health

IN THE NEWS: Picky Eater? Don’t Sweat It!

by Samantha on August 28, 2015

Follow these simple tips when packing your child's lunchbox


School lunches can be a headache for parents who have the good fortune [*sarcasm*] of having a picky eater on their hands. Worrying about whether your child has eaten during school hours, or envisioning them hungry and miserable is the fear of many parents.

As we send out kids to school with the hopes that they’ll eat what we’ve packed in their lunches, we often spend much of our day stressing about whether they’ve actually eaten any of the various items that we’ve packed in their lunch boxes. The sheer stress and anxiety felt when we unpack these same lunch boxes at the end of the day to reveal that our precious child has eaten very little - and sometimes nothing - for a full school day is almost too much for one to bear. As a mom who admits to having just a few “issues” with food and kids [read: I’m afraid that they will starve when they’re not within the range of my gaze], finding a solution has been of pressing importance.

 

Picky eater boy

Surprisingly, I’ve found that trying to get a substantial, nutritious meal into your child while they’re at school isn’t completely impossible. As a matter of fact, the good news is that there are ways of getting your picky little eater to actually eat. By employing a few creative (and sometimes sneaky) strategies, you’ll be guaranteed to experience an empty lunchbox and to breathe a sigh of relief that your child has actually eaten their lunch.

I was recently asked by The Toronto Sun to provide some simple tips and strategies that parents can use to help their picky eaters to eat what is packed in their school lunches every day.

You can read the article and tips here:

Back to School Ideas For Picky Eaters

Check out my tips and advice and let me know what other strategies you have used in the past to get your kids to eat their lunches.

And on a lighter note, in the spirit of the subject at hand, here you go:

Eat It - Weird Al Yankovic

 

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CBC Radio Interviews - Lice, Kids and School

by Samantha on October 11, 2014

Your kid comes home with lice. Who's responsible?

n-KID-LICE-CHECK-large570

We as parents wait with bated breath for the dreaded letter.

It usually starts out something like this:

A case of pediculosis has been identified in your child’s class…” yada, yada, yada. You get the point. Someone in your kid’s class has LICE! You are freaking out, especially if you are a first-time parent and never have had to deal with this scourge.

As a mother of four, I have had the dreaded letter sent home one too many times, and have dealt with it - and more. Let’s just say that it’s no fun and yes - it’s a hassle to say the least.

Lice - those pesky little critters that get into hair and so much more - have become the scourge of parenting in the 21st century. Not sure what happened but there’s been a proliferation of the dreaded creatures and our kids - and oftentimes their unwitting families -  are the victims.

But who’s to blame?

  • Is it the parents of the children who are bringing these horrible little bugs to school?
  • Is it the kids themselves who, through their actions (innocent or not) perpetuate the proliferation of these dreaded creatures?
  • Is it the school board for not having a more comprehensive educational program to teach both parents and kids how to avoid the scourge of lice?

The reality is that it’s a combination of all of these factors, but I strongly lean towards the third as a key component that is not being addressed as much as it should be. There needs to be a concentrated effort on the part of educators at the school level about how to deal with lice as, let’s face it - it’s at school that kids usually pick up these pesky creatures and bring them home to their families.

CBC Radio Metro Morning

I was recently back on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning to discuss this timely and touchy topic.

Here is a link to the full interview:

Metro Morning - Head Lice and Schools

As a result of the interview, I was asked by CBC Radio’s sister program Ontario Morning to discuss the topic, which I can share with you - scroll down for a link to the clip below.

Some other points that were addressed during both interviews was the rise of “Lice Squads” - enterprising entrepreneurs who - for a fee (often more than $200), will come to your home and delouse your child of the dreaded pests. In many cases, “Lice Parties” are taking away the stigma - and the pests - by normalizing the infestation and by making the delousing actually fun - parents are having wine and cheese in many instances while their kids are getting nits and eggs removed from their heads. I guess this is an example of life giving you lemons and you deciding to make lemonade…or sangria, as it were…

Anyway, all be well and good for those who have the money (the cost is per child, so if you have two or three kids, you can do the math and figure out that delousing the family could get pretty pricey), but what about those who are struggling financially and can’t come up with what would be considered a very expensive way of getting rid of a difficult problem? The issue of inequality of opportunity arises - in other words, if you don’t have the cash, you may have a much more difficult time dealing with ridding your family of these horrible critters. And we haven’t even touched upon the question of stigma - because we all know that those kids who have had persistent bouts of lice and have had difficulty getting rid of them are stigmatized, at least to some degree.

Finally, let’s not forget what all of us parents who have been in the trenches of parenthood for years have known - the “lice letter” that comes in the fall is often one of many that occurs throughout the school year. Again - do the math and these pesky critters can cost a family a lot more than inconvenience.

So what’s the solution?

Ontario Morning

You can listen to my interview with Ontario Morning here (link to iTunes Ontario Morning feed) - The episode is from September 30th 2014 - skip to 40:25 for my segment (it’s at the end of the program):

Ontario Morning Interview - Lice, Kids and School

Of course there are many natural ways of removing lice which don’t cost an astronomical amount and don’t employ the usage of very caustic and often toxic chemicals. Who wants to put that on a child’s head? Some advice and tips on details about natural lice removal can be found in the links below:

How to Kill Lice Naturally

Natural Lice Treatment

Home Remedies For Lice

So what are your thoughts? How do we deal with this yearly, pesky problem that occurs in our schools and spreads to our homes? Who’s responsible and how do we rid ourselves of these horrible critters? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com

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A Note To Restaurant Owners From a Frustrated Parent

kids toilet

Public washroom.”

Do these two words make you cringe? If you’re a parent, they likely do. And you’re not alone. All of us who have had to encounter the phrase “I have to go pee!” – or worse – know how fear-inducing such a pronouncement can be. The cause of this dread?

Germs.

Filth.

Other people’s bodily fluids.

Gross but true. Let’s just say that a trip to a public restroom can be the cause of extreme anxiety for not only the kids but their parents as well.

Yes, in spite of your “best laid plans” – taking your kids to the washroom before you leave the house, limiting the amount of fluids that they drink before venturing out of their warm cocoon of home, double-checking that your child actually “went pee” – the dreaded declaration is uttered nonetheless. Here you are, in a nice family restaurant, just about to bite into your hamburger when your kid drops the bomb. “I have to go NOW!” they scream and you’re immediately filled with fear. What awaits you in the washroom is more than you ever want to imagine, and not in a good way.

The scenario above is not atypical and parents deal with similar situations every day. What stresses them out the most is the potentially gross situation that awaits them in the washroom stall. How many of us have made arrangements to dine out with kids, but then waylaid these plans altogether just because the thought of dealing with your child in a public restroom was more than you could bear?

From a parent’s perspective, it would be great if there were some standards and “must-haves” that could be agreed-upon and expected for all public washrooms. After all, it’s pretty basic, isn’t it? When nature calls, we all have to answer; why not make it less unpleasant?

With fingers crossed and the hope that more eating establishments and other public destinations will get on board with parents’ ideal lavatory wants, here are five must-haves for public washrooms.

Restaurant Owners: 5 Things You Need in Your Washrooms

1) Cleanliness – This is first and foremost for parents. No one wants to walk into a restroom that looks or smells like it hasn’t been recently cleaned. Considering the fact that most kids touch everything in their immediate vicinity, make the effort to assure that the bathroom is spic and span.

2) Space to Move – What’s with the cramped quarters? Ideally, one should be able to move around reasonably in the stall, even more so when there’s a young child in tow. As any parent can tell you, there’s nothing worse than trying to help a child “do their business” in a place where the door can barely close with the two (sometimes three) of you in there.

3) A Change Table – As noted in #2, parents need room to move and when there are babies in the mix, this becomes even more of a priority. Why? Well try changing a baby on the floor of a bathroom stall. Not nice. Parents need a clean surface, large enough to hold a wriggling baby. We’ve all seen variations on these items in public washrooms but not all of them are up to par. Ideally they should include the following: a way of securing the baby to the table, a material surface that is easily cleaned and sanitized and a configuration that allows it to be opened and closed in a bathroom stall without much effort. And while I’m on the topic, a change table is not only required in the women’s washroom! So many fathers have their babies in tow and yet are left by the wayside when it comes to accommodations. C’mon, restaurants - give them a change table in your restrooms as well. Equal rights for all parents, okay?

4) Child-Height Sinks and Soap Dispensers – This sounds so obvious but you’d be surprised at how many public washrooms don’t accommodate kids. It’s almost as if they don’t want the children to wash their hands 😉 Don’t discourage kids from this important step by making it difficult for them (and their parents). Sinks and hand soap should be at child level so that parents can teach their kids good hygiene as they finish “doing their business.” Same goes for hand dryers and paper towel dispensers.

5) “Hands-Free” Capability – It’s not only for driving, you know. Think airport washrooms: you walk in, there’s no door handle to touch, no having to flush the toilet with your foot (!) and the water starts flowing the minute you or your young charge puts their hands under the faucet. Less contact, less germs. All public washrooms should be like this.

What have I missed? What else would you add to this restaurant wish-list? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below!

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What Type of Role Model Are You?

by Samantha on February 25, 2014

parent smoking in car with kids

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

A wise saying and one that’s more true than many of the adages that we’ve heard over the years.

The phrase is one that indicates what most of us already know: that what we do and how we behave is often mimicked and replicated by our kids. A scary thought, really.

We’re role models for our kids.

They’re watching our every move. This reality is something that many of us parents try to forget or ignore, especially when we want to do something that we know is not setting the best example for our children.

How many times have we poured ourselves that extra cocktail, told a boldface lie or reached for that cigarette in spite of ourselves? Sure - things would be perfectly fine in all of these scenarios had our kids not been watching and taking mental notes of what we were doing.

“Daddy smokes so it must be okay.”

“Mommy drinks a lot so it can’t be a problem.”

“Mommy and Daddy lie all the time so it can’t be that bad.”

It’s a bitter pill to swallow (figuratively speaking, of course) when we realize that we are indeed role models for our children. Those days of doing whatever we wanted to do with no repercussions have passed and we’re now in the position of being one that is looked to with wide-eyed wonderment…and disdain, depending on what we’re doing.

When our kids are young, they observe, accept and sometimes replicate what they’ve seen their parents do. As they get older, the mental imagery of what they have watched and experienced over the years has solidified, providing the foundation for the decisions that they will make in their critical teenage years. How many times have we heard the story of kids who started smoking because it was “the norm” at home and that their dad lit up first thing in the morning and after every meal? What number of boldface liars, scammers and generally unscrupulous people grew up with parents who underscored the importance of integrity, of telling the truth and of general ethics. Not many, I gather.

The point here is that our actions speak louder than our words, and that our values - the way we live our lives and the lessons that we teach our children - are imprinted on our kids, forming the basis of the types of people that they’ll become in adulthood. A scary proposition but one that is very real. Ask any flustered parent who’s had to scramble for an explanation for their teen who’s been caught smoking, drinking, or worse. “But Mom! YOU smoke [drink/take drugs or whatever other vice that they’ve been caught doing].” No explanation is ever sufficient in these circumstances.

Of course we could always fall back on another vintage parenting philosophy: “Do as I say, not as I do,” though it’s fairly hard to defend to growing kids who start to understand the troublesome nature of hypocrisy. No, as unnerving as it may be, we are the ones who need to be setting the examples for our kids. A sobering thought but one that can’t be ignored. So take a deep breath, butt out, tell the truth and realize that parenting is no doubt the toughest job you’ll ever have.

What do you think? Do you feel that you’re a good role model for your kids? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com

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Simple strategies on how to keep the kids comfortable during those hot summer months

Boys in sprinkler

Ah, those dog days of summer. We wished for heat and we got it - and then some.

When our desire for warmth is a distant memory and we’re battling sky-high temperatures and humidity indexes, it’s time to take action and gain control over the situation. The soaring mercury often brings out the worst in us, and children are particularly susceptible to the heat. Depending on how high temperatures climb, kids can become extremely irritable and can experience heat stoke, if we’re not careful. To this end, here are five simple ways to beat the heat with the kids this summer:

How to Beat the Heat and Stay Cool With the Kids

1) Stay Hydrated - Perhaps one of the most important things to remember during a heatwave is to drink water - lots of it. Our bodies need fluids to function properly and this is even more so the case for children. Make sure that the kids have access to water at all times during a heat wave, whether it be via a drinking fountain, water bottle or juice boxes. Fruit juices or sports drinks with electrolytes are also a good idea as they replace the body’s needed salt that is lost through excessive sweating.

2) Stay Wet - Water play is a great way of keeping the kids cool by making sure that their body temperature remains within safe levels. Playing in the water is something that most kids love, so get out the sprinkler and let the kids go to town! Other suggestions include letting your child linger in an outdoor baby/child’s miniature swimming pool (always supervised, of course), letting the kids play in a prolonged, cool bath, or setting up a water station in your backyard, filled with water toys for the kids to play with.

3) Stay Inside - Limit outside time as much as you can and seek shelter indoors. If you don’t have air conditioning, go somewhere that does have it and stay there as long as you can. Places you can go include libraries, malls, friends or families’ homes or community centers. Hot weather is a great time to investigate your city’s local destinations as well. Take the kids to the museum, an art gallery or science center until the oudoors become bearable again. The kids will learn and enjoy while staying out of the sun.

4) Stay Out of the Kitchen - Hot weather is no time to be slaving over a hot stove or opening an oven door. When the hot weather hits, meal preparation should consist of foods that don’t require cooking. Examples of this include sandwiches and wraps, bean or grain salads and veggies with dip.  Now’s a great time to shop seasonally as well and to take advantage of all of those summer vegetables and fruits that make summer eating so pleasurable. If you’re feeling financially healthy, ditch food preparation altogether and hit a restaurant for dinner with the kids. Let someone else do the cleanup, too!

5) Stay Still - Or close to it. Now’s not the time to engage in activity that requires kids to exert a lot of energy. Young children in particular heat up more quickly than adults and as a result, are at greater risk of heat-induced exhaustion or stroke than are adults or older children. For this reason alone, encourage your kids to do more low-key activities during the hot weather. These may include playing board games, arts and crafts, or allowing the kids to watch a movie while curled up on the couch. All of these activities are low-energy and, while keeping the kids engaged, allows them to take it easy until the hot weather subsides.

What other tips or strategies do you use to keep the kids cool during the hot weather? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Image courtesy of www.savvymom.ca

Image copyright Multiple Mayhem Mamma 2013

VIDEO: Heatwave - Martha and the Vandellas

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The Top 5 Things About Parenting That You Were Never Told

April 19, 2013

**You can get the full podcast audio of this blog post at the end of this page** ————————————————————- Parenting advice is a dime a dozen. Everyone has their opinions on what you should and shouldn’t be doing in order to be a great mom or dad. Do this, don’t do that. Is it any wonder […]

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Child-Friendly Recipes: Simple Oatmeal Muffins

February 27, 2012

If you’re like me and have kids that suffer from the curse of “Picky Eater Syndrome,” you know how stressful it can be making sure that your little ones eat a healthy breakfast before heading out in the morning. Whether they’re just tired, crabby or generally averse to eating first thing, there is a way […]

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Green Parenting 101: 6 Easy Ways to Make a Difference

January 28, 2012

If you’re like me, you are likely aware of the fact that life could be a whole lot “greener” with the family. You know, perhaps a bit more care could be taken regarding just how much packaging, energy and food that the family uses on a regular basis. I’m guilty of not doing enough of […]

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