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Heart Health Takes the Runway

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

*By Alexandra Pastore

Did you know more women than men die of cardiovascular disease every year? In honor of Heart Month, the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women is raising heart health awareness for females everywhere by strutting down the runway at New York Fashion Week tonight. Celebrities including Kristin Cavallari, Ciara, Tracy Anderson, and Fifth Harmony will model the Red Dress Collection 2015. But the appearance Parents is most excited for? Go Red’s youngest ambassador and one of our favorite five-year-olds: Mayhem.

If you don’t already know Mayhem and her mom Angie Keiser, let me catch you up. This mother-daughter duo started making dresses a little more than a year ago, using mostly paper and tape. Keiser shared the pictures of the paper dresses on her Instagram, @2sisters_angie. The dresses were modeled off of looks they had seen favorite stars wearing on the red carpet at award shows. The posts were incredibly popular and quickly landed on The Ellen Show and in Vogue. Currently Mayhem and Angie are working on a Crewcuts collection for J. Crew, as well.

Heart health hits close to home for the Keisers. In 1984, Keiser’s uncle needed a heart transplant but the operation could not be done in his home state of Ohio, so the family traveled to Houston, Texas for his surgery. Then in 2013, Keiser had her own heart scare. “It was a wake up call,” she says. Now she wants other moms to know that stress can cause dramatic changes in your body. “Changes that a lot of us moms ignore because they don’t seem like a big deal,” Keiser says. “And we’ve got other people to take care of, so we tend to keep pushing until our bodies reach a breaking point.” She hopes participating in the NYFW event for the Red Dress Collection 2015 will expose her daughter Mayhem to the importance of heart health.

This will be Mayhem and Keiser’s first year collaborating with Go Red for Women. In the weeks leading up to the fashion show, they have been hard at work posting red, paper dresses on Instagram to promote women’s heart health awareness. The two most recent dresses are inspired by red dresses worn by celebrities and admired by Mayhem. There is also a one-of-a-kind original superhero costume designed completely by Mayhem and Keiser. This look is complete with over the knee boots (yes, made of paper!) and a heart detailed, fringe cape. Super Heart Girl’s mission? To let women know that a superhero is anyone who learns about heart disease and knows that it is 80 percent preventable.

“Teaming up with Go Red has been a great opportunity to have heart health discussions with Mayhem and engage her in ways to be healthy,” says Keiser. Before the red dresses hit the runway tonight, Mayhem will be set up backstage to interview the celebrity models. She will be asking questions on their own heart health experiences and learning more about heart health for herself.

Check out Go Red For Women and watch live Thursday, February 12th at 8pm for a live stream of the show!

Image provided by Go Red for Women.

 

Alexandra Pastore is an editorial intern at Parents magazine.

 

 

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The Pet Contract

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

dog

Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

I’ve been thinking a lot about pets recently. We had to put our beloved 15-year old Springer Spaniel to sleep last week, and it was a great loss for us – Lizzy was our “fourth child,” our three kids’ best friend, and known to us as the Queen of Fetch.  We’d had her since she was a freckle-nosed puppy, and the love and warmth she brought to our family were immeasurable. If you’re considering getting a pet—whether it’s a puppy, parakeet, goldfish, gerbil, cat, canary, hamster or horse—I have a few words of advice. Get your kids’ promises in writing.

There are many benefits of having a pet, and perhaps the greatest are the life lessons you can teach your kids: compassion, responsibility, selflessness, benevolence, and humaneness. Pets can help kids grow their independence, and pets complete a triangle of companionship and love between you and your kids. However, before you decide to add a pet to your family, you need to ignore your kids’ verbal promises about taking full responsibility for the new pet they are pleading for. Once the puppy or kitty settles in and the novelty wears off, your kids will forget every vow they made. If your kids talk the talk, they have to walk the walk. And they have to walk the dog with you. Even in the rain or snow. Puddle jumping and snow angels are encouraged.

When our kids were older and we were out in blizzards walking alone with “their dog” because they were busy with homework, after school activities, or playdates, I wished we would have had them sign a “pet contract” when we first brought Lizzy home. As much as our kids loved her and she loved them, when her water bowl was empty, it was almost always Mom or Dad who noticed. Of course when we told the kids the bowl was empty, they filled it. But the next time the bowl was empty, it was again Mom or Dad who noticed. And it was mom or dad who remembered Lizzy needed a walk, a friend to fetch with, or a bath.

The only way to protect yourself from becoming the sole guardian of your kids’ pet is with a contract. Contracts may seem a bit intense for a preschooler or kindergartner, but they can be an important life lesson in and of themselves. A commitment is a commitment, and a contract formalizes a commitment. The contract should be a written one so you can hang it on the cage, hutch, or kennel and point to it whenever your kids forget whose pet it is and let the water bowl run dry. It can be as short as a line or two: “I promise that if Mommy and Daddy get a ferret for me, I will feed and water my ferret and help clean the litter. If I don’t, I know Mommy and Daddy may have to take my ferret back to the ferret store.”

You supervise, but the pet “belongs” to your kids. Of course, it’s the whole family’s pet, but having your kids take personal “ownership” when they’re young is a big part of the commitment life lesson. The time you spend supervising your kids’ care for their pet is wonderful quality time—even the walks with your kids and the dog in the blizzard. But “with your kids” is the critical part of that sentence. Don’t get caught out in the cold alone with your kids’ pet.

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Manners & Responsibility: Raising Responsible Pet Owners
Manners & Responsibility: Raising Responsible Pet Owners
Manners & Responsibility: Raising Responsible Pet Owners

Photo of dog by Sara Rotbart.

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Up in the Air: 1 Plane, 2 Kids, and 13 Hours…

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Tikes on a PlaneOver the holidays my husband and I took our two daughters, ages 5 and 13 months (pictured here), halfway around the world to visit my family in India. My elder daughter, Ameli, has been several times, but this was our first time traveling with baby Isla in tow.

It wasn’t a journey for the faint of heart (not that traveling with little kids ever is). We took two flights—one a harrowing 13 hours—and had a layover. The promise of my littlest one meeting her great-grandmother for the first time and the wedding celebrations of a family friend helped propel us toward our destination, but if you’re curious how it really went, here are the sometimes-gruesome details:

8:30 pm on Christmas Day: Arrived at the international airport with snacks, several changes of clothes, and a charged iPad.

10:00 pm: Made it through check-in and security, with Ameli only asking “Are we there yet?” three times.

11:00 pm: On the flight, both girls started off sleepy and excited (not an ideal combination).

Midnight: Isla fell asleep. I requested a bassinet from the air hostess, who insisted my baby was too big for it. After a few deadly glares from me she brought it anyway. Isla just barely fit. Phew.

2:00 am: Isla realized her new digs were a bit too snug and insisted on sleeping on me…so I “slept” with one eye open in fear that she’d roll off. Ameli, meanwhile, fell asleep in her seat after complaining about not having enough snacks. (None of the dozens we brought were what she was in the mood for after midnight.)

Then there was a blur of messy diaper changes, food being flung from trays, and some wailing. I think we handled it, because if nothing else, we finally landed in Dubai with bleary eyes and frizzy hair.

After our six-hour layover in Dubai (yes you read that right, and remember it when you complain about some three-hour layover in Chicago), we were slightly rejuvenated with full bellies and stretched legs. We boarded a 4-hour flight to Kolkata. This time we were not seated together. My husband was right behind us…was that a hint of relief I saw on his face?

Neither kid was interested in more sleep. Or food. Isla flailed her arms and legs wildly, knocking everything off her tray. I desperately hailed down an air hostess but she curtly said that she would be coming back later to clean up. Ameli, meanwhile, laughed and clapped her hands with glee at her sister’s antics, inadvertently knocking over a glass of water and soaking my seat. As I tried to get my husband’s attention, I turned around to see him peacefully sleeping with his noise-cancelling headphones on.

We finally arrived in India wet and tired, with me wondering if it had been worth all the hassle. After immigration, as we exited the airport, we caught site of my family. Ameli yelled out “Mashi!” (auntie) and ran into my sister’s arms. As the mild air of my homeland warmly enveloped us I thought, “Yes, totally worth it.” And you know I’ll be doing it all again.

Sumana Ghosh-Witherspoon, a designer at American Baby magazine, grew up partly in Kolkata and now lives in New York City with her husband and two girls.

Image: Kunal Basu

 

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The Most Important New Year’s Resolution

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

family playing together indoorsEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

January is an optimistic time of year. Although it’s dark and cold outside, the dawn of each New Year brings with it the promise of doing things differently and better than we have in the past. Of course, reality sets in shortly after the New Year and some of our most resolute vows fall by the wayside. I’d like to suggest just one resolution this New Year—but you have to promise me that you’ll keep it as if your entire parenting experience depends on it. It does.

This year, resolve that when you’re with your kids, you’ll really be with them. Here’s what I mean. Besides the often overwhelming choreography and daily mini-crises with our kids, our non-parenting to-do lists are also on our minds all the time–work worries, the dishes in the sink, the lawn that needs mowing, taxes waiting to be filed, bills to be paid, grocery shopping, home repairs. We have responsibilities to our spouses and friends, commitments we’ve made for community and volunteer activities or for helping out at the kids’ school. Some of us are also juggling responsibilities to our own parents or other family members. As a result, even though we spend hours each day with our kids, our minds are often elsewhere. It’s no wonder that each January 1, we can’t believe that another year of our kids’ childhoods has streaked by.

By resolving to be truly with your kids whenever you’re with them, you’ll slow things down a little, and enjoy parenting a whole lot more. Here are 3 tips:

  1. Meditate on your kids.  Think back to the magical time in the delivery room after they’ve handed your newborn baby to you for the first time. You held her close, counted her fingers and toes, brushed the wispy hair from the soft spot on her head, debated who she looked like. You were so into your baby! When’s the last time you noticed your child as deeply and meaningfully as you did in the delivery room? This New Year, “meditate” on your child three times each day, for 2 minutes each time, just the way you did in the delivery room. Pick three random moments each day when you’re with your child to focus on whatever she is doing–playing, eating, throwing a tantrum–and feel wonder in the miracle you created! This is your baby, now growing up a little each day. By committing a total of only 6 minutes a day to this meditation practice, you will feel more with your child than you have in a long time, perhaps since the delivery room.
  2. Listen lovingly. Our kids are always talking to us. Jabbering, chattering, babbling, and blathering. About anything and everything. It’s easy to tune out – to be there physically, even looking at your child while he’s talking to you–but not hear a word he’s saying. Your mind is on the…yes, the dishes in the sink, the lawn that needs mowing, the taxes waiting to be filed, bills to be paid, etc. etc. Kids often say wonderfully pithy and insightful things. Even more often, though, our kids are much less profound. Their speeches to us may seem like random streams of thought. But they’re talking to us because they want our attention and they want our feedback. Even though what they’re saying may seem unimportant in the grand scheme of our day, that’s because we’re hearing it through our adult ears. To our kids, what they’re telling us is front page news. When your kids are talking to you during this New Year, listen lovingly. It may take just a little more energy to lock in on your kids’ words, but it will be worth it. You’ll know, and they’ll know, that you are with them whenever they’re talking to you. Believe me, as your kids become adolescents, you’ll long for the days when they were little chatterboxes and blabbermouths.
  3. Channel your kids. Forgive me if this suggestion sounds maudlin, but it’s really worked for me. My dad died before our kids were born. As our kids were growing up, I realized more and more how much my dad was missing by not knowing them.  So when our kids were little, and still today with our grown up kids at milestone moments, I have tried to “channel” their images to my dad, hoping I can somehow share my kids with him. I hope he’s getting my “messages,” but even if he’s not, by focusing on my kids’ big moments in such a deep way as to channel them to my dad, I find myself more conscious and aware of my kids. I’m more WITH my kids when I’m mentally “showing” them off. At meaningful times in your kids’ lives, try “channeling” images of them to a loved one who’s not with you. As you’re doing it, you’ll see your kids more clearly than if you were just watching for yourself.

May 2015 bring you and your family health and happiness!

The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image via Shutterstock

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Home Field Advantage

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

dad and son playing soccer indoorsEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

You might be surprised, but this month I’m not writing about the holidays, gift-buying, or instilling the spirit of the season in our kids. Rather, I’d like to devote this piece to a topic that doesn’t get enough attention: the weather. People just don’t talk enough about the weather, right?

I live in Colorado, and it’s been quite chilly. The recent “polar vortex” that brought sub-zero temperatures to much of the country also brought back memories of cold spells when our kids were small and had disproportionately ginormous energy levels.

We are a sports family, and sports families can’t be hostage to the weather—every day is a sports day. Like the U.S. Postal Service, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” kept our kids from playing ball (well, thankfully, gloom of night did slow things down a bit). That meant we had to design “all-weather facilities” in our small home.

With a playroom that was barely big enough to store all the sports equipment and toys, our dining room became the default basketball court, the living room became the baseball diamond and hockey rink, and the hallway became the soccer field. The dining room was the hardest to adapt because of the inconvenient chandelier—but unscrewing just four Phillips screws brought down the lights and made room for the six-foot indoor hoop. The square faux Oriental rug in the center of the living room had the right number of corners for all four bases, so we only had to move the coffee table to make room. Since our fireplace never worked, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice to convert it into the indoor hockey goal. Soccer was the most dangerous because the hallway was narrow and every kick went straight at the goalie or ricocheted off the hall wall right towards the goalie. Our solution: The goalie wore an old catcher’s mask. Yes, we could have used the living room hockey rink as a soccer field, but the only part of soccer that our kids loved was the penalty kick, so the hallway was perfect. Even though all the kids played tennis outdoors, we never managed to successfully adapt it to the indoor venue despite our clever deployment of an old volleyball net and racquetball racquets.

It’s safe to say that our indoor arenas didn’t improve our home’s property value. Although we made the kids use soft foam balls, bats, and hockey sticks, every wall got scarred, scuffed, chipped, and dinged. We could have patched and painted, but we preferred to see the vivid testament to a house well lived and childhoods well played.

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

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