Water, Water, Everywhere

by Marie Woodhead

The topic of water has been on everyone’s mind lately.  There is water in our basements, flooding our streets, and breaching our levees.  It seems that water has seeped into nearly every aspect of our lives.  The overwhelming presence of water recently reminded me of the importance of consuming water in our daily lives.

Working full-time and being the mother of two active boys, life is busy.  My family often succumbs to a “grab and go” lifestyle.  When it comes to beverages, my kids will grab from the refrigerator whatever beverage is portable – soda, juice boxes, Gatorade, etc.  To add more water to our diets, I decided to keep the top shelf of my refrigerator stocked with water bottles.  This small change has caused my family’s water intake to increase dramatically.  Becoming healthier doesn’t always have to be hard work, simple actions can make a big difference.


This Childhood is Sponsored by….

by Karla Lester, MD

This childhood is sponsored by Disney, Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, Minecraft, McDonald’s, ipad, iphone, instagram, facebook, snapchat, etc…………….

Our children are walking billboards.  Will our children’s generation look back on growing up and think mostly of the brands they think made their childhood possible?

Our family of five recently returned to a flooded kitchen after a two week stint on a Disney cruise, followed by a day at Kennedy Space Center (educational portion of the vacation), Universal Studios (does Harry Potterville count as educational), and back to three days of pure Disney World to round out our spoiled and lucky children’s foray into their 2015 summer.  I certainly wouldn’t want them to miss out on any single opportunity available to them at every single minute of every single day.

I asked my kids recently what kind of a parent they thought I was?  I mean I really wanted to get down to the nitty gritty labels.  I asked, “Do you think I am a helicopter parent?  Am I a snowplow parent removing all of the obstacles along the way? “  Our middle girl, Audrey, tells me like it is, or at least like she feels it is.  She never holds back, not even one bit.  No sir.  Not ever.  Not for one minute.  So, why would I ask?  Stupid parent is what I should label myself as after putting this question out there in their universe.

Audrey, sized me up by looking me over, and then replied, “Definitely not a snowplow parent.  Yep, no way.  Do you want me to say you are a helicopter parent, Mom?  Because when you asked that you kind of smiled and it makes me think you want to think of yourself as a helicopter parent.”  Nope.  Audrey definitely thinks I am not nearly involved in her minute to minute goings on to meet the rigorous criteria of a helicopter parent.

“You’re a tiger mother because you make us do every single activity and you never ever let us quit anything.”

Okay, this is good.  I can work with this.

Katherine (14) pipes in, not taking a break from instagram mind you,  “Don’t forget embarrassing mother.”

Audrey excitedly chimes in, “Yes, yes, very embarrassing.”

It seems like in unison, “You wear your robe around our friends, have bad hair a lot and sing and talk in accents in front of other people.”

My three kids have a completely different childhood than I had.  They are very compassionate and wonderful people (fingers crossed), but mostly just kids living in a very lucky environment.  I didn’t have all of the opportunities my kids have, so I am often stuck teetering on this hippocritical fence between making sure they are exposed to everything this world has to offer while worrying that I will have three adult kids living in my basement while lecturing them that I didn’t have it so good.

Our generation of parents is very consumed by making sure our kids are not missing out on a thing (I literally mean things when I say thing here) .  Unfortunately, our children’s generation is missing out on a lot of family time, great food traditions, outside playtime and socialization.

Preserve family time.  Get outside to play.  Let’s all try to take a break this summer from the narcissistic parenting hamster wheel our generation of parents can’t seem to get off of.  I’ll go first.   I feel like I am talking to myself here.  Oh wait, because I am.  Repeat after me (I’m telling myself to repeat after myself) ……

  1. My children will not self combust if I set limits on screen time this summer.
  2. My children will have a free range, outside kid kind of summer.
  3. My children will be exposed to all kinds of fruits and vegetables this summer.

Break away from it all and have a fun, relaxed and chill summer 2015!


Lincoln Walks to School

Two years ago Teach a Kid to Fish partnered with Safe Routes Nebraska and Lincoln Public Schools to promote safe walking and biking to school for LPS elementary and middle school students. Lincoln Walks to School continues to promote walking and biking to school and to encourage and empower students in LPS elementary and middle schools to become champions for student and family health.

With the weather warming up and Spring upon us, it’s good to be reminded that walking is a fun and healthy way to spend time with your children while teaching them skills that can serve them well throughout life. The walk to school is a great time to use these safety tips.

Be a walking role model

Children learn through experience. Walking with parents or another caregiver is an important way for children to practice crossing real streets and picking safe places to walk. There is no magic age when children are old enough to walk without an adult. But, as a parent, you should decide when your child has the skills and experience to deal with traffic safely without you. As you walk with your child, remember these safety tips:

• Wear bright-colored clothes, and carry flashlights or wear reflective gear if it is dark or hard to see.

• Look for traffic at every driveway and intersection. Be aware of drivers in parked cars that may be getting ready to move.

• Obey all traffic signs and signals.

• Cross the street safely:

1. Stop at the curb or edge of the street.

2. Look left, right, left and behind you and in front of you for traffic.

3. Wait until no traffic is coming and begin crossing.

4. Keep looking for traffic until you have finished crossing.

5. Walk, don’t run across the street.

Choose the safest route to school

Select a walking route with less traffic and intersections.

• Pick places where there are sidewalks or paths separated from traffic. If there are no sidewalks or paths, walk as far from the motor vehicles as possible and, if possible, on the side of the street facing traffic.

• Limit the number of street crossings. When available, cross at a location with an adult school crossing guard.

• Avoid crossing busy or high-speed streets.

Understand your child’s limitations

Children are not small adults. It will take time and practice for a child to develop the ability to deal with lots of traffic. Over time, children develop the ability to accurately judge the speed and distance of oncoming traffic. Young children may think that a car is able to stop, when in fact, it is not. Also, children may think that if they can see a driver, the driver can see them. But, children are smaller and harder for drivers to see. Get down to a child’s height to experience their perspective and see what they see.


Meal Planning 101

By Emily Hulse, MS

Recently, I was asked to give a lesson to a church youth group on the topic of Meal Planning Tips.  This took me a little bit back to my days of when I worked at UNL Extension with the Nutrition Education Program (NEP); we did a lot of lessons with both groups and individuals on this important topic.  Regardless of age and stage of life, I think that meal planning is an area in which everyone is open to more ideas and tips (including myself).

Here’s my top 5 tips:

1. WRITE IT DOWN! – The weeks where my “menu” chalkboard on my pantry door is blank and looks like it does in the picture below are disasters when it comes to successful, healthy family meal times.  The weeks where I don’t plan out my meals and then write it down, are weeks where we end up eating out more often than we would like, making multiple trips to the grocery store with kiddos in tow, and cause me more stress overall.  Plan your meals out at least one week at a time and find the best place for you to write it down.

Menu planner

2. PLAN YOUR MEALS AROUND THE GROCERY ADS, MAKE A LIST, AND SHOP ONCE A WEEK! – In Extension NEP terms, we would call it “Stretching your Food Dollar.”  How do you make your monthly food budget go further?  Well, one way is to look at the weekly grocery ads and plan you meals around what is on sale.  It’s common to hear “but fruits and vegetables are so expensive” – I always tell people every week though there is certain produce that is in season and is on sale.  When looking at the grocery ads and planning around them, we can see what food is on sale and see what recipes those could be included in.  The other week I was in a hurry and made the mistake of not making a list and writing down the ingredients needed for my planned recipes –  just took my cookbook along to the store.  Well, needless to say I think the trip to the grocery store took twice as long as usual (my husband teased me when I got home and asked me how many of my friends I saw at the store that night) because I was flipping back and forth between the pages of the cookbook and having to go back and forth across the grocery store.  I told him it was b/c I didn’t have a grocery list made up beforehand.  Also, I find that if I go to the store once a week (instead of multiple times) I spend less money b/c I don’t grab other unnecessary items every time I run into the store meaning to just grab an item or two quick.  The other reason is when I try to purchase produce for more than one week at a time – some of it seems to go bad so that’s why I buy fruits and vegetables for one week at a time.

3. ASSIGN THEMES TO EACH DAY OF THE WEEK! – Often times it seems like many people get overwhelmed with trying to come up with a weekly planned menu.  Thinking where do I start?  There’s too many recipes to look at on Pinterest or in my oodles of cookbooks.  One tip I have is to assign each day some sort of “theme” and this helps you narrow down your options for coming up with a recipe for that particular day.  For example, Sunday is normally my crockpot day, one of the days a week is some type of soup/sandwich combo, another day of the week is normally a meatless meal day (which helps stretch your food dollar too – by doing something with beans, eggs, etc.), one day a week is a salad night, etc.  It’s helpful b/c then I know okay this week I need to decide on one crockpot recipe, one soup recipe, one meatless recipe, one salad, etc. This changes depending on the season usually too.  For example, in the spring/summer, I have more grilling “themed” days and not soup and such.  Also, take into account your work/family schedule when assigning these themes to the different days.  For example, I do my crockpot and meatless meal recipes on our busiest nights of the week.

4. COOK ONCE, EAT TWICE! – Plan your meals based around key foods that are prepared in larger amounts for use in one recipe the first night and then an entirely different recipe within the next night or two.  This is different from making large batches and just eating leftovers.  For example, yesterday I cooked a turkey breast and we had sliced turkey and sweet potatoes. Tonight, we are using that turkey to make grilled turkey wraps. This tip helps save you time – which is something all of us need more of, right?

5. PREP WHAT YOU CAN AHEAD OF TIME! – Normally most of us have our really busy, busy days and then maybe a few days a week that aren’t quite as jam packed.  On those days, take advantage of the few extra minutes you have and prep what ingredients you can ahead of time.  For instance, the other week I mixed up all of the dry ingredients for some pancake mixes (pictured below) to have on hand and put them in a Ziploc bag so I just had to add the liquid ingredients when I went to make them for a quick meal.  I also mixed up all of the dry seasonings for my turkey and placed them in a container the night before so that the morning before church I could hurry and get the turkey in the oven.  Or it might be browning your hamburger meat the night before to use in a pasta bake the next day.

Food saving

Happy Meal Planning!

        What tips do you have to share?  We would love to hear them.


Help Teach a Kid to Fish Advocate for School Health Screening by Opposing LB 29!

by Karla Lester, MD

Teach a Kid to Fish is in strong opposition to LB 29 which is intended to change provisions relating to school health inspections.

Six per cent of U.S. children are severely obese, which is defined as a BMI 20% higher than the cutoff for obesity (95th BMI percentile).  One-third of Nebraska children are overweight or obese and over 40% of low-income and/or minority children are disproportionately affected by obesity and comorbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and fatty liver disease, not to mention the psychosocial effects of childhood obesity.  Any movement toward reducing objective data, such as LB 29 proposes, will decrease opportunities to address the childhood obesity epidemic on a community level.

Teach a Kid to Fish is a nonprofit with a mission to prevent and reduce childhood obesity by empowering Lincoln children and families to eat healthy and be active.  Our vision is creating community solutions for children’s health.  Teach a Kid to Fish works in four focus areas including: early childhood, healthcare, schools and youth, and community.  As a pediatrician, founder, and Executive Medical Director of Teach a Kid to Fish, I know that any movement to remove school health screenings is a move in the wrong direction.

I served for five years on the school health screening rules and regulations update committee and specifically as the head of the BMI and Blood Pressure subcommittee.  The school health screening rules and regulations update was an involved expert five year process with multiple stakeholders from across the state including healthcare providers, educators, parents, school nurses, and representatives from the department of education.  The rules and regulations had not been updated since 1919.  It is the role of schools to prevent obesity through physical education, health education, physical activity, family consumer science classes, and school nutrition programs.  An important component of school health screenings for over 100 years is obtaining height and weight.

Based on focus group data and surveys of parents, physicians and school nurses obtained through an American Academy of Pediatrics CATCH (Community Approach to Child Health) Planning Grant, parents stated that they are taking their children for well child checks during school aged years at kindergarten and seventh grade only.  Over 60% of parents approved of school nurses sending home BMI reports from the school as long as all parents received the reports and there was information regarding community programs.  Physicians support the school health screening mandates of height, weight and BMI because most children, especially those most vulnerable are not seeing their primary care physicians on an annual basis.

The rules and regulations outline the competencies, methodologies, and equipment needed to screen height, weight, BMI, hearing, dental and vision in Nebraska students.  Governor Heineman signed the rules and regulations into law.  Instead of removing objective data, we are all stakeholders who should be moving toward a higher level of advocacy to create community solutions for children’s health!  Contact your Senator and let them know you are an advocate for children’s health and oppose LB 29.


Step aside. I’m changing the world.

by Dr. Karla Lester

Sometimes I feel like I live on the verge of basic incompetence. At work one day, my computer suddenly shut down, the “No signal” sign came up on my monitor and there was this incessant beeping that started up. I’ve heard this beeping before. I put my finger on the “on/off” switch and held it down for a period of time that has in the past successfully revived it. It’s my one finger computer CPR. The beeping continued like a high shrill bird call sending out some kind of a warning. I started to wonder what this thing was capable of. Oh right. I need to hold it down for a longer period of time, but not too long. I have to get it just right. Ah, dangit. More blasted beeping. That’s it. This time, I’m going to grab the computer lady, and have her fix it once and for all. I cringe knowing that I haven’t backed up my files. She’s going to ask me, just in case my computer crashes and finally burns out (the beeping goes away but not in a good way) and I will respond, “Hey, I have a ton of those files on my laptop, so it wouldn’t be a big deal if they were all lost.” Ready to vomit.

“The IT department is on the phone for you nice computer lady,” I say. My phone cord is all coiled up and needs to be replaced. I handed the phone to her, hoping she wouldn’t pull the phone cord too hard for fear she would get sucked up into landline vortex and we would never see her again. She was such a nice computer lady too. She smiled at me and chuckled that little superior chuckle, and I know in her mind she was thinking the evidence wasn’t circumstantial anymore. There were too many clues. The computer beeping, the not backed up files, and now the bunched up phone cord. She was thinking, “How does this lady get out of bed in the morning, let alone try to change the world?”

I have a very busy life running Teach a Kid to Fish, taking care of my three kids and household. But the way my life is today, a bad day for me is nothing compared to a bad everyday for so many people.

I remember growing up in a single parent home when my Mom had three jobs at one time. When my parents got divorced, my life changed from idyllic and healthy to a neglectful childhood in a moment. When I read about the social determinants of health, I can relate to many of the barriers children and families in our community face when trying to live a healthy life.

Now, Frannie and her parents came to our Bodyworks program. She comes loaded with a family reeking of diabetes and cigarette smoke. They love her to the moon and back, which is obvious from the words spilling out of their mouths in between sips on their ultrabig gulps they repeatedly bring to our healthy living classes. They can’t control her. She has her own mind. She is strong willed and has a list of diagnoses, one requiring an antipsychotic medication that has made her gain even more weight. Frannie and her parents don’t need just education. They don’t need to be lectured. Dogma and judgment won’t work. Frannie and her parents need connection. They need support to help address the real barriers in their lives which are keeping them from creating a healthy lifestyle.

Frannie and her parents have some work to do too. Just showing up is not enough. It’s the one finger computer CPR. It’s not backing up your files for years and then pretending like they don’t matter.

The Lincoln Vital Signs Report reveals that Lincoln is a city with a lot going for it, but in contradiction to our successes are the rising rates of poverty, especially in children. Poverty rates of Lincoln children have doubled since 2008 and six Lincoln neighborhoods are now designated as extreme poverty areas.

Children’s Hospital & Medical Center is sponsoring a HEROES Weight Management Clinic in Lincoln in affiliation with Teach a Kid to Fish, The Y and UNL Department of Psychology.   The clinic is opening on January 13, 2015. Children who are overweight with a comorbidity or obese are referred by their primary care provider for evaluation and treatment by the multidisciplinary team. Children in poverty and who are minority are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic. Our HEROES team will focus on connection and relationship building. There will be a lot of listening, connection to community resources, support and fun. The goal will be to create opportunities for families to have positive wellness experiences.   These are small and important steps to creating community solutions for children’s health.

So, who are you to think you can change the world? Are you going to be satisfied with changing just a miniscule part of it? Can you put something out there that is positive and let it take its effect? A ripple in the tide and then see if it gains any traction?

The answer is yes.

Oh, and don’t take yourself seriously. Nobody else does.


Holiday Shopping for the Kids?

We started our holiday shopping in earnest this past weekend by purchasing a tenor saxophone for our amazing high school marching band student. A great gift for a great kid. As I congratulate my wife and I for our purchase, I thought I’d share with you all an entertaining read from another blog site. This blog comes from Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. If you are not aware of their activities, you can check them out at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org.

The TOADY (Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young children) Award goes to the AT&T U-verse app by BabyFirst, the first two-screen experience for babies.

Crystal Brunnelli of Raymond, NH explained why the U-verse app, which encourages babies to use an iPad while watching TV, is the worst of the worst: “This is insidious. It seems creative and interactive, but it’s not the kind of creativity and interactivity that developing babies need, and may actually harm their development.” For Laura LeClair of Sunderland, MA, BabyFirst’s targeting of newborns earned her TOADY vote, “I’ve got to go with the ‘toy’ that’s marketed to children ages 0-5. Really? Zero? Newborns should use this 2-screen abomination?”

Other nominees had passionate “fans.” Voters were particularly appalled by the Girl Scouts of the USA’s decision to accept $2 million from Mattel. Wrote Brandy King of Wilmington, MA, “I really was so disappointed that an organization that taught me about leadership, friendship and service is now teaching commercialism.” Added Elizabeth Versten of Chicago, IL, “This horrifying toy is letting girls down in two ways: promoting body image problems, and showing that their beloved Girl Scouts could be sold to the highest bidder!”

Robin E. Brooks of Topsham, ME voted for the Mini Mall because “masquerading as a doll house of sorts, this toy turns imaginative play on its head, from a place of imagination and invention to one of consumerism and brand identification.” Annie Silk of Ann Arbor, MI picked the LeapBand because, “Anyone who thinks a preschooler needs a screen to tell him to run around has clearly never met a preschooler before!” And Victoria Byres of West New York, NJ cast a strong vote for the Cartoon Network Anything app: “As a teacher I believe there is nothing more important than developing focus and concentration in children. This app makes me weep!”

In the end, the U-verse app won. It’s the fourth-year in a row that voters awarded the dreaded TOADY to a screen-based toy for infants and toddlers. Parents, educators, and health professionals are clearly fed up with the escalating push to insinuate screens into every aspect of our youngest children’s lives. Kate Snyder of Burgin, KY captured the feeling of many TOADY voters, “Anytime I see screen technology marketed to infants, it automatically gets my vote!” Thanks to everyone who voted and helped spread the word about the TOADYs. Children’s play is too important to surrender to marketers.

Protect kids from the BabyFirst U-verse app. Spread the word! If you’re on Facebook, please share: https://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?u=http://commercialfreechildhood.org/blog/toady-babyfirst-uverse-app

Or, if you’re on Twitter, please tweet:

  1. Congratulations @BabyFirstTV & @ATT. The U-verse app wins the #TOADY for Worst Toy of the Year! http://commercialfreechildhood.org/blog/toady-babyfirst-uverse-app
  2. The U-verse app wins the dreaded #TOADY for encouraging babies to use an iPad while watching TV http://commercialfreechildhood.org/blog/toady-babyfirst-uverse-app
  3. One screen for babies is bad enough! U-verse app by @BabyFirstTV & @ATT wins the #TOADY for Worst Toy of the Year. http://commercialfreechildhood.org/blog/toady-babyfirst-uverse-app