Awesome Chocolate Chip Cookies

By: Amy Dienta

cookie

 Looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe? Here’s my favorite:

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp salted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 3/4 cup wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips, about 1/2 cup

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together butter, oil and sugar. Add vanilla, salt and egg white; mix thoroughly to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together flour and baking soda and stir into batter.
  4. Add chocolate chips to batter and stir evenly to distribute throughout.
  5. Drop 48 half-teaspoons of dough onto one or two large nonstick baking sheets, leaving a small amount of space between each cookie.
  6. Bake cookies until golden around edges, about 4 to 6 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

I Survived Last Winter

By: Sue Anganes

This was a long winter, and I can’t wait for the warm spring weather to emerge. I went back through some photos to remember how I survived the cooped up days at home. For those who don’t know me, I’m a mom of six children and have been blessed with two grandchildren who I babysit on a regular basis. My daughter, Cassandra, works as a critical care nurse at Lowell General Hospital. Most of the time, I watch the kids in the afternoon when she is working the three-to-eleven shift.  Cassie’s husband, Mark, picks them up after he’s home from work. Sometimes I am up early to watch them if Cassie needs to be at work by seven. Even though I am no longer a young mom, I do know and remember how hard it is to keep kids busy all day without resorting to “using the TV as a babysitter.”

If you can stand the annoying sound, one of the all-time best ways to keep kids occupied is bubble wrap.

Bubble wrap

Of course, if bubble wrap is all “popped out,” jigsaw puzzles are a fantastic way to keep little ones busy. Here is Auntie Tessa helping Elias do a puzzle.

Puzzles

As long as you are directly supervising, and you have a child who is old enough and does not puts things in his or her mouth, beads, buttons, or rocks are fun to sort and play with. I have a Mancala game board that the kids love to use to sort glass beads with, and it keeps them busy for a long time. I sometimes ask them to sort by color or by number – they are learning and they don’t even realize it!

Mancala Beads

One very early morning (before my mind was functional) I gave the kids buckets of old crayons and let them peel off all the paper. They spent a very long time doing that. Who can’t resist peeling something?

Peeling crayons

One fun evening the kids put on safety goggles and cracked open geodes in the garage. They did this under the supervision of my husband of course, but they greatly enjoyed smashing away at the rock with a pick-ax until the beautiful crystals inside were revealed. Amelia was thrilled!

Geode

In our family, we have the longstanding tradition of celebrating Canadian National Beaver Day. (It’s a long story and will have to be explained in another blog post). It is our tradition on the last Friday in February to make Twinkie beavers and pretzel beaver lodges.

It took some creative energy to make the lodges from the pretzels and chocolate frosting. It took a lot of willpower not to eat all the pretzels!

Creative work

Building lodges

Elias enjoyed making his Twinkie beaver.

Twinkie beaver

Even the adult aunts and uncles joined in to make it a special event for the little ones.

Adult siblings join in

Of course, there are often times when it is impossible to keep little ones occupied for a whole day. I have to admit that I have “used TV as a babysitter” and plunked them down with some snacks to watch something entertaining.

Resorting to TV

There are many other ways I have kept these little ones busy indoors this winter. I only wrote about what I had pictures of. Books and drawing are other activities that have kept them occupied. Now that spring has arrived I will move on to things that will keep them busy outdoors. Who has some outdoor activity ideas they can share?

 

A Smile and a Wave

By: Dawn Thompson

 

Mail box One day while I was getting the mail, a police officer drove past my house. The little kid in me got excited so I smiled and waved…pretty fanatically, too, as I usually don’t see anyone when I am out there for the twenty seconds it takes to grab the mail.

The officer looked mighty confused as he shook his head in acknowledgment and slightly put his hand up as if to “wave” back. I couldn’t help but to be reminded that the reason he was driving by in the first place was to patrol for crime. I realize what some of the neighbors are up to, in fact. Everyone seems to, excepted for the ones who are participating in the activity. They think no one has a clue or is affected, but we are. WE are all affected in one way or another by each others’ actions, and lots of times that can be a positive thing.

“We” as a community can become so focused on the good guys and the bad guys that we sometimes forget there is a human being inside each one of us – and a hero, sometimes!

I try to remember that everyday, everyone is fighting some kind of battle. Whether it be drug addiction, abuse, poor health, a lost love, we are all fighting our own demons, or helping others to battle theirs, on a daily basis. Maybe someone’s battle isn’t even a battle so to speak, it’s just having things become too mundane and ordinary.

The other day, Dylan and I were at the grocery store. We went to pick up a healthier lunch than we would have gotten at a drive through, or so I thought. When we reached the register I noticed he had a soda, bag of chips and a blueberry pie. I laughed and asked, “Dylan! Where’s your sandwich?” I then told him to put something back and go get one. When he turned around to go, an elderly lady was behind him. He stopped, SMILED and showed her the chips he was going to put back. He giggled, waved a little “hi,” then went on his merry way. The lady was thrilled, she had tears in her eyes and told me what a nice boy he was. She followed his movements and seemed to be in awe. I have seen this lots of times in my life and realize how magical it can be to let others know that we know they are there and that we are happy to have them be a part of our life…even if only for a moment.

Today, as we lower the flags to half staff in honor of Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh, 43, and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, 33, of the Boston Fire Department who gave their lives to save others, I can’t help but wonder, if I were to pass people like this in the street today without all their gear on, would I still treat them like the heroes they are or might I pass them right by?

Just another reminder that every opportunity to make a difference in the life of another is the greatest chance we may ever get.

Pediatric Headaches

Kristen PadulskyKristen Padulsky, CPNP is one of Floating Hospital for Children’s pediatric neurology specialists who have a particular focus on headaches. Here, she answers some common questions about pediatric headaches. 

Q: How common are headaches in children?

A: They are surprisingly common: headaches are the number one complaint for which children are referred by their pediatricians to our pediatric neurology clinic. Children may begin experiencing headaches as early as three years of age or their onset can begin in the teen years—puberty can be a trigger for migraines. It’s important for parents to know that the vast majority of headaches are “primary” headaches, meaning they are an ailment of themselves and are not a symptom of another illness such as a tumor or a brain malformation. Especially for children who are developmentally appropriate, headaches almost always fall into one of two categories: tension headaches and migraine headaches.

Q: What are the symptoms of tension and migraine headaches in children—are they similar to adult symptoms?

Symptoms are often similar to adult headaches. Tension headaches typically involve pain which is a pressing or squeezing feeling and not associated with nausea/vomiting or sensitivity to light/sound. They often occur as a result of stress and may cause kids to be irritable. Migraines often involve nausea or sensitivity to light and sounds. They usually feel pulsing and are made worse with physical activity.

Q: If my child has a headache, how should I respond?

A: Many headaches respond well to children’s ibuprofen (Motrin), and for a child who gets only an occasional headache that would typically be the first choice of treatment. Encouraging the child to rest and drink some fluids may also be helpful—sometimes the best cure for a headache is a nap. If a child is having several headaches a week that don’t seem to be related to other illnesses or medications, is missing more than one or two school days a month and is opting to sit out activities he or she enjoys because of headaches, it’s probably time to visit the pediatrician. The pediatrician and parents can determine whether the child should be seen by a neurologist. Typically, we see children in neurology when headaches are impacting their normal activities and school or if the pain is not being controlled with first line medications. Again, parents should not assume that a referral to a pediatric neurologist means that their pediatrician suspects that their child may have a brain tumor—we’re experts at helping kids and parents learn how to manage headaches.

Q: What are some of the causes or triggers of primary headaches in kids?

A: Just like adults, some kids are more sensitive to stress, schedule and sleep disruptions and certain ingredients in foods than others. We often give new patients a calendar to keep track of what’s going on in their lives that might give us clues to their headache triggers. We ask patients and parents to keep track of how they slept, what foods they ate and how often they’re eating, changes in their family situation, and changes at school. Processed foods, particularly those high in monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates, and sodium can trigger headaches in some kids, and skipping meals can also be a trigger. Irregular bedtimes, lack of sleep and stress are common causes. Parents should look for patterns that seem to occur in concert with the onset of headache symptoms. If your child gets a headache every time he has a baseball game, for example, he may be responding to the pressure to perform. Ask your child what feelings he or she may have been having before the start of their headache—were they worried or upset, and if so, why?

Q: For a child who is having many headaches, what types of treatments do you recommend?

A: Of course it depends on the child and the extent to which the symptoms are impacting their life, but we have both medical and behavioral interventions to offer—and sometimes a combination of both is what’s needed for children with truly persistent and severe headaches.

Regarding medications, a child should not be taking ibuprofen every day because of the possible gastric side-effects and because people can actually experience what are called rebound headaches from medication overuse. If a child is taking an over-the-counter medication for headaches more than once or twice a week, a preventative medication should be considered. There are many options to choose from based on a child’s age, size, developmental stage and many other factors. The length of time a child may be treated with medication varies greatly.

On the behavior modification side, we often work with families to examine and shift a child’s schedule and habits. Often children who experience many headaches aren’t getting adequate rest, and they may need an earlier bedtime and better bedtime rituals to signal to their bodies that it is time for sleep. Exercise can be enormously helpful in reducing stress and reducing the frequency of headaches. School aged children can learn and benefit from many of the same relaxation techniques that adults use—deep breathing, and even meditation and yoga. Limiting screen time is also crucial in cutting back on headaches. Children should minimize their time in front of tv, videogames and computers and should take frequent breaks when participating in these activities. I caution older children and teenagers to be wary of their caffeine intake which can trigger headaches and interfere with sleep.

Q: When a child is referred to pediatric neurology for headaches, what is the typical examination like?

A: I will take a thorough history of the child’s experience with headaches and conduct a neurological exam. Although children may be apprehensive before the visit, the neurologic exam does not hurt and most children think the exam is fun because it involves simple tests for coordination, balance and strength among other things. Parents often ask if an MRI will be performed as part of a routine evaluation. Not all children require an MRI of their brain, the history and physical exam often gives us enough information to make a diagnosis. If we have further questions, we may consider an MRI or other testing.

Q: If a child’s headaches are neither tension headaches nor migraines, what are some possible causes?

There are many reasons why children get headaches. Trauma, like a concussion, can cause headaches in some children. While we certainly see concussions in athletes, concussions can occur in many settings when children are playing. It’s important to think carefully about possible events that may have resulted in the headache. Other causes of headache can include things that put an increased pressure on the brain such as an increase in cerebral spinal fluid or tumor. However, these are much less common and are usually associated with other symptoms or exam findings.

Climbing Mount Watatic!

By: Dawn Thompson

My husband and I recently went away to enjoy some time with each other. This meant leaving our eleven-and-a-half-year-old behind with his older sister and grandmother while we were gone. We wouldn’t have minded so much, but this is the first time we left him in many years to go so far away, and with good reason.

Our son Dylan has a neurological disorder called neurofibromatosis that is progressive.  We tend to worry a lot when leaving him in the care of others, especially because we know how attentive to his needs we have to be.  Life is tough enough for a healthy growing boy who is naturally curious, impulsive and healthy – never mind adding multiple challenges children with special needs can have on top of that.

Mount WataicYou can imagine our surprise to get a text from our daughter boasting a picture of Dylan standing upon a rock that said, “Mount Watatic!” Our first reaction was…what??  But we had no cell phone service until we came to the port the following day.  Knowing it was far too late to give special instruction for their mountain climbing excursion, I just simply asked how he did.  Brittany said that other than being a little tired, he did GREAT.  Since Dylan has one-eyed vision and no depth perception, we worry about things like him climbing mountains.  Because he is deaf on the same side as his vision problem, we tend to avoid things that can become challenging.

This recent feat made me think a lot about putting restrictions on any kid.  I mean, what do I really know about vision loss, hearing loss or even having a leg tumor?  I don’t!  It’s a story that Dylan hasn’t even written and yet, part of us already has.

Yesterday the lady at the sewing store I frequent asked Dylan how he enjoyed “his” vacation.  Dylan said, “Good, but my sister made me go mountain climbing”  The lady said, Oh, I bet you loved it.”  Dylan said, NO!  It was hard and made me tired”  The she added, “I’ll bet you’d do it again if you had the chance.”  Dylan laughed and said, “Yeah….. probably :)”

Although I was sad to be so far away when we found out Dylan CAN climb mountains, it made us wonder if that’s what it took to allow this revelation to come about.  It’s funny to think we had to be well out of the country in order to give the kid a little space but hey, if that’s what it takes :)

Digital Friends

By: Dawn Thompson 

Years ago, I would have never thought that someone I have never met in person could become such a valuable and meaningful person in our son’s life.  Because our son has nfa progressive neurological disorder, he has acquired many “friends” through social media. He has done this mostly through my accounts, which means that not many of the friends are children.

Recently I read about a child with the same disorder as our son, Neurofibromatosis, who was having trouble making friends. It really hit us hard because although Dylan is a good kid, he has many issues that interfere with the natural friend making process. He is working with psychologists and school social groups to learn new ways to interact positively with his peers. Being a pre-teen is hard enough, never mind having to deal with all these medical issues, learning disabilities, size differences and a feeding tube.  In addition, he has physical differences such as a deformed chest wall, that make him look different in the summer and tire easily when running.

While children realize Dylan is “different,” not many kids understand why he is different and very few have the patience to deal with all of the things he has going on. In fact, Dylan doesn’t even have the patience to deal with himself anymore. He is often frustrated and upset with himself for not being able to keep up. Although he is very blessed to have cousins that get along well, they usually only get to spend time together at family events and are not in each other’s everyday lives.

However, Dylan does have one friend though that has been with him over the years. His name is Bubba and he lives in New Jersey.

Dylan considers Bubba one of his best friends. They have been playing video games together for over three years. When I first heard the unfamiliar voice in my son’s bedroom through Skype, I was alarmed.  While they are online, Bubba’s family can hear everything that is going on in our home and we can hear things coming from their house, too!  It took a lot of monitoring and a while to get used to, but Bubba has become one of the family and Dylan one of theirs. I can hear Bubba’s dad laughing and talking to Dylan.  Although they are “best friends” Bubba doesn’t know anything about Dylan’s disabilities, and that’s o.k. For all we know, Bubba could have some too.

I have heard of kids pretending to be something they are not online and can see how it can be frightening, living in a fantasy virtual world. The kids have talked about meeting in person and we are considering driving to New Jersey this summer to meet Bubba and his parents. Because they have already formed such a strong bond, I don’t think anything can interfere with their friendship at this point.

This morning, my husband and I heard Bubba’s voice on Skype and I couldn’t help but notice that Bubba’s voice is turning into a young man’s voice. Reality sunk in and we realized how important is is to make this meeting happen before they both grow up. Time passes by too quickly and life is too short not to spend real time with ALL of our friends, even our digital ones :)

Pediatric ENT

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 3.28.04 PMMark Vecchiotti, MD, Chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology at Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children, and Andrew Scott, MD, Pediatric Otolaryngologist at Tufts Medical Center, answer some common questions about pediatric ear, nose and throat issues. 

Q: How can I tell if my child has an ear infection?

A: Most ear infections happen to children before they’ve learned how to talk. If your child isn’t old enough to say “My ear hurts,” here are a few things to look for:

  • Tugging or pulling at the ear(s)
  • Fussiness and crying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fever (especially in infants and younger children)
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Clumsiness or problems with balance
  • Trouble hearing or responding to quiet sounds

Q: How many ear infections are too many, and when is surgery considered?

A: In general, surgical placement of ear tubes is considered after three or four ear infections within a six-month period, or more than four episodes in a 12-month period. These are flexible guidelines and usually depend on a patient’s overall condition, ear exam, and hearing status. For patients with medical conditions that predispose them to recurrent ear infections such as Down’s syndrome, cleft palate or immune system problems, the threshold for placing ear tubes is lower. In addition, for children who have underlying hearing problems, speech problems, or learning disabilities, surgery may be indicated sooner. There are also cases where antibiotics simply do not work on a particular patient’s ear infection, or an infection is starting to spread outside the confines of the ear into the neck or brain. In these situations, earlier or urgent placement of ear tubes is indicated. But in general, healthy children who have normal hearing are typically observed through a watchful waiting strategy, especially during summer months, a time when kids often experience an increase in ear infections.

Q: If my child snores, should she be considered for a sleep study?

A: Children may snore for a variety of different reasons, and not all of them are medically concerning. What we worry about in our practice is snoring that could be a sign of an underlying breathing problem during sleep. We screen all of the patients who come into our practice for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is a reduction or interruption in the ability to get air into the lungs during normal respiration while sleeping. OSA can cause a variety of medical and behavioral/developmental problems, including but not limited to chronic strain on the heart or lungs, hyperactivity and difficulty at school. Many times, snoring is the symptom that initially brings families to see us, and further medical evaluation reveals more concerning symptoms of upper airway obstruction. Sleep studies are most often recommended for very young children with this type of breathing problem. Sleep studies are also indicated for children with craniofacial abnormalities, neuromuscular problems, sickle cell disease or obesity. Not all children who snore need a sleep study, but many of these patients would likely benefit from a medical screening for obstructive sleep apnea and an exam of the head and neck.

Q: My child has large tonsils; do they need to be removed?

A: Our field has moved away from taking tonsils out just because they look large. The overall number of tonsillectomies performed in this country has declined over the past 10 years. The general rule of thumb is that if tonsils, small or large, are not causing any problems, they should be left alone. However, large tonsils can be a clue to possible breathing problems at night, and should guide a physician to ask about symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (as noted earlier). In addition, there is new evidence that points to large tonsils contributing to some types of swallowing difficulties. Lastly, if tonsils are large due to repeated infections, whether from strep or other types of bacteria, removal may be a consideration, but not a necessity.

Q: My toddler has a constant runny nose; could this be a sinus infection?

A: The important distinctions to consider are whether the child has a common cold or virus, a bacterial sinus infection, or just a basic runny nose. Sinus infections in children are often difficult to diagnose. This stems from the fact that viral and bacterial infections of the nose and sinuses are virtually indistinguishable in their early stages. Both types of infections can manifest with fever, stuffy/runny nose, sore throat, cough, and irritability. Viral infections peak and start to resolve within five to seven days, while bacterial infections typically last longer and are present for more than seven to ten days without improvement. One important myth to dispel is the thought that viral infections are associated with clear nasal drainage while bacterial infections are associated with yellow/green nasal drainage. Clear mucus from the nose can be caused by bacterial infections, and yellow/green drainage can be caused by viral infections. Usually, the only real way to tell between the two types of infections is the duration of symptoms. So, what does a parent do if their child appears otherwise healthy, yet has clear drainage from the nose for weeks on end? Unless this runny nose is associated with other signs of illness, it is unlikely to be an active bacterial infection and will not need medical attention. One has to think of other sources of nasal drainage such as rhinitis (an inflammation of the nasal passages), anatomic obstruction by large adenoids, or simply a clustering of mild colds (especially among children in daycare or preschool). If a runny nose does turn out to be bacterial, there is new evidence that many uncomplicated bacterial sinus infections may resolve on their own without the use of antibiotics.
This conservative strategy in children obviously has to be performed under
the supervision of a physician to avoid possible complications.

Thanksgiving Trivia

What was served at the first Thanksgiving? When was the first Thanksgiving really held? Get answers to these questions and more in our round-up of Thanksgiving trivia.

Turkey

  • President Jefferson called a federal Thanksgiving proclamation “the most ridiculous idea ever conceived.”
  • The first Thanksgiving in America actually occurred in 1541, when Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his expedition held a thanksgiving celebration in Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle.
  • Mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, popcorn, milk, corn on the cob, and cranberries were not foods present on the first Thanksgiving’s feast table.
  • Lobster, rabbit, chicken, fish, squashes, beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, maple syrup and honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and goat cheese are thought to have made up the first Thanksgiving feast.
  • Now a Thanksgiving dinner staple, cranberries were actually used by Native Americans to treat arrow wounds and to dye clothes.
  • Thanksgiving is an amalgam of different traditions, including ancient harvest festivals, the religious New England Puritan Thanksgiving, the traditional harvest celebrations of England and New England, and changing political and ideological assumptions of Native Americans
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the next-to-last Thursday in November to prolong the holiday shopping season
  • Only male turkeys gobble and, therefore, are called gobblers.
  • There are four places in the United States named after Thanksgiving’s traditional main course. Turkey Creek, La., was the most populous in 2012, with 440 residents, followed by Turkey, Texas (415), Turkey, N.C. (295) and Turkey Creek, Ariz. (294). There are also two townships in Pennsylvania with “Turkey” in the name: Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot.
  • There are seven places in the United States that are named Cranberry or some spelling variation of the popular side dish served at Thanksgiving dinners. Cranberry Township (Butler County), Pa., was the most populous of these places in 2012, with 28,832 residents. Cranberry township (Venango County), Pa., was next (6,608).
  • There are only two places in the United States named Pilgrim: One, a township in Dade County, Mo., had a 2012 population of 127; the other, a census designated place in Michigan, had a 2010 population of 11. And then there is Mayflower, Ark., whose population was 2,312 in 2012, and Mayflower Village, Calif., whose population was 5,515 in 2010.

The Big Red Door

By: Dawn Thompson

My little man got out of school early today for the Thanksgiving break. I still had some work to do in the office above the fire station. Dylan enjoys going “to work” with me when he can.  As we walked up to the BIG RED door Dylan said, “Remember when I really wanted to be a fireman, Mum?”  I smiled. I did remember that he wanted to be one and I also remembered why.

Family

When Dylan was four, he had a neurological emergency and was given a “special ride” from the fire department. We were out in the woods in Winchendon and it would have taken too long to wait for the ambulance. Dylan came home from the hospital weeks later and visited the station; this time they let him sit in the front of the fire truck and “drive.”  I’ll never forget how happy they were to see that Dylan was ok, and how happy Dylan was to see them!

In the truck

Today Dylan climbed up on a fire truck again which he has done many times since. But this time he did it all by himself! I can not express how grateful I am to see my kid so healthy and strong.  He has grown up so much this year with the help of his feeding tube: he is 12 pounds bigger and almost 2 inches taller.  Most importantly, he FEELS great too! BIG thanks to everyone who goes above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of our children. They NEVER forget and neither do we :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

The Value of Finding Time

By: Dawn Thompson 

I always knew that time was precious, but never quite realized how valuable it really was.  Now, I’m not just talking about time in general. I realize my time is valuable in terms of which activities I choose to fill my days with.  But what about the minutes within that time range?  How can I make the most of every minute and does it really matter?

Today, I decided to get a cup of coffee before school.  Classes started at 9:00 AM and I had more than 45 minutes. Since school is less than 5 minutes from me, I had plenty Coffeeof time. Plus, I really wanted a coffee :)  The only thing that occurred to me on the way to the coffee shop was that I may not get the best parking spot for school. But, I reasoned, how much of a difference can it really make?

I pondered the thought for a while as I walked about a quarter of a mile further than I usually have to trek. I was amazed at how much of a difference 8 minutes made; not just before school but afterward too.

I began to think that I were to do this everyday, by the end of the week I would have wasted 40 minutes in driving time. Then, I thought about extra time spent walking and how that would not have been a waste. By doing this, I would actually force myself to exercise more, which I have not been able to find the time to do lately. It’s funny to think that by wasting time, we can actually FIND time if we really look for it. How neat is that?!

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