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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tips on Tuesday: Eat Regular Meals with Your Children

I recently read the following article on AcraMax Publishing's website. I thought it was an awesome reminder to sit down together as a family and eat meals together. Make it a habit!

Your Health: Regular Family Meals Promote Good Health Habits in Kids and Parents
by Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H.

Gathering around the table for regular family meals improves children's eating habits and health, according to the results of a new study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. University of Minnesota researchers reported that youngsters who participated in family meals at least five times a week consumed more fruits, vegetables and fiber than those who dined alone.

Previous research shows that kids who enjoy regular family meals experience a number of important benefits, including better academic performance and behavior at school. Adolescents who sit down to eat with their parents are significantly less likely to experiment with cigarettes, drugs and alcohol than those who are required to fend for themselves at mealtimes.

Teenage girls who dine with their families on a regular basis are less likely to engage in binge eating and extreme weight loss practices, including self-induced vomiting and the use of diet pills, diuretics and laxatives.
Kids who dine solo, on the other hand, have greater chances of developing poor eating habits that can negatively impact their current and future health. After following 8,000 children from kindergarten to third grade, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia concluded that kids who ate fewer meals with their families had a significantly higher risk of becoming overweight or obese.
Rounding up the kids and shepherding them to the table for regular family meals isn't as easy as it used to be. Parents may need to schedule family meals a week or two in advance, taking advantage of evenings that aren't earmarked for work, school activities, lessons or sporting events.
If evenings are especially busy for kids and adults, eating breakfast together a few times a week might be an acceptable alternative. On weekends, getting together for a family brunch or lunch may work even better.
Family meals don't have to be elaborate to be beneficial. Most foods prepared at home are far more nutritious than the typical fast-food meal consisting of burgers and fries or pizza.
For moms and dads who don't have the time or energy to prepare home-cooked meals, a quick trip to the grocery can help. If you've got time to pick up a roasted chicken from the deli department and a few ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables from the supermarket salad bar, you'll have all the makings for a nutritious sit-down meal at home.
Although the foods that your kids eat are important, having a parent present at meals is critical. Even when parents don't set out to make mealtime an educational affair, kids learn a lot about nutrition just by watching their moms and dads eat.
Research suggests that children and adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day if their parents do. Unfortunately, kids don't just mimic their parents' healthy eating behaviors -- they're also influenced by their poor nutritional choices.
Scientists at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research recently reported that teens of soda-drinking parents are 40 percent more likely to become regular soda-drinkers, compared to teens whose moms and dads avoid soft drinks.
If you want to maximize the benefits of family meals, turning off the television is a great strategy. According to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an estimated 63 percent of American households keep the television turned on during mealtimes, a habit that can have a tremendously negative impact on the health of the entire family.
Studies show that young children who eat while watching television consume fewer vegetables and whole grains than children who dine with the television off. TV dining also leads to greater consumption of fried foods, pre-packaged snacks and soft drinks.
The more time kids and adults spend watching television, the greater their risk for becoming overweight or obese. It's easy to overeat when you're dining in front of a TV set, primarily because you tend to pay more attention to what's on the tube than what's in your stomach.
While you're tuned in to your favorite program, you can easily tune out your internal signals of hunger and satiety, and you may end up eating far more than you wanted or needed. TV dining also interferes with effective communication between kids and parents, which is one of the greatest benefits of family meals.
Scheduling regular, TV-free family meals is harder than it once was, but it's more important than ever. Making time to gather together at mealtime can dramatically improve the health and happiness of the entire family.


Rallie McAllister is a board-certified family physician, speaker and the author of several books, including "Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim." Her Website is To find out more about Rallie McAllister, M.D., and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC. Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Garden of the Gods

"Kissing Camels"

We were able to spend some time with Poppa & Grandma. We took a trip to Garden of the Gods and spent the day there. What a beautiful place that really reminds you of the majesty of the Lord.

One rock formation had guys practicing rock climbing up the front face. On the back side, the kids were practicing their rock climbing skills.
Nathan and Andrew were leading the way down the paths. We'd make them stop every so often and wait for us. Here they are waiting (impatiently) and telling us to hurry up.
We were trying to decide if we'd keep going to look at other formations or head back to the cars. Andrew & Nathan found the map and Poppa was helping them read what it said. What it told me was if I kept walking, I might not have enough energy to get back to the car. I voted to turn around there and head back. Thankfully, hungry children agreed that it was time to search out lunch.
Before heading back, we stopped to get a few family photos. Rebekah ran off when we tried to get one with Poppa & Grandma and the grandkids. So, I guess 2 out of 3 isn't all bad.

Here are some fun shots I got of the kids during our hike. I'm still now sure how/when Poppa got nominated to carry Rebekah (we left the stroller in the car so she could run free). I know she gets heavy, but I didn't really hear complaining from Poppa. What a great sport---and she really was happy to be up there---she just didn't want me taking her photo so she kept putting her hands in front of her face. Turkey girl!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Picnics & Painted Toes

It looked like last week would be beautiful, but was it ever hot!! It was July kind of hot in April. However, when it turned back to cold as March this weekend, I think I liked July in April better.

During our heat wave, Rebekah started taking lunch on the deck. She would picnic every day on the deck and run around before her nap. She's been wanting to have her toes painted (just like Mommy) and the other day we had no obligations and time on our side. We had an early picnic lunch together on the deck, then did a pedicure...or as much of a 'pedicure' as you give a two year old. I've labeled the photos below since Rebekah got a hold of my camera and started taking her own photos. I hope you enjoy BOTH of our event photos.

It was Rebekah's first painted toenails. I, of course, captured the event on film. Before the pedi...taken by Mom:

Before the pedi...taken by Rebekah:

During the by Rebekah:

Post by Mom:
(That last photo shows why we have no furniture on our deck at this point in time. Rebekah likes to scale the railing in order to see better.)

Rebekah wrapped up our outdoor time by taking pictures of dirt. Yes, it's the dead plants from last year in my planter. Yes, I let her take these. No, I have no idea why it was so important to her or what would make her think of this as a 'photo moment'.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Characters for a Cause

Andrew's school recently had "Characters for a Cause" night. If I would have known how cool it was going to be, I would have invited a lot more of you who live locally! I guess you have to experience one to understand how awesome it is!!!

The kids (150 on Andrew's team--300+ in his grade level) have worked hard at school for about 6 weeks to put this night together. They picked their favorite character from any book and spent time reviewing the book, answering questions about plot and character and came up with a costume and a collection container. They also learned how to be wax figurines and had to come up with at least three poses to 'freeze' into when they weren't speaking.

The kids lined the gymnasium in their costumes and when the wax museum opened, we could go in and see the wax figurines (students). If you wanted to learn more about the particular display, you put some change into their container and asked them a question off of the pre-printed list of about 15-20 questions. They had memorized their answers to all of the questions and would answer your question then freeze again. (Questions like: How do you relate to your character? How is your character important in the story? What is the significance of how you decorated your container?)

The money they raised went to the local Head Start/Daycare that the students have visited all year. Once a month, they go to this school and read with their pre-k buddies. At Christmas, the students decided to have a used book drive to give to the school. So many books were collected that each pre-k child that they buddy with was able to be given a book to take home. A Christmas gift from their big buddies. The rest of the books were added to the school library. It's been an incredible model of service to others and helping those who need it. They chose to donate their funds to the school so they can purchase the additional textbooks and workbooks they can't afford to get. The unconfirmed amount raised is $1002. WOW!

My favorite part of the night was seeing how much wonderful classic literature is still being read by students today. We had 5 Dorothy's, 2 Tin Men, 1 Glenda the Good Witch and 1 Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. Charlotte from Charlotte's Web was there with a couple of Nancy Drew's (my personal favorite!). I was happy that less Harry Potter showed up than I would have expected. Some of the fun ones were Nate from Nate the Great and Cat in the Hat & Thing One from The Cat in the Hat. I came away with additional books on my TBR (to be read) pile.

To help entertain the small children who came to see big brother/sister, there was a huge reading area set up in the middle of the gym. There were rockers, bean bag chairs, and books, books, books. If you didn't have a library card, the library was even there and you could register and get your library card that night.

Here's the poster Andrew created about his book. To read what he wrote, click the picture to open it in a larger format.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tips on Tuesday: Homemade All Purpose Cleaner

It's true--the "Granola Girl" rides again. I laugh that so many people look to me for recipes on Homemade Cleaners and Detergents. I'm really not a granola in the classic sense. I just am tired of pumping chemicals labeled Poison into my home with children around. I'm finding there's almost as much disinfectant power in a lot of 'natural' products.
I really need to thank Jenny from her ICraft Blog for this awesome all purpose cleaner.
What you need:
Spray bottle (Jenny recommends one with measurements on the side--Home Depot was our source)
White Vinegar
Lemon Juice
Mix in a 3:2:1 ratio. For those of you who don't enjoy math problems as part of the creating process, mix the following into the spray bottle:
1 1/2 Cups White Vinegar
1 Cup Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Water
I didn't even use a measuring cup, I just mixed it straight into the bottle using the ounce measurements on the side.
Jenny's big tip: Use a permanent marker to write the recipe on the bottle and you'll never have to guess again.
I just made this last week and started using over the weekend. It's nice since the lemon gives a little more pleasant odor as you spray it on. Of course, I like to remind everyone that when vinegar dries, the smell disappears. Trust me on this--your house will NOT smell like vinegar. (Jenny even uses to clean around the tub while her kids are taking their baths.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Do Only Bad Parents Take Children to Casino Night?

I volunteer for a local hospital and rotate leading an evening support group for new moms with the emphasis on breastfeeding support. I participated in the group when Andrew was a baby and started as a facilitator after we graduated. The nursing college for this particular hospital was hosting "Casino Night" to benefit the local Autism Society. I found out that it was an alcohol-free, kid friendly (and kid invited) event. We are getting so much good information from this chapter and we thought it would be a fun way to give back to them.

We had a pasta dinner with salad, rolls and cookies. It was an all you could eat dinner---I knew they said food was included, but I told the kids it might just be hot dogs. Wow!! They had pasta with meat, marinara, alfredo or beer cheese sauce. It was really yummy!

Our admission included dinner, a small amount of funny money to get us going, and a kids playroom chaperoned by the Campus Crusade for Christ group. Andrew learned to play Texas Hold 'Em over spring break and headed straight for that table. Sean supervised him for a while to make sure he wasn't going to bother the other people. The other guys started calling him the "King of Clubs".

Whenever he'd get low on monopoly money, he'd scoot to the bingo room until he won a bingo ($15 monopoly money) and head back to the poker. Wouldn't you know that kid got a bingo EVERY TIME he sat down to play?!?! Sometimes it would take 2-3 rounds, but he would always bingo.

Rebekah & Nathan had a blast in the kids room. Rebekah adopted a balloon as her very own and had to bring it home at the end of the night. Eventually, the room monitor let them start playing on the Smart Board. Kids, fake markers and coloring--what a winning combo!

Nathan had fun with the guitar (like that's a surprise). Then he'd stand on the hopscotch rings and jump and play. Very talented young man!

At the very end of the night, Sean used a "Little Lady Luck" on the roulette wheel. Rebekah just couldn't understand why she wasn't supposed to move the chips from place to place. Looks like a board game to her....
We planned to leave the event a little early since it ran until 9pm and we'd be home past bedtime. The best laid plans get blown out of the water! The kids were being so good and they all wanted to buy raffle tickets with the monopoly money earned. We stayed for the final raffle items---rats, didn't win any. However, we reminded the kids we didn't go to win things, we went to support a great cause, have fun and do something different. They all agreed it was a fun night. It appears to have been a successful fundraiser.
We decided that we spend a lot of time emphasizing not gambling to our kids and to let them have fun in an non-money, controlled atmosphere was worth it. We tried to emphasize that it's a fundraiser for charity. However, when we decided to stay to the end, we did mention that only "bad parents" let their kids stay up past bedtime night.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Easter Dresses & Budding Photographer

I wanted so much to get a picture of Rebekah & I in our coordinating Easter Dresses (purple and purple--don't you know?). However, a tired Rebekah wanted nothing to do with photos.

So here we are in our dresses. Andrew snapped one and then Sean got another one snuck in with a smile. Like the purple taffeta dress with white dots? If only you could see the white flower at the waist. Trust me--she was adorable...take my word for it...ok, I'm going to try again soon.

Mommy had a new Easter dress, too. It's purple with purple lace and taffeta materials overlapping on the skirt.

To get the smiling face, we promised she could take ONE photo with Mommy's special camera (aka: Don't Touch That!)
The photo:
I never realized I married the Headless Husband. Sean wonders if he needs to shave!?
One photo is never enough when you are playing with an off limits item. So she had to take a photo of the spindles in the staircase...
She wanted to try again to get a photo of Mommy & Daddy. Sean is a smart cookie and knows his head is about to hit the chopping block...thinking he'll outwit the photographer, he leans over so our heads are together. Well, this time, the camera kept tilting farther and farther down until we had...
For our final photographic "Piece De Resistance", we have...
The Bannister Knob
She could win unique perspective awards. Two year olds--who knows what makes them tick?!?

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