Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tribute to Parents Who Sacrifice for Their Kids

So 20/20 recently had a two hour special on the sad story of the Kim family.  This happened in 2006 and I remember feeling very sad back then for James Kim (CNET editor... for those of you not familiar, it is like a gadget news site).  My husband, being the gadget geek that he is, actually brought it to my attention back then.  Since he is also quite the outdoorsy mountaineering guy, he also understands more the dangers of extreme weather in remote mountainous regions and was explaining that to me.  I can only draw from my own experience of attempting to climb Mt Rainier on my honeymoon May 2002.  It was very cold and very difficult!  We never made it to the top because of the bad weather and made the wiser (but less glorious) decision to climb back down after reaching high camp.  Sadly, two very experienced climbers  perished the very night that we would have attempted the summit!  Now that was with winter gear and boots etc... this guy James attempted to look for help I think only wearing a sweatshirt and sneakers?!  

However, reading the story now from the wife and mom's perspective and having 2 young girls myself... I feel the sadness and desperation in a whole new light.  Especially when she mentioned that the 7 month old stopped smiling and had feeble cries... my heart is wrenched and I just want to go hold my girls.  How I take for granted a warm roof over my head... food on the table...

I remember being told that I would not really understand how God our Father loves us as children until I have children of my own.  Truly this agape love that a parent has for a child is strong stuff!  We just celebrated Valentines Day... I suppose the emphasis there is more on eros love.  It probably should be a holiday to celebrate all forms of "love".

So "kudos" to all you moms and dads out there who love your kids and who would sacrifice for them.  Hopefully, we will never be put in the same desperate situation as the Kims but when it boils down to it.. we would probably do whatever it takes for their well-being.

For those of you interested in learning some winter survival skills, I thought this was an interesting link.  You can click on this for a more condensed 5 basic survival skills.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Daddy Daughter Relationship

My three year old daughter went on her first date tonight.  Daddy took her to the Chik-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night.  She was super excited and had been talking about the event for a while.  They both dressed up (she picked out his tie) and he even got her a rose and a balloon.  I thought it was a really neat idea when I first saw the flier at our local Chik-fil-A.  Who better to go on a first date with than with one's own daddy?

Many have touched on this topic about the importance of the father daughter relationship.  He is the first male interaction in her life.  He plays a powerful role in shaping her self image and self worth.  She'll watch the relationship between mom and dad to know what to expect in a marriage.  And based on how he treats her, she will form expectations on how she should be treated by other guys later in life.  Plus, some studies show that fathers now influence the future and career path that daughters may take.

Watching my daughter and husband interact is very sweet.  It is a different relationship than the one I have with her.  There are times (usually when she is sick and throwing up) when she wants mommy.  I'm there as her comforter.  But I recall other times... like when we were at the beach and the waves were coming fast, where she will call out for daddy!  He is her protector.

My younger daughter is too young this year... but next year, daddy will have three girls to take turns taking out on individual date nights!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Toddlers Eating Linked to IQ!

Almost every toddler I know goes through a period where they become more "picky" with what they want to eat and even how they eat!  Part of it may be linked to their development as they are becoming more independent and wanting to exercise their ability to make decisions.  Different parents would share stories of how their son or daughter will only eat certain foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (like pb&j).. or that they will only eat certain foods that are a certain color.. or that certain foods cannot touch on their plate.  Whatever the case, you will often have worried parents wondering if their toddler is getting enough calories or nutrition.

Usually the advice to parents is to present healthy options and try to keep meal time pleasant by not forcing the toddler to eat.  The idea is that they will get hungry and eat... eventually.  I have to admit this is much easier advice to give than to adhere to.  My older daughter has never been a great eater and she has been in the lowest percentile for weight ever since birth.  She also seems to have a fast metabolism and is a super active kid.  All that in addition to the fact that every time she gets too excited and jumps around too much, or runs around too much after meals... she will often cause herself to go into a coughing fit and then even throw up everything she's eaten!  So we try to balance between not making meal time a complete stress vs making sure she is getting some healthy caloric intake... not an easy task.

Now, this article caught my eye today.  It basically links poor eating habits in toddlers with lower IQs.  Main take away points I got from it are:

-  children at age 3 who eat a high fat, sugar, and processed foods diet have slightly decreased IQ later in childhood (they tested the kids at 8.5 years old)
-  children who eat a "health-conscious" diet rich in salad, rice, pasta, fish, fruits, and vegetables have 1.2 point increase in their IQ
-  theory is healthy eating = optimal brain growth (which fastest brain growth happens from 1-3 yo)

So of course the authors go on to say that further research is needed to confirm this link.  One thing they could not adjust for in the study was maternal IQ.  This is huge because maybe it is not so much the association of food that produced the higher IQ but more so the link that moms with higher IQs tend to offer more nutritious foods to their toddlers.. and therefore their toddlers scored better on the IQ tests later on.  One way I can think of to really test this theory is to have only twins in these kind of studies... offer one twin "nutritious food" and the other twin the so called high fat, sugar, and processed foods and test their IQs to see if there is a difference!  Of course, trying to get twins to enroll in a study like that may be challenging...

Anyways, whether it is true or not it is a good plug to offer more healthy options to our toddlers.  

One other interesting thing is that the Asian diet is mostly rice, meat, and vegetables... so since she was on solids my girls have been eating rice mixed with meat and vegetables as their staple. In fact, my three year old really does not eat other foods well... she doesn't really like pizza (though she will pick the pepperoni or sausage off the cheese and eat that).  On the other hand, she loves ice cream and will eat only ice cream probably for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if given that option!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Toddlers and Second Languages

Just the other day, my older daughter made an article about learning a second language at a young age.  The article mentions how toddlerhood is the best time to pick up a second language.  In fact, if exposed to several languages at this age, it is possible to pick them all up!  I have friends who can speak nine different languages because they lived in a place like Malaysia where they are exposed to that many languages/dialects at a young age.  The first three years of life is when the brain is most intensely developing speech and language.  Certain nuances of sounds can be picked up at this age where in adults (where the brain has already molded and matured) it may be very difficult for one to hear, differentiate, and then enunciate certain sounds.  Studies are showing that there are certain "critical periods" in infants and young children to develop develop speech and language and if those periods are missed without the early exposure to language then the ability to pick up that language would be more difficult, less efficient and perhaps less effective.

This is why I took great effort to immerse my daughters in Mandarin Chinese and in Taiwanese (a Chinese dialect) at an early age.  Since my kids are cross-cultural in more than one sense (their father is Korean while I'm Chinese.. and we're living in America!) I felt it was important and even useful in the future to be at least bilingual... but I'm hoping they'll pick up Korean, too.  And if you count the Taiwanese dialect as another language (because I think Taiwanese and Mandarin is as different as Spanish is from French).. then she'd really be quadrilingual!

So they get the Taiwanese exposure from my parents and my older daughter is pretty fluent in Taiwanese.  I know they will get English in school and she is already speaking mostly English because most of her friends at preschool, church, etc all speak English.. after all we are living in America.  So I still try my best to speak to her in either Taiwanese or Mandarin Chinese because I know that some kids lose the ability to speak a language they once knew as a toddler after they are full time going to school.  As for the Korean lanugage.. since dad mostly speaks to them in English, we'll have to have their paternal grandmother speak to them more and perhaps we'll have to send them to Korean school!  Or we'll just have to hire a korean speaking nanny!

But especially with the way the future looks with China becoming more of an economic power... I think it may be really useful to be able to master the Chinese language.  So we've been going to this "Mommy and Me Learn Chinese" class in our community for about half a year now.  It is for kids age 3-5 and it is mostly just crafts and songs but it's exposure!  The class was featured here.  Come join us if you have Monday mornings free and live in the area!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sick Babies and Toddlers

My 14 month old is currently sick.  It is hard enough when adults fall ill but what misery when the little ones succomb!  They are miserable when they feel bad so will not play, laugh, or smile as much as usual.  Naturally, they will want to be held more and demand more of the caregiver's time and attention.   One has the difficult job of coaxing the sick child to drink more fluids in between wiping away snot which takes skill in of itself.  Then there is the nose plunger, which some parents are much too aggressive using, but when done right, could suction out gobs of mucous to the little one's temporary relief.

The challenge is that sometimes there is very little one can do to relieve discomfort.  Time, rest, and fluids are key.  However, sleep is often disrupted due to coughing fits, snot fits, and unfortunately, like for us last night, even vomiting fits!  A sleep deprived child means more fussiness and less immunity to fight sickness so it can be a vicious cycle.  Often parents will fall ill themselves due to lack of sleep as well as the close contact with all the contagious secretions.  That is why hand washing is so important!

So what best to do during these trying days?  Offer supportive care.  The goal is to try to alleviate symptoms as much as possible so the child can rest.  There are limited options because studies show that it is harmful to give cough medications to children under the age of 6.  So as best as you can:

-  push fluids to avoid dehydration!  (don't stress if appetite is down and child is not eating much solids.. they may throw it all up later anyway!)
-  tylenol if needed for fever or pain
-  saline nose drops can help if nares are crusty and dry (sometimes helps them sneeze out gobs of goo)
-  stepping into the bathroom with child after a hot steamy shower can help with breathing
-  humidifier at night if you have the heater on and to avoid nose bleeds

Most upper respiratory infections are due to viruses and do not require antibiotics.  However, if symptoms persist for more than 1 week or worsens instead of improves make sure you see a physician so the child can be checked for ear infections, bronchitis, strep throat etc!

At the end of the day... the best medicine you can offer may just be lots of love, hugs, and kisses!