Who Will Look After the Kids If/When Mom Can’t?

Last updated on October 5th, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Ten years ago, Kristine Breese found herself in a situation that turned out to be a wake-up call in more ways than one. At the age of 35, the mother of two went into cardiac arrest at her home in Carlsbad, California. And in that moment, Breese’s first thought was not what you would expect. “I thought ‘Who’s going to give the kids dinner?’” she says. She was even thinking about the mac ’n’ cheese dinners in the freezer as the paramedics wheeled her to the ambulance.

Thankfully, Breese survived her ordeal, regained her health and today she is a successful writer and public speaker. But one thing she’ll never forget is the fact that every mom needs a reliable backup plan to cover those unexpected moments when mom is not available.

Whether it’s a result of a surgery, as it was for Breese, or something more common such as a cold or flu, if you need time to rest and recover, make sure your backup plan is in place ahead of time. Check out these strategies and be prepared.

1. Learn to ask for help.

Some moms understandably have trouble asking for help. “Moms push it to the limit,” says Breese, author of Cereal for Dinner: Strategies, Shortcuts, and Sanity for Moms Battling Illness. “When women start feeling bad, they don’t cut down on their activities or turn to others. Things can quickly spiral out of control.”

Develop the skill of asking for help before you’re in a crisis. For example, when someone offers to carry your groceries to the car, let them. “You may feel silly at first. We’re in that post-feminist generation where we’re not supposed to let someone open the door for us, but asking for help doesn’t have to be a statement about who you are as a woman,” says Breese.

2. Set up a network of helpers.

You need to have a list of people to call when you need assistance. Set up a way to contact everyone quickly and easily. For instance, create an email list or Facebook group specifically for this purpose. Or set up a telephone tree where you call the first person on the list, they call the next person and so on. Think of it as your own personal “Emergency Response System.” Then all you have to do is send one message or make one call to say, “Can you help me out and pick up my kids from school this afternoon? I have been flat on my back all day.”

3. Ask for specific kinds of help.

Designate people to do specific tasks. For instance, ask a neighbor in advance if she’d be OK to cover carpool duties if you’re in a pinch. Ask a girlfriend if she’d be willing to buy some groceries if you just can’t manage a trip to the market.

You can even get the kids involved, in an age-appropriate way. “Kids really respond when they can help,” says Breese, who suggests making a game of it when you need help from younger kids. For instance, give them a “Do Not Disturb” sign to hang on your bedroom door or have them set a timer so they know how long mommy needs to rest.

4. Have a replacement on call.

You need several reliable baby sitters to call on. If you don’t have any, try finding someone through a baby-sitting agency such as the Web site Sittercity, or a local church or college. Interview candidates and check references before you need them. Ideally, your baby sitters are familiar with your family and your home, and they have flexible schedules so they’re likely to be available in an emergency. If your budget allows, set aside some cash and contacts for extra conveniences like a cleaning service or takeout meals when you really are down for the count.

5. Leave a paper trail.

Before you get sick, pretend you’re going on vacation and write down everything a caregiver would need to know while you’re away. Include essential phone numbers, information about kids’ activities and schedules, medications, allergies, and other relevant details. Ideally, your regular baby sitters already know the drill, but it’s good to have written instructions for reference. Keep this information in one place (try the fridge or the kitchen table), and be sure to update it often.

6. Stock your freezer.

While you’re healthy, find some freezer-friendly recipes. Double them each time you cook, and freeze half. Or keep some commercially prepared meals on hand that a caregiver could easily pop in the oven or microwave.

7. Have confidence in your family.

Realize that things won’t fall apart just because you’re not directing the scenes. Sure, dad may not cut the crust off the bread when he packs lunches, and he may send Susie to school without brushing her hair. What’s important is that he’s getting the kids to school. If you make home-cooked meals but grandma takes the kids out for chicken nuggets, no permanent damage done. It’s OK if your kids watch a bit (or even a lot) more TV while you’re ill. Just remember the overarching goal: Giving mom a break so you can rest and rejuvenate.

Is Endodontics Right for Your Child…Do Root Canals & Kids Mix?

Last updated on August 20th, 2015 at 12:13 am

When a child feels pain in a tooth at random for no reason, has hot or cold sensitivity or breaks their tooth and exposes what we call the pulp, he or she may need endodontic treatment. Endontic treatment consists of several types of procedures. They are classified in two groups: vital pulp therapy (where the tooth can be saved) and non vital pulp therapy ie. a root canal (where the tooth is essentially considered “dead”).

Endodontics are necessary when the pulp and nerve of the tooth are affected by decay or some sort of damage. The pulp of your tooth not only houses the nerve, it also contains blood vessels that supply your tooth with nutrients and oxygen it needs to stay healthy. Endodontic treatment is performed essentially to save the tooth.

Endodontic treatment can be done on both baby and permanent teeth. It can be performed by any trained dentist general or specialist but be discriminating. Parents often think that because baby teeth fall out eventually that it’s not important to perform these types of procedures on them. Contrary to that belief, baby teeth have several crucial functions. They hold spaces for permanent teeth and are also very important for chewing and speaking.

Because there are several types of pulp therapies (described above), you should consult your dentist to ensure this type of treatment is right for your child. The other option you have is to get your child’s tooth extracted. There are several things to consider when you are weighing these two options: which tooth is affect, approximately how long until it falls out on its own, how damaged it is and whether or not gum or bone have been affected.

Another factor to consider is whether or not your child has any serious medical conditions. In these cases, infection can be more serious. If the tooth is infected there is the possibility that the surrounding bone and gum tissue could also develop an infection after endodontic therapy.

Finally, we want to assure you that some soreness is normal after endodontic therapy and should be manageable with over the counter pain relievers that are safe for children.

New FBI Child ID App Helps Parents Locate Missing Kids

Last updated on September 2nd, 2015 at 11:37 pm

According to the FBI “A child goes missing every 40 seconds in America… many do not return home.”

Not long ago one of our editors shared a story about her experience with Code Adam – the phrase used to initiate a “lockdown” if your child goes missing in a store. But what if they’re not immediately found? The new app – “FBI Child ID” can help.

The FBI Child ID App provides a convenient place to electronically store photos and vital information about your children so that it’s literally right at hand if you need it. You can show the pictures and provide physical identifiers such as height and weight to security or police officers on the spot. And, using a special tab on the app, you can also quickly and easily e-mail your child’s information to authorities with a few clicks.”

The App also offers advice for parents on how to keep kids safe, as well as specific guidance on what to do in the “first few crucial hours” after a child goes missing. And for parents concerned with privacy the FBI offered the following:

Note: the FBI (and iTunes for that matter) is not collecting or storing any photos or information that you enter in the app. All data resides solely on your mobile device unless you need to send it to authorities. Please read your mobile provider’s terms of service for information about the security of applications stored on your device.

Right now the FBI Child app is only available for the iPhone, and can be downloaded for free here at iTunes, however the FBI plans to expand this tool to other types of smartphones (such as Google Android devices) in the near future.


Editor’s Notes:

Although the FBI has been very proactive in addressing internet privacy concerns, one area that seems to have been overlooked is local data security. Since the FBI Child ID app is not password protected, if someone steals your phone they would have easy access to all of your child’s data. Additionally, the big red “Call 911” and “Call NCMEC” buttons might seem very tempting to a child playing with the phone. Again, password protection will help with this.

Overall our thoughts are that this is a terrific app that is still very early in its development and we will likely see additional security features (like password protection) in upcoming releases.

When Having an Only Child Is The Only Choice

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 07:54 pm

In reading Dr Borba’s post from last week (July 25, 2011) on raising only children, it brought back my own experience. I have an only child, but not by choice. I was caught by the trend in delaying childbearing – due to an earlier focus on education and career, and marrying later.

Why Have Another?

When my husband and I first got married we weren’t entirely sure we wanted any children, let alone more than one. But we did finally decide to start a family and were really happy with our little guy. When it came time to consider whether to have more, what Dr Borba highlighted as the benefits of an only child did figure in our thinking. We both had hectic full-time careers, so dividing our attention amongst multiple children seemed like a disservice to our son – and we enjoyed the close parenting relationship we had with him. Plus, having more kids might have meant not working so much, so finances were a concern.

However, there were powerful arguments in favor of having more children. We fell so much in love with our first baby that we really liked the idea of having a second. Plus I am an only child and I always wanted siblings when growing up. In fact, even now I would like to have a brother or sister – for my own benefit – but also for my son’s.

At the end though, one of the most powerful drivers was that he was always asking for a sibling – just like I did.

Our Sibling Odyssey

Getting pregnant the first time was fairly straightforward, even though I had already reached “advanced maternal age”. We decided to try for a second when Elliott was three and I was nearing 40. Since it was so easy the first time, we thought it would be fairly easy the second time – and it more or less was – until we discovered it was an ectopic pregnancy, resulting in emergency surgery and the loss of one tube. So, with my chances of getting pregnant halved – and now informed of the significantly reduced fertility at my age – we embarked on a series of IVF procedures. Clearly we had no idea of the journey yet to come.

Mistake #1: Despite my age and the statistics, we were over-optimistic about our chances of conceiving through IVF. Since I’d gotten pregnant twice, and carried a baby to term, it seemed like just a matter of time. Which might explain our second mistake.

Mistake #2: We were much too open and optimistic with our son about trying to have another baby, especially at the beginning of the process. Eventually, we had to start managing expectations since several months of IVF procedures went by without success. Finally one succeeded…but this resulted in ANOTHER ectopic pregnancy (very rare with IVF). And it was a huge saga as it was discovered on an overseas trip and involved emergency surgery in a foreign city, 3 days in hospital, a week in a hotel waiting for the all-clear to fly home, wheelchair transport through airports on the way back, and 2 months recovery off work. We managed one more unsuccessful attempt a few months later, and finally gave up – leading to our final mistake….

Mistake #3: We avoided telling our son we had stopped trying to have another baby. It was just too painful. I couldn’t talk about it – or even see a little baby on the street – without crying, and I think the idea of telling him made the decision feel so irrevocable. Unfortunately one evening on the way home from friends with a house full of kids, we accidentally let it slip out in conversation. But he picked up on it right away – and what an UPSET!! There was so much crying going on in the car that we had to pull over for a while. That night is still very clear to me.

Helping Our Son (and Us) Adjust

After making the decision not to keep trying for another child, and despite our mistakes, we did take some steps that helped everyone adjust to this new and initially painful reality:

Talked about the benefits – Once everyone had a chance to calm down, we sat with our son and talked about why we wouldn’t be having another baby, and about the benefits of being an only child, in a way he might understand: having his own room, getting to spend more time with Mom and Dad, and no one to steal or break his toys.

Got a surrogate sibling – Yes, we got a puppy. And for the next few years, Nelson (the dog) was his brother – four legs and fur notwithstanding. This worked very well, until Elliott’s school class learned about family roles and he insisted his dog was a brother…while his teacher insisted this wasn’t possible.

Found social opportunities – Due to our dual-career life Elliott had always been involved in external social settings with other kids. But now we had even more reason to sign him up for sports, clubs, summer camp and Cub Scouts.

Created a “flexible” family concept – Soon after our painful odyssey we had the opportunity to become god-parents to the daughter of a dear friend. We embraced this new responsibility and more or less “adopted” my friend and her family. This gave me some consolation – both for my loss and my son’s. Elliott became a “god-brother” and Nelson, a “god-dog!” While it’s not exactly the same – and he really only started enjoying her once she turned three – he is experiencing many aspects of being a brother: her adoration, looking out for her safety, playing with and performing for her, and protecting his possessions from her. And on a recent shopping trip he picked out a pair of pajamas for himself that proclaimed “big brother” on the front. There’s definitely more than one way to “make” a family.

7 Steps to a Toxin Free Home

Last updated on March 12th, 2018 at 10:10 am

Your home should be a safe place, free of toxins and environmental hazards — but is yours really safe for your family? Because children’s bodies are still developing, they’re especially susceptible to toxins, which could be lurking in your house. Fortunately, you can take these seven easy steps to reduce the risks that lie under your own roof. Here’s how:

1. Clean smarter and more often.

“The greatest exposure to toxins children face may be from household dust,” says Timonie Hood, the Green Building Coordinator at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Kids get dust on their hands from crawling on the floor or touching the top of the coffee table, exposing themselves to dust mites, mold and pet dander, all of which can trigger allergies and asthma attacks. How can you avoid the risk? “Get a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter and use it twice a week,” says Hood. “You should also dust every few days with a slightly damp cloth so you’re not just returning dust to the air.” To further reduce the risks of dust, get rid of some of the items in your home that trap it, such as unnecessary drapes, carpeting, throw pillows and stuffed animals.

2. Get rid of cigarettes.

“Stop smoking, even if you only smoke outside,” says Dr. Dennis Woo, a physician and assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Kids in households with any level of smoking have been shown to suffer higher rates of respiratory disease.” When you smoke, toxins like particulates and nicotine get on your clothes and hands, and when you come inside the house, so do the toxins. Likewise, don’t let others smoke in or around your home or car.

3. Take off your shoes when you come inside.

Since your shoes have daily contact with all kinds of toxins (pesticides, lead, mold and more), leave them at the door when you step inside the house. Otherwise, those chemicals will transfer to your floors, where kids are likely to come into contact with them.

4. Switch to natural cleaners.

Commercial cleaners may make cleaning easier, but they could also contain toxic chemicals like carcinogens, respiratory irritants and even pesticides. Instead, try nontoxic, natural cleaners: For example, a mixture of baking soda and vinegar can clean tubs and toilets. Salt is good for scrubbing kitchen sinks, and borax (available at supermarkets) works wonders for laundry.

5. Stop using pesticides.

According to the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, kids who live in households that use pesticides are over six times more likely to have childhood leukemia. But you don’t need to spray to keep household pests away. Banish bugs naturally by repairing window screens, keeping trash in closed containers and sprinkling environmentally friendly boric acid (available at hardware stores) in gaps between walls and floors before you seal them. And don’t use pesticides on your lawn, either: They not only present risks to kids playing outside but will also inevitably be tracked inside.

6. Get rid of toxic houseplants.

The leading cause of poisoning in children is houseplants, according to the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, so make sure all of yours are nontoxic, and get rid of any that aren’t — including oleander, hyacinth and daffodils, to name a few. Find a list of poisonous plants by searching online.

7. Stay safe around lead paint.

If your home was built before 1978, chances are it contains lead paint. By this time, it’s probably been covered with layers of lead-free paint and isn’t much of a health risk as long as it’s not peeling or chipping. But sanding or scraping any walls that were once covered with lead paint can release toxic lead dust throughout your home, which could damage kids’ brain and nervous system. So before you start your project, call a professional and get your paint tested. If it does contain lead, contact a lead abatement specialist or EPA-certified lead professional to help you deal with it.