Monthly Archives: June 2008

To Quit or Not to Quit

Piano lessons. Parents want their children to have them. Children find practicing the bane of their existence. Is the battle worth it?

For our oldest, we decided it definitely was not. She got no enjoyment out of playing . . . ever. We were exposing her to a variety of things, and we wrote this one off as one that did not interest her. And frankly, (sorry JB if you are reading this) of her many, many talents, music is not one of them. I say that with some hesitance. I don’t want to teach her that if she isn’t good at something she should just quit. However, in other things that she’s tried out of her own genuine interest (like ice skating), we did not let her give up just because it got harder.

Then there’s my son. He has responded to music since the day he came home from the hospital. It instantly soothed him. From the time he could talk, he has spontaneously broken into song at any given moment. And he performs an entire self-composed operetta whenever he plays with his Playmobil castle, dragon and knights.

While ultimately he wants to learn how to play the guitar (at 6 he is a Guitar Hero junkie—and yes, video games are a whole other subject), he’s been told he must learn piano first. He tried a lesson, loved it, and impressed the teacher.

Yet, I know the day is not far off that he too will battle us over practicing. I am committed to not letting him quit. Clearly music brings him joy—and sometimes we all have to work at having a little joy.

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about singing and learning. FPG now has a whole page devoted to music resources.



Filed under music, parenting

Hold the Peanuts, Please

After eating less than a ¼ of teaspoon of hummus, my son broke out into large red welts all over his body. Honestly, we did not panic. We were too ignorant to panic at that point. We called the doctor, gave him some Benadryl, and watched the hives disappear as fast as they had come. He was about 16 months at the time.

After some allergy testing, we learned that the culprit had been the sesame in the hummus. We also found out that he was allergic to eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. And so we began our introduction to the Epipen and the world of food allergies. And that’s when the panic ensued. When tested at age three, his peanut reaction was so large that they marched him around the allergist’s office to show the other doctors and nurses.

I could write forever about our experiences and the emotional roller coaster ride, but we’ll save that for another day. Fortunately, with the help of time, education, and an excellent allergist, we have things as under control as one can. And in the context of the things that many families have to face, I know how lucky we are that we have a healthy, vibrant child.

That said, some of the normal experiences of life have to be undertaken with a bit more thought. Eating at restaurants requires asking a lot of questions, (BTW, Red Robin is amazing at catering to allergic customers.) We take treats to birthday parties as he can’t eat the cake. And travel can present a unique set of problems—everything from will the airline serve peanuts to will the relatives be willing to avoid peanut butter for the week.

Debbie Dubrow has written an excellent and very thorough article in Delicious Baby on the subject—Tips and Advice for Traveling with Severe Food Allergies. She also wrote a separate piece about why she cares about the issue (she does not have children with food allergies). Please read her commentary.

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network also posts good travel tips.

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Filed under Food Allergy, parenting

What’s your cortisol level?

Here in North Carolina, we have high stakes testing beginning in third grade. If you don’t pass the End of Grade test (EOG), you might not go on to the next grade.

We dread this time in my house. Despite the fact that she is incredibly smart with nothing to worry about, my daughter falls apart the week leading up to and the week of the EOGs. This year, she even created the Evil EOG man. She drew him everywhere and showed him failing kids. Clearly, she’s stressed.

Thankfully, she doesn’t know the kind of stress (from enduring abuse or witnessing violence) that too many kids experience. Stress, that research suggests affects not only a child’s future mental health, but their physical health as well.

According to Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a professor of child health and development at Harvard, the incidence of heart disease, diabetes and cancer increases based on high levels of childhood stress. He said that stress hormones, like cortisol, disrupt a child’s brain development.

He also noted that genetics played a factor. This got me wondering if kids that are programmed to react more intensely to the normal ups and downs of life also are at greater risk. Given the demands many parents and schools place on children, maybe we should be routinely checking cortisol levels in children.

Dr. Shonkoff’s presentation was part of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission hearing investigating how factors outside the health care system – such as education and housing – shape and affect opportunities to lead healthy lives.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America:

News and Observer Article about the hearing:

Families Featured by the Commission:

Also, check out PRMom in the following blogs:


Simple Songs:

Bay Kids Museum:

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Filed under FPG Child Development Institute, parenting, research