10 Tips to Help You Survive Until Spring

  1. Buy multiple pairs of cheap gloves and hats and stash them everywhere—car, foyer, school, purse! I prefer to get everything in the same color or patterns so that they can be interchanged when one inevitably gets lost. This trick will keep you from losing your mind when you are hunting down a lost mitten while wearing 5 layers of clothing and dragging 2 children.
  2. Head to your local art supply store and collect a smorgasbord of pom-poms, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, modeling clay, and googly eyes. When your kids start to look bored, lay down some wax paper, give them an old box, and let their imaginations go wild.
  3. Always keep baking materials on hand. Nothing gets kids more excited than the promise of dessert, but make them work for it and kill an hour having them measure, pour, and mix.
  4. Maintain at least one museum membership where you can take your kids to run around and have a change of scenery when you all get cabin fever.
  5. Teach your kids about hand hygiene and germs! They will still get sick, but hopefully you will minimize the number to illnesses and how quickly it spreads through your household.
  6. Designate a corner of your living room as the “stage” and have your children create plays, puppet shows, or karaoke parties. You can also use this space for freeze dance, to get some of the silly energy out.
  7. Find a coffee shop that is kid-friendly and walk there. As long as it is above freezing, bundle them up and get them outside. Then everyone gets a hot chocolate before making the trek home.
  8. Visit your local library for story time. While you are there, have them pick out a new book so that you don’t have to read their recent favorite for the thousandth time.
  9. Camp out indoors! Pop a tent in your living room, tell ghost stories, and make indoor s’mores in your stove.
  10. Get your flu shot!
 [A version of this post was previously published on the Today Show Parenting Team site, 1/15/18.]

MLK Day of Service in Philadelphia

After a few gluttonous weeks, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a breath of fresh air and hope, as the city abounds in activities that are educational and service oriented. Whether your children are in school or tagging along, there are many options to keep you all busy, engaged, and inspired. 

African American Museum in Philadelphia

Finish a weekend-long MLK celebration with a keynote address by Dr. Howard Stevenson, a University of Pennsylvania professor of Africana studies, and executive director of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative. While you are there, explore the exhibition, Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia, 1776-1876, and the temporary exhibition, Gardens of the Mind. Your kids can also grab a photo with the Phillie Phanatic and right-fielder Nick Williams. $2 general admission.

Please Touch Museum

Everyone loves the Please Touch Museum and on Monday, you can not only explore the standard museum exhibits but enjoy a storytelling session inspired by King’s legacy, engage in crafts, and join a musical parade promoting world peace. Regular admission prices.

National Constitution Center

For a $5 admission, guests can participate in a day-long commemoration including service projects, performances, educational activities, and readings of the “I Have a Dream” speech.

National Liberty Museum

The National Liberty Museum is one of my 6-year-old’s favorite museums. As part of their MLK Day celebration, they are having a Civil Rights scavenger hunt and craft corner. There will also be a screening (at 11:00AM and 3:00 PM) of Mr. Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP, which explores the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education. Pay what you wish.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Professional actors, youth readers, and community leaders will read excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail at 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM, and 3:30 PM. There will be an informal Q&A after each reading, where you can respond to the letter’s relevance today. There will also be art projects for children ages 7-12. Bring your old electronics to recycle from 10:00 AM-2:00PM. Free!

Philadelphia Museum of Art

As part of their commemoration of MLK, the PMA is offering pay-what-you-wish admission! They are also leading youth-focused conversations on how his legacy can inspire today’s social movements, from 11:30AM-3PM. For the littles, they offer card-making from 10:00 AM-3PM, then MANNA will deliver the cards with food to people in need.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sculptures

Spend your day finding the nine large sculptures designed by over 50 Philadelphia students that incorporate Dr. King’s quotes. Sculpture locations include the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Betsy Ross House, City Hall, the Comcast Center Plaza, the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia School District.

There are also many other opportunities across the city to volunteer and serve. Check with your local elementary school, church, library, or park.

 

Pediatric Advocacy in Philadelphia

As a vulnerable population, our children need us to advocate for them in many areas of their lives. There are many threats to children’s health today, such as exposure to violence, lack of safe places to play, poverty, child abuse, and food insecurity. Fortunately there are many organizations in Philadelphia that aim to address these issues and they would benefit from your support, whether as a volunteer, donor, or partner.

Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY)

http://www.pccy.org/

PCCY seeks to improve the lives and life chances of Philadelphia area children through advocacy in child health, early learning, education and family stability. They may be best known for their Pre-K for PA initiative. You can sign up for a weekly newsletter to keep up-to-date with their many projects or donate online.

Education Law Center (ELC)

https://www.elc-pa.org/

The ELC’s mission is to ensure access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania and they advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable populations, including those living in poverty, in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, children with disabilities, and more. They fight for fair school funding, ensuring equal access, and ending the school-to-prison pipeline. The ELC has law student internships available. You can also subscribe to their newsletter or donate online.

Philadelphia Children’s Alliance

http://www.philachildrensalliance.org/

There are 3,000 reports of child sexual abuse in Philadelphia each year. At the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, experts in law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medicine, and mental health collaborate to guide sexually abused children down a path of healing. To help, you can attend their annual Bear Affair in May, donate a stuffed animal, or make a donation online.

Small Fry

http://www.small-fry.org/

Small Fry volunteers teach children and their parents how to cook healthy, inexpensive meals using obtainable ingredients. Families not only practice cooking, but go home with ingredients and learn the importance of family meals. You can volunteer, donate groceries, or donate money online. For more information, contact: Admin@small-fry.org

The Children’s Advocacy Project of Philadelphia (Cap4Kids)

http://cap4kids.org/philadelphia/

This site has handouts for parents and providers on a variety of topics and is translated into 30 languages! It includes links to local resources, laws, and definitions. Cap4Kids is a thorough round-up of everything you need to know about educational testing, mental health resources, healthy weight resources, childhood dental care, youth violence reduction, smoking cessation, and safety. You can join an online mailing list for timely, seasonal updates and reminders.

Other ways to advocate:

  • Call our legislators directly
    • Mayor Jim Kenney: (215) 686-2181
    • Representative Bob Brady: (202) 225-4731
    • Senator Pat Toomey: (202) 224-4254
    • Senator Bob Casey: (202) 224-6324
    • Governor Tom Wolf: (717) 787-2500
  • Give a public testimony at the School Board Meeting (call 215-400-4180)
  • Write an Op-Ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer and submit it here: oped@phillynews.com

 

[Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the above organizations. I was not compensated for this post. A version of this post will be simultaneously published in the QVNA Magazine.]

Medical School Scars

When you start your clinical rotations in medical school, they say that you should not start with the specialty that you desire for your career. The thinking is that you need a rotation or two to work the kinks out. You need to get your bearings as a physician-in-training so that once you get to your chosen field, you are ready to impress.

Some medical students do not yet know what specialty they are interested in, but I was firmly committed to pediatrics. So when I got my schedule and saw pediatrics listed as my first rotation, I was nervous that my chances of making the best first impression would be hindered but was determined to not let that happen.

Although my white coat was bestowed to me during medical student orientation, I had not had much opportunity to don it until my clinical rotations started. With too few hours of sleep behind me, I decided to iron my white coat, hoping my professional appearance would help add to my first impression. Not only did I need to impress my supervisors, but also earn the trust and respect of my patients. My ironing board at the time was a small tabletop board, which I lay on the floor of my bedroom and knelt beside. In my haste, the edge of the iron grazed the fleshy part of my thigh above my knee, branding me with a linear scar that would shine as a pearly reminder of this first day for years to come.

As a pediatrics resident, each time I pushed a leg through my scrub pants, I saw this scar and remembered those first-day nerves. On the days in the middle of the winter when the hours are long and the thanks are few, it felt good to remember the days when I was so eager to be the best doctor I could be. Most days of my training were spent dressing in the dark while my husband and the rest of the world around us lay sleeping. My scrubs and fleece jackets were barely different from my pajamas and my hair spent more days in ponytails than not. However, my scar reminded me of a day when I ironed my jacket and although the skin on my left thigh stung from its new mark, I never let the smile fade from my face. Eleven years later I find it hard to see the scar anymore but will always remember its significance.

Merry & Bright

What makes your holiday season bright? Over the past few weeks, I have seen my friends and family literally illuminated by the light from menorahs and Christmas trees. The faces I love are shining bright and seeing this makes my holiday season merry. I love watching you open your Secret Snowman gift at work, receiving your holiday card in the mail, and shopping for your gifts. These simple joys give back more than they cost.

In a season of commercialization, I strive help my children learn the values that Jesus taught, like humility, service, compassion, and sacrifice. How do we bring light to others? I mentally tally the charitable things we have done this season, the gifts we have gathered for others that are unexpected, and the good deeds we have performed. I wonder if my children are learning from these things or if they are unnoticed in the hustle of the season. I worry whether it is enough. It reminds me to be intentional, slow down, and listen.

Like many people, the last few weeks have been a reminder of how much I have to be grateful this Christmas. It seems every time I see the news there are more people being victimized by sexual predators, displaced by fires, or marginalized by politicians and I feel this weighing heavily on my heart. As I trod forth though, I know that even in the darkness, the light will eventually shine. And I have seen this too. This week I celebrated with a mother who got good news on genetic testing results that could have changed her life; I was hugged by a mother who was able to give her children extra Christmas gifts through the kindness of strangers; I held a teenager facing an unexpected pregnancy and helped her find comfort in the steps ahead. This season is painful for so many, and if that is you, I hope you too find your light. Know that I see it in you.

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

Those who lived in a land of deep darkness—

on them light has shined.

Isaiah 9:2 NRSV

Merry Christmas!

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