31 March 2008

A Film Festival for Families

From the You Don’t Have to Give This Up Just Because You Have Kids Department: Cinema buffs, take the kids along this weekend to the American Film Institute Dallas International Film Festival. Now in its second year, the festival presents a while bevy of family-friendly programming during its closing weekend, April 4 - 6.

• Victory Park plaza movie screenings, where kids can rum rampant or hunker down for the outdoor movie, shown on the huge screens
• The Wizard of Oz at the Meyerson, simultaneously scored live by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra
• Activities presented by Dallas Zoo, SPCA, Museum of Nature & Science and Dallas Children’s Theatre
• Performances by kid singers and actors

AFI DALLAS International Film Festival features international films from emerging filmmakers, the latest work from great film masters and unique nightly red carpet gala premieres including all attending filmmakers and stars. Spanning 10 days and nights as a whole, AFI DALLAS’ presentation of more than 200 screenings makes it one of the largest film festivals in the Southwest.

Help battle childhood hunger with AFI DALLAS and the North Texas Food Bank. Donate two cans of food at any screening and get $2 off admission.

Visit AFI DALLAS for complete festival details -- oh, and bring the kids!

Personalized Baby Blankies on the Fly

Dallas-based company Fill in The Blankie by Sonja Bebeblankee is creating "ultra-personalized baby blankets that truly say a lot about you." Their soft and snuggly blankets come in 32 different styles and are embroidered with an infinite variation of messages (up to 200 characters!).

The company is filling orders by the thousands — and in record speed too. Customers have the option to express the shipment of their customized blanket for a speedy delivery (2 business days). Regular shipping is 5-7 business days (much quicker than many embroidery services!).

In between filling orders and searching for new adorable fabrics, the company is giving back to the Dallas community in a way most familiar to the blankie maker: with a Blankie-A-Day donation program in coordination with Children's Medical Center in Dallas. This program offers up cute and quirky blankets to children staying in the hospital (especially those who spend their birthday at Children's).

What better way to support a local business and have your gift be the talk of the baby shower! Order customized baby blankets (or add a stuffed animal friend) online. You can also find Sonja Bebeblankees in Neiman Marcus stores (under the name Wendy Storkland).

27 March 2008

Building a Better Binky

Plastic’s not a fantastic choice for baby bottles. Plastic bottles may leach toxic bisphenol-A and phthalates, which the National Institutes of Health has linked to possible damage to immune systems and brain development. And since we’ve already offered you some mod and healthy choices for bottles, that brings us back to binkies.

While latex sounds like a good choice for pacifiers, research indicates it can leach cancer-causing nitrosamines over time. Early latex exposure can also predispose babies to latex allergies down the road. Silicone is non-porous and does not contain bisphenol-A, phthalates or PVC.

Babies are picky, and you may need to try several different brands before you find a paci that gets your little critic's seal of approval. Try these one-piece, silicone options:

No matter what paci you choose, select a one-piece construction that won’t come apart and pose a choking hazard. Dishwasher-safe varieties make them easy to keep clean. Replace pacifiers often, especially if they’re beginning to look worn (because plastic that’s breaking down leaches more chemicals).

26 March 2008

Just in Time For Spring

Here are some beauty products that will help prepare moms for spring (and the shedding of winter clothing!):
Mama Mio's Boob Tube cream will comfort your breastfeeding or post-baby breasts, making your "girls" much more keen to the idea of a bathing suit! The cream helps prevent and soothe itchy stretch marks, as well as tone and tighten the skin. Shop online or at various locations in the Dallas area (such as La Bella Belly Maternity and Pickles & Ice Cream stores). Belli Cosmetics' Anti-Chloasma Facial Sunscreen (SPF 25) addresses a problem that so many moms struggle with (while pregnant and also post-baby): the dark splotchy patches that cast a shadow over once-clear skin. All-natural ingredients in Belli's sunscreen help retain moisture in your facial skin, while adding a slight tint (for all skin types) to help even skin tone. The added bonus: sunscreen that prevents full-on exposure to the sun (which can make chloasma darken). Shop online or at various Dallas locations (such as Baby Bliss). Some mindful moms might point out that typical nail lacquer might pose a chemical threat to small children who still like to suck on mommy's fingers (or the curious girl who wants to paint her nails, too!). Aquarella has created a water-based, non-toxic nail polish that are free of harsh chemicals found in conventional nail products. The brand also offers safe-to-use removers and nail conditioners. Shop online.

Product-loving moms, let us know what you think!

24 March 2008

Dive into eco-TV with the kids

A generation ago, families and neighbors gathered around the TV whenever a new nature documentary came on. We knew we were in for a spectacular undersea journey when ocean adventurer Jacques-Yves Cousteau was at the helm.

Today, you can share the trademark Cousteau wonder and excitement with your little landlubbers as Jean-Michel returns with a new expedition for the signature PBS environmental series, Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. Putting a modern eco-spin on their explorations, the Cousteau family takes us back to the Amazon River region, where Cousteau and his son Jean-Michel Cousteau fist explored 25 years ago.

Traveling down the Amazon River basin with Jean-Michel are his children Fabien and Celine and his crew of adventurous oceanauts. Over the course of 10 months, through wet and dry seasons, in the water and on land, the team encounters debilitating challenges and uplifting discoveries throughout the multiple expeditions and forays into both wild and developed regions. The team encounters many unusual, rare species and surprises, including swimming with an anaconda, the world's largest -- and perhaps most dangerous -- snake; going nose-to-nose with the jacare, the Amazon version of the crocodile; and playfully swimming with beautiful pink river dolphins.

Return to the Amazon airs on KERA Channel 13 in two parts, on April 2 at 8pm and April 9 at 8pm. The Cousteau family still delivers some of the best eco-documentary action around -- don't let your kids grow up without it!

20 March 2008

Won’t You Wear a Sweater?

When Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood made its debut on public television in 1968, Fred Rogers began each episode by singing, "Won’t You Be My Neighbor?" To celebrate his legacy of neighborliness, Family Communications Inc. (the non-profit that Rogers founded in 1971) is asking fans of the late Mister Rogers to don their own versions of his ubiquitous sweater today, Thursday, March 20 – what would have been his 80th birthday.

"We're asking everyone, everywhere (from Pittsburgh to Paris) to wear their favorite sweater on that day," says David Newell, FCI’s public relations director and Mr. McFeely. "It doesn't have to have a zipper down the front like the one Mister Rogers wore on the program; it just has to be special to you."

Sweater Day is part of Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary celebration and the first-ever "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" Days in honor of Mister Rogers, a native of the area. You can show your kids what all the fuss is about at PBS' Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood page. Who knows? Maybe they’ll want to zip up their own cardigans, too.

18 March 2008

C is for Cookie

We learned about a very sweet spring break opportunity this morning and wanted to share it with you.

Tart Pastry Boutique & Studio’s newly opened bakery in The Shops at Legacy will host Easter egg cookie decorating classes beginning today (Tuesday, March 18) through Saturday (March 22).

If you’re looking for a way to fill a day off from school, or if you’re just interested in a special after-school activity, stop by the shop and decorate a few cookies with friends while learning a little bit about pastry decorating from the experts.

Pairs (moms and daughters, best friends, etc) must purchase a minimum of 6 cookies at $3 each, and then it’s time to get up to your elbows in icing.

Cookie Time:
3:30-6pm Tue-Thu
12-4pm Fri and Sat
Make your reservations by calling 972/673-0446.

C-O-N-G-R-A-T-S To Spelling Bee Champ

Mouctika Paluri, a 12-year-old student at Creek Valley Middle School in Carrolton, trumped two-time defending champion Amy Chyao, a 13-year-old from Richardson, Saturday at the 50th-Annual Dallas Morning News Regional Spelling Bee.

Mouctika, an India native who learned to speak English only seven years ago, out-spelled 30 other competitors (who advanced to the spelling bee after winning their school and county competitions) — but not without several dramatic pauses.

When it came down to Mouctika and Amy, both girls misspelled the word "passado." When Amy incorrectly spelled "statolatry," Mouctika stepped into the lead with the correct spelling. Then a challenge: Amy argued the competition's pronouncer failed to provide a second pronunciation of the word. Judges overruled her challenge, and Mouctika moved on to correctly spell the word "masseter" — winning the competition.

After winning the nail-biting regional spelling bee, Mouctika will represent North and East Texas in May at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

If you want to try your hand at spelling some of the words used in the national competition, check out Merriam-Webster's tool for kids: Spell It! And be sure cheer on Mouctika in May!

17 March 2008

In the News: Tipping Dangers

In light of Sunday's news — a 2 and 1/2 year old Cedar Hill girl was hospitalized for a fractured skull and swelling to the brain after a home TV fell off its stand and onto the child — we remind DallasChild readers to re-evaluate the sturdiness of their furniture.

To find tips and more information about how to secure furniture and ensure your children's safety, read the March DallasChild article on Tipping Dangers.

Don't be a bad (Easter) egg

Yes, it’s perfectly safe to eat those Easter eggs – as long as you follow a few basic tips when preparing and storing them. Dietitians at UT Southwestern Medical Center advises egg artisans to decide before coloring their eggs whether or not they plan to eat their miniature Faberge creations.

“If you want to eat decorated hard-cooked eggs, be sure that all the decorating materials are food-safe and that you wash each egg beforehand,” says Dr. Vickie Vaclavik, a registered dietitian and clinical nutritionist at UT Southwestern. “Also, wash your hands between all the cooking, cooling, dyeing and decorating processes, and keep the finished hard-cooked eggs refrigerated as much as possible.”

Consider egg-hiding locations carefully, she says, in order to avoid contamination from animals or lawn chemicals. “Most importantly, don’t leave eggs outside for more than two hours,” Vaclavik adds. “Hard-cooked eggs that have been refrigerated will last for about one week, but any left out for more than two hours should be tossed.”

14 March 2008

BPA-Free Feeding Products

You might recall reading about the safety concerns of plastic drinking products in February's DallasChild article, Plastic's Not Fantastic. As the article points out, toxic chemicals — mainly Bisphenol-A (BPA) — can leach from plastic baby bottles and sippy cups, causing possible damage to immune systems and brain development (according to the National Institutes of Health).

Online shopping moms can find a wide selection of BPA-free bottles at the Modern Baby Barn — a one-stop shop for an assortment of new-age baby products, such as the Wee-Go Glass Bottle (mentioned in February's article; see above right).

Some new additions to our list of baby- and kid-friendly feeding products (that put mom's mind to rest!):The Green to Grow Bottle — it's BPA and phthalate free and made from PES plastic, which gives the bottle a natural golden color.The Siliskin Glass Bottle — similar to the Wee-Go, this naturally BPA-free glass bottle is stylishly encased in colorful silicone.The Boon Fluid Sippy — a erognomic and BPA-free toddler cup fit for the son or daughter of mod parents. (Find Boon in-store at mod + mini, Dallas; The Right Start, Plano; and more.)

The Safe Sippys — another alternative to glass or plastic: non-leaching medical-grade stainless steel. These colorful sippy cups are stylish and easy to clean. (Find these in-store at Lone Star Baby & Kids, in Dallas or Frisco.)

13 March 2008

Parents Let Healthy Habits Slide, Study Says

Most parents admit to letting healthy habits slide, reports a new national survey from the YMCA of the USA and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Nearly half of parents report that their families don’t eat a balanced diet, and more than three in four say some family members do not practice good health habits.

But as parents let things slide -- while assuming that their children will live longer (or just as long) as their own generation is expected to -- research shows that today’s generation of kids under 18 may be the first in 200 years to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. The main culprit: obesity caused by lack of physical activity and poor nutrition.

Most parents know what behaviors are elements of a healthier lifestyle yet cannot seem to put that knowledge into practice.

  • 91 percent of parents know their family should eat a balanced diet, yet only 56 percent say they do.
  • 93 percent know their family should exercise regularly, yet only 45 percent do.
  • While 59 percent of parents say that everyone in the family knows what they should be doing to lead a healthy lifestyle, only 23 percent say everyone in the family practices good health habits.

Parents say the top five barriers to practicing what they preach:

  • Lack of time (48 percent)
  • Lack of motivation (46 percent)
  • Lack of willpower (45 percent)
  • Lack of money (36 percent)
  • Lack of participation from some members of the family (29 percent)

Do you let things slide more often than you feel comfortable with? What's hardest to manage in keeping your family's eating, exercise and healthy habits on track?

11 March 2008

Bishop Lynch's Coach Zihlman Named Coach of the Year

The Lady Friars have something to cheer about (besides winning their seventh straight TAPPS 6A state championship): Lady Friar basketball coach Andy Zihlman was named National High School Coach of the Year by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).

Zihlman's award follows an impressive record at Lynch, one that most recently includes his 700th career win (he's in his 27th season with the Lady Friars!).

The WBCA will honor Zihlman at an awards luncheon during the WBCA National Convention the first week of April, coinciding with the NCAA Final Four. To top off this honor, Zihlman's name will appear on the Coach of the Year plaque located in the WBCA Hall of Fame and he will coach the WBCA High School All-American Game presented by Nike and featuring the 2008 national All-American basketball players.

On Fri, Mar 7, the student body of Bishop Lynch High School held a surprise rally in honor of Zihlman (see photo).

Congratulations, Coach Zilman!

10 March 2008

Leak Detection

Much has been made of that shocked, soaked moment of surprise when a pregnant woman’s water breaks – a humor- and clothing-drenched moment that’s fodder for giggles in countless movies. In real life, things don’t always happen so clearly. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if you’re actually losing amniotic fluid, or you may be experiencing wetness but it’s nowhere near time for labor and delivery.

Now, there’s a new home test that helps detect amniotic fluid. AmniScreen is a panty liner that tests for elevated pH levels, which could indicate leaking fluid. The test is suitable for pregnant women experiencing unexplained vaginal wetness and women with high-risk pregnancies, woman who’ve undergone amniocentesis and women who have experienced prior amniotic fluid leakage.

AmniScreen is available by prescription only, and results should be interpreted by a medical professional. Ask your doctor about amniotic fluid leakage and testing.

06 March 2008

Noteworthy Debate Heats Up

Do childhood vaccinations cause or contribute to autism? That's the hot-button question of the nation — and tonight, you can learn more about about this topic that's at the center of a case involving an Atlanta girl.

Tune in to CNN at 9pm for a Larry King Live exclusive with the 9-year-old girl and her family, who are challenging medical and government experts.

Let us know what you think! Send your thoughts to editorial@dallaschild.com.

What Ever Happened to Safer Toys?

You read with horror the holiday headlines about toys and baby product recalled due to lead contamination, and you adjusted your Christmas lists accordingly. But months have passed, and you have birthday parties galore to buy presents for. What’s still safe? What’s being done about toxic ingredients in toys now?

Toys ‘R’ Us has grabbed the bull by the horns with stricter new standards for products shipped to the company beginning this month:

  • more frequent third-party testing on each batch of products shipped to Toys ‘R’ Us
  • ensuring all product samples submitted for testing are selected by the company’s third-party, certified lab
  • date-coding all products
  • applying a more stringent standard of 90 ppm (parts per million) for lead in surface coatings versus the current federal standard of 600 ppm for all products manufactured exclusively for Toys ‘R’ Us
  • requiring substrate materials to meet a standard of 250 ppm for lead versus the company’s current standard of 600 ppm for all products manufactured exclusively for Toys ‘R’ Us
  • using lead-screening equipment to conduct company audits of all products at their point of origin and at various points in the supply chain

Furthermore, by the end of 2008, children’s products sold at Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us stores in the United States must be produced without the addition of phthalates. The company is also immediately eliminating nickel-cadmium batteries in items manufactured for Toys ‘R’ Us; this process is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

If you're not shopping at Toys 'R' Us, here's how to check up on specific toys.

04 March 2008

Meet the Staff: Claudia

Claudia King has been entertainment editor at DallasChild, NorthTexasChild and FortWorthChild magazines since September 2008. She lives in Denton with her two daughters, 8-year-old Maddie and 5-year-old Finley; her boyfriend, Alex; and two cats, Mojo and Monkey. They love to laugh and enjoy books, playtime and exploring all the kid-friendly fun North Texas has to offer.

03 March 2008

Meet the Staff: Gretchen

Gretchen Sparling has been a part of the Lauren Publications family since January 2008 and now serves as managing editor of DallasChild, NorthTexasChild and FortWorthChild magazines. She lives in Allen with her husband and four-legged firstborn Ruger, a brittany spaniel. Gretchen enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with family and friends outdoors (on a bike, on a running path or on a back porch!). She is also a runner and short-course triathlete, completing her first marathon in January 2009.

Photo: Gretchen (right) and co-worker Claudia (left) at the Susan G. Komen 5K race (June 2009) in Plano.

High-Stakes Births, High-Stakes Drama

Why is it so captivating to watch other women deal with the kind of pressures that exhaust us in our own lives? Deliver Me, a gritty new TV docu-series from Discovery Health, is just the ticket for escaping the daily grind at the end of a busy, blustery March day. Complex pregnancies and high-risk births are everyday occurrences for Drs. Alane Park, Yvonne Bohn and Allison Hill -- best friends who became partners in a demanding Los Angeles OB/GYN practice. All three are mothers themselves, juggling the pressures and emotions of delivering their patients' children with those of raising their own.

Settle in on the couch on Tues., March 4 at 10pm (ET/PT), as Deliver Me gives you a behind-the-curtain peek at the professional and personal lives of these doctors and the patients they treat. It’s high-stakes drama, “How does she do that?” voyeurism and sweet, fresh babies all wrapped up in a single sweep-away-the-remnants-of-the-day package. (Stop by the Deliver Me web site for pregnancy and new mom’s tips, baby games, labor facts and more.)

02 March 2008

We Are the Champions!

Last night, in Little Rock, Arkansas, DallasChild took the top honors for best parenting magazine in the country (including several international titles) at the annual Parenting Publications of America 2008 awards ceremony. Other fine publications, such as Chicago Parent, OC Family and Seattle's Parent Map, vied for the high honor (this is our industry's version of the Oscars), but in the end the judges decided that our magazine "hits on all cylinders." That is a reflection of the can-do, creative spirit of our staff shining through, always striving to produce magazines that are better than popular national reads.

We won several other awards, including Gold award for BabyDallas and the Silver for our Web site.

It's a celebration for all Dallas area parents - you're reading the best of the best! —shelley