The Nut Butter Dilemma

The Nut Butter Dilemma

Even if you’ve got a peanut-butter-picky kid, you may find other nut and seed butters will fit the lunchtime bill just fine.

Alana Sugar writes: “The kids are heading back to school, and it’s time for packing up those lunchboxes. Of course, you want to pack something that’s easy, portable, fresh, healthy and tasty… oh, and also something the kids will love. Is peanut butter springing to mind for you? I know it does for me. Of course, I grew up when peanut butter was the only nut butter option available. And that was before the explosion of peanut allergies in kids and the advent of schools creating “nut-free zones.” Those changes, plus great flavor, make it all the more fun to try a variety of nut and seed butters for tasty lunches”. … Read more at

The Kid’s Health Website has some great information on food allergies too.

7 Things to Tell the Teacher About Your Child

7 Things to Tell the Teacher About Your Child
By Emily Graham, PTO Today

When your child heads back to school, it’s a great time to start talking with his teacher.

What can you tell a teacher that will help him do his job better? You might be surprised. While your child’s teacher is the expert in education, no one knows more about your child than you do. It’s just as important for parents to tell teachers about issues at home that may affect school performance as it is for teachers to report how children are doing in the classroom.

Students do best when parents and teachers work together as partners. The start of a new school year is a great time to open a dialogue with your child’s teacher. Not sure where to start? Here are seven things teachers wish you would tell them. Sharing this information with a teacher will help her better understand your child’s needs and lay the groundwork for a cooperative relationship throughout the school year.

READ MORE:  7 Things to Tell the Teacher About Your Child –

High Lead Levels Found in Toys … AGAIN!

Health Group Finds High Lead Levels in Toys
By Jennifer C. Kerr (AP Writer)

Children’s toys carrying the Barbie and Disney logos have turned up with high levels of lead in them, according to a California-based advocacy group – a finding that may give consumers pause as they shop for the holiday season.

The Center for Environmental Health tested about 250 children’s products bought at major retailers and found lead levels that exceeded federal limits in seven of them. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage.

Among those with high lead levels: a Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit (pictured above) and a Disney Tinkerbell Water Lily necklace. The group said it also found excessive lead in a Dora the Explorer Activity Tote, two pairs of children’s shoes, a boys belt and a kids’ poncho.

Read more from the Associated Press at

Is Your Child Too Busy?

Is Your Child Too Busy?

Is your kid too busy? Read more at (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

  • “She’s not really good at soccer and she doesn’t really like it, but all her friends are doing it.”
  • “If I miss a practice, even for a doctor’s appointment, I get benched.”
  • “If my son didn’t have an after-school activity every day of the week, he’d sit around eating junk and playing video games.”
  • “I don’t really like lacrosse, but I have to do it because it’ll look good on my college application.”
  • “She wants to take gymnastics, art, dance, and cooking, and she goes to afternoon religious school twice a week. I’m not pushing her.”

These are typical explanations and complaints from kids and parents. Clearly, some kids have too much to do and not enough time to do it. And it’s hard to tell if it’s due to parents pushing or kids trying to keep up with their peers.

Whatever the reason, one thing’s for sure — something’s got to give. Is your child too busy?


Helping with Homework

Autumnal Equinox Sunrise & Sunset Gatherings at UMass Sunwheel

Autumnal Equinox Sunrise & Sunset Gatherings
at the UMass Sunwheel in Amherst, MA

The public is invited to witness the passing of the seasons by joining Dr. Judith Young of the U.Mass. Dept. of Astronomy to watch the Sun rise and set over the tall standing stones in the U.Mass. Sunwheel for the Autumnal Equinox of 2009.

The sunrise and sunset events will be held on both Tuesday & Wednesday, Sept. 22 and 23, 2009. Visitors for the sunrise viewing should arrive at 6:45 a.m., and visitors for the sunset viewing should arrive at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

These gatherings will celebrate the Equinox, the International Year of Astronomy, and also 12 years of Sunwheel seasonal events for the public, which have attracted over 10,000 visitors.

Find out more here: SUNWHEEL GATHERING INFO.

Create an Eco-Savvy Basket for Spring

How to Get (and Keep) Your Kids Excited About Classical Music

How to Get (and Keep) Your Kids Excited About Classical Music
By Richard Perlmutter

Listening to classical music makes kids smarter? True or not, lots of parents say that when their kids are introduced to classical music, they enjoy it just as much as other kinds of music.

You’ve already exposed your children to classical music. “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is a Mozart melody and “Brahms Lullaby” is of course by Brahms. Many parents have asked us how to introduce classical music beyond the treasured nursery rhymes. So, here are ten tips for how to make the music of Beethoven, Bach and company not just fun and enjoyable for your kids, but for you too.

READ MORE:  How to Get (and Keep) Your Kids Excited About Classical Music.

Classically Speaking, Kids are in Tune!

Enjoying Classical Music At Home

Here are a few out-of-the box ways to enjoy classical music at home:

  • A game of follow-the-leader gets twice as silly when it happens during a Johann Strauss Jr. Waltz. Break a toy? Why not grieve properly to Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette?
  • Tiptoe through the house during the Pizzicato-Polka, a beloved composition by Joseph Strauss.
  • Sit opposite your child and engage in a non-verbal conversation by using only your facial expressions to a Beethoven Piano Sonata.
  • Ask your child to conduct you in a kazoo solo, or the family in a kazoo-only concert – even if the maestro is all about volume and speed, the experience itself will be fun.
  • Try spinning in circles for one minute to Bizet’s “The Top” from Jeux d’Enfant. Or, dance for one minute with your child during Chopin’s Minute Waltz.
  • You can march to Tchaikovsky’s March of the Wooden Soldiers from Album for Children. For early learners, follow the story line of your favorite ballet, and assign the roles to stuffed animals.

READ MORE:  Classically Speaking, Kids are in Tune!.

Obama’s New Chef Skewers School Lunches

Obama’s New Chef Skewers School Lunches

Before he agreed to cook for the Obama family in the White House, Chicago chef Sam Kass was already talking about changing the way American children eat.

During weekly Tuesday gatherings at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, Mr. Kass hosted “Rethinking Soup,” which he described as “a communal event where we will eat delicious, healthy soup and have fresh, organic conversation about many of the urgent social, cultural, economic and environmental food issues that we should be addressing.”

In May, over a meal of locally-produced beef and barley soup, Mr. Kass lamented the sorry state of the National School Lunch Program, which provides low-cost or free lunches to schoolchildren. He noted that what gets served up to kids is influenced by government agricultural subsidies. As a result, he says, meals served to students are low in vegetables and disproportionately high in fat, additives, preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup. (He also links the high consumption of sugary foods and food additives to learning difficulties and attention deficit disorder, although the medical community remains divided on that issue.) …


What Happens on Inauguration Day? A Historical Perspective.

Inaugural History

For more than two hundred years America’s citizens have witnessed the Inauguration ceremonies of the President and Vice President of the United States. From the first Inauguration of George Washington, in New York City, in 1789, to today, as we prepare for the 56th quadrennial Presidential Inauguration, the swearing-in ceremony represents both national renewal and continuity of leadership. As each president has offered a vision for America’s future, we reflect on the heritage of Inaugurations past.

To watch a historical perspective on the Inaugural Ceremonies click here:

Click here to see 25 videos of inaugural addresses.

The History of Christmas Trees

How It All Got Started

Balsam Trees for Sale in Williamsburg, MA

Balsam Trees for Sale in Williamsburg, MA.

Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

READ MORE: The History of Christmas Trees

Why Teachers Need To Know About Food Allergies

Why Teachers Need To Know About Food Allergies

The increase in the number and severity of food allergies among children means teachers must know how to deal with reactions. Over at, Joy Rotondi suggests ways teachers can prepare themselves to respond in the event of a food-allergy emergency.  Click here to read more.

Additional resources:

Curbing Sugar Overload During the Holidays

Curbing sugar overload during the holidays

Starting on October 31, sweets seem to be a staple part of kids’ diets through the end of the year. Halloween candy, pumpkin pie, hot chocolate, cookies, candy canes…it seems like there’s no end to the sugar. Seasonal treats are part of the holiday fun, but eating something sugary every day for a few months sets kids up to crave it year-round.

Here are a few strategies for a more healthful holiday season:

READ MORE:  Over at The MomSpeak

Tainted Halloween Candy

(Thank you for HF listserv member Des of Dalton for bringing this to our attention!)

Melamine-Tainted Chinese Candy Shows Up in U.S.
Suspect White Rabbit Creamy Candy found in at least two states
By Lisa Wade McCormick,

[October 2, 2008] – Candy lovers beware. Melamine-tainted candy — imported from China — is now showing up on store shelves in the United States.

Officials in California and Connecticut confirm they have found White Rabbit Creamy Candy contaminated with melamine in their states.The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection said the tainted candy was primarily found in Asian markets. But officials warn the contaminated candy could be on store shelves nationwide.

Melamine is the chemical at the heart of the Chinese-milk scandal, which is blamed for the deaths of four babies and the illnesses of more than 53,000 other children in that country.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE & SEE IMAGES: Melamine-Tainted Chinese Candy Shows Up in U.S.

Fair Trade Halloween Candy

Fair Trade Halloween Candy

Halloween should be scary, but only for a day. Unfortunately, holiday treats can contribute to a witch’s cauldron of frightening problems that persist long after the masks come off.

Pesticides and fertilizers used in the production of sugar have led to the destruction of aquatic ecosystems. The loss of topsoil to cane fields has destroyed forest habitats. But sugar’s sins start with the slave trade, as Europeans brought captured Africans to work in the cane fields of the Caribbean throughout the 18th century, where slaves died in greater numbers than in the U.S. Sadly, this legacy hasn’t come to an end: The chocolate trade has encouraged forced labor in Africa as cocoa farmers sell their product at prices well below what they can afford.

READ MORE: Fair Trade Halloween Candy

Organic Treats, No Tricks

Organic Treats, No Tricks

This Halloween, offer organic treats to the gremlins and goblins, princesses and super heroes who come knocking at your door. These certified organic products won’t turn the world into a ghoulie graveyard or your pocketbook into a ghost town. Most are available now at the natural foods supermarket or are easily ordered (or sourced) on line. And not to worry, mom — all are securely wrapped.

SEE RESOURCE LIST: Organic Treats, No Tricks by Carmela M. Federico

Halloween Health and Safety Tips

Halloween Health and Safety Tips

Hilltown Trick-or-Treaters. (c) Sienna Wildfield

Hilltown Trick-or-Treater's. (c) Sienna Wildfield

For many people, fall events like Halloween and Harvest Day are fun times to dress up in costumes, go trick-or-treating, attend parties, and eat yummy treats. These events are also opportunities to provide nutritious snacks, get physical activity, and focus on safety. Below are tips to help make the festivities fun and safe for trick-or-treaters and party guests…

READ MORE:  CDC – Family Health – Halloween Health and Safety Tips

Celebrating Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week
By J. Douglas Archer
Chair, American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee

Celebrate book banning? No way! Why would you do that? The answer, of course, is that Banned Books Week celebrates the continued availability of books that some folks tried to ban, not their attempts to ban them. Banned Books Week celebrates books and the people and institutions that defend your right to read them. For over twenty-seven years Banned Books Week has celebrated the freedom of Americans to write, publish, sell, buy, borrow, and read. It does this by publicizing attempts to have books removed from America’s libraries — whether those attempts where successful or not.

Banned Books Week is an annual event sponsored by a coalition of organizations representing America’s writers, publishers, booksellers and libraries – those segments of our society most directly committed to supporting the unimpeded creation and distribution of information. This year’s participants are the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, and National Association of College Stores. In addition, Banned Books Week is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

This year’s data collected by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 420 formal attempts to have books removed from America’s school, public and academic libraries. Since only a portion of challenges are report (some estimate only 20 to 25 percent), it’s fairly obvious that the impulse to censor is alive and well in America.

READ MORE: I Love Libraries – Celebrating Banned Books Week

Back-to-School: Getting Out the Door

Getting Out the Door

For most families, back-to-school means a new schedule complete with homework, meetings, practices and new activities. Remembering everything that has to be ready to go each day can turn your mornings into a mad dash.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

With a little organization, you really can make this the year your family commits to making every morning a smooth one. Experiment with these tips, adapted from At-A-Glance and Stacy M. DeBroff’s The Mom Book (The Free Press, 2002), to find out which ones work best with your bunch:

READ MORE: Getting Out the Door –

Back-to-School 2008

Back-to-School Countdown

Whether your child will be heading off to kindergarten or college, we’re offering a prep course on all things back to school. Sharpen those No. 2 pencils, and learn how your kids—and you—can make the grade:

• Biggest back-to-school woes

• What teachers wish you knew

• Teach kids the other 3 R’s

• Streamline your a.m. routine

READ MORE: Back-to-School 2008.

Countdown to Back to School: Get Organized

Countdown to Back to School: Get Organized

Back to School: When your student and your whole family get organized, going back to school will be stress free.
By Lisa Rosenthal, GreatSchools Staff

The start of school is just around the corner, so now’s the time to make sure everything is in order at your house — initial back-to-school supplies are on hand, after-school activities and care are arranged, and you’ve established a quiet, orderly place in your home for your student to keep school papers and study.

READ MORE: Countdown to Back to School: Get Organized – Massachusetts –

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