How do I keep my kid thinking over the summer?

July 1, 2014

Oh, you and me both, honey!  You and me both!  This is what I’m doing – please share your ideas in the comments!

  • Math, math, math!  I think this is the easiest thing for a kid to forget over the long, summer vacation.  Math-Aids.com is a great, free site that gives you topic-specific worksheets.  Maisonet Math costs $10 for a year of unlimited worksheets.  You can check out what they have before you pay.  Believe it or not, we actually pay for ixl.com in our family (mostly because I keep forgetting to shut off the renewal function!). IXL has math and language arts for kids K-12, but I hate to admit, my kid hardly ever does it.  He really doesn’t like online test stuff.  He’d rather write it all down on a piece of paper (but I think their content is great!).  And, hey, don’t go overboard.  Your kid should still have a <I>summer</I> after all.  I try for one math worksheet a day, 3-4x a week.
  • Reading time is important!  Here is an old post of mine regarding some great books for kids.  And, here is James Patterson’s site Read Kiddo Read.  Your local library is a great place to go during the summer (and all year!), and librarians are always a wonderful source of recommendations.  Also, I find it much more educational and inspiring to page through an encyclopedia than to miscellaneously go through information online – I think it might be because things online are linked, so they are connected in some way, but the information in a paper encyclopedia is alphabetical, so you get exposed to things you might not ever find out about otherwise.  Also, there’s a lot less inappropriate material for kids in a World Book Encyclopedia, as compared to the rough-and-tumble internet.
  • Limit video/computer game time!  Hey, I love them myself (I am a recovering 2048 and Kingdom Rush addict!), but you’ve got to limit the amount of time you play them, or seriously, your brain just turns to mush!  I prefer to have my son limit himself (doesn’t always work, but we’re getting better at it), and I use this timer from Oxo as a tool to help him do that.  (I’ve been a big fan of that timer for years.  Here’s an old post I wrote about it!)
  • Keep active, eat healthy, and try to maintain healthy sleep and eating habits!  Physical activity and healthy eating are important (duh), and sleep is necessary for all of us, especially children (who should get between 10 and 12 hours of sleep a night, and they often won’t “sleep in” even if they are up late!).  So, try to maintain a regular, early bedtime during the summer!
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Alert: Beware of inhaled water, and pneumonia

December 9, 2013

Someone could drown hours after they’ve accidentally inhaled water, even if they’re able to talk and walk. This could be a risk for anyone who has accidentally inhaled water or has pneumonia – whether they are an adult or a child, even if is a fairly small amount of water we’re talking about. This article and this article have things to watch out for (not all of these need to be present to indicate trouble), but here they are, in case you don’t have time to look at an article:

* difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
* extreme tiredness/fatigue
* changes in personality/behavioral issues/confusion
* vomiting or involuntary defecation
* persistent coughing and/or pain in chest

What happens is a small amount of water in the lungs can block oxygen from being absorbed, and you could eventually suffocate. And, it gets worse when the person lays down (because then the little bit of water covers more of the lung surface). It’s just something to be aware of, because even though it is RARE, if it does happen, it can be remedied by very quick medical intervention.

I hate to send out warnings like this (this was not a forwarded email though it really sounds like one), but I just found out about it and thought it was important enough to post.  (I researched it first to make sure it was not a hoax, which is what ALL of us should do before we pass along/repost anything that we read online.)

 


How do you get ready for cold and flu season?

September 20, 2013

I’ll keep this brief, because it’s important, and I want you to read it.

1. Get as much vitamin D from the sun as you can NOW (from Oct – April, you can’t really get it, even if you lay out at our latitude – I’m assuming you are in NYC, like I am). I talk about the safest and best way to do this in my sunscreen article.

2. If you have low vitamin D levels, your doctor should be telling you to supplement.  It will definitely help you avoid or lessen the impact of colds and flus.  [NOTE: All nutrients, foods and your own body chemistry work together, and taking something in isolation without understanding the whole picture is not a great idea, so for realz – talk to your doctor.  For example, to be absorbed, Vitamin D needs to be taken with fat.  It works together with Magnesium, Phosphorus, Vitamin K and Calcium, and others, all in different amounts.  Messing up the balance of your body is a bad idea.]

3. Get yourself some high quality, homemade chicken broth and keep it in the freezer just in case you need it.  (Worse case, you make soup in the spring.)  You don’t want to be traipsing around with a 104 degree fever looking for the stuff when you’re sick and then settling for some MSG-laden crap.  In my humble opinion, there is NOTHING better for a cold or flu than rest and chicken broth.

4. Keep some natural remedies on hand.  Photos of the stuff I use are below, and explanations are after that.

For Cold & Flu Season

From left to right: Traditional Medicinals tea in “Breathe Easy ” and “Throat Coat” flavors, Now brand Tru-C (Vit C), Quantum Thera Zinc Spray, Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil and High Vitamin Butter Oil, Carlson’s Cod Liver Oil and Oregano Oil.

Aside from consistently taking SOMETHING to raise your vitamin D levels if they are low, I consider oregano oil and zinc spray the be my main first defenses if feel a cold/flu coming on.   My oregano oil is Integral Yoga’s own brand, and I put a 1-3 drops under my tongue when I feel a sickness coming on.  Warning: it is very strong and it burns, and it upsets my stomach a tiny bit.  I’m not telling you it’s a cure for colds and flus (or anything else for that matter), I’m telling you I take it and I like it for certain uses.  BUT USE WITH CAUTION, talk to a doctor about it, you can mix it with something else, and I would not give it to a child.  I have a post on the zinc spray here.  Oh, and when I take the Vitamin C, I break open the capsule and put it under my tongue.  It is incredibly sour.  Have water handy.

Cough Syrup and Goldenseal

I’ve been using Honey Gardens Wild Cherry Bark Cough Syrup for years. I use Goldenseal for sinus infections.

Again, remember, I’m not telling you that any of this stuff cures anything… I’m just saying it’s what I use.  Talk to your doctor.  A warning on the goldenseal – this is a tincture, and I put a few drops under my tongue if I feel nasal / sinus congestion coming on.  It tastes HORRIBLE, and it upsets my stomach a little bit, but it has often helped me.  I would not use this on a child, because it tastes so bad, but your doctor can direct you more knowledgeably than I can.

5. You should have some sort of electrolyte solution on hand just in case you get sick, and I don’t like Gatorade or a sports drink for that situation, because there’s too much sugar and other stuff in drinks like that.  I like Smart Water, or clear, unflavored Pedialyte (which kind of tastes nasty), but I think your best bet to have around is probably Oral Rehydration Salts or something similar.

6.  A humidifier is also a great idea (my buying guide), but only if you use it and keep it very clean.  If you need to steam yourself in a pinch, Boil an inch or so of water in a pot, wait about 5 minutes or so, then put it on a burn proof oven mitt or something stable and nonflammable like that in a stable area FAR AWAY FROM THE STOVE OR FIRE and put your face about a foot or two above it with a towel over your head, so the steam doesn’t escape.  Start far away and move closer in a comfortable range, to make sure you don’t burn yourself or your nasal passages.  Then breathe in to get that warm, moist air in your sinuses and lungs.  It might help loosen up mucous so you can get it out.

7.  A few other things: sleep is super important, so is exercise and moving around.  Large muscle movement (walking, running, cardio, etc.) moves lymph around your body and helps you stay healthy.  Don’t eat sugar/sweet treats/junk when you feel like you are getting sick.  I think it just makes everything worse and your body more susceptible.  Wash your hands well with warm, soapy water before you eat, touch your face, scratch your nose, wipe your eyes, put on make up, touch your mouth, etc.  It makes a difference.  Have some wipes in your bag, so you can clean your hands if you’re not around a sink.  I use the Cleanwell pocket pack of wipes.


How can I learn Mandarin?

August 29, 2013

Another blog post in my back-to-school special!  If you’re trying to learn Mandarin, try McGraw Hill’s Chinese Pronunciation with CD-ROM.  In my experience as a non-native speaker of Mandarin, the hardest thing is the different tones.  Chinese is a tonal language, so it’s really important to get the tones right, and this book is wonderful for that.

I’ve also found The First 100 Chinese Characters by Alison Laurence Matthews (and the follow up The Second 100 Chinese Characters) to be extremely helpful in learning to write Chinese characters.  These books are great, because they are indexed well (in Chinese and in English), and they show stroke order stroke by stroke with directional arrows (instead of just a character with numbers next to it, which I’m not that crazy about).  There is one character per page, and several common words made from each one.  I love these books, and I refer to them ALL THE TIME.  I love them.  Seriously.

100 Chinese Character Books

I love these books for learning characters

Sample

This is how the first book deals with the polite form of “you,” which has 4 more strokes than the common form.

You can’t beat actually using the language in terms of trying to learn it.  I am shameless in my attempts to speak Mandarin (as bad as my accent is, and as limited as my vocabulary and understanding is).  Just talking to people is great, as is checking out youtube videos of people who speak Mandarin wonderfully, as well as people who are just learning.  Also, most Chinese television (that I’ve seen, anyway) is subtitled, and I love to watch it to see if I can pick out characters and actually match them with speech (quite challenging!).

Another great book to get more of a broad overview of the language from the personal anecdotes of a non-native learner is Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows.  It’s a short little book that I found very quick and easy (and enjoyable) to read.

Lastly, a great way to learn any language is to actually take a class and/or visit a country that uses it, but you didn’t expect me to start out with something that obvious, right?


Reference books for back to school?

August 28, 2013

Is it back to school time ALREADY?  (I’m trying to pretend I wasn’t counting the days.)  Here are my suggestions for dictionaries for students.

For children younger than fourth grade, I recommend The Scholastic Dictionary of Spelling.  There are no definitions, and it’s a smallish book (the paperback version is 272 pages / 15.25 oz) which is less intimidating than some of the bigger reference books out there and gets children used to looking up words.  There are wonderful sections on “How to look up a word if you don’t know how to spell it,” “A dozen and one spelling rules,” “Memory tricks,” and more.  I highly recommend it.

Scholastic Spelling Dictionary

I recommend this for children younger than fourth grade.

For children fourth grade and older, I recommend Webster’s Student’s Dictionary.  It says on the cover that it’s “written for ages 10-14,” and that it’s for “Middle School Students,” but I actually like using this dictionary myself!  It’s very well organized, has a lot of extra information (such as word histories, idiomatic phrases, biographical info on important people, and more), provides context for word usage, and the pages are (thankfully) less crowded and hard-to-read than a regular adult dictionary.  It’s a hardcover book just over 1000 pages and weighs about 4.5 lbs, so it’s a chore for smaller kids to get out and use (make sure it’s already on a desk for easy access).  I highly recommend this dictionary as well.  My son is not the kind of child to even want to use a dictionary, let alone look up words unprompted (uncoerced), but even he read a few of the extra side notes on certain words!  (A great example is on page 299 – the word history of the word “Eureka.”  Fascinating!)

Webster's Student Dictionary

This is a great dictionary for middle schoolers, but I think fourth graders can benefit from it, too. I even like to use it myself!

Student dictionary

You can kind of see how the information is organized.


My kid doesn’t stay asleep anymore. What can I do?

July 10, 2013

Talk to your doctor.  There can be all sorts of reasons why and a blog can’t answer that.  HOWEVER, if nothing is obviously wrong, ask your doctor if you can try a children’s multivitamin with iron.  Don’t play around with vitamins or your child’s health.  Ask your doctor.  If your child’s doctor won’t respond to a quick email or phone call on a simple question like this, think about getting a new doctor.  Seriously.

A friend of mine just told me that within 3 days of taking a daily children’s multivitamin with iron, her four year old was sleeping through the night for the first time in YEARS.  When she asked some friends who were pediatricians about it, they all said something to the effect of “Oh yeah, that usually works,” and she thought “YOU KNOW I HAVE BEEN SUFFERING AND YOU DID NOT TELL ME?!”

My friend told me this in the midst of a month-or-so-long issue of my 9 year old waking up in the night more often than he ever has before.  I decided to try a basic children’s multivitamin I found in Whole Foods (see picture below), and bam!  He was sleeping through the night again.  I waited more than a week to write this post to see how it would work.  Also, there was one day he forgot to take it, and he was restless during the night and got up once (but went right back to sleep).  I know it’s not hard science or anything, but that was my experience (and that of a friend) and if your doctor thinks it is okay, it’s worth a try.

Multivitamin with Iron

This was the least-offensive children’s multivitamin with iron that I could find during a quick and casual search at Whole Foods.


Where should we go to eat when none of us can agree on a cuisine?

July 7, 2013

OMG, this is my life!  I feel your pain!  Either go to Whole Foods* or Todd English Food Hall in the basement of the Plaza Hotel.  Look at this TEFH menu and tell me that each of you cannot find something.  C’mon.  I’m not going to tell you that either of them is spectacular or the best food you’ve ever eaten or anything like that, but if you’ve all got conflicting priorities, these two places could do it for you.

* (Whole Foods warning: Chelsea location has nowhere to sit, Columbus Circle is always way too crowded – it’s a complete madhouse, Union Square is nearly always way too crowded, but Tribeca and Houston St have a lot of seating and great selections.)


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