Welcome to our blog

Our hope is to provide a forum for mothers, fathers,and caregivers to discuss ideas, share insight and "pay it forward". Neither of us attended Medill school of journalism and we are not psychologists. We are just two women who have cared for aging grandparents and diapered littleones. We will share our experiences, tips and questions with you. Please share back. We need all the help we can get!

Kirsten and Katie
Co-founders ChicksWithKidz

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Holiday Card dilemma

There is a lot of pressure at this time of year to get that perfect holiday card with the perfect picture of the perfect family. (I won’t even go into the Christmas letter)
I’ve done the picture card for many years. I always put a lot time, energy and thought into selecting the picture and the card.
But this year, I’ve been really busy, really stressed. I tried several times to upload a photo (or two!) to a site, to get that perfect card. I spent time selecting the photo, the card etc.. but it just wasn’t happening.
So I made the decision that it just wasn’t worth the additional stress to get the card done, addressed, stamped, sealed and mailed.
I decided to send the same picture but send it via e mail.

I sent the “card” out to friends and family and the response has been immediate and amazing!
I’ve received replies from friends wanting to catch up, connect and comment on the photo. (You never hear from people after you put that card in the mail!)

I’ve gotten e mails hailing me as “ahead of my time”, “queen of technology” and “being green”. Friends have even said they are going to jump on the e mail card bandwagon. (It seems everyone is running a little late and is very stressed this year).

So who knew I was starting a revolution!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Easy Recipes...

For holiday entertaining – these are my go to, never fail (EASY!), family favorites, recipes –

Turkey Wrap
1 pkg large fajitas
2 containers Aluoette vegetable cheese spread
1/2 lb sliced turkey

spread the cheese on the fajita
place the turkey on top
roll up
wrap in Saran Wrap
refrigerate for 1 hr or overnight
slice and serve
(makes about 40 slices)

Chicken Dip
3-4 boneless chicken breasts - cooked and shredded
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup Franks Hot Sauce
1 jar Marie's Blue Cheese Dressing

mix all together
bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and slightly brown
serve with tortilla chips

Totellini & Pesto
1 pkg tortellino
1 container pesto sauce
1 container sour cream

cook pasta until almost done - drain, rinse in cold water
mix pesto and sour cream
refrigerate both tortellini and sour cream mixture for 1-2 hrs. or overnight
serve in chip and dip bowl w/ toothpicks

Apricots and Blue Cheese
1 package of Sunsweet Apricots
fill indentation in apricots with small spoonful of blue cheese
serve at room temp.

Baked Brie
1 round of Brie
1 Tbsp. Craisins (dried cranberries)
3 or 4 dried apricots – sliced ---- optional
Granulated brown sugar

Place the brie in the freezer for 1 hr.
Using a knife, remove the white rind.
Grease a small baking dish
Break up the brie into the baking dish and sprinkle the
Cranberries and apricots throughout.
Bake in a 305 degree oven until melted and bubbly (about 10 – 15 minutes)
Sprinkle w/ brown sugar.
Serve warm

Artichoke Dip

2 cans (14 oz. each) artichoke hearts
1 cup mayo
1 cup sour cream
½ cup Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350
Chop artichoke hearts coarsely
Mix mayo, sour cream and parm cheese.
Add the chopped artichoke hearts and mix thoroughly.
Pour into ungreased baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes,
Serve hot.

Cheesy Bread
½ baguette, cut into 2 inch slices
½ small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/8 lb thinly sliced, cooked ham
¾ cup white wine
½ tsp black pepper
1 ½ cups grated Gruyere Cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees F
Place the bread in a buttered, ovenproof skillet or a 9 in sq. baking dish
Scatter the onion and ham over the bread
Pour the wine over the mixture
Sprinkle with the pepper and Cheese
Bake until the cheese has melted and begun to brown, about 20 mins.

Vegetable Salad Bars

1 can crescent rolls
1 pkg. (8oz) cream cheese
1 pkg. DRY ranch dressing
2 rounded tsp sour cream
2 rounded tsp mayo

½ small head cauliflower
½ sm bunch broccoli
2 sm carrots

Shredded Cheddar, Swiss or Monterey cheese

Shred the veggies in a food processor

Unroll the crescent rolls and lay out on the jelly roll pan – pinch together the seams
Bake as suggested
Let cool

Mix together cream cheese, dressing, sour cream and may – you can let this sit overnight.

Cover roll with cream cheese mixture
Pat on shredded vegetables
Sprinkle with cheese
Press firmly

Cover w/ Saran Wrap and refrigerate
Cut into bars and serve.

Will keep for several days

Tortilla Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion – chopped
2 garlic cloves – minced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
½ tsp cumin
2 jalapeno peppers – finely diced
2 scallions – chopped (green & white parts)
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced chicken or turkey (pre cooked – get rotisserie from store)
1 cup frozen corn
At least 1 can kidney beans
2 Roma tomatoes
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips
Sour cream

Heat olive oil in large stockpot over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic, cumin, cilantro, jalapeno & scallions.
Cook for 2-3 minutes
Add chicken broth and bring to a boil
Simmer covered for 20 mins
Add beans, diced chicken, tomatoes & corn
Serve in bowls and garnish with more tomatoes, cheese, tortilla chips & sour cream

Breakfast Casserole

2 cups shredded cheese
¼ cup butter
1 cup light cream
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
2 t dry mustard (Coleman’s)
12 eggs slightly beaten
1 lb sausage – optional
Can use spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, whatever

Spread cheese in baking dish
Dot with butter
Combine cream, S & P, & mustard.
Pour half cream mixture over the cheese
Add beaten eggs
Add sausage
Pour rest of cream over top
Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes – until bubbly

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas books for children

I thought I’d share some of my family’s favorite Christmas books.
(And these are in no particular order)
Happy Holidays

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

Alabaster’s Song by Max Lucado

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojceichowski

Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood

Santa’s Book of Names by David McPhail

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Snowmen at Night
Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner,

This is The Star by Joyce Dunbar

Santa Calls by Willam Joyce

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck

Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve by Jan Brett

I’ve Seen Santa by David Bedford

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett

Santa Mouse & Santa Mouse Where Are You by Michael Brown

Bright Christmas, an Angel Remembers by Andrew Clements

Rocking Horse Christmas by Mary Pope Osborne

How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Cookie Party Times Two

~About 10 years ago a neighbor and I decided to co-host a ladies holiday tea and cookie exchange. It started out as a lovely affair with a few neighborhood ladies. We used our holiday china to serve finger sandwiches and appetizers. Wine and wassail served in our good crystal, and we used cloth napkins and tablecloths.
Over the years it has developed (turned into!) a huge, much more laid back event with contests and prizes.
One year there were over 70 women. Who thought that having 70 women in my house would be fun?? The number of people wasn’t really the problem, the fact that each person had to bring at least 3 dozen cookies was. There were cookies everywhere – counters, tables, on the piano, the sofas, and chairs – basically any flat surface had cookies on it. And it took forever to distribute them.
That year I swore I wouldn’t do it again. Well, I did do it again, and again. It has been scaled back and now it is so much more fun. We serve wine in plastic cups and use paper plates and napkins.
We have contests and prizes - most Martha Stewart like, my kids’ helped (obviously!), most festive, best in show. The prizes are ribbons, cookie cutters, and the “big prize” is the golden spatula. The spatula gets passed from year to year to the winner of the best (worst!) overall.
My husband and kids love all the cookies we get, there is just no way I would (could!) make that many or that variety of cookies.
And it just wouldn’t be the holidays without the cookie party!
So again this year, we are off to host the cookie party. Tis the Season!

~The second holiday cookie party is the teacher/staff appreciation party that I started years ago at one of my kids’ school. It has now become a wonderful tradition that the teachers and staff wouldn’t dare let go away.

Here’s how it works ---
We ask each family to send in 2 dozen cookies. The cookies can be purchased, baked and even sliced and baked – it doesn’t matter, just as long as you send in cookies. (It is strictly voluntary but most families participate.)
After lunch on a Friday afternoon, we decorate the lunch room and spread out all the cookies.
We serve milk to go with the cookies and we play holiday music.
We give each teacher, staff member, janitor, etc. a box and let them fill it with any and all cookies they choose. Any leftovers are put in the teachers lounge/staff room for everyone to enjoy.

This is such a great way to say thank you to all the people that touch the lives of the students. And really, who says thank you to the person that cleans the building, or the teacher that your child sees only once a week?



Monday, November 23, 2009

Homemade Holiday

As we are all try to figure out what to give everyone for the holidays and try to save money, here are a few things that I have done with my boys over the year. Most years we have done our “crafts” over the summer and put it away for the holidays. My boys have been so proud of the gifts that they have made themselves and the gifts have lasted a long time.

-When my boys were really little, I would take them on a “collection” walk around the neighborhood. We collected rocks - big rocks, little rocks and pebbles.
Once home we washed the rocks, painted them and even glued things on the rocks – googley eyes, smaller rocks, feathers, and even cut up construction paper. 10+ years later, grandma still proudly displays her rocks on her kitchen window sill and in the garden.

-another year we purchased tiles in various sizes from the hardware store. We put handprints on the tile and gave them to grandparents and aunts and uncles to use as trivets. Again, they are still used today.

-Stepping stones are always nice in the garden and grandmas love their gardens. So one year we made stepping stones from a kit purchased from the craft store. We used our hands and feet to make imprints on the stones, then embellished them with small rocks and decorative pebbles.

-One year we went to the craft store and purchased small cardboard boxes and ornaments. (they were made from recycled materials). We painted them, put glitter on them, and even glued sequins on some of them. We gave the boxes to cousins and other relatives and we used the ornaments as gift tags on wrapped presents.

-When the boys were very young we made our own holiday wrapping paper. We took white tissue paper and used their hands in red or green paint to make handprint paper. We also took holiday cookie cutters, dipped them in paint and used them on the tissue paper as well.

-As the boys got older, we made more elaborate gifts. So one year we made soap. It was sooo easy and my boys loved it! We purchased everything needed from the craft store - molds, soap blocks, scents, colors, and a how to book. I did the melting of the soap and pouring it into the molds. My boys selected the mold, the color and the scent of the soap. It was so much fun and we had soap everywhere. (we were really clean that year!) The boys enjoyed selecting the mold and creating a unique soap for each family member – Cousins, peace symbols and happy faces in funky colors, grandpa doesn’t like spiders so they put a plastic spider in clear soap. Auntie likes turtles, so we made all different scents and shades of green turtles. A few teachers liked flowers so we made various colors of flowers with different scents. To accompany each gift we searched dollar stores, craft stores and other variety stores for different soap dishes. I think each gift cost about $7 and everyone loved it!

-Because we have sooo many girls in the family one year we made them all “magic wands”. We bought small dowel rods from the craft store, painted them and used feathers, gems, and glitter to decorate. The girls were so excited and thought they were truly magical!

-One year we thought we’d try to work with beads, so we made everyone beaded zipper pulls for backpacks, purses, and coats. The beads, pulls and sometimes a decorative charm were purchased from a craft store. The boys enjoyed making patterns with the beads and selecting various ending pieces (charm) for each pull – i.e. fish, phone, flip flop, sun, moon, cat, etc.. Some family members still have the pulls on their winter coats.

-For teacher gifts one year we made note and thank you cards. We purchased card stock from the craft store. My boys each selected 4 things that each teacher liked – coffee, dogs, golf, flowers, cats and so on. Using clip art and word, we chose different fonts and placed the teachers name with a picture of their favorite things on the page. The layout was 4 cards to 1 page of cardstock. We printed the cards out in a variety of colors, cut the page into 4 cards and tied with colorful ribbon. The teachers loved it and the boys were so proud of their computer skills.

-Other years we have gone to the Crate & Barrel outlet and purchased the following for teachers gifts --
-plain coffee mugs (about 1 ea) and put a $5 gift card to Starbucks in
-big popcorn bowls (under $10) and put packages of microwave
popcorn in it.
-clear candy dishes ($1 or so each) in a variety of shapes & sizes, and
filled them with homemade candied nuts or bagged candy.
-holiday dish towels and pot holders all under $2

Have a wonderful Holiday Season

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Mammogram Guidelines, Really?!

The government has come out with new guidelines for mammograms, I am so upset about them that I don’t even know where to begin…..

Here are the current facts/statistics for Breast Cancer –
-1 in 6 women is diagnosed with the disease. (who is the one in your circle of women?)
-Someone dies every 3 minutes from the disease.
-Mammograms save lives – I am living proof.

In April of 2008, at age 44, a routine mammogram found my breast cancer. It was small, 1.6 cm, but extremely aggressive, Triple Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
If I had waited another year until I was 45 or even 6 years until I was age 50 to get a mammogram, I would most likely be dead by now or by the time I got a mammogram.

Mammograms save lives!
Every women should get a baseline mammogram at age 40. And based on her risk factors, should get one every year or every other year after that.

Some risk factors are:
-Is there a history of breast cancer in your family?
-Is there a history of other kinds of cancers in your family?
-Did you give birth to any children? (if yes, you have a lower risk)
-Did you breast feed? (if yes, you have a lower risk).

I hope that the guidelines don’t influence women to become complacent in their care or allow insurance companies to deny coverage of mammograms.

I can not stress enough the importance of regular Dr. visits and mammograms.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ GET YOUR BOOBIES SQUISHED! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Despite waiting in line for 4 1/2 hours to get the vaccine, I got the dreaded swine flu. (apparently it takes up to 3 weeks to give you immunity).
It hit me like a truck over the weekend. I've slept for hours and still don't feel any better. And Tamiflu doesn't seem to be making it any better. Currently on day 4.

I'm normally a "germ a phobe", using hand sanitizer every time I, or my kids, get in the car from being in a store, from school, or a quick run into Starbucks. We wash our hands as soon as we walk in the door at home. I regularly use Clorox wipes around the house on door handles, toilet handles, the refrigerator handles, light switches, tv remotes, and phones.
Apparently, all to NO good.
I'm just hoping that no one else in my family gets it!
And I'll continue to use the Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.......


Friday, October 30, 2009

Have a Safe Halloween

There are many ways to keep your child safe at Halloween, when they are more prone to accidents and injuries. The excitement of children and adults sometimes makes them forget to be careful. Simple common sense can do a lot to prevent tragedies from happening.

Youngsters will be out and about on Halloween during evening hours and crossing streets in the dark. Motorists frequently use residential side streets as a cut-through during high volume traffic hours.

Here are a few Halloween safety tips to remember:

~Always use crosswalks and sidewalks and walk facing traffic
~Carry a flashlight or glow sticks
~Wear light colored clothing and reflective stickers on costumes
~Use face paint rather than full-face masks that can partially block your vision
~Only trick-or-treat at houses you know and that are well lit
~Travel in groups and children should always be with an adult
~Inspect all candy and treats before children eat them
~Notify police about any suspicious person or activity


Thursday, October 29, 2009



William R. Stixrud, Ph.D.
William R. Stixrud and Associates
8720 Georgia Avenue, Suite 300
Silver Spring, MD 20910

“Vastly more extensive and strenuous use of memory is required for school success than is needed in virtually any career you can name.” (Mel Levine)

“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” (Paul Simon)


I. Memory defined: Memory is the ability to encode, store, and retrieve information. (You
can’t separate memory and retrieval.)

II. School demands an enormous range of memory — from automatic memory
for very basic skills to memory for the defining features of the most abstract concepts.

A. Longer and longer textbooks.
B. Dramatically escalating rate of information explosion.
C. Tremendous pressure to “get through the curriculum”
D. Increased rate of forgetting (90 percent of learning two weeks after test)

III. Memory as the “forgotten R” (John Hartson)

A. Schools are not equipped to induce automaticity.
B. Schools have de-emphasized the importance of learning poems, etc. “by heart”.
C. Few teachers teach students strategies for remembering.
D. Few teachers give students the necessary daily practice with such strategies.

IV. There are dramatic individual differences in memory skills in equally bright students..

A. Acquisition of vocabulary and factual knowledge
B. Capacity for “automatizing” basic academic skills
C. Memory for spoken language
D. Active working memory
E. Ability to intentionally commit information to memory

V. Can memory be trained?

A. Ancient Greeks used mnemonic techniques extensively
B. Early psychologists found memory practice didn’t increase memory span much.
C. However, memory span is improved dramatically by strategies (e.g., 80+ digits).
D. Mnemonic instruction has produced the largest treatment effects in special ed.
E. Everyone has experienced the benefit of HOME, EGBDF, etc.
F. Working memory training


I. Types of memory

A. Declarative memory (conscious, explicit, reflective memory)

1. Information that is independent of a given context such as facts, vocabulary, dates,
events, objects, faces

2. Episodes -- autobiographical memories imbedded in a specific context

B. Nondeclarative memory (implicit, reflexive, unconscious)

1. Procedural memories (e.g., motor skills, procedures)
2. Emotional memories

II. Stages of memory

A.. Short-term memory

1. Holds information for two or three seconds.

2. Because STM capacity is so short (e.g., 7 digits), information from
teachers needs to be recoded or abbreviated, condensed.

a. Paraphrasing is hugely important for academic success.
b. Using “visual scratch pad” (visualization) is also a useful tool.

B. Working memory (“RAM” - the memory needed for the program you are trying
to run)

1. “A processing resource of limited capacity involved in the preservation
of information while simultaneously processing the same or other information.” (holding information on line while processing, updating,
and/or manipulating it).

2. Brain structures and processes used for temporary storage/manipulation
of information in its absence and in the presence of distraction (Tannock).

3. It involves On-line processes: maintenance (span) and manipulation
(updating, shifting)

4. Two key modalities in which we use working memory:

a. Spatial working memory (mental sketch pad; picturing relevant
b. Verbal working memory (e.g, manipulating, analyzing information)

C. Long-term memory (Hard drive)

1. A virtually limitless repository for knowledge, skills, and life
experiences. (We may never forget things in long-term memory
(although they may get lost there).

2. Consists of two stages: storage (consolidation) and retrieval
(access). Consolidation takes hours to months and
works most effectively during sleep, also with active
involvement with information (e.g., elaborating, changing).

3. The amount and form of information transferred to LTM is
primarily a function of control processes such as rehearsal.
How it is stored is determined by links, associations, and
general organizational plans.

4. Rehearsal as a major factor affecting comprehension
and retention

a. Rote rehearsal (for material that must be remembered
b. Elaborative rehearsal - in which student reprocesses the
c. Frontal lobe activation during rehearsal predicts degree of

5. Aspects of long-term memory and school performance

a. Memory for factual information
b. Memory for spelling, punctuation, grammar rules, and facts when writing.
c. Remembering math facts and procedures

II. Assessment of the key aspects of memory for school learning and performance:

A. Automaticity (automatic mastery of basic phonological associations, sequences, formulas, and rules). Measure through:

1. Automaticity with alphabet, days of week, months of year
2. Speed of naming/retrieval for names of letters, numbers, shapes, colors, objects
3. Mastery of math facts
4. Speed or fluency of very basic academic skills (doing very basic computations; reading and writing very simple sentences)

B. Working memory. Measure through tests of:

1. Digit span
2. Letter-number sequencing
3. Mental arithmetic
4. Sustained rule following
5. Visual sequences

C. Memory for meaningful spoken language. Measure through tests of:

1. Sentence memory
2. Narrative memory (short stories)
3. Memory for oral directions

D. Ease of acquiring (absorbing) verbally-encoded knowledge. Measure through tests of:

1. Vocabulary (importance of understanding individual differences)
2. Factual information

E. Deliberate memorization (intentional “cramming of information into memory). Measure through tests of word-list memorization. There are huge individual differences.

F. Remembering to remember (remembering to do what you’re supposed to do). Measure:

1. History
2. Behavioral rating measure of executive functioning (BRIEF)
3. Tests of ability to follow multiple-step directions

G. What about visual memory?

1. Role in math?
2. Related to visual-spatial scratch pad?
3. Tests of spatial location (“where” system); memory for objects (“what” system)


I. Why is working memory such a big deal (following Diamond)

A. Necessary for considering things from multiple perspectives
B. We need it to understand narratives.
C. Crucial for relating the present to the past and future
D. Necessary for retaining steps in a sequence (e.g., following complex directions)
E. Critical for making connections (relating one idea to another) and creativity
F. Is necessary for remembering something while we are doing something else
G. Has huge role in all aspects of academic learning and work production

1. Is highly correlated with sentence comprehension and reading comprehension, as poor readers don’t use “phonological loop” well (to maintain thread).

a. Reduced verbal memory span
b. Reduced memory for serial order
c. Less use of rehearsal

2. WM is also a major player in mathematics (e.g, mental arithmetic, multiple-step operations, solving complex problems) and in written language.

II. Working memory and its relationship to inattention (Tannock)

A. A substantial proportion of students with ADHD show working memory problems.

1. Particularly those with behavioral symptoms of inattention
2. Primary association in children is with visual-spatial working memory deficits.

B. Working memory capacity and mind wandering (study of undergraduates)

1. Students with low working memory capacity reported more mind wandering.

2. Individuals who can hold more information in working memory can also more efficiently exclude irrelevant information – and can pay attention.

3. Individuals with poor working memory will appear inattentive and distracted in situations where others will not.

C. Working memory and traditional treatments for ADHD

1. Behavioral interventions aren’t very effective in reducing symptoms because they don’t take working memory into account.

2. Stimulant medication has selective and modest effects on working memory.

III. Development of working memory

A. Typical trajectory (Gathercole)
B. Memory plateaus in middle childhood in students with ADHD (Klingberg)


I. The process of Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) makes memories “stick”.

A. Defined: The cellular process through which synapses strengthen their connections to one another, coding an event, stimulus, idea, etc. as a series of connections.

B. Changing cell surface: When a neuron fires and sets off a neighboring cell, a chemical change takes place on the neighboring cell’s surface, leaving it more sensitive to stimulation from that same neighbor.

C. Recruiting other neurons: Each time two neurons fire together, the tendency to do so is increased, and their combined energy is enough to trigger any neighboring cell to which they are both weakly attached.

D. Permanent bonding: Eventually, the repeated synchronous firing permanently binds neurons together so that the slightest activity in one will trigger all those that have become associated with it to fire, too, consolidating a memory and making it more easily retrievable.

E. LTP in action: Even in just 60 minutes, electron microscopes show the branching contact points between nerves (dendrites) grow and form new extensions

II. Sleep is crucial for long-term memory formation

A. Robert Stickgold’s study of sleep deprivation:

1. A single night of sleep permanently short-circuits the memory consolidation process.

2. Participants kept awake for 30 hours after training showed no evidence of improved performance, even after two nights of restorative sleep.

B. A second study: Study of adults found that interrupting REM sleep 60 times in a night
completely blocked learning (blocking non-REM sleep did not have this effect).

III. The effects of emotions on memory

A. Positive feelings improve neurotransmitter conduction for efficient learning.

1. When excited, there is a surge of excitatory neurotransmitters that increases the
firing rate of neurons in certain parts of the brain.

2. This increases the intensity of perception and boosts LTP.

B. Stress compromises memory

1. Stress diminishes selective and focused attention.
2. Stress limits ability to achieve automaticity.
3. Stress takes executive functions that are critical to memory offline.
4. Stress interferes with the cellular functioning of hippocampus.
5. Prolonged stress kills cells in hippocampus and shuts down neurogenesis.
6. Stress hastens aging, is best predictor of vulnerability to dementia.


I. Improving the organism

A. Emphasize the importance of sleep, stress management, and exercise.
B. Activate memory systems through music, emotional involvement, novelty.

II. Helping children with short-term memory weaknesses

A. Help children learn to paraphrase (whisper under their breath).
B. Encourage them to quickly create mental snapshots or movies.
C. Slow down or repeat instruction.
D. Use digital camera to capture work on the board.

III. Facilitating long-term memory

A. Teach how to organize material (how can we remember this).
B. Teach to determine what is most important.
C. Teach mnemonics and tricks for retrieval.
D. Give more time for tests (if retrieval is a problem).
E. Give practice tests.
F. Encourage kids to memorize things they find interesting (e.g., jokes, sports statistics).
G. Allow for downtime, necessary for CREB (a protein necessary for memory).
H. Put information to music.

IV. Improving working memory – teaching suggestions:

A. Preview material (e.g., new words, concepts, procedures) to reduce WM load during instruction.

B. Present information in relatively small chunks (Levine)

1. Break instructional tasks into smaller tasks.
2. Limit steps in directions and provide written steps.
3. Teach associations and grouping of concepts and information as you go.

C. Emphasize post-listening strategies.

1. Review notes.
2. Connect today’s lesson with previous notes.
3. Self-question to determine if they need clarification.
4. Draw up a summary statemet (e.g., of a lecture).

D. Use electronic reminders (beepers to cue returning to task)

V. Improving working memory by teaching kids strategies:

A. FACT: Focus attention; Ask questions; Connect ideas; Try to picture important ideas.

B. Teach paraphrasing

1. Have kids put what they hear and read in their own words.
2. Do it every day. Make it a habit.

C. Teach visualization

1. Have kids make pictures in their head of what they hear and read.
2. Do it every day.

D. Teach other memory strategies

1. Link names/objects/events to rooms in the house and “walk around” (“loci”).
2. Teach pegword method (i.e., one-bun, two-shoe, etc.
3. Make acronyms
4. Draw cartoons or use clip art to make mnemonics.
5. Introduce idea of universal mnemonic.

E. Training independent use of memory strategies

1. See Mastropieri’s ‘Enhancing School Success with Mnemonic Strategies’ for steps.

2. Remember that students remember better with teacher-provided strategies than self-generated strategies.
3. The importance of modeling strategies cannot be overemphasized. Tell students what you are thinking and why you are doing it this way.
F. Use BrainCog Strategies (www.fablevision.com)

G. Practice working memory with:

1. Mental arithmetic, estimation
2. Simon Says
3. Thank You for Calling (software for following directions)

H. Emphasize underlining important points while reading.

1. Reviewing at the end of each page.
2. Dictate important points into a tape recorder.

VI. Improving working memory with medication

A. Stimulant medication has modest beneficial effects on spatial and verbal working memory (Bedard).

B. Stimulant medicine has no effect on verbal span (Bedard).

VII. Cogmed Working Memory Training

A. Significant improvement in working memory, attention, higher order thinking.
B. In preschoolers, improvement in working memory and inhibition
C. Increased prefrontal and parietal activation
D. Improved reading comprehension and math problem solving (but not phonological awareness)

VIII. Helping children with specific memory problems

A. Math facts

1. Repetition, drill (e.g., flash cards; Kumon math)
2. Chisenbop
3. Mnemonics (City Creek Publishers, citycreek.com)

B. Reading fluency/automatically

1. Repeated oral reading (e.g., Read Naturally; Great Leaps)
3. Lexia (computer program)

C. Spelling

1. Cast-A-Spell (uses NLP eye movements)
2. Seeing Stars (Lindamood-Bell)

D. Deliberate memoriztion

1. Mnemonics
2. Organizational strategies

E. Remembering to remember

1. Note taking; assignment book
2. Electronic reminders
3. Universal mnemonic

F. Memory for language

1. Story grammar
2. Visualization (e.g., Visualizing and Verbalizing)
3. Earobics
4. Thank You for Calling (following directions)

IX. BREAK: A combination strategy for middle and high school students (Minskoff and Allsopp). Includes five research-based strategies for memorizing school content.

A. Break memorizing into short time periods.

1. Use short, spaced practice, ideally over several days.
2. Rehearse before bedtime so information will replay during sleep.
3. Cramming may be ineffective for students with disabilities (because of anxiety and the high level of mastery of memory techniques required).

B. Recite the information aloud as you write it.

1. Use auditory and motor cues to reinforce learning.
2. Recite the information aloud from note cards or lecture notes.
3. Read to a tape recorder for review.
4. If reciting is insufficient, write the information too.
5. Test yourself by shutting your eyes and asking and answering questions.
6. When taking a test, writing out acronyms and acrostics in the margin.

C. Establish mnemonics (e.g., acronyms, acrostics, visualization, keyword method)

D. Always try to visualize information in your mind.

1. Picture the illustrations you want to remember.
2. Picture your graphic organizers.
3. Self-test the adequacy of your visual imagery.

E. Keywords help.

1. For terminology, find something in the word related to its meaning.
2. Combine keywords with visualization.


Carter, R. (1998). Mapping the Mind. University of California Press.

Clayton, J. Making Memories. www.brain.com

Dehn, M. Working Memory and Academic Learning: Assessment and Intervention

S. Gathercole. Working Memory and Learning: A Practical Guide for Teachers

Hoover, A. “Memory Tips for Students”. ldonline.com

Levine, M. Developmental Variation and Learning Disorders (1999); Educational Care (1994); The Memory Factory (2000); One Mind at a Time (2004). All published by Educators Publishing Service (1-800-225-5750)

Mastroperi, M. Enhancing School Success with Mnemonic Strategies. ldonline.com

Minskoff, E., & Allsopp, D. Academic Success Strategies for Adolescents with ADHD and LD.

Springer, M. (1999). Learning and Memory: The Brain in Action. (ASCP)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Homework Tips/Hints - Part 4

Homework Crisis & What to do

Bad Mood -- Eat a snack, do a bit of yoga or stretching, rip up some paper, listen to music

Spills -- Clean it up quickly. Let it dry. Make a copy. Put a sticky on it with an apology

Distractions-- Have a special study area with all your supplies.
Be aware so you can double check your work while you were distracted

Lost directions/lost materials -- Call a classmate and get the information. Often substitute a piece of paper for a missing worksheet or index card.

Forgotten or lost homework -- Double check your assignment book.
Call a classmate; do what you can; make your best effort; write a note to the teacher

Confusion about directions -- Double check your assignment book.
Call a classmate who usually has the homework correctly.

Long-term project -- Chunk the parts of the project on a calendar. Check the calendar daily so you can stay on schedule. Use weekends if you need to so you can catch up.

Questions -- Double check your assignment book.
Call a classmate who usually knows what the teacher wants.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Homework Tips/Hints - Part 3

When you proofread your writing, call out the COPS

C = Capitalization. Have you used capital letters for the first word in each sentence? Have you used capital letters for names and other proper nouns?

O = Organization. Does each paragraph have the right time sequence or steps in order?
Overall appearance. Is your work neat? Do you have the heading in the correct

P = Punctuation. Does each sentence have correct punctuation marks at the end? (.,?!).
Have you used apostrophes and commas correctly

S = Sentences. Did you use complete sentences? Did you use variety in the first words
of the sentences?

Are you proud of your work?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Homework Tips/Hints - Part 2

Tips to Stop Rushing Through Homework

-- Discuss expectations BEFORE homework begins. Identify the homework that your child normally rushes through. For eachassignment, jot down 2-3 requirements on a post-it note and place on the desk or table next to your child. For example, on a writing assignment, you may list, "proper heading, legible writing, and complete sentences." By being proactive, instead of reactive, you can stop rushing before it happens.

-- Set up Daily Homework Time (DHT). DHT is a specific time each day that's dedicated to homework, whether your child says he has it or not. Your child will spend a minimum amount of time on academically related tasks daily. For example, if the spelling homework is completed quickly, but 40 minutes are still left in DHT, your child could study for a test, work on a long-term project, organize her notebook, or read. If your child knows he has DHT for an hour, he may be less likely to try to rush through an assignment. How long should DHT be?

Here's a guide:
Grade 1: 10 minutes
Grade 2: 20 minutes
Grade 3: 30 minutes
Grade 4: 40 minutes
Grades 5 and 6: 45 minutes
Grades 7-12: 1 hour (as a minimum)

-- Use praise the right way. Recognize good effort whenever possible! Rewards and praise will result inpositive changes faster than punitive words or punishment. When providing feedback, be sure to offer a positive statement first. Follow with specific, constructive criticism and finish off with another positivecomment.
For example, 'You rushed through this writing assignment!'becomes, 'I like the way you wrote your heading so neatly. I do see that your paragraphs need more descriptive details, but overall your essay looks close to being done."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Homework Tips/Hints - Part 1

As promised, here are some homework tips that I have learned over the years with my boys, who both have learning differences. Some come from their schools, some from just being a mom and former preschool teacher. Hope they help you.

--Make homework time as close to the same time every day – make it the routine. i.e. Snack, homework; tv or video games, homework, dinner, reading

--Make sure that the area that your child is doing homework is free of distractions – No TV, NO music. (The kitchen table isn’t the best if you’re cooking or working there too).

--Create a homework “nook” using a Science project tri fold board (if it’s too high, cut it in half)
Use the board as walls to block out distractions and to the inside add information and tools that your child will need/use - list of ABC’s to help with alphabetical order, multiplication table, clock, etc.
If you still need to block out noise and distractions, put a roof on top.

--Make sure you have lots of supplies and keep them close by – pens, pencils, highlighters, and calculator; this will cut down on getting up and down or creating an excuse for getting up and down.

--If the work seems too much – break it out into smaller tasks i.e. answer just the first few math problems. If that doesn’t work, try doing every other problem.

--Take breaks! Work for 10 minutes take a break, work for 10 more minutes.

--If you child wiggles, you can get a wiggle seat or have them sit on an large exercise ball pulled up to the desk or table.

--Try to involve your child in deciding how to break up the homework or in which order to do it – math first, reading 2nd, or hardest subject first or easiest subject 1st, or big project then shorter tasks

--Read every night!

--Read every day or night at the same time and if possible the same place – big comfy chair, in bed, at a desk.

--If the book is too long or has “too many words”, take turns - have your child read a page or paragraph and you read a page or paragraph.

--If you can, get a book on tape or CD and read along with the cd

--Ask questions at the end of every few pages or chapter so you know your child understands what is being read.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dr. Stixrud to speak about The Neuropsychology of Memory: How the Brain Learns and How to Help Kids Who Can’t Remember

Oakwood School Parent Association Presents~
Dr. William Stixrud speaking on “The Neuropsychology of Memory: How the Brain Learns and How to Help Kids Who Can’t Remember”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

In this lecture, Dr. Stixrud describes what memory is and the different types and stages of memory (e.g. short-term, working memory, and long-term). He explains the different aspects of memorization and which aspects are primarily used in the school setting. Dr. Stixrud addresses the importance of a specific type of memory called “working memory,” which deals with retaining crucial information for sequencing and for making the kinds of connection that are pivotal for success in school. He also discusses the neurobiology of memory (what happens on a cellular level), the critical role of sleep in memory, and the effects of memory on emotion. Dr. Stixrud concludes the lecture by providing information about various strategies and treatments available to improve students’ memories, as well as various teaching aids to augment a student’s ability to remember. He focuses on the tools available to help teach students not only techniques for memorization, but also ways to actually improve one’s ability to memorize.

Dr. Stixrud is a licensed psychologist who has been in private practice as a neuropsychologist since 1985. He specializes in the evaluation of children, adolescents, and adults with learning disabilities, and in the promotion of self-esteem. He currently is a member of the Clinical Supervisory Faculty at Children's Hospital and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center. Dr. Stixrud also holds an appointment on the Clinical Faculty of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School.

$15 registration fee, payable at the door

Please register by calling 703.941.5788

Oakwood School
7210 Braddock Road
Annandale, VA 22003

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Whiskers for Mom's Club - Join Now

So I realized today that I have not seen my reflection in anything but the rearview mirror in over a month. This is not good. I know it is difficult to believe but it really is true. I realize that I could have a whisker or something really, really repulsive so I move up really close to the mirror in my visor to get a better look (at least it has a light). Tick tock, tick tock. Pfew. I dodged a bullet this time. No wild hairs. I have made my sister-in-law swear that when I am old she will not let me sit in the home with excess facial hair. Does this promise count while I am young and supposedly capable of taking care of my own beautification rituals, I wonder?

It occurs to me that this is rather absurd but I can’t be the only one this has happened to. Right? I brush my teeth morning and night but I am usually just waking up or falling asleep on my feet so staring at myself in the mirror is really not high on the list of priorities. I kind a gave up make up somehow, seemed like it was more important to feed the kids a good breakfast (good meaning not gummie bears).

So I am suddenly sitting here realizing that I have not really looked at myself in the mirror for a really long time. And aside from that moment when I thought I had a beard I am the happiest I have ever been. Thanks to technology I am lucky to be the modern mother who works from home. My lunch meeting is with a 2 year old in Elmo undies and we are planning to eat “samiches” under a tree. He’s handsome and he loves me best of all. I am pretty sure I’ll get a kiss or 10 while we destroy all civilization with our backhoes and bulldozers then build it back again with our horses and worms.
I suppose as long as I can get that sister-in-law of mine to extend her “hair free” guarantee to now, when I really need her, I’ll be OK.

~~ Kirsten

Thursday, October 1, 2009

God Bless the Birdies

I decided recently that we needed to get back to saying grace at dinner. Somehow, it always seems like meal times are the most hectic times in our household. I always thought this would be a wonderful bonding time to talk to each other and learn about one another’s days. Instead, I feel like a keeper feeding wild monkeys at the zoo. My 2 year old has a magical way of getting his feet from the high chair to the table where he curls his toes over the edge just to annoy his brother. Inevitably my 4 year olds peas touch his meat, which any mother knows is a fate worse than death. And without fail, my 5 month old baby decides this would be the perfect time to nurse.

Despite it all I am determined to work in a little gratitude for all that we have. I have looked up prayers that the kids might actually understand and I have prepared myself to calm the troops for just a few minutes before the chaos begins. So each night (when I remember, which is more frequent now that my little guys help to remind me) we sit down and attempt to pray.

Remarkably, this has actually turned into a routine they enjoy. Our prayer has turned into an accounting of all the things that happened throughout each of their days and everyone waits for their turn. They give thanks for a lot of things that wouldn’t cross my mind. In the beginning I wasn’t sure that this was really the time to pray for backhoes and trains and worms, but as I considered the situation I decided that maybe I should be more mindful of the little things that I’ve become too grown-up to appreciate.

It takes a while, the peas get cold and I am not sure that what we have done really counts as a prayer at all. Without fail, after everyone has said their peace and Amen has been shouted by all (literally, shouted), I hear “wait mommy, wait, we forgot to bless the birdies” and so we all fold our hands and bow our heads reverently (the only time we have done anything reverent throughout this whole process) while I say, “and God bless the birdies.” Maybe dinner time has turned out to be what I’d hoped for after all.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Children are…

Amazing, acknowledge them
Believable, trust them
Childlike, allow them
Divine, honor them
Energetic, nourish them
Fallible, embrace them
Gifts, treasure them
Here now, be with them
Innocent, delight with them
Joyful, appreciate them
Kindhearted, learn from them
Lovable, cherish them
Magical, fly with them
Noble, esteem them
Open minded, respect them
Precious, value them
Questioners, encourage them
Resourceful, support them
Spontaneous, enjoy them
Talented, believe in them
Unique, affirm them
Vulnerable, protect them
Whole, recognize them
XTra Special, celebrate them
Yearning, notice them
Zany, laugh with them

~~Meiji Stewart~~

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Events for parents, teachers & caregivers in the Washington, D.C. metro area

CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) Presents:
Parent to Parent Family Training on AD/HD
Fall Sessions/Alexandria, VA: 7 consecutive Friday evenings
October 2nd- November 20th (except Oct 9th for CHADD conference)
Time: 7:00 pm – 9:15 pm
Commonwealth Academy, 1321 Leslie Ave., Alexandria, VA 22301
Fees: $100.00 CHADD Members or $145.00 Non-CHADD Members
(includes annual membership in CHADD)
Couples may share the manual and pay one entry fee
Instructor: Leah Daziens, CHADD Certified Teacher
For more information contact: leah.daziens@gmail.com
Registration Deadline: September 23, 2009

Fairfax County Public Schools:
A meeting regarding the identification of students with disabilities who have been enrolled in private schools by their parents and the provision of special education services.
The Individuals with Disabilities Act 2004 (IDEA) addresses the requirement for schools to provide special education and related services for children who are placed by their parents in private schools located within the school divisions geographic boundaries.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Fairfax County Public School Gatehouse Administration Center
8115 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church, VA 22042
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Please register: Sheila Weaver – Sheila.weaver1@fcps.edu 571-423-4160

Exceptional Schools for Exceptional Students School Fair
Sunday, October 18, 2:00 – 5:-- p.m.
Katzen Art Center, American University @ Ward Circle, Washington, DC

Showcasing the many wonderful school choices available to families of children with learning differences. Find out about individualized programs that will help your child thrive both academically and socially.

Admission is FREE and OPEN to the public

Participating Schools:

Accotink Learning Center
Alexandria Friends
The Auburn School
Chelsea School
Commonwealth Academy
The Diener School
Ivymount School Model Asperger Program
The Maddux School
Kingsbury Day School
The Lab School of Washington
McLean School
The Nora School
The Norbel School
Oakwood School
Parkmont School
The Siena School
The Summit School
The Katherine Thomas School

For more information please contact Beth Atkinson at 301-592-0567 x 12 or batkinson@thesienaschool.org

George Mason University, Center for the Arts Presents: How We Learn: Human Exceptionality and CognitionMargo A. Mastropieri, Professor, College of Education and Human DevelopmentMonday, October 19, 2009 at 7 p.m.This presentation will describe how research with exceptional populationscan advance our understanding of all human learning and cognition and maycontribute to the development of a theory of learning and instruction. Inthis view, research on individuals with special learning needs can helpuncover processes or skills overlooked by a solitary focus on more efficientlearners. Mastropieri will discuss what her research has provided and how itinforms us about learning. She will examine the future research directionsto narrow the difference between what we have learned and what we couldlearn.Tickets are free. For more info http://gmu.edu/cfa/vision/

Children Together welcomes Pam Schiller, Ph.D.
In this practical workshop Dr. Schiller will get down to the nitty-gritty and provide participants with a tool box full of specific strategies and hands-on activities that can be used in play – to promote early literacy and brain development in young children at home and in the classroom.

Saturday, October 21, 2009, 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Alexandria, VA

$50 for early registration (prior to 10/12)
$60 registration for walk ins
$40 for five or more from one school or Organization (by 10/1)

For registration information go to www.children-together.org

The Oakwood School Parent Association presents William R. Stixrud, Ph.D. speaking on “The Neuropsychology of Memory: How the Brain Learns and How to Help Kids Who Can’t Remember”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.,
Oakwood School, 7210 Braddock Road, Annandale, VA

Dr. Stixrud is a licensed psychologist who has been in private practice as a neuropsychologist since 1985. He specializes in the evaluation of children, adolescents, and adults with learning disabilities, and in the promotion of self-esteem. He currently is a member of the Clinical Supervisory Faculty at Children's Hospital and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center. Dr. Stixrud also holds an appointment on the Clinical Faculty of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School.

$15 registration fee at the door.
Please reserve a seat by calling 703-941-5788

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

H1N1, "Swine" Flu - the latest information

H1N1, “swine” Flu - the latest information

I attended a presentation by Mr. Bill Hall, Director of News & Media Relations for the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, yesterday at one of my kids' schools.

Here is some of the information that he presented:

What is the Flu?
The flu is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by influenza viruses.

What is the H1N1 Flu?
It is a new and different influenza that is spreading worldwide among people. It is called the “swine flu” at first because it has pieces of flu viruses found in pigs in the past. The H1N1 has NOT been detected in U.S. pigs.

How serious is the flu?
The flu can be very serious especially for younger children and children of any age that have one or more chronic conditions or “at risk” conditions. These conditions include asthma, or other lung problems, diabetes, weakened immune systems, kidney disease, heart problems, and neurological or neuromuscular disorders.

How does the flu spread?
Both the seasonal flu and the “swine flu” are thought to spread mostly though the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick with the influenza.
People may also get sick by touching something with the flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
*** the flu virus can stay on a surface (door knob, counter, faucet handle etc.) for up to 8 hours

What are the symptoms of the flu?
Symptoms of the seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may even have vomiting and/or diarrhea.

How long can a sick person spread the flu to others?
People infected with the flu can infect others from 1 day prior to getting sick to 5-8 days after.

How can I protect my child against the flu?
Get a seasonal flu vaccine

Take everyday precautions such as:

-Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve, elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. And throw the tissue away after use.

-Wash your hands often with soap and water, sing Happy Birthday 2 times.
Use an alcohol based sanitizer if no soap is available.

-Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

-Try to keep children from having close contact (about 6 feet) with people who are sick, including anyone in the family/household.

-Keep surfaces like kitchen counters, door knobs, toys and bathroom fixtures clean by wiping with a disinfectant according to the product label.

-Throw away tissues and any other disposable items used by a sick or infected person.

Who is at risk for the H1N1 virus?
-Pregnant women and the very young are at risk.
-Those with any underlying health conditions are at risk for the flu.
-Children, teens and young adults are considered at risk.
(Anyone born before 1957 seems to have immunity because of the swine flu they may have been exposed to.)

Is there a vaccine to protect my child?
A vaccine for the H1N1 flu is being produced and should be ready for distribution by Oct 1.
Children under 10 should get 3 shots – 1 seasonal flu vaccine, a “swine flu” vaccine and 21 days later a “swine flu” booster vaccine.

Children over 10 should get 2 shots – 1 seasonal flu vaccine and a “swine flu” vaccination.

There are no adverse effects from the swine flu vaccination.

Are there medications to treat the flu?
Antiviral drugs can treat both the seasonal and “swine” flu. These drugs can make people feel better and get better soon, but they need to be prescribed by a Dr.
The antiviral medications currently on the market are Tamiflu and Relenza.

What should I do if my child gets sick?
If your child is 5 yrs or older and otherwise healthy, consult your Dr. as needed and make sure your child gets lots of liquids and rest. Treat the symptoms like any other cold or flu, with Advil, Tylenol, etc.
DO NOT GIVE CHILDREN UNDER 18 YEARS OLD ASPIRIN – this could cause your child to get Ryes Syndrome.

If your child is younger than 5 yrs of age and/or has a medical condition and develops flu like symptoms call your Dr. or get medical attention.

What if my child seems really sick?
Even children who have always been healthy or had the flu before can get a severe case of the flu.
Call or take your child to the Dr. right away of your child has:
-Fast breathing or trouble breathing
-bluish or gray skin color
-not drinking enough fluids
-severe or persistent vomiting
-not waking up or not interacting
-being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
-flu like symptoms improve but then returns
-has other health or underlying conditions and develops flu symptoms

Can my child go to school, camp, or day care?
your child should stay home to rest and avoid spreading the flu to others. Your child should be fever free for 24 hours without the assistance of fever reducing medications, before returning to school, camp, day care.

Various other notes:
-Pandemic means “global spread” NOT deadly.
-Make sure you have at least 2 weeks of supplies at your home so that you can stay at home to take care of your family member with the flu and so that you are not going out to the grocery store or pharmacy infecting others.
-Something to tell your children – If it’s wet and it’s not yours, DON’T touch it!
-Teach your kids to do the elephant – cough or sneeze into their elbow.
-If you think you’re sick but not sure it’s the flu, don’t go to the Dr., you could be placing yourself at risk because your immune system may be weakened and the flu may be present in the Dr’s office.
-most deaths associated with the “swine flu” are not from the flu itself but from pneumonia.

For more information go to:
or call 1-800-CDC-INFO


Monday, September 21, 2009

Waiting for Baby - Part 4

Now I realize even more how uncertain everything is regarding carrying a child and the delivery thereof. I’m feeling kind of silly right now. It has been 3 days and the baby still resides in my womb. The doctor said I haven’t even progressed at all! I was certain things had changed! It seems impossible, but now I will lie here for 2 more weeks and wait. My neighbor, also expecting a child (and being induced today), had an interesting bit of knowledge that she gleaned from her doctor last week after having very strong contractions herself and not going into labor. Apparently the barometric pressure has an influence over labor and delivery. That would explain what I was feeling! After looking online for information on this topic I have found varying opinions. Some studies show that a sharp drop in barometric pressure leads to more deliveries than a steady barometric pressure, and other studies show that there is not a strong connection between the two. All I know is that something crazy was going on in my body at the same time as my pregnant neighbor’s, and the pressure had dropped that night. Either way, I am grateful for the chance to keep him safe for a while longer so that he can be as strong as possible at birth. Maybe he will be born at term after all!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Waiting for Baby - Part 3

And now on to the third scenario, today’s pregnancy: Our daughter was just shy of her second birthday and we realized that I wasn’t getting any younger. Our third attempt at in vitro again was successful. I have to say that having to go that route to get pregnant is not the most enjoyable manner of procreation, but I am eternally grateful to the powers that be for having such luck each time. We know far too many people that have made repeated attempts at every type of fertility treatment to no avail. I can’t begin to imagine their frustration and disappointment, and my heart goes out to everyone in that situation. It just shouldn’t be that difficult to do something that most take for granted as a naturally-occurring and enjoyable thing.
Anyway, my doctors and I decided that since my daughter was born full-term we would skip the cerclage and bed rest this time and just pay attention to the signals my body gave me (in addition to cervical length ultrasounds every 2 weeks). Everything has been wonderful: No stress of preparing for a horrible disease or deciding whether or not to continue the pregnancy, no bed rest (aside from a couple of days after a scare at 18 weeks due to my irritable uterus), and I have felt really great. This is what pregnancy is supposed to be like! No wonder Mrs. Duggar has so many children! (Well, OK, maybe 18 or 19 is a bit drastic.) Then, about a month ago, I started to feel like things were changing and I asked my OB to check things out. Several hours after that I went into preterm labor and was admitted to the hospital (see my blog on patients’ rights from September 11), but thankfully the doctors were able to stop things in their tracks. After two days in the hospital I was discharged to go home on bed rest for 3 weeks, at which point I would be 34 weeks along. Even though that is still 3 weeks before a baby is considered term, the OB felt confident everything would be fine if he was born.
I have to say that bed rest is much more challenging with a toddler around, but 3 weeks compared to 4 months is not too bad at all. Finally it was my last day of lying around. The doctor said to be almost as careful as before, but if the baby came it would probably be OK. I awoke that morning with a feeling that things were about to happen. Our son was going to be born, and soon. Why does a mother know these things? There were no physical reasons to think so until later that day when my contractions, normally irregularly spaced and somewhat mild, became regular and much more intense. Then the lower back pain came with each contraction and horrible sciatica radiated in either leg (or sometimes both) every time I tried to walk.
I made it through the night without going to the hospital, but now my bag is packed just in case, the car seat is installed, the co-sleeper is ready, and I’m heading out for my OB appointment. Wonder what today will have in store? Will my mother’s intuition be right?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Waiting for Baby - Part 2

Five months after the loss of our son, my husband and I decided to try again. Luckily the in vitro was successful a second time. We took measures beforehand to ensure this baby would not have CF, and 20 weeks later we discovered that a baby girl was on the way. Our doctor was not taking any chances – a double cerclage was placed and at 17 weeks along I was put on bed rest for just over 4 months. It was a really long 4 months, to be sure. What a crazy situation that so many of us face while pregnant! You wonder every moment if everything will be OK, if you will make it full-term, if the baby is moving enough, if, if, if. There is no distraction from the worry on bed rest. Flashbacks of the previous pregnancy and delivery prevailed daily and tormented my dreams. In the end it was worth every moment of worry. The cerclage was removed at 37 weeks and we expected our daughter to come shooting out. That didn’t happen at all. She was happy in there! I ran up and down the stairs at the local mall, just hoping it would make things progress, but no luck. Then at 39 weeks 4 days, our daughter was born in a perfect and calm delivery (thanks to the help of my good friend, the epidural). She was beautiful, healthy, and was able to come home with me two days later. It was everything we had hoped for

Monday, September 14, 2009

Waiting for Baby - Part 1

As I sit here preparing myself for the birth of my son, I think of all the other mothers-to-be who are in the same position. Some are really ready for the day to arrive after carrying the extra weight around for 40 weeks. Others, like me, are far enough along that a baby born at this time will probably be just fine (I am 34 weeks now). Still others aren’t thinking at all that their baby will be born until weeks or even months down the road, but they will arrive before anyone expects.

You see, I have experienced each of these scenarios. After undergoing in vitro fertilization, my first son was born at 23 weeks 6 days, one day before “viability”. My husband and I had known he would have cystic fibrosis after an amniocentesis was performed, and we were told by the doctors that we had to make the decision of keeping or terminating the pregnancy. We decided to fight the disease with him, and prepared ourselves, through much research and meeting with doctors, for life with a child suffering from that horrible disease.

Then, one day before going to work I noticed a change in pressure in my pelvic region. Having never been pregnant before, I just figured it was a normal change taking place. I spent the day at work as usual, but remember discussing with female colleagues the heavy feeling I was experiencing, like the baby was getting ready to come out. No one realized how accurate that feeling was. Later in the afternoon I started feeling strange sensations in my belly. They didn’t hurt, but just felt like uterine tightening that came at regular intervals. (Hello, those are contractions!)

The contractions became closer together and a little uncomfortable, and finally I decided to see if the doctor could fit me into his schedule. By the time I was seen in the doctor’s office the contractions were like clock work. Every five minutes. A non-stress test was performed but nothing registered. I knew something was happening, yet no one believed me. Finally a nurse took a look, and her words were (I still remember like it was yesterday), “All I see is membranes”. At that point she said my son would be born that night, there was no way to stop it, and he wouldn’t make it. Unfortunately she was right.

I was rushed by ambulance to a high-risk labor and delivery hospital with an excellent NICU, just in case the baby was born with a chance of survival. Magnesium sulfate was administered to stop the labor (thank goodness they don’t use that anymore), steroid shots were given (to develop the baby’s lungs), but to no avail. Later that night he was born and passed away within moments. He was tiny, perfect, and beautiful. It was a devastating loss for my husband and I, but there was some consolation in knowing he was spared from a life of pain from cystic fibrosis. Unfortunately we were lacking answers about why it happened. No one was sure if I had an incompetent cervix or if pre-term labor had been the cause of the early delivery.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Demand Good Care as a Patient

It’s amazing how powerless you are as a patient. Yes, I know, the patient has rights, but all-in-all, when you enter the hospital you leave the comfortable “I’m in control of my life” feeling and have to believe in the people to whom you have entrusted your care. I have been very lucky to have received great care with all of my pregnancies, complications and all. But there is always one employee I will encounter that I wonder how they got in the field of medicine to begin with: The overworked nurse who has no compassion for the woman who just lost her baby but just wants to free up the hospital bed, the lactation consultant who forgot long ago (or became desensitized to) the angst a new mother faces as she tries to latch her baby the “correct” way onto her breast, or a young male resident who didn’t take a moment to consider the sensitive emotional needs of a woman in pre-term labor as well as the delicate nature of the female anatomy.

I have always hated to complain on behalf of myself in public. I would argue about others’ rights and make sure I did what was necessary for everyone to get a fair shake. But people would walk all over me. Maybe my time in the Air Force changed that, maybe I just grew up. I now speak up when nurses are fantastic (or even just pretty good) and when things have gone awry I mention that too. Does that make me a complainer? I don’t think so, I just expect to be treated well when I am hurting. And so should you. We all should.

Recently I was admitted to the hospital for pre-term labor (like so many millions of other women each year). I was frightened – it wasn’t the first time. The nurses were listening to me tell about my symptoms and were monitoring them, but contractions weren’t showing up well. When the young male resident stepped in to talk I instantly had a bad feeling. He was arrogant. He was dismissive. I wasn’t having contractions according to the monitors, he told me. I measured 0 centimeters that morning at my OB’s office. I was surely still 0 cm now. I insisted that he take a look, and he was surprised to find I had dilated to 1-2 cm in a few short hours, and was 50% effaced. Not normal for 30 weeks into a pregnancy.

Of course the world turned upside-down after that. Now they were taking me seriously. There were nurses everywhere, suddenly the contractions were increasing in frequency and severity, this baby couldn’t come tonight. The resident returned to do the Group B Strep external swab. No biggie, right? Wrong. I.V. – no problem. Swab? Whoa, Buddy! What are you doing? I must have made some sound from the pain and he asked me what the problem was. “You stabbed me! That’s the problem!” I couldn’t help but blurt out in my stressed state. He muttered a brief, “Sorry”, under his breath and left the room. I immediately knew this was not the doc for me. (Not to mention that my husband looked like he might rip the resident’s head right off.) I rehashed the details for the nurse and told her I really didn’t want him to touch me again. “No problem”, she stated, and continued to say that someone else would take care of me. And someone would address his behavior with him.

Did I feel horribly guilty to deny his care? Absolutely. I have always hated to hurt peoples’ feelings. But he was the professional and I trusted him to care for me. I didn’t see him again. Later a nurse told me he had previous complaints against him. Sounds like someone picked the wrong field. Anyway, the next day the nurse manager came to ask about my experiences thus far. I told her that everyone was phenomenal – except one resident. She documented it, thanked me for my candor, and set about to discuss the problem with the necessary people. Of course I don’t want to make trouble for him, but mostly I am concerned about every other woman he will treat after me. Now I know that maybe, just maybe, another woman will benefit from my discomfort. I like to think that, anyway.
Every woman, whether it is for preterm or full-term labor, must be her own advocate. If something happens to you, tell someone on the staff whom you trust will help you. Patients cannot be treated to less than the best care possible. If you care for another, such as a child or older family member, it is your responsibility to speak up for them, too. If we don’t stop worrying about being perceived as trouble makers by the staff, or about hurting a callous doctor’s feelings, we sacrifice our own self esteem. We lessen the importance of us and our bodies. Remember (just like we teach our children): It is your body and no one gets to touch it without your permission. Even a doctor. Request someone new. You will get it, and when you explain your case maybe you will prevent someone else from having the same experience after you.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Danger of Crocs on Escalators

A neighbor passed this article on to me this morning after her daughter had a similar scary experience with her crocs on an escalator yesterday. Thankfully everyone is doing OK.
Some of you may have seen this or know of this danger but it is worth repeating.....

Crocs Can Pose a Danger on Escalators
Some Parents Have Reported Kids Feet Being Sucked Into Escalators


Those big, bold gardening clogs that come in bright colors and mold to the shape of your feet seem to be everywhere these days.
The company that makes one kind of rubber clogs, Crocs, sold 6 million of them last year.
In some online chat rooms and blogs, however, parents are sharing stories about kids having accidents while wearing the shoes.
Some people have reported that kids wearing Crocs have had their feet sucked into the side of escalators.
Some businesses have even posted warning signs near their escalators saying if you're wearing Crocs, be careful.
Chloe Johnson, 10, from Kansas City, is one of those kids who had a frightening experience while wearing the shoes.
She loved her Crocs. "I wore them almost everywhere," she said.
Last year on an escalator at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, she had a huge scare.
"Chloe said, 'My toe, my toe,'" said her mother, Kay Hopkins. "And we took the Croc off and seeing the blood and seeing her toe -- it was frightening."
The escalator was crowded, and the toe of Chloe's left shoe was sucked between the escalator stair and the side wall.
"To have this happen with your child standing right next to you ends up being pretty shocking," said Chloe's father, Neil Johnson.
Chloe's foot recovered, but last month, two children wearing Crocs in Arkansas had more serious injuries.
"Imagine that you are taking a child shopping and out of the blue their foot is mangled, trapped," said James Yuen, a plastic surgeon at Arkansas Children's Hospital. "Can you imagine a child stuck for almost an hour? It is a very traumatic event."
It's not just Crocs that pose a danger -- any soft, pliable shoe, even flip-flops, can be dangerous on an escalator.
Escalator Safety Tips
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates about 10,000 people go to the emergency room every year after accidents on escalators. Of those, 20 percent involved having hands, feet or shoes trapped.
The industry has worked for years to make escalators safer, but not every state has adopted the latest codes.
Arkansas, for example, is still using regulations that date back to the early 1990s.
The makers of Crocs are designing a new tag that includes escalator safety tips.
In a statement, the company told ABC News: "Crocs shoes are completely safe. & Escalators and moving sidewalks, particularly those that have not received proper care and maintenance, can be dangerous and pose risks to their riders."
But Chloe's parents are convinced that the Crocs were an important factor in her accident.
"They did have the escalator inspected, and everything was running, functioning well," said Chloe's mother.
About 245 million people ride escalators every day, and only a small number of incidents have been reported, so it's not an epidemic.
But to be safe, experts say parents should make sure children ride in the center of the escalator step.
Parents of small children should carry them, and kids should not run their foot along the wall -- that creates friction and heat, which could explain why the Crocs seem to melt around the edge of the step.
And remember that escalators are now outfitted with emergency stop buttons.
If you run into trouble, you can shut it down pretty quickly.
Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Getting Ready for School - Part 5

Additional ENCOURAGING words/messages to give your child ~~

- Your skills are really improving;
- How kind of you to share toys with your friend, that’s very generous.
- You are taking such good care of your pet. He’s so lucky to have you!
- Now THAT’S what I call a thorough job! Thanks for picking up your toys.
- That’s a great effort
- Keep at it; I know you’ll figure it out. How can I help?
- You are such a good learner!
-I’m impressed by your concentration.
-I remember when you were first learning that. You’ve come a long way.
-You’re so fun around the house; life would be boring without you!
-What would I have done without you today? Thanks for cleaning the house with me.
-I’m so proud to tell people I’m your mom (dad).
-You’ve really improved! That’s great!
-It’s wonderful to see you so happy
-I appreciate your attention to detail. You are one sharp cookie.
-Your patience is commendable. Keep at it; I know you’ll get it yet.
-I’ve never thought of it that way. How creative!
-You’re doing a great job of controlling your anger.
-You’re on the right track! That’s using your brain.
-You’ve put a lot of careful thought into that.
-you’re getting the hang of it! Your practice is really paying off.
-Now THAT’S an interesting point. Thanks for sharing it.
-Your attitude is very respectful attitude. I appreciate that.
-You solved your problem; how clever!
-That is wonderful! Your confidence is really showing!
-How sensitive you are to your brother’s feelings.
-Your dependability makes life so much easier for me.
-I love your sense of humor. How do you think up those jokes?
-You hang in there when the going gets tough. You’re a strong person.
-Look how much progress you’ve made. You should be proud.
-Hey, relax for a while; you deserve a break.
-What a good memory you have. That effort deserves a high five!
-I really enjoyed your performance. No one could have done it better.
-Keep trying; I know you can work this frustrating problem out.
-How calm you were when you got that bad news.You are really maturing.
-It’s a real gift to me when you do your chores without being reminded.
-I have to hand it to you; you did exactly what you set out to do.
-Congratulations, you can be proud of your achievement!
-I LOVE watching you grow up. You never cease to amaze me.
-You are such an interesting person. I can’t imagine lifewithout you

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Getting Ready for School - Part 4

Here is a list of words you can use to help and encourage your child:
Being positive goes a long way! :-)

Great Job!
You’ve got it!
You’ve got talent
I see what you’ve done
You’ve really improved
You’re working really hard
Right on
You’re the best!
Nice work
You can do it!
You did it!
You’re really good at this
Good job
Good work
Keep it up
I like the way you did that
Nice work
I’m proud of you
That is really creative
I’ve really enjoyed being with you or working with you
High five!
High Ten!
That’s cool!
I’m touched,
Your cool!
That’s funny!
I can see you like what you’re doing!
Your smart
That was fun!
I like your sprirt!
I like your attitude!
You really shine!
Thank you!
You outdid yourself
You learned something new

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Getting Ready for School - Part 3

Things your child may be worried about~~~

Talk to your child about these things, walk through their day and let them how everything will work. Get them prepared before they have a chance to get too anxious.

How will I get to school? (riding a bus or carpool)
Explain the route (picking up other children), how they will get off the bus and get into the school and to their classroom.
Make sure they know how to act on the bus or in the car.

What if I miss you?
Let your child know that it’s ok to miss you. You will miss them too! You are both doing your job – their job is to go to school just like mommy and daddy have to go to work. (Or mommy has to go to the grocery store or clean the house). Everyone has a job to do and their “job” is to go to school and have fun!
Make sure they realize that you are NOT out doing something fun when they are at school.

What do I do if I have to go to the bathroom? Where is the bathroom?
Explain to your child that everyone at school has to go to the bathroom. Tell them to ask the teacher if they can go to the bathroom. Make sure they know that it is OK to go to the restroom during the school day.

Who will I sit with to eat snack or lunch?
Let them know that they can sit with their new classmates and friends.
Sometimes the teacher may assign a seat and that is ok too – it's an opportunity to make a new friend.

Will the teacher be nice?
Of course the teacher will be nice!
The teacher will have rules for the whole class to follow and these rules may seem tough but they are for everyone. Let them know that their teacher will be wonderful and she will love your child.

Will the kids be nice?
Of course the other children will be nice!
Your child will make many new friends – some may become best friends and others may just be classmates.

How will I get home?
Explain how the bus ride (or carpool) will work coming home – the route the bus will take, at which bus stop your child will get off and who will be waiting for your child at the bus stop or at home.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting Ready for School - Part 2

For Preschool, Kindergarten, early elementary ~~

*Label everything - jackets, coats, sweaters, sweatshirt, lunchbox, sippy cup/water bottle, etc…

* remember to put your child in an outfit that is easy to get in and out of/pull up and down – both for the teacher (if your child is not potty trained) and for your child. (so your child doesn’t have any accidents at school because they couldn’t get their clothes off fast enough)
So, no belts, snaps, buttons on pants – just elastic waists on pants.
For girls leggings are great.

* No backpacks or bags unless the teacher requires it. The only thing your child will usually need is a lunchbox/snack bag.

*Use lunch boxes that are like bags and have a Velcro top or are easy to zip open and closed. Remember your child will be opening it themselves!
You can always tuck a note or picture into your child’s lunchbox J

*Don’t send items in their lunchbox that your child can’t open themselves i.e. juice boxes, yogurt etc..

*Nutritious snacks/lunches please! And pay attention to your schools policy for snacks and lunches – i.e. NO peanut products

*Dress your child appropriately for school – keep in mind they’ll go outside everyday and they’ll do messy art projects. Don’t dress them in an outfit that if it gets dirty or messy, will upset them or you.
Children go outside everyday unless it is below freezing, snowing, raining or has rained/snowed significantly over night and there is just too much water and mud on the playground, so dress them appropriately for the weather every day – hats, coats, jackets, etc.. And in clothes that you won’t mind getting paint on etc..

*No sandals or open toed shoes without socks – the mulch and pebbles from playgrounds get in and bothers the little toesies.

*When you drop your child off in the morning, the best things is STOP, DROP and ROLL. Quickly drop them off and scoot out of sight. Do not go into the classroom/playground to get them settled or engaged in something, and then try to sneak out. That usually makes it worse, once they look up and can’t find mommy or daddy. The teacher will get your child engaged and involved, that is her job!
The teacher or another staff member will let you know if there is a problem and your child is not settling in.
Remember it will take some time, for everyone.

*Do not pick your child before the designated class/school ending time. When one child sees a parent, they all start wanting their parents. And make sure you are there promptly at the closing time – don’t be late! Again, when one parent shows up it sets them all off and if you’re the last one to pick up, your child will most likely be very unhappy.

*If you need to pick up your child early, please let the staff/teacher know in the morning. That way they will make sure that he/she is ready and that there is minimal disruption to the class.

*If someone else is picking up your child, let the teacher know in the morning. Children do get upset if their routine is changed.

*If there are any changes in your home life (new caregiver, move, new pet, parent traveling, visiting relatives, etc), please let the teacher know. It does effect your child’s day.

*Make sure to check your child’s lunchbox (or backpack) every day for any notes about your child’s day, school announcements, upcoming events, newsletters, and any other school related information.

Some Books to read with your child:

The Kissing Hand
Ms. Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
Froggy Goes to School
Miss Malarkey Doesn’t Live in Room 10
The Night Before Kindergarten
When I was Five
When I was Little
Leo the Late Bloomer

Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting Ready for School - Part 1

I write this from my experiences as the mom of two special needs boys (currently in elementary school and high school), as a former preschool teacher, and a PTA President. These are just some tips to help get you and your child ready for school, whether it’s preschool or elementary school.

Going to school is a big step and a change for everyone, even mom and dad.
One of the best ways to prepare your child for school is to be prepared yourself. Your child will look to you, if you are confident, they will be too.

- the school calendar – holidays, special events, etc..
-the school/class hours
-your child’s class schedule – post it on the refrigerator for everyone to see
-the drop off and pick up process, bus schedule, and/or car pool schedule
-the schools playground, before school and after school rules
-how to reach the school by phone and e mail
-the schools lunch room rules and policies – no peanut products?
-the schools electronics policy – ipods, cell phones, gameboys
-how the school communicates emergency announcements
-how the school communicates other information – newsletters, e mails,
flyers in backpacks, etc..
-how best to communicate with your child’s teacher – e mail or phone
-what the school dress code is

Make sure you have all the school supplies, gym uniform, Kleenex, etc. before school starts! And don’t send all your child’s school supplies in with him/her on the first day. Try to drop them off at school before school starts. This way your child isn’t trying to carry everything and do everything on their first trip to school.

Get involved – volunteer as a room parent, join the PTA/Parent Association, just get involved! It really does make a difference. Your child will see you at school and see you enjoying being a part of their world. The teachers will appreciate you and your time. And believe it or not, it does have an impact on how and how often the teacher interacts with your child.

more on Monday.......