Wednesday, May 20, 2009

From Dr. Seuss to Rick Riordan and Percy Jackson- why you should READ to your BIG kids!

Our girls are 10 and 12- just finishing 4th and 6th grade, which means (at our kids' school) that both will officially be in middle school next year. People are often surprised if it comes up in conversation that I still read to our girls. "Aren't they a little old for that?" they ask. Absolutely NOT! We're not reading Dr. Seuss these days, but immersing ourselves in adventures of Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, or stepping back in time as we read an American girl story.
When do I find time? Honestly, if we did it after school, their activities would often pre-empt it. If we did it at bedtime (we've tried this) I fall asleep! So...we simply start the day roughly 20 minutes earlier. It used to be 10 minutes, but we find we are so immersed in the stories that we needed more time. The dog and I head up stairs and land on the bed of whichever girl's turn it is, recruiting the other daughter along the way. The girls slowly wake up as I read aloud the next chapter (or whatever 20 minutes ends up amounting to in the book), and by the time everyone needs to get moving towards dressing and breakfast, we're all fully awake and generally filled with at least mental energy as we file downstairs, talking about what will happen next.
I cherish this time with the girls. Sometimes they want to take a turn reading aloud, but often they prefer to close their eyes and absorb the story. In their scary world of instant gratification, they at least have learned the joy of anticipation as we strictly enforce the "no cheating and reading ahead in OUR book" rule.  As we have followed several series- early on with the Magic Treehouse series and lately especially the Percy Jackson and the 39 Clues books by Rick Riordan- our girls have had the fun of following characters over time. They are growing up along with the characters, and look forward to the next book being released by their favorite authors.
BOTTOM LINE: Your kids will NEVER outgrow the joy of reading books together- and the resulting conversations keep getting better and better! 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Women's Health Week 2009!

What perfect timing for the U.S. Dept. of Heath and Human Services to declare "Women's Health Week 2009"- starting with Mother's Day!  Following up April as STD Awareness month, now we focus on all aspects of women's health- physical, mental, and spiritual. Are you a "superwoman" trying to do all and be all for everyone? Looking to excel at home, at work, and in the community? Well, first of all, realize there are only so many hours in the day. While I'm delighted if you are not spending those precious hours simply glued to a screen (including this one!), I do want to emphasize that many women put their own health dead last in their "to do" list- and that is NOT good. 
Why not use this week to take inventory of your health? Are you due for a complete physical with your family doctor? Did you remember to go and get your mammogram after your last exam? How long has it been since you followed up on your high cholesterol? And what happened to all those fruits and veggies that you intended to focus on during 2009?
Check out the Women's Health Week website at for some great suggestions to start addressing all these concerns. Don't forget about your mental health, either! It doesn't have to be formal therapy to help. Sign up for a fun, heart-rate stimulating class like a tap dance or martial arts class. Grab a friend to do it with you, and you're more likely to follow through.
BOTTOM LINE: Pick at least one positive activity for your health (or that of your favorite female) this week, and make it happen! And guys, your week is coming up along with Father's Day, so don't sneak away...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

H1N1/Swine Flu- is it "Aporkalypse" now?

Will we remember May 2009 as the beginning of the "Aporkalypse"? Will Swine Flu, now known as H1N1, cause global panic? The media coverage of this flu outbreak this week has created widespread concern and in some cases, panic. Our kids had cancelled dance recitals, soccer games, and band competitions as school districts and UIL leaders began to close schools for after hours and weekend activities. Is all this really necessary?
Well, I certainly hope this is all overkill. We need to recognize that the CDC is doing their job, and by their criteria, even though the actual numbers are small, there are enough separate countries and regions with cases of this flu that H1N1 does indeed qualify to be called a "pandemic".  Time will tell us in the next couple of weeks just how virulent this virus is in humans. Right now we know the virus can still be killed by two antiviral medicines, which is great news. We know that there is evidence of mild disease as well as severe. What we don't know yet is how much of the influenza A that we physicians have been diagnosing this year is really H1N1- we didn't start LOOKING for this virus until last week. 
Hopefully, most of the cases of H1N1 will prove to be mild, with patients healing even without any antiviral medicines. We need to realize that our "regular" flu is a serious disease EVERY year, and even in 2009 we have had over 800 deaths per week in the United States from this annual hazard. Ever wonder why primary care physicians are such fans of the flu vaccine?
Good basic prevention is ALWAYS in style. Wash your hands in soapy water for 20 seconds before meals. Use hand sanitizer. Use the wipes on the grocery cart at the store. If you have a fever (temp >100.5), sore throat, runny nose, cough, and body aches- see your doctor. This is a time for caution, not fear. Let's not contribute to our health care expenses by going to the emergency room with the common cold.
BOTTOM LINE: The jury is still out on how severe the H1N1 Virus will become. Let's use common sense and soapy water, and remember to get your flu vaccine every year to help prevent "regular" influenza, a known killer disease.