The Verdict is In…

Everyone adores the family dog. Maybe you have more than one. It lives in your midst providing hours of unconditional love for which there is no substitute. Sometimes it sleeps with you on the sofa as you watch TV or atop you in your favorite easy chair next to the cozy blanket. Most have been known to grace the bed covers during sleeping hours no doubt imparting enough pet dander to create some major family allergies.

It is a sad state of affairs to find out that one of your children is allergic to this favored pet, who otherwise can do no wrong. Allergies in kids are serious matters causing coughs, shortness of breath, wheezing, and general respiratory discomfort. Well, the obvious solution won’t work. You can’t get rid of the precious pet no matter what. The anguish to the child alone is far worse than the allergy symptoms. We wouldn’t put food in our children’s lunches that aggravate allergies, so why keep the family dog around without taking some precautions.

Where there is a will, there is a way. It comes in the form of an air purifier designed for pet allergies and odors. You can ban the pet from the bedroom to be sure, especially at night, but you need to do more than that if he or she is to live peaceably in the family home. An air purifier is designed just for such occasions when the air quality is poor and full of pollen, pet dander, mold, germs, odors, bacteria, smoke, or allergens. They work wonders in keeping kids breathing well and they don’t cost an arm and a leg. You will want a good portable model that will take care of an entire room of up to 500 square feet. You don’t have to install the appliance in your HVAC system which might be cumbersome unless your family allergy problem is quite severe. Room size air purifiers cost much less than the whole-house models in any case and can be quite effective when used consistently. You can then move it around as needed as they weight from 10 to 20 pounds, but let it reside in the bedroom for the night.

So which one to buy? After careful scrutiny, the verdict is in. I prefer a HEPA as opposed to a carbon filter. A lot of confidence goes with that name. It is a common sense step to eradicate air pollution. What this means is that some room models use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which can capture ultrafine particles. Most such specialized filters need to be replaced annually, an expense that might increase the total cost of the air cleaner (A few air cleaners are now available with cleanable HEPA filters.) Be advised that room models that use either electrostatic-precipitator or ionizer technology produce some small amount ozone, which can be a lung irritant. Check the product specifications to learn how to cut back on this emission or opt to avoid this process altogether. I think, however, that the benefits outweigh this drawback.


A New Chapter for Mom

Retirement is indeed the turning of a big page in one’s life journey. So much so that many people do not look forward to such major upheaval in their lives. I don’t look at it that way since it is not about me this time. My mother, a nurse, is about to retire and a party is in store to celebrate her many dedicated medical years. We have a lot of family coming to join mom’s coworkers. It will have a medical theme, of course, with plenty of references to the stethoscopes, hypodermics, blood pressure cuffs, bandages, compression stockings, and more. I have my ideas about decorating the room. I will try to use the medical paraphernalia humorously, some of it hanging from door jambs and windows. I will fill bandages like a piñata laden with assorted candies and mini toys. I want it to be festive and fun and a big send off for her termination of a major lifelong career.

Mother’s friends are nurses so I will have favors and gifts for them as well. I am making goodie bags full of colorful Band-Aids (the kind kids like), shoe laces in colors for nurses sneakers, miniature tongue depressors, and the like. It is all in fun as every guest will be entirely familiar with this hospital stuff.

Some family members are not as in the know so they asked me about finding gifts for nurses. What do you get a retired nurse? I answered just about anything. Don’t worry about making it practical since she is no longer on the job. Why not eschew the nurses gift idea altogether and get luxury items she never had time to use like perfume, cosmetics, scarves, and real pantyhose—not just the thick and unsightly compression kind. I myself had been struggling with the gift idea since I wanted it to be a representative of the major nature of this event. So I started thinking about a nice vacation to a sunny isle somewhere where she could bask leisurely in the sun. As a nurse always confined to dark hospital corridors, she had gotten a bit pale. I think this kind of gift would be a big surprise. She never had time to take more than two or three days of vacation, as dedicated as she was. She never wanted to abandon the patients and she was always on time for her shifts. I think if I do the sunny isle location, I can add this to the decorations of the party as a getaway secondary theme. We can have rum drinks with little umbrellas and trays of tropical fruit like pineapple. We can have colorful cloth draped here and there, the kind they wear in Hawaii on those famous shirts and muu muus of the state. It will be a hint of what is to come. I want to convey the idea that life is grand after retirement and something indeed to look forward to.


Summer Celebration

It was an exciting weekend: birthday party time! I love planning my children’s birthday parties. With a summer birthday, when my daughter asked for a pool party, I knew exactly where I wanted to take the idea—her new favorite movie, Finding Dory. I went looking for some appropriately themed pool toys first, and managed to score a couple of turtle and fish rafts, which made life much easier for me! Next, I started work on the décor. I found a cool lantern/jellyfish project that worked nicely. My daughter loved the end result. Honestly, so did I. I wouldn’t mind keeping them up a little longer! For entertainment, we made an obstacle course using the kids’ fabric tunnels and streamers. The kids would follow the course by navigating a trail of “seashells” we put on the ground. We also made a version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey where the kids would try to get Dory the closest to her parents. For food, I had the usual treats that I put out but with a couple of variations. For the crudités, I made little slices in carrot sticks to look like fins, then used ranch dressing to add stripes to make them look like clownfish. I also made sugar free gelatin using blue food coloring (natural food coloring, people. Don’t start. I know the dangers of artificial food coloring. I boiled red cabbage. I know it sounds gross but as long as you don’t use a lot of it, you don’t really notice the flavor) and poured it into a fish shaped mold that I scored off ebay. Instead of a big cake, I made cupcakes, replacing the butter with applesauce and using whole wheat flour. I did make a cream cheese frosting, however. Gotta give the kids at least a little something sweet! I printed out little octopus images, taped them to toothpicks, and stuck them in the tops of each.)
Everything was going swimmingly—see what I did there—until the wind picked up and everyone started complaining that they were getting chilly. Kids started hopping out of the pool and looking toward the house. Rather than run the risk of ten wet children running around my house and sitting on all my furniture, I had my husband bring out our outdoor patio heater. I am so glad that we bought this particular model because the children’s safety is always a huge concern. The base is nice and wide, which keeps it from falling over. The actual heater is quite high so little fingers can’t reach it. We were able to keep the kids warm enough for the grand finale of the party: we made a movie screen out of a white sheet we hung between two trees, had the kids spread out their beach towels to sit on, and we used our projector to have a showing of Finding Nemo. They got their last treat of the night, which we called Fish Food but was really seasoned air-popped popcorn mixed with organic cereal.
All in all, it was a great party! I am always up for the challenge of creating a fun party and finding little details to make things unique. I had parents coming up to me afterwards admiring the jellyfish decorations and asking me how I managed to get their kid to eat carrots—I told them it’s all in the presentation!


Keeping the Children Safe

Keeping your kids safe is a full time job for any parent. They can meet peril any time of the day or night. You have to be super vigilant and observant, and never let the young ones out of your sight–unless they have other authorized supervision. Their sense of reason is underdeveloped and they can wander into unsafe territory without ever knowing it. They can tempt fate, and they often do feeling a bit of daring in their souls. The point is, of course, to teach children about safety and to ward off potential accidents.

Kids can break things and cut their little limbs; they can get scalded with too hot bathtub water; they can slip on an oil slick in the garage; or they could fall down a flight of steep stairs. They can get locked in the basement or outside when no one is home. Poisons abound in homes without anyone realizing it—and they can be as close as under the sink. Open windows can suddenly fall shut or something from above can topple over onto small heads. When you think about it, it sounds pretty terrifying. Children can also run into the street before an oncoming car or they can take their bikes for a ride and break down. Predators can stalk them around school play yards or when you least notice them. It is a harsh, cruel world out there!

It seems that sudden danger lies in wait no matter how much you prepare. No wonder parents are paranoid about their kid’s activities and whereabouts. One other cause for concern are weapons in the home. Gun owners should fear unauthorized access to these firearms, even if they are in a locked gun safe. An accident only has to happen once. Horror stories abound. Parents forget to lock the safe after the last entry. It pays to take every precaution if you feel you must protect yourself with a gun.

One way is to get a secure housing unit for your weapon in the form of a biometrically operated safe. With this type of safe, in addition to or in lieu of a combination dial or electronic keypad lock, you can have a personal form of identity used to open it. It makes it just that much harder. People often use voice commands or special numbers such as a birthdate or social security ID; but fingerprints are also a great means of limiting safe access to only those permitted to enter and withdraw the contents. This is an ingenious invention that boosts security in the home and helps limit accidents.

Children are therefore as secure as you make them by planning ahead and teaching caution. They are never too young for instruction. Whether it is knives in the kitchen, chemicals in the garage, or guns in the attic, it is vital to take action to ward off peril. It is a parent’s full responsibility and no one else’s. Guidelines for safety in the home are readily available on line and should be consulted.


Bring the Baby Anyway

I am a stay-at-home-mom who doesn’t stay much at home. Now there’s a paradox for you! I mean that I take care of my kids rather than work full time and never complain for a second about it. However, I have many personal interests to share with them and am frequently on the go. This is good for all concerned and keeps everyone’s interests fully active.

You should take baby with you any and everywhere. It provides fun times and mental and physical stimulation. You want his or her senses bombarded with all kinds of scenery, art, music, and other people. A visit to the park is loaded with running, barking dogs and lush green trees. The beach has the crashing sound of waves and kids playing volleyball. An elementary or pre-school yard has a jungle gym upon which to play and plenty of soft, white sand for toes to wiggle in. Sensations and sounds create synapses in the brain and children soak it all in each time. Even a busy highway has the rush of colorful cars roaring past. Too much quiet dulls the mind and senses.

Sporting events and movies are also fine. When I tell people about the practice of taking baby, they look at me aghast. But what about all the ambient noise? Won’t it hurt the baby’s hearing and cause permanent loss? How can you be so cavalier about where you transport your child? And so on and on…

I do understand this concern, but I wouldn’t be a model mom if I hadn’t already considered the problem. I do survey the situation before leaving the house. I have some inkling of what it is like where we have decided to go. Plus, you can always leave the area! Meanwhile, I decide how long to stay and absorb the local culture, i.e., the essence of life. I try to vary what we do and keep things fresh and new.

As for the sounds, well guess what? There are all sorts of small hearing protection made just for babies. They are a replica of the adult models used for all kinds of sound-muffling purposes like airport tarmacs, construction zones (think jackhammers), rock concerts, or machinery assembly lines. They fit over the head with adjustable straps so they are never too tight. The best kind also play music so you can use them at home during nap or rest time. Out in the wilds, when there is cause for concern, you pull them out of your baby backpack and sound safety has arrived.

While the size won’t work forever, these earmuffs are cheap enough to replace as baby grows. They are a great emergency stopgap measure if you find yourself in a very noisy zone and the little one starts to cry. Otherwise they work in loud movies or at sports events when things get dicey or turn out to be unexpected. It is not that you purposely go somewhere noisy, but that you are ready to protect little ears if the occasion should arise.


It’s All In the Presentation: Getting Them to Eat Their Veggies

There is a constant battle going on between parents and children. More often than not it is the children that win this battle. This battle is over vegetables. Parents know the important of getting their child to eat vegetables. Vegetables have vitamins and minerals in them that children need to stay healthy. Children do not like the ideas of eating vegetables and refuse to eat them. Here are some tips to help get your child to eat their vegetables. The secret can lie is something as simple as presentation.

Make Them Appetizing

When making a plateful of vegetables for the child pay attention to how they are served. Make the vegetables look good and appetizing. If the vegetables look good the child is more likely to eat them. In addition to serving vegetables alone try serving them with a dip or something healthy such as salsa. This will allow the child to enjoy their vegetables. If they look like they taste good in the mind of a child they will taste good.

Make the Vegetables Interesting

Presenting vegetables can be half of the problem. There are some things that a parent can do to make the vegetables more interesting to the child. Cutting the vegetables into fun shapes can make them more fun and look good on the plate. Vegetables can be cut into a number of shapes to make them more appealing to the child. If they are fun to eat they will be eaten.

Sneak Them In

Until a child get used to eating vegetables on their own they can be snuck into other foods that the child will eat. Cauliflower puree can be put into tomato sauce and spread on pizza or pasta. It can also be put into the cheese sauce with mac and cheese. Other vegetables can also be pureed or mashed and snuck into foods that the child will eat. Until the child eats vegetables on their own this can be one way to get them to consume them.

Get Them Involved

When shopping for vegetables allow the child to pick out ones that look interesting. Take a walk through the produce section of the grocery store and allow the child to choose what they may like. If the vegetables get their attention visually this will make them more eager to try them. Parents also mix vegetables with other foods that the child already enjoys. For example you can get pizza dough, cheese and sauce at the store. The child can then top their pizza with a variety of vegetables. You can also try growing a vegetable garden. If the child helps with the planting and the care they will be eager to try them.

These are just some tips to help your child eat their vegetables. Be sure to remember that people especially children eat with their eyes first. If the vegetables look fun and are presented in a creative manner the child is more likely to eat them.


Ideas for a Rainy Day


Just because it is raining outside does not mean that the fun has to stop inside. Rainy does do not have to mean that the children cannot do anything fun. There are a number of activities to keep a child busy on rainy days. These activities are easy to do and will provide plenty of rainy day fun.

Have a Treasure Hunt

Treasure hunts are usually big hits with children. Items can be hid around the house. A parent can then give the child cues about where they are hidden. Once a child finds a clue they can move onto the next one. This will help keep the children busy and they will be happy when they find the treasure at the end.

Indoor Ball Games

Sports can be played indoors as long as the children are careful. There are small basketball hoops that can be set up indoors. A child can use a foam ball of they can crumple some newspaper into a ball and use that. The kids can shoot hoops from all around the room and dry to make different shots. Since the balls are soft they will not cause damage and the child will stay busy.

Put on a Show

Children love to be the center of attention. That is why putting on a show is a great rainy day activity for them. The children can write a play or make up some words if they are younger. They can then design the background and even make costumes. Costumes can be dress up cloths or they can borrow cloths from their parents. While the kids are performing the parents can record it and they can watch it together.

Sandbox Without the Sand

Children like to play in the sand and just because it rains does not mean the fun has to stop. A child can set up a fake sand box and have fun indoors. A large plastic bin or even a roasting pan can be filled with some rice or oatmeal. The child can then use their sand toys to play. They can use funnels, buckets, and other toys to enjoy the sand without making a mess inside.

Make Some Art

Children love to use their imagination and to play pretend. Many families have craft supplies around the home including water based paint, crayons, markers, and other things. The children can have some fun putting on an art show. They can designed a number of different works of art and then put on a show. They children can than take pictures of their creation and text them to friends or family members. They can also put them on the computer print them out.

Just because it is raining outside does not mean that the fun has to stop inside. These rainy day activities will keep the children busy when they cannot go outside to play. These games are so fun that children will not complain about having to stay inside.


Fun with Sandwich Bread


Sandwiches are a staple for lunches across the county. There is nothing that children dread more than opening their lunch box and finding the same old boring sandwich. Sandwiches no longer have to be boring with these fun and creative ideas for sandwich bread.

Pirate Sandwich Bread

A simple sandwich can now be changed into a private. This recipe is fun as well as quick and easy. All that is needed are:

  • 2 slices of sliced sandwich bread
  • Slice of red pepper
  • Slice of an olive
  • Chives
  • Sandwich meat

Sliced the bread into circles. Put the sandwich filling on one side of the bread and top it with the other. You can choose whatever lunchmeat and cheese that your children like. Top this with the other piece of sandwich bread. Cut the red pepper into a slice to make the bandana. Add the olives for the eyes, a carrot piece for the nose, and a piece of chive for the mouth. This will make lunch a lot more interesting when your child opens their lunchbox.

Mock Sushi

In addition to making the pirate out of a sandwich there are a number of other fun things to do with sandwich bread. For example sandwich bread can be used to make a mock sushi that children will find enjoyable and they will also find fun to eat.

To make sandwich sushi the following items are going to be needed:

  • sandwich bread with the crusts cut off
  • vegetables cut into chunks
  • cheese cut into chunks
  • lunch meat or imitation seafood cut into chunks
  • mayonnaise

Spread the mayonnaise on the sandwich bread. Add the chunks of cheese, vegetables, and the meat or seafood in the center. Starting at one end roll up the bread. Once the bread is rolled cut it into slice. This will make the bread look like sushi and it will be fun to eat.

Colorful Sandwich Bread 

To make regular bread interesting many moms are looking to add some color. This colorful bread will have the same taste as regular sandwich bread but it will be more fun to eat.

The following ingredients are going to be needed:

  • 4 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 packages yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 12 cup flours
  • 2 tb salt
  • Food coloring of your choice

Mix 1 cup water, yeast, and the sugar. Allow to sit 5 minutes. Add remaining water, 6 cups of flour, and the salt. Beat this mixture with an eggbeater. Add the remaining flower a little bit at a time. Once the mixture is forming a dough, add the food coloring. If you are using more than one color divide the dough into different segments. Add one color to each. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes.

Punch the dough down and let it sit for another 20 minutes. . Shape the dough into loaves. Let it rise for an additional 30 minutes. Bake at 400 degree for 30 minutes. When you do to slice into the bread your children will be amazed at the different colors.


Halloween Themed Snack Treats


The holidays are a special time for children. Halloween is one of the first special events in the fall. There are a number of Halloween treats that are easy to make and the kids will enjoy them.

Mummy Dogs

These treats take a new look on pigs in a blanket and are great for Halloween. All that is needed are:

  • 6 hot dogs
  • 1 package ready to bake pie crust
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Melted butter
  • Sliced olives

Cut the hot dogs in half. Brush the pie dough with butter and cut into strips. Wrap each piece of hot dog in the piecrust. Brush with some more melted butter. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350-degrees for 15 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Put two slices of olives on the cooked hot dog to make it look like eyes. This treat is tasty and will look cool for children.

Bloody Fingers

This is another easy to make Halloween treat that the children will enjoy eating. The following ingredients are needed:

  • Mozzarella string cheese
  • Slivered almonds
  • Cream cheese
  • Red food gel or catsup

To make the bloody fingers cut each piece of string cheese that you are using in half. About ¼ end from the end of each piece of cheese make a small indentation to look like a fingernail. At the other end of the cut three creases to resemble joint marks. At the tip of the fingernail put an almond piece so it will look like a real nail. To get the almond to stick to the cheese dab the back of it in cream cheese before applying. Use some red gel or the catsup to make the fingers look bloody.

Pumpkin Faces

These treats make good snacks. They are not too bad either. They are low in fat and make a tasty treat for both children and adults. To make these goodies you are going to need:

  • English muffins, sliced in half
  • Cream cheese
  • Orange food coloring
  • Raisins
  • M& M or similar candies

Lightly toast the English muffins. Mix the cream cheese and food coloring until it reaches a shade of orange you are happy with. Spread the cheese onto the English muffin. Make a face on the muffin using the raisins for eyes and the M&M.

Creepy Crawlers

This treat is a nice and creepy. It is very tasty however and the children will love it. To make these crawlers you are going to need:

  • 1 package butterscotch chips
  • 1 package of chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup of butter
  • 1 can chow mein noodles
  • 2 tbs water

Melt the chocolate chops and the butterscotch chips in microwave. Stir until it is smooth and thick. Add the water to the chocolate mixture. Add the noodles to the chocolate mixture. Drop by tablespoonful onto waxed paper and allow them to harden before serving.

These are some great Halloween treats that the kids will love. They are fun to eat and tasty as well.


Tricks for Picky Eaters

When a child is young they make prefer a certain type of food that they want to eat all the time. While everyone does have their favorite types of foods when a child is a picky eater parents tend to get worried. They want to make sure they are getting enough nutrients to stay healthy. There are some tips that can be used for picky eaters to help them experience new types of foods.

Respect Their Appetite

A child will eat when they are hungry. No child will intentionally starve themselves. Do not force your child to eat when they are not hungry. Also you should not force them to eat every bite of food that is on their plate. Your child may think that mealtime will become an unpleasant time. Serve small portions of food that way your child can ask you for food if they are hungry.

Develop a Routine

Meals should be eaten around the same time very day so that a child knows what to expect. Do not allow the child to fill up on juice and milk all day. Water can be served between meals. Also limit snack time. While it is okay to serve a snack between meals do not let the child fill up on these. Come dinnertime they will be hungry and more willing to eat new foods.

Be Patient

Young child may look at new foods the first time they see them but will not taste them. The next time they see the food they may touch it . The next time this food is introduced to them the child may decide to take a small bite. Repeated exposed to new foods will make the child more comfortable with them and more likely to take a bite. Talk about the new food with your child. Go over the color, texture, and shape. This will help your child become familiar with the food and they may want to try it.

Set an Example

If the child sees you eating the food they are more likely to try it. If you avoid the foods the child will not be interested. Children watch their parents carefully so it is important that you also eat what you are trying to serve your child.

Remove Distractions

Many people eat with the television set on and use their electronic devices during mealtime. This is more of a distraction that most people think. Shutting the television off and getting rid of other distractions will allow the child to focus on the food and will focus on eating. This may take a little while to get used to but it will help the child think about their food instead of what else is going on.

These are just some tips to help a picky eater get used to new foods. Children will eventually grow out of this stage but these tips can help encourage a child to try something new and get used to the idea of eating new foods.