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« November 2007 | Main | January 2008 »

December 2007

December 24, 2021

Merry Christmas from the Sena Family!

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a Happy 2008!
Kathy, Randy and Matt

December 21, 2021

If This Van's Rockin'...

Remember that bumper sticker from our youth? I had to laugh when I saw this new version the other day:









December 20, 2021

What Should We Name the Baby?

What a difference 12 years can make. When my son, Matthew, was born in December 1995, his name was one of the top 10 baby names for the year.

Now that he's in middle school, it's number 29. (And you moms my age will remember that every classroom back in the 70s had at least a few Kathys, Lisas and Debbies...)

According to BabyNames.com, the most popular boys' names for 2007 were:

1.    Aidan
2.    Braden
3.    Kaden
(Gosh, is there a trend here?)

4.    Ethan
5.    Caleb
6.    Noah
7.    Jaden
8.    Connor
9.    Landon
10.  Jacob

And for girls:

1.    Ava
2.    Abigail
3.    Cailyn
4.    Madeline
5.    Isabella
6.    Emma
7.    Caitlyn
8.    Olivia
9.    Chloe
10.  Brianna

And then there's little Mathilda Plum Doucette, who turns three this week. She's the daughter of writer and musician Moon Zappa (who obviously has had a fuss made over her name her entire life) and guitarist Paul Doucette of Matchbox Twenty. There's something about Mathilda Plum's name that makes me picture an adorable little girl with very squeezable cheeks.

Speaking of Moon Zappa and motherhood, check out the wonderful book Blindsided by a Diaper (2007; Three Rivers Press). It's a collection of essays about how how parenthood changes a relationship. Zappa is really funny — and amazingly candid (yikes!) — about how her sex life with her husband changed in the days following little Mathilda Plum's arrival. The whole book, in fact, is filled with essays that will make any new (or not-so-new) parent relate. (Another fave in the book: "Who Is That Guy?" by Beth Levine, one of the funniest writers I know.)

Happy birthday, Matthew — and Mathilda Plum!

December 19, 2021

Now Here's a Healthy Grocery List

I don’t know about you, but I get a little weary of hearing about all the things my family and I shouldn’t do, health-wise.

That’s why I’m all over a new book, Longevity Made Simple (Williams Clark Publishing; $13.95) by Richard J. Flanigan, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of cardiology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Kate Flanigan Sawyer, M.D., MPH, a medical officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Together, this father-daughter team presents simple strategies that focus on preventing the top 10 diseases that kill more than 75 percent of Americans. The good news: Exercising just 30 minutes a day can help prevent all 10 of them. Try finding a pill that does all that.

Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be all that complicated, either. The authors recommend these “superfoods” for your family:

Almonds and walnuts
Apples
Avocados
Bell peppers
Blueberries
Citrus fruits
Cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and bok choy
Fat-free or 1-percent milk
Garlic and onions
Legumes
Melons
Olive oil
Red wine (no more than one 5-ounce glass per day for women)
Salmon
Spinach
Squash
Sweet potatoes
Tea (green or black)
Tomatoes
Vegetable juice (try reduced-sodium juice or make your own with whole veggies in a blender)
Whole grains

OK, this I can do. Today I’ll grab my son and we'll walk the dog for 15 minutes, I'll do 15 minutes of an aerobics DVD and I'll make a 15-minute family dinner of broiled salmon, spinach salad and microwaved sweet potatoes.

Check out the book for more simple ways to improve your family's health. It's easy, I promise. Even during this crazy-making time of year!

December 17, 2021

Hey Kid, Strap on That Helmet!

Every time I see a kid riding on a bike or a skateboard either without a helmet or with a helmet that's not strapped on, I want to stop him and say "Are you nuts? Do your parents know you're doing this?"

So many kids seem to think that wearing an unstrapped helmet fulfills the letter of the law. But it's buckling that strap that will help keep a 12-year-old's brain intact if he gets hit by an SUV.

In fact, in our town, a seventh-grade boy is recovering right now from being hit by an SUV while riding his bike. His injuries were severe, and he has a long recovery ahead of him, but the doctors say he would probably have been killed if he hadn't been wearing a helmet.

"Each year about 300 children are killed and more than 400,000 children go to hospital emergency rooms due to bicycle injuries," says Consumer Product Safety Commission chairperson Ann Brown. "Children between 5 and 14 have the highest injury rate of all bicycle riders, and bicycle accidents are the leading cause of death in this age group."

The greatest tragedy is that many of these injuries could be prevented if riders wore their helmets. "In fact, young bicyclists can reduce the risk of head injury or death by up to 85 percent if they wear a helmet," she says.

Talk with your kids today about wearing a helmet — and buckling it — whenever they're on wheels. The life you save may be your child's.

December 16, 2021

Whatever Happened to America's Songs?

A University of Florida study found that we are losing a large part of our national identity because we so seldom sing traditional American songs. Researchers note that many of our national songs are being ignored in favor of pop hits, and that today’s children are more likely to know the lyrics to Britney Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again” than to patriotic, folk and traditional children’s songs.

“Although Americans say that the singing of folk songs and songs of our heritage is important, we are teaching very few of them in the schools,” says music professor Russell Robinson, who supervised the study.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to enjoy these songs at home. CDs of classic American songs are available at your local library. Visit scoutsongs.com for lyrics to “America the Beautiful,” “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “This Land is Your Land” and many other traditional American songs.

December 13, 2021

Sick of Video Games? Get the Kids Hooked on Something Better

"Mom, can I do PlayStation?" It's a phrase I hear all too often, even though we limit "screen time" at our house. Of course, I don't completely despise video games (although they do seem to suck the brain cells from my 11-year-old son's skull, right before my eyes). That black box comes in handy when Mom and Dad are in need of a privilege to take away when a certain kid crosses the line.

Sure, Matt spends plenty of time doing homework, hanging with friends and playing sports, too. But what I've been wanting, this holiday season, is a gift that will replace video games when Matt wants to noodle around with something electronic around the house. Something educational and also fun. (That will be just between us. Dare I use the words "educational" and "fun" in the same sentence? Not around Matt, who'€™s sure he gets enough education at school.)

DIGITAL MUSIC MAKING TO THE RESCUE

Finally, I've found the answer: Creating and recording music on our home computer. Specifically, using GarageBand (approx. $99 as part of the iLife '08 Family Pack), which we have installed on our Mac. You can also find similar software for Windows, such as Cakewalk Sonar Home Studio (approx. $100) M-Audio Pro Tools (approx. $249), Sony ACID Pro (approx. $40), etc.

Matt has been taking piano lessons since first grade, but he was never able to combine his love of music with his love of pushing buttons and messing with games and all things digital. Until now.

Chris "Sharpie" Sharp, 37, of Midland, Texas, knows just a little bit about this whole digital-music thing — on a somewhat grander scale. As the monitor engineer for Rob Thomas on his recent solo tour and for the upcoming Matchbox Twenty tour this January through March (he's also worked with Nickelback, Usher, Evanescence and others), this guy understands music and the digital world. (If, like me, you need a definition of what a monitor engineer does, Sharp is the guy off to the side of the stage who mixes the sound that the band hears in their earpieces while they're playing.) I couldn't think of a better-qualified person to ask about all this electronic stuff because he is not only musically and technically savvy — he's also a devoted dad.

GEARING UP

Sharp and his wife, Rinda, 32, have two kids, 15-year-old daughter Destinie and 15-year-old son C.J., so he knows all about the allure of video games. But he thinks my husband and I might be onto something by deciding to get Matt a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller to use with GarageBand. 

This keyboard-like device (prices start at around $200) doesn'€™t record sound waves like a tape recorder does. It digitally encodes the start of a note, its pitch, length, volume and musical attributes, such as vibrato. As a result, MIDI music files take up a lot less space than digitized sound files. (So there might actually be some room left on the computer for Matt's book reports...) Soon Matt will be able to write and record his own songs and send MP3 files to his friends.

Using a MIDI controller with computer software like GarageBand can open up a whole new world of creativity for a kid, Sharp says. And today's digital technology means that you don't need an entire board, like the monster board he uses on tour, to record your own music. A kid can do it at home. Pretty cool.

GOING FISHING


While he agrees that many parents can barely tolerate the video games that their kids crave, music is something where we can meet our kids halfway, Sharp notes. "Music speaks to each person," he says, adding that he tries to share in the types of music that interest his kids while also subtly sharing his favorite music with them. (And in his line of work, he's definitely on the "hip-dad" side of things, which helps.) "It's sort of like fishing. You can't force your kids to be interested in a certain thing, but you can try different types of bait." So you'll hear hip hop, rock, Tejano and other types of music around the Sharp home.

Sounds like good advice. And while my husband and I love to share our favorite music with Matt, and we love to learn about what he likes, we're looking forward to hearing him make and record some fun music of his own very soon. Because with today's technology, a kid's desire to play with electronic stuff and push buttons can be satisfied while he's also learning about computers, music and all things digital.

Take that, Dragon Ball Z!

December 11, 2021

Holiday Pig-Out Alert!

As a health and parenting writer, I cover women's health issues frequently. Here's one in an occasional series of posts on health tips for busy moms. — Kathy

It’s the holidays — and we’re all being tempted with fat-loaded dinners and butter cookies. Of course, we want to celebrate a bit. But health experts remind us to keep our eye on the long haul. How much do we really want to pay — in weight gain, potential health problems and just plain sluggishness — for our holiday cheer?

It’s about balance, our experts say, noting that we don’t need to make a Herculean effort. Even moderate changes in what we put in our mouths, and how much we shake a leg, can really add up this holiday season. But there are some simple psychological reasons why so many of us dig in our heels when it comes to building healthy habits. And during the holidays, it’s even tougher to get motivated. Here are some of the most common pitfalls, along with some suggestions for hoisting ourselves over the healthy-holiday hurdles:

°    IGNORING YOUR QUIRKS. So you can’t stand the thought of exercising after a busy day? Well then. Might as well give up, grab some eggnog and rent a few videos, right?

Try this: Work around your likes and dislikes, suggests Lynn Fischer, an author of more than 20 healthy cookbooks who hates to exercise at night. “I work out at 6 a.m.,” she says. “By 7:30, I’m home and I’ve already accomplished the toughest part of my day.” And because she has a sweet tooth, Fischer doesn’t deny herself the occasional holiday goodie, because it helps her say no to other temptations. “But I don’t make it a habit,” she says.

°    FEELING DEPRESSED. Depression occurs, for many people, during the holiday season. “When you’re depressed, exercise is the best medicine, and it has no side effects,” says Scotts Valley, California fitness-motivation consultant Ron Useldinger. But if you’re not feeling good about yourself, it’s tough to get motivated to exercise or eat healthfully. Is depression tied to decreased fitness? “Absolutely,” he says. “If your body isn’t rested, properly fed and exercised, you will feel the effects emotionally.”

Try this: Bundle up and go for a winter walk. The first few times you may have to just trust the experts who say exercise really is good medicine. But have faith. You should start to feel better fairly quickly, says Useldinger. Try to look at those walks as a gift to your well-being. Of course, if your feelings of depression continue, you’ll want to talk with your doctor.

°    BECOMING A REBEL. This is a tough one, because it’s hard to recognize it in ourselves. After all, you love yourself, and exercise is good for you, right? But have you ever heard this little voice in your head? "I have wrap packages. I have to send out all these cards. I have to decorate the house. And now they’re telling me I HAVE TO eat right and exercise, or else something horrible will happen to me? Oh yeah? I think I'll go flop on the couch, watch ‘Survivor’ reruns and have a big slab of fudge. So there.” “It's as if these healthy things become just more pieces of work that we have to do, says Robert Ochs, M.S., LCSW, a Los Angeles exercise physiologist and psychotherapist who specializes in working with clients’ exercise-related issues.

Try this: Make your choices the reward, not the torture. “People have to find things in their life that are soothing,” says Ochs. “None of us can do well if we're just going from chore to chore.” Especially in the early stages of a health-behavior change, try tying the change to a reward, he suggests. Allow yourself a massage after a certain number of workouts. Or exercise while chatting with a friend, reading or listening to music. “Now the new behavior becomes associated with something more pleasurable, and you probably won't dread it,” says Ochs. “Maybe you’ll even look forward to it.”

°    TAKING AN ALL-OR-NOTHING APPROACH. It’s easy to get psyched and start off with great intentions, only to over-do it and quit on day three. “We know that the three biggest days for exercising are January 2, 3 and 4, and then it drops off quickly,” says Useldinger.

Try this: Get the jump on the new year now by making small changes. Then you will be in the groove come January and not so inclined to over-do it — and then drop out. “Your new behavior cannot be so punishing that you give up, so start with baby steps,” suggests Ochs. “One little change at a time.”

After you make fitness a habit, “the exercise itself becomes the thing you look forward to when you have all those other chores to do,” says Ochs. Pretty soon, stepping away from your holiday to-do list and stepping outside for that blood-pumping daily stroll might just become your favorite part of the holidays.



December 08, 2021

Win a Free Book: "The Healthy Lunchbox"

It's time for a free-book contest! A copy of The Healthy Lunchbox (How to Plan, Prepare & Pack Stress-Free Meals That Kids Will Love), by Marie McClendon, MEd, and Cristy Shauck, will be mailed to the winner.

Enter to win the random drawing by leaving a comment here (on any post). I'll pick the winner on Dec. 12 and announce it here.

Enter today!

December 06, 2021

Enough With the Baby Advice Already!

When I was pregnant, I was sometimes floored by the nerve of the strangers who offered unsolicited advice. I was told how to do everything "correctly" from breastfeeding to Lamaze to epidurals. Seems everyone knew the best way to do everything and insisted on sharing it with me — while standing in line at Target.

I mean, really, do I need to hear about what to do about sore nipples when I'm minding my own business, buying laundry detergent?

Apparently I'm not alone in thinking "hey, butt out!" Now pregnant women can express how they feel with a new line of hip maternity t-shirts called Mommy Trends. The stretchy t-shirts ($36) sport lines such as "Big & Beautiful," but the best seller is a shirt that says "No Unsolocited Baby Advice."

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