Monday, September 28, 2009

Feeding Tiny Toddler Appetites While Avoiding Eating Issues

Your ravenous baby suddenly stops eating. Nothing interests her. She refuses to listen to cajoling or bribery. You fear she will starve to death.

First of all, understand that your child is not likely to starve to death. When your baby reaches toddler size, the growth spurt slows. The baby fat dwindles, and chunky babies become, eventually, leggy children. Anyway, that’s the goal. A toddler can go all week, and sometimes all month, on eating no more than a few nibbles at mealtimes.

Childhood obesity is one of largest health risks in our country. The good news is, you have the power to prevent it if you’re wise during this time.

Second, understand that your most important job during this time, is NOT to force your child to eat, but to insure that each nibble is made of good food.

Refrain from sweetened treats, drinks or salty snacks. They’ll have plenty of opportunity in the future to abuse their bodies with non-foods. Dessert can be a few bites of fruit. Note: Never offer your child diet soda. The jury is still out on whether or not diet sodas are beneficial to adults. This is not the time to risk your child’s health.

Four ounces of juice, a one-half cup serving, is enough for a whole day. If you want to offer your child more juice, start mixing the juice you serve half with water, and offer 2-ounce servings at two separate times.

Remember the importance of water!! Nothing works like water. Your baby should get used to the idea that the ideal beverage is water. (So should you!) Substituting soda or juice, or any sweetened beverage for water does NOT care for the body. Before offering the between-meal snack, make sure your toddler drinks at least four ounces of water first.

It’s all right to offer a snack between meals. The closer the snack is to natural, the better. By the way, natural means the way something grows in nature, meaning raw vegetables and slices of raw fruit (watch for choking). When serving a snack, look over the week so far. What foods has the child missed? Who says you can’t give your baby a few green beans, cooked carrots or steamed broccoli as a snack? You can expand this list with lightly cooked vegetables and whole grains such as a half a slice of whole wheat bread. Serving milk with whole grains makes a complete protein, so offer a couple of ounces of milk during snack time too.

Offer lots of vegetables. Don’t decide for the child what he likes. Give him a selection of several different kinds, and put no more than a teaspoonful of each food on his plate at any one time. The idea is to allow the child to decide whether what you have put on his plate is enough. Let the child ask for more of what he likes. Putting too much on a plate can be overwhelming to a toddler.

Eat what you fix. Don’t offer to fix something special just because your little darling says she doesn’t like what is on her plate. Children also need to learn that life will not cater to their whims, so don’t be your child’s slave. There will always be another meal. You can fix the specialty food then.

Understand, we are talking about little bits of food. Little ones have small stomachs. Think in terms of weekly, instead of daily, nutrition. During the week, your baby needs some protein, some starchy breads or vegetables, some lighter vegetables, some fruit and milk. You may offer these things at every meal, and let your child choose. The closer to no hassle you make meals, the fewer food problems you will have later in life.

The child’s plate should have at least two servings of vegetables (no more than one teaspoonful each until he asks for more), a few bites of protein such as some tuna or a few strips of baked chicken, something starchy like a handful Cheerios or bread cut into triangles, three ounces of milk to start, and a few slices of fruit for dessert.

After the child has tasted everything, note I did not say he has finished everything, then offer more of what he wants (of what you have fixed for this meal, of course). No need to make an issue of it. When the child demands more, if the child hasn’t at least tried everything, then explain why you’re waiting, and then follow through by waiting until he at least tastes what is in front of him. Remember, you are the adult. You are not your child’s servant. Good manners and good appetites go hand in hand.

Allow time for meals. A meal should be free from stress, and 20 to 30 minutes long. It should be a fun time, filled with lots of communication. We are social beings after all. Sharing meals is one of the best ways to share our lives.

Finally, learn to eat this way yourself, and you benefit as well, no middle-aged spread, and no obesity statistic in your home. You can make mealtime a win-win situation.

Bon app├ętit

Friday, September 25, 2009

You're a Good Parent...

by Patricia Scholes

After the fourth ring, Bill (real names will not be used) answered the phone, wondering why his wife had not picked it up. He grumbled a little. Because he ran his own business, he needed to get the payroll done, and by not getting the phone, Emily wasn’t helping.
“This is Sergeant Williams of the Denver police,” a very feminine voice said. “We have your daughter. We need you to come to the station.” She then proceeded to give him directions to the local substation.
Stunned, Bill only heard the first part. The sergeant needed to give directions to him twice. A fugue of unreality settled on his mind, not letting him think.
“Who is it, honey?” Emily asked.
He was never sure afterwards what he told his wife. They rode in silence to the police station where they learned what their daughter Jodi had done.
Jodi had been in a minor traffic accident. Thankfully she was unhurt. Unfortunately, she had stolen the car, was both drunk on alcohol and high on marijuana, and had assaulted the police officer who tried to arrest her.
Jodi pled no contest to the charges against her. The judge sentenced her to six months in Department of Youth Corrections (“kids’ jail”) plus another six months of probation. After serving her sentence, not only did Jodi need to meet the terms of probation, which included restitution, fines, mandatory attendance at school and a getting and keeping a job, but a social worker informed the parents that a family counselor had been assigned to them to help the family learn to “get and stay” out of the system.
But we aren’t bad parents! Bill often thought during the therapist’s visits. We aren’t IN the system!
Bill and Emily were good parents. They had successfully raised one daughter who was happily married and had produced a lovely grandchild. They had a built-in support system: lots of family and lots of family gatherings. Jodi had never been abused. She had a variety of family members to turn to. She seemed to love her little niece, her grandparents, her parents, her sister and her brother-in-law. What had happened?
At first Bill and Emily greeted the therapist with stony silence. Everything was fine. They didn’t need someone to tell them how to live.
Because of the current economy, Bill’s business was taking a downturn and required more attention and some creative marketing.
Emily’s mother (Jodi’s grandmother) had developed cancer, and Emily was spending time caring for her mother and often came home exhausted.
Jodi’s sister, who used to provide lots of girl chat, was now very busy with her baby and married life.
Because everyone was busy, and because Jodi’s sister had turned out so well, the family believed Jodi would too.
Jodi turned to peers instead of family.

Jodi’s family made the mistake many families do, believing that when children reach adolescence, they do not need as much supervision. In reality, children in their teens need BOTH more and less supervision. How does a parent know which to give?
First of all, Jodi’s family was stable. They weren’t plagued by family killers like divorce, alcohol and other drugs, or with peace-destroying conditions like depression and other mental illnesses or unemployment. They had a strong faith, generations of it. When Jodi’s parents realized how much trouble their daughter was getting into, they spoke to their priest. They lit candles. They believed that God was good and would bring Jodi through this.
But their little girl was still angry and resentful. What should they be doing?

AFTER the child has gotten into trouble, the family must take steps to completely surround their child in services. They need to know where their child is every moment.
For example, if the child is missing classes at school, the parent can get the school involved by contacting each one of the child’s teachers every day. Some schools have an online attendance record that the parents can access from home. One father calmly told his son that if it was too hard for the boy to get to class on time, he would be willing to walk him to every class, and even sit with him during classes if it was too hard for him to stay. Dad only needed to follow through one day. The child got the message.
Surrounding the child in services can also mean getting her involved in after school projects, sports, clubs and other interest groups, community and church events, and family events. For example, Jodi began to help her mother care for her grandmother. It became a life-saving three-generation event. Grandmother survived the cancer, mother got some much-needed help, and Jodi learned another way of caring.
Knowing where your child is every moment does not mean cross-examining him every time he comes home. It’s better to develop a plan, with your child’s help, of course, of where he or she will be and what adults will be watching. It means knowing the names, addresses and phone numbers of each of your child’s friends and their parents’ names. It means developing a relationship with those parents. You need not be close to the other parents, but you must be in cahoots, because supervision means following through with phone calls and personal visits.
Too much work? Consider the alternative. Your child has already been in trouble. How much heartache are you willing to tolerate? How many yelling matches are you willing to lose? How much in court costs are you willing to pay? How many people do you want in your life telling you how to care for your child? Children, especially at-risk children, will continue to push the boundaries until they know the boundaries are firm and their world is stable. Children do not raise children. Parents with firm boundaries do.

BEFORE your child has found trouble you can be as involved in your son’s or daughter’s life as possible. Don’t be too busy to listen to them. Jodi’s father realized that he could afford to lose his business easier than he could afford to lose his daughter.
But also be willing to let them go. They will make mistakes, fall flat on their faces and disappoint you. Let them see that you love them anyway, and work with them to plan a way to avoid another disaster.
Develop family rules and expectations. Planning is key. Working the plan is gold.
For a short time my husband and I cared for our granddaughter. Because I had worked with foster children for years, I knew how to develop some family rules. If you don’t know how, check out some books from the library on the subject of good parenting. All of them include family rules. I wrote ours out and sat down with her. I gave her a marker and told her to make any workable changes she wanted, and that we would discuss the changes until we reached an agreement. After we agreed, we signed our names and posted the list. I told her that if at a later date we found that the rules didn’t work, we could come up with a better list.
One item on our list was keeping the bedrooms clean, and the beds made before leaving the house (that meant I had to make my bed too!). One day she delayed until it was nearly time to go to school. The room needed a few things picked up and the bed made. Her room didn’t look bad. I could have let it go, but I knew that the next time I wanted her to follow a rule, she would make it harder. The follow-through is just as important as the rule. In fact, failure of the parent to follow through negates the rule altogether. Say what you mean; mean what you say. It’s important.
But how you say it is just as important. I didn’t make an issue of it. I just told her that I didn’t have the kind of job that required me to punch a clock. I could call my office and tell them I was going to be late. Then we could walk into her school late together and report the reason for her tardy to the school office together if she wished. She considered the embarrassment of having her grandmother walk her to the office, and never tested that rule again.
Just a note here: if you do have the kind of job that requires you to punch a clock, then the consequence will need to be different. For example, a neighbor could take the tardy child to school for you. Or you could plan an after-school consequence. Read some books. Get some ideas. Know what you will do in advance. If you don’t know, tell the child how much you love him, and that you love him too much to let this slide. Then tell him you will have the consequence in place by the time you get home. That will give you some time to consider an appropriate consequence. And he’ll have all day to think about his actions.
Note the word appropriate. Don’t be too harsh, but don’t let it slide. You’re developing firm boundaries, not punishing a felon, remember?

In a nutshell:
KNOW where your child is. If you don’t know, develop a plan to know.
POST family rules, expectations and consequences.
LISTEN to your child. You can ask open-ended questions like: “What was your favorite part about today? What really sucked?” Then don’t interrupt or share your favorite story. Just LISTEN.
READ a book on parenting. You only need to incorporate the parts that work for you, but you’ll get some good ideas. Never stop learning. The job of parenting is never set in stone. There is always something new to learn.
One last tip: OFFER a way for your child to save face. Offer to be the bad guy in case your child doesn’t know how to resist his friends’ invitations: “I’d love to, but you don’t know my parents. They’d be all over my case if it did that.”

And it never hurts to light a few candles.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How to Survive Bad Credit

If you’ve lost your job, gotten a divorce, had a death in the family, survived a natural disaster or a serious illness, or a hundred other things that can affect your credit, and right now your credit stinks, what do you do?

Weather it out until your financial circumstances change for the better by:
· Getting a better job.
· Realizing that you can’t pay everyone and choose ONE to pay off first.
· Making sure that you aren’t sabotaging your survival with alcohol or other drugs, gambling or some other future-threatening action.

Understand that credit can be rebuilt.

Make a repayment plan and stick to it.

If your bad credit is due to being overextended, eliminate the credit cards from your life by paying them off. If you struggle with hospital bills, do your best to pay them off. With either, begin with the smallest one. Then when the smallest one is paid off, apply that amount to the next one, and so on.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good start. You CAN survive a financial downturn. Certainly never get yourself overextended again, and learn to live within your means, even if your means are very limited.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Hardship Letter

You want to keep your home, but you lost your “real” job and your part-time job just won’t quite make ends meet. Here is a sample hardship letter you can write to your lender, courtesy of USALS (US Attorney Legal Services

(Date)(Creditor Name)(Address)(Phone #)
RE: Hardship Letter
Dear Sir/Madam,
I am experiencing financial hardship due to (job loss, health problems, death in the family, high medical bills, military duty, failed business, reduced income….)
I have fallen behind on my payments because my income has dropped considerably since (month) and I can no longer afford the terms of the original loan.
Enclosed you will find some documents and statements that will substantiate my present economic situation. (Include copies of bank statements, proof of income, late notices, anything that can prove hardship.)
Since I have been a loyal customer of your financial institution for the last (2 Months, 2 Years), I’d like to ask for a (loan extension, lower interest rate, refinancing, short sale, debt settlement in the amount of ($),…)
I am sure this is only a temporary condition and very soon I will be able to make my payments in full again.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at (your phone # with area code.)
Thank you for your consideration and I’d really appreciate any help you can offer me.
(Debtor Name)(Address)(Phone #)

Important tips:
1. State your problem clearly.
2. Do NOT blame the lender – be humble.
3. Write no more than 1 page.
4. Make it personal – touch their hearts.
5. Provide all necessary documentation.

DO NOT write a financial hardship letter if you:
· have legal issues
· are recently divorced
· are a student
· are simply overextended
· are threatening bankruptcy
A financial hardship letter is a necessary tool for those who want to keep their homes. It’s not a guarantee. Nothing in this life is guaranteed, but it is a major step in the right direction. What do you have to lose?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Present Company Included

I haven't written for a while because, like you, my life is in transition. Although I tell people I am gainfully unemployed (with a smile so that they will laugh), the reality is that I odd job. I collect as many hours as I can so that I can:

1. Pay rent
2. Keep the electricity and phone connected
3. Buy quality food

Sometimes I wonder if those reading these words will believe that I write after reading other people's blogs, or if I know from personal experience, and follow, my own advice. Be assured, I KNOW what I'm saying. I have gone through these times in the past and survived, and I will survive this time too, and so will you.

The next entry will have more substance, I promise. But I must do something else right now. Immediate payment, right now, is far more valuable that a possible payment later. I can't pay my rent on promises.

So, until later, fellow strugglers. We will get through this time together. We are not alone.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why Have a Family Budget?

The quick answer is, of course, to know where your money goes so that you can answer these questions:
  • How much do I spend on groceries?
  • What percentage of my money goes for clothing or entertainment?
  • How much per year is going to my church or is designated for other charitable giving?
  • What could be set aside for an emergency fund?

Your answers will help you decide where to cut corners in your family budget.

When I was doing a family budgeting workshop at my church, one lady admitted that her husband always budgeted until he married her. She felt guilty, and wanting to be part of the budgeting solution, not the problem.

If you have the luxury of simply cutting corners rather than worrying about becoming homeless, consider these suggestions:

1. Look at your clothing allowance. If you don't have an allowance, make one and stick to it.

2. Look at your dining habits, especially how much you spend on eating out. Eat more often at home, and make family dining something special. Avoid fast food.

3. Look at how you choose your entertainment. Do you spend money on TV programming that might be better spent elsewhere? Do you spend money on toys like electronics, games, gadgets or cars?

4. KNOW the difference between need and want. Maybe you don't NEED that next pair of shoes, no matter how cute.

If you believe all attempts at any kind of planning a family budget is useless, you may need to simply watch where you're spending your money first. Track your spending for a couple of months. Many people don't know they're overspending until they start paying attention. When you're ready, there are a number of family budgeting worksheets availble, both online and in a number of stores. Start making your money work for you rather than letting overspending control you.

Eventually you'll get to the point that following your budget will come naturally.

The other day my daughter's youngest came up to her and said he wanted cookies. Could they make some? She laughed when when she realized what he had said. Her buy-it-now son had changed his question, and she knew that her efforts at teaching the family how to budget was finally working.

Your plan will work too. Why not start one now?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Are You Afraid to Answer the Phone?

Bills are due and you have no way to pay them. Creditors seem to be calling every minute. What do you do?

For peace of mind, get caller ID and screen your calls. When you get that job, then you can make arrangements to pay the bills. In the meantime, make sure you're doing all you legally can to get you and your family through this with as much grace and dignity as possible.

  • Keep yourself clean and sober. When your new employer calls, you want to sound your best.
  • Prioritize your bills.

+Rent, utilities and phone first

+Quality food. Do not waste your money on junk food.

+No more than one car payment. If you can, NO car payment. If you live in a city, buy a bus pass.

  • Get rid of excessive bills like entertainment (eg, Cable, going out, fast food)
  • Make a plan (budget) and stick to it.

KNOW that you're doing the very best you can. Worry is your worst enemy. It robs you of energy and hides solutions from you, such as opportunities to odd job. Don't fall into the worry trap. It's a killer.

And also know that others have been through this before you--and survived. You'll be all right.