Let’s Talk About Poop

Little boy with stomach ache

Let’s talk about poop!

Poop issues are extremely common.  Constipation issues result in about 2.5 million doctor visits and 500 million dollars spent on laxatives each year!!  So even though you may not want to talk about it, it is most definitely on lots of people’s minds.

So what exactly is constipation?  Constipation is when you are not passing poop regularly, resulting in hard, dry, and often painful poops.  Sometimes this happens in a way that makes sense to us… we go out-of-town, eat too much cheese, or drink too much milk.  Other times (and probably more often), it happens very gradually.  There are many things that can make you more likely to become constipated.

HOLDING

Sometimes we ignore the urge to poop and try to wait until a time that is more convenient to go.  After all, finishing just one more chapter or completing just one more level of the game can’t hurt…   If you happen to wait too long to use the bathroom once or twice, it is not that big of a deal.  But if it happens frequently, you can gradually lose the urge to go.

Our large intestine’s main job is to absorb water.  More time in the colon equals more water sucked out of the poop.  So the longer you hold it, the harder the poop gets.  Harder poop is harder to push out.  If it hurts to push out the poop we try to wait even longer to go.  It’s a vicious cycle.

One of the problems with continuously holding your stools is that the large intestine gets very stretched out.  You can think of it like a balloon.  If you blow up a balloon, it has to stretch to hold the extra air.  When you let out the air, the balloon is all loose and floppy.

The same thing happens with our intestines.  If we get constipated and make a regular habit of holding, our intestine walls will stretch out to hold the extra poop.  If you empty the gut of all poop, the intestines will be empty.  But the intestine walls will still be loose and stretched out.  Stretched out intestines do not squeeze quite as nicely as normal intestines.  Lucky for all of us, our stretched out guts WILL eventually go back to normal size.  But this takes quite some time… in many cases, 6 months to 2 years.

Potty Training

Toddler working on potty training

Toddlers who are starting to potty train can be experts at holding stool.  After all, they’ve just started getting practice having control over their bodily functions… The power totally goes to their heads!   In most cases, they also know if they say they have to poop we will make them stop playing with their awesome toys and go poop.

School Worries

As kids start school and get a bit older, it is natural to become a little more self-conscious.  Many children hold their stools at school because they don’t want their peers to hear or smell them.  Many don’t want to be the last kid back in line after the entire class goes to use the restroom.  Sometimes, they just don’t have enough time between changing classes to use the restroom and get to class on time.  And NO ONE wants to explain in front of the class why they were tardy..

NOT ENOUGH WATER

The human body is about 80-85% water.  We need to consume a good bit of water to maintain all of our healthy bodily functions.  If we do not put enough water into our bodies, our gut will do its best to absorb as much as it can from our food.  In general, you need to aim for half of your body weight in ounces of water per day.  So a 100 pound person needs to aim for 50 ounces of water per day.  Unfortunately, 3 cups of coffee in the morning do not count towards this minimum. Aim for your goal water each day and anything after that is bonus.

The exception to this rule is infants under a year old.  In babies who are drinking formula or breast milk, their water is in their milk.  Unless specifically directed by your pediatrician, you should not offer water to children younger than 6 months of age as their kidneys are not mature enough to handle it.  Excessive water intake at this age (either by giving water or giving diluted formula) can lead to seizures.

NOT ENOUGH FIBER

This is the biggie!!  The typical American diet does not give us nearly enough fiber per day to ensure healthy poops.  A normal adult needs between 25-38 grams of fiber per day.  A toddler needs around 15 grams per day.  By teen years, you should aim for closer to 25 grams per day.

Fiber is important in helping us feel full after eating a meal.  Healthy fiber intake decreases your risk of diabetes and heart disease.  It also helps keep cholesterol levels down.  As we age, good fiber intake may be protective against diverticulitis.  But most important for our purposes here, keeping a diet high in fiber keeps stools soft and bulky and easier to pass.

The best way to get fiber in your diet is to make sure you are getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal.  The typical American diet is extremely low in fiber.  In fact, some report that less than 5% of our population consumes the recommended amount of fiber on a regular basis.  Many of the foods that we love to snack on (chips, crackers, cookies, sodas) have virtually no fiber.  If given a choice, most of our kiddos (and probably us too, haha) would pick French fries, rice, breads, and pasta over healthier fiber containing vegetables.

You CAN Do It!

It may seem like an insurmountable hurdle, but we can make changes in our family’s diet that put our children on a path of better health.  Start by making simple changes as a family unit.  After all, our children learn so much by modeling our behaviors.  So as a family, try to add new fruits and veggies to each meal.  Limit the starchy sides (rice, pasta, bread).  Encourage your littles to help pick a veggie to try to help prepare it.  Experiment with different recipes.  You may be surprised to find some new favorites.

If you are still not able to get enough fiber into the diet, there are several different over the counter preparations that you can add in.  There are powders that you can add into foods and drinks, gummy supplements, and even cookies.  Eventually, if you keep trying, you will get enough fiber thru the added fruits and veggies.  But even small changes take time, especially when there is resistance from one or more family members.

Diet Changes are Hard

Making healthy changes to your diet can be hard.  Usually we get to where we are because it’s fast or easy.  Life with kiddos can be very chaotic.  But try to remember that what we get our kids used to now will be the habits that they fall back on with their kids once they’re grown.  Making changes now will not only benefit you, but your kids and future grandkids as well.  This is a great investment in the future health of your family!

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Water fun

Little girl playing at splash pad

Water play is arguably one of the best parts of summer.

When I was little I loved the water… swim lessons, swim team, river tubing, water slides. If it was wet, I loved it. We lived in a neighborhood with a pool so we were there all summer long. Over time I became a strong swimmer.

In the summer, the entire family (including grandparents and cousins) would go to the river for a camping trip. It was definitely not a glamping experience…we slept in sleeping bags on the ground in a tent, no air mattresses, no pillows, and no electricity. We brought our toilet paper to pee in the woods then disposed of the paper in the camp fire. It was all that AND a bag of chips!

When the days got especially hot, we’d canoe on the river and find a sandbar to swim at. We were all out there together and everyone knows that there is safety in numbers. One day, we were all out swimming. The water wasn’t all that deep, my 10 year old self could stand in it. My older cousin was within an arm’s reach of me. My parents were both in the water with my sister and brother. We were safe.

Sometimes we’re not as safe as we think.

I didn’t understand why suddenly I just couldn’t get my footing. My toes kept sliding thru the water, refusing to get a hold in the sand. My head would bob up and down.  I’d take a quick gulp of air when I could.  Thank goodness I was really good at holding my breath. There was no fear at first.  That older elementary age rarely is rarely truly scared– they don’t really understand that bad things happen.  Trying to convert to more of a swimming position didn’t work,  I was stuck. I didn’t seem to be able to do anything other than what I was doing… bobbing up and down, taking quick gasps of air. Fatigue was setting in and I was starting to get worried. My family was right there, they could reach me. But I couldn’t talk. They probably thought I was playing.  They didn’t know I was in trouble.

It only takes 1 person.

I wasn’t really aware of my grandfather’s presence on the bank, but he was watching. Luckily he was paying attention.  It’s easy to surrender to the sights and sounds of summer, of giggling children and splashing water.  Luckily for me,  he recognized the quiet bobbing and realized I was in trouble. He jumped in and fished me out. I was safe.

Drowning is not a loud boisterous event.  In most cases it is quiet and easily masked by sounds of others playing.  Most children who drown each year do so just inches from their loved ones who may interpret the bobbing motions as playful jumping and not a sign of distress.

Can you spot a drowning child?

There is a great post by the daily mail that shows a video of a timely rescue by a skilled lifeguard.  You can watch it here.

There is another another story about drowning here.

The article also lays out a great list of signs to look for if a child is in trouble.  I will summarize the list here.

10 Signs that Someone may be drowning

  1. Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  2. Head tilted back with mouth open
  3. Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  4. Eyes closed
  5. Hair over forehead or eyes
  6. Not using legs – vertical
  7. Hyperventilating or gasping
  8. Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  9. Trying to roll over on the back
  10. Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

I was lucky. Each year, many are lucky. But water can be dangerous, and many are not so lucky. I still love to swim. In fact, my youngest begs to go swimming at every opportunity.  But my experience when I was young (and let’s face it, a little bit cocky at my abilities) stays with me. I enjoy pools but avoid water that I can’t see the bottom of.. not that seeing the bottom of the river ground would have changed the undertow that got me. Fears and associations are often illogical. I watch my kids in the water a little more critically, and keep my eyes on other littles around me. Because it truly only takes a moment.

Water is a wonderful way to cool off in the summer.

Water is great. It cools us off when it’s hot, allows us to do things like flips that most of us can’t do on dry land, and happens to be a great way to get in some whole body cardio. Enjoy the water, but be safe. Watch the kiddos. Especially if you are at a pool that doesn’t have a lifeguard or at a friend’s house.

Little boy with floaties in pool

Here’s a checklist to keep in mind.

1. Make sure an adult is watching the swimmers at all times or consider hiring an lifeguard to keep an eye on all of the swimmers.

2.  Pay attention.  Even if you are at a pool with a lifeguard on duty, pay attention to where your littles are at all times.  You may be the closest person able to reach them in case of a problem.

3.  Consider swimming lessons for your youngsters.  It’s obviously not a foolproof method for avoiding issues, but it can help.  For your older kiddos, consider a lifeguard training course.  These are often available for teens, can give them an “in” for a neat summer job, and will teach them skills that they can use forever.

4.  Set firm rules for what depth your little is allowed to go in without an adult right there with them.  And don’t hesitate to enforce it.   Kids are always trying to go just a little bit deeper, but unless you are right there within arm’s reach, they shouldn’t be in over their head.

5.  If you want to bring your kids to get wet but don’t really want to get in with them, consider a local splash pad.  They are usually free and are gaining in popularity.

So get out there, have fun, and be safe! And if you’re lucky, maybe the littles will need an earlier bedtime tonight!

Welcome to the Terrible Tantrums

Tantrums are no fun for kids or their parents

It happens to the best of us

We’ve all been there… the TANTRUM to beat all tantrums. Moments earlier, you were thanking the universe for your good-natured toddler.  Now you are looking at your tiny terror completely bewildered and trying to figure out what went wrong.  Yep, that’s right, you’ve been Tantrum-ed 🙂

Congratulations! You’ve officially made it to the tantrum years! (I’m sorry to break it to you, but calling it the terrible twos is a gross underestimation for many of us)…  Whether you were one of the unlucky folks who stumbled into this dreaded stage by the 9 month well checkup or a parent who thought they were in the clear only to be thrown into the mix at 4, you are in good company.

Why do tantrums happen?

Tantrums happen with one goal in mind… Get What You Want.  That first tantrum may have started because knowing what you want and being able to express that desire is sometimes tricky when you’re little. While Jr. is shrieking, we parents are running around trying to figure out whatever we can to stop the high-pitched screams.   It doesn’t take long for a pattern to develop.  While we are still floundering around wondering where our angel child went, a lightbulb moment happens in that beautiful developing brain of your sweet baby.  And so the fun begins. It happens so gradually we aren’t usually aware that any subtle manipulation is going on.  And by the time we’re wise to it, it’s usually harder to break.

Tantrums tend to progress as our littles get bigger.  They may start due to struggles in communication, but then progress as they become more skilled in the art of negotiation.

There is good news though.  Learning to handle a tantrum is fantastic practice for the more sophisticated “negotiations” that will happen during the teen years.  And I promise you can do this.  So take a deep breath and set up some ground rules for yourself.  You may have caved in the checkout line last shopping trip, but that doesn’t mean you have to cave in the future.

Top Five Rules for Handling a Tantrum

  1.  Keep your cool. Tantrums are completely normal.  You getting upset only makes it worse.  So find your happy place and know that it can’t possibly last forever.
  2. Don’t give in. Maybe your kiddo is screaming because they want that candy in the checkout line.  Once you’ve given an answer, don’t give in.  Consider a house rule for no purchases in the checkout line.
  3. Make sure you’re in a safe place.  A tantruming child will often throw themselves back in anger without regard for their surroundings.  If you are in an area where they could hurt themselves, transport them to a safer area and make your exit.
  4. Prepare if possible. If you know that you’re heading into tantrum territory, lay down the ground rules before you go.  Give that 5 minute warning at the park.  Tell them in advance that no treats will be bought.
  5. Let the judgement go. No matter what we do as parents, there will be someone ready to criticize.  And sometimes the looks from other moms might make you second guess yourself.   Try not to let it get to you.  Stay the course.  Setting some clear boundaries does not make you a bad mom, it makes you a GREAT one!

What are some tricks that you use to deal with tantrums?

Happy 4th of July!

Sparkler fireworks
Who wouldn’t want to play with these?

Happy 4th of July!

In case there is any doubt, summer is most definitely here! Days are long, hot, and sticky. Normal bedtimes are shattered. Who wants to go to bed when there is still light outside to play  Most of us have settled into the more relaxed routine of summer and things aren’t so much GO, GO, GO! When we get to this part of summer, the 4th of July and fireworks are right around the corner.

4th of July is a time of celebration—celebration of the freedoms that we are lucky enough to have and often take for granted.  We celebrate friends and family, and if we’re lucky, celebration of an extra day off of work!

The Fun Begins…

I don’t know about the rest of you, buy my kids’ favorite part of July 4th is the fireworks. They start seeing those big tents pop up over town sometime in June and they start getting excited. Fireworks mean fun and excitement, loud pops, beautiful colors, and staying up way past bedtime. But along with all of that fun and excitement comes danger to rain on the parade. Each year, ER rooms fill up with firework related injuries.

The Good Old Days

Do you remember fireworks growing up? I remember cousins playing with bottle rockets. They were a bit older than me, but not by much… certainly no older than middle schoolers. They’d grab an empty glass soda bottle and pop one of those suckers in, light it up, and then run. Sometimes they’d aim at something to see if they could hit it, other times they’d just watch to see where it would go. Our parents weren’t out there, and I’d guess probably didn’t know what we were all getting into. It’s probably a small miracle that none of us were injured in the process.

The Scoop..

Each year, there are over 10,000 ER visits between mid June thru mid July attributed to fireworks-related injury. Crazy! And this is an underestimation of injuries.  Parents  often treat minor injuries at home, and many of the more significantly injured go to local urgent care centers or their pediatrician’s office. The group that is most likely affected?…. Teen and young adult males. Probably not shocking information to most.

Bottle rockets and roman candles are among the biggest offenders for injuries.  Once they are lit, their course can be extremely unpredictable. Once a bottle rocket is lit, you have absolutely no control over where it may land. It may fly away from you or you may be chased by it. If they do hit you, the damage can be irreversible.

Sparklers are also big offenders for ER visits around the 4th. We generally think of them as safe because nothing is shooting off anywhere. But they can reach up to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.! 😮

The Irony of it All

We shoe our kids out of the kitchen and away from the stoves.  Childproofing supplies are in highest demand.  But around the 4th of July, all of our child-proofing goes out the window.

Do any of you remember the “toy guillotine” that is given to Dracula’s grandchild for his first birthday in Hotel Transylvania 2? (If you’ve not seen the movie, go watch it right away!)  I giggled at that scene, but really we’re not that far off the mark!

My First Guillotine

The Danger

A young child who grabs a lit sparkler can severely burn his/her hands.  If the sparkler pops and scares them, they may drop it on themselves also causing burns. Older children with some sparkler experience may feel very safe with sparklers and set themselves (and siblings) up for injury. Happily waving around their sticks or start trying to do “tricks” with sparklers leads to injury.

Cut down on the risk of fireworks injury

If you decide to have fireworks as part of your July 4th celebrations this year, there are things that you can do to minimize risk..

1. Consider attending a public fireworks display.

  • Many communities have absolutely beautiful fireworks displays planned to celebrate the 4th. They are designed by the professionals to not only look beautiful, but to be safe for observers. Generally, these are WAY more impressive than anything you could pull off at home. (The “good” fireworks are EXPENSIVE!) You may have the added hassle of finding parking and dealing with crowds, but you will spend less money and avoid the risk.

2. If you set off fireworks at home, set them off as far away from the viewing area as possible.

  • A responsible adult should be the one to light the fireworks and there should be another adult watching the kids to make sure no one is running around in a risky area. The ONLY thing the person lighting the fireworks should be worrying about is doing their part safely.

3. DO NOT allow your kids to light the fireworks.

  • No explanation necessary.  It’s dangerous and not worth the risk.

4. Do Not Leave your Children Unattended

  • If you decide to partake in the “sparkler experience” do NOT leave your children unattended. Make sure there is a safe distance between the kids so that any of those sparkling arm circles don’t accidently whack someone in the face.

5.  Don’t force the Issue

  • If mini-me is afraid and doesn’t want to hold a sparkler, don’t force the issue. Fear can be a wonderful self-protective mechanism. In this case, he may be showing more intelligence than we adults (haha). If you need more convincing, remember that scared children are more likely to drop a lit sparkler right on top of those cute little toes.

6.  They are still kids.  Don’t forget it.

  • If mini-me is excited and comfortable holding a sparkler, don’t assume that this means they will use good sense with them. Children do not come with great “self-protective” mechanisms.  Don’t hand out more responsibility than is appropriate. How many times a day do we watch our otherwise seemingly intelligent children make less than stellar decisions in routine every day situations? They are certainly not immune to bad decisions now.

7. If all else fails, consider crafts.

  • Consider other “fireworks” related crafts and activities leading up to the big day.

How do each of you celebrate the 4th and stay safe? Feel free to share your experiences!