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How to Cruise Through Your Kids’ Eating During Vacation

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Vacation. Family adventures, exploring new places, and time away from homework and school projects. What a relief! But for many children and parents, living outside the well-predicted school routine can be profoundly stressful.

When homework, soccer classes and ballet rehearsals fill up family schedules, many parents find it easier to structure other areas in their children’s lives, such as eating well, being physically active and getting enough sleep. But, when kids get out of their routine, these important aspects of healthy living can easily become deregulated. The longer hours together demand more flexibility in eating and sleep habits, but often this flexibility can result in an unbalanced schedule, greater parental concerns, repeated boundary testing, confusion and resentment.

Children are accustomed to having a regular routine and most of them thrive when the expectations are simple and clear. For children’s developing brains, it is quite difficult to differentiate between a “rules included” time and a “no-rules” period. As adults, we often celebrate the opportunity of being less strict and planned with our time. In a vacation context, adults find it easy to detect when they are hungry or full and when they need to go to bed. Children, however, have a lower ability to correctly recognize their bodily situation. Consequently, they are more susceptible to overexertion. Often, a child gradually becomes hungry or tired, but this information is missed when everyone is busy having fun.

Additional social gatherings, trips and spontaneity also call for unregulated behavior and more eating out. Flexibility in bedtime hours can lead children to have fewer sleeping hours than usual. Some parents can be concerned that their children will gain or lose weight or will eat an excessive amount of unhealthy foods.

How can parents make sure their kids eat, exercise and sleep well during vacation? The following ideas may be helpful in balancing the innate freedom of a vacation with children’s developmental need of a well-planned and expected routine.

Figure out what your vision is for the vacation. Is it more important for you to take the kids on trips or to hang out locally with friends and relatives that you do not get to spend time with during the year? How much work and other engagements could you postpone? How many hours of fun physical activity are reasonable? What is most important to you in terms of regular sleeping hours, the nutrients your children receive and the structure of meals? For some parents, for example, 8-10pm are important working hours in which they complete many projects, so keeping the bedtime routine is a must. Other families do not mind the flexibility of eating their dinner while picnicking at the park.

Concentrate on the healthy habits you would like to preserve over the break. For instance, traveling with kids may result in eating more fast food than typical. These situations call for some values to take precedence over others, based on the parents’ standards.

Think ahead of the approaches you intend to use when going on vacation and make sure your parental toolbox of efficient responses is wide enough. Have more easy-to-go food with you, decide on a bedtime, tell the kids how much TV and sweets they are allowed to have each week and help them plan accordingly.

Ahead of time, make sure you know what your plans are and make the necessary arrangements. Many children, for instance, are surprisingly hungry after a short swim in the pool or have a harder time leaving home for an activity when they have been watching TV more than usual.

You had an idea how your day would look and then things went differently than expected. Don’t worry about it! Go with the flow and adapt your plans accordingly. For example, you are planning to meet friends in the park but they are running late, a relative arrives early for a visit, kids request eating something different than what you prepared for them – instead of pushing life to be what you had planned, allow yourself to adapt more easily and quickly to changes.

Many days of our lives we are rushed running to work and school, doing chores and taking our kids to activities. This may cause us to not eat properly or not exercise and sleep enough. Vacation is a wonderful opportunity to recalibrate your schedule to your family needs as well as reevaluate your own routine health-wise.

Being a parent who tries to make healthy choices for your family, you are probably over-burdened and exhausted by the time a vacation approaches. Embrace the privilege of being able to rest, hang out with your family and have stress-free time! Perceive vacation as leisure time that allows your family and yourself to reconnect with your bodies more healthily, to eat better, sleep more, exercise regularly, meditate and just chill out. Enjoying yourself and treating your body as well as your children’s respectfully will promise you a better time once you return to being busy with emails, phone calls and additional assignments.

Living healthily and educating our children to do so themselves is an important value for all parents, however many are unsure of the best ways to accomplish this. Although vacation is too often coined with boundary breaking and lack of structure, it should be perceived as an opening for a healthier family lifestyle and an opportunity to support our children’s adaptation and healthier development.

Dr. Shiri Sadeh-Sharvit and Bianca A. Davoodian are recruiting mothers with a current or past eating disorder to a no-cost parenting program in The Bay Area.

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Member Musings: Halloween!

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Growing up I remember decorations for Halloween primarily being pumpkins. Our family would make a trip to the local pumpkin patch where my brother and I were able to select our pumpkins, one each. The rule was you could have any pumpkin you wanted as long as you could carry it by yourself to the car.

We would bring home our selections and draw faces featuring triangle eyes and smiling mouths with pens and then sit back and watch our dad carve out our designs. The finished products would be proudly displayed on the front steps.

To complete our décor we took big orange trash bags printed with faces similar to those we had designed ourselves and stuffed them with newspaper to make them full and round. I think they were originally intended to be filled with leaves, which would work great if you lived in New England, but in the East Bay we had to improvise.

With those tasks complete, our house was fully prepared for the holiday.

Between childhood and motherhood, I didn’t pay much attention to Halloween decorations. And in the interceding decades it appears things have changed. Now, everywhere I look people have transformed their houses. Many have enormous inflatable moving creations dominating their lawns. More often than not I’m seeing mock graveyards and ghost or worse hanging from porches and trees. To me its unsettling. To my pre-schooler it is terrifying!

Little kids are curious and observant, and I find myself struggling to explain why someone would festoon their yard with displays of skeletons climbing out of the ground or body parts strewn across a pathway. Long after we pass a particularly graphic display, I’ll still get questions about it. Bedtime has been delayed on several nights due to new fears that have popped up along with the plastic headstones down the block.

Are your kids upset by the gruesome nature of Halloween decorations? How do you handle this conversation? Why can’t we all just stuff orange bags full of recyclable objects and call it a day?

Mommy S

PAMP gladly accepts member blog submissions, including anecdotes, advice, confessions, recipes, outing suggestions and more! Want to join in the fun? Submit your own musings.

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Best of the Forum: Move to Help with Nursing?

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Should we move to the City to help with nursing?

I am a newbie, both as a mom pregnant with my first, due in March, and on these boards. We currently rent in the Palo Alto area and plan on remaining here at least through the birth. My job is fairly demanding (more than 40 hours per week) and is based in the City. I take Caltrain for my commute.

We’d really like to do whatever it takes to set things up so that I can nurse for baby’s first year, if at all possible. We’re open to moving (towards the end of my parental leave) to a new rental closer to my work location, especially for baby’s first year, if that might make nursing easier. Would love to hear from working moms who nursed. Which of the following would you recommend:

– Don’t bother moving. Such a hassle on top of everything else going on during baby’s first year, and it won’t make a difference in terms of nursing logistics or likely breastfeeding success.

– If you can move to within walking distance of your office, it could make a real difference. You could do a midday nursing (either go home for lunch, or have baby brought to your office by a caretaker) on top of pumping as needed.

– If you can move even somewhat closer to your office (say, Burlingame), that too could make a difference. Maybe you won’t be able to do a midday nursing, but it’s a much shorter commute, meaning potentially one less pumping session and one more nursing session per workday.

Thank you in advance for your insights!

Unfortunately, I really don’t think you can predict what your baby is going to be like or how easy or hard life or nursing will be until the baby is born!

You don’t say what your profession is, but if it’s an office job like mine, I will offer you the advice that I would give my younger self. But most cannot be done until the baby is born!!!!

My advice:

* Take as a maternity leave as possible, like 4 months. Focus on establishing nursing.

* Buy the best pumping equipment available. Electric double breast pump (such as Medela pump in style), with hands free operation. Also buy a hand pump (Medela, $30). Budget $450 overall for equipment (pump, bottles, cleaning stuff, milk storage bags, sharpie pens, etc)

* Within the first 2 weeks, see a lactation consultant (private appointments). Don’t worry about the cost; it is worth it. Budget $300.

* Within the first 4 weeks, begin pumping and introduce the bottle to the baby. Establish one feeding a day for daddy to give the baby the bottle.

* Discuss with facilities/HR to ensure you have a dedicated, private place to pump at work. All you need is a closet with a table, light, electric outlet, and a lock on the door, and access to a sink and refrigerator. Ideally, sort this out prior to maternity leave.

* Remember, formula is not poison. If you need to go that route, your child will be fine. You will nourish your baby!

* Get as much sleep as you can!!!!! Once piece of advice that I have heard  is, “the cure for a cranky baby is more sleep for the mother.” You may not understand what that means until you are sleep deprived with a crying baby, but if you are well rested, you can tolerate, accept, and handle the crying better.

* Practice and get comfortable with nursing in public and on the go. Use a nursing apron if that feels right.

* Consider pumping in different travel situations. Consider the logistics of pumping on the train, or in the car while driving. Seriously!

So ….. to answer your question about moving, I would vote for #1. It’s about 6 months to 1 year that nursing and pumping is an all-consuming topic. If you can take a long maternity leave, let’s say 4 months, then you only have about 2-6 months left to figure out your pumping schedule and logistics. It’s really not that long.

My credentials/story: natural child birthing, cloth diapering, exclusively breastfeeding, vaccinating, full-time traveling working mom to 2 kids (now 4 and 6).

Good luck!


The previous comment was great! I would vote for, and this has nothing to do with nursing, moving as close as you can to your job. If your job is demanding, even more so. You will be so much more rested and happy. Move now, if you can, versus after baby. And, take as much time as you can for maternity leave.

I’ve never seen pumping by train – but maybe up top where it’s quieter. I had a friend who pumped while driving, and it can be done safely if set up properly. Congratulations and best of luck to you!!!!

I have to agree with the first poster on how to manage pumping at work. But I agree with second poster that I’d move closer to work if I were you. Going back to work after having a baby was jarring to me. Maybe it won’t be for you; it’s personal. I’ve been a longtime corporate person and it just seemed really hard to tear myself away from my 12 week old baby every day for long days, and then do the commute to drop off/ pick him up in time. I did it, but it was a long time every day away from my baby. He essentially was raised by the nanny in those years, because he’d be awake very little when I was home. I’d move closer to work just to enable you more time with your baby, and logistics will be easier (for example,  if there is a problem with caregiver and you need to rush home). I also know women who went home/to daycare to nurse during the day; this is great for some. I agree that you won’t know until you have your baby how these things will go, though. Maybe seeing your baby during the day and then having to leave again to go back to work will be hard. We visited our child on his birthday at daycare, and when we left again to go back to work it was “separation” all over again with crying, etc. Congratulations – motherhood is amazing! I think you can manage it either way, but commuting less will be easier.


The first comment was great! I agree that the shorter your commute, the more time with your baby/child before and after work and the happier (and more rested) you and your baby/child will be. Too many parents keep their kids up too late at night because they don’t get home till 7pm and still want quality time with them each night. Also, it makes attending doctor appointments or taking half days much easier as they grow older. Less time you are paying for childcare, too.

Also, most insurance companies will pay for a breast pump within 30 days before your due date or 365 days after IF you purchase it through their contracted vendors. Some vendors provide an upgrade option, so if your insurance only covers the basic model, it’s still cheaper to upgrade to the nicer model than purchase it retail. I have used the Medela Freestyle with all 3 of my babies (now 6, 4,and 2) and LOVE it. Hands free is definitely the way to go if you’re trying to juggle nursing and pumping for an extended time. It’s doable but definitely a commitment. Get used to pumping while commuting

The best advice I can give you is that from day 1, every child is different, and just when you think you’ve got everything figured out and planned perfectly, the circumstances change, from nursing (baby directed weaning, bottle type preference) to sleep patterns and onward. Life is a constant roller coaster with kids, so enjoy the ups and downs. Often over-thinking things just leads to disappointment.

Best of luck with your decision and congratulations on the pregnancy!

I nursed exclusively with both my kids, and worked with the first one. I’m not sure the long commute will impact nursing (you can pump on Caltrain, if you’re not squeamish…) but it will impact your sanity, so if you’re inclined to move, it’s probably not a bad decision. Time is precious for working moms, and commuting wastes it.

Your milk supply adjusts to demand. I would get up early with the baby and nurse (at 5:30 or so), do email from home and get all ready to go, then nurse a second time at around 7:30, then jump in the car and commute about a half-hour. I pumped twice during the day at work (in really gross conditions, FWIW), and wouldn’t get much production, and then usually left right at 5:00, raced home, and nursed as soon as I set foot in the door. My daughter was a persnickety baby (she still is, at 17…) and grudged the nanny a bottle only out of dire necessity, so she was famished by 5:30. But I noticed on the weekends that during the day the baby would suck and suck but not get much. I was so anal about pumping that by the time I weaned, I had a freezer full of unused breast milk baggies, which I donated to The Mother’s Milk Bank. So don’t worry, it all works out. My advice is start solids as early as you can. I ended up supplementing with cow’s milk by about 10 months and had no bad effects from it (so far…)


There’s a new book out called “Work, Pump, Repeat” with some good information and “tricks” about pumping at work. It’s worth a read! I wish it had been written before I went back to work. The information is still helpful, but it would be the most helpful for someone just about to go back to work. I realize that’s off topic, but it might be helpful to you in the future!

My only suggestion would be to make the move before the birth. It will be so much easier! Then you can just focus on the baby, nursing, and making the transition to work after the baby is born. Moving with an infant will be very difficult, more difficult than moving while pregnant. Just make sure that other people do the heavy lifting for you!

One thing you could do to help with the commute, since you can take the train, is having childcare close to your office for the first year/until baby is mobile. You can then spend that time on the train bonding and/or nursing.

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Five Questions for a Membership Committee Volunteer

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Alix Pora is a volunteer on PAMP’s Membership Committee. Her job involves helping recruit and welcome new members, and developing strategies for growing PAMP. Alix says, “I help the committee with its mission by promoting PAMP in the community, provide input regarding recruitment and membership retention and research potential resources for PAMP.”

Tasks tend to vary, but Alix does her best to attend as many PAMP events as possible to engage with new and current members and get feedback regarding what they hope to get out of PAMP. She also distributes PAMP flyers and material around the community and researches ways PAMP can grow.

Alix most recently helped the committee in developing strategies for welcoming new members. She will also be starting a subgroup or two to help promote relationships and networking opportunities within the PAMP community.
“I really enjoy working with the other PAMP volunteers and directors who have been extremely receptive to hearing ideas and exploring new avenues of growth,” says Alix. “Since I joined the committee, I have met many great people who are enthusiastic and motivated.”

Alix joined PAMP earlier this year after moving to Los Altos from the North Bay. She and her husband have a three-year-old boy and are expecting another boy very soon. She says, “I was actually a third generation circus performer in my family’s unicycle, but I escaped to a more academic life. I moved out to the Bay Area eight years ago to get my graduate degree in translation and interpreting. My husband has been gradually converting me into a pseudo-techie.”

1. What is the last non-kid movie you saw? I have probably watched it 100 times but I love the French film “Amelie”.

2. Are you a Bay Area native or transplant? A transplant from the other coast.

3. What’s at the top of your to-do list? Ha! Considering I am in the middle of moving across town and it looks like the baby isn’t going to wait until his due date, I guess my goal is to just get through the next couple of weeks with sanity.

4. Who is your favorite Sesame Street character? I haven’t watched it in ages, but Snuffaluffagus was my favorite as a kid.

5. Why are you a PAMP volunteer? Due to the fact that I have moved around a lot it has become increasingly difficult to meet people and build relationships, especially after having kids. But by volunteering for PAMP I get to be a part of a dynamic community and meet some great people from a wide range of backgrounds. I think PAMP has enormous potential for building a strong community to support parents and I am excited about being a part of it.

Each month we train the spotlight on someone who works behind the scenes for PAMP. Interested in joining the ranks? Browse our open volunteer positions and apply today!

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3 Small Discipline Habits You Can Train

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, March 30, 2016

While I’m not a fan of trying to be disciplined every moment of the day, there’s no doubt most of us could use a little more discipline in our lives.

We procrastinate, we waste time with online distractions, we go an entire day without getting done what we really wanted to get done.

How do we overcome this?

With training. Practice small, effective habits, and practice some more. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect at skills if you don’t repeatedly, deliberately practice.

If you want to get good at these skills, don’t worry about not being motivated. Just enjoy the joy of practicing something that you can get good at. It’s amazing when you’re learning something new, and that wonderful feeling is what can motivate you.

What should you practice? Three simple skills that can be turned into habits with repeated practice.

The habits that work for me are all about talking to myself:

1. Tell yourself, “This is what I’m going to do next.” Instead of having a long to-do list of things you want to do today, have just one thing you want to do right now. Instead of saying you’re going to do this important task sometime, say you’re going to do it right now. Instead of allowing yourself to randomly open websites that give you distraction, deliberately figure out what you want to work on next. Pick one thing. It doesn’t matter what it is, but try for things that are important in your life.

2. Ask yourself, “What is the smallest step I can do?” Most of us look at something on our (mental or digital or paper) list and subconsciously think, “That’s too hard.” So we put it off. But that’s because we’re thinking about an entire project, which has many tasks. You can’t do a project right now, you can only do a task. Instead of saying, “I’m going to write that paper that’s due,” you should say, “I’m going to write 3 things in the outline of the paper.” If the smallest task stills seems too hard, say you’re just going to do 5 minutes of that small task right now. Or just two minutes. Make it ridiculously easy.

3. Ask yourself, “What is stopping me from focusing on that small step?” Even if you figured out a task to focus on, and you’ve broken it into the smallest step, there will still be distractions or resistance. If you’re not immediately doing the smallest step of the next task, ask yourself why. What’s stopping you? Can you resolve this issue, close all browser tabs, shut off your phone, ask co-workers or roommates or family members to give you 30 minutes of focused time? Can you ask for help, get some accountability? The easiest solution is usually to close all distractions. Then get moving on the smallest step.

Once you’ve done that, repeat this process two more times, taking a few minutes’ break between each round. Then take 20 minutes off as a reward. That’s your training session. If you can do several training sessions a day, you’ll get good at this in no time. And as you get good, the cost of doing anything will begin to seem miniscule.

Reprinted with permission from (public domain).

Leo Babauta is the creator and writer for Zen Habits. He’s married with six kids and lives in San Francisco (previously on Guam). Leo is a writer and a runner and a vegan.

Tags:  health 

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Member Musings: Peanut Butter Smoothie

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, March 30, 2016
I stumbled upon this amazing concoction one day almost by accident. I love to put together strange combinations in the kitchen, but who would have thought about nutritional yeast in a smoothie?

Years ago I discovered the secret of mixing nutritional yeast with peanut butter when making homemade peanut butter cups. Apparently the nutritional yeast gives the peanut butter a more full flavor.

So, why not try it in your morning smoothie? It might not be everyone’s, um, cup of tea — but I think it works! Go ahead and see for yourself.

1 cup almond milk (or coconut milk, or whatever milk you like)
1 banana
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
½ – ¼ C peanuts (or about 2 T peanut butter, depending on what your blender can handle)
ice – as much (or as little) as you like
½ tsp tumeric
1 Tbs maple syrup (optional)

Place all ingredients in the blender and mix until smooth. Pour into a cup and enjoy!

Mama B

PAMP gladly accepts member blog submissions, including anecdotes, advice, confessions, recipes, outing suggestions and more! Want to join in the fun? Submit your own musings.

Tags:  food 

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Member Musings: Why I Said Bye-Bye to the Scales

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Guess what? It’s my anniversary. Not your typical anniversary though. It’s been ONE year since I got on my scales (to measure weight) and felt my stomach hit the floor. A feeling I was ready to wave bye-bye to — for good.

For me it does not create a positive body image. It highlighted things I didn’t accept about myself. We all have our body types, our DNA, our genetics – the things that make us unique. We are what we are.

I am blessed with this body, the three children it’s carried, the breath is gives me to go on about life and build cherished memories. And I’ll never weigh 130 pounds, unless I ate air for my three meals a day!

The final straw was on a trip to Australia for 5 weeks last summer. I simply adore Australian food, and any overseas expat will tell you that they totally gorge on all the scrumptious things they miss being overseas – the bakeries, the cheeses, the Cadbury’s chocolate made in Australia. Not to mention the consumption of wine at the constant catch up’s with loved ones. I also didn’t have access to my usual exercise routine, so working off that gorgeous food went to the wayside.

I got home and right back into my lifestyle program, as I have done for seven years now and have embedded into my life. I even joined a boot camp on Groupon. Moving along, I worked my butt off for about 2 weeks and got on those scales. It took me days to psych myself up. I had put on 4 pounds. My heart sunk, tears streamed out of my eyes and I sounded so utterly pathetic to myself. I called my husband in tears. He thought something severely catastrophic must have happened to call him in such a panic. “I put on 4 pounds.” It sounded like such a first world problem. And that’s when I realized it was out of control.

There are times in life where we have an unhealthy relationship with something or someone, and you need to detach yourself from that thing or person. That was the scales for me. It’s not healthy for me, it brings me down, it detracts from the awesomeness in my life.

A year later, and it’s been the best darn year in respect to my body image. I really want to celebrate myself, have fun with myself, highlight what I love about my body. Celebrate my delicious pear shape. I started to accept the things I could not change. I’m not a lover of my legs but instead of shaming that, I celebrate ways I can elongate them, wear what’s right for my body type.

This summer I put a photo of myself on Instagram in my swimsuit. Gasp. I never would have done that in a million years before. I found myself a great bikini for the summer that let me have some fun with a season trend (high-waisted bikinis) and suited my body type. I’m loving life!

So here we are, a year later.

On my anniversary.

And a weight has been lifted from my shoulders — pardon the pun!

I appreciate everyone is unique and the scales won’t bring about panic for others that it did me. And I also appreciate that others have a weight loss journey that totally requires scales. My opinion is unique to me and not a reflection on what I think others should do.

It is important for me to maintain my weight. Diabetes is a big factor in my family so I am still very conscious to take care of myself in the present, to avoid future problems. I live by some general routines that are enough for me. I drink mainly water (the rare diet soda), a large portion of my diet are fruit and vegetables, I make sure I get my 8 hours sleep in at night, I go the gym 4 times a week as well as daily habits of walking and biking with the kids. And I go by my clothes. If my skinny jeans are feeling a little tight, I ramp things up a bit and it all evens out again. As well, for women, there are so many factors that can play with the scales such as your period, hormones, water retention etc.

I am an Australian Mum to three little ones based in Palo Alto. As well as having my fashion blog where I share my inspirations with others, I am a Wardrobe Stylist for all women on any budget. Find out more about me at

PAMP gladly accepts member blog submissions, including anecdotes, advice, confessions, recipes, outing suggestions and more! Want to join in the fun? Submit your own musings.

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Membership Tips – Discounts & Promotions!

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, March 30, 2016
As a PAMP member, you know you have access to fun events and informative online forums. But did you know that you also have access to discounts from over 60 businesses?

PAMP members receive discountsand other promotional offers from local businesses through our Business Discount Program. We currently have over 60 businesses participating in the program. Each of these businesses provides a unique offer for PAMP members — and that offer is good for 12 months. Offers range from 10-25% off a purchase to a free week or month of membership/service or a free consultation, or a $10-$20 gift card. These are all businesses that are local and cater to parents, and many of these businesses are also PAMP Sponsors who help to support our organization. Businesses range from fitness studios to photographers.

Here is a sample of some new businesses who recently joined the program:

Barn & Willow
Barn & Willow is a Menlo Park based Custom-Made Fashionable Home Decor Brand. PAMP members receive 10% off.

Violin and Viola Lessons
David Zimbalist of Speakeasy String Quartet, offers affordable and fun Violin and Viola lessons specializing in beginners. Lessons taught in your own home. PAMP members will receive their first lesson free and $5 off full price lessons.

VetPronto is an on-demand house call veterinary service for dogs and cats. that serves San Francisco, the Peninsula, and South Bay. They offer a $50 discount on veterinary house calls to PAMP members.

Plushcare is an online urgent care that allows parents to have phone or video visits with Stanford and UCSF trained pediatricians who can diagnose, treat and prescribe medications for common health problems without ever having to step out of your home. PAMP members receive a 20% discount off their first visit.

To view the full offer information from the above businesses and for a complete list of businesses participating in this program, visit the PAMP website, and click on the “Discounts” tab. You will find to the directory of businesses and offerings here. You can also search by category of business, or by a keyword (city, partial name, etc). To cash in on the discount, you can either use the code shown in the Discount article or you can show your PAMP membership card at the business itself. To print out a copy of your membership card, click on the “Members Only” tab on the top right menu of the PAMP website, enter the password, and you can print out your card (or download it to your phone as a pdf file). If you don’t know the password, send an email to “” and our Membership Manager will get it to you.

Don’t see your favorite business listed? Mention the program to them the next time you shop! They can receive more information and join by emailing

Tags:  member tips 

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How Can Toddlers Use iPhones Appropriately?

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, March 30, 2016
One of the most hotly-debated topics amongst parents and pediatricians is screen time, or how much time children should be allowed to spend in front of a TV, phone or tablet. Study after study has shown that toddlers, especially those under the age of two, learn best through play, hands-on exploration and one-on-one interactions with parents, caregivers and peers. These experiences engage both the body and mind by promoting experimentation, problem solving and creative thinking. Yet in a world dominated by TVs, smartphones and tablets, screens are everywhere and trying to completely withhold them is impossible — especially when parents and teachers use them routinely.

While exposing your toddler to a television will not turn their developing minds into mush, we do advise following a few simple recommendations to maximize the benefits these technological wonders offer.

Participate with your toddler
Learning from TVs and screen time can be greatly enhanced when parents participate with their toddlers and create a social, interactive experience. We encourage parents to ask questions about the content and provide detailed descriptions of what they are seeing, similar to how one might read a book or play with a toy. The more parents, rather than the television, can drive the story, the more impactful the experience will be for the toddler. Furthermore, try to connect what children are learning in the television program with real world applications. For example, if the TV show or screen time is teaching them about counting or letters, have them practice these skills in everyday play and routines.

Make screen time deliberate and age-appropriate
Research has shown that background television interferes with children’s play and development. Exposure to content that is not age-appropriate, in particular, is associated with negative effects on toddler’s language and cognitive function. Toddlers end up spending too much energy trying to understand what is going on and overtaxing their brain. Try to limit adult-related programming to when the kids are asleep.

Avoid screen time before bedtime
Studies have shown that children with televisions in their room have increased difficulty sleeping. Furthermore, screen time should be limited, if possible, in the hour or two before bedtime. That time should be used to help toddlers unwind, whereas television tends to excite them.

Set a time limit
The amount of screen time allowed is a very personal decision. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two should not be exposed at all, while children over the age of two should be allowed only one to two hours per day. The decision must be made in the context of the child’s other activities; for example, children who are very active otherwise are at less risk of being too sedentary if given a certain amount of screen time per day whereas less active children would benefit from more physical activity and less passive time in front of a screen.

Choose content carefully
Many TV shows are extremely fast-paced and may impair a child’s ability to think and make decisions, as described above. The content of the shows our children watch should reflect their experiences in the world and should provide a context to which your toddler can relate and understand. Furthermore, on phones and tablets, select apps that require interaction and participation that increase learning.

Technology will increasingly become an integral part of our daily lives and can have a huge impact on your toddler, both positive and negative, depending how it is incorporated. By selecting appropriate content that is interactive and participatory, parents can create a highly educational environment in which their toddlers can thrive.

Dr David Kagan is a pediatrician and internal medicine specialist at Healthier, a text message-based service that sends you timely information about your child’s health and development. Ask any question and the clinical team responds within 24 hours, completely free. Enroll now for free by texting 650-458-4744 with signup code PAMP or visit Healthier.

Tags:  child development  technology 

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9 Situations In Which a 529 Plan May Not Make Sense

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, March 30, 2016

As a parent, you’ve probably by now heard the conventional wisdom: If your children plan on college (or you’re planning on college for them), a 529 college savings plan is a great way to save for tuition and expenses. In many states, contributions to 529 plans win you a tax deduction for state tax purposes, and the earnings are federal and state tax-free.

That’s the conventional wisdom—and it may be right in some cases. But changes in the investing environment and the high fees of some 529 plans have made two key alternatives, Coverdell plans and Roth IRAs, more attractive alternatives than they once were. A 529 plan can also affect your kids’ chances of receiving financial aid.

Here are 9 situations in which a 529 plan may not make sense:

1. High Fees Bug You
529 plans can be broadly grouped into two categories: prepaid tuition plans, which lock in tuition costs at particular colleges and universities, and college savings plans, which are more like tax-free savings accounts that can be used for a broad range of educational purposes. College savings plans often are sold through brokerages and offer a range of investment options within the tax-free accounts.

The SEC’s primer on 529 plans includes a good explanation of the fees, but the bottom line is that college savings plans sold through a broker may be loaded with commissions and fees,just like other investment products. You’ll have to do the math to figure out if the tax deductions outweigh the fees. Or you can look into prepaid tuition plans, which have lower fees and are easier to understand.

2. You Want Control Over the Investment Strategy
The IRS rules say that you can only adjust the investments in your 529 plan once a calendar year. That’s a significant downside in a volatile market. In addition, college savings plans often offer a fairly limited selection of investment options.

3. You Can Only Save a Few Thousand Dollars a Year
Along with the state tax deductions on the contributions, another big attraction of 529 plans is that there is no annual limit on the amount you can contribute. If you don’t have that much money to put aside, a 529 plan loses some of its appeal. Two other savings vehicles, Roth IRAs and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts offer powerful tax advantages, and more spending flexibility. You can save $2,000 a year in a Coverdell, and use it for pre-college education costs as well as that big college tuition bill, and $5,000 or $6,000 annually in a Roth IRA depending on whether you’re younger or older than 50.

4. If You Want to Maximize Your Child’s Financial Aid
One of the downsides of a 529 plan is that it, if it is owned by the student, it counts as an available asset when the federal government and individual schools calculate financial aid. This is a situation where using a Roth IRA also makes sense because parent-owned retirement assets are entirely ignored by financial aid calculations.

5. If Your Child is Independent or Married
Money in a 529 plan owned by the student is counted as a parental asset if the student is considered a dependent of her parent for tax purposes. But if the student has declared independence or is no longer a dependent for other reasons, the 529 plan is counted as her own asset. Any asset the student owns can seriously affect financial aid. Some schools will consider students to be independent if they are married as well.

A student who has decided to save her 529 assets for graduate school, or who is going back to school later in life, might be shocked to find out how much it will negatively impact her financial aid eligibility. In other words, if you want to help fund the education of an independent student, contributing to her 529 could actually hurt more than help if she’d otherwise qualify for substantial aid.

6. If You Have More Than One Child
Because beneficiaries can be easily changed on 529 accounts, most schools will count the value of all 529 accounts within the family as being for the benefit of the student applying for aid. If you have multiple children who each have their own 529, the balances of all the 529 accounts will be considered as parental assets.

You may want to consider having grandparents establish 529 accounts for the benefit of younger children, or transfer ownership to them if the transfer of plan assets won’t incur gift taxes. You’ll only want to do this, however, if you have a tight relationship with grandparents and trust them with your children’s education money.

You can alternatively invest in assets not counted in financial aid calculations, such as increasing principal payments on your mortgage or investing in an insurance policy for the benefit of your child. This helps to avoid bumping up 529 balances and penalizing the child who is currently seeking financial aid.

7. If College Is Coming Soon
529 plans are intended to be long-term investments that allow funds to grow and be withdrawn tax-free when used for education. If you open a 529 account just as your child enters college, you forego many of these tax advantages since the account won’t have much time to produce earnings. You’ll also have limited your options both in terms of investment choices and what you can use future earnings on.

For example, if your child decides to join the ROTC or gets a merit-based scholarship halfway through school, you won’t be able to withdraw earnings for something else without a penalty being assessed. Further, investment options in a 529 plan are heavy on long-term investments like stocks and mutual funds, but have limited offerings in the way of short-term investments like money markets and CDs.

8. If You Live in a “No Income Tax” State Or A “No Deduction” State
If you live in a state that doesn’t assess income taxes, or a state that doesn’t currently allow deductions for 529 contributions, you won’t get that nice tax break for contributing to your child’s 529. For more information, see this list of states that allow deductions. California currently does not offer a deduction from state income taxes for contributions to any 529 plan.

9. If Your Child Is Planning on an Alternative Education
Not every child has their sights set on college. For example, they may prefer to develop skill at a trade for which traditional education would be inappropriate. Withdrawing money from a 529 account without spending it at a qualified educational institution can mean incurring a 10% penalty, plus paying income tax on the earnings. That can add up to a significant amount, especially if you’ve invested over a long period of time.

If you want to allow for flexibility and not create a “college or bust” situation, complement a 529 plan with other savings vehicles, such as a Roth IRA and ordinary brokerage accounts with long-term investments. In this way, if college costs are less than expected or non-existent, or if an alternative education needs to be funded, you won’t need to worry about incurring a penalty for withdrawing 529 funds for “non-educational” purposes.

529 plans are helpful and appropriate in many situations. But in some cases like those detailed above, there are better ways to invest that don’t reduce financial aid, limit investment flexibility, or result in high fees and taxes based on tax calculators and estimators. Consider your situation and goals to best determine which approach makes sense for you and your family.

Kira Botkin contributes to the Money Crashers personal finance blog and specializes in financial topics like saving for retirement, finding commonly overlooked personal tax deductions, living a frugal lifestyle, and getting out of debt. A version of this article appeared on The Upfront Blog, produced by Weathfront; The Upfront Blog answers questions from investors about finance and investing. Questions for the blog can be addressed to Editor Betsy MacBride.

Tags:  finances 

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