Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell

The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell

Calling all girls interested in Thomas Edison, electricity and adventure – The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell is the book for you.  Written by Karen Mueller Bryson, this fun book combines time travel with history lessons.  I even learned which plant was first used to manufacture rubber.

Puggie and his sister Gigi, two middle school siblings constantly bickering, learn that time travel is possible with a helpful Gameboy.  While the two are on a school field trip to the estate of Thomas Edison, they unexpectedly time travel to 1893.  Puggie, the geek of the two, knows immediately that they must find the real Thomas Edison for help in returning back to the present.

And so off they go to the Chicago World’s Fair to find Edison and his electricity exhibit.  Adventures ensue as they make their way from Fort Myers, Florida to Chicago, Illinois.  But the adventures get even better once they reach the fairgrounds.  Dwarfs, dancing bears and Tom Thumb join the fun as the children try to find Edison and ask for his help.  Other characters include Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain.  You’ll have to read the book to find out how they contribute to the story.

Interwoven throughout the book are little history lessons about the time period and the main characters.  The lessons are so neatly part of the story that a girl won’t even realize she is learning history, just enjoying a fun book.  But she will remember the facts when she is done and no doubt will want to find out more.

The book website notes that The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell is the first in a series of novels about time travel and historical figures.  I can’t wait to read the rest as I know I will learn something I didn’t know before.

Leave a comment about this blog post and enter to win a copy of  The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell.  Comments must be left by 12 midnight PST on Friday, June 1st, 2012.




What is a Period?

What is a Period?

What is a Period?In this case, the answer is not ‘it comes at the end of the sentence’.  Although moms and dads might be uncomfortable answering this question, plunge right in.  Studies show that girls want to hear this information from their parents, even though it might not always appear that they are listening.

Your daughter may have already gathered some information from friends, TV or the internet.  This information may not be correct.  Some comments we have heard from girls include:

  • If I stay skinny, I won’t get my period.
  • People can tell when I’m on my period because it smells.
  • The sanitary pads will show through my clothes.
  • If I use a tampon, I’m no longer a virgin.

How to help your daughter overcome these misperceptions?  Ask her what she has heard and start sifting through the information.   To make it more personable, share your own memories and experiences from this time in your life.

  • Did you have any embarrassing moments?
  • Where were you when you started your first period?
  • When did you buy your first bra?

Sharing your stories will help your daughter realize that she is not alone in this experience.  Asking other female members of your family to share their stories will provide a sense of family togetherness and will give your daughter an idea of “how times have changed”.

This is an awkward time for girls.  She may be experiencing a growth spurt and outgrowing all her clothes, or having to deal with pimples for the very first time.  Offer her positive reinforcement and assurance that this is a normal step in her growing up years and that she is always beautiful to you.
For her to have one less worry, make sure she is prepared with the supplies she needs for her period:

  • Have her keep an “emergency kit” in her purse, gym bag or locker. Fill the kit with feminine hygiene products, an extra pair of underwear and a wash rag or purchase The Dot Girl First Period Kit.
  • If she is a sports girl, suggest wearing spandex shorts or underwear underneath her sport shorts which will keep pads in place and provide a feeling of comfortable control.
  • If your daughter is a swimmer you may want to introduce her to tampons.  Have her practice at home until you find the brand and fit that she’s comfortable with.
  • Encourage your daughter to track her monthly cycle with a calendar. It may take some time before its regular but soon enough she’ll be able to anticipate when her flow will start.

Having conversations with your daughter about periods and what to expect will encourage her to take care of her own health and have control over her monthly experience.

The 4-1-1 on Life Skills – A Perfect Graduation Gift

The 4-1-1 on Life Skills – A Perfect Graduation Gift

I have just stumbled on to the perfect graduation gift.  The 4-1-1 on Life Skills by Michele Sfakianos, RN, BSN should go hand in hand with a high school or college diploma.  Packed with great information on home and money management, personal care, safety and much more, the book explains in detail how to navigate the world of living on your own and how to manage your everyday life.  Parents will still have to contribute some advice, but this book will make things much easier.

The 4-1-1 on Life Skills is broken out into 26 chapters starting with Cleaning Supplies: A Basic List and ending with Boomerang Kids.  There is even a chapter on making funeral arrangements!

My favorite chapter was Disaster Preparedness.  Growing up in California and living in Washington means being ready for earthquakes.  We keep emergency supplies on hand at home, but always worry that our kids living in their own apartments might not have what they need.  The Disaster Preparedness chapter lists types of disasters and ‘what-to-do’ advice for several common ones such as earthquakes, floods and tornadoes.  The importance of having a plan is discussed and a comprehensive emergency supply list is included.  Reading this chapter reminded me of several items we still needed in our emergency kit and gave me a good framework to discuss disaster preparedness with my kids.

For young adults just starting out in their first job, the Finances chapter is  a must read.  Banking, credit scores, retirement accounts and the all important credit score are explained.  And once the kids are ready to move out there is a chapter on Buying a Home/Renting an Apartment including how to manage a move.

We will be attending a college graduation party in a couple of weeks and I have already bought a copy of The 4-1-1 on Life Skills for our young friend who will be striking out on his own.  Give it as a gift to a graduating senior or your own child and help launch them into the world with lots of good information.

Leave a comment about this blog post and enter to win a copy of  The 4-1-1 on Life Skills.  Comments must be left by 12 midnight PST on Friday, May 25th, 2012.

Menstruation Relief for Your Daughter

Menstruation Relief for Your Daughter

Gone are the ancient days when semi nomadic women menstruated together according to the cycles of the moon. During menstruation these women would actually take a break from their domestic work in order to rest and pamper themselves.

While most of us have been taught to keep up with our busy lives during menstruation, a little bit of pampering now and then can be a healthy habit as well as a wonderful opportunity to connect with your daughter. Teaching your daughter to take care of herself during her menstrual period will help to build a lifetime of good habits and self esteem.

Most advice for general well being such as eating sensibly, exercising and getting the right amount of sleep also applies during menstruation. Now is the time to encourage your daughter to establish a special routine during her period that can relieve discomfort and improve her overall attitude about menstruation.

  • Stretching is a great way to keep muscles limber and relaxed. Sit on the floor with a straight back then bend your knees so that the souls of your feet touch, now gently pull your feet inward. Or, while standing with legs shoulder width apart, gently lunge from side to side. Both of these stretches will help to limber up the pelvic region. Add some deep breathing to increase the amount of oxygen reaching the muscles.
  • Start a monthly ritual of sitting down for a shared pot of tea. Earl Grey with bergamot and Chamomile are known for their relaxing and mood lifting properties. Offer an empathetic ear if your daughter needs to gripe about her period.
  • Give your daughter a specially scented body wash or lotion to use during her period. While regular bathing is sufficient to prevent the worry of any menstrual odors, having something special to use might give her something to look forward to.
  • Reheatable rice bags, hot water bottles and heating pads can work wonders to ease muscle spasms. Apply a few drops of essential oil of lavender to the rice bag for added pain relieving benefits.

Encourage your daughter to share with you and her friends. One thing that hasn’t changed since ancient times is that girls and women still look to each other for support. And sometimes, when it comes to periods, talk is the best relief!

Rocks to Riches – A Tween’s Guide to Wealth

Rocks to Riches – A Tween’s Guide to Wealth

Rocks to Riches by Elisabeth Donati and Jan K. RuskinRocks to Riches by Elisabeth Donati and Jan K. Ruskin is a wonderful story about friendship, teamwork and the road to wealth.  Not just financial wealth, but the wealth of following your dreams and the support of friends.

The book follows four young teens – Ace, Jack, Millie, Nan and Nan’s five year old sister Kara.  As the hot summer unfolds, the children gather at Jack’s house each day to decide how to entertain themselves.  Ace and Jack are new step-brothers, Millie is the ‘rich’ kid, and Nan watches Kara while their mother works as a waitress and attends accounting classes.  For comic relief we also meet Jack’s pot bellied pig Chubbs who has been banished from the house to a backyard pen after causing havoc in the kitchen.

A chance discovery of an old gold mining pan starts the kids on a treasure hunt.  Millie is particularly interested in finding treasure as we later learn to save her family from financial ruin.  But what the children find is much more precious than gold.  Each chapter is a subtle financial lesson based on an inscription from rocks found by the children.  With help from the adults in the story, the lesson is discussed, understood and absorbed by the teens.

You must read the book to find the rocks that lead to riches.  However, the general theme is to plan, be ready and be open to opportunities.  Learning to readjust as new opportunities arise is also important.  The perfect example of this is told through Nan and Kara’s mother and I would be giving away the ending of the book if I said any more!

Rocks to Riches is targeted to 9 – 14 year children.  I believe it is also appropriate for older teenagers and I even copied the rock inscriptions to post on my bulletin board.  For adults, the same lessons may be found in Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  The story is told in an engaging manner that held my interest the whole time I was reading the book.  It is an excellent tool to help teach your children about wealth in all it’s many forms.

Leave a comment about this blog post and enter to win a copy of  Rocks to Riches.  Comments must be left by 12 midnight PST on Friday, May 18th, 2012.






Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

National Chocolate Chip DayI could not let National Chocolate Chip Day go by without sharing our family’s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  This recipe is courtesy of Hillary Clinton who, while her husband was running for president, said she focused on her career instead of staying home and baking cookies.  Including the oats makes the cookies seem healthier with less guilt while eating!

The original chocolate chip cookie was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in the 1930’s at her Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Ruth was planning on baking chocolate cookies for her guests, but she ran out of baker’s chocolate.  She instead used chopped up semi-sweet chocolate bits in the cookies.  Ruth discovered that the bits did not melt into the dough as baker’s chocolate does.

No matter, her cookies became an instant hit with her guests and have since become a favorite cookie throughout America and the rest of the world! Approximately 25 percent of the cookies baked in the United States today are chocolate chip cookies, in my house it is about 95%.

Hillary Clinton Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/2 cup unsifted flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup Crisco
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, salt, and baking soda.  Beat together Crisco, sugars, and vanilla until creamy.  Add eggs, beating until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled oats.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop batter by well rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are done.  Cool cookies on sheets for two minutes before placing them on wire rack for further cooling.  Yield: 7 1/2 dozen cookies.

If you have a favorite recipe using chocolate chips, please share with our readers and spread the guilty pleasure around!


What I Learned from My Mother

What I Learned from My Mother

Joan Cecilian and Kathy Pickus

Mother's Day 1979

My mom, Joan Cecilian, passed away in December 2005 from colon cancer.  She had been diagnosed just a short five months prior to her death, leaving us all shocked at the turn of events.  I miss her each and every day as does the rest of her children, grandchildren and my dad.  The first few Mother’s Day celebrations after her death were tough, but enough years have passed that I am now able to celebrate what she gave me, instead of how she died.

In honor of my mom and of all the wonderful women who are moms – biological or not – I thought today would be a good day to pass on lessons learned from my mom.

1.  Always buy your towels from Costco.  I’ve tested this lesson and it’s a good one, Costco towels are reasonably priced, of good quality and last a long time.

2.  When using a glass baking dish reduce the oven temperature 25 degrees from the recipe instructions.  Glass is a better conductor of heat than other pans.

3.  Never put wooden spoons in the dishwasher, or any wooden handled kitchen utensil or knife.  The handle will wear out faster.  My mom kept her wooden spoons for years, so she was right on this one.

4.  Fresh food is always the best.  Dad planted the vegetable garden and Mom did all the picking and cooking.  She would regularly make homemade applesauce and spaghetti sauce.  I never understood why she went through all the trouble until I went away to college and had to eat the store varieties.

5.  Know the family finances.  My mom handled the bookkeeping for my Dad’s dental practice.  If anything ever happened to him, she would know exactly where she stood in regards to money.

6.  Only one person can change at a time in a marriage.  Meaning there has to be some consistency to keep it going.  Since her four daughters are all still in their first marriages, this advice must have sunk in.

7.  And lastly, family is the most important thing, however, be sure to also have your own interests.  One of my mom’s favorites sayings was ‘If Mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy’. I think most moms would agree, have something for yourself to balance out all that you give to others.

I would love to hear your favorite mom advice.  Leave it in the comments below and Happy Mother’s Day!


How to talk to your daughter about sex, periods and STD’s.

How to talk to your daughter about sex, periods and STD’s.

Start Talking - A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or WhateverStart Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever is THE book with all the answers for you and your daughter.  Written by psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini (of TLC’s series Big Medicine) and OB/GYN nurse practitioner Janine J. Sherman, Start Talking lays out chapter by chapter all the information you need to know about such topics as menstruation, birth control, sex and STD’s.

I learned so much from this book while I was reading it.  And I regretted I didn’t know about Start Talking when my daughter was younger.  It would have made certain conversations so much easier.  To compensate I plan on giving a copy to my sister who has an 8 year old daughter.

Each chapter has the same format.  Information about the particular topic is thoroughly explained in the text and with simple drawings.  The authors also provide real life stories from patients they have treated. A series of questions that a daughter or mom may ask about the topic are then presented with the authors providing answers and scripts on how to approach the topic with each other.  This is nicely exhibited in the ‘Table Talk’ section of each chapter.

Both being doctors (and mothers of daughters), the authors also stress the importance of girls having a health provider that they can trust.  Although we hope that our daughters will always share what is going on with their bodies with us, that might not always be the case.  Your daughter may be embarrassed about something as simple as a yeast infection and having a relationship with a doctor before any issues arise is important.  In the end, our daughter’s health and well-being is the main goal.

Mary Jo Rapini and Janine Sherman do not shy away from any topic in this book – date rape to eating disorders is discussed in a way that provides information and gives you confidence to approach the topic with your daughter.  You can read the book with her or pass it back and forth and have discussions or ‘table talks’ about the different topics.  I would highly recommend this book to every mom with a daughter.

Leave a comment about this blog post and enter to win a copy of  Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever.  Comments must be left by 12 midnight PST on Friday, May 11th, 2012.


Celebrate Your Favorite Teacher!

Celebrate Your Favorite Teacher!

Today is National Teacher Day – a day to recognize the teachers in our life and those that teach our children.  Even though it has been years since I was in school, I still remember some of my favorite teachers.

Those was Sister Celine who taught my high school chemistry class.  She was well into her seventies during my junior year but was still imposing in her black and white habit.  She was very stern about doing things right and safely.  A good combination for a chemistry teacher.  Sister Celine would always remind us to use the right tools for every project.  To this day, I still remember that advice and have always used a hammer instead of my shoe to pound in nails.

In grade school, Miss Murphy was the favorite of all the kids.  In a small Catholic school full of strict nuns, she stood out for her fun loving ways and willingness to always play.  Miss Murphy was a classroom teacher, but also the P.E. teacher.  Athletic in her own right, she taught us the value of physical activity long before it was fashionable.  The kick ball games got very intense when she was involved.

We have lived in the same house for the past 21 years and our children attended the same schools and had the same teachers.  The kids were fortunate that they always had wonderful, caring teachers who year after year dedicated themselves to improving the skills of their students.  And as importantly, the parents were there to support the teachers and the schools.

With so much in the news about our failing schools, we have to remember that teachers are in the trenches every day with our kids.  And there are so many ways we can support them, from getting our kids to school on time and ready to learn, to helping with routine tasks in the classroom so the teacher can concentrate on actually teaching to supporting fundraising activities to purchase needed supplies.

We’ve all been touched by at least one great teacher, take a moment to remember him or her today and then take a minute to tell a teacher what a great job they are doing for our kids!

How to Help Your Daughter Love Herself

How to Help Your Daughter Love Herself

More Than Saying I Love YouOn my flight back from Miss Expo on Monday morning I had the wonderful pleasure of reading More Than Saying I Love You: 4 Powerful Steps that Help Children Love Themselves by Dr. Andie Goodman Weiner, Ed.D. Dr. Andie, in very simple prose and with exercises at the end of each chapter, lays out the steps to help children learn to love themselves.

Dr. Andie’s premise is that every child is born a loving being.  As a child grows though, she is exposed to outside influences that shape her perception of herself.  These outside influences are parents, other family members, teachers and caregivers, and other people that will regularly be in a child’s life.  These people will have either a positive or negative impact on the child. And as Dr. Andie also points out in her prologue, children are growing up in a very complex world and they need to be able ‘self-love’ in order to avoid destructive behavior.

Dr. Andie starts each chapter with a letter to her daughter, Aly.  The letters are written at each stage of Aly’s life, from birth to when she was packing to start college.  The letters are very moving and reflect Dr. Andie’s internal struggles on how best to guide Aly through her growing up years and give her the tools to be self-loving.

I think the most important lesson I learned from this book was Dr. Andie’s use of ‘YOU’ when talking of various situations with her daughter.  Instead of saying ‘I love the crayon drawing you did in school’ Dr. Andie would ask Aly ‘what do YOU think of the drawing?’, wait for a reply and engage Aly in her own thoughts about the drawing.  By turning the ‘I’ to a ‘You’ Dr. Andie removes herself as the one giving approval.  Therefore her daughter is not looking outside of herself for approval, she is turning inward and validating her own feelings.

Dr. Andie believes that children who love themselves are “more accepting and compassionate toward others.  They appreciate their own talents, make wise decisions, and refrain from hurtful behaviors and relationships”.  For Aly this was confirmed when she wrote her college essay and described the lessons in self-love she learned from her mother.  The college essay starts off the book and you learn right away the meaning of self-love to a young woman.

I would recommend  More Than Saying I Love You: 4 Powerful Steps that Help Children Love Themselves to any parent.  The message is so important in today’s society, especially for girls, that loving oneself is the key to standing up for what you believe in and what you are capable of.

Leave a comment about this blog post and enter to win a copy of  More Than Saying I Love You: 4 Powerful Steps that Help Children Love Themselves. Comments must be left by 12 midnight PST on Friday, May 4th, 2012.