You Have Better Things to Do Than Wait in Line

Last updated on March 29th, 2018 at 12:20 am

When you’re juggling work, household chores and a sick kid, it can seem like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. But don’t throw your hands up in defeat — the secret to fitting it all in is doing certain tasks or errands at specific times throughout the week. We turned to the experts and found out how to adjust your routine to avoid long lines and crowds, to help you get back home as fast as possible.

Go to the gym … on Sunday mornings.

“You’ll avoid waiting to use your favorite machines, since a lot of people go to church or use this time to be with their families,” says Mark Di Vincenzo, author of Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon and the upcoming book Your Pinkie Is More Powerful Than Your Thumb. And because you won’t be twiddling your thumbs while some guy finishes four sets on the pull-down machine, you’ll speed through your workout in record time.

Pick up groceries … early on Wednesday.

Not only is this when supermarkets are the emptiest, meaning no long lines at the check-out, but it’s also the day chains usually start their weekly sales. “The shelves will still be fully stocked, so you won’t miss out on the deal,” says Di Vincenzo, who also recommends avoiding Sunday afternoons. People often clip coupons on Sundays and shop for the week, so stores are usually packed.

Schedule a doctor’s appointment … at 1:00 in the afternoon.

You have better places to be than a waiting room, so show up right when the office reopens after its midday break. “Physicians see their morning patients before they go to lunch, so when they return, they usually have a clean slate,” says Michael Kaplan, author of The Best Time to Do Everything. “And you also miss the a.m. chaos, when people who woke up feeling sick get squeezed in.”

Go to the DMV … on Wednesday around 3:00 p.m.

“Many people try to get this errand out of the way during lunchtime early in the week or right before the weekend,” says Di Vincenzo. “But during the afternoon on Wednesdays, it’s a lot emptier.” And head there around the 15th of the month. Di Vincenzo says that many state workers are pressed with deadlines near the end or beginning of the month, so going to the DMV smack in the middle is best.

Go to the bank … 30 minutes after doors open on Wednesday.

“If you actually have to talk to a teller, try not to go on Mondays, when people take care of weekend business, or Fridays, which is when paychecks come out and get cashed,” says Kaplan. Why not go right when the doors open? Believe it or not, people are often waiting then to get in, so there’s an immediate line. Kaplan says to give those early birds half an hour to disappear.

Ship a package … half an hour after the post office opens.

Similar to what happens at the bank, Di Vincenzo says that people want to get this task out of the way and are there bright and early. Show up after that rush — but before lunchtime — and you’ll probably be able to walk right up to the counter.

Get your car repaired … first thing on Thursday.

“For some reason, auto mechanics are less busy on Thursdays,” says Di Vincenzo. “So not only will you be seen faster, but since the repair shop is so anxious for business, you might also be able to negotiate a better rate.” Drop your car off in the morning. “If it’s a more complex job and the mechanic needs a part, they can order it and have it included in their afternoon shipment,” says Kaplan. That means you’ll get your vehicle back sooner — so you can get on with your day.

Is Sitting at a Computer Hurting Your Child?

Last updated on October 5th, 2015 at 11:10 pm

I ache. Frequently. You’ll understand if you’ve ever had it. Back pain. More debilitating than you could have ever imagined….until you’re actually experiencing it. And then there’s the treatment and coping strategies, sometimes painful and difficult, other times seemingly goofy but necessary. I particularly remember the spectacle I was at the office for several months – scaring colleagues when they discovered me lying prostrate on the floor in an empty cubicle, hiding in small meeting rooms to do pelvic exercises and surely defying some corporate dress code with the fluorescent orange crocs I wore when standing at my computer.

But back pain is just the jumping off point for this story….where it led me is on a journey into the world of office “ergonomics.” Significant and increasing numbers of workplace injuries are related to poor workstation ergonomics – or, said another way, computer stations and desks that don’t properly fit the person using them. The field of ergonomics is full of technical terms and fancy equipment but, in the end, it’s really about the kind of common sense advice you used to get from your grandmother: “don’t slouch,” “sit up straight,” “keep your legs in front of your chair and your feet on the floor” – and its relevance unfortunately goes way beyond the world of factories and office workers.

Although a focus on “ergonomics for children” is relatively recent, we know that children are subject to many ergonomic stresses – from heavy backpacks to long periods of study or play in front of computers, often at desks that are not set up for their size. Data is currently limited on the immediate risks to kids for injuries like neck and back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, but given that it takes several years for these types of injuries to appear, can we afford to take a “wait and see” attitude?

What can Parents, Schools and Child Safety Advocates Do?

Know what good looks like. Can you recognize healthy computer posture? Do you model these habits at home? Despite all the knowledge I gained at work, I realized I wasn’t following the advice at home because I didn’t have the same set-up and equipment. But a little education and some simple, inexpensive “fixes” can help get your family on the right path (see box below for tips on healthy computer use).

Teach your children. Mastering proper computer use will be of life-long value to any child in today’s high-tech knowledge economy. Children should know how to work safely at the computer and be aware of the risks of poor habits. However, many children learn better visually. In addition to discussing good posture, consider placing photos of good and bad computer ergonomics next to your home or school computers. Some sites provide examples you can print (see International Ergonomics Association / Cornell photos and comic), but you can also have your children be the models. They will find it fun to have their photos on the wall and might learn more by having to demonstrate both good and bad habits!

Monitor the situation. Kids aren’t as aware as adults of their body position, so you will need to give regular reminders about their posture. Also monitor their time on the computer – ensure they take breaks every 30-60 minutes. You can download free usage monitoring software that reminds kids when they need to take a break and suggests stretches to do – or you can always set a kitchen timer (click here for Cornell’s stretching exercises-scroll to #4).

Focus on schools. School districts worldwide are focused on increasing student access to computers; however, the majority of emphasis is on the quality of the computers, not the workstations. Check to see if your school or district has computer ergonomics guidelines and curricula. This is becoming a higher priority in education, as evidenced by last year’s ergonomics equipment and teaching resolutions passed by the California state-wide PTA organization. And just like at home, improvements don’t have to require lots of expensive equipment.

Healthy Computer Use for Kids

Start with looking at how well the computer station fits your child or students. Is the computer used for the whole family, or a range of different-sized kids? If your child is having to contend with a poorly fitting workstation, problems may be on the horizon. To ensure healthy computer use by children – by anyone – the most valuable thing to remember is the 90-degree rule: that key body elements should be at “right” or “90-degree” angles when sitting at a computer to maintain natural body alignment and not cause stress through over or under extension. A few useful guidelines:

Chair / Lower Body

  • Whatever your child sits on should position the keyboard at elbow height. Achieve this through an adjustable chair or by using a pillow to raise him up.
  • Make sure the feet are supported so that his knees are bent at roughly 90-degrees. His thighs shouldn’t slope up or down, or pressure is increased on the lower back. While there are specially-designed footrests on the market, you can also use a sturdy box or low child footstool. As I type this, my feet are resting on my Wii Fit board…at least this way it’s getting some use!
  • Also ensure support for his lower back via a pillow or rolled towel. This will help minimize slouching and support a 90-degree angle between his torso and thighs.

Keyboard and Mouse / Upper Body

  • Arms should be relaxed at the side with the elbows bent at 90-degrees and the keyboard should be positioned so that wrists are straight – not angled up or down.
  • A wrist rest may be useful for support. You can purchase one from any office supply store or fashion one with a towel (be sure it is sized to keep the child’s wrists straight).
  • The mouse should be placed near the keyboard to prevent strain from reaching.
  • If your child struggles with the size of the keyboard or mouse you may want to consider child-sized equipment (see “Little Fingers” keyboard). Also, some kids find trackballs easier to manipulate than a mouse.

Monitor / Head and Neck

  • The monitor should be placed so that your child’s head will be facing straight ahead and level – so the chin and neck are roughly at 90-degrees. You definitely don’t want him looking up or too far down.
  • Arrange lighting to avoid glare or bright spots on the monitor to prevent eye strain. To do this you may need to use overhead room lights and position desk lights away from the monitor.
  • Remind your kids to look away from time to time and blink…studies show that computer use results in decreased blinking. Make the computer a “zombie-free zone!”

BAM! Body and Mind: Making health education fun for kids

Last updated on March 28th, 2018 at 11:52 pm

As parents, we know it is important for kids to learn about health, wellness, and how their bodies work so they can lead healthy lives as kids and as adults. Schools usually include some health education into their curriculum but parents still have a responsibility to provide further instruction. The challenge lies in how to do that in a fun, engaging way so kids actively learn the information and can then actually apply what they learn. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has created an online educational website devoted to helping parents and educators teach health education in just such a way.

The CDC’s website for kids ages 9-13 years old is named BAM! Body and Mind and according to the website’s description:

gives them the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices. The site focuses on topics that kids told us are important to them — such as stress and physical fitness — using kid-friendly lingo, games, quizzes, and other interactive features.

BAM! Body and Mind also serves as an aid to teachers, providing them with interactive, educational, and fun activities that are linked to the national education standards for science and health.

Using BAM!, kids can learn about various diseases, food and nutrition, physical activity and fitness, safety, how bodies work, and how to handle emotions and stress. One of the coolest features is the KABAM! Comic Creator which allows the user to make choices for the characters in the comic and solve problems the characters are facing, such as peer pressure and bullying. This interactive tool puts the user in control and helps kids learn how to make smart and safe decisions and learn problem-solving skills.

BAM! also allows kids a place to tell the CDC what they want to learn about on the site and their suggestions for improving the site. Kudos to the Centers for Disease Control for designing this excellent online learning tool for kids, parents, and teachers.

Special Needs Kids and Bullying

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 12:04 pm

Bullying has been all over the media, although we all know it has been around forever. Now a new report by non-profit called “Walk a Mile In Their Shoes…Bullying and the Child with Special Needs” shows that special needs students are even more likely than average kids to be taunted and picked on. The report also has guides for parents to help their children and recommends Social and Emotional Learning curricula, like one used in Illinois schools, to address the problem. The group has also launched a public service announcement starring Lauren Potter of “Glee”.

While 45 states have adopted laws related to bullying in the last five years, the report notes, few address the bullying of students with special needs in particular. California schools chief Tom Torlakson plans to include special needs children in anti-bullying legislation. What about your state???

The Best Foods for Sick Kids

Last updated on November 3rd, 2018 at 05:10 pm

When your kid is miserable with a stuffy nose, fever or stomachache, it’s tempting to feed her what she wants (ice cream!) or let her skip dinner altogether. But research reveals that eating the right comfort foods can soothe her symptoms and strengthen her immune system. Even if your little one doesn’t have much of an appetite, encourage her to eat; in combination with symptom- and age-appropriate OTC remedies, she’ll feel better in no time.

Here are the best foods for sick kids:

For a stuffy nose … feed them soup. “The hot, steaming broth loosens mucus, so your child can breathe easier,” says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietician and the director of wellness coaching at Cleveland Clinic. For even more relief, serve up a bowl of chicken soup: Researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that this childhood staple may relieve cold symptoms by inhibiting inflammation-causing cells in the body. “Plus, chicken soup has carrots, celery and onions,” says Jamieson-Petonic. “These veggies provide vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system.”

For a fever … feed them calorie-rich fare. Forget starving a fever! “You’ll only deprive the body of the nutrients it needs to get well,” says Jamieson-Petonic. A feverish child uses more energy, she adds, so they need to consume additional calories. If your kid doesn’t feel like eating, try adding nutritional bulk to every bite he takes: Slip banana slices into a peanut butter sandwich, mix dry milk powder in mashed potatoes or mac ’n’ cheese, and blend flaxseed into a fruit smoothie.

For a sore throat … feed them soft foods. Does it hurt to swallow? Scrambled eggs, oatmeal, soup and yogurt can coat a painful throat while providing nutrition. Another soother for children above the age of one: honey. According to a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, this sweet substance can also lessen nighttime coughing and improve sleep. So if your child can’t stop hacking, swirl a spoonful into a mug of herbal tea or a glass of warm milk.

For a stomachache … feed them crackers. “Bland foods stabilize digestion and gradually get the system up and running again,” says Connie Evers, a registered dietician in Portland, Ore. Once the worst is over, she recommends moving on to more substantial fare, like bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Also steer clear of colas: The caffeine content can make nausea even worse.

For any type of illness … feed them popsicles. For sick kids, proper hydration is key. “Sleeping for long periods of time — as well as running a fever — can lead to fluid loss,” says Evers. To make sure your child sips often, place a water bottle on her bedside stand. Evers also suggests freezing 100% cranberry and orange juices into homemade popsicles; the treat serves up extra liquids along with a dose of vitamin C.

For recovery … feed them balanced meals. Even if they ask for it, don’t serve them their favorite fast-food meal or sugary dessert. “Foods high in sugar or saturated fat can increase inflammation in the body,” explains Jamieson-Petonic. “That can make kids feel worse — and even slow the healing process.” Fill her plate with vitamin-rich produce, whole grains and lean proteins instead. “These foods strengthen the immune system, which helps fight viruses,” she says. “It can also help lower the risk of complications, like bronchitis.”