FOOD: 10 Do's and Dont's of Family Food

Posted by queenmadison

Want to get your family's eating habits on track? Take a look at these simple points for making the most of mealtime.
There is a silent epidemic spreading throughout America—a quiet conqueror that is infiltrating our homes and affecting our families. More and more American children are falling victim to obesity, now recognized as a serious threat to our nation's health.
What can you do to quell the growing numbers of overweight children? Start teaching proper nutrition in your home. No child is too young to start
Try these easy, family-based tips for stronger, healthier kids and parents:

Five Rules to Live By

  1. Do plan your meals every week so that you can keep track of what you are eating.

  2. Do incorporate foods with which the whole family is comfortable. There are healthy alternatives for nearly every kid-favorite food.

  3. Do eat fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, nuts, and dairy daily. These choices will keep your children full and less likely to turn to foods with empty calories.

  4. Do involve the whole family in meal planning, exercise, and family outings. The whole family's involvement will ensure success.

  5. Do get your children to exercise at least three times a week, 60 minutes per day—which can be broken up into six times each day for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Five Things to Avoid

  1. Don't ever skip a meal. Skipping meals deprives the body of important nutrients and may cause you to over compensate by eating empty calories later.

  2. Don't completely eliminate the foods children are used to eating. Instead, try to make or find a healthier version (for example, instead of French fries, try sweet potato slices baked in a broiler).

  3. Don't make deep-fried or fast foods a part of your diet. Replace these with foods that have been sautéed, baked, roasted, broiled, or grilled.

  4. Don't expect the children to participate in good nutrition and exercise without parents being good role models.

  5. Don't rely on daycare, gym class, or sports team involvement to teach your kids lifelong exercise habits. Children need to learn to exercise without being a part of a sports team and get into the habit of an exercise routine.

PET LOVER ZONE:Should You Insure Your Family Pet?

Posted by queenmadison

Expensive, maybe, but it could save you heartache

If you would stop at nothing to save or improve the life of your pet, the costs can add up fast. Now you can buy pet insurance in case your pet needs medical attention that you can't afford. Veterinarian Karen Halligan explains pet insurance and how to decide if it's for you.
Like all insurance, with pet insurance you're paying for something you may never use. But in the event you need it, you should be sure the coverage is there. Health insurance for both people and pets is a business and it stays alive by making a profit. By definition, pet insurance insures against emergency costs while charging monthly premiums whether or not claims are made. That, of course, is the essence of insurance. Either you take the risk or you pay the insurance company to take the risk on your behalf.
If you're the kind of pet owner who would stop at nothing to save or improve the life of your pet, the dollars can add up quickly. A hit-by-car accident could easily cost upward of $5,000 in vet bills, especially if your pet is in intensive care in a 24- hour hospital, which costs around $500 per day. You pay for insurance in case your pet needs medical attention that you can't afford.
What Is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance pays a portion of your vet bills in exchange for a monthly premium. Typically you pay the vet bill upfront and the insurance company reimburses you an amount that is stated in your policy.
Although there are differences, pet insurance is similar to human health insurance with deductibles, maximums, and co-pays. The portion that's paid to you is contingent on your policy and the stated conditions that are covered.
Pet insurance usually doesn't cover all treatments that your cat or dog might need. It's not inexpensive or without its share of problems. I've heard some clients complain that it has taken six to seven weeks to be reimbursed for a claim when the policy promises to pay in thirty days.
The least expensive policies run about $10 a month, with premium plans up to $50 a month or more. The cost of insurance increases as the coverage improves. That means you could easily spend up to $7,200 on premiums over your pet's lifetime.
How Pet Insurance Works
Is pet insurance worth the price? You need to weigh the cost of the insurance against the likelihood of submitting a claim. Pet insurance, like human health insurance, works best to cover unexpected and expensive situations. If your pet ends up hospitalized with a serious illness, coverage will be a godsend and can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Pet health insurance is inexpensive compared to human health insurance.
There are two basic kinds of health plans. First, like human insurance plans, there are companies that pay a percentage of the charges after you pay a deductible first. Second, there are price-reduction plans that, for an annual fee, cover a small percentage of virtually any pet-related charges. Usually, the smaller the deductible, the higher the premium. As with human health insurance, the more expensive plans have higher limits.
Unlike human health insurance plans, though, pet insurance plans may have age restrictions, and there are limits to what a company will pay. Compared to human insurance, which offers a lifetime maximum of around $3 million, pet insurance offers a lifetime maximum of approximately $150,000. There are also per-incident limits and annual limits to what a company will pay out.
To Insure or Not to Insure
What do you think the odds are that your pet will have an accident or become ill? You need to carefully analyze your pet's lifestyle. Does it often get into fights with other dogs or cats, get into the garbage, have a tendency to eat nonfood items, or have a pet's family history of hip dysplasia, diabetes, or some other genetically predisposed condition?
When it comes to pet insurance, you can't decide on price alone, so arm yourself with knowledge to secure the insurance policy that's best for you and your pet. I recommend that you add up how much you spend a year on veterinary care for each pet and separate the costs into routine care versus accidents and/or illness. Develop estimates for one to five years and then see how expensive the premium would be for the same period and how much of your expenses the pet insurance policy would cover. You also need to consider the age of your cat or dog and their potential to have health problems. Usually, lower monthly premiums come with higher deductibles and/or larger co-payments.
Pet Insurance Tips
Look for a health insurer that has been in business for at least a couple of years.
Ask your vet and other pet owners for recommendations.
Search the Internet for complaints against or praise for the insurance company you're considering.
Make sure the company is licensed in your state. Not all plans operate in all states. Be sure to check that your provider is licensed by the Department of Insurance and is regulated in your state.
Contact your state's Department of Insurance about the company you're considering and any consumer complaints against it, and get the scoop on insurers operating in your state.
Read policies very carefully for conditions and exclusions before enrolling. Many policies don't cover hereditary or congenital defects and others will cover preexisting conditions only if the dog or cat has not needed treatment in at least six months.
Consider the specific health needs of your dog or cat.
With new puppies or kittens, consider getting a policy that covers routine care as well as injuries and illnesses.
Think about your pet's age. The best time to purchase a policy is when your pet is young. That way you won't have to worry if your pet develops a long- term health problem and thus has a preexisting condition.
Consider plan affiliations. See if your employer or the pet-industry organization you belong to has an affiliation with one of the plans. Some companies make a contribution to premiums while others ensure that employees get a group rate.
For older pets, consider policies that cover routine dental cleaning, prescription medications, and diagnostic tests such as blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, and ECGs.
The older your pet becomes, the more the premiums will cost, and they can be quite high for an older pet, even a healthy one.
Read the fine print, understand the limitations, and look for exemptions.
Talk to other pet owners with insurance.
Consider your pet's lifestyle. Active, outdoor pets are at higher risk.
Ask yourself if you're looking for a discount plan or a comprehensive insurance plan. These can differ. With discount fee plans, you pay an annual fee and get discounted veterinarian and related pet services. A comprehensive pet health insurance plan would operate similarly to human health insurance.

Another option is to self-insure. In lieu of pet insurance, you can open a savings account for your pet and deposit a few dollars into it every week to pay for unexpected vet bills. Then you'll know the money is there if you need it for your pet's health emergency. Of course, this only works if you're a disciplined person and can put the money aside in the first place. This is a step toward peace of mind, but it can be difficult not to occasionally borrow from the emergency fund. What happens when your pet's emergency savings is used up? You have to start saving all over again. In addition, since the cost of treatments can be high, you could use up all you've saved on one accident or illness and not have enough money when another one arises. That's why pet insurance is worth investigating.


Posted by queenmadison

Some babies fall asleep almost before you’re out of the driveway, but others won’t spend five happy minutes in their car seats. Usually, this is because your baby is used to more freedom of movement and more physical attention than you can provide when she’s belted into her seat.
Hearing your baby cry while you are trying to drive is challenging. Even though it’s difficult to deal with, remember that you and your baby’s safety are most important. Parents sometimes take a crying baby out of the car seat, which is extremely dangerous and makes it even more difficult for the baby to get used to riding in the car seat. Some parents make poor driving decisions when their babies are crying, which puts everyone in the car at risk. Either pull over and calm your baby down, or focus on your driving. Don’t try to do both.
The good news is that a few new ideas and a little time and maturity will help your baby become a happy traveler. (I know, because three of my babies were car-seat-haters!)
The trip to car seat happiness
Any one (or more) of the following strategies may help solve your car seat dilemma. If the first one you try fails, choose another one, then another; eventually, you’ll hit upon the right solution for your baby.
Make sure that your baby is healthy.
If car seat crying is something new, and your baby has been particularly fussy at home, too, your baby may have an ear infection or other illness. A visit to the doctor is in order.
Bring the car seat in the house and let your baby sit and play in it.
Once it becomes more familiar in the house, she may be happier to sit there in the car.
Keep a special box of soft, safe car toys that you’ll use only in the car.
If these are interesting enough, they may hold her attention. (Avoid hard toys because they could cause injury in a quick stop.)
Tape or hang toys for viewing.
You can do this on the back of the seat that your baby is facing or string an array of lightweight toys from the ceiling using heavy tape and yarn. Place them just at arm’s reach so that your baby can bat at them from her seat. (Don’t use hard toys that could hurt your baby if they come loose in a quick stop.)
Make a car mobile.
Link a long row of plastic baby chains from one side of the backseat to the other. Clip soft, lightweight new toys onto the chain for each trip. Make sure they are secure and keep on eye on these so that they don’t become loose while you are driving.
Hang a made-for-baby poster on the back of the seat that faces your baby.
These are usually black, white, red and bold primary colors; some even have pockets so you can change the pictures. (Remember to do this, since changing the scenery is very helpful.)
Experiment with different types of music in the car.
Some babies enjoy lullabies or music tapes made especially for young children; others surprise you by calming down as soon as you play one of your favorites. Some babies enjoy hearing Mom or Dad sing, more than anything else! (For some reason, a rousing chorus of “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” has always been a good choice for us, even out of season!)
Try “white noise” in the car.
You can purchase CDs of soothing nature sounds or you can make a recording of your vacuum cleaner!
Practice with short, pleasant trips when your baby is in a good mood.
It helps if someone can sit near her and keep her entertained. A few good experiences may help set a new pattern.
Try a pacifier or teething toy.
When your baby has something to suck or chew on he may be happier. Just make sure it doesn’t present a choking hazard, and keep to small, soft toys.
Hang a mirror.
That way your baby can see you (and you can see your baby) while you are driving. Baby stores offer specialty mirrors made especially for this purpose. When in her seat, she may think that you’re not there, and just seeing your face will help her feel better.
Put up a sunshade in the window.
This can be helpful if you suspect that sunshine in your baby’s face may be a problem. Use the window-stick-on types, and avoid any with hard pieces that could become dislodged in a quick stop.
Try to consolidate trips.
rip-chaining is effective, especially if you avoid being in the car for long periods of time, and you don’t have many ins-and-outs.
Make sure your baby hasn’t outgrown her car seat.
If her legs are confined, or her belts are too tight, she my find her seat to be uncomfortable.
Fresh air and a nice breeze can be soothing.

If all else fails . . . take the bus!

PREGNANCY GUIDE: HOTMAMA! Being Comfortable in Your Pregnant Skin

Posted by queenmadison

How do you feel comfortable in your own body when you're not the only one in your body? Get tips to help you strengthen your self concept as you prepare for baby.
I've said it time and time again: If I could look as good in a pregnant state as Denise Richards or Brooke Shields, I'd continue reproducing possibly until the end of time. There are many women who love being pregnant. And for each woman who glows with splendor while carrying a baby inside her, there are probably two (at least) who, for various reasons, count the minutes between getting a positive pregnancy test and looking into their newborn's eyes.
Since having my first daughter five years ago, the consumer industry's approach toward these precious nine months has undeniably changed. Some Labor and Delivery units rival the Ritz Carlton, and with the myriad of new merchandise on the market aimed at expectant women, one could almost consider getting pregnant simply for the sheer enjoyment of experimenting with them all. Whether it involves a change in perspective or products, there are many approaches pregnant women can take to ensure that they feel great about themselves—inside and out—while expecting.
The Truth
What many women forget—as they stare in disbelief at the cover of a magazine portraying an expectant celebrity eight months along and counting but looking no more than four—is that celebrities have access to dietitians, personal trainers, and personal shoppers whose job it is to keep them trim, toned, and magazine-cover ready. Note: As you work to put your eyes back in their sockets and close your mouth while balancing the aforementioned magazine on the newly grown shelf just below your chest, please don't forget about airbrushing. Add to that the likely possibility that four minutes or so after that celebrity walks in the front door with her new baby, her trainer pops up in front of her with cartoon-like enthusiasm, a protein shake, and a reminder that he'll meet her in six weeks (or less) for a two-hour run, 1,000 crunches, and some Pilates.
Rest assured, there are a few pregnancy pitfalls that even celebrities can't avoid. Stretch marks, excessive weight gain, and swelling can all be part of the process depending on the way in which one's body responds. As fabulous as Demi Moore looked on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991, it was rumored in many a magazine that even she lives with stretch marks. The gossip magazines had a field day when Kate Hudson gained a rumored 75 pounds during her pregnancy. However, she appeared quite happy in nearly every picture taken of her during this time, lending more than an ounce of credibility to the idea that how you feel about yourself while pregnant is what it's all about.
Hip (and Affordable) Maternity Clothes
One of the best ways to send your I-feel-frumpy state of mind through the revolving door to Hotel Get-A-Load-Of-Me is by revamping your maternity wardrobe. Thankfully, the era of maternity muumuus with patterns so bold that one could be seen coming a mile away on Madison Avenue at rush hour is long gone. The celebrity-sported maternity lines which were once reserved only for those with a bank account balance that grew in tandem with their bellies are now being created for the rest of us. An added bonus: they're cute!
So, toss the sweats that are two sizes too big and hit the mall. Find some styles that catch your eye. Spend a bit more to buy a few bottoms that you really like (because the part of you from the hips down is likely to be the part about which you feel not-so-good), and pair those with bright, fun, stylish tops. Liz Lange has a maternity line at Target which is not only affordable, it's adorable. The Gap has done wonderfully with their collection (and you can return items that don't fit properly directly to the stores, saving you shipping charges). The affordable options available online are limitless.
Product Availability
With so much merchandise on the market geared toward pregnant women—from stretch mark minimizing cream, to sunscreen that allegedly prevents chloasma, to leg cream that can supposedly bring immediate relaxation to legs and ankles—there's nary an excuse not to feel spectacular, or at least have fun trying.
According to Stephanie Breemes, mom of one-year-old Ava, "If a company sells you on the promise that its lotion will reduce or prevent stretch marks, I think it's worth a try. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I got my hands on Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula lotion for stretch marks and was a faithful user right up until the day I delivered."
A firm believer that doing whatever it takes to feel your best is an important part of being pregnant, Breemes continued to use that lotion even after her belly grew so large that stretch marks ended up making a small appearance in her last trimester. "Mentally," she said, "it made me feel like I was at least trying to take care of what used to be my body!"
The Wonder of Water
Water is so sacred, it's a wonder it's free. Don't forget for even a second the importance of drinking enough water each day.
According to Dr. Susan Warhus, an obstetrician based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the author of Countdown to Baby: Answers to the 100 Most Asked Questions About Pregnancy and Childbirth, "Drinking water is important for everyone's good health, even more so during pregnancy. Drinking water helps to prevent preterm contractions, keeps your skin hydrated, assists in maintaining regular bowel function, and helps to prevent urinary tract infections." During pregnancy, "maintain regular bowel function" can be translated as "avoid hemorrhoids." Believe me, you'll feel much better if you do not have to contend with these!
Try to focus on drinking at least eight glasses of water per day. Purchase a thermos-style container that not only fits into the cup holder of your car, but also has a straw-like attachment. (If you're trying to take a sip from a wide-mouth opening while going 60mph down the freeway, I promise you're going to go over a bump just as the liquid begins entering your mouth. It will then appear to everyone at your destination that perhaps you're suffering from another potential pitfall of pregnancy: incontinence.) Using a thermos with a volume indicator also makes it easier to keep track of daily intake; if you are using a 32-ounce container, you know that to meet your daily minimum you need to fill it and finish it at least twice.
No one would suggest training for a triathlon or sustaining an exercise routine that would make Jennifer Garner's trainer proud, but exercising during pregnancy to the extent permitted by your doctor provides numerous benefits.
According to Martha Hazel, BS, ACE certified personal trainer, "Women who exercise during pregnancy can generally expect to see less ankle swelling, fatigue, constipation, and shortness of breath. Other benefits include easier recovery from labor, greater energy reserves, and enhanced psychological well-being."
Warhus concurs. "Many women find that [exercise] provides them with extra energy and stamina, and is also a way to blow off steam and deal with anxiety." However, Warhus cautions, "If you are not used to exercising, be sure to begin cautiously and slowly."
A State of Calm
The emotional changes a woman experiences while pregnant may, in fact, cause her the most discomfort—both directly and indirectly. The stress that may be experienced due to negotiating the upcoming lifestyle changes or deciding which stroller to purchase is often managed differently by a woman with extra hormones floating around. Notes Warhus, "It stands to reason that as your body goes through significant changes during pregnancy, so do your emotions. It's quite common to have a mixture of feelings that may range from euphoria to fear to sadness."
Warhus has spent many years reassuring her own patients that emotional stress does not seem to have a definite negative effect on pregnancy outcomes. "Still," she warns, "stress may have effects on you and your baby that medical science does not completely understand." For example, stress can lead to an elevated heart rate or elevated stress hormones, and a fetus may very well "feel" these changes within your body.
Mindful exercises such as yoga or meditation can be beneficial not only during these nine months, but at any point in your life when you are feeling more anxious than usual. Some days, calming music and a good book (that has nothing to do with parenthood) can make for a more relaxing afternoon than navigating the aisles of Babies "R" Us again in search of the perfect pacifier. And last, but certainly not least, a good maternity massage never hurt anyone!
Fringe Benefits
Store clerks' eyes will bulge if they believe there's even a remote possibility that you'll deliver in Aisle 9 between the pickles and the potato chips. One of the best things about being obviously pregnant is that you will likely be allowed, implored perhaps, to cut in line at the grocery store, the home improvement store—the Department of Motor Vehicles even. (Certainly, data has been collected which proves that the best time to renew your driver's license is somewhere between the seven-month mark and the timeframe during which your water might break while in line.) Typically, the more uncomfortable you look, the better your chances. So, this might be a good time to breathe a bit more loudly than normal, or push your hands into the small of your back and emit a low groan. But there's still no reason not to be wearing a cute outfit.
What truly matters most is each pregnant woman's perception of herself during this amazing time. Each change that your body undergoes is its own response to the miracle growing inside you. Regardless of one's preconceptions of what makes a beautiful pregnant body, the fact is everyone's pregnancy and pregnant shape is unique. These nine months are a time to be celebrated. So lather on a great-smelling body cream, don a fabulous outfit, grab a bottle of water, and let the whole world hear you roar.

Using leftover baby food to create flavorful, nutritional meals for the entire family! Tips and recipes for baby food meals.
Admit it—you've sampled some of your baby's food before. Whether you buy your baby's food or make it yourself, there's something soothing about pureed peaches or chunky rice pudding. But baby food isn't just for babies. You can use leftover baby food in meals for the whole family. It's not only convenient, but you'll be surprised how good baby food-inspired recipes can be.
Changing Your View of Baby Food
"I don't like the term 'baby food'," explains Lisa Barnes, mother of two and a member of the American Personal Chef Association (APCA). "Baby food for many people conjures up the image of [food in] jars." Barnes adds that many people think that baby food—especially the store-bought, jarred varieties—is bland and unappealing. This isn't necessarily the case. (Check out these new palate-expanding baby foods as proof!)
Barnes, the author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby & Toddler, explains that you shouldn't consider baby food as separate from what the rest of the family is eating, but instead simply think about it as the same food made age appropriate. You eat an apple; your baby eats an apple that has been pureed until the consistency is right for her.
Making Baby Food Convenient
Before you start preparing baby food-inspired meals, make it easier on yourself by having plenty of choices on hand. Julianne E. Hood, mother of two and the author of The Basic Baby Food Cookbook, buys fresh fruits and vegetables in season and prepares them for storage by washing them and pureeing them in a food processor. Hood then pours the puree into ice cube trays and later stores the frozen cubes in freezer bags so they're ready to use.
"Start to finish it takes me 15 to 20 minutes to prepare a big bulk batch of fruits," says Hood. "Two pounds of fruit makes about 40 ice cube servings." She reminds parents not to forget to strain out seeds in fruits for beginning eaters.
You may also want to freeze larger portions of savory foods, such as meats and chopped-up pastas. For this, Hood uses muffin trays, pouring the baby food into the tins, freezing, and then storing. A few minutes in microwave and her toddler's meal is ready.
Using Baby Food to Add Flavor
Once you have plenty of baby food on hand, it's time to start cooking!
Start with mixing in baby food to add flavor. For savory dishes, try using meat-based food to thicken sauces or create richer casseroles, stews, and soups. For example, if you're preparing beef stroganoff, add a beef or tomato-based baby food to create a more complex flavor. Enliven your vegetable soup with pureed zucchini, tomatoes, or another hearty vegetable.
During snack time, mix fruit baby food into plain yogurt or a veggie baby food into plain cream cheese to spread on crackers (with either, simply thaw a food cube or two for seconds in the microwave and you're ready to go). Use fruit puree as jam on bread or crackers.
When it comes to desserts, fruity baby foods make the perfect accompaniment. Stir pureed strawberries, peaches, or cherries into whipped cream to top cakes. Create simple sauces to drizzle on whole fruit or chocolate creations. My favorite: chocolate cheesecake with dollops of tangy mango puree. Barnes says she serves cherry puree to her baby and cherry sorbet to her husband—both love it.
Using Baby Food for a Nutritional Punch
You want to be careful about what you feed your baby. Yet the same quality ingredients and care that you put into your baby's dishes can make yours healthier, too. Tossing some of your baby's food into your own meals can make it easier to get your full servings of vegetables and fruits.
For breakfast, Hood suggests adding a cube or two of fruit to pancake or waffle batter. Her children rave about her strawberry pancakes.
In baked goods, such as coffee cakes and muffins, try substituting pureed fruit for part of the butter or oil called for in the recipe. For instance, my favorite recipe for pound cake muffins that calls for eight tablespoons of butter, I use six instead and use pureed baby food peaches for the other two tablespoons.
Snacking becomes fun when you add baby food veggies. Gigi Lee Chang, who was inspired by the birth of her son to create Plum Organic baby foods, loves to spread bread with her own blend of super greens, which include spinach. Mix pureed spinach with plain yogurt for a dip to accompany pita chips or thin slices of baguette bread.
Dinnertime is the perfect opportunity to create healthier meals by sneaking in quality baby foods. Hood throws an assortment of baby food extras into her spaghetti sauce—zucchini, carrots, meats; any baby leftovers can add extra nutrients. Chang tosses pureed spinach with pasta for a quick pesto.
Get creative with ways to use savory baby foods like vegetables and meat into your recipes. Try adding a little green beans into your gravy, sweet potatoes into regular mashed potatoes, and zucchini into casseroles.
As with baked goods for breakfast, you can create healthier versions of your favorite sweets by adding in some extra baby food. For instance, pureed prunes are a secret sweetener and fat substitute in chocolate chip cookies.
Healthy fruit desserts are simple and tasty with baby food. Hood tops off meals with fruit smoothies—she tosses a variety of fruit ice cubes in with frozen yogurt in the blender.
Baby Food Bliss
Blending baby foods into your regular diet can help your add flavor, convenience, and nutrition to your own meals—even better, it can be fun!
The next time you think baby food is just for babies, try a few of these recipe suggestions to wow everyone in your family, from your toddler to your spouse.
The Strawberry "Dream" Smoothie
2 cups low-fat/skim organic milk
1 cup thawed strawberry baby food
¾ cup vanilla organic yogurt
1 cup low-fat, sugar-free vanilla ice cream
1 Tbsp. ground flax seed or toasted wheat germ
½ cup crushed ice
For this simple recipe from Julianne Hood, just add all of the above ingredients to your food processor or blender and process until smooth. Yum!
Sweet Potato Turkey Casserole
1 tsp. olive oil or other heart-healthy oil
1/8 cup diced onion
1/4 cup finely chopped roast turkey
1/8 cup finely chopped cooked green beans or peas (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup waterPinch finely chopped rosemary4 oz. Plum Organics Sweet Potatoes puree
Heat oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about two minutes.
Mix in roast turkey, green beans/peas, rosemary and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Chang created this recipe featuring the Plum Organics food and suggests that if you're making this recipe for babies ages six to nine months, puree the mixture, adding extra water if necessary. For older babies, Chang recommends roughly mashing the mixture in the pan with a potato masher.
Warm Plum Organics Sweet Potatoes separately and fold into final blended mixture or mash. Allow to cool and serve. This serving size is perfect for a toddler meal. Simply double or triple it for a fun family meal.
TIP: For a healthy, hearty toddler meal, place the rough mash in a small oven proof dish, top with cheese and bake at 350 degrees for five minutes or until cheese is melted. Allow to cool thoroughly and serve in a child-friendly dish.
Red Lentil Cranberry Chicken
1 tsp. olive oil or other heart-healthy oil
1/8 cup diced onion
1/4 cup finely chopped roast chicken
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. cranberry sauce or dried cranberries, finely chopped
4 oz. Plum Organics Red Lentil Veggie meal
Heat oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about two minutes.
Mix in roast turkey, cranberry sauce/dried cranberries and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
For babies six to nine months, puree the mixture in a blender, adding extra water if necessary. For older babies, roughly mash the mixture in the pan with a potato masher.
Warm Plum Organics Red Lentil Veggie meal separately and fold into final blended mixture or mash. Allow to cool and serve.
TIP: For a healthy, hearty toddler meal, place the rough mash in a small oven proof dish, top with cheese and bake at 350 degrees for five minutes or until cheese is melted. Allow to cool thoroughly and serve in a child-friendly dish.

PARENTING ZONE: A Childcare Alternative: Co-op Babysitting

Posted by queenmadison

Babysitting co-ops are organized by a group of parents that share an interest in getting some guilt-free time without their children and want to encourage social skills for their kids. Learn how to start and organize this cost-effective solution to childcare.
Babysitting co-ops are organized by a group of parents that share an interest in getting some guilt-free time without their children and want to encourage social skills for their kids. While it is a cost-effective solution to childcare (it's free!), many parents, despite their economic situation, prefer the social and personalized aspect of cooperative childcare.
Advantages of a co-op include:
=No-cost, quality childcare.
=A support network of other women with similarly aged child/ren who deal with many of the same daily issues as you do.
=The opportunity to spend time on yourself or career.
=A network of friends for you and your children.

Getting Started
The first thing you need for a babysitting co-op is a group of parents with children. Babysitting co-ops have been started with as few as two women; others have membership as high as 50.
So where do you find members? It's likely there are other at-home moms right in your own neighborhood, local place of worship, gym, or even an older child's school. The Internet provides many local boards including that you can use to advertise for potential parents free of charge. Another good option is parenting education programs for mothers as well as mommy and me classes. These groups offer you an instant connection to prospective members. Don't be shy! You will be surprised how receptive other stay-at-home moms will be to the concept.
Getting Organized
Because a co-op is a give-and-take proposition, it's necessary to have a record keeping system so that all members benefit from the co-op. Here are two examples of record keeping systems from other babysitting co-ops that you may use or modify to meet your needs:
The Bookkeeper System
Each parent member begins with a 50-point base account and is charged one point for one child per hour and an additional point for each additional child per hour. Members who do the babysitting call in their earned points to a secretary who debits and credits the member "accounts." The secretary is a position that rotates among members monthly; she is paid five points per month for keeping the books updated.
Funny Money
There is no need for a secretary to keep track of hours with the funny money system. Each member receives 50 funny dollars (you can use monopoly money or make your own) worth of cards in one hour increments. She pays whoever babysits her children with these "dollars"—at a rate of one "dollar" per hour. Obviously, at some point, if you're not doing the babysitting you will run out of money.
No matter what system is used, members need to pay attention to totals. A rule of thumb for the Bookkeeping or Funny Money system is that once a member has a total of 25, it's time for her to start babysitting. Members with totals of 60 or more are urged to get out and go more.
All co-op members receive membership lists from their co-ops which contain the name, address and phone number of each member, their children's names and ages, an emergency contact number, and the name and phone number of the children's doctor. This list should also include important medical information such as allergies or any other information that a sitter would find helpful on your child's temperament or personality. Some lists may include the number of the poison control center or columns designating members who may be willing to babysit evenings and weekends. If all members receive email, you can create a list to keep each other up-to-date on all these issues.
Periodic membership meetings should also be held—monthly or quarterly. You can arrange periodic meetings to discuss problems that arise and issues among the co-op. But who will watch the kids? Some co-ops opt to have a party where kids can join in on the fun, or for a more formal discussion, they choose hours that fit with each others' schedules.
=As with any organization, a few rules should be in place that are clear to each member to help keep things running smoothly. For example:
=The hours of operation/availability (i.e. from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.)
=The minimum and maximum hours the service can be used at one time (i.e. a minimum of one hour and a maximum of four hours)
=The amount of children who can be cared for by one individual at one time
=Extras that must be provider by the parent using the service (i.e. snacks, meals, diapers, toys, etc.)
=You will find that your group's needs will be specific to your varied interests and personalities, and the rules list can be an ongoing document reflecting the special interests of your particular co-op.

PARENTING ZONE: Childcare Options for Babies and Toddlers

Posted by queenmadison

Childcare services can vary significantly from one facility to the next. Learn how to find the best service for your child and family.
Childcare services vary in quality, cost, and structure. This is a basic primer on finding the best service for your child in a large, diverse industry. Use this section to get started and then go to the other sections and the web resources page for more information. There are many childcare options. Some websites that you will find particularly useful are the National Child Care Information Center and the National Network for Child Care. The key is to find the one that is best for your family.
Care in Your Home
A parent, other family member, relative, friend, or nanny might be engaged to provide care for your child in your own home. This option gives you the most control over your child's care and environment. You also reduce the exposure to other children's infectious problems. Before employing someone in this capacity, check his or her references very carefully.
The weekly cost for this type of childcare varies from near zero for a devoted relative to more than $400 per week for a full-time nanny. Not only must you pay the nanny's salary, but you must also consider social security tax, workman's compensation, withholding tax, and other such financial matters. You can get assistance with these issues from local agencies.
Childcare Centers
These are commercial or non-profit centers outside of a private home. They provide childcare for up to 120 children per day. With a center you eliminate the problem of no childcare if your family childcare provider is ill. You also have the comfort of knowing that there are many providers to help your child. If one becomes frustrated, another can step in to help.
These providers must meet certain minimal criteria regarding the number of children per staff member, immunization history of children, and cleanliness of the environment. They are regulated by state or local laws and may be accredited by national agencies as meeting certain minimum standards. Staff members frequently have training in child health and development. The cost for this type of childcare varies but is usually more expensive than a family childcare home. In the United States, the cost varies from about $115 to over $200 per week. Cost per child varies depending on geographic region, age of your child, number of children you enroll, days per week, and hours per day that you use their services.
Family Childcare Homes
These are other peoples' homes that are used as childcare centers. They are regulated by state or local laws. The variation in the quality among these providers is broad. You will need to evaluate these centers carefully to make sure your child is in an optimal situation. The cost for this type of childcare ranges from $75 to over $200 per week and varies by geographic region. One of the biggest concerns with this type of childcare is what to do if your regular provider is ill herself. In this situation, you may not have care available for your child.
Some of these providers have extensive training in child development. Others have virtually no training and even lack basic first aid skills. You should go through a checklist to make sure that you have reviewed the important qualifications that you want for a family home childcare provider. Such checklists are available from a variety of sources. Check with a local daycare association.
Health Issues
Whenever you have children together, they will inevitably share their infections with one another. As long as your childcare provider takes appropriate precautions and your child has a healthy immune system, your child is not in danger. Childcare providers should be aware of and follow published recommendations from local organizations, the local Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control. Ask the childcare provider which set of recommendations she follows. You should also observe the providers to make certain that they practice good hand washing, follow their policies on toy cleaning, and other recommendations.
Obtain a clear understanding of the center's policy for sick children. The center should give you a copy of this policy when you enroll your child. This policy will help you to know when your child is too sick to go to childcare. Always make certain that your childcare provider has all the phone and fax numbers needed to contact you at any time.
Finding Childcare Alternatives
There are resources to help you locate high-quality providers. Almost all medium to large cities have information networks that can give you lists of licensed childcare providers including their qualifications, experience, and availability. Child Care Aware has a help number that you can call to get a referral to a local agency providing networking services (800-424-2246). Suburban and urban newspapers carry advertisements for childcare providers. Local agencies (both non-profit and for-profit) often serve as brokers helping to link up providers and purchasers of childcare services. The fee for these brokers can exceed $100 even with non-profit agencies. Some employers assist employees by paying the fee.
Once you have identified the alternatives from referral agencies, Internet sources, and other people's recommendations, you need to decide which one is best for your child. After you have narrowed your selections to a few centers, you should visit the childcare facilities yourself. Seeing what these centers look and feel like during their hours of operation can be very valuable.
Special Situations
Some families have childcare needs that are particularly difficult. Mothers or fathers who need childcare during off hours often find that the service is either prohibitively expensive or simply not available. Nurses, transportation workers, and others who frequently work at night often have great difficulty finding appropriate childcare. Locating childcare for children with special needs can also be challenging. Hopefully, businesses will increase their assistance to workers to help them meet these special needs. Networking with other parents in similar situations may be your best source of information about resources in your area.
Plainly Speaking
Childcare is in high demand and many facilities and care givers have arisen to meet this demand. Some of the care is excellent and some of it, frankly, jeopardizes your child's health. A clear knowledge of what is available and what issues to consider can help you to find what is best for your child. This is just a primer. To get the best care for your child, talk with other parents, contact local childcare organizations, and use the other resources referenced in this site.

PARENTING ZONE: 8 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Childcare

Posted by queenmadison

Experts agree that children adapt to new childcare situations at different rates. Whatever the child's age, there are things parents can do to ease the transition into daycare.
You may be the most important factor in how your little one adapts to childcare.
"Children can tell if a parent is not comfortable leaving. If you're anxious, they will be too," explains Stacey Minott of Child Care Aware, an organization dedicated to connecting parents with the local agencies best equipped to serve their needs, based in Washington D.C. "Most important," she says, "is keeping any new childcare transition positive. No matter what the child's age, talk about why you're leaving and when you'll be back. Even infants internally clock their time apart from parents, so try to be especially consistent with timing at the beginning of the daycare transition."
Experts agree that children adapt to new childcare situations at different rates. Most children will become comfortable after a few weeks, but age and temperament certainly affect how long it can take. Babies under six months often don't experience the kind of separation anxiety that can lengthen the transition time for older babies and toddlers.
"Very seldom are children unable to adapt," says Sherri Sutera, vice president of Child Care Services with the United Way of Connecticut. In cases where they have particular difficulty, the environment may not be a good fit. For example, a child who is easily over-stimulated may have trouble in a daycare, but will do well with fewer children at in-home care.
There are many things that parents can do to ease their children into childcare. Following are a few tips to get you started:
1. Find Playful Ways to Talk about Childcare
"Parents can read stories or draw pictures about daycare with their child," suggests Minott. Another way to ease into the change is to set up play dates with kids from the center (or in-home location) to get them familiar with their new peers.
2. Visit the Facility First
Going together to the center or home before the first day will help your child get acquainted with the environment and give you a point of reference when you talk about where he or she will be staying. "Infants and toddlers usually do well with a parent bringing them and staying for a couple of hours, for a couple of days," explains Sutera. "For preschoolers, it can be helpful to have the parent leave for a few hours to ease them into the program."
3. Explain the Schedule
Making your child aware of his or her schedule during the day is key, says Sutera. "Talk to children about the daily schedule. Tell them what to expect for circle time, snacks, rest and outdoor play. It doesn't hurt," she adds, "to create a ritual for good-byes." Some kids know they get a certain number of hugs and kisses before walking parents to the door, or look forward to waving until parents are out of sight. (Use these other tips from other moms to combat separation anxiety.)
4. No Disappearing Acts
The parent who "sneaks" away instead of saying goodbye runs the risk of damaging a child's sense of trust. It is better to offer the security of an explanation, like "Mommy has to go to work," and leave with a kiss and a hug.
5. Bring Special Items from Home
Daycare director Tammy Wright finds that having something special from home, such as a blanket or stuffed animal, can help children in a new daycare situation, especially during the "good-bye" transition. "It's important that the item be something from home—it's a connection for them." Studies have shown that babies can be calmed when there are pictures of family members or even parents' clothing items in their daytime cribs.
6. Make Sure Physicals are Current
Before starting daycare, parents should make sure children's state-mandated immunizations are up-to-date. Special healthcare conditions or allergies should be discussed with providers beforehand, and procedures and dosages for medication should be put in writing (most providers require that forms be completed).
7. Provide Contact Information
Be sure your childcare provider has list of emergency contacts—people she can call if you're not available in an emergency. (Most daycare centers also have a form specifically for this purpose.) Your list should include your own work and cell phone numbers as well as three other emergency contacts' names, addresses, and phone numbers. It's also a good idea to include names of any person you may NOT want to pick up your child.
8. Bring the Right Gear
Keeping children's cubbies stocked with essentials helps to keep them comfortable while you're away. "Most importantly," stresses Wright, "is labeling everything clearly with the child's name." It's often a good idea to have a special bag for taking items back and forth each day.
Childcare Checklist
What should your child bring to childcare?
All ages
=Bedding and blankets for naptime
=Extra clothes (include extra pants if potty training)
=Jackets/hats/coats/boots for outdoor play
=Special toy, picture, or other reminder of home
=Diapers, wipes, and diaper ointment
=Bottles (an insulated bottle holder is good for transporting milk or formula

PARENTING ZONE: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Posted by queenmadison

Having survived one round of parenting, a growing number of grandparents are stepping up to the challenge of raising their children's children.
Anne found it hard to say goodbye to her teenage daughter, Sarah, as Sarah prepared to leave her small town in Canada for college, thousands of miles away. Sarah experienced a difficult goodbye, as well. Not only was she leaving her parents, but also her own daughter, Lisa. As they marked this significant milestone in all their lives, Anne knew that going to college was the best thing for Sarah, so she was willing to do her part to help ensure a better future for her daughter. Sarah thought that when she was older and more stable she'd come back for Lisa. She never did.
The story of Anne, Sarah, and Lisa has a happy ending, but a growing number of grandparents like Anne are facing significant challenges these days as they put their own lives on hold to raise their grandchildren.
Facts and Figures
The 2000 United States Census revealed that more than 2.4 million grandparents are heads of households in which their grandchildren live. That adds up to one in 12 families. According to the 2001 Canada Census, Anne is one of the 56,790 grandparents who are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren. Half of these caregivers are going it alone, without a partner. For both countries, the numbers have steadily been on the rise.
Why Do Grandparents Do It?
"Parenting a grandchild is a necessity born of tragedy, and tragedy has no regard for race, class, ethnicity, location or religion," say Sylvie De Toledo and Deborah Edler Brown, co-authors of the book, Grandparents as Parents: A Survival Guide for Raising a Second Family. Many families are in crisis, stemming from a host of problems that are on the increase. This correlates with the growing number of grandparents taking over parenting from their children for reasons including the following:
=child abuse
=substance abuse (drugs and alcohol)
=teenage pregnancy
=parental death
De Toledo and Edler point out that "Drugs and alcohol account for more than 80 percent of the grandparent families." The familial bond runs deep, as grandparents step in to keep these children safe, loved, and out of foster care.
After enduring a long battle to save her grandchild, Jenny, who was born with Fetal Alcohol Effect, Betty Cornelius created the CANGRANDS website as a resource for grandparents and family members who are raising extended family members. Betty was able to share the care of Jenny with the birth parents 10 to 15 days a month until the little girl was three-and-a-half years old. During the time that Jenny spent with the parents, Betty says, "Jenny suffered from four poisonings, molestation and numerous falls, all of which required hospital care." Betty fought her son and daughter-in-law for custody of Jenny. The birth parents had free lawyers while Betty borrowed $28,000 to help fund her battle. Finally, Betty was awarded custody after it was discovered that the maternal grandfather was a pedophile.
Betty sums up her experience like this, "Jenny is worth every cent. But the stress of the court battle led to high blood pressure and many health-related problems for me. Plus I lost my job. I worry about how I will ever catch up as I no longer have any retirement funds. I worry about short-term things like braces, lessons, and camp for Jenny. Then I worry about the long-term things like college and her wedding. Basically, we worry that our health and funds won't hold up long enough to see her into adulthood."
The Challenges of Parenting…Again
More grandparents than ever are reviving their former role of parent at the time when they should be caring for themselves and preparing for retirement rather than fighting legal battles. In many cases, they are already living on low incomes, so taking on the care of children adds significantly to their financial worries.
A high percentage of children reared by grandparents also have special needs, which adds another stressful dimension to their care. One such grandparent revealed that she receives only $214 dollars in aid per month to help with the care of her disabled grandchild: "If he were my foster child I would get a lot more," she says. "But I don't want to petition for him as a foster child because then the parents would be notified and I'd have to fight for him all over again."
There is some good news: The U.S. and Canadian governments are beginning to acknowledge the contribution that a relative has on a young child, and have introduced increased benefits and allowances, including retroactive payments and respite care.
How Do the Grandchildren Fare?
Overall, the outcome for children living with a relative they know is better than for those who have to adjust to life with a stranger as primary caregiver; keeping family ties strong and sibling bonds intact is important for young children. In a December, 2001 study called Kith and Kin: Kinship Care for Vulnerable Young People by Bob Broad, the children reported "emotional permanence"—feeling safe and secure living within their extended family—which resulted directly from the family love they received.
"I love to know that I belong to somebody, I'm loved by people and it's good to know that I've got somewhere to come after school that I can call home," says one.
The Happy Ending
Back to Anne, Sarah, and Lisa. Twenty years after assuming the care of her granddaughter, Anne suffers from debilitating lupus, and lives with Sarah. "After her contribution to Lisa's life, there was no question in my mind that my mother would come to live with me eventually," says Sarah. Together, they are helping to raise another one of Anne's grandchildren, Sarah's nephew, who has some disabilities. Anne rescued him sixteen years ago. Lisa, by the way, adores both her "mom" and her "mommy." Family love has come full circle.
September 12, 2004 is National Grandparents Day!
Resources on the Web:
Grandsplace: An online community for grandparents and special others raising children.
CANGRANDS: A not-for-profit organization devoted to providing support for kin caregiver families and those seeking access to family members across Canada.
Children's Defense Fund: CDF's Leave No Child Behind Kinship Care section offers news, data, and resources for kinship caregivers in the U.S.
Grandma's Hugs: An e-mail/chat support group comprised of Canadian grandmothers who are either raising or seeking access to their grandchildren.

Books for Grandparents:
1.To Grandmother's House We…Stay: When You Have to Stop Spoiling Your Grandchildren and Start Raising Them by Sally Houtman. Northridge Ca., Studio 4 Productions, 1999.
2.Grandparents as Parents: A Survival Guide for Raising a Second Family by Sylvie De Toldeo and Deborah Edler-Brown. New York. The Guilford Press, 1995.