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Create Special Memories at PAMP’s Family Day

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Family Day is one of PAMP’s largest events of the year. And every year, PAMP adds new and exciting aspects to keep it fresh and appealing. This year, PAMP has invited new entertainers including Andy Z, a delightfully engaging musician that will get the entire crowd moving. Other things to do at the event include Family Zumba, a bouncy house, pony rides and a petting zoo. And don’t forget about the storytime and photo opportunities with the Snow Queen!

PAMP is also encouraging members to pay-it-forward by participating in the Diaper Drive benefiting HAMO. If you have extra diapers that you’d like to pass on (even open packs!), please bring them. But do not buy diapers just to donate them! Remember that monetary donations go a long way with HAMO. Either bring cash or check to Family Day or donate today.

“I have been to four Family Day events now and each year they get better and better!” exclaims Chanden Moya, PAMP member and former Board President. “What I enjoy the most about this event is that it is a great opportunity for us to get out with our families and be able to meet so many other families that have more than just the fact that they are parents in common with us… they are members of PAMP!”

Creating special memories at Family Day is what keeps members coming back. Chanden explains, “In 2013, my youngest son, at that time who was only one, was so excited to go to the bubble area that he tripped and fell straight into the bubble bin! I thought he was going to cry but he was just so excited that he just sat there with the big bubble wand and tried to make bubbles from what was still left in the bin.”

Chanden continued, “In 2014, my eldest son, who was 4 then, had such a hard time trying to decide if he should stay at the “Lego” table or at the “Sticker” table. He eventually chose the Sticker table because they had an empty chair in the shade for him.”

“Family Day is where my own family meets my PAMP family. We enjoy reconnecting with old friends and making new ones!,” says Maya Herstein, Co-President of PAMP. “The kids have a blast playing games and snacking on foods while I talk to other parents in our community. This year I will also be greeting our members at the board table. Please come and introduce yourself!”

Don’t miss the opportunity to attend Family Day and create your own lasting memories.

Tags:  activities  family 

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Camping — At Home?

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Camping in the Bay Area with a young family can be challenging. Campsites get booked out months or even a year in advance, buying gear quickly adds up, and if you don’t go regularly, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the logistics of carting your whole family into the outdoors.

Or you might be like us–we have campsites already reserved for our annual camping trip with friends this summer, but are bracing for cancellations. Like last year, the ongoing California drought has forced numerous campsite closures at local parks all around the Bay Area.

But whatever your situation, a great way to try out camping without the hassles is to camp at home! With a little creativity and some help from the kids, your backyard or even your living room could make a terrific spot to set up camp.

The Essentials:
Tents come at all price levels–the more expensive tents are generally more lightweight and made of better materials. But you can purchase a good, inexpensive tent for car camping at Target, Walmart or Costco (Coleman is a good brand). You can also rent camping gear by the day (everything from camping stoves to tents, sleeping bags and mats) from stores like REI and Redwood Trading Post.

If you plan on camping indoors, a simple tent made by stringing up a clothesline and a dark bedsheet works great!

Sleeping bags and mats are fairly inexpensive and easy to pick up at the store. But if you’re camping at home, some cozy comforters off your bed are even better. The most important thing about sleeping on the floor, indoors or outdoors, is cushioning. Even a carpeted living room gets uncomfortable and cold without some cushioning between you and the floor. You can use yoga mats, the kids’ gym mats or layer a few fleece blankets or beach towels (the thicker the better).

Make meals fun by taking your family out of your typical family routine. Eat outside, picnic style. Or turn off the lights, light up a lantern or candles and eat indoors. You can find recipes for great camping meals online. Try chili dogs, stews, mac ‘n cheese or creative dinners (which also makes a fun activity to put together). And for dessert, try skillet s’mores!

Don’t forget to plan some fun camping inspired activities. These can be as simple as checking out a stack of camping related books from the library to read with a flashlight or putting together an outdoor scavenger hunt. Take a moment to gaze at the stars and point out the constellations to your kids.

Just remember that the best part about camping is spending quality time with your kids and focus on doing something different from your day-to-day routine. Camping is a great excuse to put away the cell phones and tablets, turn off the TV and focus on each other.

There are more ideas online to help spark your imagination. Here are some resources to check out below:

More Ideas

Camping Books
Maisy Goes Camping: A Maisy First Experience Book by Lucy Cousins
Curious George Goes Camping by Margret Rey and H. A. Rey
S Is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet (Alphabet Books) by Helen Foster James and Lita Judge
The Berenstain Bears Go to Camp by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham

Bonnie Tam is the mom of two little ones, constantly juggling that crucial balance between work and play. A passionate lover of the outdoors, she is always looking for creative ways to inspire the same in her children. She currently works part-time at a start-up while looking to reenter the energy industry.

Tags:  activities 

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DIY Estate Planning: Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Having a new baby ranks right up there with the world’s most disruptive personal transitions. There’s just nothing like major new responsibilities, sleeplessness, arguing with your spouse, placating your other children (and pets) and dealing with caring for someone 24 hours a day who can’t even hold up her head.

On top of that, there’s planning for that new person’s future.

Any parent of young children needs three basic estate planning documents: a Will, a Durable Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive.

Here’s why: A Will allows you to nominate guardians to care for your children to age eighteen in case you die before they reach adulthood. A Will also allows you to put a management plan in place so that the money you leave your children can be managed for them until they are old enough to manage it for themselves.

A Durable Power of Attorney appoints someone to act as your Agent in case you are incapacitated, so that someone can pay your bills, take care of your property and pay for your care. Finally, an Advance Health Care Directive appoints someone to make medical decisions for you if you can’t do so, and allows you to state your wishes for end of life care.

If that sounds daunting, don’t worry. These three basic estate planning documents are definitely ones that you can do yourself, using forms that are available on the internet. While it’s true that an estate planning attorney can help you to prepare them, the self-help versions are legally valid, accomplish the basics and are way better than doing nothing at all.

Making Your Will
Your Will doesn’t have to be fancy to accomplish two main goals: appointing guardians and managing your children’s money to a reasonable age. If you don’t have a Will and you die, a judge is going to appoint a custodial guardian to care for your children to age eighteen and a property guardian to manage their money to the same age. There are two things wrong with this picture: 1) the judge doesn’t know your family (and your sister-in-law, for example) as well as you do, so not nominating guardians means giving a stranger the power to make a decision that you are best equipped to make; and 2) most eighteen-year-old kids are just not mature enough to manage significant money, and any judicially appointed guardian’s role has to end at eighteen when your child (believe it or not) becomes a legal adult.

To make a simple Will, you have to decide four things:

1) Who to nominate as a guardian. It is best to pick at least two people, so if your first choice can’t do it, you have a back-up.

2) Who to name as an Executor. The executor is the person who will administer your estate. The executor will pay final taxes, outstanding debts, collect and value your property, and distribute it as directed by the Will.

3) Who to name as a Trustee. If you are going to leave your children money in trust to a certain age, the Trustee is the person who is going to manage and distribute their money to them until they reach that age. It can be the same person as your executor, or someone else.

4) When your children should inherit their money outright. Since your children are young, you can’t know how well they’ll manage money yet, so just use yourselves as an example: how old were you when you could manage money responsibly? For some, twenty-five is a good age; for others, it’s thirty-five.

Once you’ve got those four things figured out, you can put together a simple Will, sign it in front of two witnesses who don’t inherit anything, and you’re done. Do not notarize a Will. Store it somewhere safe. Tell your executor where to find it.

Here are two online resources that you can use:
1) The California State Bar offers a free statutory Will. This is a quite basic, fill-in-the-blank form, but it does cover the essential things and is legally valid. This Will allows you to name a custodian to manage your children’s money to age 25. Download the statutory Will at the State Bar’s website.

2) Nolo offers two inexpensive ways to create Wills that are more comprehensive than the State Bar’s basic one. First, for $34.99 you can create an Online Will that you can print out and will allow you to nominate guardians and executors, set up a trust for your children and forgive any debts that people owe you. Second, for $49.99 you can purchase Quicken WillMaker Plus 2015, which will allow you to create and print out a Will as well as Durable Powers of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directives.

There are other online options out there, but these two are the ones that I recommend. The State Bar is entirely trustworthy and so are the editors at Nolo, all of whom are attorneys.

Both the Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive appoint an Agent to act for you if you become incapacitated. They are both important parts of every estate plan, since all of us may become sick or hurt over time.

Your Durable Power of Attorney
The Durable Power of Attorney applies to your property—your Agent can write checks on your account, hire people to take care of your house, withdraw money from your retirement accounts to pay for your care and file your tax returns. Younger persons may want a Durable Powers of Attorney that only becomes effective when the person is incapable of managing their own affairs. This is called a “Springing” Durable Power of Attorney because it “springs” into effect when you need it, but not before. Usually, two doctors must sign letters stating under penalty of perjury that you are incapable of managing your own affairs before your Agent can act.

The alternative is to sign a document that is effective upon signing – this can be appropriate for people who are traveling, who want to minimize the hassle of making the document effective or who are old or sick now and need immediate help managing their property.

Your Advance Health Care Directive
An Advance Health Care Directive names Agents to make health care decisions for you and lets you state your end of life wishes.

You may have already signed an Advance Directive, since that’s part of every hospital’s pre-admittance paperwork. If you are a member of Kaiser, or other large health care organizations, you may already have signed one with your doctor.

If you don’t have one yet, here are two excellent online options:
1) The California Office of the Attorney General makes a fill-in-the-blank Power of Attorney available for free.

2) If you want more advice and information about what to do, the California Medical Association sells an Advance Directive kit online for $6 that provides much helpful information.

Feel Good, Not Guilty!
Too many people waste their energy feeling guilty about not having an estate plan when they could be using that energy to go ahead and get the basics done. Trust me, if you need an estate plan (because you have kids, a spouse, a job, and some assets) you have the skills needed to get this done.

Liza Hanks is an estate planning attorney at Finch Montgomery Wright LLP and author of the free e-book The Family’s Guide to Wills and Estate Planning. She writes two blogs:The Palo Alto Estate Planning Blog, and Ask Liza: Nolo’s Estate Planning Blog.

Tags:  finances 

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The Whys of Multiples

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Multiples attract attention, there’s no getting around it. People approach you in public, sometimes just to look at your babies and say “Aw,” sometimes to tell you about twins they know, sometimes to tell you they are a twin! Once a woman came up to me and, touching my amazing double stroller, said, “I wish they had these when I had my twins 60 years ago!”

But sometimes people stop you and ask you a million personal questions, and it’s hard to decide how much you should say. Usually the first question is, “Do twins run in your family?”

If you poke around your family tree, you’ll probably find some twins — about 97 percent of all births are singletons, but twins make up the majority of that other 3 percent. Fraternal twins — twins who are no more similar than any pair of siblings — can sometimes run on the mother’s side of a family if women in that family tend to release more than one egg per ovulation cycle. If you’re having babies later in life, you’re also more likely to release more than one egg and therefore more likely to have fraternal twins.

But identical twins — twins who share the exact same DNA — and multiples running on the father’s side are apparently the result of chance and coincidence, and can happen to anyone. The truth is that multiples run in the human family: women of African descent are more likely to have twins, and women of European descent are more likely to have triplets or more, but anyone planning on having a child should be aware that you could always get a little more than you bargained for.

And of course, if you use any “ART” — assisted reproductive technology — you’re more likely to have multiples too. That certainly affected my pregnancy: My ovaries didn’t release two eggs in a cycle; they released 20! I underwent fertility treatment, and a course of injectable drugs put my reproductive system on overdrive. Of those 20 eggs, 16 were mature enough to inject a sperm into, 8 fertilized, and 4 were still growing five days later. Two of those four were placed in my uterus, and both of them implanted. As a result of this miracle of modern science, two happy, healthy little girls are now the beautiful center of my life.

So when a woman comes up to me in a shopping mall and says, “Twins! How precious! Do twins run in your family?” I have to make some decisions about how much I want to tell. She might accept a simple yes or no and ask no more questions. Or she might interrogate me — Are they boys or girls? Identical or fraternal? What are their names? Were they born early? How much did they weigh at birth? What’s their birthday? — until I am forced to run away. Sometimes people will actually come up to me and say, “Twins! How precious! You must have done IVF!”

In my case, that is true, but I know women whose multiples were the result of chance who get very annoyed when people assume they used fertility treatments. Even to me (and I am writing publicly about my experience!), the question seems too personal when it’s coming from a passing stranger.

But people who ask these questions do not mean any harm. They are delighted by the cuteness-overload of multiple babies. They aren’t thinking about how their questions sound or considering that you get asked these questions all the time. And people can’t help it: they have a question, and they hope that you, the parent, can provide an explanation for why you had multiple babies instead of just one, like most people do.

Perhaps, then, the best answer to the question is to tell these curious if slightly awkward strangers the truth: multiples happen. They happen for lots of reasons and they happen for no reason at all. Once they are here they are a lot of work and a tremendous blessing. Moms of multiples may need help with the workload, but it’s actually pretty easy to find the joy in (or the love for!) all our babies.

How you deal with the attention is a personal choice. Some parents of multiples enjoy it, but some would prefer to be left alone. But if you’re having multiples, you should expect these questions and have a plan to handle them, because your babies are so amazing, they’re going to stop traffic.

Amy Letter is the mom of twin girls Sagan and Tesla, and a writer, artist and professor of English at Drake University. She is a frequent blogger for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Tags:  expecting  multiples 

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Five Questions for the Volunteer Manager

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Helping to keep people happy may seem a daunting task for some, but Elizabeth Fashing welcomes the challenge with open arms. As Membership Manager for PAMP, Elizabeth says, “I am responsible for for keeping our members happy!” She responds to member questions, invites and recruits new members, runs member reports for the Board and performs any other task that concerns membership satisfaction.

“I’ve been out of the work force since my son arrived, so I appreciate that this is a position where I can re-hone my administrative skills, get more involved in the PAMP community and also set my own schedule around taking care of my son.”

Elizabeth also manages PAMP volunteers and coordinates outreach to members to recruit them for volunteer opportunities. Additionally, she manages some of the administrative turnover for the Board when new officers begin their roles.

“I just recently joined the PAMP staff, so my goals are to find ways to streamline as much of the membership process as possible, work with other PAMP staff and the board to expand our membership and heighten awareness of PAMP in the community,” Elizabeth says. “I also help our members find ways to connect to each other.”

Checking email for member and community inquiries, looking at any upcoming events to see if volunteers are needed and troubleshooting technical issues members may have with their accounts are some usual day-to-day tasks for the Membership Manager.

Elizabeth and her husband relocated to the West coast from North Carolina. They have lived in the Bay area for almost a year and have a two-year-old son. She became a PAMP member shortly after moving to the area. Her husband is a software engineer, and besides working with PAMP, she instructs baby and me fitness classes.

1. What is the last non-kid movie you saw? I think the last one we watched was X-Men 2: Days of Future Past.

2. Are you a Bay Area native or transplant? We are originally from the East Coast; we spent a little over a year in San Diego before moving to the Bay area in Summer 2014.

3. What’s at the top of your to-do list? I’d like to get some summer vacations planned!

4. Who is your favorite Sesame Street character? We don’t watch Sesame Street, but my son does like Dinosaur Train. King Cryolophosaurus is my favorite.

5. Why are you a PAMP volunteer (or staff)? Initially, I joined PAMP to meet others in the community since we were new to the area. When I saw that the Membership Manager position was open, I thought it would be a great opportunity to dip my toes back into the workforce and also become more involved with PAMP.

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!  

Tags:  spotlight 

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Fitness with Kids this Father’s Day

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I feel fortunate to have a child who is very interested in fitness and athleticism. He always has been. We have many opportunities to train together, and we love to connect in this way. So this Father’s Day, we’re going to the gym to workout! Really, we are. 

When I’m working out by myself, I’m able to stay focused and be efficient. As a dad, I’ve got many other things to do, so efficiency is important. When I’m working out with my kid, however, we take extra time to talk through the nuances of stretching correctly, proper form and general fitness topics. So, the workouts become more of a time to connect. They take longer. They look different.

Here’s my advice to dads starting to workout with their kids, whether it’s in the gym, on the hiking trail, on a bike ride around the block or even at home:

Don’t push. Don’t struggle. Make it fun. Focus on fitness fundamentals as building blocks for a long-lasting fondness of exercise. Keep the workout intensity at the child’s level — not yours. Find out what they want to accomplish and help them to meet their goals. And keep checking in with them.

See their love of fitness — and hanging out with dad — explode into greatness.


Rubber Ducky Daddy

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:  activities 

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Dad’s Rules for Talking with Kids about Money

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

This Father’s Day, you may want to spend some time with your kids having a family conversation about money and values. If this makes you feel a little uncomfortable, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Many parents feel uneasy talking with their kids about the family’s finances.

“But once we talk to the kids about money, it will be like opening Pandora’s box. Who knows where the conversation will go?”

Well, first of all, the box is probably open already. Second, it will be soon, no matter what you do. And third, it might be better for you to go ahead and open the box now. When we turn money into a taboo subject, we’re teaching our kids that there is something scary about it, and that we don’t even talk about it. If that’s the lesson we teach our kids, we’re not starting them off on the road to forming a healthy relationship with money.

Here are three suggestions for talking with kids about money and, perhaps, just as importantly, ideas for acting consistently with what we say.

Rule 1: Money is like sex
Just as with sex, when it comes to money, kids know more than we think they know. But they’re probably confused about what they think they know. Most of them will figure out money eventually by watching adults. Or they’ll figure it out from their friends who have either sorted things out themselves or observed their own parents.

But while kids may know more than we think they do, they’re often confused about what they think they know. That’s because, irrespective of their age, kids often don’t have the right context to make sense of what they know.

Rule 1 should help us get over any delusion that we can keep our kids in the dark about everything. And it also helps us to define one of the tasks ahead of us. We want to help our kids begin to create a context for their knowledge so that their knowledge is helpful and empowering, not dangerous or frightening.

Rule 2: Think before you talk
Determine your own values about wealth before you discuss money with your kids. Many parents have a fairly clear sense of the values that they’d like their kids to develop with respect to money, but they may be less clear about knowing what their own values are. Therefore we need to be honest with ourselves and examine our own values about wealth.

It’s one thing to say we want our kids to understand that material possessions are not the source of happiness and fulfillment. But if our own lives are driven by conspicuous consumption, our kids will quickly come to see that the values we say that they should develop are not aligned with the values that shape our own behavior.

Kids are the most sensitive lie detectors on Earth. If there is a discrepancy between what we say and what we do, they’ll be quick to see it. The more clear we are about our own values before we talk with our kids about money, the more successful we’ll be in managing the conversation and delivering a message that is consistent with the way we live our lives.

Rule 3: Talk with them, not to them
“Mom? Dad? Are we rich or poor?” Are you worried about being asked this question by your kids? Well, now you can look forward to it because it gives you a chance to engage your kids in a conversation about the meaning of money and happiness.

You can ask your kids, “What makes you the happiest? What makes you the saddest? Does any of that have to do with being rich or poor?”

You may want to say something like this to your kids, “Rich means different things to different people. It means some things that we measure with money and other things like having a happy and healthy family that can’t be measured with money and that no amount of money can buy.”

“As far as money goes, we are fortunate to have enough to buy all the things we need and many of the things we want. And we have enough money to take care of you, so that you don’t have to worry about money. So many people would say that we are rich.”

It’s best to be honest. We make so many sacrifices for our children, and we devote so much attention to giving our kids the best opportunities we can. If we neglect having ongoing conversations about money and values, we are denying our children an opportunity to think about how their values drive their actions.

This Father’s Day, see what your kids have to say about the subject of money. What they say may surprise you.

David Enemark, CFP® is a Family Wealth Advisor at Morgan Stanley who specializes in helping families achieve financial security both for themselves and future generations. Now that his newborn son is finally sleeping through the night, David is once again riding his mountain bike whenever he can.

Tags:  finances 

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Learning to Code at Age 5?

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Technology is changing our world, and today kids as young as five years of age are learning to program computers. Learning to code is not only helpful in promoting qualities that are important to nurture in kids — perseverance, creativity and confidence — but it is also helpful in gaining invaluable critical thinking and STEM skills that support learning across all academic areas.

Creativity, for example, is a skill that can be developed and learned at home and in school through the cultivation of an experimenter’s mindset, whole brain thinking and an innate desire to be a creator (and not just a consumer). Kids embrace imaginative play, ask questions, paint colorful pictures and build elaborate things with blocks, but somewhere along the way the capacity for creative thinking diminishes. It’s not due to the lack of a “creative gene”, but rather that we haven’t reinforced creativity — and as researcher George Land concludes from his longitudinal study on creativity and divergent thinking, we have unlearned it.

Programming Teaches Kids to Experiment and Persevere
Creative thinking begins with a questioning mindset. It can be taught by encouraging kids to experiment, explore their ideas, question their assumptions, make mistakes and learn from them. Thomas Edison was a master of this type of thinking. He tested thousands of materials and processes before creating the first working light bulb. “I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb,” he famously said. With programming, kids are exposed to this process of experimentation. They start by learning a handful of commands to do simple tasks, and with each successful result, they slowly gain the confidence try new and more ambitious things, things that force them to question each decision and ask “What if I tried X?” Testing their assumptions in a live environment frequently results in errors and bugs, giving kids the opportunity to find a workable solution. With practice, kids gain a proficiency in their technical and hypothesizing skills, allowing them to move onto solving increasingly complex problems, and, eventually, to building programs completely on their own.

Programming Strengthens Whole Brain Thinking
Each side of the brain is said to control different parts of thinking and information processing. The left hemisphere is typically associated with logical, technical, and analytical thinking, whereas the right hemisphere is associated with imagination, artistic, intuitive thinking. We tend to think of creativity as a right-brain function, but the most creative thinkers and problem solvers can effectively engage both hemispheres. This idea of marrying “art with science” is what Steve Jobs built Apple on, and it’s this kind of “whole brain” thinking that teachers have been embracing in the classroom by promoting active, project based learning, using everything from 3D printers to sewing machines to encourage kids to create, design and build things.

Programming Gives Kids the Confidence to Create
Like learning a sport or a musical instrument, the cultivation of creativity requires hard work and practice. For kids, if the work is confusing, monotonous or the end goal unappealing, the desire to practice weakens. Kids must be motivated. They need to be in an environment that builds confidence and instills in them a genuine desire to create. Kids pick up on technology with shocking ease, so giving them a basic knowledge of programming on a coding platform that is fun and easy to use is one of the best ways they can spend time in practice and actually enjoy the process. Learning programming on the right platform, one that is structured, engaging and well paced, puts kids on the path to fluency in the language and logic of programming, and ultimately gives them a springboard to create – to not just play the games that they love, but to create the games they love to play. What an amazing gift.

Learning to code is very much like learning a new language – it gives kids a fluency not just in technology, but also in the language of creativity. Maria Klawe, mathematician, computer scientist and president of Harvey Mudd College believes that “coding is today’s language of creativity. All our children deserve a chance to become creators instead of consumers of computer science.” It doesn’t mean they’ll all grow up to be computer programmers. Programming is part of the development of a valuable technical and creative skill set that will grow with them into adulthood, enabling them to thrive in our ever growing digital world. It’s creativity that lays the foundation for innovation, ingenuity and leadership because it represents the ability to connect existing ideas with new solutions, approaches and concepts. And we owe it to our curious and imaginative kids to give them the tools to be the creative thinkers and problem solvers of the next generation.

Jennifer Apy is an involved parent, a public education supporter and champion for innovative educational products for children. She is currently VP of Marketing for Tynker.

Tags:  activities  technology 

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Finding Out You’re Having Multiples

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time is as amazing as every parent says. A fetal heartbeat is quick – our baby’s was 160 beats per minute. When I heard it, I felt my own heart race to keep up. On the ultrasound screen, we saw a tiny, Teddy-bear-shaped body wiggling around in what looked like a dance of happiness.

While my husband and I were saying, “Oh wow” and “I can’t believe it” and “We’re going to have a baby!” the ultrasound technician was still at work. Finally she said, “And here is the second one.”

And we looked, quieter now. I think I said, “There’s another one?” My husband said, “Twins?” She showed us a little gray blur. This embryo was harder to see than the first one, but its heartbeat was strong and clear, 156 beats per minute. I was pregnant with two.

Hearing the second heartbeat is harder to describe. Part of me wanted to laugh: I was only trying for one and I got two – classic overachiever! On the other hand, the hope and joy I felt was… complicated. A multiples pregnancy increases the odds of gestational diabetes, anemia, premature birth and virtually every other pregnancy complication there is, including some unique to twin pregnancies, like twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTS), a possibility with some identical twins in which one baby imperils the other by absorbing its sibling’s life-supporting oxygen and food. 

These complications didn’t just mean trouble for me: my babies would be more likely to be small and to have difficulties early in life, perhaps needing some time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). I was only 8 weeks pregnant, and I was already thinking about the NICU!

And when the ultrasound technician showed me the second heartbeat, I felt immediately anxious, wondering whether I could give two babies the attention they need and deserve.

Then she said, “Let’s see if I find a third one.” Triplets take all the complications of twins and increase them. And day-to-day life with three or more babies stretches human ingenuity to its limits.

In my case, there was no third heartbeat. But I was still looking at a challenging pregnancy and birth, and a future as a mom of twins. In that little room lighted only by a screen showing outlines of embryos that would someday be my kids, my life changed in ways I could never have imagined.

The ultrasound technician asked us if we were all right – how does it feel, knowing you’re having twins? I said, “It feels like we’ve won the lottery – a very expensive lottery!” I was joking, sort of, but what I said was true: chance brought me something unimaginably wonderful, two babies! But this great fortune would “cost” me: not just money, but time and trouble, a toll on my body, sacrifices in my lifestyle, challenges to my peace of mind. The work and wear reminds me, daily, how precious my babies are. Isn’t that true of every pregnancy, and every child?

Moms of multiples spend more time with doctors, for which I am grateful, because I never felt alone. It seemed I always had an appointment with someone: my obstetrician, the perinatologist, the hospital dietitians who helped me through my gestational diabetes and the invaluable nurses and doctors of Labor and Delivery, whom I had to visit more than once before my babies were finally born.

When the birth finally came, one of my babies had some trouble and was put under observation for possible admittance to the NICU. But she thrived in the hours following the birth and they were able to bring her to me instead. Our babies came home less than a week after they were born, without any need for intensive care. But even with healthy twins, or triplets, or more, the adjustment to a new life together is the next big step – one we were excited to begin.

Amy Letter is the mom of twin girls Sagan and Tesla, and a writer, artist and professor of English at Drake University. She is a frequent blogger for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Tags:  expecting  multiples 

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Does Physical Exercise Make Kids Smarter?

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The stereotypical smart kid prefers reading to playing sports. The stereotypical below average kid prefers sports to learning in the classroom. The fact is these perceptions are flawed.

Focus on academic achievement and lower budget levels has led many schools in the U.S. to diminish— or for 47% of high schools, eliminate — P.E. altogether. Yet neuroscience tells us that daily physical activity opens minds to learn more. In a study conducted with 3 million children in Texas and California, a strong correlation was found between higher fitness scores and higher academic scores.

Dr. Gage’s work of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has shown that exercise helps generate new brain cells: “Through increased blood flow to the brain, physical exercise triggers biochemical changes that spur neuroplasticity – the production of new connections between neurons and even of neurons themselves. Brain exercise then protects these fledgling neurons by bathing them in a nerve growth factor and forming functional connections with neighboring neurons.” (Fernandez & Goldberg, The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp)

Here are 3 ways to keep children physically active. Training our children today will largely influence their future lifestyles.

1) Start daily physical exercises at an early age and build this as a habit for future years. We often remind our children to brush their teeth twice a day. Add one more reminder: “Did you do your aerobic exercises today?” You will find numerous choices of exercise videos on YouTube. It’s like watching TV (not sitting down like coach potatoes), but with physical actions.

2) Playdates should include physical play. I remember when I was a kid, my mom punished restless me by making me stay in my room. Today, with all the digital toys, it’s the opposite. Playing outside is a punishment! Tell kids that play dates start with running and jumping around the yard or inside the house. If they want to play video games, start with aerobics apps or Wii workouts. iPad apps and video games keep children inside rooms during play dates.

3) Remind kids how physical activity keeps one healthier and smarter. If you have access to pedometers, have each member of the family wear one. Make it a family goal to physically move throughout the day and monitor progress. You can create rewards such as whoever has the highest score will determine the minimum goal for the next day. You can also create a family monitoring system by having a graph on the wall or having each member remind the others about their physical activity goals.

Reprinted with permission from Young Outliers.

Gigi Carunungan is the co-Founder and Chief Learning Architect of Young Outliers, a design entrepreneur summer camp for children in Palo Alto.

Tags:  activities 

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