Saturday, June 27, 2009

Farewell, Farrah- From Charlie's Angel to our REAL HPV Angel

We all were desperate to have Farrah's hairdo, complete with gorgeous waves and "feathers". Farrah's character- JILL- (yes, I loved that!) was our icon of beauty back then. Which of us would have predicted this stunning actress's final performance would be the real story of her painful struggle and death from a not-s0 glamorous disease- anal cancer.
Ninety percent of anal cancers are thought to be caused by HPV, the human papilloma virus. Smoking is also a significant risk factor, and the highest rate of anal cancers occurs in white females and black males. HPV is transmitted via direct, skin-to-skin contact, often through intercourse. There does not need to be anal penetration to develop HPV infections (warts or cancers) in or around the anus.
The good news is that we now have a vaccine that protects against two strains of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancers. A bonus to the vaccine is that it will help protect against other cancers also linked to HPV such as anal and penile cancers. Would Farrah still be alive and thriving if Gardasil had been available 30 years ago? Possibly. BUT, not if she chose not to get the vaccine.
BOTTOM LINE: I hope Farrah's death and her willingness to share her story despite the awkward nature of the topic and the intense personal strain will motivate her fans to vaccinate their children against HPV. In that way, Farrah Fawcett will become a REAL angel for another generation.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Disney Delerium

Wow, our summer is full speed ahead! Our girls' dance troupe was thrilled to perform at Disney World's Downtown Disney stage last week, which meant four days of park hopping craziness with half the sleep and twice the heat. I believe Disney must be not only the "happiest place on earth", but one of the most challenging family destinations.
How many families have kids who all have identical likes and dislikes when it comes to an amusement park? Usually one likes shows, another likes the characters, another ONLY wants to do the "thrill rides" that give mom vertigo, and one develops a fear of darkness and loud noises. Unless you've been lucky enough to have a parent for every child (ie., able to divide and conquer), this creates a wonderful opportunity to work on compromise. Except that everyone is tired, hot, hungry, and cranky by mid-afternoon.
My completely unsolicited advice? Be at the gates when the park opens, with fully fed (if not fully awake) kids. Cheerfully rush in with the other Disney Commandos, and you will likely be able to hit a dozen of your favorite rides in the first two hours. Do the "kid swap" where a kid that does not want to do the ride only has to stand in line with the gang, but then is allowed to wait with an adult rather than be dragged kicking and screaming (as we saw, believe it or not, on Small World) on a ride that terrifies them. Then, as the lines swell, slow down and grab food and drinks, and do the shows. If possible, take an afternoon break and go back to the hotel for a swim.
It's easy to get caught up in the desire to stay at the park because of how much you paid, but is it worth it if the kids are whiny and miserable? Enjoy it in chunks, and relax.
Bottom Line: Remember you are at amusement parks for FUN and family memories. Stay flexible, and don't force the "FUN" on a terrified kid!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Is it summer yet?

In our house, we're finally down to the last week of school- yea! Both kids and parents (not to mention teachers!) are all really, really ready for summer. Even adults who continue to work full time throughout the summer have a sense of anticipation for some lazy summer days. Everyone should get outside and soak up some liquid Vitamin D sunshine- but not so much as to invite a sunburn!
Time flies faster each year (gee, our parents were right about that) and summer is no exception. If you don't set some family rules for summertime, before you know it your kids will be sprouting roots on the couch, permanently attached to their iTouch/laptop/other handheld electronic device.
The good news is that when electronics are time restricted, kids are amazingly creative with their "extra" time. From creating dances to painting rocks or playing board games, their are a million activities that kids don't have time for during the school year, yet should have plenty of time for in the summer.
The AMA, AAP (Amer. Academy of Pediatrics) and the AAFP (Amer. Academy of Family Physicians) ALL agree that the MAXIMUM amount of total daily screen time should not exceed 2 HOURS.
So, remind your kids they have a watch, or get them a stop watch so they can keep track of their own screen time. TV shows are easy to count, but get that clock running when they plop down with their lap top or iTouch...
Bottom Line: LIMIT SCREEN TIME this summer, and you'll find your kids enjoying a larger variety of activities and stimulating more corners of those wonderful developing brains!