Too Much Halloween Candy? What to do with the extras

Halloween is over for another year. And along with it, all the trunk-or-treating, fall festival, zombie hunting, and pumpkin patch fun. If you are left with gobs of candy that you don’t know what to do with, read on for ideas on what to do with all that extra Halloween candy.

Take out all the Hershey’s chocolates

Separate out all the little Hershey’s chocolates and kisses for later use. These make great smores.  Or you can melt them and dip fruit or pretzel sticks with them. Or melt them for peppermint bark for Christmas!!  Don’t go buying extra chocolate just for these projects if you’ve already got some on hand!

Mail it to the grandparents

Want to pay back some of the sugar high to your parents? Mail a big treat bag of candy to them. Grandparents don’t get to go trick-or-treating and may enjoy a bit of candy for themselves. Although warning… if your intent is purely to keep the candy out of your kids’ sticky fingers, this may backfire on you. One of my fondest memories growing up was my grandfather’s stash of mini candies he kept in the freezer and shared with us.

Fatten up your coworkers

Let’s face it, very few of us are stoic enough to turn down free sugary treats. If your resolve is low and you need the candy gone ASAP, set a bowl of the sweet stuff in your office’s break room. Unattended candies will disappear in about 2 seconds flat.

Holiday baking decorations

If you enjoy decorating cookies and gingerbread houses for the holidays, you know that there are never enough tiny treats for decorations.  Sift thru all that Halloween candy and set aside anything that you may be able to use for decorating. M&Ms, skittles, and nerds all make for great gingerbread masterpieces.

Ice Cream Bars

Do you and your family every have an ice cream bar for special occasions? For the larger candies that are maybe a bit big for decorating cookies and houses, consider freezing and then smashing. These delicious candy bits are great for topping on ice cream sundaes. Kit-Kats, snickers, and Twix bars are ideal. And all are tastier (and more cost-effective) than buying the pre-packaged ice cream toppings at the store.

Make a trail mix

If you or your kids are fans of trail mix, consider making your own sweet and salty mix. Grab some nuts, pretzels, your cereal of choice and some of the little bags of M&Ms and mix them up. Distribute to snack sized ziplock bags for treats on the go.

Pinata Candy

Birthday party coming up? Dump your extra candies into the pinata and you’re good to go.

Send it to soldiers overseas

Whether or not you have family in the military, there are always folks overseas who would enjoy a treat from home. There are several different places you can donate your extra candy to that will send overseas to the ladies and gentlemen serving our country. Operation Shoebox is one place you can make donations to. Soldier’s Angels is another nonprofit that collects donations to send to troops.

Regardless of what you do with all that candy, have fun and try not to eat it all at once!

 

Mental Health in Your Kids

We often worry about our children’s physical health. Are they sick? Do they get sick too often? Are they growing well? But sometimes, it is what we can’t see that is more concerning. What about your child’s mental health? Have you checked in with them lately? How is their inner world doing?

How Was Your Day?

This is probably the most common question asked of school aged kids each day. And if your kids are like most, especially as they get older, you will get a stock answer in response to your stock question…  “Fine.” Not a super helpful or informative answer.

There is a whole lot that happens during the school day for your youngster.  (As there is for you as well!) Sometimes, they’re tired too. Rehashing the entire day’s events is just too difficult. Do you REALLY want the entire day’s play-by-play? I’m pretty sure my family doesn’t want mine. So if you really want to know what’s going on in their world and get insight into their mental health, we have to rephrase our questions.

Rephrasing your questions

Instead of asking your kids how their day was, try asking details about their day.

1. Did anything interesting happen at school today?

2. What did you eat for lunch?

3. How are your friends doing?

4. Tell me something cool that happened today.

5. Anything today make you REALLY mad?

6. Is there anything happening with your classes or other kids that is really bothering you?

The point of these questions is to get to know your child better.  What makes them tick?  What stresses them out? Are there things that really spark their emotions? How do THEY think school is going?

Validate their emotions

Growing up can be hard.  Emotions swirling. Most kids don’t come equipped with the tools for managing big emotions. Help them acknowledge what exactly it is that they are feeling. You don’t have to fix it. And you don’t have to agree with it. “I can see that you are really upset about this” lets them know that you understand what they are experiencing. When our kids feel heard, it helps them feel safe. And a valued member of the family.

Be a sounding board for working thru problems

Sometimes, our kids need us to be a sounding board so they can figure out where to go next. Sometimes they need us to offer suggestions. But it’s best not to jump to the conclusion that they want us to fix things. After all, part of growing up is learning to work thru your own problems. Here are some phrases to consider when having these conversations.

  1. What do you think you should do?
  2. What do you think might happen if you do that? Is that what you want?
  3. Do you need help thinking through other possibilities?

What if you have concerns?

If you are concerned that there is something going on with your kid, you may need to ask more pointed questions. Look for changes in diet or sleep. Avoidance of activities with friends. Avoiding the family. Or moodiness that is out of character. Let them know that you’ve noticed a recent change in their behavior and make sure they know that you are there if they need to talk.

Remember that being your child’s safe person does not magically happen during the teenage years. If you want them to talk to you as a teenager, you need to start laying the groundwork early. Don’t avoid the uncomfortable conversations when they are little. Practice being open-minded. And practice letting them vent without fixing. It will get easier with time.

Remember that looking out for your child’s mental health is not an overnight skill.  Keep an open mind and heart and stay present. Great connections take time 🙂

Fever: What it is and When to Worry

We all worry about our kids when they are sick. And high fevers are scary. But there is a lot of misinformation out there on what a fever is and when we need to worry. Stay tuned for what is (and isn’t!) a fever and when you need to worry.

What is a Fever

Fever is a body temperature of over 100.4 degrees Farenheit (38 degrees Celsius). This is true for everyone. Body temperatures vary throughout the course of the day. Sometimes they are higher and sometimes they are lower. Some folks run normally at 97.0.  Others run lower.  Some run at 99 degrees. Regardless of what your “normal” is, a fever is STILL considered 100.4 and above.

How should you take your child’s temperature?

The most accurate way to tell if your baby or child has a fever is with a rectal or oral temperature reading. Unfortunately, temporal, ear, and under arm readings are often inaccurate.

Babies

In babies, the only way to accurately check for fever is with a rectal thermometer. Many rectal thermometers read very quickly and are marked to let you know how far to place the thermometer. This will not hurt your baby. And once you get over your unease, it will not hurt you either. Unfortunately, temporal, ear, and under arm readings are often inaccurate. If you are nervous about checking your baby’s temperature via rectal thermometer, check out How to Take a Child’s Temperature put out by Healthychildren.org. A rectal temperature over 100.4 is a fever.

Older kids

After 3 years old, many kids do well with an oral thermometer. Make sure you use a different thermometer than the one you used for rectal temps.  Label them if necessary. Digital thermometers read very quickly and you can get a good read in under a minute.  The thermometer sits under your child’s tongue. An oral temperature over 1o0.4 is a fever.

What about axillary (under the arm) temps? Many schools use axillary temps to screen students who are feeling bad. We used to routinely add a degree to underarm temps. But now we do not. When your doctor asks about fevers, just tell them the number your thermometer registered and then tell them how you took it. An axillary temperature over 100.4 is a fever.

Temporal thermometers are another option for taking your kid’s temperature. These are quick and easy to use. And they can be great screening tools for kids down to 3 months of age. But if you keep getting a different number on it, or they seem much hotter than it is reading, try a rectal or oral temperature instead. A temporal thermometer reading over 100.4 is a fever.

What if my newborn has a fever?

If your baby is under a month old and has a fever of 100.4 or higher, they need to be seen. If this happens while the clinic is open, call your pediatrician and get in. After hours, call the doctor’s after hours line.  Newborns with fevers MUST be evaluated urgently. Do not give Tylenol, get them seen. If you can’t get in with your doctor, go to the emergency room. Newborns can get very sick very fast and with very few other signs of illness.

What if my infant or toddler has a fever?

Babies get sick sometimes.  If your infant (under 3 months) has just had immunizations and has a fever, it is generally safe to treat the fever and keep an eye on them. But if they are acting sick and have an unexplained fever, get them checked out. Your doctor will have a lower threshold for worry in a young infant with fever.

If your baby is between 3 months and 3 years and feels warm or is acting ill, it is reasonable to check their temperature. As above, over 100.4 is a fever. But not all fever is reason to worry. If your 2-year-old has a fever of 102 and is leaping over the furniture, they are ok. It is totally fine to keep an eye on them at home for a few days and see how things play out. The most common cause of fevers in our kiddos is a virus. And there are LOTs of different viruses.

Fever in and of itself is not dangerous. It IS a sign that our bodies are fighting off something. It is a good rule of thumb to treat the kid and not the fever. So if your kid has a fever and is perfectly normal, leave them alone. And if your kid has a fever and is really not acting well, has a rash, or other concerning symptoms, or is not improving with Tylenol or ibuprofen, get them checked out.

What if my infant or toddler’s temperature is REALLY high?

If your child has a high temp (>104) or at any point with a lower temp is really not acting like themselves, they need to be seen. Most kids who are acting fine between doses of fever reducer do NOT need to go to the emergency room. If you think your child needs to go to the ER, call your doctor to discuss. Most pediatricians try to keep kids out of the ER if at all possible. The ER is designed to take care of emergencies. And although a fever may feel like an emergency, in most cases, it is not. So you may be waiting a while.

What if my school-aged kid has a fever?

School-aged kids get sick. They touch everything and are very hands-on in all they do. (mostly, they are gross… at least, mine are!) Many times, it is completely fine to keep an eye on them for a few days. However, for severe symptoms or fevers that last longer than 5 days, it is best to get your kiddo checked out.

Concluding thoughts

Fevers are no fun. But they are a common part of routine childhood illnesses. So knowing when to worry is important. Nearly always, it is how your little one is acting that is the most important factor in an illness.

1. Fever 100.4 or higher in a baby under a month is an emergency. They need to be checked out ASAP.

2. Most fevers are more bothersome than a cause for concern. But if your kid is not acting right, they need to be seen.

3. Kids who have persistent fevers (>5 days) need to be seen.

4. Fever is 100.4 or higher.

5. Kids with fever > 104 need to get checked out.

I do hope that this has cleared up some confusion about fevers. Stay tuned for a coming post on viruses. Gotta love cold and flu season!

My Family’s Musical Soundtrack

In my world as a pediatrician and mom, I have 2 superpowers. One is my ability to find patterns. I am great at finding relationships and making sense of seemingly random things. Mostly, this does not affect my home life, but it does come in handy at the office. My lesser known (except to my kids) superpower is my ability to link music to my everyday life. I can completely (and randomly) link songs that I love and some that I am forced to endure to situations in my house. I even have a “Torture Kids” playlist on my phone if I feel the need for more than me singing the lyrics. So for your enjoyment on this lovely Friday, here is my family’s musical soundtrack and why you may need to consider a musical soundtrack of your own.

A more entertaining response to a question

Well… more entertaining to you at least. Depending on the kid, yours may or may not find this amusing. Mine generally find it most amusing when it is directed at the sibling. But I’m entertained nearly 100% of the time.

NO- Meghan Trainer

Sometimes the answer is “No!” If you are tired of responding in your usual manner, or maybe just want to lessen the sting of rejection, try responding in song.

You’re Welcome- Dwayne Johnson (Moana soundtrack)

This one comes in handy quite frequently at my house.  Although I must admit I don’t generally wait for a “Thank You” to break into song.

Or maybe you’re trying to get the kids out of the house

Come With Me Now-Kongos

We all know that getting the kids mobilized in the morning can be difficult. If you’re a Kongos fan, this is a great one to put into your mix.

To suggest an appropriate response or action

Sometimes, our kids just need a little nudge to do the right thing. Maybe they’re having trouble moving on… in which case the following could be super helpful.

Let it Go- Idina Menzel (Frozen)

The first person to use this one in my house was actually my youngest. She was five at the time. And maybe inherited my snarky music humor. We were sitting at the kitchen table and my eldest daughter was arguing her point with something to no avail. Which is when my youngest started singing Let it Go. My husband and I were highly entertained.  Pre-teen was not. However, this one is now a staple in our home.

Hairy Lady- Nigel Brown (The Amazing world of Gumball)

Maybe you have a teenager who has declared “No Shave November” in the middle of July. Or hygiene hasn’t become important yet. If you’ve just so happened to have heard the Amazing World of Gumball in the background one too many times this next one is a clear and logical choice. (Warning: not usually appreciated by teenagers!)

Lips are Movin-Meghan Trainor

Maybe you’ve caught your little in a fib and you want to let them know you’re on to them more gently.

I’m a Believer-Smash Mouth (from Shrek)

Or they’re trying really hard to let you know they’re being honest and you want them to know you believe them.

Because it’s come to laugh or cry and you do not have a good “Cry Face”

Lose my Mind (Up in Here)-DMX

Ever have those days where you’re not sure you can take another second? Kids have been fighting all day. Someone has talked nonstop for the past 8 hours and your brain is just plain tired? Turns out, there’s a song for that… (p.s. this parody is hysterical, watch the whole thing for entertainment…  I put a parody instead of the DMX video in the event that your kids have snuck over… turned out there are explicit versions of the DMX video.)

Survivor-Destiny’s Child

Have you survived a super long day?

Because words enough are not enough to share your joy

Hallelujah Chorus- Georg Friedrich Handel

Always a good one. My youngest will often break into this to express her pleasure over something. Still not entirely certain where she first heard it.

What songs make up your family’s musical soundtrack?