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Beating the Sack Lunch Blues

My 7-year-old brings his lunch to school. Every. Single. Day.  Which wouldn’t be so bad except for two things: 1. He’s vegetarian. 2. His school is a tree-nut-free zone. This puts some serious crimps into my protein options. And he apparently treats his lunch like a beanbag – the day I sent a banana, it came home so disgustingly mushy that I promptly tossed the bag into the washing machine. His excuse? “Michael sat on my lunch.” Hmmm.

At the start of the school year I’m gung ho about packing lunches, but two months in, my enthusiasm is long gone. So I sent out a request for help in spicing up my repertoire via e-mail to Leah Hammel, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer at Studio Element in Clayton.

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New Crisis Hotline Is Already Helping Local Teens

The new St. Louis County Youth Connection Helpline – which just started answering the phones on Oct. 7 – is already impacting teens’ lives. It’s a noteworthy start for a unique project.

“We went live a couple of weeks ago, and already we’ve gotten several crisis calls,” said Julie Russell, director of programs and performance at the St. Louis County Children's Service Fund, which pays for the Helpline. “There’s been a lot of need for shelter services for youth and teens.”

Those calling the Helpline at 314-628-2929 or 877-928-2929 may not realize it, but they are getting in touch with a very innovative service. Russell explained that four factors make the Helpline the first of its kind in the country:

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Your Flu Shot Questions Answered

I’m a flu-shot fanatic ever since I had the flu when I was four months pregnant with my son in 1998. I thought I would die, and I was certain that I would miscarry. Obviously, a slight over-reaction on my part, but the experience means that my children and I are always among the first inoculated each fall. And last year we stood in line for hours to get H1N1 shots, too.
 Dr. John Madden
This year, the Centers for Disease Control are suggesting that everyone six months and older should get the flu shot, and the vaccine being offered includes H1N1. Fortunately, it appears that there is no shortage of the vaccine, so standing in line probably won’t be necessary.

Dr. John Madden (right), a pediatrician with Esse Health in Sunset Hills who also has a doctorate in microbiology and an informal degree in fatherhood (his children are 8, 6 and 8 months), says everyone over the age of six months who doesn’t have a medical reason NOT to get a flu shot should definitely get one this year. He says that about 25,000 people die each year from the flu. Plus, the flu can result in complications such as pneumonia, and those at greatest risk for those complications are those over age 65 and under age 5.

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Reflecting on a Week of Me Time

Looking back at the first week of mantras and tasks for the moms who’re participating in the Living The Self-Care Challenge, I feel pretty good. To my surprise, I was actually doing some of them already, like putting on my radio station (NPR, not music – I don’t think my kids realize radio stations actually play music in the mornings!) and making a “did do” list at the end of the day.

However, I’m not so great about some of the others.

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Helping Children Understand Disabilities

I'm blessed to have a very warm-hearted little girl who so far has embraced every one she meets with open arms and a constant barrage of conversation. But like any other 4-year-old, MJ often has questions regarding the differences in other people, some for which I’m sure I don’t have the best answers. This was especially apparent when we were planning a get-together with a group of friends, one of whom has a little boy whose forearms did not develop while he was in the womb.

I was torn. Should I prepare her for his physical challenge beforehand, or would that just bring unnecessary attention to his disability? Or should I let her questions flow organically after she met him and be ready to answer on the spot?

Turns out, I was overthinking it, like I do with so many other things.

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The Challenge: 21 Days of Setting Aside Time For Me

All the experts say moms should set aside time for themselves. Meanwhile, we moms - juggling three meals and two snacks a day, plus carpools, sports practices, library books, laundry, homework, housework and maybe even paying work occasionally - roll our eyes and check our schedules on our phones.

But last week it wasn’t only those nebulous “experts” who were after me. Both my dentist and my hair stylist noticed my lack of self-care showing up in their domains. It’s one thing to be scolded by a TV talking head and another to try to defend your crazy life to a person wielding sharp objects at very close range.

And they weren’t the only ones. Recently a professional contact invited me to take part in a 21-day self-care challenge starting today, Oct. 6. I was on the fence until Saturday, when the haircut sealed the deal.

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Waiting For “Superman” Flies into St. Louis

It’s been celebrated on The Oprah Winfrey Show, spotlighted in Entertainment Weekly and now the criticially acclaimed and controversial documentary Waiting For “Superman” is making its debut in St. Louis.

As we all know, many public school systems across the country are in upheaval, threatening the success of today’s children. To put a face – or five faces, in this instance – to this troubling situation, Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim introduces viewers to a group of students whose opportunities for achievement are at a crossroads.

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Building Skills Against Bullies

A couple of weeks ago my fellow blogger Sharon pondered the question of bullying. She was worried about her daughter, both her potential to be a victim and her potential to be influenced by the “alpha kids” at school. Most of us can relate to her dilemma – and the feelings of helplessness we struggle with as parents.

An interesting Canadian study released this past week looked at bullying from a group standpoint and found that it may be an extreme form of our natural desire for order within social settings. The kids who were victimized tended to be different and thus threaten the established hierarchy. That is, the “alpha kids” – fifth- and sixth-graders in this case – were protecting their status at the expense of the victimized children.

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When Moms Get Angry

I don’t know about you, but it makes me crazy that the foods offered to my children at their respective schools often seem to undo all of my efforts to make sure they’re eating healthy at home. On any given day, either one of my older children could choose for lunch an order of French fries and a packaged brownie that has so many preservatives in it that I could set it aside and serve it to my future great-grandchildren.

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The Super Soccer Mom Game Plan

I’ve always thought myself to be a pretty mellow sports fan. I love watching sports, I just don’t love it. Going to Busch Stadium for me is really an excuse to eat hot dogs and get a tan. I think the last time I really got passionate – and by passionate, I mean jumping on a table and knocking over a round of beers – over a game was the Illinois-Arizona Elite 8 matchup in 2005.

But when it’s your own kid, you become a fanatic.

As I sat in my lawn chair during my 4-year-old’s first soccer game, I knew I had to keep my emotions in check. While I cheered MJ and her teammates on, I eventually had to clamp my hand over my mouth to stop myself from playing sideline coach or admonishing the referee for failing to eject the dirty-playin’ preschooler who tripped my kid.

To ensure I remain the supportive – not obnoxious – parent in the stands, I turned to Dr. David Shields via e-mail to get his insights on what makes a good sports parent. Shields is an expert in healthy competition – he’s an associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, author of True Competition: A Guide to Pursuing Excellence in Sports & Society and founder of TrueCompetition.Org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing the insights, skills and approaches necessary to reclaim competition as a place of excellence, ethics and enjoyment.

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Five Things You Can Do (Starting Now!) to Boost Your Child’s Brain

New Year’s resolutions are all well and good, but I for one don’t really have the energy to start new lifestyle commitments right after the holidays. This first full week of fall is a different story – I’m inspired by the cooler nights, back-to-school routines and fresh-off-the-tree apples.

And I don’t think I’m the only one – during the past week my inbox has been full of great ideas for enriching our children’s lives. Here, in no particular order, are five ideas to get you started.

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Hangin' With Mrs. Heck

It’s my favorite time of the year. The leaves are turning gold, the heat is easing up and, best of all, I no longer have to watch endless home remodels on DIY Network just to get my TV fix.

Yes, this week, thanks to the launch of the new fall TV season, I’ll be reuniting with some of my best friends – Sue Sylvester, Liz Lemon, Jules Cobb. However, there’s no one I’ve been looking forward to reconnecting with more over a glass of wine and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups than Frankie Heck of Orson, Ind., and the matriarch of The Middle on ABC.

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Buckling Under Pressure

I burst a first-grader’s bubble the other day. We were all set to go on one of the last water park outings of the summer, and as he was about to climb into our car, I stopped him. “What about your car seat?” I asked.

He gave me a highly insulted look, the kind only a perturbed 6-year-old can muster, but before he could say anything his mom jumped in. “Oh, he’s tall enough,” his mom replied. “He doesn’t need one.”

We stood there discussing it for a bit. She was pretty sure she was right, I was pretty sure she was wrong. I think she gave in only because I’d have been the one paying the $50 citation plus court costs for violating the booster seat law in Missouri – and because our destination was Illinois, I could potentially have been set back another $50 on that side of the river.

So what are the rules?

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Things to Do

Summer Pre-College Programs Virtual Fair
Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Attendees can visit virtual booths, where they can chat one-on-one via text or video with summer program representatives, as well as view helpful webinars on how to choose a summer program, how to strengthen an application, and how to make the most of a summer program experience.

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Springtime Magic at The Magic House
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Thursday, March 4, 2021

Get a jump on springtime fun at Springtime Magic at The Magic House! Springtime Magic includes Bunny Town, the museum's newest outdoor experience featuring spring-inspired art, bunny games & trike rides through floral fun, visits the bunny, egg hunts, and more! 


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Open Gym at Miss Kelly's Gym
Friday, March 5, 2021
Saturday, March 6, 2021
Friday, March 12, 2021

Kids can work on existing gym skills, learn new skills or just play around during Open Gym at Miss Kelly's Gym. Space is limited to 10 kids per session. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

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How to Lessen the Impact of Social Isolation on Your Child's Mental Health

This need for regular socialization all comes down to nature – we are biologically human wolf packs who need to connect with each other, especially in our early years. We asked local experts how to help kids handle the isolation resulting from the pandemic and remote learning, and how it may impact their futures.

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Spring Break Camps Offer a Variety of Activities for Kids and Teens in St. Louis

Welcome 2021's much-awaited springtime with a variety of fun Spring Break camps for kids as young as Pre-K. From rocketry to wildlife, science to arts & crafts, sports to healthcare, in-person or virtual Spring Break camps offer kids a way to meet up with their peers, learn a new skill, or return to favorite fun activities. Here is a roundup of Spring Break camps available in the St. Louis area:

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How Are You Holding Up? Here's What Experts Say About Coping With Anxiety, Stress and Uncertainty

Telling children they shouldn’t worry about something doesn’t make that worry go away. Instead, we want to help them develop skills to manage worries so they can feel empowered to cope with future worries.

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The College School Announces Diversity Scholarship

The College School, an independent school for grades Pre-K through grade 8, has launched a new Upper Division Diversity Scholarship for students of color who are entering fourth through seventh grades. The scholarship award will include up to 100 percent of tuition and fees for the student's time enrolled at the school.

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SLSO's Soundlab for Families Offers an Exploration of the Power of Music

Families are invited to explore the science and emotion of music during the SLSO SoundLab, a month-long, free virtual experience from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Every Saturday in February, families can tune in to Soundlab host Alicia, who will lead them on a journey that begins with how sound can be heard, felt and seen.

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