31 December 2007

Aiden, Braden and Kaden Not Fadin'

Expectant parents searching for the hottest new baby names -- or trying to avoid names that are too trendy -- can expect to see a lot more of Aiden, Braden and Kaden in 2008. The trio continues to dominate the top three spots on BabyNames.com.

Top-10 lister Jaden dropped from fourth in 2006 to seventh in 2007, while Hayden dropped out of the top 20 most popular boys' names altogether. "People now perceive Hayden as more of a girls' name -- most likely due to the popularity of actress Hayden Panettiere from the TV show Heroes," says BabyNames.com's Jennifer Moss. Also dropping off the lists was former top-20 girls' lister Madison, which seems to have been replaced by sound-a-like Madeline.

Moss notes that parents are starting to avoid choosing names that are too popular. "Because of the desire to choose more unique names," says Moss, "the popularity trends are changing faster than they have in previous years."

Here are the complete Top 10 lists for boys and girls from BabyNames.com (in order):

Boys Aiden, Braden, Kaden, Ethan, Caleb, Noah, Jaden, Connor, Landon and Jacob

Girls Ava, Abigail, Cailyn, Madeline, Isabella, Emma, Caitlyn, Olivia, Chloe and Brianna.

~ Lisa

27 December 2007

Turn Downtime into Family Time

Most days, you probably try to squeeze 25 hours' worth of activities into each 24-hour day. This coming year (yes, New Year's resolutions are just around the corner!) and during the rest of the holidays, resolve to target small pockets of time to enjoy the company of your kids.

Lissa Coffey, a family and relationships expert for Hasbro games and author of Getting There! 9 Ways to Help Your Kids Learn What Matters Most in Life, offers the following tips to take advantage of any small amount of time together:

Green therapy Most young people spend too much time indoors, developing what Coffey calls "nature deficit disorder." Spending even 10 minutes outside is one way for parents to eliminate the indoor distractions of the Internet and video games and help children learn to appreciate the outdoors. Instead of sending kids to watch TV after dinner, take them outside to toss a baseball or rollerblade around the cul-de-sac.

Congregate in the kitchen Another way to create quality family time is to take advantage of the one thing that all family members have to do -- eat! Cooking and eating a meal together promotes conversation fosters family connections. Ask kids to be "kitchen helpers" by giving them simple cooking tasks such as washing vegetables, setting the table or mixing cake batter.

Fun and games Everyone loves games! Coffey recommends that families create an "activities" closet or bin where favorite games and puzzles can be stored, making a "go-to" place for family fun. For times when families have only a small window of down time, try Express games -- abbreviated versions of board game favorites that can be played in 20 minutes or less. Small puzzles or a few rounds of charades also work well for spontaneous, quick games.

Get crafty Coffey recommends that families find hobbies to enjoy together. Knitting, building model airplanes and scrapbooking are examples of "blast from the past" hobbies that promote family togetherness. Hobbies like these lend themselves to projects that can be worked on for a few minutes at a time over a period of days or weeks.

~ Lisa

24 December 2007

While Visions of Sugarplums Danced in Their Heads

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring -- except for your kids, who keep appearing for one more question about just how Santa Claus manages to get down the chimney, anyway.

Apply a little pseudo "peer pressure" with (of all things!) your TV. Everyone else is asleep waiting for Santa, you can assure the kids -- including their friends from PBS's Sprout. Flick on Sprout's first holiday Snooze-A-Thon, an 11-hour, uninterrupted block showcasing popular nighttime host Nina and her puppet sidekick Star from The Good Night Show(R) snoozing comfortably on the set. So, no matter what time of night the kids are up checking for the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof, parents can tune into Sprout to show them that even their favorite television friends are fast asleep waiting for Santa to arrive with their presents.

This preschool version of holiday TV's virtual fireplace runs from 7:00 p.m. ET on Dec. 24 straight through to 6:00 a.m. ET Christmas morning. For additional information and programming schedules or to find out where Sprout is available in your area, visit Sprout online.

21 December 2007

A Chance at the Spotlight

Energetic kids who like to dance might be interested in being in a music video for David Chicken’s song “Book A Trip.” If you haven’t heard, he’s a family-friendly music performer with a DVD and three CDs out. The video will be shot at the Allen Public Library January 19 at 5 p.m., and it will appear on the new David Chicken DVD coming out in 2008. If January 19 doesn’t work for you or your kids, you can contact David Chicken about future video shoots.

David Chicken

- Jessica

20 December 2007

Fantasy New Year’s Eve

It’s New Year’s Eve. What are your plans? You could stay at home with the kids, put them to bed early and watch the ball drop in Times Square from your living room. Or you could be adventurous and give yourselves some kid-free time while celebrating at one of the many options around the Metroplex. Hotels, clubs and bars are all getting into the New Year’s party spirit and offering great entertainment or get-away options. Don’t forget to book your night out as soon as possible because they are filling up quickly! Here are a few:

Gaylord Texan Resort’s “Gala to Gridiron” Fantasy New Year’s Eve Package: A two-day package for twelve people that includes a Grand Presidential Suite, five deluxe suites, two New Year’s Eve Parties, a personal resort chef, a VIP helicopter transportation to and from the Cotton Bowl, 20-yard line tickets at the Cotton Bowl and plenty more. It starts December 30 and goes until January 2. $75,000 or bid on eBay.com starting at $55,000. 817/722-9220, www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylordtexan.

W Important Person (W.I.P.-NYE) Package: The W Dallas offers access for two to Ghostbar; New Year’s Eve party favors; dinner for two at Craft, Nove, or N9NE Steakhouse; and a hotel room. Make reservations by December 24. 214/397-4106, www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels/index.html.

Hotel ZaZa Heaven and Hell New Year’s Eve Party: You can walk through the pearly gates to enter three party areas: heaven on the tented patio, purgatory in the grand gallery and an underworld in the uptown ballroom. It includes live entertainment, party favors and a champagne toast. 9 p.m. – 2 a.m. Tickets $50. 214/468-8399, www.hotelzaza.com.

The Ritz-Carlton and Fearing’s: This new Uptown hotel package includes a suite or guest room, dinner for two at the hotel’s four-star restaurant Fearing’s, champagne toast and party favors, and New Year’s Day breakfast. $819 - $1,229 per couple. 214/922-0200, www.ritzcarlton.com.

Glass Cactus: Celebrate the New Year with party favors, champagne and the band Le Freak covering ‘70s dance hits. 8 p.m. – 2 a.m. Tickets from $75 - $150. Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, 817/778-2800, www.glasscactusnightclub.com.

Zubar: Celebrate with a video montage, a balloon drop, and a midnight champagne toast. 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. Cover charge is $10 or $20 after 10 p.m. 214/887-0071, www.zubar.com.

Big D New Year’s Eve: Start the night with a pre-game Dallas Stars pep rally at 6 p.m.; live music on the plaza; fireworks at midnight; and big screens with live feeds from the House of Blues. 6 p.m. – after midnight. Free. www.bigdnye.com.

So relax, and enjoy a fantasy New Year’s Eve.

- Jessica

Texas low in supporting tobacco prevention programs

Texas ranks an abysmal 42nd in the nation in funding programs to protect kids from tobacco, according to a national report released this month by a coalition of public health organizations. Texas spends $11.8 million a year on tobacco prevention programs -- just 11.4 percent of the minimum amount of $103.2 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sadly, this low ranking represents an improvement for the Lone Star state; last year, Texas ranked 45th.

The annual report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the American Lung Association revealed these ugly notes about tobacco and kids in Texas:
  • Tobacco companies spend more than $884 million a year on marketing in Texas. This is 75 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.
  • Texas this year will collect $2.1 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes but will spend less than 1 percent of it on tobacco prevention.
Are that many kids really smoking? Unfortunately, yes.
  • Currently, 23 percent of high school students and 20.8 percent of adults smoke in the United States.
  • Nearly 90 percent of all smokers start at or before age 18.
  • Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.
  • In Texas, 24.2 percent of high school students smoke, and 35,900 more kids become regular smokers every year.
Get more information at www.tobaccofreekids.org.

16 December 2007

More holiday hazards

I’m not a worry-wart – really. But as a mom, I’ve been around enough family gatherings and enough kiddos to know that holidays plus distracted parents plus excited little ones can add up to some crazy situations. Even safe homes can become hazardous for curious children and pets with the addition of attractive decorations.

Make sure the seasonal delights festooning your home are safe for the whole family with these tips from the North Texas Poison Center at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Poinsettia This plant is actually not very toxic, but the sap can be irritating. If a piece has been chewed, clear the mouth of plant material and offer something to drink.

Christmas berry The leaves and crushed pits are poisonous if a large amount is swallowed.
Holly Eating a few berries can cause vomiting, cramps and diarrhea.

Mistletoe Eating berries can cause vomiting, cramps and diarrhea. Large amounts can cause high blood pressure, seizures and confusion.

Christmas trees Evergreens are non-toxic with the exception of the yew, which has red, cup-like fruits on its branches. The leaves and seed pits are toxic. Be careful what you add to the water in the Christmas tree stand; pets may drink it, and some preservatives are toxic.

Christmas tree ornaments Antique or imported ornaments may have toxic, lead-based paint.

Tinsel While tinsel is non-toxic, shiny icicles can cause airway or intestinal blockage if eaten by children or pets. Veterinarians perform at least one operation each holiday season to remove tinsel from pets' intestines.

Angel hair This tree decoration is made of spun glass, causing irritation upon contact.
Bubble lights These lights contain a poisonous liquid called methylene chloride. It can be a danger if the fluid from several lights is swallowed.

Alcohol Alcohol poisons children by causing a drop in their blood sugar and making them dangerously drowsy. A combination of these two factors can cause a coma. Holiday alcohol is available in many forms: perfume given as a gift, mixed drinks at a party or even mouthwash left by the bathroom sink.

Turkey Thaw turkey in the refrigerator, allowing one to three days for complete thawing. If time is short, immerse the bird in a water-tight wrapper in cold water, continue adding ice to prevent the turkey from reaching room temperature. Wash hands thoroughly before dressing the bird to minimize chance of contamination from bacteria on hands. The safest method to determine when the turkey is cooked is to place a meat thermometer inside the thigh muscle or thickest part of breast. It should read 180 to 185 degrees for a normal turkey. For a stuffed turkey, place the thermometer in the stuffing. The thermometer here should register at 165 degrees. After cooking, remove the stuffing; do not allow it to cool inside the turkey. Refrigerate the turkey, gravy and stuffing after meal; room temperature is insufficient.

North Texas Poison Center 1-800-222-1222, 24 hours a day

For a free poison prevention packet,
call the North Texas Poison Center administrative line at 214/589-0911.

~ Lisa

London Calling!

First stop on the European trifecta was Dublin, Ireland, now we’re off to London to see the sights and scenes around the home of Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family. Don’t be put off by the stiff Brit upper lip and distant demeanor, there’s plenty of places to explore with kids in tow. Look for Elizabeth’s write up in Sights & Scenes on UK’s capital city in January’s issue of DallasChild. Find out more about London on our website in an extended version and more extras beginning in January.



13 December 2007

Light Up the House Without Lighting a Fire

Most of us think we’ve got a handle on holiday fire precautions, but it’s easy to gloss over the basics when we’re being hurried and harried by excited young helpers. The National Association of Child Care Resource Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) offers these holiday safety reminders – be sure to share them with your young decorating assistants!
  • When using live trees for the holidays, use a fresh one that is kept in water at all times. Do not have it up for more than two weeks.
  • Place your tree away from heat sources such as a fireplace or heat vent.
  • Check for frayed wires or any cracks in sockets or plugs before using lights as decorations. Turn off all lights when you are not at home.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Choose nonflammable decorations. If you choose an artificial tree, choose one that is flame retardant.
  • Avoid using candles. If you do use candles, make sure they are in a stable candle holder and never leave them burning unattended.

11 December 2007

Be a Sport this Season

Just a few weeks ago, North Texas native Pete Burks was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. The news of one more death in that region is troubling, but hits particularly close to home when the victim and his family are so closely tied to the community. Both Pete and his fiancĂ©e attended area high schools (two of us at DallasChild were their classmates), and part of Pete’s pre-military career was spent working with FC Dallas.

Before his death, Burks had asked family and friends to send supplies and treats to his fellow soldiers, as well as the Iraqi kids. Now FC Dallas is continuing his mission, and you have one more week to help out, too.

Drop off soccer balls at Pizza Hut Park before Monday, December 17, and they’ll make sure the toys make it overseas.


10 December 2007

Entertainment On the Go

How did parents survive road trips in the prehistoric pre-DVD days? Portable entertainment helps the miles breeze by -- and if you're caught without a portable DVD player for your holiday travels, Nickelodeon and Hertz have come to the rescue. Nick on the Go is a fully portable, pre-loaded, touch-screen media player for vacationing families. The Nick-branded units are available exclusively from Hertz at 21 top leisure travel airport locations across the United States, including Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The take-it-anywhere units are designed for kids' hands and can be used in the car, at the pool on vacation or wherever travel time takes your family. Nick on the Go is preloaded with more than 40-hours of top programming from Nickelodeon and Nick Jr., including popular episodes from SpongeBob SquarePants; Drake & Josh; Avatar: The Last Airbender; El Tigre; Danny Phantom; The Fairly Odd Parents; Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius; All Grown Up; Catscratch; Rugrats; My Life as a Teenage Robot; The X's; Unfabulous; and Zoey 101. Preschoolers can view Dora the Explorer; Blue's Clues; Blue's Room; and The Wonder Pets!. Programming and content will be regularly refreshed to meet the needs of frequent renters.

A mounting system for back-seat viewing keeps things handy while traveling. Outside the car, the hand-held system is completely portable. A long-life battery can be recharged with either a car or a/c charger, both of which are provided.

Nick on the Go can be reserved on Hertz.com or by calling 1-800-654-3131. Players will be available at Hertz airport locations as of Saturday, Dec. 15.

Bon voyage!

04 December 2007

Jumping Across the Pond...

It’s a rare treat for kids to have the opportunity to see the history they study in school, up close and personal. And better yet when the whole family can make a “holiday” of it and fly across the pond (aka, the Atlantic Ocean) to take in the breathtaking views of a different country and culture.

Look for upcoming online exclusives on our website that guide you as a family, through three European cities, filled with so much culture to experience, it’s hard to want to sleep!

Our first stop is Dublin, Ireland (my most favorite city in the world) where there is a lot more to do than just hit the pubs (contrary to most people’s beliefs). The Irish have so much character and resilience, that it’s quite obvious throughout the city and in their current day economy. Be sure and take a walk down the River Liffey (pictured above) and down O’Connell Street where the Dublin Spire stands (although unliked by the locals) as a replacement for Nelson’s Pillar (blown up in 1966).

Next stop…London, UK!

Liz and Lauren