Editor's Note:

Editor’s Note

Holiday Greetings! This is a magical time of year. The house gets decked out with fragrant wreaths, perhaps a real live tree. Then you bring in the boxes of Christmas or Chanukah decorations—each with its own memories attached— and set them out on the mantle, the table and the coffee table to be admired. The kids are filled with holiday excitement. Families come from miles away and we all huddle together. Yes, the holidays are good for evaluating where you’ve been and where you’re going. Don’t forget to give thanks for those little faces filled with hope, for grandma and gramps, and even crabby old Aunt Agnes (every family’s got one). We’re all a mixture of the people we grew up knowing. Bless them all.

Father Knows Best?:

Chowsie for the Holidays

2014 is almost behind us and it’s time to start looking ahead to a new year. So before I can move forward, I needed to clear my “Father Knows Best?” slate. Perhaps I’ve been in denial. Maybe I’ve been simply unwilling to admit that I ultimately have no control over what happens in my own home. Either way, before this year comes to an end, I need to talk about Chowsie.

First a little background. Back in May, I wrote a column called “Three Stages of Pet Ownership” in which I described how kids insidiously manage to convince their parents to add non-human dependents to a family through a gradual three-stage process. The first stage is some sort of fish—or what I’ll call “the concession pet.” The second stage is a small cage-dwelling mammal such as a hamster or gerbil. The third is the inevitable perpetual infant (to borrow a phrase from humorist John Hodgeman) known as a dog. As of this past summer, we had already passed the first two stages. A dog was only a matter of time.

Go-to Grandma:

What Are Your Gifts As a Grandma?

When my granddaughters were little, my daughter once said to me: “Mom, you don’t have to bring the girls toys. Their favorite thing to play with is YOU!”

Her sweet compliment has stayed with me over the years.  It’s helped me become more aware of the “gifts” I bring as a grandma every time I visit—the intangible gifts of my undivided attention, imagination and patience. These attributes are so much easier to offer as a grandmother than they were when I was a mother.

Preschool Parent:

Screen time for children five and under— Helpful or harmful?

Recently I heard of a nanny who gave a three-year-old an iPad to use for the majority of the time spent in her care—about eight hours. Hopefully this was an exaggeration, but what I found interesting was the parents’ response. They thought this would probably promote her intelligence. As an early childhood educator, I know this reflects a big misunderstanding about how young children learn and how their brains actually develop. I realize these devices are often used as “babysitters” by well-meaning and sometimes stressed adults, but what is their impact on our young children?

World View:

Are you a Fan of K-Pop?

Chances are you have heard of Psy’s Gangnam Style by now. With a billion hits on YouTube in 2012 and subsequently, two billion views by May 2014, the popular South Korean singer-songwriter and record producer Psy has broken all barriers to become a global superstar. In 2012, the US media reached out to embrace this global phenomenon. That September, Psy appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and he was featured on Good Morning America, the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards and the View. Psy also performed and taught dance moves on The Today Show. On December 31, 2012, Psy was invited to perform in front of a million people in New York’s Times Square. As a result of this global success, Psy found himself being recognized by the United Nations (as an honorary ambassador) and The United Nations Children’s Fund (as the goodwill ambassador). 

Nursing Your Baby:

Breastfeeding to Bottle—What’s the Timing?

Ellen asks, “My son Aston is three weeks old. Do you think it would be a good idea to start pumping now and introduce him to the bottle? The holidays are coming and I would love to have family help out. If so, when is the best time? Also, with the bottle, how much do we give him? Do we just give him as much as he wants? Is there a better time of day to give the bottle? Does that mean we should store the milk in two ounce increments so we do not waste any of it, just in case he does not finish the whole bottle? Also, if I pump and feed what I just expressed, how am I ever able to store any milk?”

You and Your Money:

The Health and Wealth Connection: You are what you think!

How would you like to be both physically and fiscally healthier in the next year…and for years to come?

If you are like most people, those two goals are on the top of your list each New Year and the source of your frustration at year’s end as you fail to permanently realize your objectives. Why does this common failure plague so many people? Unhealthy and counterproductive habits.  Change your habits and change your life.

Growing Up Online:

Training Wheels for New Cell Phone Users

If your child is one of the lucky kids getting a new cell phone during the holidays, now is the time to think about the rules that should go along with it.  Kids need to understand from the get-go that having a phone is a privilege and, like all privileges, comes with responsibilities.

Family contracts that outline those responsibilities are available from several reliable sources including Connect Safely (www.connectsafely.org/family-contractsmartphone-use/) and Sprint (www.sprint.com/4netsafety/ phoneContract-feature.html). Even if you don’t feel the need to sign a formal contract with your child, these documents cover important talking points. 

College Bound:

Creating a Fulfilling College Experience

Not only is Donna Skeels Cygan a successful financial advisor but she has combined her professional expertise with groundbreaking psychological and neurological research to learn more about the roots of true happiness.

“While money can impact our happiness, it’s far from the only factor that leads to fulfillment,” she comments.  “In addition to managing your money wisely in college, you’re in control of many other factors that can impact how content you are—or not—in college, including your attitude, choices and behavior. Actually, psychology research has shown that we control roughly 40 percent of our happiness!”

Kids’ Nutrition: Simple Changes = Big Rewards

A wise man—or woman—once said that “it’s the small things in life that matter.” This philosophy could not ring more true than when applied to the health and well-being of our nation’s children. There is no one thing that, no matter how consistently done, will assure good health. Rather, it’s the culmination of many single, relatively small behaviors that, all together and over time, will help children foster a healthy body.