspas that doctors will recommend themselves if they do not do the treatments in their own office. If you are considering one, do your homework. Know the risks of the treatment. Burning and scarring is a risk. Ask for a consultation and be prepared with these questions: *Who owns the facility? *Who runs the facility’s day to day operations? *Who will be performing the treatment, how long have they been performing it and what licenses do they carry? *What kind of equipment is used and how old is it? *How many treatments will I need? *What can I expect as results of my treatments? If you are rushed through the answers or treated like an idiot for asking them, run far away. Finally, do a few internet searches for reviews on the facility. Search the facility name and city and include “user reviews” or “user opinions” in the search terms. Remember, you get what you pay for. A higher cost should mean better, newer equipment, better trained, more experienced technicians, and physicians.

Tidbits on the New Year

Q ~ No-one asked, but Barb babbles on New Year traditions and resolutions.                     

Barb ~ 2012 is officially here and, while most Americans were eating black-eyed peas and collard greens as a symbol of prosperity, Iranians were banging pots and pans and breaking earthen jars to get rid of bad luck. The Scottish burned juniper branches around the house, Cambodians saturated each other with colored water, Germans dropped hot, molten lead into cold water to interpret the shapes made into fortunes. South Americans chose their underwear very carefully – if they wore yellow, they did so to better their chances for making more money. Those who picked red went for love in 2012, and those who want to give peace a chance in the New Year chose white underwear. In Denmark, people threw their old dishes at the doors of their friend’s homes. Lebanese raced to be the first to tell someone “Bistraint a leke” to collect money from them and in China, fresh coats of red paint were added to front doors. While Americans are scrambling to find someone to kiss at Midnight, the pressure is off in Portugal and Japan, where the Portuguese pick and eat twelve grapes at midnight to guarantee twelve happy months to come, and the Japanese laugh in the New Year as a way to bring in good luck. Children in the Philippines made sure they will grow tall by jumping up and down at midnight. And the entire world over, dating back to Babylonian times, made resolutions. The most common in America being: lose weight, get organized, save money, enjoy life, learn a new skill, kick a bad habit, be more charitable, spend more time with family, and fall in love. Celebrities even made resolutions and shared them with the world, via Twitter. Kim Kardashian tweeted that she wants to “be more simple in 2012.” Jenny McCarthy is going to be more aggressive and ask the boys out instead of waiting for them to come to her. Ashton Kutcher tweeted, "In 2012 let's agree to a resolution to feel one another's pain & joy, & create the peace we desire through proactive generosity.” Well, celebs already have fitness, wealth, skills and personal organizers. Tony Bennett is going to take up sculpting, and Alyssa Milano wants to “figure out how to balance motherhood with taking care of myself.” Welcome, Alyssa. Perhaps this year the usual majority that is doomed to fail may turn to technology to help them succeed with their resolutions, 'cause, guess what? There’s an app for that. Try Daily Burn, Lose It!, My Fitness Pal or Diet Assistant for those fitness apps. A notable free app for keeping track of your finances is Pageonce, and check out SilverWiz for a buck. For organization, try Evernote. If you want to quite a bad habit, take a look at the free app, Quitter. It not only tracks how many days you’ve been without that bad habit, it keeps track of how much money you are saving each day! There’s even an app to give you daily motivations to succeed. On an interesting note, women succeeded 10% more when they shared their goals with friends and got support (or reminders that they were failing, depending on the friend).

Ashes, Ashes

Q ~ Marla in Coppell asks: Barb, we used our fireplace for the first time in years last week and the ashes are piled up. Now I remember how much I hate cleaning them up. I use the fireplace shovel and they just spew clouds of ash into my face and on my carpet. Is there a better way to get rid of them?
                    
Barb ~ They are dry and lightweight, like most types of dust, so they will float around and annoy you. There are a few ways to help control the dust, some more affordable than others. You can purchase a specialty vacuum made just for fireplace ash. They run under $300. They take up a lot of space, but they are heat and flame resistant so they can be used any time, you do not have to wait for everything to cool. A wet/dry vac is strong and quick enough to suck up the ashes without disturbing them and sending them afloat. If you have one with a disposable bag and filter, you could try that. Make sure that all the embers are cool – at least 3 to 4 days after burning a fire, and discard the ashes in all cases in a metal can, not a plastic bag. You can look for a fireplace ash tray. This looks and functions like the crumb tray in your toaster oven. When everything is cool, slide it out and take it outside to dispose of in a metal can. Finally, try recycling your wet coffee grinds and cover the cool embers and ashes with them. Let them just absorb the ash for about 20 minutes, the ash will actually stick to them, then scoop them out. The weight of the grinds will help anchor a lot of that dust.

Private Playtime?

Q ~ Lisa in Carrollton asks: My 18 month old daughter has started masturbating by rubbing up and down on the arm of the chair. She has started doing it frequently at home and now the babysitter is telling me that she is doing it at her house. I don't punish her and try tore-direct her to another activity. But, it is starting to get embarrassing when friends come over and she continues to do this. Is this normal and just a phase? And, how should my husband and I handle it?
                    
Barb ~ This answer is graciously provided by: Celia Heppner, Psy.D., Postdoctoral Fellow in Clinical Child Psychology at Children’s Medical Center: Very young children are naturally less aware than older children and adults of modesty and rules for touching their own and other people’s bodies. Awareness ofsocial rules about sexual behavior usually doesn’t begin to develop until around four to six years old. As a result, it isn’t uncommon for children under the age of four to display behaviors such as wanting to undress or be naked in front of others, showing their private parts to others,and exploring their own private parts by touching or rubbing them. It sounds like you’re already doing a lot of the things that we would typically recommend to manage your daughter’s behavior (not punishing her; trying to redirect her to another activity). Because children this age sometimes touch their private parts in an effort to soothe or calm themselves, Iwould also suggest using a different soothing object or activity to distract her (i.e., giving her a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or pacifier; rubbing her back or holding her and rocking her). I also would recommend being careful about the amount of attention you and her babysitter aregiving her in these situations, because even negative attention can be rewarding for children. What you’re describing does sound like age-appropriate behavior that will likely respond well to your interventions and resolve on its own. Sexual behaviors that we would tend to see as more concerning include behavior that causes a strong emotional reaction from the child (such as anger, crying, and anxiety) and behavior that gets in the way of a child’s normal activities. Problematic sexual behavior also includes activity that is much more advanced than the child’s developmental level or takes place between children of very different ages. If any of these are noticed, I would recommend that parents contact a mental health professional with training in child development to help with the behavior and any related issues in outpatient treatment.

The Steel on Stainless Bottles

Q ~ Angela in Grand Prairie asks: Barb, is it okay to fill stainless steel drinking bottles with apple juice the night before to pack in a school lunch box, or will the acid react with the stainless steel if it sits in there too long?
                    
Barb ~ This depends on the quality and health of the bottle. There are different grades of stainless steel alloys. The good, food-grade kind is made from what is called "18-8" varieties, which when in good shape are resistant to corrosion and do not react with food or beverage, even acidic ones. The cutlery grades like 440C are used to make knives, because they are rigid enough to keep an edge but they are not as corrosion resistant as the 300 series grades and may rust if exposed to salt water for a long time. You should look for bottles made with at least 304 stainless steel, 316 would be the best option. The health or shape of your bottle is dependent on how you treat it. Make sure you do not scrub it with a Brillo Pad or any other Steel Wool products. These have steel fibers and if they become imbedded in the stainless, they will rust and so will the surrounding stainless steel. Hand washing with a bottle brush is best. Most name brands will have a website FAQ that should address the best way to wash their bottles, and the grade of stainless steel they are made from.


Split The Invite

Q ~ Danica in Irving asks: Barb, in starting to plan my son's birthday party, he is making out his guest list for me to send invitations. One of his friends (of two years) has recently divorced parents. We knew both parents only casually and heard very little about the divorce other than it was ugly for both parents and dad has them some weekends. My question is, where do I send the invitation?
                    
Barb ~ You may look at his school phone book/directory listing for insight and see if both parents are listed. If so, send one to both. If you are inviting all his classmates then ask your son's teacher if he can hand deliver them at the end of the week. If your son and his friend are older and understand, consider having your son ask him for his address so that he can send him the invitation. Finally, you may feel most comfortable discretely asking the teacher for direction.

Bai Sui

Q ~ Jennifer from Dallas asks: Why do people say “Bless You” or something when someone sneezes and not with any other bodily function?
                    
Barb ~ “Bless You,” “Gesundheit,” “Bud Zdorov,” “Humdullah,” “Bai Sui,” ” ÀTes Souhaits,” “Salud,” or dozens of other language variations of the term are typically said because a sneeze, which is really a body’s way of blasting mucous particles into the air (at a speed up to 100 miles per hour!) around the offender, is usually a sign of an oncoming cold or illness. There are many urban legends/myths about why you sneeze. In the Dark Ages, it was believed that your heart stopped during the sneeze and you were "blessed" back to life. Some also believed that sneezing expelled the soul from the body, so a "bless" you prevented your soul from being stolen by an evil spirit. Some even believe that if you manage to keep your eye lids open during a sneeze, your eyes will pop out. Not so; eyes closing is the body's automatic function. In fact, sometimes people sneeze from sudden exposure to bright lights, a foreign invader tickling the nose, or a full stomach, but we’ve been conditioned to say something any time we hear a sneeze.

Dry Shampoo

Q ~ Hunan in Plano asks: Barb, I have been hearing a lot of talk from women lately about dry shampoo and wondering if it works, how does it work, and are there some better than others? Does it work for everyone? I have very fine hair.
                    
Barb ~ Dry Shampoo saves lives. Okay, maybe not literally, but it saves many a woman hours each week, giving us back glorious sleep, precious time, and yes, it cuts back on water use if you want to get beyond the selfish reasons to use it. Typically it is made from a main ingredient of talcum powder, starch, baking soda, rice, corn, or other ground powder which absorbs oil. You only need to use it if your hair is oily. If it does not have sebum to stick to, it can still freshen your hair up, but it is not necessary. Most women use it on days they do not have time to shampoo, or if they do not want to shampoo daily but need a little help in between. For it to work its best, start with brushing your hair until it is tangle free. Then spray close to your roots, holding it a few inches away. Let it sit a couple of minutes, and then brush it out. Voila. Remember, it works by absorbing the oil, and instead of rinsing it out like normal shampoo, you need to brush it out. A hair dryer can help the process. I believe all hair types can use it, but you may want to check ingredients in comparing the brands. Personally, I love a new brand I recently discovered, Haute Mess Dry Shampoo and Dry Conditioner by Hempz. It includes pure organic hemp seed oil and is Paraben-free, Gluten-free and is 100% vegan. For me, I find it leaves my hair cleaner, slightly conditioned, and shiny, but still gives it volume, and it smells like a romantic summer resort (technically they call it Warm Vanilla Mango). You can easily find user reviews on scents, ingredients, effectiveness and delivery systems to research more brands, and maybe narrow down to a few that you want to try to see what is right for you. A simple internet search should pull up quite a few “user reviews on dry shampoo.”

Car Seat Houdini

Q ~ Megan in Dallas Asks: My 20 month old has figured out how to get out of her car seats shoulder straps (we have nicknamed her Houdini), any suggestions on how to keep her strapped in? We have the straps tight and the chest buckle in the correct place when she gets put in the seat.
                    
Barb ~ Toddlers are great at figuring out ways around things, and they repeatedly perform little tests until they can predict with 100% accuracy “If I do A then B happens.” The only thing I could suggest is to consistently enforce “B.” Just make sure “B” isn’t a reaction they want repeated – such as a chuckle from you, or even an impressed reaction. Liken it to opening a window. At some point, they will figure out how to get around any “safety proofing” device, so it’s best to just communicate that there are no “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” about it: toddlers do not open windows. I reached out to an industry leader in car seat safety, BRITAX: “This is an industry-wide concern and the advice BRITAX provides parents would be to first and foremost, make it your responsibility to teach your child that trying to get out of his car seat is a BIG “No-No.” Secondly, check the tightness of the harness system and level of the chest clip. You should not be able to pinch up any slack between your thumb and forefinger. Keep the chest clip at armpit level to hold the straps in place. Thirdly, we would recommend sharing the “But my child won’t stay in the car seat” handout created by carseat.org - http://carseat.org/Resources/635.pdf

The Hurricane Name Game

Q ~ Angela in Colleyville asks: Barb, we are curious, how do they come up with the names for hurricanes?
                    
Barb ~ Originally meteorologists used to refer to hurricanes by a system of latitude-longitude but this got confusing to the public. In the 50’s, the National Weather Service began to name storms after women. This came from Naval meteorologists, which used the system as boat names were usually women’s names. In 1979, male names were added to the list. Yes, there is a list. Every year the names are pre-determined – so 2012’s list is already made. There are actually 6 lists of names for Atlantic storms and they rotate every 6 years. Names are used alphabetically. If a particular storm was really devastating, the name is replaced by another on the list. The names of 2011 hurricanes is: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie, William And 2012: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie, William

Do Not Not Call

Q ~ Tina in Irving asks, I know that Political Calls are exempt from the National Do Not Call List. But is there anything I can do to keep them from calling my house? Even if they don’t wake up a child or interrupt dinner, it’s still unsolicited and annoying.
                    
Barb ~ The National Do Not Call Registry allows you to sign up your phone numbers (including cell phones) to limit the amount of telemarketing calls you receive. It took the Federal Trade Commission three years to review the Telemarketing Sales Rule and gather public opinion before creating the registry. The Commission held workshops, meetings, and asked for public feedback. They received over 64,000 public comments, which you can actually read at www.ftc.gov/bcp/rulemaking/tsr/tsrrulemaking/index.htm. Really, each one. So basically, you go to https://donotcall.gov/ and input your numbers. Telemarketers have 31 days to stop calling you or you can file a complaint which puts them in a database that could get them into trouble. But, only telemarketers (callers that solicit sales of goods and services) are covered by this rule. If you actually do business with a company they can call you. So you can’t file a complaint if your cable company calls you to upgrade your package or shoot the breeze about last night’s True Blood episode, but you can tell them to stop calling you and then file a complaint if they don’t stop in 31 days. Same with a company that you signed up for services from, entered a contest with, or otherwise GAVE them your information. Bill collectors can keep calling regardless (but they need to be on their best behavior or you can report them to the FTC). Surveyors for a real survey, not a pretend survey that then offers you a deal on goods or services, are not covered. Charities and Political peeps are not technically telemarketers so they are not covered by the TSR. You can ask them to stop calling you, but they do not have to. There is a nonprofit group, http://www.stoppoliticalcalls.org, that you can register your number with that maintains a Political Do Not Call List. The group circulates the list to all political peeps and asks them to stop calling the numbers on it. While they don’t hold a legal threat to the political groups, they do legitimately work with candidates to get them to see that there are better ways of effectively reaching voters. There are products you can use to let the caller know you prefer not to be reached. Generally, they require that you connect them to your phone and press a button when such a call comes through. You hang up, and they play a politely recorded message to the caller then disconnect. I would suggest saving your money and simply relaying that message yourself, hoping that they are professional enough to respect your wishes.

Why Retail Store Clerks Suck at 3rd Grade Math
                    
Barb ~ “Do you want to save 10% on your purchase today by opening a store credit card?” Sound familiar? “No,” I say, “I want to pay full price.” I’m already irritated but they just keep on going: “Oh, well you would save like, $20 today, and then if you don’t want to keep the card, you can always cancel it.” Stellar financial advice, thank you for the sensible, responsible and prudent recommendation. If credit card companies are required to clearly show how payments affect balances, then its time clothing/retail stores are made to be more up front with customers, or a the very least, stop being irresponsible in the way they offer them. Because when you want to make a major purchase such as a home or car; that $20 savings could cost you hundreds or thousands. We’ve all heard of credit scores. It’s not a surprise that paying your bills on time gives you a better score. You also need to build up your credit by showing that you can maintain a few open lines of credit at once. In fairness, there may be a few good reasons to open these. They are easier to qualify for, so opening one or two (but no more in a 6 to 12 month period) and IF you can pay them in full each month, it’s a good way to start building credit (though a gas station card would be the better option). Secondly, if you are not planning to apply for a home or auto loan any time soon, and you are going to save a substantial amount – such as no interest for two years on a large furniture or appliance purchase, then you may stand to benefit. But, it’s simply disgusting of stores to nudge you into opening an account, just so you can save a small amount, and then tell you “you can always close it.” You have bundles of clothes in your arms – and I’m sure no time to read the fine print, so you are put on the spot, with an incentive, to make a major decision. Here is the problem with opening a store credit card just for that $20 savings. 1) Every time you apply for a card, you add a credit inquiry to your credit report – your score drops a few points with each inquiry. 2) You can only use the card in that store, and if you only make the occasional purchase, the account is not active, dropping your score another few points. 3) Closing the account after having it for just a short time drops your score another few points. 4) If you tend to have more than 5 or 6 credit card and retail store accounts open, your score drops even more. 5) A lower credit score may lead other card issuers to reduce your credit limit or raise your interest rate. When you apply for a loan for that house or car, the lender will look at your score. Having a good score generally means you get the loan. Having a great score means you get that loan at a better interest rate, meaning, you pay less in interest on that loan. Here’s an easy example: You want to secure a loan for $20,000 to buy a car. Say you have good credit and you get a loan at 6.25% interest rate. Over 5 years, you pay a total of $23,339.40. So that 20 grand cost you $3,339.40 in interest. Now say you have better credit and you get a loan at 6%. With this loan, you pay $23,199.60, saving $139.80. Let me see if I remember third grade: $139 > (is greater than) $20. Don’t let a discount or ‘special shopping privileges’ be a reason to sign up for a retail store credit card. In most cases, if you just sign up for their mailing list or email newsletters, you can get special offers and discounts.

Vaccines and Schools

Q ~ Laura in McKinney asks: Barb, my child’s school is asking for 3 or 4 vaccinations before the school year starts. She will be entering preschool and while we do plan on vaccinating, I want these spread out over months, maybe even longer. Her doctor’s office has been very supportive of this but the school administrator gave me attitude when I tried to explain our beliefs. Do I have any rights here or is it different with each school?
                    
Barb ~ Texas state law gives parents the right to exempt their student of any age from vaccination requirements. If your concern is medically based, such as a previous negative reaction or known allergy to an ingredient in a vaccine, then you simply need a written medical exemption from your doctor that lists the specific immunizations that she should be exempt from. For detailed information on ingredients in vaccines, visit the CDC link: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipient-table-2.pdf. If you want an exemption for religious or personal beliefs, there are a few legally necessary steps involved so don’t delay in getting started. You will first need to complete the Affidavit Request for Exemption from Immunization for Reasons of Conscience form found on the Texas Department of State Health Services site: http://webds.dshs.state.tx.us/immco/affidavit.shtm. The completed form must be sent to the DSHS Immunization Branch in Austin where they will be processed and mailed within one week from receipt. This form must be notarized and submitted to your school office. Make sure you get written acknowledgment from the school that they received it (make a copy of the notarized form, and have them sign and date it when they accept the original). Every day care and school is legally required to accept the legal exemption. Here are links to the state statutes (source: http://vaccineinfo.net/exemptions/index.shtml):

Children and Education including Colleges:
Texas Education Code, Health and Safety Chapter Section 38.0001 - Immunization Requirement Exceptions
Texas Education Code, Title 3 Higher Education Section Chapter 51.933 - Immunization Requirements; Exceptions
Texas Administrative Code Title 25 Part 1 Section 97 - Immunization Requirements in Texas Elementary and Secondary Schools and Institutes of Higher Education (this section contains vaccine requirements by rule, provisional enrollment, and exemptions)
Texas Education Code Higher Education Section Chapter 51.9192. Bacterial Meningitis Vaccination Required for Certain Student; Exceptions

Day Care:
Human Resource Code, Section 42.043 - Rules for Immunizations and Exemptions

Health Care Providers:
Texas Administrative Code Title 25 Part 1 Rule § 97.101- Statewide Immunization of Children by Hospitals, Physicians, and other Health Care Providers

State of Texas:
Texas Health and Safety Code, Section 161.004 - Statewide Immunization of Children

Whatever your reasons may be for your decisions, never allow a school to pressure you into vaccinating your child. Do as much homework as possible and be confident in knowing that there are plenty of online resources that give you this right. If your child moves schools you will need a new form. For more information from the Texas Department of State Health Services, visit http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize/school/default.shtm#exclusions

Chlorine on Skin

Q ~ Amanda in Frisco asks: My kids have been swimming pretty late this summer and by the time they come in I have often decided its better they skip the shower and go straight to bed to avoid any tantrums. But is it okay for them to sleep and go overnight with the chlorine on them or should I be showering them before bed?  
                    
Barb ~ If they don’t have sensitive skin or major skin problems such as eczema, and this pool is at a private residence versus a highly-chlorinated rec center or community area, you don’t need to worry too much. Definitely bathe them in the morning and use a good, alcohol-free lotion to avoid excessive drying of the skin (hair may also need extra conditioner). If you are using a public pool then chlorine levels (which aren’t your worst nightmare here) will be high and need to be rinsed off.

Potty Training Help

Q ~ Amasha in Carrollton asks: Barb, I am at my wits end! My daughter is just a month & a half shy of 4yrs. We tried several potty training methods at several different times. Last December she finally started making some major strides. She had no accidents for about 3 weeks. At that point she moved up to the next class at daycare. Immediately she started having accidents again. She would have an accident everyday and sometimes multiple accidents a day. I figured it was just the transition and she did finally start doing better, but she would still have an accident at least once a week. Now I've been home with her for the summer so I could watch her carefully for signs that she needed to go. We still have multiple accidents a day. Sometimes she'll tell me she needs to go and sometimes she'll just pee in the floor. Once she pooped in the potty & then peed on the stool while she was washing her hands. I've tried every punishment and reward I can think of. I've made her clean up after she has an accident. I don't know what else to do! Please help!!!    
                    
Barb ~ Potty Training takes consistency, persistence, and most importantly, readiness. There are various methods available and various books, DVDs, and toys that go along with them. I can’t tell you which one will work for you, but can advise that once you do choose the method that fits your family's lifestyle the best, give it time to work. The most important thing is to make sure your child is ready, interested and on board. They need to be emotionally and physically ready. Physically, the bladder needs to be able to send a signal to the brain, and the brain needs to be able to send a signal back. Usually, if a child can keep a diaper dry for about two hours, this is a sign of physical readiness. While rewards and positive reinforcement are excellent tools, punishment leads to anxiety and possibly fear, and can cause stress and delays. You may want to discuss the setbacks with your pediatrician, it seems that anxiety was a trigger in the new school. In choosing the right method for your family's lifestyle, consider the child's personality. I like "Stress-Free Potty Training" by Dr. Pete Stavinoha and Sara Au. They talk about different personalities and how you could work with each kind. Dr. Pete will actually be speaking at an upcoming MetroMoms event, and a copy of the book is included in the ticket price. See MetroMomsEvents.com for more information. You can also spend some time on Amazon's or Barnes & Noble's websites looking at other books and user reviews and ratings. In the meantime, take a step back, breath, and get your action plan in order. One more thing - don’t worry about night time, this will come on its own as the bladder and brain mature.

Friction Feet

Q ~ Heather in Colleyville asks: Barb, I usually wear very comfortable shoes (flip flops, tennis shoes) but every now and then will wear something nicer out. I can’t wait to get out of the nicer shoes though because the friction starts hurting my heels or the tops of my feet. I have held on to some because they are really cute and are in hard to find colors but they give me blisters if I wear them too long. I have tried a few products like gel pads but was curious about the friction stick – it’s like a little deodorant stick – have you tried it? Does it work?    
                    
Barb ~ There are a couple of brands that make Friction Block Sticks, most notably Dr. Scholl’s and Band Aid. They are meant to glide on like deodorant to form an invisible barrier on the skin that reduces the friction from rubbing. Personally, I have tried the Band Aid brand, and it does work for me. Online reviews are overall very positive, and at such a small investment (under $8), it is worth a try to see if it works for you. I think it is important to have realistic expectations in a product though. Buying shoes that fit your feet, not just your wardrobe, is the first important step in avoiding friction. Buy fewer pairs and spend a little more on the better brands. Your feet will continuously change – especially after pregnancy, and each brand is made differently and may not be right for you, so you do need to get professionally fitted every time you purchase.

Left-in

Q ~ Jacqueline in Grapevine asks, Barb, My in-laws are starting to drive me crazy over my son using his left hand. He is their only grand-child and they do not see him that much, so I am hoping they relax a bit before they give him a complex. He is 21 months old and sometimes favors his left hand. I know he is too young to decide if he is left or right handed, and I am not worried about which he ends up with, but they are crazy about it. When they see him using his left hand to eat, they switch the food to his right hand. If he picks up a toy with his left hand, they make a comment about using his other hand. I asked them what the big deal was and they said that it was harder to go through life being left-handed and that we should try to train him to use his right hand only. Neither of them are left-handed. Isn’t this just an urban legend, what is so hard about it?    
                    
Barb ~ It’s funny how there is so much mystery surrounding left-handedness, but I guess it is understandable given that throughout history, a steady 10% of the world’s population has been left handed. Researchers have tried to link it to anything from genius to schizophrenia. I’m married to a left-hander and it seems at least one of my children has inherited, as is usually the case, the gene. I can’t say they speak their own secret language or attend secret club meetings. Other than something about a left-handed keyboard, some left-handed scissors and left-handed notebooks, I can’t remember my husband saying much else about it. He doesn’t even know that August 13th is “International Left-Handers Day.” The fact is that being left-handed is not a major hardship. It may be a minor inconvenience at times but no more than crazy care-takers trying to “train” you like a 5-legged circus monkey. Because of old wives tales of lefties having it so hard, being studied like freaks of nature and being accused over the centuries of anything from dealing with the devil to being a criminal, older generations may believe that it is a kinder act to the lefty to train them out of a life of supposed misery. Let them know that history has produced plenty of successful lefties, including presidents Bush senior, Clinton, and Obama. Lefties may have an advantage in sports; Babe Ruth, Larry Bird, Arnold Palmer and Martina Navratilova are just a few athhlefties. There’s more - Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, and Robert De Niro represent the thleftiens, and the music industry as produced greats like Bob Dylan, Jimmi Hendrix, Sir Paul McCartney, Sting, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Celine Dion, Paul Simon and Ringo Starr. Strange that all keyboards are not left-handed as Bill Gates is a lefty himself. He joins J Edgar Hoover, Mark Twain, HG Wells and Lewis Carroll from the world of lefterature, and Princes Charles and William. First man on the moon Neil Armstrong and his fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin; fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier and Albert Einstein are all left handed. Running down that list may help calm them, but don’t let them Google it because unfortunately, Billy the Kid; Jack the Ripper and The Boston Strangler were also lefties!

Hot Tub Dangers

Q ~ Harriett in Mansfield asks, Barb, While at a neighborhood pool with a friend and her kids, I was letting my kids, 4 and 7 in a hot tub. I did see a sign that said no children under 8 but assumed it was because there was no lifeguard watching it and if they could stand up and are strong swimmers (plus I was watching them) it was okay. Her kids are 5 and 9 and she would not let them in telling me that kids should not be in a hot tub at all though she did not know why. Is it not okay if I am watching them?    
                    
Barb ~ It depends. While you can watch for entrapment (drains with strong suction may have missing drain covers and are not that far under them in shallow hot tubs) you most definitely can miss infection-causing bacteria that just love the temperatures in hot tubs, especially in public areas. A major risk of injury is not one easily observed before it is too late – the risk of overheating. Toddlers and young children especially, have thin skin, and cannot regulate body heat as well as adults can. Simply put, they don’t know if they are overheating but can be more prone to overheating than adults, so you don’t know if they are overheating before it is too late. If you are confident in the safety of the tub drains and cleanliness, because of the risk of overheating, experts generally agree that it is okay for children 6-8 and older to use a hot tub, but for short periods of time, like about 5 minutes at a time. Your best option is to turn the temperature down to about 100, just over regular body temperature.

Bath Toys That Need a Bath

Q ~ Albert in Frisco asks: Barb, our bath toys are almost too disgusting to let the kids play with them. We rinse them after each bath but they smell like mold and have a film on them within a couple of months and we end up replacing them. Any suggestions on a certain brand or anything else to avoid this problem?   
                    
Barb ~ You probably have soap scum and mineral deposits on the outside of the toys and if any of them are the squirting kind or you can hear water inside of them after you rinse them, mold or mildew is growing on the inside. I try to stay away from any toy that can fill with water like that. Boon and Sassy make great, inexpensive toys that unscrew to drain and fully dry (if you remove moisture, mold will not grow). It’s great that you are rinsing them, but you’ll need to take the extra step of making sure they dry in a timely manner (24-48 hours). So instead of piling them back in their storage area while they are wet, spread them out on the towel to dry overnight. For the soap scum or toys with build-up, periodically give them a vinegar bath. I usually fill the tub up with cold water just enough to get all the toys soaking and pour in vinegar until I can smell it, generally a 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water solution will work. Let them sit for 15 minutes or longer if needed. Then get a cloth in the tub with them and wipe away the soap scum, it will lift very easily. If it is being stubborn, soak longer or increase vinegar in solution.

Baby Shower Encore

Q ~ Carol in Allen asks: Barb, what is the rule on having a baby shower for your second or third child? A gal I work with is hinting that she wants one and this will be her second daughter. She has two other boys. Would I have to send a gift if I don’t attend? I just think it is tacky and she wants stuff.    
                    
Barb ~ Having a baby shower with your first is definitely helpful to the new mom who needs a lot of items to take care of a newborn. Ideally mom saves the big stuff like gear and only needs a few items for the second, even if the gender is different she and family members should be able to fill in the clothes and other few things that she would need. Etiquette seems to dictate that it’s okay to have a second, smaller baby shower, with just close friends and family, if it has been a long time between pregnancies and mom needs to replace a lot of items, and if the second baby is another gender. With safety regulations having changed and big-ticket items like cribs, strollers and car seats being re-called and needing replacement, many moms do need help replacing older items, and even basics like socks, onesies, and diapers. But ultimately, if you are offended, you do not need to attend. If you do not attend, you technically do not need to get her a gift, but you may consider something small just as a gesture to keep the office politics peaceful. Ask around to see what the consensus is. Maybe suggest a Mommy Shower instead.

Stinky Trash

Q ~ Laura in Bedford asks: Barb, whenever I cook chicken or seafood, I have a stinky problem. My trash smells really bad the next day from the trimmings or shells. Our HOA does not allow us to put trash outside before trash day, so we keep a large can in the garage but that begins to stink up the garage and then get in the house. With summer heat increasing, I don’t think the kids can take another summer walking into the garage holding their breath. I there anything I can do to make it not stink?  
                    
Barb ~ Meats and seafood are high protein foods and especially when raw and out of cold temperatures, begin to decompose at a fast rate. There are a few easy steps you can take to avoid this stinky problem. All you need are grocery store bags or Ziploc bags and a freezer. The easiest thing to do is to throw these raw scraps into a grocery store bag, produce bag, or any used plastic bag you save and keep them in the freezer until trash day. They will take a few hours to thaw and if the bag is sealed or tied tight enough you may never smell it before the trash is picked up. If you use a lot of stock for cooking or soup, keep them in the freezer, along with veggie scraps (green onion stems, parsley stems, and carrots are great) and boil it all together to make a stock. You can re-freeze in ice cube trays if you don’t have plans to make it all at once.

Aloe Vera

Q ~ Cassie in Flower Mound asks: Barb, I am not much of a plant person but have been thinking about keeping an aloe plant for mosquito bites, sunburns, and I think it would be cool to be able to use fresh gel when you need it. I went to Home Depot and noticed a bunch of different varieties, are there some better than others?  
                    
Barb ~ There are over 200-300 varieties of aloe, the most common one that is thought of for sunburns is the Aloe Vera plant. It is true that Aloe Vera gel has some medicinal effects and can soothe skin irritations and burns, so that is a great idea to keep one around. They also do not need a lot of maintenance. Take care to make sure no animals or children ingest the plant thought, as it is also used to make a laxative!

Adding A Sibling

Q ~ Tara in McKinney asks: Barb, We currently have one special needs child. However, we have always wanted more. But I feel guilty for wanting more when the child we have now needs so much attention, therapy, help, etc. I am so torn! What do I do?                       

Barb ~ This is a tough decision for many parents, even parents without special needs children. It is a very personal decision but because you do have a special needs child, you have a responsibility to consider that child’s needs. I bet you are used to researching as much as possible in helping your child, and that is where I would start. Talk to your doctors and ask them how a sibling will affect your child’s development and progress. Talk to parents in a support group that have had second children. Find a message board – members on an anonymous board are usually more open. Talk to your support system and family members that aid in the care of your special needs child as a second child may change their role. Try owning both decisions separately. Say you decide to have another. For a few weeks, own that decision. In everything you do – driving to therapy, helping your first, cooking – each specific chore and challenge throughout the day – think of how you would be doing it with a newborn or toddler. Talk with your spouse about how you would divide responsibilities. What if your only child now did not have special needs, but your second did. How would you have made that situation work? Then say you decide against having another. How do you feel about it? Strip away the guilt and look at things from a logical angle. Do you want a second child? Can you make it work? Would you feel a void if you did not have another? Is your child able to or will be able to experience the special bond and closeness of a sibling relationship?

TV Close-Up

Q ~ Lauren in Allen asks: Barb, every now and then, my toddler gets into what is on tv and stands frozen, right up in front of it for a few minutes at a time. Is this bad for his eyes to be so close or was that just a folk tale?                       

Barb ~ It may give him a headache if he stands there for too long but no, standing too close to the television does not damage your vision. The headache results from eye fatigue, or straining too long. Our parents used to warn us because decades ago, sets emitted harmful rays, but that is not the case today. You could try putting a favorites seat or beanbag further away and invite him to it there when you notice he is freezing up.

To Shake, Or Not To Shake

Q ~ Lindsay in Watauga asks: Barb, is it rude to not shake hands when you meet someone? I admit I am a germaphobe but just today I saw someone blowing his red, snotty nose and then two seconds later introduced himself to me with his hand out for a shake. I just nodded, and I could tell he was put off. Are there any alternatives in a situation like this?                       

Barb ~ Shaking hands is in my opinion a disgusting habit. I’d be fine with bowing, nodding, tapping elbows or even just blinking at each other. It’s interesting how many different cultures around us feel about hand shaking. Here, it is generally considered rude to not accept someone’s hand shake. In other cultures, women are discouraged from shaking hands with men of another religion, or in lieu of a hand shake, another gesture is used. For example, in Indian customs, greeting by placing both hands together with a slight bow is respectful. If a germ phobia is holding you back, then you can get away with not initiating a handshake. It may go unnoticed if you initiate a head nod or slight bow before the other person even has a chance to stick out their hand. They would probably return the gesture. If you don’t beat them to the greeting first and they do stick out their hand, you need to choose the lesser of two evils, either risk offending them, or take the shake and use a hand sanitizer as soon as you walk away.

Noisy Pest Control

Q ~ Laura in McKinney asks: Barb, do you recommend any of the plug-in ultrasonic “noise” pest control products? I have been thinking about plugging one in near a patio door that I see a lot of bugs come in through.                       

Barb ~ I want them to, don’t you? I really wish they did. Unfortunately, according to unbiased research, they really don’t. There are dozens of varieties of this product – a device that you plug in to emit high frequency sound waves that won’t bother domesticated household pets, but keeps rats, bats, and bugs away without pesticides. Researchers have been experimenting with sound waves and pests for decades, and really have not found them to be effective at pest control. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency have questioned the claims made by the manufacturers and that claims are made with no supporting evidence to back them up. In 1993, the Office of the Attorney General in Texas prohibited future sales in Texas by one or manufacturers due to false claims by the manufacturers, stating, "There continues to be a lack of confirmed studies to scientifically document the claims of efficacy against insect pests." Remember, “laboratory tested” just means they were “tested” in a lab.

TV Time For Toddlers

Q ~ Susan in Colleyville asks: Barb, I just started working from home with my toddler and find that I am relying on television throughout the day perhaps too much. I just can’t seem to avoid chaos when I need to take a work call unless I put a disc or show on for my 3 year old. I usually play Dora, Sesame Street, or other “more educational” shows but I still feel guilty. She will start preschool in the fall but for now, how television is too much?                       

Barb ~ Barb thanks Peter Stavinoha, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist at Children's Medical Center, for his expert answer to this week’s question: "Research on kids and screen time is not encouraging for parents who let their children sit in front of a computer or TV or play with that precious i-Gadget. In general, researchers have found associations between screen time and behavior problems, speech delay, and obesity in children. That certainly does not mean that every child who holds an iPad will be overweight, aggressive, and delayed in speech. But it does indicate a higher risk for these kinds of negative consequences, and parenting is often about managing such risks. Cognitive, social, and language development are highly dependent on the transaction between the child and other humans. Computer games and shows on TV (even the educational ones) are simply no substitute for a real person interacting with a child. Further, screen time encourages a sedentary style that can lead to other health problems for a child such as obesity. Questions remain about the contributions that excessive screen time make to later learning and attention disorders – while questions may linger, we know that screen time does not help and may in fact add to problems along these dimensions as well. We know screen time does not really help with child development, and there are a number of risks that are associated with screen time. Why would we knowingly allow our children to participate excessively in activities with known risks and no real benefits? It is important for parents to seek alternatives to screen time when possible, even when it is not entirely convenient to do so. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours a day of screen time for pre-schoolers. That still seems like a long time for a preschooler to be engaged with a gadget rather than a human but at least provides parents with tangible guidance with regard to limits to screen time. The National Institutes of Health provide strategies for reducing screen time in children on their website at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/reduce-screen-time/index.htm

Black Out Bedtime

Q ~ Mindy in Lake Dallas asks: Barb, Since the time change, I have been having a problem getting my 3 year old to stay in bed. Before the change, he knew that when it got dark outside it was bedtime – that was about 7:30. Now that it is still light at bedtime, he fights me saying “it’s not dark yet!” I tried adding a second curtain, but he still sees light through the cracks. How can I re-program him to forget that dark=bedtime?                       

Barb ~ Convincing or reasoning with a 3 year old? Why take on the impossible? In a couple of years you can teach him that when the clock reads 7:30 it is bedtime. In the meantime, you had the right idea in trying to make the room darker. In fact, you can make his room darker, make your windows private, update a room, add an artistic touch, or even change up your shower door. Did I mention it’s easy and affordable? Meet Window Film and More. You may have heard of black out curtains. This site sells what they call “black out” film. It is like contact paper, very easy for you to apply and remove and completely covers the window pane so no light can come through from the sides or top. They actually have a lot of colors so you can use it as a decorative film. I found this when I was looking for a solution for my shower, in which some genius contractor thought it would be a fine idea to put a clear, see-thru, glass window that anyone from the street can see into. I used the frosted film, which still lets in plenty of light, was a fraction of what it would cost to change the window, but gives total privacy. The kids also like the decorative “stained glass” film for their game room and I was glad to be able to use it instead of a curtain or blinds for my little one to pull on.

In Your Face

Q ~ Janet in Farmers Branch asks: Barb, I know I should wash my makeup off before going to bed but I get so tired most nights that I just skip it and go to sleep. Do you have any quick tips?                       

Barb ~ Wash your face before you get so tired, like, when you get home. Just don’t put it off so long – work it into an earlier routine. Our moms were right, you should NEVER go to bed with your makeup on. It’s not unlike suffocating your skin. Let’s face it, your makeup is pretty much colorful dirt. And then during the day it attracts more dirt and some bacteria. The pores in your face are bigger than the pores on the rest of you, so they just lay open, filling up with all that dirt. Think of the dishes you don’t wash at night and what they look like after sitting out a full day. Your skin repairs itself at night, cells regenerate, but it needs to breathe to do so. Could you breathe well if you were covered in layers of dirt and bacteria? You’ll either end up looking like the old lady on the slot machine or like the acne-prone teen working the fryer at McFriesAlot. So just do it earlier, and keep it simple. You do not need a long routine, just a good cleanser and moisturizer.

The Top 11 April Fool’s Pranks of the Past 11 Decades
            
Barb ~ They say a fool is born every minute, and many of us still fall for a really good April fool’s joke every year. Jokes are even played across nations with the help of mainstream media and that world wide web of pranksters. Here is a salute to some of the funniest.

#10: Burger King’s Left-Handed Whopper
In 1998, BK placed a full page ad in USA Today introducing a new menu item specially created for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the announcement, the ingredients would still be the same but the condiments would be turned 180 degrees. That day, Burger Kings are flooded with thousands of lefty’s, as well as thousands of calls from righty’s requesting a special version made just for them.

#9: Blue Cans
In 1996 Virgin Cola announced a new safety feature for their consumers by utilizing new can technology. When the soda was no longer fresh and passed its expiration date, the contents would react with the metal in the can and make the can turn a bright blue. Consumers were told to avoid buying any can that had already turned blue. This is funny because Pepsi had just revealed its newly designed packaging: bright blue cans.

#8 Instant Color TV
In 1962, Sweden’s only television station, normally broadcast in black and white, announced that they finally updated their technology to allow viewers to convert their existing sets to color by simply pulling a nylon stocking over their screens.

#7 Smell-o-Vision
In 1965 the BBC told viewers that they incorporated new technology that allowed them to experience aromas as well as visuals of what they were broadcasting. To demonstrate, they told viewers to call in while they cut onions and brewed coffee. Viewers claimed that it was working – showing how powerful the power of suggestion could be.

#6 A Sport is Born
Though originally a marketing stunt, it has stuck. In 1992 Gold Eagle Co announced a new motor-sport series culminating in two national races: Lawn Mower Racing. People got excited, embraced it, and began hosting their own local races…still..to this day.

#5 Nixon for President
In 1992 National Public Radio announced that Nixon was going to try for the presidency again with the new campaign slogan “I didn’t do anything wrong and I won’t do it again.” Comedian Rich Little impersonated Nixon for sound clips of Nixon announcing his intent.

#4 Up in the Air
In 1976 a well-respected British astronomer, Patrick Moore, announced on the radio that at precisely 9:47 in the morning, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event would take place. Pluto would pass behind Jupiter and cause a gravitational alignment, reducing the gravity on earth temporarily. Moore told the listening audience that if they jumped into the air at that exact moment, they could experience a floating sensation like astronauts.

#3 Google for Pets
In 2010, Google announced a new beta app for android users, “Translate for Animals: Bridging the gap between animals and humans” Google claims the app will allow users to translate what their pet is saying.

#2 New Sizes at Starbucks
In 2010, Starbucks announces two new sizes: a 2 ounce “Micra” – when all you need is a sip, and a 128 ounce “Plenta” that resembles a large movie popcorn tub for those that just can’t get enough. Starbucks told consumers not to worry about the paper waste from the Plenta, as it could be re-used as a planter, lampshade, or yoga block.

#1 Shock Therapy by Whole Foods
In 2010, visitors of the Whole Food’s Market website could download a new app that allowed them to use their smart phones to evaluate the food they were about to eat. To use, simply point the phone at the plate and activate the app. If the app disapproved of an unhealthy item, it would deliver via smart phone an electric shock to the user to deter them from eating it.


Tips on Tipping

Q ~ March in Dallas asks: Barb, With good service in a full-service restaurant I usually tip 20%. What is the protocol for gratuities at a non-traditional restaurant like Genghis Grill, Souper Salad, buffets, and even take-out food?                       

Barb ~ If you have never worked in the hospitality industry you may not be aware that many service positions such as waiters, bar tenders, and bus boys do not even make minimum wage. Often times, waiters make half of minimum wage. They rely on tips, but are also be required to share their tips with bus boys, bar tenders, and hostesses; their “support staff.” Generally cashiers and cooks are paid at or above minimum wage and not considered a tipped position. With take-out food from a full service restaurant, your order is rung up by a server and included in their sales for the day. These total sales are what they tip their support staff on. While they did not service a table for you with refills, clearing of plates, and conversation, they do package your food and include your sides, sauces, plastic wear, etc. You can leave anywhere from a couple of dollars to 10% depending on the size of your order. Quick Food places similar to Subway and Chipotle where you are filling your own drinks and clearing your own table (if you see a place for your tray or trash, use it) are not places where you would leave a gratuity. Fast Casual restaurants such as Pei Wei have staff dedicated to bringing your food, but you get your own drinks and refills. You will notice there is no “Tip Line” on your bill, and a quick phone call to this restaurant confirmed that tipping is not expected. I asked them, “what about a bunch of kids that make a big mess, would I need to leave a little something then?” They answered that while it’s a nice gesture, they still do not expect it. Genghis Grill has servers that take your drink order, refill drinks and even tell you about desserts. Their servers make the $2.13/hour and even though they do not bring you your food, are tipped about 15% for their level of service. Buffets that have a service person bringing you refills throughout your meal such as Souper Salad do expect gratuities. The level of service is under what you could expect from Genghis Grill and if you did not get a refill, then you should not tip more than 10%, if your server gave you service with clearing and refilling, leave a 10-15% gratuity. When making the decision, consider whether or not you had a dedicated service person taking care of you during the course of your meal. If you had horrible service, then tip – or don’t tip appropriately. When in doubt, a quick phone call to the manager before heading out will put your mind – and guilt at ease. They would appreciate you asking.

Wear's the Buzz?

Q ~ Kelly in Dallas asks: Barb, my daughter always seems to attract mosquitoes and gets terrible welts every time she is bitten. With the season coming up I was thinking about ordering the majority of her wardrobe as the mosquito repelling clothes. Is it okay to dress her in these every day?                       

Barb ~ Insect Repellent Clothing is made by impregnating clothing with the chemical permethrin. It works similar to the sprays: when mosquitoes and other biting insects get close, their neurons are stressed and they lose muscle coordination and so cannot attack. Though permethrin is a form of a natural insect repellent found in the chrysanthemum plant, it is a man-made chemical. As with any chemical that touches your child’s skin, you should read all warning labels and directions. My only problem with these clothes is that they usually do not carry any more than washing instructions: they should be washed separately, never dry-cleaned, and should last about 25 washings. This means the chemical can be washed off and transferred onto other clothing so of course it can also be absorbed into the skin – just like sprays. But they are effective, and save you the step of spraying – and re-spraying every few hours the smelly stuff. I would suggest using them as you would the sprays – only when the occasion calls for it. You would not re-apply the spray if she was going to be playing indoors, so she would not need to wear the clothes when not at risk for mosquito bites. You also should wash the sprays off your skin after you come inside, and because, like DEET and similar ingredients in the sprays, permethrin can be toxic if misused, it would be wise to do the same with the clothing.

Valentine's Day Rant

Barb takes the opportunity to discuss Valentine's Day - careful; this is not for the faint of heart!

Barb ~ I try to keep to myself with most things religious, political, and holiday. “To each his/her own,” I say, “as long as they don’t try to make theirs mine.” But as the most Hallmarkanized holiday on the calendar approaches I ask, what is the Valentine equivalent for “bah, humbug?” Even though I remind the hubby every year that he is not to utter a single acknowledging word about it, the years of marketing messages cause an internal conflict in him. How can his wife possibly know how deeply he cares for her if he does not express it on February 14th with red, glittery, fluffy, chocolaty tangibles? I know what some want to ask me, and yes, I was that unpopular child who only got about 3 valentines from the other kids at school – the ones whose parents made them be nice to everybody. And now my kids have to experience the ridiculous traditions at school. Don’t we have snow days to make up? Why are we wasting a school day on a holiday with historical roots relating to romantic love? Kids get enough mixed messages. Don’t pack sugary snacks in your lunch box but here, take some pure refined sugar compressed into a heart shape and stamped with “Kiss Me” – but you could be sent home if you do actually kiss or touch inappropriately another student. I call for a Separation of Holiday and State. We as a society have bought into some genius marketing plans. According to Wikipedia, “The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.” And forget recycling all those cards – because if you don’t keep it, well then, you just don’t love them back. The ‘Hallmark-likes’ have us believing that on this day over any other, we need to buy or spend to prove our love to someone. Most restaurants over-price their “special” menus, and we turn into emotional morons with the heart-shaped this and red-and-gold that. “My box of chocolates is bigger than your box of chocolates, he must really, really love me.” I get the message buried under all this guilt-driven over-spending. But here’s an idea: communicate that message every day. It does not take a holiday. I’m your significant other every day. I’m special every day darn it; let me know you appreciate me every day. Say it, show it with a small gesture, let me sleep in on Saturday. Bring me my diet-coke in the morning. Buy me that bracelet I’ve been eyeing, if we can afford it, on January 14 or March 14 or any day between April 14 and December 14. Just don’t be guilted into buying it on February 14th.

Tanning Hides

Q ~ Amy in Carrolton asks, Barb, it’s been a long time since I have been able to enjoy the pool and sun, and with summer around the corner I want to finally be ready. I’ve finally lost the baby weight but I am so pale and considering tanning beds. Are they any safer than they were a decade ago? I do not want to use them if they are any worse for you than the sun, but I would love to have a quick tan.                       

Barb ~ Amy, long story short – stick to the SPF lotion and the sun. The rays you catch from the tanning beds are 2-3 times stronger than the sun’s. If you properly use the right SPF for your skin, you can enjoy the sun and tan safely without major damage to your skin. Bonus: up to thirty minutes of sun exposure a few days a week will help your body produce Vitamin D. If you are looking for a quick glow, consider sunless tanners. These lotions are generally safe, work best with medium complexions and react with the top layer of dead skin cells to give you a tanned look. You can experiment with different brands on areas you typically cover. Spray-on tans are currently considered safe, but you want to make sure you protect your eyes and hold your breath.

Multitasking Geniuses

Q ~ This time, Barb asks you: Multitask much? Juggle just a bit? Getting creative in checking things off your to-do list? If I didn’t laugh at the crazy things parents I know (including myself) have done to spare a little time and sanity, I’d cry. I’ve admitted to regularly touching up my gray before meetings with the dry-erase marker in the office. I have a regular exercise routine - I can get a least 15 squats or deep-knee bends in while brushing my teeth – each time I brush so that’s like, a full lower body workout. Sometimes I kick it up with leg lifts while I do the dishes. I know a mom-nurse who barely gets enough sleep with a newborn, so she just sleeps in her uniform and spares herself the time to get dressed for work in the middle of the night. And who among us won’t admit to getting some of their best work done while on the toilet? Who doesn’t take a book, laptop or conference call into the bathroom, muting the phone only to flush? Legs falling asleep because you are almost done with the last chapter/email/bill/toenail; still directing family members in their duties and playing a game of peek-a-boo under the door to get some privacy? It’s not just me, right? Right? So let me know what you have been reduced to in your crazy life. Are you a MacGyver mom? What is the funniest quick-fix you’ve come up with in times of minor crises? How low have you lowered your expectations? Want to turn in a friend or spouse? You can keep it confidential, but I want to share the best stories in next week’s Ask Barb.                       

Barb ~ Well, I asked for it. I had some very interesting emails, and I have to say, we are one potty-productive group. While one mom told me that she has gotten “very good with the mute button,” so she could return phone calls while in the bathroom, another emailed me that she has gotten very good at “controlling the stream during a conversation.” There’s also a lot of food going in to bathrooms with moms. While some moms say they nurse or bottle feed while on the potty, one mom wrote that when she knows she will need to dedicate some time on the potty, she will wait until a meal time and “roll his highchair in so I can spoon feed at the same time.” We had some fitness tips submitted as well. One new mom that is trying to get her flat stomach back before her maternity leave is up does sit ups while holding baby against her chest. “He loves the rocking so he stays very calm and still.” Another mom loves to read but hates sitting around so she listens to audio books on her headphones while she walks. One of my favorites lets mom avoid sweeping, and gives the children a good workout. “I hand each kid a Swifter and plastic air hockey puck. They race, play a game of hockey, or just volley it. My hardwoods look great.” My favorite top three though are: 3) “I am back at work after only taking one month off to have our daughter. I am still losing weight and just too cheap and busy to go buy something that fits. My quick-fix is the office supply room. Every day I take to use a few paper clips and a tape roll to cinch the waist and keep my pants from falling down. 2) “I have short hair so I can dry and style it with the air vents in my car. If I stop at enough lights I can even use my round brush to style.” 1) The #1 favorite submission is, thankfully, a dad’s story. His wife really sold him out, and I thank her for it! “its dad’s job to get the laundry washed, folded and put away so of course he never finds clean socks or underwear when he needs them. So he just wears the dirties into the shower to wash two birds with one stone.” Thanks to everyone for sharing!

Explaining Death

Q ~ Mary in Haslet asks: My 19 month old grandson's mother died last month after a month long illness. She and my son shared custody. My son moved back home in July to save for a house. Which was good on his part because I can watch my grandson while he is at work. What should we look for? He does not ask for her but seems well adjusted so far. Any suggestions?                       

Barb ~ We thank Crista E. Wetherington, Ph.D., Pediatric Psychologist at Children's Medical Center Dallas and Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, UTSW for her contribution to this Ask Barb: Dear Mary, Your grandson is fortunate that you are aware of how significant the loss of his mother is and will continue to be for him. At 19 months of age, he has a very limited understanding of death and of his mother's absence from his life. Pay attention to any significant behavioral changes that interfere with his overall functioning. He may be more fussy or tearful than normal, become upset more easily than usual, and be more clingy with caregivers. If he has these behaviors to the point that he does not enjoy playing, cannot separate from caregivers, or does not smile or laugh, I would talk to your pediatrician about resources available to help you and your family. If you do not see signs of distress right now, it is likely related to his developmental level and the fact that he simply does not fully grasp what has happened. When children cope with significant loss, they often "re-process" the loss and grief at different stages of development as they have the cognitive and emotional ability to understand the loss differently. As he gets older a little older, he will likely have concrete questions about his mother and her death, and when he is even older, these questions will become more abstract. For now, keep a consistent routine, ensure that he is able to spend quality time with familiar relatives and caregivers, and provide familiar comfort objects from his mother's home (a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, for example).

Top Chef

Q ~ Laurie in The Colony asks: Barb, my almost 5 year old son loves to help me cook in the kitchen and often pretends to cook with my real pots and pans. I want to get him some play kitchen toys for Christmas, maybe even an Easy Bake Oven – something just for him to play with instead of my real things. My husband says “no way.” He doesn’t think I should encourage “girl” play – he says it is because he does not want him to be made fun of at school, but I think he has a real hang-up about it. What do you think?                       

Barb ~ In my opinion, all little boys should be encouraged to pretend cook, pretend clean, pretend do the laundry, and pretend take care of the baby. This way, little girls don’t grow up and pretend they can do it all without locking themselves in the bathroom to cry with a bottle of Cabernet. Half-Joking aside, little boys eventually move out and cooking skills can come in handy. It’s fine that your son shows an interest in cooking, and he probably loves the time he gets to spend with you while cooking together. So to your husband I say: 25 million, 9 million, 12 million. These are the respective annual earnings of famous chefs Gordon Ramsey, Emeril Lagasse, and Wolfgang Puck. To you I say: Check the age recommendation on that Easy Bake – I think they are for older children.

Thumbs Up

Q ~ Debbie in Plano asks: How do I stop my 2 year old from sucking his thumb? He started at 3 months and still it goes in his mouth while playing, sleeping, riding in the car, etc... Should I be concerned that he is damaging his teeth?                       

Barb ~ Dr. Hale, pediatric dentist and clinical director at Children’s Medical Dental Service says that it is okay…for now. There will be no permanent damage to the teeth if he stops by age 4. Getting a child to stop thumb sucking takes a consistent effort, tailored to the child’s age and temperament. While some outgrow it, others need encouragement, especially if it has become a self-soothing technique. Plan to take a few weeks to devote yourself to the effort. Make sure to give your child a lot of extra attention and if he becomes nervous or stressed throughout the day, take the time to give him extra cuddles. Communicate as appropriate that he is growing into a big boy and that you are proud of him. Use distraction when you see him getting bored, getting nervous, or anything that usually makes him suck his thumb. Keep him busy with play and take him to new places. Reward him daily. For evenings, consider using a thumb guard. This is a glove or sleeve of some sort that fits over the thumb to discourage the child from thumb sucking. You can find many different kinds by searching online.

Vapor Feet

Q ~ Laura from Bedford asks: A friend of mine told me that she puts Vicks Vapor Rub on the bottom of her son’s feet to help with nighttime coughs. Is there any truth to this? Is it safe?                       

Barb ~ It is possible for someone to be allergic to any of the ingredients in Vicks VapoRub or other similar brands. If you have been safely using it with no problems and you have no cuts or problems with your feet, then it is safe to use on the bottom of your feet. The story goes that using Vicks VapoRub liberally on the bottom of the feet and then covering with socks will sooth and relieve a cough for hours, beyond the traditional use on the chest. There is a lack of scientific support for this use, but a two-second Google search turns up thousands of testimonies that it does work. It may have something to do with stimulating blood flow or dilating blood vessels in the feet. But as any desperate parent knows, if it’s safe, it’s worth a try. Interestingly enough, there are other unusual uses for the product as discovered by consumers, including smearing it on the bird feeder pole to keep the squirrels away.

Safety Seating

Q ~ Camille in Colleyville asks: I am amazed at the amount of children that are not in a car seat. My son (7) towers over some of his classmates, yet they are no longer in seats. Their mothers tell me that they outgrew them already. Maybe they did not realize new laws went into effect, or did they “grandfather” kids in?                       

Barb ~ Current Texas law dictates that all children, 7 years and younger and less than 57 inches tall, must be in a car seat. All others must use the vehicle safety belt. It may be that these classmates are already 8 years old, but there was not a “grandfather” clause. The laws cover the absolute minimums. Children can remain in boosters until they outgrow them if parents choose to do so. Here is a link to child restraint/belt use laws in the state of Texas: http://www.iihs.org/laws/restraintoverview.aspx. You can find more information about child restraint use and an option to type in your zip code to see where the closest fitting station in your area is: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Child+Safety. For this age, your son and classmates fitting requirement for seat use would most likely need to be in a Booster Seat. The IIHS Booster Best Bets report from last month is a great place to find where your seat rates and how other brands performed: http://www.iihs.org/research/topics/boosters/best_bets.aspx. Many thanks to Britax for the helpful information and links!

Take a seat!

Q ~ Karie in Allen asks: Barb, do you have anything to say to the Public Restroom Hoverers? They are the ones leaving the mess on the toilet seat, right? If everybody just sat down, there would be no reason to hover!                       

Barb ~ Hmmmm.. I guess I’d have to say it’s a fine way to get your squats in. To answer your question, it’ not just the hoverers leaving the mess. It is anyone that flushes the toilet. You know those almost violent flushing toilets? Anything that went in, including fecal matter and germs, can be propelled into the air when the toilet is flushed, landing on the seat, the ground around it, and even the toilet paper roll. For a great visual, try adding some food coloring to the water in such a toilet. Line the seat with some layers of toilet paper, and flush. You’ll only see a portion of what is sprayed. Here’s the deal on public toilet seats: The seats themselves don’t keep organisms alive for long. Seat covers, if you can get them to stay in place (that flap should be outlawed), do next to nothing to protect. Baylor University conducted a study that showed hepatitis C can travel through FIVE layers of seat covers. So if something is on the seat we can conclude that A) it won’t live there for very long but B) even if it did, seat protectors will not help you. The problem is when there is a line of patrons, exiting and entering the stall before the spray even has time to settle.

A Visit to the State Fair

Q ~ It’s time for the State Fair and many will be going as a family for the first time. An outing like this can be very overwhelming to first-timers, so I have asked the most knowledgeable fair-oisseur I know to be a guest contributor to this week’s feature with Tips and Tricks to survive and enjoy the annual tradition. A huge “Thank You” to Lydia Walker-Tang for her help!                     

Barb ~ There are 2 nursing/changing stations shown on the maps, but less known are the Charmin sponsored restrooms that are nicer than some of the others. Milk is available at two places: the general store and the Schweppes dairy booth. Sunscreen (a must) can be bought at the store, or there is a very generic supply available from the first aid station. Wear comfortable shoes! Entrances have Children’s ID bands to help find lost parents. Kid friendly suggestions: do the slides early or late, they get hot! When the weather is really warm, look for cool spots the kids will enjoy: the sheep herding, bird show, car expo, and food building. Kids get 'paid' with a snack for their work at little hands on the farm. The Coliseum has a sand castle play area. Also, you can bring your own stroller or wagon to cart the kids around in! If they get tired while there, check the map for rental places. Ice chest and food from home are allowed, just no glass containers or alcohol (they will search at the gates for safety). Here's a link to the full list of brings and don't brings: http://www.bigtex.com/generalinfo/faqs/bring.asp

LitterBugs Me

Q ~ No-one asked, but Barb takes on littering, in her single attempt to make another difference in the Metroplex.                     

Barb ~ Do you litter? I’m sure if you have a cup or fast-food bag you look for a trash can but what about cigarette butts, gum wrappers, tissues, lollipop sticks- you know, the little things that don’t take up too much space? The one that makes me cringe the most is the used diaper. Really people, if you don’t want to look at it or smell it in your car for the short drive home, what makes you think I want to look at it? How hard is it to keep a grocery bag inside your car for trash and then drop that into the nearest trash can? Yesterday I saw a handful of drivers tossing cigarette butts out of their car windows and began to think of just how inconsiderate litterbugs are. How is it any different than peeing in the community pool? I wonder if they would be bothered to see me toss a cheeseburger wrapper out of my car window. Or better yet, if they saw their neighbor toss the diaper pail contents out of their window or front door. I bet they’d be worried that property values were going to drop. I bet they’d be upset when a gust of wind delivered that trash right to their front door. Whether it’s a tiny gum wrapper or a diaper, it all adds up, and so does the cost of littering. In Texas the fine for littering is up to $500. The primary labor for picking up litter on roadsides is not inmates but paid contractors. Your tax dollars are paying for it. But if that trash ends up in a parking lot or in front of a business, then that business has to pay someone to go clean it up. The consumers pay for that in higher prices. So if you want to trash up your own home, that is peachy with me. But please don’t ask me to chip in to support your habit. The next time you are sitting at a stop light, jut take a look around. Just for one day, take note of all the trash cans you spot. There’s an equation there, and even a child can figure it out.

Birthday Suits

Q ~ Jackie in Burleson asks" My 6 year old daughter recently had her first sleepover at my cousin’s house. My cousin and her husband have three children, 6, 4, and 2. We are close but my daughter told me something that really took me by surprise, and now I am really kind of freaked out by it. She said that my cousin and her husband walk around naked. I asked her if they were just trying to get dressed or if they were in their room, but she said that they kind of just walked around like they were taking their time to get into their pajamas. She asked their 6 year old about it and found out that this is normal behavior for them. I brought it up with my cousin on the phone, and she made me feel like a prude that was going to give my kids issues with their bodies, that it was perfectly normal for children to see parents walking around naked. I don’t mind getting dressed in front of my daughter, but we would not feel comfortable with my husband getting dressed in front of her. We don’t make a big deal, but getting dressed is one thing and just lounging around is another. So is my cousin right, do I need to relax? Or am I right to be freaked out?                     

Barb ~ Jackie, I’ve asked the experts at Children’s Medical Center for help in answering your question. A big “thank you” to Children’s and Jane Le Vieux, PhD, RN, LPC, RPT-S, a psychiatric consult nurse at Children’s Medical Center:

There are two issues regarding this topic. Every family has its own set of rules and mores. Your cousin’s choice to walk around naked in front her own children is her choice. To walk around naked in front of children outside their immediate family is not respectful to those children or their families. You expressed to your cousin your concerns, including what you and your husband feel is right for your family. The fact that your child not only asked her 6-year-old cousin about it, but then also told you, indicates your child’s discomfort. There are general guidelines for when to stop being naked in front of your children. When young children begin to notice and ask many questions about the differences between mom and dad, that would be the best time to stop. Take the time to explain to your child that there are certain parts of their body (areas covered by a swimsuit) that are not for showing or letting others touch. Make a point to wear a towel or bathrobe to cover those areas before getting dressed for the day. Teach your child to knock and wait before entering a room. The decision to refrain from overnight sleepovers at your cousin’s is a decision to be made by you and your husband.

Color Commandments

Q ~ Susan in Richardson asks: Barb, what is the rule on not wearing white after Labor Day? Is it just shoes, pants, or anything white?                     

Barb ~ “””Technically””” fashion rules have relaxed on this a bit and suggest you can wear it if you pair it right. For example, a white blouse under a lightweight, darker sweater and with darker pants is okay but not with white shorts and sandals. But you can skip white shoes altogether, no matter what time of year it is. Some fashion experts say white pants are okay if they are not a lightweight material, and paired with black tops and black boots. You can also find “winter whites” in creamy, off-white shades that are appropriate. Some “old-school” people have as hard a time of letting this rule go as the white-wine-fish, red-wine-beef rule. But it now relies on how “classic” your personal taste or sense of style is, or if you like to break the old fashion rules.

Midnight Munchies

Q ~ Taren from Addison asks: My two year old keeps waking up in the middle of the night and asking for a snack. I have not been giving him one, but worry if he is hungry or in the middle of a growth spurt that he may really be hungry. Should I allow a snack?                     

Barb ~ You will want to discuss this with your pediatrician, but generally, it is not wise to give midnight snacks. Kids are creatures of habit and you risk creating a routine. Unless there is an underlying medical issue, children do not need to have a full tummy to be able to sleep at night – just like you. But if you give in and give a snack, then you may be training him to be a night feeder, programming his body to get up expecting a snack. Remember also basic science: Food=Calories=Energy=Too wired to go back to sleep. Bodies (excluding babies) adjust to getting the calories they need during the daytime hours. Try feeding dinner at a reasonable time – not too close to bedtime that he is too tired to eat, and you can give a healthy snack at bedtime. Most importantly, talk to your pediatrician to rule out any medical issues.

The Family Table

Q ~ Jennie in Plano asks: Barb, my husband works late hours and I usually have the children in their pajamas by the time he gets home. He would like for us to eat dinner all together but he does not have a consistent schedule and I prefer to eat with him when they are tucked in so that I can take my time, relax, and catch up with him. Can we find a way to compromise without upsetting the children’s routines?                     

Barb ~ A host of studies have shown that eating dinner as a family can provide serious benefits. It gives everyone the opportunity to discuss their day, current topics, and to engage in a bonding experience. Many studies also show that children who sat for a family meal regularly were less likely to be tempted by alcohol, and other drugs, less likely to smoke cigarettes and are 40% more likely to get good grades. They also make healthier food choices, and for girls in particular, it shows a reduced risk of crash dieting or having a distorted body image. Babies and toddlers are exposed to a variety of the foods you eat, and get to practice their social skills with you. The reality is that families today have busy schedules, and they do not always allow for the family to enjoy a meal together. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – you are right to keep them on a routine. Many parents can relate to the bliss that is eating a meal while it is still hot, without a two year old in your lap. However, you can still sit with them while they are eating and ask them questions about their day. When dad comes home he can sit with them right away, regardless of whether or not they are eating. When you can schedule a consistent family meal time, such as breakfast, or weekends, do as often as you can.

Cart-Correctness

Q ~ No-one asked, but Barb takes on Shopping Cart etiquette, in her single attempt to make a difference in parking lots across the Metroplex.                     

Barb ~ Did you know there is a ‘Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket’ Month? It’s February, but I can’t wait that long to address this topic. If I can convince just one person to never leave a shopping cart stray in the parking lot, then I will sleep better tonight. Today I walked out of the grocery store to see a perfectly healthy middle-aged man struggle to trudge a cart over a curb to leave it in the grass next to my car– 20 feet from the store entrance. He was parked in the third spot from the front. This guy has re-defined egocentric laziness. Please don’t be that guy. Here are some things to consider the next time you contemplate a ditch-and-dash. Stray carts scattered in the parking lot mean less available shopping carts for customers to use and less available customer parking. Have you ever pulled into a parking spot to see it is blocked by a shopping cart? Stores have to pay personnel to go out and fetch them. You can safely assume that extra labor cost will be passed on to you and other customers. A simple breeze can roll that cart into a parked car, causing damage. Average price of a typical car repair from shopping cart damage? Between $500 and $900. The store has to replace the damaged carts. Average price of a shopping cart? $150, and again, you can safely assume the cost is passed back to the customer. There’s more, such as the damage you can do to landscape, grass, plants, and irrigation when you take that extra selfless step of jumping the curb with the cart to secure it in grass. Finally, consider the damage you cause your body by depriving it of the two-minute round trip walk to the designated cart return. “But Baaarb,” you say, “I have multiple screaming children with me.” Ask a bagger to help you out with your groceries, or park next to the cart corral. Just please, don’t be that guy.

The Big Move

Q ~ Patricia from Denton asks: We're going to be moving next month. Do you have any suggestions for preparing my 2yr old for the move?                     

Barb ~ It’s great that you are thinking ahead because kids, including toddlers, do need to be prepared for the move. So with all the packing and preparation that you have to budget time for, you will also need to build in extra time to give your toddler some special attention, making the move less stressful on you both. The most important thing you can do is keep positive. You will be frustrated with many things but your mood may send the wrong message to a toddler, and they will be looking to you for reassurance. Try to talk to him about it daily, and ask questions too to keep him involved. “What is the first thing you would like to eat when we get to the new house?” or “which towels/sheets/etc would you like first when we get to the new house?” A toddler’s frustration often stems from feeling powerless so giving him control of some little decisions may help him feel confident about the move. Avoid being dismissive of any of their fears or anxieties but be empathetic and answer questions honestly. If possible, visit the new neighborhood now and drive around, play in a nearby park, or shop in the local store and allow your child to pick out a plant for the kitchen (he can water it as needed and be responsible for it when in the new house) or something for his room. You may be able to find a book about moving that you can read now, or make up stories to help explain how the move will happen. “We’ll pack your toys in a box, put them in a car and then take them out of the box when we get there.” Allow your child to help you “pack” a box. Make sure to pack in a way that makes it easy for you to first get his essentials unpacked in his room; bedding, toys, videos, even his plates and cups to keep things as familiar as possible. When you arrive at the new house, try to arrange his room the same as his current room to start. Finally, while you are unpacking and settling in to the new house, make time to do some of his favorite things, or plan a play date with a familiar friend.

Sweat the Sweet?

Q ~ Nicolette in Burleson asks Barb, My family has never been big on sweets, an occasional treat here and there. The kids generally make good choices so I do not really mind when they ask for candy or soda. However, since we are not big on sweets, we often have things with sweetener in them, like diet cola or sugar-free cookies and candy. I wonder if they are not consuming too much either way, is it better for me to give them the real stuff or is the sweetener okay?                     

Barb ~ A big “thank you” to Children’s Medical Center and Samantha Bader, RD/LD, CDE, with the Clinical Nutrition service at Children’s Medical Center. There is a chart and everything!

Artificial sweetener

ADI*

Estimated ADI equivalent**

OK for cooking?

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)

50 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg)

18 to 19 cans of diet cola

No

Saccharin (Sweet'N Low, SugarTwin)

5 mg per kg

9 to 12 packets of sweetener

Yes

Acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One)

15 mg per kg

30 to 32 cans of diet lemon-lime soda***

Yes

Sucralose (Splenda)

5 mg per kg

6 cans of diet cola***

Yes


ALL foods are acceptable in MODERATION. Artificial sweeteners are often the topic of cancer-causing conversation, but according to the National Cancer Institute there is no clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans that consume such sweeteners. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several low-calorie sweeteners for use in a variety of foods. An “acceptable daily intake” (ADI) has been established for each approved artificial sweetener. The ADI is considered the maximum safe amount to be consumed daily in one’s lifetime. The following table derived by MayoClinic.com displays the ADI per day for FDA approved artificial sweeteners. Remember, ALL foods are acceptable in MODERATION.
*FDA-established acceptable daily intake (ADI) limit per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.
**Product-consumption equivalent for a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kilograms).
***These products usually contain more than one type of sweetener.

Teething Tablets

Q ~ Regan in Fort Worth asks: I have recently discovered a brand of, "all natural" teething tablets that work wonders on my little guy during his worst teething moments. However, I had a friend show concern about some of the ingredients listed. I know that this type of product is not regulated by the FDA, should I continue to use them? How do you know if this type of product is safe?                     

Barb ~ *Edited to Add: Hyland’s Teething Tablets are the focus of an October 2010 recall. For more information please see: U.S. Food and Drug Administration today is warning consumers that Hyland's Teething Tablets may pose a risk to children

A big “Thank You” to Children’s Medical Center and Colleen E. Parks, MS, RD, LD for answering Regan’s question. The short answer is: It depends. There are different types of teething tablets on the market. Some are marketed as "homeopathic" and others as "dietary supplements." Homeopathy is an "all natural" approach to medicine; homeopathic products contain very small amounts of mineral or plant substances. The FDA recognizes homeopathic remedies as drugs and regulates them accordingly. (Want more on homeopathy? Check out the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine website, http://nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy). However, products that are considered to be dietary supplements are a little different. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed. Once the product hits the market, the FDA is responsible for regulating unsafe dietary supplements. In other words, the difference in homeopathic remedies vs. dietary supplement is in how the FDA is involved regulating such products. For more on dietary supplements, visit (http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/ConsumerInformation/ucm110567.htm) Consumers should know that there are safety issues related to dietary supplements because the FDA does not regulate them like drugs. Keep in mind that there may be possible interactions with dietary supplements and over the counter/prescription medications - or even a possible interaction with certain foods. Bottom line? Read the product box and use caution. And be sure to talk to your pediatrician before giving your children any type of medication. Colleen E. Parks, MS, RD, LD, with the Clinical Nutrition department at Children's Medical Center

A Smoky Situation

Q ~ Kim in Grand Prairie asks, What would you do if you saw a pregnant girl smoke cigarettes? Should you mind your own business and keep your mouth shut or should you confront her? How would I approach her and ask in a nice way that she is potentially harming her baby and herself?                     

Barb ~ I can’t imagine that anyone has missed the news that smoking cigarettes is harmful to your health, and the health of those in and around you. Cigarettes are so addictive that people ignore those warnings every day, and unfortunately, yours will not make a difference either. Other people’s choices, including their bad habits, should remain their business, unless they are directly affecting you or your loved ones. This is comparable to a parent who gives their child far too many sweets or junk food; or one that physically disciplines. If this girl is a stranger, then don’t give unsolicited advice. If this is a loved one, then you have more of a right to bring it up. In this case, I would do this in a non-judgmental way. You could say, “I’m sure it’s very difficult to quit smoking while you are pregnant, is there anything I can do as your friend to help support you?”

The End of Naps

Q ~ Laura in Frisco asks: My almost 3 yr old still gets pretty tired by afternoon but if she naps more than an hour she has a hard time getting to sleep at night and often takes hours to fall asleep. I have been limiting her naps to an hour and that has helped. Should I try to skip naps altogether or let her stop napping on her own, and how old are they when they stop needing napping?                       

Barb ~ A big “Thank You” To Children’s Medical Center and Dr. John Herman for this week’s answer:

"Napping occurs twice a day in most 1-year-old infants, and by age 2, napping is usually once a day. Napping stops by ages 2 to 5 in most young children," says Dr. John Herman, Ph.D., with the Sleep Disorders Center at Children's Medical Center. "It is a common problem that afternoon naps interfere with sleep onset in some toddlers. If you restrict your 3-year old's naps to one hour, your child has limited problems with sleep onset. Therefore, you should continue to allow your child to nap as long as she needs to," says Dr. Herman, who is also a professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

So if you have found balance with one-hour naps, continue them as long as it is working for you!

In Your Face Book

Q ~ Mary in Sachse asks: Barb, my mother in law recently joined facebook! We get along okay, but I don’t want her reading everything I post and I admit I maybe sometimes vent about her and maybe sometimes I vent about her on facebook and message boards. She sent me a friend request, what should I do?                       

Barb ~ If you get along fine and there are no issues that you should be addressing with her directly, then you have to treat this as if she was in the same room with you. The time-tested advice of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything” is as appropriate for social media as it is in any social setting. You would not risk her overhearing or somebody repeating what you said if you were both at the same social gathering. Accept the friend request, and use your privacy settings to hide her and make sure she does not see your posts, but between the always-changing policies and procedures of facebook and the Six Degrees of Separation on the world wide web, it is not worth the risk that a simple post gets back to her and you upset her and other family. I know you may sometimes just want to vent about little irritations, but best to keep these in private conversations or emails or on anonymous message boards than on facebook.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Q ~
Michelle in Arlington asks: I don’t want to sound heartless but I am really annoyed at my local grocery store for too much fundraising. Every time I go in there (at least twice a week) the cashier asks me if I want to donate something to whatever cause they are supporting at the time, but today was really bad. They had someone stationed at the entrance asking everyone that came in and again when they left, there were signs all over the store, and the cashier asked me three times – it was like she was on “auto.” In a thirty minute trip I was asked if I wanted to make a donation 5 times – not to mention the signs all over the store. A part of me thought that money that I spend in the store is going to pay for all these signs, and for a dedicated staff member to stand at the door just to ask for donations. Should I say something or am I just being ugly?
                      
Barb ~ I have to agree with you. While I definitely appreciate the fundraising, that sounds excessive. Fundraising makes a huge difference in the lives of many but takes some effort, and during an occasional campaign some signage and the cashier asking once is reasonable. It does seem like they are over-doing a good thing. Remember that the cashier and other staff are doing what they are asked, but I would call or email the store manager to let them know you feel – five times in 30 minutes if warranted. I think they would rather hear from their customers than loose them. Just be constructive and respectful in your feedback, setting an example of how you hope they conduct these efforts in the future.


Night Fears

Q ~
Amanda in Garland asks, Barb, my 8 year old son has started having problems going to bed at night. He wants to sleep with the lights on and keeps getting up to ask us if all the doors are locked, and that he is worried about someone breaking in. Is this normal and what should I do?
                      
Barb ~ If he can go to sleep with a little extra encouragement and it is not affecting his daily behavior than this is normal. He is becoming more aware of the world around him, outside of the safety of his home. While each child is unique, the most important thing is to not dismiss his fears as foolish, but to allow him to verbalize what he is feeling. Do consider if he is watching violent shows on television or playing video games that involve fighting off attackers. Studies clearly show that violent shows can increase aggression in this age group. Talk to him and involve him. Do have a safety plan and communicate it. Let him know what precautions you take to make sure the house is safe at night. If the lights make him feel better then definitely allow them, perhaps install a dimmer so they do not keep him up. Allow him a flashlight by his bed. He may feel better having walkie-talkies between your room and his. If his fears become irrational or you are not able to calm him then please visit his pediatrician.

How to make your own play-dough

Q ~
Sarah from Arlington asks: Barb, we’re going through Play-Doh like crazy this summer, trying to stay out of the heat. The kids are having a blast, but I’m tired of paying for the stuff that later gets found in my carpet, or their mouths! Do you have a good, easy, inexpensive recipe for make your own Play-Doh? I’ve also heard about edible, peanut butter based homemade Play-Doh. Is it worth trying, or should I stick to the basics?
                      
Barb ~ What a great idea Sarah, and what a great way to keep the kids entertained by making it too! While the original Play-Doh recipe is a secret, you can easily find many similar recipes that involve cooking over a low heat, or no-cook varieties so the younger kids can help in each step of the process. Generally the ones you cook turn out a bit better. Basic recipes utilize salt, water, flour, oil, and food coloring. You can try mixing it up a bit by adding a bit of Kool Aid mix for color and scent, using herb-infused oils, or using your creativity by experimenting with different ingredients to scent or color. Make sure you protect your work surfaces and that little ones or pets do not try to sample too much. While non-toxic, the recipes do include a lot of salt. If you store in an air-tight containers, these last as long as the store-brands. Here are links to get you started: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,199,145167-239205,00.htmlhttp://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Peanut-Butter-Playdough/Detail.aspx; http://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-Affordable-Play-Dough/

A Bath A Day?

Q ~
Sara in McKinney asks: Barb, is it gross not to bathe your kids every day? My almost 2 year old twins don’t always get dirty or sweaty and they do not have much hair yet. I don’t want to be that kind of mom but they do not like baths. What do you think?
                      
Barb ~ Many pediatricians will tell you that daily baths for younger children are not necessary. Obviously if they stink, sit in the litter box, or you can’t remember the last time you gave them a bath then it’s time. But if they stay indoors and don’t get too messy, it is actually better for their skin to at least skip a day to avoid dryness and irritation. Do a little diaper area maintenance or spot cleaning when you change them and keep to frequent hand washing.

Cash it or save it? 

Q ~
Jenn in McKinney asks, My kids receive money as a gift from family members on birthdays, holidays and sometimes just for helping grandma with chores. We have very modest savings accounts for each of them and I think we should ask them to put the money in savings. My husband thinks this is “play” money and they should have fun with it. What do you think?
                      
Barb ~ I think you are both right. Kids of all ages can learn responsibility, and responsible spending is one lesson many adults wish they had learned while they were young. They should learn the value of saving, but allow them to practice saving. Meaning, if they really want a new toy or something, even if you can get it for them, encourage them to save up for it, and to purchase it once they have saved enough. This helps them see the real benefit of saving, that it is there when you need it. Keep a continuing dialogue that as they get older they will be saving for things like a car, a home, and emergencies – but keep these conversations age-appropriate. Help them make wise decisions. Ask them, “Do you want to spend this $5 on something small now, or put it away for the new toy you really want?” Give them the option of saving some and spending some. I am a big fan on giving allowances for assigned chores (see my answer on Allowance Sense and Cents). This gives them practice on the “real world” of working and earning.

Accommodating Sensory Issues

Q ~
Nancy in Dallas asks, My friend has a son with undiagnosed sensory issues. When they come over to play she asks my son to turn off his sound toys because her son doesn't like the noise. I don't want to be rude but should I tell her this is our house and my son enjoys playing with noisy toys?
                      
Barb ~ While the “My House, My Rules” directive is appropriate for requiring manners and conduct, this is not a good situation to apply it to. You are welcoming them as invited guests into your home and should keep in mind that the sensory issues are not a personal preference but rather a neurological condition. If this condition were physical and observable, perhaps one that required use of a wheelchair, would you make reasonable accommodations in your home, such as moving something out of the way of the wheelchair? This is a great opportunity to talk to your son about patience, empathy, and tolerance. In preparation for the play date you can have him gather the noisy toys to put away or help you put out appropriate toys for them to play with. Talk about being a good host and making your guests feel welcome and comfortable because you want them to come back for more visits. This will help prepare him for school and the real world ahead. You can ask your friend to explain what kinds of sensory stimulation he has problems processing and what kinds of accommodations would make the play date less stressful.

Recall 411

Q ~ Melissa in McKinney asks: Barb, I did not find out about the recent recall of the Zyrtec, Tylenol and Motrin until after I had given my son a week’s worth of each due to a high fever. I feel so guilty even though I know they said there were no serious injury reports. I also found out some toys that both kids play with had been recalled months ago. How can I stay more on top of recalls?
                      
Barb ~ News stations and print media do release many (not all) recalls, however, they are not always able to include the full details. By the time a magazine hits the stands it may be “old” news. Your best bet is to subscribe to an email update from the government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission. You can visit this site often or sign up for alerts. What I like about this comprehensive site is that you get the full story – why a product was recalled, what to do if you have the product, and you can file a report there as well.

Back Seat Rider

Q ~
Kim from Grand Prairie asks, What spot in the backseat is the safest place for an infant car seat? In the middle or on the ends?
                      
Barb ~
I contacted Britax USA, the pioneers and leaders of Car Seat Safety, for your answer: “The safest place for your child in any vehicle is in the back seat. The center of the rear seat is the furthest from a side impact. Check your child seat and vehicle user's guides for available seating positions. Also, a safe child seat is one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, and is the easiest for you to use each and every time.” If you have twins or more than one child, the middle position can be a hard decision to make but do not feel guilty. As long as you have the car seats installed correctly and use them correctly, you will have already done everything you can to protect your child. Some great resource for more FAQ's: http://www.britaxusa.com/customer-service/faq/installation-questions; http://www.britaxusa.com/safety-center/car-seat-safety-remindershttp://www.carseat.org/Resources/FAQs.htm; http://www.safekids.org/in-your-area/car-seat-check-up-events/; http://www.safekids.org/in-your-area/inspection-station/

Hot Tot

Q ~
Christina in Wylie asks: What is the best thermometer to use for kids? I want to get an accurate reading but my kids don’t do well holding it under their tongues so I want to try the ear or forehead one.
                      
Barb ~
The digital thermometer is the kind most used by hospitals. While it is easiest to use it orally, this may not be possible with younger children. While you can use it under the arm, you will get the most accurate reading rectally. The tympanic thermometer, used to measure body temperature by taking a reading in the ear, is quick but not always reliable. Many factors can contribute to false readings. In one study, parents using these thermometers failed to detect fever about one-quarter of the time. Tympanic readings should be considered with caution and against other factors. The Temporal Thermometer, usually scanned across the forehead, is the least accurate of the three. You can find reviews and more information on the Consumer Reports website.

Gray Wives Tale

Q ~ Andie in Plano asks: Barb, is it true that for every one gray hair you pull out two more grow back in its place?
                      
Barb ~ Nope, no more possible than your face freezing when you make an ugly expression. Hair turns gray when the pigment cells in its surrounding follicle die. But only one hair can grow per follicle. TIGI Expert Janice Binkley explains: “If you pull out a gray hair, a few things can or will happen. 1) The hair follicle may be damaged. Then the new growth (gray hair) can become unruly 2) The hair follicle may be so damaged it won't grow back at all or could become infected with a pimple like sore. Your best bet is to color (tint/ highlight) the hair, or embrace your gray locks.”

Late Nights

Q ~ Karen in Dallas asks: Barb, My 8 year old daughter has been getting into watching televised sports with her dad. I think it is great but he lets her stay up sometimes to watch late games. I think she uses it as an excuse to stay up. I have to deal with her attitude the next day if she does not get enough rest so I think her sleep is more important and she should stick to her bedtime. My husband says I need to let her grow up and stay up and that this is their bonding experience. What do you think?
                      
Barb ~ I think there has to be a balance that the three of you can agree to. I suggest the three of you discuss the issues together and try different options to find one that works for your family. It is a great bonding experience for dad and daughter, but it is important to keep a routine, especially during the school year. Ask her what she enjoys most about the experience. Giving her the opportunity to problem solve sends her the message that you want her to have more responsibility. Agree on a reasonable amount of time to allow her to stay up and communicate your expectations with regard to her behavior. Perhaps she could plan on taking a rest the following day, or they could record the game and finish it the following morning.

Pick a Winner

Q ~ Paula in Garland asks: Barb, My two year old won’t keep his finger out of his nose. He just sticks it in and leaves it there. Help!  
                    
Barb ~ Did you know your nose and sinuses make about a quart of snot every day? Snot, or mucus, protects your lungs as you breathe by trapping things like dirt, pollen, dust and germs before they make their way to your lungs. When mucus clumps around the dirt, dust, or pollen you are left with a booger. Your child may be trying to remove his by picking his nose. If your child has allergies then the constant flow of mucus may give him a feeling that something is always there. You may want to bring it up to your pediatrician. Sometimes children pick their nose simply because it is there. The habit not only helps spread germs, but picking can lead to infections when fingernails scratch the inside of the nostrils. This sometimes leads to a cycle as the infection causes crusting which leads to more picking. The most common cause of nosebleeds is nose picking. You don’t want to give this habit too much attention, but you can discourage it. If you suspect your child is doing it out of boredom or because “it’s there” then try to distract him when you see him doing it. Give his hands something else to do, ask him to help you with something. If you think he is trying to clear his nose, then hand him a tissue every time. Explain that it is yucky to use his fingers because of the germs. Again, talk to your pediatrician if you suspect allergies or another cause of excessive mucus. Do not nag or make a big deal out of it, do not punish or try to embarrass him. Remember that this age brings on power struggles.

A Speggtacular Hunt

Q ~ Jorge in Grand Prairie asks: Barb, I have twin 7 year olds and really want to do something different for their Easter egg hunt at home. I am tired of the junk filling that just gets thrown away. Any suggestions for different things to fill them with?       
              

Barb ~ I agree. Candy and trinkets can add up to wasteful junk. Think about their personalities and what they really want. If you think that they may want a bigger toy, you can fill the eggs with clues that lead to this hidden gift. If they are trying to save up for something consider filling them with money. If they enjoy going to places like Chuck E Cheese you can fill them up with tokens, or tickets to an attraction. You can fill them with IOU’s for a trip to the movies, a book, 15 extra minutes of games or TV or a homework pass, etc. Look for healthier snacks to fill them with. Forget the traditional fillings and think about their interests and you can find a creative way to incorporate them into the egg hunt. Good Luck!

Ear Muffs

Q ~ Lyndi in Garland asks: Barb, Every now and then when I am at the grocery store checking out, the checker and the bagger are having a personal conversation. I get irritated having to listen to them, but lately I have noticed that they don’t even try to censor it when my kids are around. Yesterday I was pretty sure I heard a curse word from one of them and I had my daughter with me. I don’t want to be “that kind of mom” but I don’t want my kids to hear it. Should I say something to them?       
              

Barb ~ Kids or no kids, it’s unprofessional. I would call the store manager and let them know. You do not have to name names if you are not comfortable doing that but explain that it has happened a few times. They can address it with the staff as a group and establish a policy that they can enforce.

Mean Green

Q ~ Jessica in Dallas asks: Barb, My kids have been worrying about getting pinched on St. Patty’s day for two weeks and have been gathering everything green to wear on the holiday. Where did this tradition come from?       
              

Barb ~ There are a few explanations for this tradition floating around. No doubt one of them leads to over-consumption of green beer. The main theory seems to date back to the 1700’s in the Massachusetts colony. The belief was that wearing green made you invisible to the Leprechauns who were out to pinch anyone they could see. The pinching served as a warning to look out for the Leprechauns. …or the green beer led to a very physical drinking game.

Nasal Aspirators that really Suck

Q ~ Erin in Mesquite asks: Barb, what do you think of those automatic nasal aspirators? I have seen mixed reviews but I do not have much luck with the bulb anymore.       
              

Barb ~ Battery-powered nasal aspirators quickly suck excess mucus out of your nose. While the noise can be off-putting to a younger child, it really does the job and does it quickly. I first ran out and got one when my then 4 month old baby had a respiratory infection and I just could not hold her down and use the traditional bulb effectively. My then 4 year old began to use it when he was sick. He loved the relief it brought him. But I never knew the effectiveness of them until I got a nasty sinus infection. The kind where you can’t stop blowing your nose, even though your nose is all chapped and sore, and your head and ears hurt from all the pressure. It really helped, and by having to use it on myself, I learned the most effective positions and movements to maximize the suction. They can run down batteries quickly and you will notice loss of suction power. But if you keep fresh batteries in and learn how to use it, you will love it.

Party Protocol

Q ~ Karen in Mansfield asks: Barb, How long before a child’s birthday party should I send out invitations?      
              

Barb ~ Your guests should generally receive birthday party invitations one month to three weeks in advance. Make sure to consider any party logistics though. For example, if you are renting a venue and need to have your headcount confirmed a week in advance, then make sure the invitations arrive in time to allow parents at least two weeks to make their plans and RSVP to you. While you may worry that an invitation gets lost or forgotten if sent too early, remember that families are busier than ever these days. Mail does not get opened daily, and parents may need time to arrange schedules, find care for siblings, and shop for a gift.


Market-ing Friendly Products
 
Q ~ Sylvia in Dallas asks: Barb, I thought all children's paints were nontoxic. What's the difference between traditional kid's paint and the new eco-friendly "safe" paints?      
              

Barb ~ As the consumer and the parent, you need to check every label of every paint you buy to make sure it is indeed non-toxic. Non-toxic means that a reasonable amount of a substance will not, under reasonable circumstances, cause damage to an exposed organism. Children’s ibuprofen will not likely hurt an otherwise healthy child if taken as directed, but you would not hand the child an open bottle of it and walk away. Eco-friendly, green, or environmentally friendly are used to refer to products that inflict minimal damage to the environment. For example, if flushed into bodies of water, they will not gas-off the fish that live in it. Does Green mean Non-toxic? Would you eat recycled cardboard?

Rodent Reporters

Q ~ Lorraine in Grand Prairie asks: Barb, why is Groundhog Day a holiday? Is there actually any truth to it?      
              

Barb ~ The February 2nd Holiday Groundhog Day is celebrated in the United States and Canada. According to the tradition, if a groundhog sees its shadow on this day and returns to its burrow, we will experience 6 more weeks of winter. If not, then we will have an early spring. To sum it up, if it is cloudy on Feb 2, spring is springing soon, if it is sunny on this day of reckoning, winter wins. So you may ask how the rodent got involved in the first place, when the common 2-legged creature can just peek outside his window and draw the conclusion. Though the roots of the folklore go back centuries to the ancient Celtic festival of Imbolc, Groundhog Day as we know it was born around 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania by inventive minds at the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper, which repeatedly ran embellished stories about the tradition. Now, crowds of 30,000-40,000 gather in the city to witness the famous whiskered weather-rat known as Punxsutawney Phil. There are other notable furry forecasters in other cities: Buckeye Chuck, Staten Island Chuck, Wiarton Willie in Ontario, General Beauregard Lee in Atlanta, and Shubenacadie Sam. How reliable are the furry forecasts? An NCDC (National Climatic Data Center) analysis shows Punxsutawney Phil's success rate at 39%. Here are some more fun facts: Groundhogs do not like being disturbed. They have a very loud reaction including whistling, squealing, barking, chattering and grinding their teeth. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) love the folklore, but accuse officials of subjecting Phil to the large and load crowds. PETA is suggesting the use of an animatronic model – a robot groundhog. William Deeley, president of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, says the animal is "being treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania."

Pain in the *Ear

Q ~ Brandy in Frisco asks: Please help my ears! My 2-year old loves to scream at the top of his lungs because it's fun. It truly does hurt my ears and those around me. How do I get him to stop? I've told him it hurts and he'll stop, but he never remembers.                     
Barb ~ I contacted the experts at Children's Medical Center Dallas and thank Crista Wetherington, Ph.D., from the Center for Pediatric Psychiatry for the answer: Kids love attention from their parents, even when it's negative. Your son is exploring his environment and trying to understand how others respond to his actions. Two-year-olds cannot take someone else's perspective very well, so explaining that the screaming hurts your ears may not be very useful for stopping the screaming. Start by paying attention to the positive things your child does-any behaviors you'd like to see increase. For example, when your son is playing quietly, or runs over to give you a hug, be sure to give attention for these things, whether by saying something out loud or stopping what you are doing to play with him and make time for that hug. When he begins screaming, ignore him and use time out if needed. Focusing on the positive will decrease the negative, so start there and you will find that you are both happier!

Discourteous in Carpool


Q ~ Barb, I was so irritated in the second grade carpool line this morning as one mom, with a scant few minutes left before classes began, pulls up to the front, gets out, opens the door and fixes her daughter’s hair by brushing and putting in a ponytail! There were at least six cars waiting, including me. I wanted badly to honk but am a new parent and did not want to draw attention to myself, especially if this ended up being someone like the wife of a board member or something. I could see the other drivers were annoyed but no one did anything, and now I am mad for not having done or said something myself because she will probably do it again. Am I over-reacting or should I have honked?                     

Barb ~ Holding up the carpool line to fix your daughters hair is indeed rude and insensitive. I think it made you even more irritated since you were already close to being late. But, I would let this incident go. I am sure there has been a time when you were running late or not quite awake or for whatever reason just not focused and made a poor decision. You don’t want to be judged on that temporary lapse in judgment, or honked at impatiently. Try to be empathetic and give her the benefit of the doubt. Remember that your children are watching and you are setting an example with everything you do. This is an opportunity to display patience and empathy, rather than judgment. If you see a pattern with this mom and it becomes clear she is being selfish and intentionally disregarding the other parents, then you should take action. Either let her know (without a crowd or audience) that her behavior is imposing on others, or speak with an administrator and ask them to address it with her.

Pull-ups vs. Diapers


Q ~ Jessica in Alvarado asks: is there any benefit to using pull-ups over diapers at night? My 4 1/2 year old had 2 accidents last night. It makes me tired. We have even cut his nighttime drinking to try to help. My water bill is going to go up at this rate! We have tons of diapers but would be willing to buy pull-ups if there is an advantage.                     

Barb ~ Hi Jessica, Most pediatricians do not expect a child to stay dry at night until the age of 5 or 6. I recommend making the move to pull-ups at night. First, it will give him the freedom to go by himself should he wake with the need to go. Having him in diapers may send confusing or mixed signals to him. A diaper is something you control while a pull-up is something he controls, and part of successful potty training involves the child taking control of their potty time. You could consider donating the diapers to a shelter or church or friend. A friend gave me one of the best parenting tips I know: For nighttime accidents, in cribs or beds, layer your mattress pads and sheets, so that you only have to strip a layer off each time rather than change the entire bed at night

Stinky Feet

Q ~ Billie in Carrollton asks, Barb, my kids are only 7 and 10 but their shoes are really stinky. What can I do to get rid of the odor without spraying chemicals on them and can I prevent them from getting like this?                     

Barb ~ Those stinky odors are bacteria, living things that keep festering and growing stronger until you end their miserable life. They live off the moisture from accumulated sweat and body oils. To get rid of the stink you have to get rid of the bacteria, and continue to keep moisture from accumulating. You want to avoid harmful chemicals, a good idea, and have a few options. Traditional remedies include misting with a vinegar and water or rubbing alcohol and water blend. I’m not a fan of this as they both have skin-drying properties. Did you know that deep-freezing kills bacteria? If you do not want to use an anti-fungal or anti-bacteria spray, pop them in a deep-freezer for at least a few hours. To keep them dry, you have a few options again. Dusting them with baking soda is great, but it does build up and get gooey when feet sweat and can become cumbersome. I recommend a charcoal product. The most convenient – and most effective I have found is made by Ever Bamboo. A 100% natural product, bamboo charcoal is a deodorizer and dehumidifier. Ever Bamboo has many conveniently shaped deodorizers, including Shoe Deodorizers. When my son takes his shoes off, he places these inside. We have been able to easily and affordably keep the stink from coming back with these. I highly recommend them.


Daycare, Preschool or Moms Day Out?


Q ~ Amanda in Mansfield asks: What is the difference between a mother's day out and a daycare and a preschool these days? Traditionally, a MDO was a once or twice a week sitting service for a few hours each day with no curriculum. Daycare was the same but all day. Preschool was just that...instruction before kids start school. But it seems many MDOs and DCs are offering curriculum as well as PSs. Is it a licensing issue at this point?                   

Barb ~ Today's programs aim to meet the needs of today's families. While it may be difficult to spot differences between the three, if you are looking at three high quality programs you will find unique characteristics. MDO programs are generally just a few hours a week, offering a break for mom and fun, interaction and activities for little ones. Daycares are normally open year round and offer longer hours to accommodate working families with a wide range of children in their care from 6 weeks to 10 years or older. Preschools have defined class ages such as PreK3 and PreK4, normally operate during the school year, and offer a curriculum to prepare the child for the structure of Kindergarten. Daycares that offer preschool type instruction exist to accommodate families that need the hours of a daycare yet want the curriculum of a preschool. Programs also compete for your business by offering more. But they must meet the same licensing and accreditation requirements. Ask to see the licensing and accreditation for any program you are considering. The moms at MomCheck know how confusing it can be "with daycares offering preschool, preschools offering child care and MDO's available just about everywhere you turn. A preschool program, whether offered by a private preschool, a licensed child care facility or an elementary school has a basic curriculum that follows state guidelines." For more information, see the comprehensive MomCheck Guide that covers the basics and breaks them down deeper.

Total Toothpaste


Q ~ Jen in Euless asks: Barb, are there some brands of toothpaste that are better than others or do they all pretty much clean the same?                 

Barb ~ Most adult toothpastes have similar ingredients with varying amounts of fluoride plus other agents to help fight decay and bacteria, sensitivity and inflamed gums. The most important ingredient is an antigingivitis agent to fight plaque. Not all toothpastes carry the seal from the American Dental Association (ADA), another major item you should look for when selecting your toothpaste. Consumer Reports performed tests on 38 brands of toothpaste in 1998. Thirty of them were rated excellent. The top rating goes to Colgate Total, which is also the brand most recommended by the FDA and others in the dental industry. What makes Colgate Total stand out in test after test? It contains the antibacterial agent Triclosan to help fight gum disease and Gantrez, which keeps the Triclosan working even between brushings. For more fun and information for the entire family, visit the American Dental Association website. To see how brands rate, see the Consumer Research website.

S’no You Know

Q ~ Laura in Mesquite asks: Barb, is it safe to eat snow?                

Barb ~ This really depends on where you are and how big your portion sizes are. It is a fact that even falling snow is dirty and probably polluted with exhaust, emissions, and Pseudomonas syringae bacteria, which is really scary-bad only if you are a bean or tomato plant. Harvard environmental professor Helen Suh Macintosh wrote, “Snow is formed by water vapor that moves in the cold air, it can stick to a tiny piece of dust and then have other water molecules attach to it, forming a crystal. Once formed, the crystal can continue to grow and can stay in the air for hours before it falls to the ground. It is during this time that the snow crystal can collect or ‘scavenge’ pollutants that are present in the air.” Still, even a little dirt – or snow – won’t hurt an otherwise healthy person. The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds that we eat bacteria all the time that are usually killed in the acidic stomach. There are no reports of otherwise healthy children becoming sick from eating small amounts of snow. Eating mega amounts of snow can dangerously lower body temperature.

Barb's Holiday Promises         

Barb ~ The holiday season is finally here as many of us take time to reflect on the things most important to us and vow to not take them for granted. This Christmas (or any other gift-giving fête), I promise the following to my children:

1) I will let you open presents any way you want to.

2) I won’t put twenty-three pounds of candy in your stocking and then blame you when you try to climb up the chimney.

3) You will not have to hear “oh don’t worry about Cousin Bob/Uncle Don/Grandma, they’ve just had too much to drink."

4) You will not be made to kiss or hug strange relatives.

5) I will have batteries for every toy I gift you.

6) Your Christmas money is your Christmas money; I will not borrow from it nor force you to invest it.

7) You will not have to perform the song/poem/high kick you just learned in class, or any other stupid human tricks just to entertain the relatives.

8) I will not make up new rules about a fat guy in a red suit to mold your behavior.

9) I will not take my decorations too seriously; go ahead, touch them.

10) I will make time to play with you.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Who's Mess?

Q ~ Arleen in Allen asks: Hi Barb, Whenever we go out to eat at the restaurants, my toddler, unfortunately will and always make a mess. Though we sometimes left extra tip, should I also be picking stuff out off the floor? It's not that I don't mind doing it, but I'll be back and forth washing my hands at the restroom. Thank you for your thoughts on this.                

Barb ~ Beyond the Golden Rule is the Rule of Reasonable Expectations, with a clause for parents called “Example Setting.” You would not clear your own crumbs, and are not expected to. The restaurant staff expects a reasonable amount of mess with children, especially if they are a family-friendly restaurant. A standard tip is sufficient for a standard mess. HOWEVER: You should clean up anything more than a reasonable mess. Consider that a server makes less than $3 an hour. If they have a busser, they will share a portion of their tips with them. A mess that is so large means the staff will be spending more than a reasonable amount of time cleaning up and takes them away from other customers, where they are working to earn more in tips. It also means the table cannot be sat with new customers right away, meaning the restaurant as a whole is delayed in serving someone else and making their money on that new table. Dining out is no reason to abandon manners. Set an example to your toddler that it is not okay to throw or dump food, drink and cutlery. Yes toddlers will do it. That is part of their job is to see what happens when they do something. Your job is to set an example for them to know what is appropriate. If they are invited into a friend’s home, how have you taught them to behave? Granted you do not carry a broom and dust pan with you, but make some effort to perform general maintenance throughout the meal - pick up dropped linen or cutlery and sweep dropped food off the table and into the plate after they are finished. After the meal you can use a wipe or unused napkin for one general swipe of dropped food off the floor. If the mess left behind is more than a reasonable one – for example, sticky white rice or slippery crushed fruit, and warrants more work, then they should be compensated for the additional work.


School Fundraisers

Q ~ Stephanie in Argyle asks: Barb, I am so sick of the school fundraisers that are turning our kids into door-to-door sales people. How do I handle it when my son gets singled out for not getting a big prize that his friends get?                

Barb ~ I have yet to meet a parent that is happy with a high-pressure fundraiser. Schools desperately need the extra funds raised. More than $1.5 billion is raised each year by school groups as a whole, and it is raised primarily by selling stuff. This money affords the schools about 80% of the funds they need to provide extras such as playground equipment, computers, and field trips. Kids can learn some valuable lessons while fundraising – if they are participating in a responsible fundraiser. Fundraisers such as bake sales, garage sales and car washes are being replaced with multi-level marketing schemes with multi-level incentives that brain wash children into believing they need a 10-cent spiky hair ball and guilt parents into taking the part-time job of unloading pallets of cookie dough and wrapping paper to get junior that stupid ball. What is most irritating to me is the marketing moron of a PTO leader that claims, “oh, children don’t really understand why we need to raise money and, therefore, need extra motivation like cool prizes.” Don’t insult the intelligence of my child. Kids can grasp the notion of raising money for the school so the school can buy things it needs. And if they can’t; they have a huge incentive in participating in a responsible fundraiser – baking with family or classmates for that bake sale, having fun at the car wash – and they see commerce taking place immediately – not months after an order is placed. So here is how you handle it. You first explain to your intelligent child that the school needs extras. Then you explain how these things work and how you feel about them. Then let them know what you feel comfortable doing and how you want to contribute – like making a donation or volunteering your time. They may be frustrated – at no fault to them considering they were brain washed that they will not win something – but remember this is a lesson they need to learn. You have to stand up for what you believe in and let them see it. Offer an alternative, if it is a spiky hair ball they want, let them do extra chores around the house to earn the money to buy it. If it is a party for them and their friends then let them organize a play date. Finally, talk to your PTO leaders. Encourage them to find more responsible methods of fundraising that keep a larger percentage of the profits in the schools. Volunteer what you can.

Thinking Outside the Cable Box

Q ~ Monica in Flower Mound asks: Barb, what is a good age to have a television on your own room?                

Barb ~ When they are old enough to pay rent on that room. Re-think the idea of putting a television in your child’s bedroom. Studies clearly show it is not a good idea: children with TV’s in their bedroom tend to have more problems with sleep, weight and grades than their room-tube-deprived peers. A recent study conducted at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health looked at a group of 781 teenagers ages 15 to 18 and found that the “62 percent with a bedroom TV were less likely to exercise or to eat fruit and vegetables and got lower grades.” More research from the University of North Carolina, found that less active children are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome as teenagers, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes, all increasing the risk of heart disease. “The researchers charted the health and physical activity of 389 children when they were 7 to 10 years old and then again when they were 14 to 17. Almost 5 percent of the children had at least three symptoms of metabolic syndrome as teenagers.” Don’t get me wrong – televisions are not evil – in other rooms of the house they can be entertaining, educational, and fun. But it’s difficult to moderate the amount of time your children watch TV if they have one in their bedrooms. If they are watching, they are otherwise physically inactive, and this is part of the problem. You also can not monitor what they are watching – what messages shows or commercials are sending them. Ideally, they emerge from their room speaking messages of sharing and helping in fluent Spanish while looking for an animal to rescue. But in reality, if you are not monitoring what they are watching, they could be seeing 2,000 beer and wine ads each year not to mention the junk food and junk toys they will think they have to have, and enough information to re-write your schools sex-ed curriculum. Here are more fun numbers: On average, children ages 2-5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a TV and kids ages 6-11 spend about 28 hours a week. Kids with a TV in their bedroom spend an average of almost 1.5 hours more per day watching TV than kids without a TV in the bedroom.

Getting Postal

Q ~ Toni in Grand Prairie asks: Barb, I'm disliking the amount of junk mail the post office delivers to my mailbox every day. It seems so wasteful. How do I get off the junk mail lists?                

Barb ~ You can save your time, trees, and landfills by reducing the amount of direct mail advertisements you receive. Now for the scary stats from Center for a New American Dream: Each year in America, 5.6 million tons of catalogs and other junk mail go into our landfills; the average household receives 1.5 trees worth of unwanted junk mail (that’s more than 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined); and we pay $370 million to dispose of junk mail that doesn’t get recycled. 44 percent of junk mail is tossed unopened, yet only half of that (22 percent) is thoughtfully tossed in the recycle bin. On average, Americans spend 8 months of their lives opening junk mail. It’s enough to make you go postal. Here is how you can reduce the waste. First register with the Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to get listed in the “Do Not Mail” database. While direct marketers don’t have to check the database, many do before sending a large amount of bulk mail. You can also go to OptOutPreScreen.com to remove your name from lists that mortgage, credit card and insurance companies use in direct mail campaigns. This site is run by the four major credit bureaus that are also the largest brokers of your address. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act says they have to remove your name from their lists if you ask them to. Next contact the companies that you do business with, such as your credit cards and magazine subscriptions and ask them to opt your name out of direct or third-party marketing. If a company ignores your request, you can make it a criminal offense to keep mailing you by creating a prohibitory order against it. To do this, download a 1500 form from the USPS, attach it to an opened letter from the company, and drop it off at your local post office. For more information and form letters, see JunkBusters.com.


Buzz Off

Q ~ Katie in Hurst asks: Barb, there are tons of mosquitoes just hanging around my front door but I can’t figure out what is attracting them. Isn’t their season over? How can I get them to move along?                

Barb ~ It’s always mosquito season in Texas, the species just change with the season. Mosquitoes are attracted to a variety or combination of things. These include your breath (or that of an animal’s), body heat, darker colors and MOISTURE. Alex Cantaboni from Safe Pro Pest control says that moisture is the most common problem. “I usually find standing water in gutters, base of vases, French drains, and also ignored bird baths. So remove all standing water debris (leaf clutter) around home.” Mosquitoes only need a thin film of water to breed. A watered lawn or dense shrubs are most welcoming. It just needs to be moist and shady. Give them an eviction notice by getting rid of moisture in these areas, and any animals nesting in the area such as birds. Apply a larvacide in standing water. If you need to spot treat for an occasion, I recommend Mosquito misters, Safe Pro Pest Control provides eco friendly fogging and spraying for mosquitoes. One last thing to try is Mosquito Plants, genetically engineered with a sweet lemony scent to repel mosquitoes an easily grown as potted plants.


Holiday Headache

Q ~ Katrina in Southlake asks: I really dread the holidays because - ever since having kids - they cause friction between me and my husband. We live near his family, and my family is in another state. I feel that his family has us and the kids year round, and that we should spend Christmas with my family. How can we avoid this fight and keep my parents from feeling left out?              

Barb ~ I have always believed that when you start your own family you get to start your own family traditions. Whether that means you travel or stay at home for the holidays, it’s your family tradition – not the in-laws. There comes a time when you have to consider yours, your husbands, and your children’s feelings first, and not make them do something just to make your own parents happy. I would talk it out. Calmly. Explain to him how you feel but listen to his feelings too. Find out why he feels the way he does. Holiday travel causes anxiety in many people as they think of the crowds, the delays, the cost, the tantrums, and everything in between point A and B. Maybe he is worried Santa won’t find you if you are away. Work together to find options you can both be happy with but know there will have to be compromise. You could agree that you visit your family for a specific amount of time, that you stay in your own home, that you alternate holidays or years, or that you go out of town just before or after Christmas. Keep in mind that as the kids get older, they will want to have their say too.

The ABC’s and 123’s of learning
 
Q ~ Carey in The Colony asks: I want to know what are the things I should be working on with my kids and when. When should we work on ABC's? What about Colors? body parts? You name it. I would also like activities and such to do with them to work on these skills. And learning isn't just about the brain, what physical things should we work on and when? Jumping, climbing, touching their toes. These are the things that I get lost about. I don't want my kids to be on strict schedule, but if we are going to learn stuff, at least I know what I should focus on.             

Barb ~ The only thing you should be working towards is offering the kids activities that they enjoy. There are two schools of thought about how early a child should begin learning these things since they are also taught in school. One theory is that the child will be bored if they already know everything once they start school, so you should let them be children during these preschool years. The other school of thought theorizes that if parents make it a fun parent-child experience, then teaching skills such as the alphabet and basic math to very young children is just as beneficial as playing a game together – the child builds confidence and self-esteem as they learn.

I think any regular daily activity a little one does offers a lesson of some sort and – as long as you keep it fun and the kids are interested- you can take advantage of these day-to-day tasks to help them learn something. I would start with the basics, and let them lead so that you can gage their interest and progress as appropriate.

Even before a child begins to speak they are already aware of colors. You can point out colors everywhere. When getting dressed, when going for a walk, even around the house. Don’t worry about getting them to repeat it back to you. You can have a color theme day. Wear blue, use the blue cup, blue finger-paint, color your pasta blue, build a blue tower with Legos.

Body parts can be pointed out when bathing or getting dressed, older toddlers can have fun playing games like Twister. When it comes to ABC’s, I would teach them the alphabet song first, there are many great and fun videos on Youtube and educational sites like Starfall.com that have fun alphabet videos. Starfall.com is helpful through teaching reading. They don’t need to learn them in order, just shoot for letter recognition. Reinforce the learning with daily activities. On the letter “A” theme day, eat half an apple for breakfast. Take the other half and carve an “A” so that you can use it as a stamper. Talk about the sounds the letter makes as you incorporate it into activities. Do crafts – cut out shapes for them to paste on a paper – circles for an ant, triangles for the teeth of an alligator – and count them too. I love two sites for themed crafts - http://dltk-kids.com/ and http://www.first-school.ws/

Allow them to experience and learn using multiple senses. Put some play sand in a plate and draw the letters in it. Have them sort out 5 blue M&M’s as a treat.

Physical activity is important, go for walks and point out all the colors you see. Set out to find as many “A” airplanes one day, “B” birds another. Count as you are climbing stairs. Put on some music and lead the kids in a march (point out left/right) or dance – hokey pokey is great for learning body parts. You don’t need structured exercise at this time but at least 30 minutes of active play each day would be beneficial.

The key to learning through experience is to focus on the quality of the time you are spending together. If the kids are not in the mood or interested in the activity, stop immediately. Sometimes it’s fine to build a tower out of any Lego’s they choose.

Co-sleeping

Q ~ Sarah in Irving asks: I have a 10 month little girl who sleeps in the bed with me. My hubs (her dad) works nights. However, when he is home, we would like to have to have some 'adult' time and that can be difficult with her in the bed. She does sleep through the night. What do you think about co-sleeping? Should we get her to sleep in her own crib?           

Barb ~ I think if BOTH parents want and agree to co-sleep and they take safety precautions then they should go for it. Move her to a crib when you are ready to. If you enjoy co-sleeping then it should not affect your adult time. Really, don’t even non-co-sleeping parents wish they could get more creative from time to time and move out of the bedroom? I think it would be okay to either move her to her crib during show time or for you to take the show on the road to another room. If she is in the same room it is unlikely she will see, hear, or even remember anything at this age; but being in the same room with her may be a distraction to you.

Candy Can-do

Q ~ Donna in Rockwall asks: Barb, I recently heard that a study showed if kids eat sugar every day they are more likely to be criminals? My kids eat healthy but I do allow them little treats every day if they want them. Should I be more restrictive?           

Barb ~ The study you are referring to, published in the October British Journal of Psychiatry, was conducted at Cardiff University in Britain and studied approximately 17,500 participants born in 1970 for four decades. Researchers found that 69 percent of the participants who had committed violence by 34 had eaten sweets or chocolate nearly every day (compared to the occasional treat) during childhood. Dynamics such as parenting skills and social and economic backgrounds were factored in. The reason why? Lead researcher Simon Moore says "giving children sweets and chocolate regularly may stop them from learning how to wait to obtain something they want. Not being able to defer gratification may push them towards more impulsive behavior, which is strongly associated with delinquency." Researchers also stated that more research is needed to confirm the link. Not all children in the study who had eaten sweets daily had turned criminal – about 42 percent were clean sugar-holics. The magazine also cited research from 2002, which found that young offenders who received vitamins and nutrient capsules committed on average 26-37 percent fewer offenses. The bottom line for you as a mom? "It's not that the sweets themselves are bad," Moore says. "It's more about interpreting how kids make decisions." Your brain functions better and therefore makes better decisions with proper nutrients. So I think you are doing great, making sure they get the good stuff and a treat here and there.

The Sex Talk

Q ~ Kim in Grand Prairie asks: I just heard from my friend, that her child's middle school a boy from his class is about to become a father. He is only 15 years old. I am shocked that at that age, someone becoming a father. At what age is it appropriate to talk to your children about sex? I want my son to live and have a normal childhood first but with what's going on in the world I'm worried about issues like this.        

Barb ~ Almost 15 years ago I did an internship in STD education and testing and was shocked at the lack of information young people had. I heard things like “he told me if he wrapped it in toilet paper I could not get pregnant.” One young girl told me she would rather get AIDS then get pregnant. Another convinced her mother that she contracted gonorrhea by sitting on someone’s shoulders during a parade. All they needed were the facts and some guidance. It’s great that you are already thinking about these issues because your son is already thinking about them too in one sense or another. It is not too early to start conversations about sexuality. The conversation should really be on-going, yet age appropriate. Right now, it’s important for your son to know the correct names for parts of his body, their functions, and that he should respect his body. If he has questions, answer the specific question truthfully. It’s very important for him to know he can trust you to give him a truthful answer and that he can continue to come to you for the facts. My son was 4 when I was pregnant with my daughter and he asked how the baby got into my tummy in the first place. I explained to him that daddy’s sperm and mommy’s egg joined together and how cells multiply. That’s all he wanted, he has yet to ask how they join. He was more interested in the science of it. Don’t over react if your kids have some questions, it does not mean you have to give a full-blown lesson in sex-ed. But by keeping communication open, answering questions as they come up, and recognizing stages of child-hood that require some additional information, you will set your kids up to avoid embarrassment, body image issues, and hopefully issues like your friend’s schoolmate. There are many great resources for parents looking for ways to talk to their children about sex, what is age-appropriate, and how to handle questions: The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Talking with Kids, and Sex Therapist Dr. Laura Berman’s downloadable Handbook for Advice on Talking to Your Kids at Every Age

In Your Face-book

Q ~ March in Dallas asks: What is an appropriate age for a child to have a facebook account? My son is about to turn 9 and we have said no to facebook, we just think he is too young. Today I was looking for a friend of mine and on my "suggested" friends list I was shocked at the number of his friends that were coming up, all 8 and 9 year olds with their own facebook account. Am I just being old fashioned?       

Barb ~ Do you allow your child to play a video game rated 10 and over? Do you allow him to see a PG-13 movie, either with or without your supervision? I ask these questions because movie and video game companies publish ratings to give the parents information about content, so that the parents can make informed decisions. Facebook, on the other hand, has no recommendation or guide; however, they do have a clearly written policy. According to their very recently updated Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, “You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.” Is it against the law if you do? No, it’s just against Facebook policy. The policy also states, “You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.” If you violate the policy, Facebook “can stop providing all or part of Facebook to you.” Although when creating a new account, users have the option of selecting a birth year between 1900 and 2009, Facebook will respond with the following statement if you are under 13: “Sorry, you are ineligible to sign up for Facebook.” This message is annoyingly displayed on your screen whenever you attempt to start a new account, until you finally clear your cookies. At which point, a minor can change their birth year, or ask mom or dad to create an account for them. What bewilders me is that some parents blindly trust the recommendations of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) and allow their children access to a game or movie without question. But who are the people on these boards and how do they come up with their ratings? For movies, the full-time Rating Board is made up of 10-13 members. According to the Motion Picture Association of America website: “There are no special qualifications for Board membership, except that the members must have a shared parenthood experience, must be possessed of an intelligent maturity, and most of all, have the capacity to put themselves in the role of most American parents so they can view a film and apply a rating that most parents would find suitable and helpful in aiding their decisions about their children and what movies they see.” It is actually quite an honorable position and there has never been an incident of bad behavior by the board. They have guidelines. For example, if a movie has any drug use, more than brief nudity, both realistic and extreme violence, or a single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, it requires the PG-13 rating. The ESRB comes up with its recommendation in this way: Video game makers submit video of the games, with typical play and the most extreme scenarios of violence, language, sex, drugs, and gambling. ESRB staff checks the video to make sure it is a clear representation of the game, sometimes by playing the game. Then at least three specially trained game raters review the video. According to the ESRB official website, “ESRB raters must be adults and typically have experience with children, whether through prior work experience, education or by being parents or caregivers themselves.” If you have made it this far and the editor has not cut me off, I do have a point to make here. You, as the parent of your child, have to decide where to set the boundaries. Dr. Phil says you have to make this decision against the backdrop of their life. If you have a child who is responsible with chores, homework, and money and treats others with respect, you may trust them more and not have to monitor them as much as the child that is generally irresponsible in those terms. You have to take into account any recommendations made, policies stated, and heed any warnings such as the following by Facebook: WE TRY TO KEEP FACEBOOK UP, BUG-FREE, AND SAFE, BUT YOU USE IT AT YOUR OWN RISK. WE DO NOT GUARANTEE THAT FACEBOOK WILL BE SAFE OR SECURE. For me, I would not allow my son to use Facebook solely on the fact that it goes against Facebook policy. For me, the overall lesson is that you respect the policies of a company, especially if you hope to use that business at any point. Once he is 13, I would evaluate his overall responsibility and maturity and take note of any recommendations out there. I may come up with our own family policy. Such as the “door stays open when you have a friend in your room” rule, we come up with rules we can both agree to. Perhaps he understands that I control the account, register it with an email address only I have control of, and he understands that I never post as him or access the account except to check on his safety, and that if I feel at any time he acted inappropriately I will disable the account. For me, my job is to keep him safe as much as it is to set him up to succeed. Social media can be a great and fun thing, but it can also be dangerous. If he can understand that, then he is responsible enough to use it according to the terms and policies of our family. On an additional note brought up by one of my co-workers, parents may want to establish Facebook accounts for their children now only to reserve the vanity url for their child’s name, similar to buying the domain name for your child.

Flu Shot In The Dark

Q ~ Jen in Arlington asks: What is the differ between the regular flu shot and the swine flu shot as far as safety of the vaccines?      

Barb ~ This year the seasonal flu vaccine covers three different strains of the seasonal influenza virus but not the H1N1 or swine flu. It is recommended for anyone but especially pregnant women, young children and elderly. A single dose is needed except for children under 9 that have never had a flu shot before. It is available at local pharmacies, health departments, and doctors offices. The H1N1 novel flu vaccine has been approved by the FDA and covers this one strain. It does not give protection against seasonal flu. The vaccine is still being tested and manufactured, and will be available later this fall but only through your local health department. It is likely that children under 10 will require two doses but those in the highest risk categories will receive it first. This includes pregnant women, healthcare workers, and child care givers, children aged 6 months – 4 years, and children aged 5-14 with chronic medical conditions. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the safety of the new vaccine. Studies and safety information are still emerging. Pediatricians should talk to each patient as information becomes available about the effectiveness, necessity, toxicity and safety of the vaccine. Ask your doctor to discuss your case with you. You can find more information by calling 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and at these following websites: www.flu.gov, www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu, www.dshs.state.tx.us/txflu/default.shtm 

Mom-Mimic

Q ~ Lana in Richardson asks: There is a mom in my "circle" of mom friends that always copies me. If I show up to play group with a new diaper bag or accessory, she buys it. If I say we are going to a spot for a family outing she says she is too, but she will act like it was her plan all along instead of saying "good idea, I think I will do the same." it is so annoying. What can I do without being childish?      

Barb ~ It’s annoying but it probably speaks to her lack of confidence in herself. You would probably be fine with her following your trend-setting if she gave you credit for giving her the idea rather than being dismissive. You could take it as a compliment that she is impressed enough with your choices to do what you do, finding satisfaction in the fact that the scenery never changes unless you are lead dog. But I don’t think it’s too big of a deal. Companies make hundreds of one bag, and whether moms see it in an ad or on the street, hundreds of moms will purchase it. You probably don’t receive a compliment on something and then tell people how you thought of the idea. For her to have to claim an idea as her own when she borrowed it is pathetic, but really, leaders stand out, and you will be on to the next big find before she can catch up. .

Food Expiration

Q ~ Genny in Fort Worth asks: Barb, How long can you use food after the “Sell By” date and can you really go by the “Use By” date?      

Barb ~ You need to rely on your common senses and consider guidelines when storing food. A "sell by" date tells the grocery store how long they should sell the product for. A "best by" date is when the quality, flavor, texture or safety of a food will begin to deteriorate. The "use by" date is the expiration date of the food. The true food dates are also affected by the temperature of your refrigerator and if the packaging has been opened. Milk for example usually carries a “sell by” date because it is affected by various environmental factors such as temperature and light. Light can cause milk to loose vitamins which is why it usually comes in an opaque plastic or cardboard container. If you store your milk around 37 degrees, you can safely enjoy it for 2-5 days after its “sell by” date. Certain foods have a higher protein content or higher acidic content that affect the recommended amount of days a food is safe. For storage guidelines on other foods check out the USDA Website.

Big Turd

Q ~ Erin in Richardson asks: Barb, My husband and I have a few bird feeders and birdbaths in our backyard. We have a myriad of birds who visit, bathe, and feed in our yard. I am concerned that my two children, who are always outside playing, might "catch" something from the birds. My son digs in the dirt, where I know birds go to the bathroom. How dangerous is "bird poop"?      

Barb ~ Bird droppings can be extremely dangerous to young children, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems. There are 60 diseases that can be transmitted from birds to humans, some potentially fatal, including E-coli, Salmonella, Respiratory Histoplasmosis, Meningitis and Cryptococcosis. Bird droppings are a good medium for transmission because they dry out and turn to dust which then becomes airborne and can be absorbed through mucous membranes, or “breathed in.” The CDC has published safeguards on Cryptococcosis. This responsible fungus “is found in the soil worldwide” and “commonly spread by bird droppings, especially pigeon droppings.” Because this airborne fungi can be inhaled, “people who have weakened immune systems should avoid areas contaminated by bird droppings, and should avoid contact with birds.” Similar safeguards on dealing with Histoplasmosis have been issued as well. The H. capsulatum fungus not only grows in soils, bird droppings in the dirt are a rich nutrient source for the fungi. “The best way to prevent exposure to H. capsulatum spores is to avoid situations where material that might be contaminated can become aerosolized and subsequently inhaled.” Alex Cantaboni of Safe Pro Pest Control tells me “health risks from birds and bats are often exaggerated. Nevertheless, large populations of roosting birds may present the risk of disease to people nearby.” External parasites such as ticks, flies, lice and beetles may also pose a problem when infested birds roost or nest. “If large quantities of bird or bat droppings are present, contact an environmental engineering consultant for advice.” For more information, call your local Health Department, and visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control.

Lunchability

Q ~ Laura in DeSoto asks: My son’s school says no more Lunchables. Please help me with ideas of easy, quick, and picky-eater approved lunch ideas.     

Barb ~ The Lunchables ban took me by surprise too! As a spread-thin mom of a picky eater, I admit I have been stuck on a rotating meal plan of the 17 combinations you can make with bread, pasta, cheese and pepperoni. I have found it helpful to pack food in fun yet easy to use containers, and if including individually packaged food, make sure you pre-tear the wrapper so it’s easy for your little one to open. You can save time, beat boredom and create excitement by involving your son in the planning and preparation. Mine likes to “build” his lunch, so he plans out what items to pack to stack on whole wheat crackers. He often picks pepperoni and cheese, but every now and then he will throw in some other items too. He loves fruit and veggies, and it is easy to prepare and portion grapes, melon, carrots, cucumbers, celery, and berries every few days. I find it helpful to have him think ahead, and we plan his lunch each evening or even in the afternoons when we arrive home from school. Champion baker and mom of 3 March Baremore makes her son’s school lunches entertaining by using cookie cutters to make sandwich shapes. She has shared a favorite link that I think has some wonderful ideas for quick, easy, yet entertaining lunch ideas: http://www.kraftfoods.com 

A Boost Up

Q ~ Catherine in Flower Mound asks: Barb, my son is 44 inches tall and just turned 5 years old. Do I need to switch him to a booster seat or can I keep him in his 5-point harness? I just feel like it is safer but want to do what is safest.     

Barb ~ Catherine, good for you to think about the safest option. I went straight to the product expert on this one; Heidi Parker with Graco Children’s Products answers: Hi Catherine, as long as your son is within the height and weight requirements of your 5-point harness seat, you can (and should) continue use. Check your instruction manual and labels on the side of the seat to determine the height and weight requirements. Also keep in mind, that if your son's shoulders are above the top harness slots, he is too big for the seat and a booster would be a good next option. Your son does meet the requirements for booster seat use, however if your 5-point harness seat allows, that is your best option because it does provide additional protection. 

Yes, Boys Have Penises

Q ~ Mindy in Rockwall asks: Barb, my 3 year old is always talking about his penis. I am so worried because he starts school this fall and his dad thinks its funny so I get no help from him. How can I get him to stop and what do I do when he does it in public without making a bigger scene?     

Barb ~ Good news and bad news. You wont stop it (example, your grown husband still thinks its funny) but you can teach him, eventually, what is appropriate and what is not, and where it is appropriate and where it is not. You don’t want to shame him, confuse him, or engage him. It is important that he knows he can come talk to you if he does have a problem with his penis, so try not to overreact. This behavior is completely normal for children his age. He is learning about his body, and eager to tell others about it. He may also be encouraged by the reaction he gets, including the laughter from dad or the shock value for mom (it's funny to him). I suggest having a two-way conversation with him often, addressing what is appropriate and what your expectations are, what is private and should not be shared. Ask him questions so you can figure out why he is doing it. Let him know calmly that there is a place and time for everything and remind him about manners. Try to be very matter-of-fact and not react emotionally when he does it. Eventually the entertainment value will wear off. His school will be broken in by the last thousand or so boys who came through their front door yelling “penis.” They will be able to reinforce your message to him. Lastly, don’t worry about what others in public may think. Strangers do not parent your child and their opinions should not influence your parenting.

Crib Mates

Q ~ Charlotte in Bedford asks: Barb, my 18 month old has become attached to some of her dolls and wants them in the crib with her when she goes to sleep. I have been paranoid about the safety of toys in the crib so I am sneaking in after she falls asleep to take them out. At what point is it safe enough to let her have a doll or three in the crib?     

Barb ~ While a stuffed animal or doll can bring comfort to a child and help them (and you) sleep better, you need to take certain precautions to make sure your child is not in danger from the toy. The most important guideline is to always read a toy or doll’s label before giving it to your child. Warning labels have important information about the product’s contents, composition and the suggested age range. Never give an infant a toy that is intended for an older child. Make sure all the parts, seams and edges are secure. Even if the smaller parts are tightly attached to the toy, they can still be broken, pulled, or bitten off. Avoid toys stuffed with small pellets or other choking hazards and remove any loose strings or ribbons. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends you are vigilantly careful with toys for children under the age of three. “The parts should be bigger than 1-1/4 inches in diameter and more then 2-1/4 inches long. Any smaller is a severe choking hazard.” You will also want to avoid anything that makes noise or lights up as this can not only be a distraction to your child in the middle of the night, it can startle you awake with the fear that Chucky and his bride have nested in the nursery. Depending on the size of your daughter’s toys, I would limit her guest list to a number that would not cause distraction, crowding, or an escape route. I have watched a 15 month old child stack his crib toys and attempt to climb on them and out of the crib. Examine her dolls regularly for signs of wear and tear, loose, damaged or broken parts. If she is especially attached to a particular doll, consider purchasing a duplicate for emergency situations or grandma’s house.

Lip Service

Q ~ Kendra in Carrollton asks: My girls love to put on different scented and flavored chapsticks and lip balm all day. Can they get addicted? I thought I remember hearing that using these too much can be harmful.     

Barb ~ Technically, no, they most likely will not develop a physical chemical addiction, but overuse may lead to dependency and minor problems. Lip Balms primarily give the lips a protective layer of something to seal in moisture, possibly protect from sun or wind damage, and maybe even have healing benefits. Some of these healing ingredients can actually have a drying effect, making you feel like you need to apply more. Some dermatologists are concerned with the “medicated” brands which include menthol or camphor. These exfoliate the lips and have a soothing effect. Overusing these brands breaks down the outer layer of skin, thinning the lips and further drying them. Some taste and smell so darn good that kids end up licking it off their lips, which also dries your lips and may make you feel like you need more lip balm. So problems may develop depending on what and how it is being used. If your girls have the fancy scented and flavored kind that they end up using as a meal replacement, try finding a less appetizing petroleum-based brand. Read labels and avoid giving them medicated or healing products if their lips are healthy.

Pacifying Pockets

Q ~ Gina in Dallas asks: Is it really necessary to give babies larger pacifiers as they grow bigger? Or is it just good marketing like so many other things out there?   

Barb ~ Experts I spoke with agree that you should change the size of your child’s pacifier as your child grows. The size change is in part for your child’s comfort. However, based on recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics, experts say there are only two sizes you need to purchase. The first is for babies under 6 months of age and the second for babies over 6 months of age (ish). You may notice some brands that size in three-month stages. Other brands, such as Born Free, only include these two necessary stages. While it is recommended that you change your pacifiers about every three months to avoid them falling apart, you do not have to move up in size every three months.

Pierce Be With You

Q ~ Karen in Frisco asks: Barb, my daughter wants her ears pierced. She is only 7 and her father thinks she is too young. I am on the fence. Do you think this is too young?  

Barb ~ Karen, You don’t see many 7 year old boys with pierced ears, or 7 year old girls with makeup. But a 7 year old girl with pierced ears is not something that would turn heads. I do not think that this is too young if she is making the decision. Of all the battles that you will have to choose, this is not a major one. She needs to practice making her own decisions, and you need to practice allowing her to. This is also a good lesson in saving up to have it done, choosing a reputable place to have it done, and taking proper care of the piercing (have her save for this as well). Did you ever let her apply a fake tattoo when she was a toddler? If you did, you probably were not worried about it because it was not permanent. While lobe piercings may never completely close up, if she regrets her decision, she will not be left with any kind of scarring that would make children run away in fear. In a few years, when she screams “You never let me do anything,” you can remind her that you let her pierce her ears.

Out With the Peanuts

Q ~ Melissa in Flower Mound asks: Barb, we have been told that we can no longer send peanut butter sandwiches to school. This was never an issue when I was in school and I think it is unreasonable to expect other families to be responsible for a child’s allergies. What do you think?  

Barb ~ Melissa, I think that my child is easily susceptible to injuries sustained by weapons, and therefore his school, in order to protect him, is a weapons-free zone. I think it’s a good idea so we are totally supporting the effort. Because, well, it is a good way to ensure he won’t be hurt by a weapon while at school, because his teachers can’t keep an eye on him at all times. Of course I control the weapons arsenal while he is in my care. But I do have to trust that he will be looked after while he is in the school’s care because exposure can be fatal. All kidding aside, food allergies in general are on the rise, and an estimated 100 to 150 people die each year from food allergies. A peanut allergy is scary. The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology estimated that 1% of Americans (that’s about 3 million) is allergic to peanuts or tree nuts. The incidence of peanut allergies in children under 5 doubled in the 5 years from 1997 to 2002. So true, this may not have been something your parents had to worry about when you were in school, but it is definitely something you want to educate yourself about now. Just knowing that peanut products could cause a child’s throat to swell shut, killing them in as little as ten minutes to two hours, is enough to make me re-think packing my picky eater a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. He is only 6, and he can not be held responsible for making sure he keeps that sandwich away from certain students. An allergic child will have to eventually learn to avoid risky foods, but while in elementary school, it is the school community’s job to help protect him. With this kind of allergy, it is possible to experience reactions even with just touching the product. If your son eats the sandwich and does not wash his hands before going on the jungle gym at recess, the allergic child may have a reaction when touching that jungle gym. There are a few alternatives to the traditional PB&J that you can pack. We use a soy nut butter spread that tastes close enough. Just make sure that you label it as such and let the appropriate person know that it is not a peanut product.

Sharing the Load

Q ~ Carrie in Plano asks: Barb, my husband and I both work. Because I could not afford a longer maternity leave, I went back to work just one month after having our baby. She is now 7 months old. I don’t know how I can get my husband to help out more when it comes to the house and the baby. I clean the bottles, pack her for daycare, do all the laundry and cleaning, go to the store (he helps cook), bathe her, change diapers, play with her and put her to bed, and get up with her if she gets up at night, which is at least once or twice each night. I am exhausted. I have tried talking to him about it and it gets better for a little while, then he sees me relax a bit and he takes it as a sign that he can slack. Help!

Barb ~ Carrie, bring your husband to the computer screen and let him read the following:

My darling husband, I am tired. I am tired of being tired. I am tired of resenting you for how tired I am. I am doing too much and I can’t keep it up. I need you to do your fair share so that we can all be happier. I feel like I end up doing most everything that needs to be done or it will not get done. Because you are not doing it. It may look like I can do it better or easier or faster and therefore makes sense that I just do it. I may have enabled your lack of participation because it is easier to just do it than argue about it. But I promise if you practice a few times you will be able to do it the right way too. I also promise you that if you share the load, I will be able to relax again, and be that fun woman you want me to be. And just maybe if I get to relax I can make it to bed at a decent time and be in a matrimonial mood.

Here is the deal: You work. He works. You probably don’t have an option there. My advice would be different if you did not work. But outside of that, the family, the household, the marriage, the finances – these all need to be maintained equally. You have probably contributed to your situation by enabling him to sit out. It may seem like you can do the task easier, faster, or better, and want to avoid the begging and pleading for help so you have just been taking care of things to make sure they get done. So first agree to allow him to help, even if it is not the way you do it, and let him practice and get better. Make a list of everything that you do. Make a list of everything that he does. Talk about these tasks, explain to him why they need to be completed. Compare the list and see what can be moved off your list and on to his. You need to maintain constant communication and you may need to remind him about or update his list, but stay on him. Remember that he is used to you delegating so don’t wait for him to ask what needs to be done, have a list ready for him. If you find that you are still doing more then consider reducing your task list. For example, allow him to be responsible for his own laundry, errands, shopping, and cooking. Like anything you want to maintain, you need to assess things almost daily. Good luck!

Playgroup Pitfall

Q ~ Jessica in Mansfield asks: Barb, I attend a playgroup with about 20 other moms. One of the moms always seems so busy socializing, she never keeps an eye on her two kids. They wander off and we end up getting them, they fall down and she says “you are fine” and turns back to the conversation. They take food from the other kids, make a mess, and have fits and she does not seem to even try to teach them manners. It is so irritating to have to “babysit” her kids but I feel sorry for them and end up giving them attention. Then I miss out on my fun time. Help!

Barb ~ I am glad that you recognize how important it is for you to have your time, and your child’s time in the group, and that it is important you both enjoy it. While these groups offer support, and it’s nice to have someone hold the baby while you help your toddler with something, it is irritating when a mom behaves so selfishly and robs you of your experience. You do not seem to have a friendship to maintain with her, and do not need to worry about sparing her feelings. I think you have two options. The first is to let her know. Try to be honest, clear, and direct, but do so away from any children. I think it would be fine to have another mom with you, but unnecessary to have a large group confront her. Your other option is to privately discuss this with the person that runs the group or refs the children while they are playing and ask this person to address it.

I Want, I Want

Q ~ Kimberly in Allen asks: Barb, my 5 year old has become a chore at the grocery store. He wants everything he sees on the shelves. I don’t mind getting him a new thing to try but have a hard time saying no to everything he wants when he starts to nag or explain why he needs it. I waste too much time explaining why he can or can’t have something. What do I do?

Barb ~ You really need to be honest with your child and find various opportunities to discuss this with him beyond at the grocery store while you are shopping. Keep in mind that although he is old enough to understand your logic, he may not be able to apply it to each scenario or know the answer to a question before he asks. Further confusing to him may be that sometimes you allow it and sometimes you don’t, so he really may not know when it is okay to ask and when he should know the answer. Parents may have different practices when it comes to kids always asking to purchase things at a grocery store. You need to stick with what works for your family and what you feel comfortable with because that is what you will best enforce. Decide which limits you are comfortable with. You can make a “one item of your choice, period” rule or “we have to finish the last one we got first before buying more.” Or make the list with him before going to the store or in the car, allowing him to apply certain items to the list and sticking to it while at the store. Do talk to him about waste, space, and money. It is okay to say that if you get one thing you will not have enough for something else. This is a great time to consider an allowance. If he wants to purchase something not on the list let him know he will need to pay for it. I support tying allowances to chores so that a child learns how to earn money, and by making their own purchasing decisions at the store (what they want to spend their allowance on) they have an opportunity to learn how to budget. It is unreasonable to think you can have just a few conversations and solve this issue. There should be ongoing dialogue about not wasting food or money. Even some adults continually need practice or reminders.

Sink or Swim

Q ~ Susan in Grapevine asks: what are the differences in swim classes and which do you recommend?

Barb ~ There are a variety of settings that can introduce children to water, but not all are true lessons. Mommy and Me classes are a great first introduction that can help ease the fear of the water, let little ones experiment and play, and become comfortable with the water. Group lessons are great for little kids that feel comfortable in the water and don’t mind getting their face wet. Here they learn floating, arm and leg movements. Private Lessons are appropriate for kids that are not at all comfortable with the water, have a fear of water, or for those that really want to take it to the next level of swim instruction such as swim team and want the one-on-one to help them work on form, strokes and skills. Many classes enroll children as early as 3, but The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you not begin formal swimming lessons until kids are at least 4 years old. That is the age that children are thought to be 'developmentally ready' for swim lessons. That doesn't mean that your younger children can't be taught to enjoy the water though. “You know your child best. Get them comfortable with water at the age you think is best,” says Children's Medical Center Dallas Injury Prevention Program Health Educator Kristen Beckworth. But Kristen warns against developing a false sense of security that the child can swim. The AAP recommends parents learn to practice 'touch supervision', which means being in the water with the child, within an arm's reach or able to touch the swimmer at all times. In recent years there has been a burst of “Survival” classes that work with the youngest of children and even infants 6 months and up on swimming and survival skills, such rolling over to the float position and finding safety in the sides or steps of the pool. We don’t know if children this age are capable of remaining calm or using judgment in an emergency situation as these skills are learned in a comfortable learning environment. Infants and young toddlers can not sense danger therefore swim lessons for them, formal or informal, must include comprehensive parent education. Do your research and pick the school that is right for you. It may not be the closest one, but try to speak to other parents or observe a class in action in helping you make your decision. For more information, please visit http://www.childrens.com/watersafety 

Car Seat Law Changes

Q ~ Jennifer in Dallas: I heard there were new child car seat laws coming out this summer. Like rear facing until age 2 and booster seats until 7? Can you help clarify the new law and when it begins?

Barb ~ The new law becomes effective in Texas on September 1, 2009, and simply states that children under 8 years of age or under 4'10" must be secured in a child passenger safety seat system. In other words, if your child is 7 or younger, or 4’9” or shorter, he or she needs to be in safety seat. If you fail to follow the new law, you will be issued a warning until June 2010. After that date, you can be ticketed for a “misdemeanor punishable by a fine,” and a judge can decide to require defendants to complete a specialized driver safety course that includes child passenger safety instruction. This does not mean you do not have to use a seat until then, the old law still applies. It means that even though your 4’8” tall 7 year old did not need to be in a seat according to the old law, they now need to be in one and you can be ticketed otherwise. As far as direction and type of seat, the new law does not specify. It only states that you must “keep the child secured during the operation of the vehicle in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system.” The manufacturers at a minimum follow the recommendations set forth by The American Academy of Pediatrics. Although not updated in the manufacturer instructions as of yet, parents should consult the most recent industry-accepted recommendations issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Sun Smart

Q ~ Kristen in Frisco asks: Barb, my mother in law is all about sunscreen. She basically gives me an evil look if I don't put it on the kids just to go out to the mailbox. If my kids are only running around our shaded back yard for 30 minutes before dinner time do they need sunscreen?

Barb ~ Our primary source of Vitamin D comes from sun exposure, but that time should be spent wisely. There are a few factors to consider which can help you make the best decision. The first is the timing. UV rays are stronger in the summer and strongest between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM when the sun is overhead. If your shadow is shorter than you are, prepare to fry. UV rays can travel through clouds and do reflect off surfaces such as water, sand, snow and concrete. A second factor to consider is your children’s complexions. Naturally darker complexions have more melanin, which absorbs UV rays in the skin’s defense against damage. All skin types will burn, but lighter complexions will burn faster. Lastly, consider the amount of sun exposure. Shade is great. But how much shade is protecting their skin? Conversely, how much sun are they exposed to on a weekly basis? Most sun damage results from a person’s usual day-to-day exposure. So the more your skin is exposed to the sun during the more intense times of the day, the higher your risk of skin damage is. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that anyone over 6 months in age, regardless of skin tone, who will be in the sun for 20 minutes or more, during any time of the year, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on all exposed skin. Remember that sunscreen should be applied 20-30 minutes before sun exposure.

Alcoholic Sanitizers

Q ~ Sarah in Arlington asks: Barb, what is the difference among all the different hand sanitizers? Are the alcohol-free ones as effective as those with alcohol? Are the child-safe sanitizers strong enough for adults?

Barb ~ You are right to search for an alternative to the alcohol-based hand sanitizers. If ingested, the alcohol-based products can pose an intoxication risk to young children. It can also be very irritating to the skin. Those with cuts or minor burns, dermatitis and eczema may have a problem tolerating alcohol-based products. Alcohol-based products are also flammable. I am a big fan of the CleanWell brand of hand sanitizers. It has a pleasant scent but does not smell like candy, it does not dry out my skin, and the pump spray makes it easy for me to spray highchairs, restaurant tables, car keys, shopping cart handles and other surfaces as well as tiny hands. I contacted CleanWell to answer your question about the effectiveness of alcohol-free products and for more information. Here is Holly’s reply:

Hi Sarah, I work at CleanWell – we have an alcohol-free hand sanitizer that is proven in independent laboratories to be as effective as alcohol. Our patented formulation of essential plant oils kills 99.99% of germs including MRSA, Salmonella, Staph, and E. coli. So you can confidently use CleanWell just as you would an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It is safe for children (there is no ingestion risk, doesn’t sting cuts) and is good for children and adults of any age. As a mom myself I’d like to share some information I’ve learned from working in this area for the past 3 years. Other non-alcohol hand sanitizers use a chemical called benzalkonium chloride. This biocide has been linked to asthma, dermatitis and may be a reproductive toxicant. The Environmental Working Group (the folks who first started to get the word out about the problem with BPA in plastic baby bottles) have started a campaign against benzalkonium chloride (http://www.ewg.org/node/27285) So I encourage you turn labels over to look for, and avoid this chemical, especially when it comes to young children. For more information about the toxic dangers of the alcohol-based hand sanitizers, visit www.cleanwelltoday.com/news to view a piece The Today Show did on this topic featuring a mother whose child squeezed the hand sanitizer on her hand and licked it off. A big thanks to Holly over at CleanWell for her time and informative answers.

Bath Time Blues

Q ~ Diana in Richardson asks: My son is 15 months old and he is afraid of the bath tub. He enjoyed his bath time in the kitchen sink. He is too big now. I have tried bubbles and bath toys, but nothing works. I don't like to see my baby cry every night when I take him a bath.

Barb ~ I’m not as much of a “Because I’m the parent” kind of parent, but try to stick to the Golden Rule and empathizing with a child’s fears or aversions. I think the issue here is fear. He may have a fear of something that is in the tub that was not in the sink. Could it be the drain? The shower head, the force of water, the slippery surface, the added volume of water or even the spout could be causing fear. Toddlers do not have the same sense of balance or permanence that adults do. Try putting yourself in his shoes. For example, I am put off by roaches. I would hate to sit in a tub of roaches every night, even if you did fill it with other things I like so much. So I recommend accepting his aversion to the bathtub right now and finding another way to get the job done. I say this because most toddlers overcome their fears quickly and on their own if you do not try to push them. Perhaps a sponge bath on a changing table, and a shampoo in the sink. Maybe he would be okay with an inexpensive inflatable tub placed inside the big tub. In the meantime you could work back up to the tub baths with water play, bathtub crayons, bubbles, and toys. Try filling up the inflatable tub with play things and a little bit of water and just putting it on the floor for play only. Then you could work up to him getting in and then placing it in the tub. I believe that if you let him know you understand and respect his fear he may relax a little and trust you to help him through it. Good Luck!

Hitting & Kicking

Q ~ Brandy in Frisco asks: Barb, please help! My 4 year old is having a problem keeping his hands & feet to himself. He loves to push over his younger brother and also hits/kicks the kids in his class. I've received several notes from the teacher and have had parent/teacher meetings with her in an attempt to resolve this matter as a team. Nothing has worked! Today, she informed me they're planning several field trips this summer and she will not let him go if we can't get this resolved. I am totally on her side with this, because it may teach him a lesson. But, if there any other ideas I can try before he misses out on these trips, I'd love to try them!

Barb ~ A 4 year old may hit because he wants something, wants attention, to exert power, or for escape. Not only is it difficult to understand why he is doing it, it may be frustrating him further every time you try to ask him why. The question for you is, “does he understand it is wrong and can he help himself?” If you feel he is unaware his behavior is wrong or he can’t help himself, or that he is angry or frustrated often, then I would recommend talking with his doctor and seeking help in teaching him new skill sets. If this is a behavior you know he can control, then he may need help learning better self-control. He may be reacting on impulse but you can help teach him how to respond to a situation appropriately. I have a few suggestions you can try, but make sure to give them a chance to work as consistency is key in discipline, and changing the rules too often will only lead to confusion and more acting out. While being clear on which behaviors will have negative consequences, remember to reward good behaviors consistently. If you catch him doing something right say “boy, I really like how you handed your brother his bottle; that was very nice of you.” If little brother is annoying him and he actually ignores it, let him know how great it is that he was able to stay patient rather than push brother around. Let him hear you brag about the great behavior to other family members. If you warn him of a consequence, make sure you follow through. Try to spend time observing him and see what sets him off. When you witness something that you think may set him off, try to re-direct his behavior before it happens. “Oh, no! Your brother took your book, let’s let him know that he needs to wait his turn. Say no, little brother, that’s not right. I was not finished with that book but I will share it with you when I am done.” It is important to give him an alternative when you correct his behavior. When you say “don’t kick,” give him some more information. “You don’t want to hurt anyone so if you feel like kicking then let’s go outside and kick a ball.” Or, “if you are not happy with what your brother is doing, let me know so we can tell him together.” Time-outs are still okay for this age, but rather than setting them for a specific time limit, end them as soon as he is able to calm down. Then discuss the situation leading up to the time-out, how he felt about it, and if he feels he is calm enough to return to it. You can try making a chart with multiple boxes for each day of the week. When he does something good or has a trouble-free day, let him put some stickers on it. When he does something inappropriate, let him give back stickers. Agree on the behaviors and the reward system. For example, on one side you can print images of the behaviors that earn him stickers and on the left, the behaviors that will make him loose stickers. When the boxes are full (shoot for at least weekly) reward him with a special event with you, his pick from the dollar store, a movie, etc. Put this on the refrigerator and refer to it often. Make sure you are setting a good example yourself. How do you talk to him, his brother, or his father when you are unhappy with their behavior? Do you spank? It’s just as important to show him as it is to tell him how to behave. Continually reinforce the lesson of impulse control. There is a great series of books called Best Behavior Serious and include “Hands are Not for Hitting,” and “Feet are Not for Kicking.” Read these with him often (there are longer versions for children his age). Finally, keep up the good communication with his teacher. Good Luck and I hope you email to let me know how it goes!

Going Out With The Rude Customer

Q ~ Amy in Plano asks: Barb, I recently made friends with a mom from my playgroup. We both have older children the same age and have been spending time together doing different things. The problem is she is very rude to people that work in the stores or at the restaurants. She treats them with disrespect and makes snide comments about their service, she even calls them “idiot” or “stupid” when they can hear. She has gone so far as demanding to speak to a manager at a restaurant about service and asking “what are you going to do for us?” It is so embarrassing! It is starting to make me sick to my stomach and I am trying to avoid doing certain activities with them but my oldest really likes his friend. What should I do?

Barb ~ I have always said that high schools should mandate an internship in the service industry. It could humble the otherwise snotty and disrespectful customer. By your description, her behavior is not warranted, and it should not be tolerated either. One day a business will tell her, “We don’t want your kind of customer.” I always try to think what message your actions send to your children. You are not the one being malicious, but you have been putting up with it. This is tough because it is not her child doing it, so the kids should be able to spend time together, without your child seeing her get away with that behavior. I would talk to her. Hopefully she does not realize what she is doing and will change her actions when you point them out to her. Hopefully she imagines someone speaking to her like that, or her children, and she decides she does not want to be such a turd. If it goes the other way, then be prepared to explain the truth to your child. And be prepared to tell yourself, “We don’t want that kind of friend.”

Prenatal Workouts

Q ~ Kara in Dallas asks: Barb - I am expecting in August and already have a 13 yr-old and 2yr old. I am desperately looking for a good prenatal workout dvd I can do at home. I would really like to find one so that my kids can join in too. I have one I use now but it's not fun and does not keep me interested. Do you have any suggestions of good fun prenatal workout DVD's? Thanks!!!!

Barb ~ It will be tough to find just one video that will hold your interest for this long. I recommend you try to rent a few different videos and find a fitness style you like. You may prefer Yoga or Pilates over a traditional workout. If you have cable you can record various episodes on the different fitness channels. For example FitTV offers a Fit Mom series which targets pre and post natal moms. I also recommend reading Delivering Fitness, Your Guide to Health and Strength Training During Pregnancy, available at http://www.deliveringfitness.com/. Although not available in video, the Delivering Fitness program is very impressive and the book offers valuable tips and advice on nutrition, diet and exercise that you can incorporate into your family’s schedule. Co-author Erinn Mikeska, Certified Personal Trainer, Pre & Postnatal Fitness Instructor, and fitness model, recommends mixing it up. Erinn recommends taking outside walks while the weather is nice or using a stationary bike. Look for a program that includes strength training, and water aerobics are also wonderful for prenatal fitness. Water aerobics are “easier on the joints and the water allows natural resistance while the body maintains proper temperature.”

Collect Them All

Q ~ Beth in Sachse asks: Barb, my 8-yr old is a fair-weathered collector. We've gone through superheroes, sports, movie memorabilia and other collectibles. He hasn't touched some of these in months, and their price ads up. I don't want to squash his passions, but how much is too much?

Barb ~ You should set a limit that you are comfortable with. Certainly you don’t want to break the bank on every collection, or even every item in the collection. But even if you could afford to “collect them all” consider the many lessons to be learned in your situation. I always say one of the most important jobs we have as parents is to prepare our children to survive as adults in the “real world.” This is a great opportunity to talk about earning, saving, and responsibility. It is great to support hobbies and interests. You can do that without buying complete collections at once. Plan for birthdays and other special occasions. Give your child extra chores to earn one at a time or use allowance to help him learn how to budget. Talk about the items he is no longer playing with and decide what to do with them. You can discuss donating them, trading them in, or saving them. My mother-in-law managed to save so many of my husband’s books, toys, and other items. I love that my husband now reads his favorite childhood book to our son at bedtime, the same book his parents read to him. My son has great respect for the Transformer and Star Wars collectibles that belonged to his father 30 years ago. Include your son in the decisions and planning and decide together what you works for your family. He will have a greater respect for these items.

Water, Water Everywhere

Q ~ Stephanie in Frisco asks: Barb, My 12-ounce can of soda lists carbonated water as its main ingredient. Does that count as at least one of my 8 ounce glasses of water?

Barb ~ After hours of research and interviews with a family doctor, a neurologist and the folks at The Coca Cola Company, I found your answer: Yes - If you really must. You can count the water in it, but it’s a matter of the risk outweighing the benefits. You also have to count the 9-12 teaspoons of sugar in there that combat the health benefits of the water. So if you are okay with your 8 ounce glass of water having that amount of sugar then bottoms up. By the way, medical experts don't agree that even that much water is necessary. But the bottom-line answer is you can count water intake from food and most beverages (not alcohol) towards your daily intake. Diet soda may better serve you. Different studies have been flying around on this subject, but a majority show that diet soda has little difference from water, physiologically. The caffeine, sweeteners and other ingredients are generally safe -- it takes mega doses to show problems in animals, and there are no proven problems in humans. “I have never seen a scientific study that shows Diet Coke causes serious health problems in an otherwise healthy individual,” says neurologist L. Chalienne. While occasional caffeine use can be mildly diuretic and actually dehydrate you, studies show that this is not the case for regular consumers of caffeine. Something tells me you consider yourself a regular user. A 2004 report on water needs released by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences “concluded that all beverages, including those with caffeine, contribute to hydration.” (The Coca Cola Company, 2009) Another recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed caffeine is not dehydrating in healthy people who are drinking normal and regular amounts of it. "We found no significant differences at all," says nutritionist Ann Grandjean. The rule applies equally to tea, juice, milk and caffeinated sodas: One glass provides about the same amount of hydrating fluid as a glass of water. Again, Tina, alcohol is a different story. Calcium loss caused by diet sodas has been debated recently. But again studies show and experts agree that although there can be a minuscule amount of calcium loss, it is trivial and not a significant factor of bone loss for individuals consuming a balanced diet. And here in lies the lesson to this story: Balanced Diet. Moderate Moderation. Jane from the Coca Cola Company put it best: Flavored Beverages are meant to be used for refreshment.

The Scoop On Poop

Q ~ Mike in Dallas asks: Barb, If evil had a smell, it would be the smell coming from our diaper genie. Today my friend came over and it hit him the second I opened the door. I can smell it all over the house. I think our 52-pound Shar Pei is even offended by it. Any ideas?

Barb ~ Among the many ingredients inside your diaper pail are bacteria, both dead and alive, that continue to grow and produce smelly odors. The longer they sit, the more they fester. So obviously the cut to the chase answer here would be: Get them out of your house. Seriously, there is no need to leave them inside long enough to start stinking up the whole house. Here are a few tactics that may help: When changing a stinky diaper, shake off anything shakable into the toilet and flush it. Keep some inexpensive or re-use old zip lock bags to seal stinky diapers. You can try keeping some dryer sheets in the bottom of the pail and using baking soda inside the bags. When you empty the pail, wipe it clean with some Lysol or vinegar solution. Remember that plastic is porous and will absorb orders as long as you allow it to, so empty your pail daily.

Movies at Daycare

Q ~ Dawn in Mesquite asks: The daycare my 2 year old attends wants to show movies every Friday. I really do not want him to be "forced" to sit through a 90 minute movie he is not developmentally ready for. Any suggestions?

Barb ~ I spoke to a few Day cares and found that policies and philosophies range across the board. They all agreed on one thing however - good communication between the parent and the daycare provider is very important. I would suggest making an appointment to speak to your provider when there are little distractions around, and the two of you can concentrate on discussing your concern and coming up with alternatives that work for both parties. Perhaps there are some quiet activities your son can do during that time. Knowing which movies were selected in advance may give you the opportunity to decide on a case-by-case basis if you wish your son to participate or sit out. Respectfully understand that it may be a challenge for the facility to designate a quiet area with extra help that does not distract the children who are watching the movie. Speak to other parents, if more share your concern then the facility may want to look at how the movies are chosen and come up with a list the parents can mostly agree on. Ultimately, you need to be happy with how the facility you choose handles your concerns. Just remember to be realistic, and weigh all options. Good Luck!


Probiotics?

Q ~ March in Dallas asks: Everywhere I turn in the grocery store I am seeing "probiotics." Juice, dairy - it just seems to be everywhere. The products are more expensive so I am wondering is there anything behind this or is it just an advertising ploy?

Barb ~ I have reached out to the Founder and CEO of the HAPPYFAMILY brand of baby and toddler food. HAPPYFAMILY has co-authored a book with Dr. Sears and nutrition advisor Amy Marlow, available this fall. Here is what Shazi Visram tells us: Probiotics are certainly not simply an advertising ploy to charge more for products, but an all natural functional ingredient that have been shown to improve asthma, eczema, allergies and digestive balance, thereby strengthening the immune system. Here is more from the HAPPYFAMILY FAQ: What are Probiotics and how do they work? Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” that live in our intestines and help the immune system by discouraging the growth of harmful disease-causing bacteria. By discouraging the growth of disease-causing bacteria, probiotics provide a boost to the immune system and help to prevent or treat a variety of ailments. Strains of these healthy bacteria have been shown to reduce colic in infants and also to prevent eczema and allergies when given to pregnant women and infants. Probiotics may also help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, prevent all kinds of allergies, help manage lactose intolerance, promote bowel regularity, and prevent infections in the intestines and elsewhere in the body including bronchitis and pneumonia. How often does my child need to consume probiotics? To maintain a healthy balance of organisms in the intestines, it’s recommended that children and adults consume probiotics daily. If your child needs to take antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection, consider increasing her intake of probiotic-containing foods and/or giving her a supplement of probiotics, as the antibiotic will not only kill the harmful bacteria in her system, but will kill many of the healthy probiotics, as well. You can register to download a copy of the entire FAQ on Probiotics & DHA as well as HAPPYFAMILY’s infant and toddler Nutrition Guide by following this link: http://www.happybabyfood.com/nutritionGuide/signupNG.html 

CATS Testing

Q ~ Kristin in Dallas asks: Do you know anything about CATS testing? I'm applying to a private pre-K and my son had to have this test. I was not allowed to be with him while he was being tested. I just got the results which are split between "verbal" and "nonverbal" performance but still have no idea what was tested and what we need to work on. The schools and testing center will not give me any clues. Thanks!

Barb ~ I asked industry expert and Guide to DFW Private Schools author Lynn Magid. Her response is "CATS is the central place where the preschoolers are tested. They are looking for information regarding maturation when the child separates from the mother. The verbal section measures responses to questions and rates a child on the complexity of their sentence structure in response to general questions for example: “what does your daddy do?” Performance activities involve the use of pencil and paper activities. There are certain expectations that correspond to children’s age’s example: circle and square drawings." A few calls to admissions departments in top Dallas schools resulted in similar answers. It seems that the "performance" activities test problem solving through puzzles and sequencing. There are a few "consultants" who claim they can help prepare children for CATS testing. The schools that I contacted warned that it is easy to spot children who have been "coached," and if noted in the examiner's report, coaching is not viewed favorably in admission decisions.

Car Seats: Little In Size, Big In Safety

Q ~ Laura in Flower Mound asks: Barb, my husband is getting a small sports car. Can you recommend a small, light weight car seat that meets safety standards?

Barb ~ There are several types of car seats out there so you really need to choose the right one for you based on your child’s age, weight and height. Among the highest rated brands are Britax, Maxi Cosi, Graco, and Sunshine Kids, and you can find hundreds of online user reviews on these and other popular brands. However, seats may fit differently in different cars. A car seat expert would be able to make suggestions based on your needs, but there is a lot of information available that can help you narrow your choices. There are two websites I highly recommend. The first is http://www.car-safety.org/guide.html, for its wonderful information and helpful links. The second is http://www.carseatdata.org/ which has an online database of car seat and vehicle compatibility compiled by Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians. You select the year, make and model of the car and it will tell you which seats are a good fit. Your best bet is to find your top choices and go to a retailer which carries them. Have your child try each seat and offer input if they are old enough. Good Luck!

Mama, I want to stay!

Q ~ Jenny in Dallas asks: Barb, my son is 19 months old and has a hard time leaving places. We are very active and go to parks, play class, zoo, even out at a restaurant he has a really hard time leaving when it is time to go home. He starts trying to run back, screaming, crying and causing such a scene. Help!

Barb ~ Toddlers really struggle for control and independence. They have opinions and want them to be considered. Yours is having a difficult time telling you that he is not ready to leave, and the frustration of not being able to communicate it causes the tantrum. Try to empathize, imagine having all decisions made for you each day: what to wear, what to eat, when to play and when to leave a place that you are really enjoying. Giving them some sense of control and ownership helps to minimize the frustration and resulting tantrums. One way to do this is by letting them know what is coming next. “5 more pushes on the swing and then it will be time to say bye-bye.” Make sure to count down each push and when it is time to say goodbye, let your toddler tell the swing goodbye. Look all around and tell everything goodbye, let your toddler wave to everything, including trash can, rocks, slide, birds. Build enough time into your trip for this. Then after you have told everything bye and your toddler understands what is coming you can give him another choice to make. “Do you want to get into the stroller by yourself or do you want mommy to put you in the stroller?” The key is to let them know what needs to happen, but to allow them to choose how it will happen – as long as you are comfortable with either choice you give. You can say, “It is time to make lunch, do you want a sandwich or do you want soup?” Give them limited and clear choices, and try to get down on their level and be face to face. Just having a choice to make will often be enough of a distraction. If he still causes a scene then try not to react. Just go about your business. It is important not to give a reaction to this behavior that may encourage it to continue. Good Luck!

Unified Discipline

Q ~ Paula in Sachse asks: What is the best way to get my husband on board with disciplining our son? My husband is a pilot and is gone several nights a week. He feels the need to "make up for it" by being easy and bending the rules for our 5-year old. I want to balance my husband's sensitivity to being away from our son with setting a common set of boundaries. Thanks!

Barb ~ For this answer I went straight to the expert: Kay Willis, The Nesting Place Owner, LC, RN, and all around baby expert. Kay interacts with parents daily in her classes (she primarily teaches Prepared Childbirth, Baby Basics, The Happiest Baby on the Block, Breastfeeding and Infant Safety and CPR) and has seen many in your situation. Here is her advice: Paula, You are on the right track trying to maintain balance with consistency. You may try to explain to your husband that this helps to set boundaries that your child can depend on. When your child makes choices he now knows which way to proceed due to the skills you have given him. When we begin changing rules, we give children a new behavior that alters their boundaries. We can rationalize this, but the kids can't. We have also offered a perfect tool for manipulation as they get older. Having consistent family boundaries and mom and dad on the same page make for secure children who know how to behave even when you aren’t there. Read Love and Logic and Dr. Karp’s Happiest Toddler on the Block to see these ideas in practice. Thanks Kay!

My First Pet

Q ~ Jennifer in Dallas asks: What is a good candidate for a first pet? I have a 6 month old daughter and a 7 year old son! Thanks!

Barb ~ There are many things to consider when choosing a pet for your family. Although some studies show that children under the age of one who have been exposed to pets have a lower occurrence of allergic rhinitis and asthma during adolescence compared to children who had no pets, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns against bringing a furry pet into a home with infants and young children if you have a strong family history of allergies. The AAP recommends cats and dogs as a first pet if allergies are not an issue. I forwarded your question to River Legacy Parks & Living Science Center for their opinion and received this reply from Debbie Vernon, their Assistant Director of Early Childhood Education: “My first thought was that a kitten was good place to start in terms of a pet that the 7 yr old could interact with and maybe assume some responsibility for its care, like feeding (dry food is not too messy). I don’t think that a kitten coming into a house with a baby already there would pose the same risks as an adult cat that a new baby comes home to. To my way of thinking, cats require an easier sort of care than hamsters or turtles, and allow for more interaction with a child than something like fish. Dogs are needier than cats, both socially and in terms of care required, like walks. Cats can also be left unattended in the house with less risk than dogs.......but you do need to be able to deal with a litter box and place to keep it that a crawling baby cannot get into. The bottom line is that all pets require some level of care that may be challenging with young children in the house, but that is also how children learn to respect the needs of other living creatures.” One other consideration on the non-furry side: since you have a young child, it is best to avoid turtles and other reptiles as pets because they harbor salmonella. For more information on children and pets, see http://www.aap.org/publiced/BK0_PetSafety.htm. Big thanks to Debbie and to River Legacy. River Legacy offers a variety of wonderful programs for preschool through 8th grade that provide an interactive, engaging way to learn about wildlife, ecology and the environment. Open Registration for the 2009 Summer Classes is Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 9 am at River Legacy Living Science Center. For more information, check out www.riverlegacy.org/classsummer.html 

Best Indoor Play Places

Q ~ Aimee in Rowlett asks: What are your Top 10 indoor places to take a Toddler (20 months) to play? I have the toughest time finding good quality indoor activities for my daughter! Thanks Barb!!

Barb ~ Thanks to everyone who submitted your suggestions for the Top 10 Indoor Play Places to take a toddler. I reviewed all the submissions, keeping in mind Aimee was asking specifically for her 20 month old. Here are the top-ranked submissions, in no particular order.
~ Museums: I’m a big fan of the Museum play areas because they offer educational, explorative, and imaginative play.
~ Ft Worth Museum Science & History, temporarily housed in Cowgirl Museum for now but new museum scheduled to open Sept 2009.
~ Dallas Children's Museum
~ Your local Shopping Centers play area. I’m a fan of these as well, but the small spaces get old quick. With no admission however, a good place to quickly burn off some energy.
~ Libraries – story times may be stressful trying to keep some toddlers quiet, but the puppet shows and interactive fun may be for you. You can see library story times daily in our Event Calendar.
~ Chuck-e-Cheese – the toddler play area is actually okay and I really appreciate the salad bar.
~ The Little Gym and Gymboree Play and Music- I personally love Gymboree and my son enjoyed the play, music, and art classes until he began pre-school. It was a great way to offer him some social interaction.
~ Wiggly Play Center – with $5 daily admission with your Metroplex Baby Savings Card, the friendliest staff around, healthy, extremely reasonably priced menu, and cleanest play area I’ve seen, it’s no wonder it was included in 98% of the submissions. I also appreciate the WiFi.
~ River Legacy Parks & Living Science Center – small indoor area but has so much to offer families with children of all ages, including themed events and educational programs.
Various Inflatable jumping places were mentioned but I have a difficult time suggesting these for a toddler, even with the ones that offer a toddler area for the simple fact that you are required to sign a liability waiver before you can enter these places – waivers that ask you to acknowledge possible resulting injuries, paralysis, or death; and that you will hold harmless the business. You as a parent should have reasonable expectations of any place you visit, but the liability waivers are a requirement for a reason – chances of getting hurt are high. For more suggestions, or if you are searching for something specific, simply enter your zip code or city and what you are looking for in the search box that is on the top of every page on Metroplex Baby & Kids.  

Choosing the crib & stroller

Q ~ Iris in Dallas asks: What crib and stroller would you recommend?

Barb ~ I can’t recommend one crib or stroller without knowing which kind you are looking for. This may seem overwhelming, but you have many options to choose from. A good place to start with strollers is by evaluating your lifestyle. Are you a homebody? Do you go on outings often or just run quick errands? Are you active? For cribs you’ll want to decide if you plan on having another child within 2 years of the first, and if you plan on coordinating bedroom furniture to grow with your child.

Strollers come in all shapes and sizes and with various functions. Pram Strollers are like a Moses Basket on wheels. They are great for babies until they are sitting up, especially for naps and diaper changes. You will find many strollers that offer the carry cot or bassinet as an accessory, allowing you to customize the seat for longer use. Compact or Lightweight Strollers, also called Quick Use strollers, are great for running errands, narrow spaces, traveling, and for anyone not wanting to pack the kitchen sink for their outing. They should be easy and quick to fold, weigh less than standard strollers, and have very basic features allowing for a comfortable ride but no-fuss toting. They may lack a tray, cup holder, storage pockets or sunshade. Most will not be customizable. In contrast, Standard Strollers have more features, such as the food trays and cup holders, larger storage baskets, room for headphones and a small kitchen sink. They will be heavier but can offer plush comfort on a long day out Travel Systems can make your stroller purchase last and your life easier. These strollers allow you to use your car seat in the frame, and even change out infant and toddler seats, tires, and textiles. They can be customizable and have many innovative features such as a stay in car base, swiveling seat, high chair capabilities, and one-touch fold/setup. Jogging or All-Terrain Strollers are perfect for the fitness-minded or rugged travel. They usually have disc-style brakes, all-terrain wheels, and other automotive-sounding features. It’s like a standard stroller modified to stroll the Baja 1000. Once you narrow down the kind of stroller you need you will decide which features are most important to you.

Cribs also have various styles and features to choose from. A standard crib can have a drop side, wheels, or drawer underneath for extra storage (which also offers extra stability). A convertible crib will transform to a toddler bed and sometimes a junior bed, in some cases even into two chairs. These will grow with your child and make your purchase last longer. However, if you plan on having another baby, you will have to purchase another crib since it will be in use. When considering round cribs, remember that special sheets may be more expensive or difficult to find. These choices can seem overwhelming but once you identify your needs, the real shopping fun begins!

Messy Da Vincis

Q ~ Genie in Fort Worth asks: Barb, my kids love to paint but try as I can, the mess gets out of control. I end up telling them “no” because I don’t want to clean up. Any ideas on how to avoid the mess and still let them have fun?

Barb ~ Genie, I’m not sure how old the kiddos are, but my avoidance of serious cleaning has led me to develop some great tips that may help. First, buy Press ‘N Seal in bulk. You’d be surprised how many surfaces this stuff can cover. If you are letting them paint on a table, wrap the Press ‘N Seal around the edges of the table and it stays put, unlike any loose coverings such as newspaper. After the little Da Vincis are through with their masterpieces simply peel off the wrap and toss it in the recycling bin. You may have to give a glass top a quick spray of Windex to remove any sticky residue, but hey, no elbow grease needed. By the way, Press ‘N Seal is also really cool for collages. The kids can collect things like leaves, grass, feathers, and such and stick them right on to the Press ‘N Seal. Place another layer on top to frame it. Back to kid’s paints, which are washable – and hosable! Try sidewalk paint or chalk on the driveway, it can be hosed off but I let nature take its course and wait for a good rainfall to refresh that canvas. You can also lay out an old sheet or cheap drop cloth on your driveway and let them paint on that. With a canvas this big, you can skip the brushes and use finger paint on hands, feet, elbows and knees (all hosable as well). You may be asking, “what about in this cold weather?” Move the party indoors, I say, and take it to the tub. Tape large sheets of paper on the tile and let them go to town. Any paint that misses the mark can be rinsed off the tiles (as long as your grout is in good condition). You may as well give the kids a bath while they are in there. Finally, they may be entertained with some mess-free art such as the Paint with Water books or Color Wonder by Crayola. But where is the fun in mess-free?

Paper cuts, shmaper cuts!


Q ~ Elaine in Mansfield asks: Barb what is the deal with all the packaging for toys? It took us half of Christmas trying to get the toys out of their boxes. Shouldn't they be conserving recyclable materials?

Barb ~ This menacing packaging is causing damage to the environment and to the people trying to open it. Did they background check the sinister geniuses who came up with this evil packaging? One British watchdog group estimates over 800,000 tons of this packaging filled their landfills and it will take 500 years to decompose. If that’s not the gift that keeps on giving – since toy manufacturers are not putting enough information about recycling on their packaging this will lead to more than 400 extra tons of harmful C02 from this past Christmas alone. It is so much the norm that Home Improvement stores are now selling a snipping tool gadget with angled jaws, a dual-headed screwdriver on a swivel hinge and a retractable cutting blade specifically invented for springing your goods from their plastic prison. Really? Is State Farm offering a “Gift Giving” rider for insurance policies? This gadget is in demand though, an estimated 6,000 people go to the emergency room every year to be treated for injuries resulting from opening packaging, either from the sharp instruments they use to try to cut through the packaging or from the cut or torn hard plastic itself. ER doctors see many a laceration or puncture from this new phenomena described as "wrap rage.” So “what is the deal” you ask? Contrary to popular belief, the main reason has little to do with preventing theft. It can all be summed up with the ironic explanation I got from one toy company: “for the safety of the toy.” Do you remember when we were kids opening gifts – how often we were disappointed to open a box and find that they toy inside looked nothing like the exaggerated picture on the outside of the box, or like in the commercial? Our kids are way savvier then we were. They want to see the toy and what it does. They want to push the ‘Try Me’ buttons so they can hear what kind of noise the toy makes. It’s the try it before you (make mom & dad) buy it mentality that led toy companies to package their products to allow for the most appealing display. This means the toy has to be secured to the box, and it has to be protected - from the delivery truck to the shelf to your home. I do want to give kudos to Amazon.com. They now offer Frustration-Free Packaging, “free of excess materials such as hard plastic clamshell cases, plastic bindings, and wire ties.” Amazon is working with select manufacturers such as Fisher-Price to deliver products inside recyclable, easy to open boxes. You can find a list of these manufacturers online.

Toddler Bruises

Q ~ Allison in Plano asks: My baby just started walking and is covered in bruises and scratches. I have seen pads and helmets for this age but don't want to go overboard. What do you recommend?

Barb ~ That is a good question Allison. Overboard would be the mom who could not watch her twin boys playing in the yard so she tied a rope from the clothesline and secured the other end to their waistbands. True story, I know the twins and the mom. Since my first child had a broken tooth and a broken arm before he was 15 months old, I went straight to America's leading expert in the field of child and family safety, Thom Golden RN, BSN, ("Dr. Baby Proofer") for the answer. Dr. Baby Proofer feels that scratches and bruises are minor injuries, the kind children will get throughout their lives, the kind that you will not always be able to stop. He believes you should not worry about guarding against minor injuries, but instead preventing serious ones. “You can only stop severe injuries by properly baby proofing,” says Dr. Baby Proofer. So don’t worry about the scratches and bruises, and don’t make a big deal out of them when they happen. If your baby sees you reacting with fear, then he or she may begin to react in a similar manner. Enjoy this time; they are so fun to watch as they start exploring!

Holiday Schedule Break

Q ~ Caroline in Dallas asks: With the holiday break coming up I am dreading the school-break schedule. My kids want to stay up later and sleep in and I want to stick to a routine although I admit I would enjoy sleeping in a bit myself. Are there recommendations on altering sleep schedules during a break from the regular routine?

Barb ~ I hear you and I look forward to the day my children sleep in and allow me to as well. But maintaining a regular bed and wake time, even on the weekends, is important according to the National Sleep Foundation. While the individual child may differ, most children need and thrive on routine. Think of daylight savings time – it takes the majority of families one week to adjust to that single hour change. The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a “circadian clock” in the brain that needs to be kept in balance by the body. Your schedule becomes a habit, and waking up around the same time each morning makes it easier to fall asleep at night. Major changes in your routine upset the cycle and it could take longer than the holiday break for the body – and your family to re-balance.

Toying With Age

Q ~ Amy in The Colony asks: Barb, is it okay to purchase toys that are recommended for ages different than my child's? My 7 year old son seems ready for many that he is technically not old enough for. But if I don’t have to worry about choking hazards, is there a reason to adhere to the age recommendations?

Barb ~ First you need to know that there is a difference between the Manufacturer’s Suggested Age Range and Legal Age Requirements. The suggested age range is basically the target market for the manufacturers, or who they are trying to market the product to. To satisfy Legal Age Requirements, the product must be tested. For example, the marketing director of Zoobies tells me, their products are safe for any age as there are no injuring or loose parts, but are suggested for ages 3-11 because that is their target market. Testing will highlight any dangers (such as choking), and how much it will challenge or interest a specific age group. The toy might be suitable for children of a specific age (the age recommended on the product), but there may be safety hazards associated with a lower age group. In this case a mandatory warning must be printed on the package. Some manufacturers state the specific hazard next to the recommended age (mandatory in European and other countries but not in the US). When toys are tested for suggested age range, product testers observe children playing with the toys and look for things like developmental skills needed, how much it holds their interest, how children play with the toy, among other things. If your child was under 3 you would need to pay close attention to the recommended ages on the box. At this age though, you can use your best judgment.

Caught In The Crib

Q ~ Ashley in Euless asks: I am wondering why there are not safer guidelines for crib safety. My son got his leg caught in between the slats. It was quite traumatic and painful for him. I contacted the store where I purchased the crib and it is out of warranty so they will not help address the issue. I don't believe this is a warranty issue, is the company not obligated to do something if the product caused harm to a child? I looked online and apparently this happens often?

Barb ~ Ashley, you are correct that it is quite common, it happened to my son as well. In fact, most of the people I interviewed were not surprised to hear it. Crib safety standards were strengthened after 1978 and are set by United States Federal Safety Regulations. The standard for the vertical bars, or slats, that run along the sides and sometimes the head and foot of a crib should be separated by no more than 2-3/8 inches. The technical test involves a block of wood that is 2-3/8 by 2 -3/9 by 4 inches (about the size of a soda can) that should not be able to fit between the slats. One crib manufacturer, C&C tells me the federal agency regularly pops in to their facility for inspections and does measure the slats. I spoke with Underwriters Laboratories, an independent product safety testing and certification organization based in Northbrook, Ill., and learned that this space was considered the safest standard. They prefer the slats over solid panels for proper air circulation and for visibility of the child, but admit that a leg or arm will still get caught. Jim Streight is the owner of Great Beginnings in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the largest baby and teen furniture store in the United States. He has been in the industry for 20 years and tells me that the 2 -3/8 standard is set based on the minimum pelvic width of the baby which can slip through feet first, past the hip and strangle at the neck. He explains that even the tiniest of space will still catch a knuckle or hand and believes the current standard allows for the least amount of injury. He recommends using a mesh bumper (there are many on the market that allow for proper air circulation and visibility while covering most of the slats). I use a similar bumper with my daughter and we have avoided any limbs from getting caught and pacifiers falling.

The Truth About Santa

Q ~ Jill from Allen writes: My 5-yr old is asking pointed questions about Santa Claus. I don't want to take away the magic! What should I tell her?

Barb ~ Ultimately you will need to offer her the explanation with which you are most comfortable. Some feel children will trust parents more if they are given the straight truth from day one. I’m a glass-is-half-full kind of person, so I am not comfortable with debunking it all as made-up. I think the story of Santa presents us with invaluable life lessons. I’m not talking about the reindeer-flying, cookie-addicted stranger who visits you through your chimney. I mean the Santa who represents the spirit of kindness and generosity; who cares about all children no matter their differences. Learning the truth about Santa Claus is in many ways a rite of passage. I plan to read to my kids about the legend of Saint Nicholas, much admired for his kindness and charity. As we accept the historical roots of Santa Claus, we move away from the fantasy and have the opportunity to be forgiving and kind Santas ourselves. Instead of feeling they were being lied to, I hope my children will feel “bigger,” because now they are part of a group that knows the big secret but can still happily believe in the joy that Santa still brings to both children and adults.

Don't Cover Up Baby

Q ~ Sarah in Arlington asks: Every time I see a blanket covering an infant car seat or stroller, I cringe and want to tell the parent about the resulting risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Am I overreacting? Should I mind my own business?

Barb ~  Both the Alliance for Infant Survival and the First Candle Organizations agree that there is never really a good reason to cover an infant in a car seat or stroller. It can cause the baby to over-heat and does not allow for proper air circulation which can cause the baby to re-breathe stale air. Covering a baby in an infant seat may lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or, SIDS. The dangers of covering up the infant seat or stroller will never outweigh any danger you may face from the weather or curious strangers, so even using a cover for a short time is not a good idea. Even more shocking are products that are designed to specifically cover babies in seats or strollers. Unfortunately, there are not yet standards in place to regulate the industry. Educating moms who may not know any better, while seeming pushy to some, may save a baby's life. I would encourage you to have these moms visit http://www.sidsalliance.org for more information.

Ear Scope

Q ~ Mary Kate in Allen asks: Barb, is there a way to check for ear infections at home? I don't want to replace the doctor but also don't want to run to the office/ER if the ear isn't even red?

Barb ~  There is a product made by Safety 1st from their ProGrade Health line: the Clear View Ear Scope. Designed and developed with professionals in the infant health field, it works by lighting and magnifying your child’s ear canal so that you can take a look inside your child’s ear. The name is fitting; it is a very clear view indeed. I would suggest getting it before you need it, so that you can get used to the way your baby’s ear looks, making it easier to detect changes that may signal a problem. You’ll want to follow up with your pediatrician but this will help you rule out ear infections. I have been looking into every neighborhood ear that I can find for the past few days and am amazed at how clear this is! I can see every little tiny bump and groove and hair! I have not spotted an ear infection yet, but you can bet my neighbors will be knocking on my door when their children’s ears start to hurt!

Hard Facts About Wood Floors

Q ~ Jennifer in Southlake asks: I have sealed hardwood floors in my kids’ rooms. The kids are always on the floor and the baby drags his pacifier around when crawling on them. I want a floor cleaner that keeps them clean but I am worried about the safety of chemicals in them. Can you recommend something?

Barb ~  Hardwood floors are very easy to clean and with the right maintenance can last years without special treatment. The most important part of your maintenance will be to keep them swept or vacuumed so that dirt does not build up to scratch them. You can vacuum as needed and use a Swiffer or similar product for light maintenance (my son loves to run the Swiffer around). Most hardwood floors are now finished with acrylics or a finish called polyurethane, a plastic looking coating that is extremely hard wearing. Other penetrating seals consist of wax or oil finishes that penetrate the wood and protect from within. These are very easy to maintain by vacuuming and cleaning with a damp mop. Using vinegar to clean hardwood floors is another easy and safe solution to keep your wood surface looking good, but make sure to test a small area before you mop the whole floor. White vinegar is great for cutting grease, removing odors, mildew, most stains and wax buildup. To use, mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water. Be careful to have proper ventilation as you may find it to have a strong odor. Finally, there are a few products out there, such as the Shark Steam Mop that use water to steam clean your floors. This offers a safe alternative to chemicals, and when used correctly is very effective.

Trash Talk

Q ~ Anonymous in Dallas asks: Is it better to scrape food into a trash can or into a garbage disposal? My husband says it is not good for our pipes but I don’t like the idea of putting in the trash to attract insects or animals.

Barb ~ The best option for your food waste is to compost it. If you do not have the time and do not want to simply throw it away because, as you mentioned, trash attracts insects and animals, putting most food waste in the garbage disposal will not hurt your pipes unless your waste is fats, oils, and grease. These can clog your pipes or sewer lines. If you have a septic tank, then remember the more you put in to it, the more often you will have to have it cleaned. Here are some more facts: the city you live in, whether you have a septic tank or use the sewer lines, and what kind of food waste you’re dealing with also are factors to consider. If you have a septic tank, you have to prioritize. Most food will decompose, but not all. Eggshells and coffee grounds just take up space in your septic tank. I called the City of Arlington’s Water Utilities Department and asked them to weigh in. They warned about putting fats, oils, and grease into the disposal because these can clog up your pipes. But what about the rest of your food waste? Well, it goes from your disposal, down your pipes, and into your sewer line. From there it goes to the city’s sewer lines and then over to the Trinity River Authority. You pay your city, which in turn pays the TRA to treat the waste water. The clean water goes back into the Trinity River and the waste removed from it goes over to the landfill. (As an aside, the TRA has given the city of Arlington over 2 million dollars in fee increases to treat the waste water since October 1. Rate increases from this and other cities will get passed on to you, and will be the largest part of your utility bill increase.) So what happens to your food waste if you scrape it into the trash? Well, it goes directly to the landfill. I spoke with Vince in the municipal marketing department of Arlington Disposal Company. He told me that food decomposes or biodegrades at different temperatures and in different time frames, but 90% of it decomposes into a liquid called leachate. This liquid makes its way to the bottom of the landfill where it is pumped out and - get this – put into the sewage system. So they then pay the Trinity River Authority to treat it, and you know the rest. I know your question was is it bad for your pipes, but I just found all that so darn fascinating that I could not help including it.

A Bedtime Story

Q ~ Brandy in Frisco asks: My 3 year old son, loves books! At night, we always read a book to him, then allow him to read a book of his choice on his own. I believe there should be a time limit on how long he's allowed to stay up past his bed time to read. However, my husband believes he should be allowed to read as long as he wants to, because he doesn't want us to indirectly stunt his reading desires. Any advice?

Barb ~ My immediate thought was that if he picks up on exceptions to bedtime, he will learn how to use them to stall. But I went straight to the expert on this one: Suzanne Bonifert, Head of Speech-Language Pathology Services UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders. She writes, "Hi Brandy, That is great to hear! As a speech-language pathologist, I love to see kids interested and engaged with books early. It sounds like you have a bedtime routine down pat with reading a couple books, which is reasonable. Although it is important to encourage young children's involvement with book-reading activities, you don't want it to be so long that it is at the expense of altering his sleep routine too much. Also, some children like to ask for extended book reading activities at night to get the focus off bedtime. Getting enough sleep is just as important for his development. So I would continue the routine of a couple books a night, and tell him that when he wakes up, you can read more books together during the day. He can then get lots of interaction and stimulation with books when he is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!" Thanks so much Suzanne!

Public Bathroom Paranoia

Q ~ Anna in Fort Worth asks: I have just started potty training my toddler but public bathrooms freak me out. Do the seat covers really protect you? Is there a product that will make it safer for my daughter to use a public bathroom?

Barb ~ The public bathroom, as clean as it may look, still has plenty of germ hot zones. I could cite lots of scary statistics for you but just trust me when I tell you it can be really gross. Did you know that a restroom’s hot water tap may have more germs than the toilet seat? Same may be true for the sink, countertop, mirror; toilet paper, paper towel, and hand soap dispensers; and especially the door you open on the way out of the restroom. Always take your daughter to the bathroom before leaving the house. You will eventually need to find a public bathroom, and while you want her to be aware of dirty surroundings and proper hygiene, you don’t want to go overboard and scare her or turn her into THAT kid. So talk to her about touching as few things as possible, using paper towels or toilet paper as a “buffer” if you need to touch a dispenser or flusher, and to never touch any part of her face before you have washed very well on the way out. ALWAYS use a paper towel to shut off the water faucet when you’re done washing your hands as well as to open the door on the way out. When a sink and water aren’t available, sanitize your hands with an alcohol-based hand gel and wash at the nearest sink you can find. As far as helpful products, I really like the portable seat covers. There are a few that fold and can be stored in a plastic baggie in your diaper bag, complete with handles for a child to hold onto. Remember to pack extra wipes too. Should you have to use the disposable seat covers (you can purchase child-sized ones) or toilet paper to line the seat, remember to cover the entire surface and with enough layers.

Double Standard Discipline

Q ~ Melissa in Allen asks: Barb, I have a very well-behaved 6 year old and a 2 year old who is very "spirited." I hate to admit it but I have a double standard in the way I discipline them. I find myself coming down harder on my 6 year old because she listens better and corrects her behavior. I give my 2 year old several half-hearted warnings and let so much go without follow-through, which I never did with my 6 year old. I want to treat them equally and feel torn and guilty every time I notice what I am doing. Any word of advice? Thanks!

Barb ~ I suggest a 2-step process: #1) Stop it. #2) Drop the guilt quicker than you can say “time-out.” You’re doing the best you can with what you have. Your 2 year old is different from your 6 year old and probably will need different discipline methods. They key is that the 2 year old does need discipline and you do need to be consistent in dealing it. You seem to understand that though, so I want to focus on why you are being inconsistent. Do you find it easier to just give repeated warnings rather than stop what you are doing to follow through? Do you feel it takes more time to follow through, time away from your daily duties or from your oldest? Or maybe this is your baby and you want to spoil him appropriately? You know the half-hearted warnings are not going to fix anything, it’s like slapping a band-aid on a cut that, left untreated, will begin to fester and ooze. It’s time for you to rip off the proverbial band-aid and suffer the shorter-term sting rather than to set your child up for longer-lasting suffering from unrealistic expectations, a false sense of entitlement, and a frustrating lack of boundaries. Communicate your expectations and consequences and be prepared to follow through every time. Like any major deed, if you take the time to do it right the first time, you won’t have to do it again. When you catch yourself being inconsistent, remember that you are setting yourself up for a bigger, more overwhelming cleanup job in the long term. Not to mention the extended parent-teacher conferences you will undoubtedly be called to.

Barring Minors

Q ~ Carol in Southlake asks: We were at a restaurant recently and waiting for a table at the bar. We ordered drinks for ourselves and a soda for my son but the bartender told us according to the law, we could not have a minor in the bar at all. Was he following a law or just not being very family friendly?

Barb ~ Carol, a quick call to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission confirmed that there is no state law that prohibits minors from being in the bar with their parents. An even quicker call to the City Manager’s Office in Southlake verified there is no city ordinance against it either. It is possible -and perfectly legal- that this is the restaurant’s policy. The bartender may have mistaken the policy for a law, or found it easier to state it as law to avoid a customer becoming argumentative over it. You may consider it as not family-friendly, but try to empathize with the rest of the customers around you. Children (not yours or mine of course) do from time to time beseech attention. Think of the couple that finally hired a babysitter so that they could get away from their children and enjoy a romantic evening, or the regular customer who wants to curse freely in a room full of adults. The bartender’s attempt to maintain an ambience may be found offensive by some, but probably greatly appreciated by the customers who where there with the reasonable expectation of being in the company of adults only.


Smelly Washer

Q ~
Sam in Grand Prairie asks: Barb, the inside of my washer smells like mold. I have tried running empty cycles with bleach and water but I can not figure out where it is coming from. Any ideas?

Barb ~ Yuck, I know that smell. Just imagine how many of those tiny microorganisms must be colonizing before they are powerful enough to emit that smell. Mold enters your house as tiny spores and can grow anywhere but needs moisture to grow – and thus destroy whatever it grows on. Most common molds in manageable amounts are harmless to healthy individuals but can cause problems for people with allergies, asthma, or weak immune systems. I don’t want to be unfair, many molds are helpful and used in the production of good things like penicillin, cheese, soy sauce and sake. But they become a problem when they land where we don’t want them and then begin to putrefy our stuff. Realizing I have been ignoring the exact same problem, I call the makers of my washer, LG and talk with a specialist (Richard). We worked under the assumption that you have a front-loading washer, both because this problem is most common in these types of washers and also because that is what I have stinking up my laundry room. Most front-loading washers are designed to have a rubber gasket with a flap at the opening. From time to time water collects within the flaps of the rubber gasket. Your owner’s manual probably suggests that at the end of the day, you should dry the rubber seals and inside flaps to remove the water and humidity that collects in there. That is what causes the build up over time. You should also leave the washer door open to get rid of the humidity in the washer. To deal with the existing problem, run a sanitary cycle with the highest temperature available on the unit, using liquid bleach (no detergent) to help diminish any smell that may be impregnated in the drum. If you do not have a sanitary cycle, dilute ¾ cup bleach in one gallon water and with a cloth clean around seals and in drum, then run a full cycle at the highest possible temperature. If you have been ignoring it long enough, you may need to clean the drain pump or drain filter, usually located in the bottom front part of unit behind the little mystery door. Soapy watery and lint builds up here and needs to be expelled every couple of weeks or you may run into other drain issues. There are different front-loading washer cleaners available that you simply pour into the drum or, Richard recommended a product called Whirlout, available at appliance and home improvement stores. Richard was very adamant that I know that all of this is covered in an owner’s manual and that anyone can perform this maintenance.

Ants-Be-Gone

Q ~ Christine in Dallas asks: Barb, how can I get rid of the tiny ants in my kitchen without using chemicals harmful to the kids?

Barb ~ Ah, tiny ants. Scientific Name: Anuisance Amongus. Much like our single friend Steve on Family Taco Night, few uninvited pests are tougher to kick out than ants. In fact, ants are the number one pest problem in the country (trailing close behind are the brilliantly gifted TMZ reporters). Here are some more cool facts about ants:
• They live in colonies numbering up to 500,000 and can relocate quickly.
• They age well. Worker ants live to about 7 years and the queen may live as long as 15.
• They can nest anywhere and come in through the tiniest cracks. The lone scout that comes out in search of food and water leaves a chemical scent trail for others to follow.

You can find hundreds of do-it-yourself ant control solutions, but they may only control the ants you see. You have to destroy an entire nest to get rid of them completely. For your question, I sought out the advice of the experts at River Legacy’s Living Science Center. Naturalist Lisa K believes you may be dealing with sugar ants, which lucky for you are relatively easy to get rid of in an eco-friendly way using a mixture of sugar and boric acid or borax, a mineral mined in the California deserts. It is generally non-toxic to humans in small amounts, but not a good idea to leave out where the children can find it. It’s a slow-acting poison so the ants ingest it and take it back to the colony. You can make your own bait using the recipe below or purchase Terro brand sugar ant baits. To make your own Ant Hotel, mix one cup of corn syrup or sugar water with one cup borax. Take 4 shallow jars such baby food jars and put a tissue in each, pour in ¼ cup of the solution, then fill with water to one inch of the top. Screw the lid on (secure if necessary to deter children or pets) and using a hammer and nail punch 6 holes in the lid. Spread the jars around the kitchen and other areas frequented by your guests, but out of the reach of children or pets. To keep the ants from returning, remove any food sources by wiping down counters, sinks and floors. For more information, Assistant Director of Early Childhood Education at River Legacy recommends Howard Garrett’s Texas Organic Gardening Book.

The Stain Game

Q ~ Faith in Irving writes: Barb, my kindergartener comes home with numerous stains on his white uniform shirt. I confess that I do not know how to use bleach, and am actually scared that I may drop some on the carpet. Please give me some stain removing tips! Thanks!!

Barb ~ Your choice in arsenal will depend on the composition of the stain and the material of the shirt. Protein stains, oil-based stains, grass and ink are among the stains that react and set differently. Cotton and synthetic fibers also react differently to treatment. Check the tag to see if bleach is safe to use. If so, keep in mind that bleach does weaken clothing, so first start with diluting it in the wash before adding the shirts. I am a big fan of stain removers and soaking stains before washing. You can spot-treat with bleach immediately before washing. I like the Dial Corp website for a reference guide, but here is a run-down just for you: Fruit Juice- Rinse in cool water, soak with stain remover for 20 minutes, then wash as usual. Grass- Pre-treat with a stain remover or detergent with enzymes, use bleach in warm water. Paint (most kids paint is washable and water-based)- Rinse in warm water, pre-treat with a stain remover then wash as usual. Ketchup/Tomato Sauce- Rinse in cold water, treat with stain remover, then wash with detergent and bleach. There are many bleach alternatives available, even detergents with bleach. You can even hang the shirts to dry outside and the sun will bleach them.

Wet Nights

Q ~ Katrina in Sachse writes: Hi Barb, my 3 1/2 year old daughter has been potty-trained for a year. Well, almost. She never has accidents during the day, but she still wears a diaper at night. We try to restrict her fluids after dinner time, and we make sure she goes potty before bed, but she still has a very wet diaper every morning. We have been putting her potty chair in her room at night, but most of the time she either doesn't want to get out of bed to pee, or she just sleeps too heavily and doesn't know she pees in her sleep. We have rewarded her the few times she has gotten out of bed to potty, but it doesn't seem to be enough motivation. Please help!

Barb ~ While daytime training involves physical readiness, habits and learned skills, nighttime control is almost wholly dependant on physiological development and is for the most part involuntary. Basically, you did everything right but she just can’t help it right now. An adult bladder can signal the brain that it is full and we awaken with the need to go. For children, this warning signal comes with age. Most pediatricians do not expect a child to stay dry at night until the age of 5 or 6. In fact, less than 75% of children your daughter's age are physically capable of staying dry all night, and only 80% under the age of 5. You should never make a big deal out of an accident, nor should you discipline for something involuntary. Even though your daughter may want to be a big girl all night, it may be a good idea to use pull-ups until her body is ready. My son was happy with a compromise of wearing pull-ups over his underwear “just in case.” We never pushed nighttime training in our home and he eventually (around 4.5) and very easily made the transition with few accidents. Stick with limiting the drinks and taking her before bed, and again before you go to bed. My only other advice is to relax, not make an issue out of it, let her body develop and enjoy uninterrupted sleep. After she is dry for about two weeks straight, you can try again. A great tip I got was to layer your mattress pads and sheets so you can simply remove a layer in the middle of the night instead of changing the complete set.

The Dirt On Lettuce

Q ~ Mr. Always Wrong in Keller writes: Please settle this for my wife: If the salad mix bag says “triple washed,” do we still have to rinse it?

Barb ~ Remembering the spinach-related E. coli outbreak in 2005, I called my old friend at the Health Department for some answers, expecting to hear some frightening data that would scare me into eating nothing more than gum for lunch. The kind of chilling, terrifying, bloodcurdling statistics that sci-fi movies are based on, that prompt hidden-camera investigative reporting. But the anticlimactic, official bottom-line answer is no, you do not have to rinse lettuce that is labeled “Pre-washed,” “Ready to Eat” or “Triple-Rinsed” as long as it comes from a government-inspected facility. However, there is always a small risk in consuming anything. Here are some interesting facts you can use to dazzle Mrs. Always Wrong: Rinsing produce with just water only removes 60%-90% of microbes. At the processing plant, the produce is washed twice with chlorinated water, and then rinsed to remove the chlorine. It is possible that a pathogen makes its way into produce through the root system. In this case, no amount of washing will prevent contamination. If a microorganism is not removed by the triple-rinse system, it is unlikely that it will be removed by additional rinsing in the home. For more information about the safe handling, storage and preparation of produce, visit http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~acrobat/prodsafe.pdf.

Art Pile Ups

Q ~ Renee in Fort Worth writes: My daughter has been attending a summer camp before she starts kindergarten this fall. She has brought home such wonderful art projects but already I am running out of space for them. I want to save them all but need some creative space-saving ideas.

Barb ~ Art projects really can pile up, and you still have years of collecting these rare treasures. You can be creative in preserving the fine art without taking on another mortgage. Take a picture of your daughter holding larger projects for your photo album. For those hundreds of paintings and drawings, cut away empty borders and make a collage out of the center of the masterpieces. Try transforming smaller projects into holiday ornaments. Gift projects to family members, they will love receiving such creative presents. Even if it means investing in some storage boxes, try saving what will store well. My husband’s mother saved many of his toys, books and art projects and presented them to him when we were pregnant with our first. It was a special time as my husband went through these things and relived childhood memories. He was so proud to give them to our son and say “I made this when I was your age.”


Allowance Sense and Cents

Q ~ Heather in Austin writes: I was wondering about allowance...when should a child start receiving allowance? What is a reasonable amount? And should the allowance be based on merit (chores, behavior, etc.)? Thanks.

Barb ~ Part of my job as a parent is to prepare my children to go out in the real world and arm them with the tools they will need to succeed; including learning the value of money, the value of earning something you want, and the satisfaction of getting what you work for. That being said, I found two schools of thought regarding allowance and chores. One feels that chores should be required of each family member as their contribution to the family unit, and that kids should not get paid to do what is expected of them. Another feels that an allowance should be earned and chores are a great way to teach real-life lessons such as working for your money, budgeting for something you want, and having a sense of ownership for your “job.” I have found chore charts to be great motivators, and the allowance a rewarding learning tool. You can start when your child is ready. A younger child can be motivated with a sticker chart that “rewards” with special treats other than money. This is also a great way to reinforce behavior. The “chores” at this age can be updated as needed but may begin with picking up toys, clearing plates, using good manners and being gentle with the family pet. When the chart is filled up (a week is reasonable), you can have your child pick out something from the dollar bin at Target, take him for ice cream, or anything that is a special reward. You can start teaching them about earning by assigning jobs. For example, if they help you at the store, you can give them a quarter for the gumball machine or the rides. I was once out of quarters so I paid out in Chuck E Cheese tokens, which my son began to save up for his next visit. For the record, experts suggest an allowance for chores start around the age of 5 and suggest a dollar per year of age. Pick chores that are reasonable and appropriate for them, will make them proud to accomplish, and update them as needed. I always include a general “Helping Mom/Dad.” He may help with a house project or spring cleaning, or with lawn work. Give them the option to spend it, save it, or share it.


Troubled Waters

Q ~ Mindy in Arlington asks: I admit I can be germaphobic but water parks gross me out. My preteen goes often with her friends but I worry about her getting sick.  Are they safe?

Barb ~ It is possible for illnesses to be spread at water parks, usually due to the negligence of the patrons rather than the personnel. The most common illnesses cause poopy tummy and the most common way they are spread: poop. According to the CDC, the average person has just enough poop on their poopers that can contaminate the water if they are sick. Anyone with a gastrointestinal “problem” should not swim in public waters. Young children should wear swim diapers, or taken to the bathroom regularly. Care takers should wash their hands after changing a diaper. Generally speaking, water parks have the highest of public health standards, testing the waters throughout the day to ensure water safety. They do this by maintaining a proper level of the chemicals that fight bacteria, and training personnel in preventing cases of contamination. Your city performs inspections on water parks. To put your mind at ease, check your city’s website for inspection scores or give them a call to see if any problems have been reported or for a history of the water park’s compliance with local codes.

Diaper Swiper


Q ~ Paige in Carrollton writes: Barb, Help! My son manages to get his diaper off at night and makes a mess! How can I get him to stop?

Barb ~ The solution to this one depends on your child’s age. He could be doing this because a full diaper is uncomfortable and hot, or he may be exhibiting signs of being ready to toilet train. Or it could just crack him up when he sees your manic reaction to his fecal funfest in the morning. If he is not ready to toilet train, then you will need to deter him from doing it by making it impossible. He will grow bored and the ca-ca combat will loose its entertainment value. For the low-level security breacher, try putting him in pull-ups, which are harder to undo, or a wearable blanket such as a Halo Sleepsack, which has an inverted zipper. If you require maximum security confinement, try purchasing an inexpensive zippered sleeper, cut the feet off and put him in it backwards. You can also cut legs and sleeves off for the summer. Make it a crew neck if you dare. One final tip a friend gave me as you find the solution that works best for you: Layer the sheets on his mattress. That way you can just take off a layer instead of lifting up the mattress to change the sheets every time. I hope your Huggies Holiday will come to an end quickly!


Bumper Jumper

Q
~
Cathy in Plano asks: Now that my daughter is 7 months old she is moving all around her crib at night, which I think is very cute to watch on the monitor, but it seems she is getting her legs and arms caught in the slats of her crib. This is kinda scaring me because I don't want her to get hurt...is there a better alternative than using her bumper pad that came with her bedding? I am using it now, but there is still some space at the bottom where she finds to grab on to the slats still! Thanks!

Barb ~ Hi Cathy, You do have some options with breathable crib bumpers or crib shields that are designed to provide a mesh barrier for the slats in your crib. I like Breathable Baby and use it in our crib. This product covers a larger area of the crib walls but is collapsible to prevent climbing. It is weaved between the slats of the crib to prevent limbs from getting caught or pacifiers taking a dive. Definitely take a look at the crib fit guide on their site to get the right product for your crib. I had to weave and re-weave a few times to get the fit I needed. I also tucked mine a bit lower below the mattress edge so my baby can not reach under it. You will have one or two corners exposed and may need to make some adjustments if you lower your crib rail, but in my opinion this is the best alternative to traditional bumpers. It is easily removed and washable.

We All Scream For Ice Cream

Q ~ Leigh in Dallas asks: Barb, have you ever made your own ice cream? I have found some recipes that look like fun for the kids to make but I am afraid of the mess and waste.

Barb ~ MetroMom March Baremore, winner of the Ice Cream Contest at the Sate Fair, wrote to let us know she has the perfect answer: I love making homemade ice cream with my kids. It can be really easy and inexpensive even if you don't have an ice cream maker at home. One way to do that is in plastic sandwich bags. 1. ICE CREAM IN A BAGGIE: Put in a sandwich-size Zip-Loc bag and "zip" closed: 1 T sugar, 1/2 cup milk or half & half, 1/4 tsp vanilla. Put in a gallon-size Zip-Loc bag and zip closed: 2 T rock salt (baking aisle), the filled and zipped sandwich bag from above, ice cubes to fill bag about 3/4 full. Shake and roll bag over and over until frozen (about 15-20 min.) 2. ICE CREAM IN A COFFEE CAN: Chocolate Ice Cream 1 cup heavy cream 1 cup light cream 1/2 cup sugar 4 T cocoa 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 1/8 tsp salt Coffee Ice cream 1 cup heavy cream 1 cup light cream 2 T instant coffee granules 1/2 cup sugar 1/8 tsp salt For all varieties: In 1 lb. coffee can mix all ingredients. Seal can lid well with duct tape. Put small, sealed can inside larger 3 lb. can. Pack ice and 1 cup salt around small can. Put lid on large can and duct tape closed. Roll back & forth on a large towel (optional) for 15 minutes. Open large can and dump ice and water. Wipe small can dry and open. Stir mix, scraping sides of can. Additional ingredients (cookie crumbs, chopped nuts) can be added now. Reseal small can and place back in larger can. Repack with salt and ice. Continue rolling for 10 minutes more. Open large can and dump ice and water. Wipe small can dry and open. Enjoy! Neither of these methods involves churning so if you are expecting the really smooth creamy texture of a store bought ice cream you might want to go with an ice cream maker.

Breaking The Chain Mail

Q ~ Maricole in Fort Worth asks: Barb, my friend is always sending me ridiculous chain emails. How do these things start? 

Barb ~ It is hard to say who starts these things, though some may be intentional; others have origins in legitimate happenings. Perhaps a Hype-chondriac takes a few legitimate facts and runs with them. You may have seen the email warning us that telemarketers will have our cell numbers. This may have originated from the fact that a cell phone directory is being created for 411 uses (do not panic, you have to opt in to be included). Another recent email chain warns of the dangers of energy-saving light bulbs, suggesting that they have dangerous amounts of mercury that are released into the air, and it would cost thousands to have a hazmat crew clean up in the case one of these bulbs breaks in your home. This story snowballed out of control after a CFL bulb broke in one mother’s home. She called her local DEP agency, which did not have much experience in this, and was told having a cleanup crew come in was one option (the agency later admits this option was excessive).  The chain emails usually relate to Charity, Luck, Petition, Money, or just for the heck of setting a word record. The first probably originated in superstition and dates back to the 1800’s. You can see a wonderful study of the evolution of Chain Letters.

Receiving these from a friend is almost worst than receiving them from a stranger because you can at least block the stranger from further impositions on your time.  But don’t be gullible or afraid, you can safely delete these emails. You probably won’t break the chain and stop them from circulating, but you can be sure that AOL and Bill Gates are not tracking what you do, even if someone wrote, “I got a check” or “I saw it on CNN”.  Similarly, if it came from somebody’s good friend who is a lawyer or a preacher, it is bogus as well. The Nigerian son of a prince in Switzerland does not have $27 billion that they need to trust you with, and we can not cripple a gas company by not buying gas next Wednesday. Nobody is going to send you on a fabulous getaway, give you cars or televisions, or fat checks just because you forward an email. But if I see any of that reported on CNN, I will gladly retract.

Dinner Time Chaos

Q ~ Jennifer in Mesquite asks: Barb, My almost two year old has to be watched during all his waking hours. I pick him up on my way home from work but can barely make dinner without having to chase after him 100 times or keep him from getting hurt. It's been frozen entrees, salads or sandwiches for a while now. How can I make a real dinner and save him from himself at the same time?

Barb ~ I can certainly relate! I think your biggest challenge is keeping him interested in one project for any length of time. I can offer a few tips to try and hope that a few may work on your curious toddler. Your main goal is to keep him where you can see him. I am a big fan of baby gates. I have one in the kitchen and use it to keep the kids near as much as I use it to keep them away. If you can, involve him in what you are doing. Let him prepare something with his own ingredients; give him some dough to play with, a mixing bowl and some dry ingredients for him to "prepare." At this age my son loved water so I would fill up some measuring cups with water and food coloring and let him mix colors in some bowls. I also let him fill up the kitchen sink with some bubbles or his sea animals, or even just some measuring cups, spoons and funnels. I dedicated one shelf for toys he could play with such as plastic bowls, measuring cups, toy food, empty food containers for him to pretend play with, anything safe. He loved to scoop, so I often kept dry rice, beans, and different shaped pastas for him to sort into ice cube trays, scoop, mix, measure or funnel. Another favorite was magnets on the fridge or dishwasher. Leap Frog makes some wonderful activity games for this age that are perfect for the fridge. You can also buy magnetic sheets for your printer so you can customize a game, puzzle or activity for your son.

Product Review: Sit n Stroll

Q ~ Myha in Arlington asks: Hello, Barb! My husband and I are taking our baby (who will be 16 months) to Hawaii in August. I'm just wondering what you think about the sit'n'stroll car seat/stroller combo. I just love his regular stroller and am so used to it, but the last time we traveled, he had the carrier that you could just drop on the stroller. Now he's in a convertible car seat and I dread bring the convertible (unmatching) car seat and a stroller. Any suggestions?

Barb ~ MetroMom & expert Summer Holbrook has the answer for you! Here's Summer: Dear Myha, I am a seven-year flight attendant for a major American carrier and in that time I have seen just about every kind of seating arrangement for children and babies. The one that most amazes me is the Sit n Stroll. I always knew that I would buy the Sit n Stroll when I had a child, after seeing the ease with which other moms used it. Once my daughter was old enough for the convertible car seat, we tried to travel with that and an umbrella stroller. Bad idea- the car seat was too heavy, and with all the other luggage we had, it proved to be too much to handle. And it was too large to fit in the airplane seat. It was during that trip when I told my husband that I was buying the Sit n Stroll. My daughter and I just got back from the UK with our new Sit n Stroll. I cannot begin to tell you how much easier it was to travel with. The Sit n Stroll is light, easy to get through airport security, combines the necessary elements of a full size car seat with a basic stroller and it's safe, FAA safe. One limitation of the Sit n Stroll is the flexibility of the stroller function. The Sit n Stroll is low to the ground and not designed for off road use. Therefore, in a beach and nature trail heavy vacation spot like Hawaii, the Sit n Stroll could come up short. But for a vacation like Hawaii I suggest bringing a frame baby carrier. With all the trails and beaches the carrier is what you will end up using. However, in an airport or urban environment, no other product comes close. If your baby is not yet walking, place her/him in the Sit n Stroll as soon as you get out of your car at the airport parking lot. The baby should not have to come out of the sit n stroll until you get to security. This frees up your arms for other things, like bags. I recommend that in addition to the Sit and Stroll you also take an umbrella stroller, for off road adventures or for long days out where you will not be traveling in a car. As for the security line, it takes about 10 seconds or less to fold the Sit n Stroll. Place it upside down on the security belt, so it will fit thought the machine better. The Sit n Stroll will fit down the aisle of first class but not coach. Also, I recommend asking the flight attendant for a seat belt extension for your car seat, it makes it fit easer. The Sit n Stroll comes with LATCH system belts and this comes in very handy for longer car trips. The Sit n Stroll also fits in the car by using the seat belt; this is great for taxi rides or cars without LATCH systems. When you get to the restaurant the Sit n Stroll becomes a booster chair, which is great for places without highchairs. Myha, in closing, I highly recommend the Sit n Stroll for any vacation involving air travel and involving a child 5 to 40 lbs. However, I would also recommend you pack a frame baby carrier for your trip for use on the beaches and any other off-road adventures. Fly smart, fly safe and have fun! Summer Holbrook Flight Attendant, Southwest Airlines World wide explorer

Gas (Prices) Relief

Q ~ Julie in Denton asks: Barb, Just when I think gas prices can't get any higher, they go up again! Is there any relief in sight and any possible way to save some money on gas?

Barb ~ Gas prices are not projected to decrease significantly any time soon. There are definite ways to improve your gas mileage and make each fill up last longer. Try these tips and you will see an immediate difference. -Stay in shape. Keep your car well maintained and make sure your tires are properly inflated. A car that has to work harder burns more gas. Using good engine oil can improve mileage by as much as 12%. A clogged air filter can decrease your mileage by up to 10%. -Don't speed. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas. The best way to improve fuel economy by as much as 2 to 3 miles per gallon is to accelerate slowly and to brake over a longer distance. Don't rest your foot on the pedal, try coasting when possible. -Get rid of the weight. Those bags of old baby things that you have been meaning to drop off are reducing your mileage by up to 2%. Also remove luggage racks and heavy accessories. -Avoid excessive idling; you get 0 miles per gallon while idling. Place your car in neutral, park or even turn it off if you are idling more than a few minutes. - Avoid stop and go traffic when possible. -Use cruise control on the highway to help you maintain a constant speed. - Plan and consolidate your travels. - Don't go out of your way to save a few pennies on gas. If you go a couple of miles out of your way to save 5 cents per gallon, on a 10 gallon fill up you save 50 cents. The American Automobile Association says that, on average, it costs 52.2 cents to drive one mile. - Don't top off your tank and be sure your gas cap is tight.

Don't Bug Me

Q ~ Anonymous asks: I have a ten year old and a two year old and am worried about mosquitoes. Is there one repellent that I can use on both of them, one that is safer than the other or most effective?

Barb ~ It would be very difficult for me to recommend one product as each product works differently. Things to consider in choosing a good repellent is the setting in which it will be used (dinner on the patio or hike in the woods); the individual using it, including how much they perspire; and personal preferences. A common ingredient in repellents, the Chemical DEET is the most effective, safe when used as directed and has been studied the longest - over 60 years. Concentrations are directly related to how often you need to reapply. However it does need to be washed off when you come indoors and can ruin some clothing and other materials. There are some synthetic alternatives that are as effective but may not work for everyone. There are also some repellents made from natural ingredients that feel better on the skin, and smell better but are only effective for short periods of time. To complicate your decision further, the American Academy of Pediatrics, CDC, and World Health Organization all make different recommendations. You will need to make the choice that is best for you. I highly recommend reading Consumer Research's Insect Repellent Consumer Report. This report breaks down the different types of repellents, which settings they are best used in, and reviews the brands making them. You may have to purchase more than one repellant this summer. Keep in mind you should use what works in each situation - you do not need the "Deep Woods" concentration if you are only playing on the lawn, but you do need to use the minimum recommendation.

Picky Eater

Q ~ Teena in Mansfield asks: Any ideas to get a picky eater to eat fruits and vegetables? All my little one eats is crackers, chicken nuggets, pizza, and pasta. Thanks!

Barb ~ The overwhelming majority of parenting resources will advise you to keep offering foods and one day your child will surprise you and try something new. I agree, as it is never worth it to get into a struggle over food. As an added measure, I also recommend trickery to bridge the nutritional gap. Let's face it, the kid needs nutrition to grow and think. My most covert method is to blend in some green stuff into your pasta sauce or yellow and orange stuff into your mac and cheese sauce - carrots and butternut squash go completely undetected. Cube some up and keep a bag in the freezer so you can throw into the water used for cooking then mash it up with a fork. Grate zucchini over pasta or pizza, other grated veggies work great in the breading of those nuggets. Mash some fruits into a PB&J, the jelly hides everything! Make it fun! Give your food a face - there are some great cookbooks for kids that show you how to jazz things up. Sprinkle cinnamon onto fresh fruits. Use bowls for dipping sauces and offer veggie sticks for dipping. Set an example by eating these things yourself. Encourage your child, but do not push. Try to empathize; there must be some things that you do not like and would not appreciate being made to eat. Finally, on behalf of all picky eaters out there, I plead with you to not make too big a deal out of it. If your children can find one fruit and one veggie that they like, they will be okay, and they will still make it into adulthood.

Hands-Free But No Aching Back

Q ~ Aching Back in Dallas asks: Can you recommend a good carrier for a large 10 month old? What are the pros and cons of the different kinds? I need to truly keep hands free but have been carrying my baby around for hours each day. Thanks!

Barb ~ You have three basic options when shopping for a child carrier: The Sling, a Backpack, and a Hip Carrier. The sling that worked so well for your infant can be used to carry an older child in a variety of positions. Great for light use, they are easy to wash and wear, come in a gazillion colors and patterns, but generally lack lumbar support and only have minor adjustment capabilities. Backpack carriers are great for medium to heavy use. They have many comfort features for passenger and chauffeur, lots of storage pockets and many adjustments so mom and dad can both use it. It is great for a hike or a walk, but I would not recommend for every day indoor use simply because it limits eye contact and smooch-accessibility. Hip Carriers keep your child by your side, where you would normally carry them. They are a great upgrade from the front carriers, and some brands can hold children up to 35 pounds. These are my favorite as they allow me to be truly hands free, but keep my baby snuggled by my side, where she can share smiles, hugs and what I believe are practice kisses. This is what I recommend for you since you are using it for extended periods indoors. The most amazing hip carrier I have used to date is the PortaMEe. The Mercedes of carriers, this is the ultimate combination of convenience, function, comfort and fashion. It is very easy to put on, and not only keeps your offspring close to you, but your keys, wallet, phone, sunglasses, mp3 player, camera and even a bottle or sippy cup (the bottle holder is insulated)! It's like Batman's utility belt! Comfort features include a gel padded shoulder strap and orthopedic lumbar support. Now that I have finally lost most of the baby weight and can fit in my cute clothes again, I want a "hip" hip carrier and the PortaMEe is a fashion statement with its leather trim, warm colors and plush fabric. We spoke with the nice people of PortaMEe and they generously offered Metroplex Baby Savings Card Holders $20 off the purchase of a PortaMEe carrier

Mama Juggling Act

Q ~ Anonymous asks: How does one juggle the responsibilities of work, marriage and motherhood? I'm working full time, and I feel overwhelmed, spread thin and down right exhausted.

Barb ~ I once heard someone say that you can have a family and a career; you just can't have them at the same time. Pretty unreasonable considering many of us do not have a choice. We have heard this question numerous times and as working moms ourselves, sought out an answer by hosting a MetroMoms event this past winter about Balancing Work and Motherhood. It is there that I learned wonderful advice from our speaker, Dr. Lawana Gladney. Here are some excerpts from Dr. Lawana Gladney's book "You Can't Be Sick I Have to Work: 50 Tips to Emotional Wellness for Working Mothers." (copyrighted, Dr. Lawana S. Gladney 2007). Lose the Guilt: This emotion alone can weigh you down. It is like an invisible weight that tugs at your heart. Understand that guilt comes along with being a mother. We can't be everywhere, do it all, and control all situations. Organize Your Day: There is something to be said for organization. Things that are organized can flow more naturally and save a tremendous amount of time. Know what things that you have scheduled at work and home so that you won't find yourself being overwhelmed by time eaters. Set Your Boundaries: It is important that you let your manager, boss, co-workers know what your boundaries are. Your boundaries should be clearly established so that others know what you can and cannot do. Have the courage to stay within your set boundaries and say no. Prioritize your life: If you were asked to name the top three things that are important to you, I would be willing to assure you that family would be number 1 or number 2 on the list. If that is the case, just how much time are you spending on your family or your other top priorities? It is likely that your time is not aligned with your priorities. Learn how to conscientiously allot time to the things that are of the greatest value to you and make you the happiest. Want more great tips? Visit renowned speaker and author Dr. Lawana Gladney's website www.emotionalwellnessinc.com.

Scratch & Hit

Q ~ Mary in Grand Prairie asks: My 13 month old son has recently started scratching and hitting people when he doesn't get his way. I try not to let him and tell him no in a strong voice. He however ignores me and does as he pleases. How do I teach him not to be so mean?

Barb ~ This common misbehavior is displayed when words don't come easily and hitting may seem like the only way preverbal children can express their frustrations. But this does not mean your child is a bully, or that you are a bad parent. It is simply a form of communication. I recommend reading "THE HAPPIEST TODDLER ON THE BLOCK" by Dr. Harvey Karp. A quick read, it explains how this behavior is normal, and once you understand why it is happening, it becomes very simple to put an end to it. Until you get to a bookstore, here are some tips to deal with the hitting and scratching: 1) Communicate. Let your child know that you understand how he is feeling but this is not appropriate behavior. The word "no" alone is not enough because it loses meaning. Say "no hit," or "soft touch" and show a soft touch. 2) Redirect. Find something to redirect attention to, something to help him communicate better or to distract him from the frustration. Or remove him from the situation. 3) Be Calm. An over-reaction may be amusing to your son, enough so that he will try to solicit the reaction again. Reprimand in a firm voice but do not try to punish. 4) Praise. Reward your son when you catch him being nice; praise him for the positive behaviors.

Kiddie Haircuts

Q ~ Sarah in Dallas asks: Hi, Barb! Can you recommend a good place to get my baby's hair cut? I was recently out of town and took my baby for his first haircut then, but now that I'm home, I need to find a place here that doesn't cost an arm and a leg and that caters to children.

Barb ~ Places that cater to children are wonderful for the nervous tot. They typically have videos, games, and fun chairs for the children to keep them distracted while getting their hair cut. They usually accept walk-ins, but I recommend making a reservation or going during an off-peak time (during school hours) to avoid long waits. A haircut can cost between $12-15, with an optional shampoo adding a couple of bucks to the bill. They are all pretty competitive in price. Some, such as Cool Cuts 4 Kids, offer a frequent user club card that allows you to rack up discounts after repeat visits. Savings Tip: We like Kids B Kids with locations in Dallas and Plano. Your first haircut is $10.99. Regular cuts are $14, with an additional $2 for shampoos. Kids B Kids offers $3 off each haircut (excluding bang trims) when you present the Metroplex Baby Savings Card! Once your child is comfortable with haircuts, ask your hairdresser if they can do your child's cut with yours. Many charge about $10-15, plus you save on gas and time spent traveling to two places.

An Aspirator For All

Q ~ Carla in Arlington asks: I'm a first-time mom and really freaked by the bulb aspirator that the hospital gave us. It looks like it would hurt my baby. What do you think, and can you recommend anything else?

Barb ~ I am so glad you asked this Carla, because I recently had a conversation with one of our MetroMoms about aspirators! I like the Bebe Sounds nasal aspirator, but it did not work for MetroMom Carey (mother of twins), who recommends the Nosefrida. Here's what Carey has to say about the Nosefrida - "Well, it is probably the grossest thing you will ever do, but it works amazingly. As everyone knows the bulbs can sometimes be hard to use with babies as you have to keep on squeezing to get everything out. With the nosefrida, you basically "suck" the snot right out. Gross.. I know. But you can control how much pressure you use to suction and you don't have to worry about stabbing them with the end of the bulb. the nosefrida has a rounded edge that you don't really have to stick in their nose, just in the front part (of course it actually won't go in any further anyway). It works like a little vacuum to get the mucus out. note: you do need to add saline as well as turn the tube around their nostril till you hear the vacuuming sound as you suck. For those of you who are still grossed out, let me tell you that there is a filter in the unit so you can't get the mucus in your mouth. Also, after you pull the first big glob of gook out of your childs nose with one large suck instead of 7 or 8 with the bulb you will be sold. I just finished a cold with my daughter and it went much easier for her as I could keep her relatively clean. In fact, the only time she had a problem was when my husband had to clean her nose and he tried to use the bulb instead. And please understand, your baby will probably cry. After all it is an invasion to her little nose. But afterwards, when they take that clean breath and smile at you. it's worth it. It also draws lots of fun attention when you use it in public :-) There are some instances when the nosefrida isn't the best choice so I still have my bulbs handy (when it is dried and on the front of the nose), but for most situations (best ones are those gooey ones) it is the absolute best product. I actually have 2 so I don't have to go and find one."

"Friends" Who Won't Discipline Chapter Two

Q ~ Anonymous in Frisco asks: Hi Barb! I have a girlfriend that I simply adore. Sometimes we exchange kiddos to let them play and give each of us a much needed break since we are both stay at home Moms. The problem is when her daughter is at my house she doesn't follow our rules. (The offending actions are usually slamming doors in people's faces, screaming, kicking, etc.) When I correct her she just looks at me and does it again. I don't feel comfortable putting someone else's child in time out. I usually tell her if she keeps acting like that I will have to call her Mom and send her home. What is the correct way to handle this?

Barb ~ In the past I have confronted a Mom friend about her child who was aggressively hurting my child. Unfortunately she took her child's side and our friendship has been strained ever since. Since I love this other Mom friend so much I feel like I need to address the problem with her daughter while she is at my house. Any advice? Barb says: You are right to be so cautious- protective mamas can be prejudiced. Unfortunately, they are not doing their children any favors or helping them prepare for the school environment, where they will have to follow rules and be held accountable. I fear that if you only address the problem with the child then mom friend will get upset that you disciplined her child. I suggest you try to handle this as objectively as possible with mom friend first. You could try saying "I am sure we have some different household rules and I do expect my child to respect yours. Would you like to agree on ways we can establish respect for each other's rules?" Or, "the kids will undoubtedly misbehave at one point or another, let's set some boundaries we can both feel comfortable with." Let her know you would then like for the both of you to sit with the kids all together and explain to them the rules, expectations, and consequences. I am sure you both want the arrangement to work so you each can get a much-needed break. Relying on each other was a resourceful strategy. All plans can be fine-tuned and improved on. My hope is that you are able to come across as wanting to make the arrangement as easy on each other as possible.

Toddler Gravity Test

Q ~ Lauren in Grand Prairie asks: My 9 month old keeps throwing things out of his stroller or highchair and I am tired of picking them up, cleaning them off and handing them back just to see him throw them again. My husband says he is testing the laws of physics and I know he is too young to discipline or understand. Any suggestions on sparing me this trouble?

Barb ~ Your husband is correct. Your child is actually conducting scientific experiments. He wants to be able to predict with 100% accuracy what will happen with each thing he drops. How high will it bounce? How far will it roll? How funny is mommy's reaction? I can understand that it does become exhausting for you though and your question gave me reason to test a product I first saw a year ago at Everything Babyfest. It is called the Take-Along Tether and was invented by a mom. One end secures the cup, bottle or other item while the other end attaches to the highchair, stroller, shopping cart, or car seat. It is brilliant. Imagine a bungee. Your son can still see "what happens if," yet the item never hits the ground. And mommy's reaction is much more pleasant! Savings Tip: Parent Pardners offers a discount to Metroplex Baby Savings Card holders when you purchase two Take-Along Tethers.

Annoying Godmother

Q ~ Sophia in Dallas asks: My son's godmother constantly updates me on her social schedule - where she is going, with whom, and how busy she is. Frankly I couldn't care less. I ignore her constant emails but would love to tell her - in a nice way - to stop "updating me." Any suggestions on the best way to tell her to cut it out?

Barb ~ Sophia, You say with forthright that you could not care less and already ignore her emails, so she has not picked up on your non-verbal signs. If you find you cannot avoid spending time with her or being in the same space as her, then let her know that you feel the conversation always seems to turn to her social life and you would love the opportunity to discuss other topics with her. Try changing the topic and asking her how she feels about other things, like the last contestant to be kicked off the latest reality show.

Family-Friendly Outdoor Camping

Q ~ Robin in Coppell: We are going camping for the first time with our 5 year old. Can you recommend anything to make the experience family friendly?

Barb ~ The two most important comforts of camping for my family is where we sleep and where we "go." I'm not saying who, but there is at least one member of my family who has bathroom anxiety. Everything has to be just right before she can "go." Privacy, comfort, and convenience are essential, but not easy to come by while camping. Fortunately, I have found the perfect camping convenience, and we never have to go in a Port-A-Potty again. The PETT Toilet System is a portable potty that comes with or without a private shelter. It is lightweight and easy to set up. It utilizes a special drop-in bag that you dispose of so you avoid that special Port-A-Potty scent and it is easy to keep clean. Item: PETT Toilet System with Shelter Best Price Found: $239 with shelter; $76 without; but who can put a price on not having to use a Port-A-Potty? Purchased from: TRD Parts 4 U Savings Tip: Not just for camping, use toilet as a portable potty while potty training! I can't stand dirt tracked into my tent any more than I can stand sleeping on rocks under my tent! Solution: Kamp-Rite's Tent Cot. It's like a foam sleeping mat that is raised off the ground and has a tent cover. It weighs less than my stroller and is easier to open and set up - no pounding stakes into the ground, searching for the softest spot to set up, or dragging dirt in every time you need to get into your tent. It comes in two sizes for a single person or for a couple. Item: Kamp-Rite's Tent Cot Best Price Found: One-person: $169; Two-person: $269 Purchased from: TRD Parts 4 U

Product Review: Miracle Blanket

Q ~ Jennifer in Dallas: A speaker at your Destination event mentioned the Miracle Blanket. Have you tried it and what do you think?

Barb ~ Miracle Blankets Made A Believer Out Of Me And A Sleeping Angel Out Of My Baby! Here's the low-down: Item: The Miracle Blanket Cost: it's priceless but you can find it for $30 Purchased from: The Nesting Place Savings Tip: Metroplex Baby Savings Card holders holders receive 10% off I wish I had swaddled my first baby. It would have saved me from hours of crying. I was prepared with my second though, having practiced swaddling with a doll before the baby came. When the nurses first handed me my little bundle, I stared in amazement at how beautifully snug and tight they had swaddled her and had them show me their technique. Once I got her home, all it took was swaddling and she immediately settled in for hours of sleep. Luckily those nurses gave me two hospital blankets because she soon outgrew hers. After outgrowing the hospital ones, and the custom made extra large ones, sleep came no more. She would work her hands out, they would search for something to wrap around and would settle on her face. She would wake up screaming at the facial invasion. I tried tying a ribbon around her blanket to secure it. I tried three different "swaddlers." She was getting too strong and I was getting tired. I was pleading my case to Kay, nurse, educator, and owner of The Nesting Place, and she immediately told me about The Miracle Blanket. She even gave me a product demonstration and helped me practice until I felt comfortable using it. Guess what? (Cue the doves, bright light and trumpets) Baby slept all night again! This blanket really is nothing short of a miracle. Alas baby girl began rolling over and it was not safe to swaddle any longer. I gave the Miracle Blankets to a friend whose three month old was only happy if he was latched on to her and in her arms. I called her the next morning and was not surprised to hear her say, "The Miracle Blanket is a miracle!"

Green Potatoes

Q ~ Amy from Addison: Please answer this for my husband - what are the green spots that show up on potatoes and do they mean that a potato is bad??

Barb ~ The green is actually chlorophyll but its presence should serve as a warning that the tater is troubled. A nerve toxin, solanine, is produced in the green of the potato. It is actually the spuds natural defense system against insects. In large amounts, it can cause symptoms that range from headaches to paralysis of the central nervous system. An occasional greenish chip will not hurt you, but do not serve a potato if it has any green spots. Still, you would have to eat nearly 5 pounds before you would feel any effects.

Sick To School

Q ~ Sarah in Fort Worth asks: Today my daughter told me that her classmate's nose was so runny and gross that it made my daughter want to throw up. Why do parents send their kids to school when they are sick?

Barb ~ It is exasperating- parents who treat school as a private day care and leave an obviously sick child there to convenience themselves. Don't try to fake us out by drugging your child to mask the symptoms- the medicine wears off early enough to expose your plan, with every cough and sneeze propelling communicable microorganisms from the cesspool that is your child's nose. Most annoying is the parent who innocently exclaims "oh, it's just allergies," while wiping away avocado-green glow-in-the-dark snot off the child's face. Don't get me wrong, I am the first to send my child over to play with the chicken-poxed neighbor or the cousins with colds. Building up my son's immunity is part of my job. Resistance to infection develops only after exposure to a multitude of germs. But there are certain things I would rather you not send home to me or my infant. A cold lasts 7-10 days and the average child has 6-10 colds a year. I am not great at math, but that's a lot of missed school. So for the community-conscious parents who wonder when to keep kids home, I have spoken with my favorite doctor and dad of two. He advises to always keep a child home if she has any of the following: a fever of 101 or greater, has vomitted two or more times, diarrhea, coughing (coughing spreads infection), a spreading rash or is lethargic. When the child has been free of these for 24 hours, it is safe to send her back to school. So a little runny nose is not a big deal without any of the above symptoms. The most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of illness is teach your child proper hand washing, to cough into their sleeve, and to use a disposable tissue to wipe their nose.

HOV Baby

Q ~ Anonymous asks: If my infant and I are in the car together, can we drive in the HOV lane?

Barb ~ The answer is yes, you may utilize the HOV lane if you have an infant with you. There is no age restriction; however, you may not use it if the baby is still hitching a ride in your uterus. Commuters on average save one minute of travel time per mile of HOV lane. HOV lanes are designed for cars, buses & motorcycles with two or more persons. Their purpose is to encourage people who would normally drive in separate vehicles to drive in the same vehicle. Some may argue that the HOV rule should state "two or more passengers of driving age are eligible to use the lane," but they probably never rode in a car, during rush hour, with a sleepy, hungry, cranky, and poopy child.

Motivating Dad For Chores

Q ~ Carrie in Burleson asks: How can I get my husband to take more initiative in helping around the house? I always have to ask him to do stuff.

Barb ~ The most important thing to remember is that while women are raised to accept the emotional responsibility of providing care for others, men, traditionally, are not. For the most part, today's husband and father are much more sensitive to this gender paradox and are anxious to take equal part in taking care of home and family. For these balance-seeking men, the only "issue" may lie in clear communication on your part. You can gain some insight into your husband's expectations by looking at the role of his mother in the family. How did his parents share responsibilities? Is he willing to help when you ask him? Now for the big questions: Are you a control freak? Did you assume responsibility for these tasks yourself, thereby sending the message of "I got it, don't get up?" Do you allow him to help in his own way, appreciating that there is more than one way (specifically, your way) of doing things? Are there entire areas of responsibility that could be transferred to your husband, such as being responsible for emptying the dishwasher or getting the kids dressed for bed? I don't think I will be offending anyone by saying that men are not great at guessing what we are thinking. You need to let him know exactly what you need help with from the get-go. You can avoid having to ask him by assigning tasks that he will regularly be responsible for. This could be as easy as keeping a list on the refrigerator. For those of us with less than anxious helpers, a gentle reminder that the more time and energy you spend on doing all the work, the less time you have for him may help. If you still find yourself doing it all, perhaps you could just sacrifice some of your load, such as his laundry? Good luck!

Overbearing Mother

Q ~ Cassie in Bedford asks: I'm a new mom and need serious help dealing with my mother. I've been home from the hospital for two weeks. My mother drops by 4-5 times a day. She claims to be the authority on everything from feeding to sleep to temperament. I don't want to seem ungrateful. I know she's trying to help but how can I kindly explain that I need some space to bond with our baby and figure some things out on my own?

Barb ~ I think many new moms have probably found themselves in the presence of a mother or mother-in-law that is so highly self-regarded as a parenting authority, it is a shocker the entire medical community en mass neglects to award her with an honorary degree. They do mean well, of course, but things have changed and your parenting goals may differ from hers when she became a new parent. I would put it to her just like you did here. Let her know how much you appreciate her help but that you would really like some time alone to bond with the baby, and that would you like to develop your own routine. I can't promise it won't offend her or lead her to declare you as the most ungrateful selfish daughter that ever walked the earth, but I can promise that she will not stay mad long. She does after all, do everything out of her love for you.

Teething Relief

Q ~ Jenn in Frisco asks: Have you heard of anything to help with teething? My husband mentioned some kinds of drops or natural tablet. We have the teething rings and all that, and I've heard Orajel is pretty worthless since the saliva washes it right off....and my son is NOT a fan of the Orajel. Thanks!

Barb ~ *Edited to Add: Hyland’s Teething Tablets are the focus of an October 2010 recall. For more information please see: U.S. Food and Drug Administration today is warning consumers that Hyland's Teething Tablets may pose a risk to children

I would rather go through labor again than teething! As one children's dentist tells us, teething is teething and there is very little we can do. I don't want to scare new parents; some children do not seem bothered by teething. But for others, it can make them uncomfortable, cranky, and at times miserable. There are a few things that may temporarily relieve the pain. -Cold teething rings are popular. Make sure to inspect them for tears or breaks before each use. - Many Parents agree Hylands Teething tablets are wonderful but check with you pediatrician before giving baby any products. http://hylandsteething.com/. - Gentle Naturals teething drops also seem to be popular among parents: http://www.gentlenaturals.com/products/teething.cfm. Both sites have a store locator. -Tylenol helps but once baby is 6 months you get the okay to use Motrin which works better because it also reduces swelling. - There are many teethers on the market that offer a massaging texture for baby to chew on, one of our favorites, Raz-Berry is shaped like a pacifier and offers more massaging surface area: http://razbaby.com/. You can also try freezing a damp washcloth for him to chew on, or giving him a clean finger to bite on. My son loved small ice chips and they instantly calmed him. But please, no Jack Daniels - no matter how many times you hear "you turned out okay." We just don't know how much is safe so it is best to avoid it. Orajel is not recommended because it is swallowed and in the process it numbs the back of the throat which becomes a problem if there is a lot of drool. It becomes hard to swallow that drool and may make baby gag. As difficult as it seems now, remember that this too shall pass and I promise, if you do not remember your teeth coming in, neither will your baby.

"Friends" Who Won't Discipline Chapter One

Q ~ Susan in Dallas asks: A friend of mine and I have our two year olds in the same gym class. Her son is very aggressive and has pushed my son down several times. I've made comments out loud like "watch out," and "be careful," but she has not once done anything to correct her son's behavior. I'm not one for public confrontations, and I'm pretty sure that if I say something to her she would throw a fit and say "boys will be boys." How can I handle this situation to both protect my son and keep my friendship intact?

Barb ~ I can empathize with you Susan, and I think many other parents can as well. I was in the same situation, and because I did nothing, my son eventually developed a case of major anxiety whenever he knew he was seeing the aggressive child. By doing nothing, I sent the message that he had to take it; there was nothing he could do to prevent it and there would not be any consequences. Consider what message your inaction is sending to your son, and don't waste any more time. He is only two and right now he trusts you to make sure he does not get hurt and to teach him how to handle situations. If he were older, wouldn't you expect him to say "Hey, that's not right, if you don't stop being rough I won't play with you anymore?" How would you expect him to handle it if he could? You have to show him how you would want him to handle the situation. If you want to avoid a confrontation, talk to the gym teacher or owner and ask them to address the aggressive behavior without bringing you into it. But if that does not resolve the problem, then put your son ahead of your friendship. Be direct and let her know that you do not expect her to change her parenting and you hope the situation does not affect your friendship, but she cannot expect you to stay in a situation that makes you and your son uncomfortable. Don't be afraid of confrontation, grow a pair and show your son that if you can do it, he can too. (I mean that in an encouraging, Mel Gibson sporting blue war paint and wielding a big sword Braveheart kind of way). Good Luck and I hope you update all of us on how it turns out!

Money-Saving Tips

Q ~ Stephanie in Fort Worth asks: I became a stay at home mom after having our second child and we are struggling without my income. Do you have some tips on how I can save money?

Barb ~ First take inventory around your home and identify the things that you can live without, and the things that you can reduce spending on. Get the family on board. To do this you first have to differentiate between Wants and Needs. I know you really may need caffeine but a $7 designer latte is definitely a want. To reduce your spending you need to shop around. Shop around for better insurance rates and utilities. While on the topic of utilities; having 927 cable channels is a bit overindulgent. And you really do not need all the extras on your phone line like call forwarding or caller id. Identify ways to reduce your energy bills. For example, turn off the lights when not in the room, use compact fluorescent bulbs, adjust the temperature before leaving the house or going to bed, unplug appliances and electronics not in use, plant shade trees if possible. Save on groceries by comparison shopping. Some store brands are of the same quality as national brands but are a fraction of the price, even when you have a coupon for the national brands. Compare labels and quantities. Did you know that bleach is bleach? All brands of bleach have the same ingredient yet some national brands are double the price of store brands. Shop efficiently by planning a week's worth of meals with common ingredients to reduce waste. Make your own baby food. Make justifying your purchases a habit. By keeping a spreadsheet of where your money goes you will be able to recognize areas where you can start saving. You can save on gas too. Group your errands and plan an efficient route, don't top off your tank (it really just goes to waste), park in the shade (a hot car evaporates gas). Good luck and make sure to share your creative tips!

Product Review: Video & Digital Monitor

Q ~ Cathleen in Plano asks: Do you have a recommendation for a good video AND audio baby monitor? I can't seem to find one that is actually good video and also the audio works well with it. Thanks!

Barb ~ There's a reason you are having such a hard time finding a good video and audio monitor, and you are not alone. These products are criticized more than Britney's parenting skills. Many baby monitors are hit-and-miss and reviewers either love 'em or hate 'em. Consumer Reports refused to recommend any video baby monitors because their performance was so erratic. Depending on the monitor's frequency and the other appliances, electronics, and even fluorescent lights in and around your home, you may encounter interference or static with the same monitor that works perfectly in another home. Experts say there's really no way to tell unless you actually try a baby monitor in your house, so check the return policy of your store and save your packaging and receipt. By the way, while you are trying out the monitors, also make a call on the cordless phone, and make sure you can access the internet over your wireless network. In my opinion, a re-chargeable unit is a must, and it needs to be portable so I can walk around with it. A belt clip is great to keep your hands free. Not knowing what extra features you are looking for, I recommend you try these: The Summer Infant Hand Held video monitors (these receive the least amount of complaints and criticisms) and the Graco imonitor TM (the newest version boasts a great range, and it has a lot of neat features including a camera that swivels and a receiver that flips closed to protect the screen). Good luck, and please send me an update when you find a video monitor that works for you!

Don't Waste Your Money

Q ~ Ricky in Frisco asks: Of all the baby products out there, what do you think is the biggest waste of money?

Barb ~ Good question Ricky! I am often seen in various stores shaking my head in overstated irritation at incredibly brainless inventions - many of which I purchased after being led to believe that they were a must for good parenting. The number one wasteful product I somehow came to believe I could not live without: The Pacifier Rinser. Ever drop your pacifier miles from the nearest sink? These are marketed as a solution to this predicament, a portable pacifier rinsing "system." You just fill it with water and a few drops of mouthwash before you leave the house, and store it in your diaper bag. When your child's pacifier hits the floor, no need to panic, just spray the pacifier clean. Here is why this makes #1 on my list of biggest money-wasters: Would it be just too easy to pack an extra pacifier? When you consider the size of this thing, you could actually pack two extra pacifiers, and for the price, you could buy another 2 pacifiers. I have yet to conduct a scientific study, but I can assume a minty mist does not have the cleaning effect of a steady stream of water. Also, I am pretty sure that, in my most sleep-deprived state, I can retrieve with one hand a back-up pacifier from my bag in less time, with less effort, and with no incidence of finger-cramping.

   
 
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