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Steps to a Safe Sleep Environment for Your Baby

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

There is more to baby proofing your home than just setting up gates and locks. You can start your baby proofing off by making sure your baby has a safe sleep environment. Newborns sleep an average of 16 hours a day. We want to make sure that your infant’s sleep environment is a safe place since they spend most of their time there. Taking the time to consider these important measures could help ensure the safety of your child as well as the health and happiness of the family.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death in infants 1 to 12 months of age. To help keep your baby protected you can follow these simple guidelines:

Welcome Home Baby
To set the safest scene for your newborn’s homecoming be careful when choosing the type and placement of your baby’s sleeping area.

  • The space between crib bars should be no more than 2-3/8 inches, so that the baby cannot get his/her head caught between the slats.

  • There should be no more than 2 finger widths of space between the mattress and the side of the crib. This helps prevent risk of suffocation after falling in between.

  • Remove all toys and loose blanketing from the crib when the baby is inside to avoid choking and suffocation hazards.

  • Remove all toys that are strung across the crib when the infant is 5 months old or can push up onto his hands and knees, as they create a strangulation hazard.

  • Do not put the crib or any other furniture near windows. Windows pose many dangers, including climbing and falling hazards. Place cord wind-ups on all window cords to decrease strangulation hazards.

  • Avoid putting the baby to sleep in an adult bed. Bed sharing does create a risk of parents accidentally rolling too close or onto their child.

Sweet Dreams
As you may know, the more rest your baby gets, the more rest you get. It is important to take the necessary precautions when getting ready for bed, to secure a good night’s sleep for the whole family. When you put your baby down to sleep:

  • Always place normal healthy newborns on their back to sleep. Research shows the risk of SIDS is higher for babies who sleep on their side or stomach.

  • The baby should sleep on a firm/flat surface. Soft mattresses are prone to sinking and can create a suffocation hazard.

  • Babies do not need pillows, sleep-positioners or wedges, loose blanketing, stuffed animals or bumpers. All of these products are possible suffocation hazards.

  • The baby should sleep in a separate bed from his parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a separate but proximate sleeping environment.

  • Avoid over- and underdressing infants. Babies should wear only one more layer than you are wearing, and ideal room temperature is between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

And Many More
There are steps you can take inside and out of the house to provide the means for your baby to live a full and happy life. Many of these measures will help reduce the risk of SIDS.

  • Do not expose babies to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke will introduce harmful chemicals that could prove fatal to an infant’s immune system.

  • Breastfed babies have a lower incidence of SIDS than formula-fed babies. Breast milk contains many essential nutrients that provide health benefits including improved breathing/swallowing coordination and immune strength to fight infection.

  • Consider giving your baby a pacifier. Some studies have shown a strong link between pacifier use and lower risk of SIDS. If you are breastfeeding make sure that the feedings are going well, before introducing a pacifier. It usually takes 3-5 weeks for breast feeding to go smoothly for both mom and baby.


Kira Nickel is a perinatal educator at El Camino HospitalFor more information specific to childbirth and parenting, El Camino Hospital offers a variety of classes to support new and expectant parents. To find an upcoming class, search or call 650-940-7302.


Tags:  parenting 

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The Reason Every Kid Should Talk Back to Their Parents

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The parent in me wants to squash every little insurrection as quickly as possible. But the psychologist in me is glad when my children say “No.” This is why…

Sunlight is dawning across the living room floor, and the dollhouse is full of Lego Star Wars action figures. They’re sleeping in beds, sitting on toilets, cooking breakfast, and one rogue Jedi is standing on the roof. On an early autumn morning, my daughter and I play dollhouse as the rest of the household slumbers.


Her older brother wakes up, walks into the room rubbing his eyes clear, and sees his new birthday presents defiled by a dollhouse. A look of horror takes over his face—like his dog is lying dead in the road—and he pushes past us to snatch up his action figures.


I hold out my hand and try to be patient. “Give them to me.”

He looks at me, and his horror becomes an oppositional “No!”

The parent in me feels like a failure because I’m not being respected. The parent in me gets angry because I feel out of control and I’m supposed to be “in charge.” And the human in me feels just plain sad, because the morning just got a whole lot harder.

But the psychologist in me is secretly thrilled he said “No.”

Because the inability to say “No”—the inability to set personal boundaries—is one of the most common, insidious causes of human suffering.

When we can’t say “No:”
we become a sponge for the feelings of everyone around us and we eventually become saturated by the needs of everyone else while our own hearts wilt and die,

- we become a sponge for the feelings of everyone around us and we eventually become saturated by the needs of everyone else while our own hearts wilt and die,

- we begin to live our lives according to the forceful should of others, rather than the whispered, passionate want of our own hearts,

- we let everyone else tell us what story to live and we cease to be the author of our own lives,

- we lose our voice—we lose the desire planted in our souls and the very unique way in which we might live out that desire in the world,

- we get used by the world instead of being useful in the world,

- we give in to the pressure of a friend and we drink and drive and we endanger lives,

- we cave in to a persuasive boyfriend and we end up pregnant,

- we get taken in by a sales pitch and we bury ourselves in oppressive debt,

- we get abused by a boss and end up with long hours at work and a short fuse at home,

- we cater to our kids’ every need and we begin to resent their demands and we fantasize about a deserted island in the Caribbean,

- we submit to unhealthy partners and they keep drinking or working or gambling or flirting and we end up in the backseat of our own lives.


There is no end to the ways our lives are diminished by our inability to say “No.” And when a client of mine is being wrecked by porous boundaries, I will often ask this question: “How did your parents respond when you said ‘No’ as a child?” And I will almost always hear this answer: “Oh, you wouldn’t dare say ‘No’ to my parents.”


So, on an early autumn morning, I’m faced with a decision. Do I squash this little rebellion? Raise my voice? Demand that he share? Threaten something? Threaten anything? Or do I take a deep breath and remember the reason it is sometimes good to say “yes” to the word “no:”


Our families are where we first learn how to say “No” in a safe, supportive environment. If we don’t learn to do so there, we won’t learn to do so anywhere. If our children can’t say “No” to us, they won’t say it to anyone.


When my son is offered a bunch of pills or my daughter is offered the backseat of a car, I want my kids to have had a lot of practice at saying “No.” Someday, there will be more at stake than a bunch of Lego action figures and, by then, I want them to know their worth isn’t jeopardized one iota when they don’t give themselves away to everyone around them.


I want them to know their voice matters.


I want them to know they are the author of their own story.


Do children need to learn to set boundaries assertively rather than aggressively? Yes. Do they need to learn the art of compromise? Definitely. Do they need to learn to wisely choose moments of submission? Absolutely.


But all of that learning begins with a “No.”


Because the truth is, you can’t truly say “Yes” until you can say “No.” We need to know we have a choice in life. The freedom to say “No” is the very beginning of our ability to say “Yes.” To ourselves. To life. And to love.


So, on an early autumn morning, I can come down on him, or I can bend down to him. Some days the “parent” in me wins. And I think that’s alright. Sometimes our kids need a parent who won’t bend. But on this particular day I bend, because I figure anyone who looks like his dog just died may have a little more to say.


And what does my “obstinate” son have to say?


“Dad, they’re mine and I get to decide if she can play with them.” As he picks out several of his new action figures to return to his sister.


A kid in charge of his own sharing and giving. A “No” that reminds me it’s good to ask before you take. A “No” that teaches me his heart is young and restless and messy, but also full of charity. A “No” that lays the foundation for an authentic “Yes.”


Because, in the end, we can’t truly say “Yes” to our own voice and the language of love it is speaking, until we’ve been allowed to say “No” to the voices all around us.


Which is why, more and more, I’m happy to say “Yes” to the word “No.”

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a clinical psychologist and a writer. He is married with three children, and enjoys reading and learning from his children how to be a kid again.


Tags:  child development  parenting 

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Five Ways to Keep Cool During Holiday Tantrums

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Holidays are a mixed blessing. On one hand, we have generosity, friendly faces, gifts, great food, community engagement and more family time. On the other hand, holiday times are packed full of distractions, stimulating music, money demands, sugary food, expectations to be cheerful and lots of social events.


Along with the excitement  may come a spinning head, frustration and tiredness. This can be even more difficult with small children and sensitive kiddos. The extra hype needs some redirection, containment and plain ole’ patience. Below are some tips for how to prepare, deal in the moment of overwhelm and how to recover.

1. Anticipate it.

Listen, we would all love to get through the holidays without any extra drama. The holidays do offer a lot of special times -- and I don’t mean to detract from any of the warmth, love or generosity of the holiday season. However, sometimes an overly cheerful outlook makes the upsets feel that much more disappointing. Measure your experience against the imagined expectation can lead to making the upsets worse than they are.

If your child has a hard time with late nights, a loose schedule or meeting a lot of people, it can be helpful to acknowledge this prior to going to a party. It may be helpful to make a plan, but don’t expect the plan to work 100%. Speak to your child about the potential that they might get tired, overwhelmed, scared or frustrated and consider some ways to take a break before the melt down happens. Maybe you can have a tag-team agreement with other caregivers, and take turns in “reboot time” with your child. This holiday give your child/children and yourself some space for unexpected meltdowns by anticipating they will happen.

2. Wait. This too Shall Pass.  

When your child starts throwing the sugar cookies on the floor, shrieking and pulling at your dress, you may be tempted to end that tantrum, then and there. The challenge is that when we try to get it under control, it often makes it worse. Perhaps take a deep breath and remind yourself this child is acting how most kids would in an overwhelming situation. Don’t add fuel to the fire by yelling back.


Take a deep breath and give some firm and supportive physical contact sending the message that you hear the tantrum loud and clear. Perhaps redirect the child into a different room after a minute has passed, and let the child know you are going to help them contain these feelings rather then try to force the feelings away.

3. Validate it.  

Let your child know you feel their pain. Perhaps put yourself in their shoes and say something like, “I understand you are angry or sad.” It is helpful to remind your child that you are there to help. Maybe that means you hold your child, maybe that means you walk to a different area or simply redirect them to a toy or something funny.

4. Have a recovery method.

All kids need methods to soothe and recover from too much stimulation. These tools can be identified and utilized preventatively as well as once your child has become overwhelmed. Maybe you can set reminders on your phone to take your child into a quiet room for a break away from the crowd and noise. Perhaps your child will spend most of the time in a room alone and take breaks by meeting people and having snacks for a limited amount of time. Bring some soothing music, a book, stuffed animals, a beverage and any other calming tools. Often taking space away from the crowd, with a caregiver, can provide relief for a child that is easily overwhelmed by too much going on around them.

5. Parents set the rhythm.

Remember that as the parent, you know your child best. Be reasonable when making holiday plans. Assess what is best for you and your family and what you are willing to put up with.

There is a lot of pressure to be ONLY cheerful during the holiday season. It is possible that forcing too much cheerfulness may backfire. Allow yourself to turn down some of the holiday busy-ness if it doesn’t work for you. Listen for cues from your kids, but ultimately remember you are the one setting the pace and enforcing the break times and schedule. So allow for the holiday spirit to be alive -- full of love laughter and tears.

Find out more about Esther Krohner here.


Tags:  child development 

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Holiday Structure for Families

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

OK, if you are like me, you look forward to giving your kids some downtime when the end-of-year holidays hit. But let's face it. Having school-age kids home for a two-week break is certainly a blessing -- but it can also be a little bit difficult.

This is often due to a need for structure. Busy and overscheduled kids, when faced with two weeks and nothing planned, may go a little nuts. The transition and its aftermath could stress the whole family out.

My three kids are not immune. They, like the majority of children, do best with predictability and a set routine. So, what do we do in our household?

I’ve found that a calendar or visual schedule is helpful. Whether a child is excited or laid back in nature, we need to manage their expectations. This doesn't require scheduling every second. Instead, we aim for balance. This means maybe a little computer time, maybe some free choice, maybe cleaning their room and maybe a shopping trip. Putting these activities into a schedule and creating some structure can help kids regulate their body and emotions.

It’s all because a certain amount of predictability is very good for developing minds. (Come to think of it, it’s good for adults, too!)

For our family, we love hikes. Certainly we’ll schedule some shopping and visiting friends over the holidays, but what works best in our home is knowing we are doing something together that is healthy and fun. This type of physical activity provides a grounding for the kids -- sort of an anchor, and one that’s very life-affirming.

Of course, if you celebrate Christmas, there’s that post-holiday crash. The kids are all revved up, which means that putting together an after-Christmas schedule is extremely important. The excitement and emotion of the big day can be overwhelming, and most kids need a schedule that brings them back to reality soon after.


Dr. Trenna Sutcliffe loves kids, families, pets, travel and hiking. Discover more about her work here.

Tags:  parenting 

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Navigating Holiday Dinners with a Picky Eater: A No Stress Holiday Guide

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Holiday dinners can be stressful, even for the most experienced parents. They are many times more stressful if you have a picky eater at your table. What you need is a foolproof plan that takes the stress out and puts the fun in.


Never is there a greater focus on food than at the holidays. And for parents of picky eaters, holiday meals can be immensely stressful family situations to navigate. If it wasn’t bad enough that you have to endure the never-ending playback of family stories from Great Aunt Bea, fate deals you a bum hand and you’re trapped at a linen-lined table with hot dogs hidden in your purse—poised to pounce when your toddler refuses everything on the table except the dinner rolls. Layering stress upon stress is a recipe for a meltdown, for both you and your child.


I know, because I’ve walked more than a mile in those shoes.


I’m here to tell you that there’s a simple solution to your picky eater problem. And it’s counter-intuitive. To get your kids to eat what’s good for them, you need to take a page from the junk food marketing playbook. Stop talking about “healthy.” Take the focus off the food and make it fun.


After years of testing, experimenting, tweaking, researching, gathering feedback from and cooking with thousands of parents of picky eaters across the country, I’ve distilled my experiences down to a few simple principles you can follow to take the stress out of mealtime and get your kids to actually eat the wholesome foods you make. And there’s more good news: what works for your standard, run-of-the-mill weeknight meals can be applied just as easily to your holiday meals, with a few small modifications.


Set Expectations Over Time

Holiday dinner isn’t the time to expect your kids to be healthy eating rock stars. It’s too much pressure—on everyone. Instead, think small steps, big changes. The key to creating a deep and lasting change in the way that your family eats is to take it slow and be consistent. Take the pressure off the big holiday meals and focus on your longer-term goal. No single meal is going to make the difference; it’s a series of consistent, positive experiences around food that will.


Explore Together

In the weeks leading up to the holiday, plan to explore a few new foods together. Try one each week. You don’t want the first encounter with a new food to be at a high pressure holiday dinner. Holiday regulars that can be super fun to explore with kids include Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, butternut squash, pomegranate and persimmons. Instead of concentrating on eating, focus on fun adventures that the food inspires, like figuring out how to get the seeds out of a pomegranate, peeling Brussels sprouts (and finding the Fibonacci sequence inside—a fantastic math adventure), and scouting out a bunch of different varieties of pumpkins at a local farm. Let your kids lead your new food exploration. Prompt them with open-ended questions like, “I wonder if the color on the inside of a pumpkin changes depending on the color on the outside?” Follow their questions with more questions, like, “I’m not sure why Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk. Let’s explore together to find out.” Remember, it’s about the journey, not the food.


Reinstate the Kids’ Menu (With a Twist)

The more you can involve your kids in everything, from choosing food for your meals to preparing the dishes, the faster you’ll be able to make progress changing the way your picky eater eats. An easy way to do this during the holidays is to enlist your kids to help create the menu. It is even better if you cook the recipes together and then let them serve. Do not have a separate kids menu. It’s fine to prepare dishes in a way that allows everyone at the table to assemble to their preference—more or less onion, sauce on the side—but it’s important for everyone to be eating the same meal. Invite your kids to help make the menu, and create names for each dish featuring the person who voted for it: Mom’s Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Catherine’s Brussels Sprouts Chips, James’ Jumpin’ Green Beans, Gram’s Classic Roast Turkey, Dad’s Downhome Quinoa Stuffing, Papa’s Poppin’ Pomegranate Sauce. When you give thanks, invite each person to share why they added their dish to the menu. It’s an easy way to get everyone involved, and your kids will beam with pride when the time comes to serve (and eat) their signature dish.


Don’t Say the H Word

There is one word that parents should never utter. No matter how many battles there are over broccoli, if you want your kids to eat wholesome food, and build a lifetime of good eating habits, don’t dare say it’s “healthy.” When Great Aunt Bea pipes in with, “Eat your greens, James! They’ll help you grow big and strong,” you have my permission to tell her to zip it. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research confirms what junk food marketers have known for a long time: telling kids a food is healthy will make them eat less of it. In a study of preschool-aged children, researchers found that when you tell kids a food makes them strong, a perceived health benefit, they’ll conclude the food is not as tasty and consume less of it. It turns out you’d be better off if you said nothing at all. Instead, talk about the deeply delicious flavor of the Brussels sprouts sautéed with bacon, or the sinfully savory flavor of the homemade butternut squash soup. When your kids see you thoroughly enjoying the food you’ve made together, they’ll be many times more inclined to give something new a try.

A mom of two, Jennifer Tyler Lee is the author of The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year and the creator of the award-winning series of healthy eating games, Crunch a Color®.

Tags:  food  parenting 

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Four Questions for the Marketing Manager

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Updated: Saturday, December 10, 2016

Melissa McKenzie is PAMP’s Marketing and Communications Manager. Her job involves social media, marketing and communications.


“I handle all marketing and communications efforts including developing the PAMP voice, developing/updating marketing collateral, social media and social media analytics,” says Melissa. “I also work with the board  working on the communications plan and creating graphics.”


Overhauling the Facebook/social media pages (we're now on Twitter and Instagram as well) was a fairly big undertaking and continues to be a work in progress for Melissa. She's always open to suggestions from members as far as what they'd most want to see on our page. Her goals for the future are creating a social media community where PAMP interacts with members and gets some great conversations started about all things PAMP.


“One of the really great things about working with PAMP is being able to work with other parents,” Melissa says. “As the mom of an infant, sometimes it's hard to get out and do things, but working with people who completely understand all of the struggles and difficulties that come with being a first (or second) time parent is great. I love talking to members and learning about their wants for PAMP, and I hope to get out to more events in the near future. It's always nice to know that no matter what you do, your kid(s) are welcome.”


Melissa lives in Santa Clara with her husband and son. Her husband, Phil, is a paramedic, paramedic preceptor and field training officer for Santa Clara County EMS. Their son Colin is almost one year of age. “We also share our lives with four different four-legged furballs who have adjusted quite well to having an infant around,” she says.


1. What is the last non-kid movie you saw? In the theater? It was when I was pregnant and I went with two friends to see How to Be Single. At home, the last blockbuster movie I watched was Deadpool, but the last non-Hollywood film was an ESPN 30-for-30.

2. Are you a Bay Area native or transplant? I am a transplant. Phil and I moved up here from the Orange County area of Southern California in 2010 after I was offered a job at a local newspaper.

3. What’s at the top of your to-do list? For PAMP, it's thinking about the 2017 communications outreach and marketing plan. Personally, it's finding the time to get outside more and being more active -- something that I completely lost during the latter half of my pregnancy and the past 7 months.

4. Who is your favorite Sesame Street character? Oh my gosh. We're not at the TV stage yet, so I honestly have no idea which characters are still part of the show. I remember, as a kid, loving the old Cookie Monster, but I know he's become more health conscious since my childhood. I have to be honest though, even though I watched Sesame Street I was really more of a Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and Reading Rainbow kid.

Each month we train the spotlight on someone who works behind the scenes for PAMP. Interested in hopping on board? Browse our open volunteer positions and join the fun!


Tags:  spotlight 

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Four Stress Relief Tips for the Holidays

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

It's official -- the holiday season is here-evidenced by all those commercials. Does just thinking about all the shopping, entertaining, and decorating and your ever-shrinking budget send you into a tizzy? Relax. With a bit of thoughtful preparation and some helpful parameters, you can achieve the look and outcome you want for you and your family-without being so stressed you can’t enjoy the season.

What are the tips to reduce stress and still enjoy the holiday season?

1. Spend Smarter
Consider a budget. Don’t get caught shopping until you’ve given some consideration to how much you are able to spend. Think of those credit card bills in January-what can you honestly handle? If you love to shop, it may seem to take some fun out of it, but being faced with big bills in the New Year isn’t fun either.

Be specific. Once you’ve put a realistic limit on spending, you know what you have to work with. Are you getting just a few high quality gifts or would it be better to get a number of less expensive gifts so kids and family have more to open? You decide what works best for you. Encourage your extended family to draw names instead of everyone getting gifts for the whole family.

Make a list. You can make it very specific or general. Coming up with ideas of what your family would like gives you a starting point and helps you estimate how much you plan to spend on each person.

Use only one credit card. This will help to keep track of purchases.

2. Shop Shrewder
Start early. Don’t run the risk of being frustrated because they have run out of what you wanted. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of last minute shopping, save it for small gifts such as stocking stuffers or little treats. Get the bigger items out of the way first.

Go online. You are savvy enough to know this can lead to finding things at a lower price. You can also research where to find something if you want to buy in person and save time driving from one mall to another.

Negotiate. It may surprise you to know that it is possible to ask for a lower price. You never know until you try. If you are buying in bulk, one or more could be slightly soiled, or you are in a small store that is owner owned and willing to bargain. They want the sale. Give it a try.

3. Entertain Effortlessly
KISS: Keep it simple sister! As much as possible simplify the event. Make part of the menu take-out items from your favorite deli. Ask some guests to bring their specialty- most likely they will be happy you asked. Invite a family member or friend to co-host. If a fine dining experience is a must, hire some help. Plan to do as much as you can in advance. Setup the table the day before and prepare as much of the menu ahead of time.

How about January? Some social events could be delayed until January. Consider which ones can be postponed. People’s schedules are generally more open mid-January. You may find more people can make it and you will have a better time because you aren’t so tired.

4. Downsize Decorating
Get the whole family to help. Rethink how you want the house to look based on the ages of your children. What can they do so they can be a part of the celebration as well? If much of your decorating is complicated and time consuming, perhaps you want to pare things down a bit until your children are older. The point is to have FUN! And it’s no longer fun if you are up late at night working on hanging, arranging, etc. after everyone is in bed.

Rein in. Count how many boxes you’ve taken down from storage. Sort out those items that you are tired of looking at or that simply look a bit tired. Donate them to a shelter or retirement home. They won’t think they look tired and will greatly appreciate new items to liven up the place. Decide to use some of the boxes and put the rest away. You won’t miss the decorations you didn’t use.

This year make your resolution BEFORE the holidays begin: More fun, less stress!
Use these tips to keep stress at a minimum and enjoy the holidays. Would enjoy hearing from you on any tips you found helpful. Enjoy the holidays!

Janada Clark, MA is a parent educator and teaches Love and Logic at Stanford and public and private schools. Her parent education classes are a well-respected resource for parents. Join her Facebook community and get your parenting questions answered within one day.

Tags:  health 

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Living the Expat Wife Life

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Updated: Saturday, December 3, 2016

It’s been fun and adventurous these last 15 years as a ‘trailing spouse’, an expat wife and a mother. I think it’s got a lot to do with the person I am today. But, it is also not all rainbows and cupcakes. It’s been challenging. Although I have gained a lot, I’ve missed out on a lot, too. 

I was born in Sydney, Australia. I married my sweetheart, whom I’d met at age 17 on a Sydney dance floor, and we have been together ever since. We have three kids ages 10, 9 and almost 5. Those four are the air that I breath -- I count my blessings each and every day.

We left Sydney 15 years ago on a two-year assignment in Singapore, but ended up staying six years. That's where I had my first two kids. We then moved to Connecticut/New York for a few years and finally out to California 5 years ago. My daughter had a school presentation recently and it meant tracking on a globe our path, and it was eye opening that we have practically travelled right around the world.

If I think about it too much, I feel stuck. Like I don’t belong in Australia anymore, but we didn’t grow up in America either. We have missed out on multiple weddings (which in turn has dissolved many friendships), births and family milestones (such as our siblings 40th’s). We have been on the other side of globe when family members have been incredibly sick or have had life threatening operations. It’s hard to not have family down the road to call for help. The thought of international departures sends me into a panic and I have had horrendous guilt attacks at those international gates. I have also spent years, willingly, supporting my husband's career and put my own goals on the back burner while I focused on the home front.

But to every cloud is a silver lining, and I like to think of my cup as half full. I have absolutely been pushed out of my comfort zone multiple times and basically had to build a life from the ground up at least three times. Like not knowing one friendly face or even where to buy a gallon of milk! But I’ve survived each relocation, made wonderful friends and had incredible experiences (only to have to wrap it up, and start over again).

As a family, its has given us so much time together. Weekends are our own to explore and bond, not being pulled in multiple directions with family commitments. We have had so many adventures, either walking the Redwood Forests, leaf-peeping in Vermont, driving to the Florida Keys, spending Thanksgiving in Boston, multiple road trips from San Francisco to LA and San Diego. Also exploring and traveling most of Asia while we lived in Singapore. I’ve climbed  the Great Wall of China and partied in Helsinki, Finland.

My husband is an Engineer and incredibly passionate about technology, so the Silicon Valley is THE place for him. He is a kid in a candy store! Even I have to admit that the entrepreneurial vibe is infectious. In the last few years, I have decided our sweet spot is to call California home for now. I can have a ticket back to Sydney to visit my family any time I want. As my kids are getting older,  I can fly with all three by myself. 

We got our US Green Cards two years ago. That gave me a chance to start working on what I wanted to do. It has been life changing, and my husband supports my decisions, just like I have with him all these years.

We always think that others lives are more fascinating than our own, but as you've just read, there are pros and cons to any situation. You just have to think about what’s more important in that time, and never look back.

Melissa Menzies is a Palo Alto based wardrobe stylist who's mission is to make a stylist such as herself affordable and obtainable to every woman. Find her at and on Instagram.

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Kickstart Giving with Your Kids

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Updated: Saturday, December 3, 2016

My friends have been asking for simple tips on how to encourage giving with their kids. As with most things in life, there’s no magic formula. There’s also no shortage of online advice for teaching generosity and kindness to kids. I’ve summarized some of my favorite sites below for your scanning pleasure.

My biggest piece of advice as a mom of a three- and five-year-old is just start doing
something. Remember, kids have hawk eyes . . . so one day, when you least expect it, they just might model the behavior you’re trying to teach.


Let’s Talk About Giving

As we all know, kids believe the world revolves around them. So talk to them about how their actions will impact others. Keep it simple, though. There’s no need to be preachy about it. For example, you could say, “When we raise money for XYZ nonprofit, the money will go to kids who need medicine so they will get healthy.” Or, “When you donate your toys to kids who don’t have any, they will be able to have fun like you did when you played with them.” Being specific will have more of an impact than saying, “We’re giving because it’s the right thing to do.” Both are true, but it’s best if you can help your kids relate.


Side note: If your kid appears to be unphased by your efforts to spark giving (i.e., there are no empathic, teary eyes or follow-up questions), don’t worry. This doesn’t mean they’re uninterested or uncaring. Giving can be a foreign concept at first. . . . Just keep at it. (Try to avoid guilting them into it, though, and keep it fun!) Like many things in life, consistency leads to lifelong habits.


For more tips and information about how to talk to your kids about giving, here’s a link to a great PBS article.


Get Them Involved

If they are old enough, let your kid(s) pick the nonprofit they want to help. Brainstorm ideas with them and see which one sparks an interest. (For example, if they are obsessed with animals, pick an animal shelter, or if they are into geography, pick a country like Peru and sponsor a child.)


Family volunteering, as logistically complicated as it might seem, is totally worth the effort. Kids remember it. Whether it’s a clean-up drive or planting trees, there’s something out there for your crew.



This generation of kids is all about the visuals. That’s why they foam at the mouth to get access to our phones and iPads. Use videos as a learning tool, especially when you’re trying to illustrate issues or needs in other countries. For example, this simple water project includes a smart video that shows how similar kids are—despite being several airline flights away.


Six Easy Giving Ideas for Kids

I borrowed a few ideas from this awesome list from Generation On called 65 Ways to Make a Difference. It’s all simple stuff. Try one out if you haven’t already.

  1. Instead of birthday party gifts, ask your friends to bring books or art supplies that you can donate to a local homeless shelter or other local youth nonprofit.

  2. Love baking? Bake cupcakes or cookies, sell them to friends and neighbors, and donate the proceeds.
  3. If you have a membership to a science museum or zoo, and have extra passes, invite a friend who might not financially be able to visit, to come with you.
  4. Feed your furry friends . . . and then drop off an extra bag of food at the local animal shelter.
  5. Got old sports equipment? Bring it to your local parks and recreation center or another nonprofit that works with youth.
  6. Before Santa comes, gather old toys and donate them to make way for new ones. Or, even better, encourage your kids to limit their wish list and then adopt a family in need with the money you’ll save. Your kids can pick out a toy for a child who’s a similar age.

For nearly two decades, Stefani Jacobsen Willis of  Give Greatly has been learning, growing and contributing globally to the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. She has raised money for nonprofits, strategically given away money to nonprofits, launched initiatives in collaboration with foundations and inspired community to be more generous with their time and money.


Tags:  parenting 

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Eating Healthy During Pregnancy

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Updated: Sunday, November 27, 2016

Eating healthy while pregnant may seem like a no-brainer however there are also many women who think that being pregnant is a license to eat anything they want.  During my first pregnancy I joked that my husband was the food police, but quickly believed his approach was valid when my daughter was born at 36 weeks – considered a late pre-term delivery – and was perfectly healthy – no NICU, no lung issues, no issues even today – that my diet played a big role in her outcome.  Wanting to see if this would work a second time, I followed the same nutrition regimen with my second daughter – now three weeks old – and she too was born healthy.  Admittedly I was a little less strict this time around yet remained true to the core approach.

Based on our experience, here are some tips to consider for your pregnancy diet (author’s note: this does not replace the advice of your physician):

Eat Organic
Buying organic fruits and vegetables in the Bay Area is pretty accessible via certified Farmer’s Markets however many grocery stories carry fresh organic produce and organic products including non-GMO (genetically modified organism) items.

Know Where Your Food Comes From
For all meat and fish, my husband was careful to ask whether it was farmed or wild-pole-line caught, and where the meat, poultry or fish came from.  Knowing the farm or information about how the animals are fed and treated  - including use of antibiotics and hormones - helps you understand what you are ingesting.  If eating local is an option, try to learn about the farm practices as well.

Take Your Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are a must and your physician will concur.  Omega-3 fish oil capsules are a good second addition.  Omega-3 fish oil helps with brain development while in utero and post-delivery as well. To complement your prenatal vitamins and also provide a tasty snack, I also discovered the Belly Bar.  During my first pregnancy these were easy to find at Whole Foods or any pregnancy-related store.  The second pregnancy I had a harder time finding them.  They come in flavors that make you think you are eating dessert but you are not.  

Limit Coffee
I usually drink half-caffeinated coffee on a regular basis and didn’t give this up while pregnant.  Once a day I had my treat so I didn’t feel like I was giving up everything.  Some physicians say it’s fine, others say not to drink it.  Ultimately, you want to enjoy being pregnant and not be resentful for 10 months.  

Eat, Eat, Eat
This may sound strange and you may worry about your weight, but if you eat a lot and eat healthy options, you will gain a healthy weight for you and your baby.  Don’t skip breakfast, do eat a snack before lunch, do eat lunch and eat another snack in the afternoon.  Do eat dinner and if you have no aversions, spice up the menu.  Eat fruit, almonds, graham crackers, protein like hard-boiled eggs and cheese sticks, and more.

Plan Ahead
Working outside the home can sometimes make it more challenging to eat healthy meals and snacks so plan ahead each week.  Pre-pack your snacks on Sunday so you can grab-n-go when you are heading to work.  Think about your lunches for the week and instead of eating at the local café each day (which can also be pricey), buy pre-made organic salads or meals from your local grocery store.

I recognized that there are many factors that contribute to your baby’s health like genetics, the environment, and your mental health, to name a few.  That said, if you are vigilant with your diet while pregnant, then your health and your baby’s health have been given the best start possible.  And if you are lucky, your newborn will grow into a child with healthy and diverse eating habits for the long term.

Kelsey Combellick is a career-loving parent who us is passionate about travel, food, wine and her family. Email her at


Tags:  expecting  health 

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