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Check Out This Cheeky Elf on the Shelf Alternative

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

The Elf on the Shelf has quickly become a beloved Christmas tradition, but it might already be time for something new. For those feeling elf fatigue, another little creature could offer a fun alternative to the ubiquitous holiday spy.
Author L. van King pokes fun at elf mania with the cheeky parody The Dwarf in the Drawer. The Dwarf in the Drawer doesn’t do much, which might be refreshing for some parents who have run out of creative places to perch their sneaky elves. This lovable drawer-dweller is more of a sloth than his enemy, preferring to snooze among socks and watch Colbert rather than report back to the big guy up North. As he laments,
For most of the year, things at home were real peachy.
Then in came that usurper, acting all preachy.
Who died and made that elf king?
That creep who made Christmas a terrible thing? 
Based on the sheer number of Pinterest pins alone, The Elf on the Shelf is a huge hit, but the little guy isn’t for everyone.  Maybe you and your family have overdosed on good holiday cheer, and can commiserate with this grumpy counterpart. Here’s to new (and slightly sassy) holiday traditions!
Are you an Elf on the Shelf enthusiast, or are you more of a Dwarf in the Drawer dissenter? Tell us in the comments!
Find the best toys and games for your little ones here.
Image courtesy of Macmillan Publishers

Circle Christmas Tree
Circle Christmas Tree
Circle Christmas Tree

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Superfood Snacks for Kids

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

If your kids are constantly snacking, you can feel a little better about their eating habits if you know that what they’re munching on is wholesome and tasty. I recently met with Kate Geagan, RDN, and Earth’s Best spokesperson, to discuss some smart new snacking options for kids.

Snacking has its unhealthy connotations, but if you branch out beyond the processed stuff, you can introduce your child to more mom-approved snacks you’ll both enjoy. “Snacks are comprising a larger portion of our calories than ever before, which means that nutrient-rich snacks are more important than ever before,” Geagan says. The fix? A range of delicious and beneficial superfoods.

Superfoods have been big in the news lately, with their potential for immunity-boosting and age-defying properties. If you’re skeptical about the powers of superfoods, take solace in knowing that the core of the buzzword is based in real science. The nutritional values of foods like beets, quinoa and blueberries are common knowledge, and since you already know they’re good for you, their booming popularity is worth taking advantage of.

When stocking your kitchen with superfoods, the darker and more vibrant the better. Opt for deep green produce like kale, beets and sweet potatoes that are versatile enough to be blended in a smoothie or tossed in a salad. Pump up foods lacking in nutrients like white potatoes with darker, richer superfoods for a more balanced dish.

For on-the-go snacks, kids can pop dark chocolate-covered seeds or fruit for the antioxidants, or even make their own creations. Lay out a do-it-yourself granola assortment with coconut, cranberries and sunflower seeds, or arrange a fruit salad bar with superfood stone fruits like plums and cherries. Many superfoods are also available in portable snack packs for nutrition on the run, like Earth’s Best line of fruit and yogurt smoothies or infant puree pouches.

Most children have grown up with the a few tried-and-true favorite fruits and vegetables in their lunchboxes, but offering a treat from a completely different part of the world can open your little one up to more sophisticated snacking. “Expose your children to a greater variety,” Geagan encourages. With more choices, your child is sure to find something she likes and won’t grow tired of the same snacks day after day.

Geagan also suggests taking your child to the grocery store to choose unusual dried fruits, nuts and grains from the bulk section and explaining the foods’ countries of origin. Teach your child about acai berries from Central and South America or purple sweet potatoes popular in Japan.

The goal is to raise a healthy eater for life, Geagan says. Being more adventurous is just a bonus.

Put these super snacks on your shopping list the next time you go to the grocery store:

-Blueberries

-Acai berries

-Sweet potatoes

-Pumpkin seeds

-Pomegranates

-Chia seeds

-Cherries

-Quinoa

-Kale chips

-Pistachios

Image via Shutterstock 

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Remember These Patients During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Every October people are swept up in a sea of pink and inundated with mammogram reminders as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month efforts. And for good reason: More than 232,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in women every year, and more than 39,000 women die of breast cancer every year, according to U.S. data from the American Cancer Society. But all of the talk leaves many people with later stages of breast cancer out of the conversation. When the focus is on taking preventative measures, those who have long since been diagnosed with breast cancer need their own outlet from which to gain strength and receive support.

Fortunately, there are options for breast cancer patients who no longer benefit from early detection and prevention campaigns. The pharmaceutical company Novartis is one organization working to fill this void in the cancer awareness sphere with its Count Us, Know Us, Join Us support network. As stated on its site, the initiative recognizes that “this is a community that has different physical and emotional needs from those in earlier stages of breast cancer.” Novartis has partnered with a number of advocacy groups to give those living with breast cancer and their loved ones a voice.

With Count Us, Know Us, Join Us, patients with advanced breast cancer can find information on treatment, support, and how to get involved with a thriving community of people living with advanced breast cancer. And as a symbolic gesture, patients can add their name to the virtual list of members and show that they are indeed being counted.

Breast cancer is a complex experience that affects each patient in a vastly different way. Just as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, there’s no uniform way of connecting with survivors. Count Us, Know Us, Join Us is a reminder of how we each need personal support that is loving and meaningful to us.

Image via Shutterstock 

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Sarah Chalke Advocates Diagnostic Test for Kawasaki Disease

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Sarah Chalke had a gut feeling something was seriously wrong with her son Charlie. The 2-year-old was covered in red rashes and had a fever for days. At night he was restless, arching his back and crying. Chalke went from doctor to doctor, one wrong diagnosis after another. But it was only when she took matters into her own hands by researching her son’s symptoms and consulting a specialist that she found an answer: Kawasaki disease.

The little-known childhood inflammatory disease was the cause of Charlie’s redness on his body and his lips, which turned so bright he looked like he was wearing lipstick. His blood vessels were inflamed and his joints ached. By the time Chalke carried Charlie’s limp body to the emergency room, it was obvious that he was in danger.

“I’d never seen a baby that sick,” Chalke says. And she hopes it’s something no parent will ever have to experience.

Now the actress is at the helm of a Crowdrise fundraiser for a diagnostic test prototype for Kawasaki disease. Doctors at Stanford University and University of California San Diego are getting closer to developing a test that could be 95% accurate. But first, it requires the time and funding to refine it for mainstream use.

“It would be a really big deal if this diagnostic test was in doctors’ hands,” Chalke says. “It would mean that kids would not go misdiagnosed. It would take a lot of the guessing out of Kawasaki disease. It would have meant our son would be treated a lot sooner.”

Diagnosing the disease is tricky because it presents a collection of symptoms, Chalke explains, which often leads many doctors to believe that the sick child has a completely different ailment than Kawasaki disease. The guessing creates a lot of confusion and wasted time.

“The waiting time is excruciating from when you get the diagnosis to when you get the treatment, and then when you find out if the heart is OK,” Chalke says.

What’s worse is that the disease is like a “ticking clock,” as Chalke describes, and treatment must occur within a small window of about only 10 days. And as the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children, Kawasaki disease makes the urgency of an accurate diagnosis all the more important.

Fortunately, Charlie was diagnosed close enough to the crucial period of time that he got the help he needed, and is doing well today. Now 3 and a half years old, he is healthy and happy, says Chalke, and makes her laugh all the time. He also hasn’t suffered coronary aneurysms or heart attacks, like some children with Kawasaki disease do.

“I don’t really think there’s a day that it doesn’t strike me we’re so lucky he’s OK,” Chalke says.

Because of Chalke’s research and unyielding search for a proper diagnosis, Charlie survived. If you suspect your child has Kawasaki disease, Chalke says to be vigilant about getting a diagnosis. She was grateful for the Kawasaki Disease Foundation’s website, which confirmed her instincts that Charlie had the disease, and she let Charlie’s doctor know her concerns.

“If a parent is worried that their kid is really sick the first step is to bring it up to your doctor,” Chalke says. She also encourages taking pictures of your child to show to the doctor and writing all symptoms down. And if the first doctor isn’t receptive, try again, and seek out an infectious disease specialist if necessary.

“I have huge respect for doctors,” Chalke says. “We’ve had some incredible care for Charlie, but I really do feel like you do need to advocate for yourself and for your kids.”

With her campaign for a Kawasaki disease diagnostic test, Chalke is speaking out for all parents who are looking for much-needed answers.

Image via Shutterstock 

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