Friday, December 27, 2019

The world can use a little bit more Mr Rogers

I met my husband Sandy in 1976; I was 17. Believe it or not, we were at Kennedy airport flying out on the same flight. Sandy was ahead of me in line and tells that he asked the agent to seat me next to him. In the 43 years that we have been together, we have missed a few birthdays and general holidays but we have NEVER been apart on New Years eve. Some years have been wild and crazy. Other years have been low key and we have looked at each other long before midnight and said…”somewhere it is already midnight, we don’t need to stay up”, but we have always been together. In those 43 years we have done many things, including raising two wonderful daughters and some epic travel adventures, but we have only been to a movie in the theater just about 43 times.

Sandy generally hates going to movies and agrees to go to one movie a year. If it was important to me, he would go more often. One of the reasons that we work so well together is that I simply go see movies without him. This year, to my surprise he opted to come with me to see the new Mr. Rogers movie with Tom Hanks. Sandy knew that I wanted to see it. I grew up in the real Mister Rogers Neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I ran into Mister Rogers many times at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh where I worked my first job as a nurse. He was as genuine, kind and quirky in real life as he was on TV.  Spoiler alert, Sandy did not like the movie all that much (although he loves Mr. Rogers.) I loved it. No surprises there. It is not really directed at young kids, but I thought it told a lovely story about forgiveness, based on a true relationship that Mr. Rogers developed with a somewhat angry reporter many years ago. Tom Hanks was superb, and the Mister Roger’s message shined through.

Here is the post for several years ago. I added a few more worthy quotes.


I first ran this post several years ago when we had a week full of horrible headlines. Unfortunately we are so used to things like mass shootings that we are no longer shocked when awful things happen. 

In a previous post about talking to our children about scary situations, I actually quote Mr. Rogers. He shared a lesson that he learned from his own mother: “look for the helpers”. Those might be a person in uniform, or another parent with children. That remains great advice and is one of his more well known pearls of wisdom.
 A generation of children grew up better people because of the lessons he taught. Here are some of my favorite pieces of Mr Roger's wisdom:
"There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind."
“There is only one thing evil cannot stand, and that is forgiveness.'"
"There's a part of all of us that longs to know that even what's weakest about us can ultimately count for something good." It is okay not to be perfect!
“Solitude is different from loneliness, and it doesn't have to be a lonely kind of thing.”
Accept people as they are.
Look and listen carefully.
We all have feelings.” Talking and acknowledging them is the first step towards finding ways to deal with them that don’t hurt anyone.
Anything that's human is mention-able, and anything that's mention-able can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we're not alone.
Wonder about things
“You can’t go down the drain in the bathtub.” Don’t be shy about sharing things that might be scary
“Be yourself.” It is not how you look, what you wear or what toys you have that make you special
What can you grow in the garden of your mind? Use your imagination.
You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.
One of the most important things a person can learn to do is to make something out of whatever he or she happens to have at the moment.

"Often out of periods of losing come the greatest strivings toward a new winning streak."

"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else."

"There are times when explanations, no matter how reasonable, just don't seem to help."

"Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now."

Mr. Rogers was a gift to generations of kids but I wonder if any of my patients know who he is? I believe that Daniel Tiger is making sure that the whisper of his gentle message lives on!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Holiday Safety checklist 2019

This week's topic
Holiday safety list 2019

Have you thought of everything?

The lights are twinkling and the radios are playing the holiday tunes. People are putting up the holiday decorations. It is time for the holiday safety post.Take a moment to give this a careful read. There may be some things that hadn't occurred to you.

For most people, the holidays are a time for celebration. That means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire and accidents.

For every aspect of holiday celebrations, I can tell you the story of a patient who called with a related accident. It is not my intent to scare folks with my tales. As I tell parents who attend my safety class, if you know ahead of time what accidents can happen, you have a way better chance of avoiding them. I have seen some wild and improbable things over the years.

Baking cookies is just one example. A patient's mom called to tell me that her 10 month old had sustained a burn on his hand. She was holding him in the crook of one arm as she removed the cookie sheets from the oven. As she recounted, he turned into a cartoon character with a telescoping reach and he was able to stretch across her body and grab a hold of the piping hot tray. Simple solution: don't hold your child when you are working with hot stuff in the kitchen. Their arms are longer than you think. If even one accident has been prevented, this post was worth it.

Candles are another hazard. It was a winter evening many years ago in a cabin at Lake Tahoe. Dr. Jessica and family lit some holiday candles and went to sleep. Somehow one of the candles ended up burning a hole through a plastic mat that was on the table. Luckily the smell of burning plastic woke them up before any real damage was done, but it was a frightening lesson. This was a vacation rental. In this instance, there seemed to be no working smoke detector. She had no idea if and where there was a fire extinguisher. There are several obvious lessons here. Never go to sleep with candles or a fireplace still burning. Get acquainted with the safety features of any place your family is staying.  
Below are some safety considerations for dealing with the holiday season ahead. Some of these may seem like common sense but there might be a few tidbits in here that I am betting you haven't thought about.

Beware of button batteries. They are everywhere nowadays in all sorts of small electronics (and musical cards) and can be quite hazardous if swallowed. Take time in advance to do a mental inventory of items that you have around that may be powered by these. Put a piece of duct tape over the battery compartments to make sure they can't fall out.

Certain holiday plants like poinsettias can be mildly toxic (especially to someone with a latex allergy). You may not have them in your own house, but if you are visiting a friend or even a supermarket make sure little hands don't grab the pretty red leaves and put them in their mouths.

Be very careful transporting hot food to a holiday potluck. I have patients who have been burned from hot food spilling on them in a car.


One of my patients had a tragedy several years. An eight year old healthy dog got into a wrapped package that was filled with chocolate. The amount ingested proved to be too toxic for this little dog to handle and they didn't make it. Please don't let this happen to you. Make sure that any mystery packages are nowhere near where a pet can get to them.

Christmas tree checklist:

  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is less of a fire hazard

  • Cut 1-2 inches from the base of the trunk immediately before placing the tree in the stand and filling with water to ensure absorption. Don’t add chemicals that might be toxic to kids or pets. A dash of plain 7 up can help keep the tree healthy.

  • check the water level daily to avoid the tree drying out

  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant"

  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.

  • Place your tree at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, including fireplaces, radiators and space heaters

  • Make sure the tree is steady enough that it can't be pulled over by a toddler. You may need to attach it to something solid. Trust me, trees get knocked or pulled over. Older kids running around can cause this issue, it isn’t just toddlers.

  • Trim your tree with non-combustible or flame resistant materials.

  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to make sure they have been certified for outdoor use.

  • Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.

  • Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground-fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.

  • Strings of lights and garlands are a staple of holiday decorating, but they can also pose a strangulation hazard.

  • Avoid trimming the tree with things that look like candy which may pose a temptation to the kids.

  • Keep sharp, glass or breakable ornaments out of reach of small children.

  • Holly berries and other small decorations can be choking hazards.

  • Don't overload extension cords; make sure that your extension cords are high quality.

This is not a safety issue, but it is worth mentioning. Is your child exhibiting any new allergy symptoms? Take a minute to consider whether or not they started during the holiday season. Trees, scented candles and other seasonal extras can trigger some allergies.

Hanukkah doesn’t fall on the same date every year since it is based on a lunar calendar. Many folks laughingly refer to it as coming either “early or late”. It also has more spelling variations than any other holiday. This season the first candle will be lit on the evening of December 22nd.

  • Make sure that all candles are safely out of harm's way.

  • The menorah should be on a glass tray or aluminum foil.

  • Make sure candles are not close to wrapping paper.

  • Don't go to sleep with candles still burning.

  • Don't leave the matches or lighters hanging around.

If you are frying latkes (fried potato pancakes that are a holiday tradition, yum) make sure that no one gets splattered by oil
Never leave the hot oil unattended

Remember that adding water to a grease fire will make it worse! Baking soda is okay, but a fire extinguisher is best. Make sure you know where it is and how to use it.

Kwanzaa may be the safest of the holidays, (no hot oil or stressing the electrical outlets) but there are still candles involved, so make sure they are placed in a safe place and toddlers don't have access.

If I missed any holidays, let me know! I will add them to this post in the future.

This is also a great time to test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors!!!

Stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Best Present is your Presence 2019

The best present is your presence

I saw a bumper sticker some years ago that said:

Good parenting requires twice as much time and half as much money.

So true!

This is the season for gift giving, but we all actually could do with a lot less stuff!! The best present I think that families can give to each other is the gift of self (otherwise known as time and attention.)

For kids who are old enough to understand, give a certificate that promises a special activity that you might do some time in the future. For older kids, escape rooms are a ton of fun. A membership to one of the local museums or the Exploratorium is another good gift to give to the family.

It is great for families to do outings altogether, but one-on-one time is so important if you can manage it. Mix and match so that you make sure that everyone gets special time with one other family member. This includes one on one time for you parents as well.

The list of Nurse Judy's inexpensive and creative activities has some old and new ideas.

  • Collect and decorate rocks with colorful paints and glitter for a rock garden.

  • This is a great one to use as a reward for good behavior. When they see the pretty rocks, they will remember that they earned them.

  • Make a collage. Old magazines and old photos are great for this activity.

  • Make a musical instrument. Use your imagination: a shoe box with rubber bands can be a guitar; glasses filled with different levels of water make different tones; tapping different surfaces with chopsticks makes different sounds.

  • Go on a 'use all your senses' walk. What do they see, smell, hear, and feel?

  • Make personalized place mats. Take some family photos, glue onto cardboard, and cover with clear contact paper. Kids will love to use these with meals.

  • Create a scavenger hunt walk. Plan a list ahead of time of thing to a dog, an airplane, or even a girl with purple hair.

  • Go on an ABC walk. Find things that start with all the different letters...or find the actual letters on signs and license plates. This is a great game in a supermarket.

  • Download free coloring pages from the internet. With a little searching, you can get a picture of just about anything.

  • Draw with chalk. Make a hopscotch board.

  • Make your own play dough. You can find the recipe online.

  • Make a fort using the couch cushions,

  • For a really special occasion, set up the tent and have a backyard camp out (or as we once did, set it up in the house!)

  • Write a story and illustrate it together.

  • Decide on a recipe and bake or cook something. Kids will often try foods more eagerly if they helped with the cooking. Let them help sprinkle in different spices and be the taste-tester.

  • Have a tea party. Invite the dolls, and get out the good china that you never use.

  • Trace your hands and feet and color them in.

  • Have some down time while watching a video or a special TV program. There are some lovely educational TV programs and videos out there.

  • Play a computer game. Don't be afraid of controlled use. Children that don't learn how to be comfortable with computers at a young age are at a distinct disadvantage in this high tech culture.

  • Okay, now put that screen away and get some fresh air! Families can play some sports outside. Find a patch of grass, a basketball hoop or one of the city tennis courts and get active.

  • Blow bubbles.

  • Playing board games with the family is the stuff that great memories are made of.

  • There is little out there that is as much fun as a giant box to get inside of . If you buy a new appliance or see a neighbor buying one, ask for the box.

  • make a rain gauge and weather station

  • Play dress up. In my opinion, every house needs a good dress up box, (after Halloween is a great time to pick up costumes and things on sale)

  • Read!

  • If you can manage to make it work, try hard to have at least one meal of the day sitting down with the entire family. Have everyone say a little about their day. Having one child help with cooking a special dinner, including making and decorating a menu is a great way to have one on one time.

  • Take advantage of where we live; there are always fairs, festivals and museums that are going on.

  • Make a scrapbook with keepsakes and photos of all the fun activities

  • Unless you are using the phone or tablet as part of the activity make sure you put them down and be fully engaged in what you are doing (emails can wait)

For Those lucky enough to live in or near the Bay Area, here is my list of quirky, only in SF things to do.

  • Fort Funston: Bring some dog treats and take a walk. You are pretty much guaranteed to see lots of fuzzy friends to pet. If you are lucky you will see hang gliders. (Free)

  • Take a ferry ride. The route from the Ferry building to Jack London square is super easy, and there are snacks and a bathroom available!

  • Turrell Sky dome: For this you need an admission to the De Young museum. Many folks have no idea that this magical place exists. Go out to the garden by the cafe and follow the path and signs down to the sky dome. Once you are in there, make sure you sing and listen to the acoustics

  • The camera below the cliff house: Lots of folks don’t bother stepping in there, but it is worth it. The Camera Obscura gives a real time 360 view of the surrounding area. It is only open when the weather is clear. It isn’t free, but it is reasonably inexpensive

  • The Wave Organ: This is an old exploratorium exhibit that remains at the end of a jetty behind the St Francis Yacht club. When the tide is right (good luck, I have rarely been there are the right time) pipes will play music. It is an enchanting place regardless, especially if you are there when no one else is out there. It is free

  • Musee Mecanique - If they love it there...consider earning points for future play there

  • Labyrinth down at Land’s End is worth checking out.

  • Walking tours are free and plentiful. These are a fun way to get outside and learn a little history of the city.

  • The Gingerbread house in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel is worth a trip. It is only there until the New Year. This is free unless you opt to splurge on the very expensive tea.

  • I love the Stairway walks of SF book. If you child is old enough that they don't start asking to be carried half way through the walk, these are a great family activity.

  • Sing-a-longs at the Castro Theatre (Thanks to JD and family for this addition)

  • Groupon and Goldstar and great ways to find the deals out there!

Happy Holidays...go out and make some wonderful memories!

If you have something that you think would be a good addition to this list, let me know!