Category Archives: Nancy Flanders

Nancy is a part-time mom and full time writer to two little girls, one who has cystic fibrosis. She is a fundraiser, hospital advisory board member, contributing editor for parentingsquad.com, and contributor for several publications.

Mobile Birthday Parties: Bringing the Fun to You

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Throwing a birthday party is always an undertaking. Your child may be begging for a birthday party at an art studio or a laser tag arena, but you may not be up for lugging the cake, the gifts, and the favors to the location. But these days, you can bring the fun to your house, and host a fantastic birthday party for your child and her friends. Just add cake.

Video Games

Does your child want to hit the arcade for his or her birthday but all you can think of is the giant headache you’ll end up with? Companies like Game Truck will bring a video game theater to your door equipped with HDTVs, gaming systems including Xbox, Wii, and PlayStation, as well as a variety of games. As long as you have a place to park, a video game truck can entertain the kids while you relax.

Spa Day

If you’ve got a child who loves to be pampered you can make her wish come true while avoiding the actual spa. Spa Partyz will bring the spa to you including manicures and pedicures, nail art, facials, and a candy buffet.

Laser Tag

Yes, even laser tag can be played without leaving your home. They set it up in your yard and for around $200 you’ve got a laser tag arena for about 20 kids.

Art Truck

Give your little artist the party of her dreams with a mobile art truck. All of the art supplies are included and instructors are there to guide and watch over the children. You can even add on extra fun like cupcake decorating and party favors.

Pony Rides and Petting Zoo

Bring the ponies and the petting zoo to your home. Perfect for you animal lover, (and your newly-fertilized grass).

Jewelry

For your creative child, consider a jewelry party. From clay art beads to traditional beading, it’s a jewelry party that’s just right for kids ages 4 and up. There are even additional options including tie dye t-shirts and magnet clips.

No matter what your child’s current passion is, there’s probably a mobile party that’s just right for her and for you too. There’s less planning, less clean up, and more time for you to have fun.

Nancy Flanders is a part-time writer and a full-time mom to three little girls, one with cystic fibrosis. Hands-on experience raising a child with a chronic health condition has taught her a great deal about patience, persistence, and what it means to advocate for children. Nancy is a contributing editor for ParentingSquad.com, and contributes to several sites, including LiveAction.org and ParentingSpecialNeeds.org.

6 Tips to a Happy Life With Your New Pet

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Photo: Cia de Foto

It’s just about springtime, and with it comes baby animals. All the cute little baby animals with their little wet noses and big eyes begging you to take them home. And then there are your children with their sad little faces, also begging you to take that cuddly puppy, kitten, or bunny.

If you decide to bring home an animal, keep in mind that each year 5-7 million pets are abandoned either because they become an inconvenience or too much work. If you’re going to make an animal a part of your family this spring, make sure you are prepared.

1. Spay or Neuter

People who don’t spay or neuter their pets end up with more pets, and those little babies are at a high risk for abandonment and death. Spaying and neutering is the best thing you can do to ensure that fewer animals are put to sleep because no one wanted them.

2. Train

Your puppy and kitten aren’t going to train themselves. If you don’t do it, you are the one at fault when Fido pees on your carpet. Make sure to properly train your pets to avoid accidents that will frustrate you and your pet. If your pet has frequent accidents, ruins your belongings, or barks and runs away constantly, you’ll be more likely to give your pet to a shelter. Just as you are responsible for your young child’s behavior, you are responsible for your pet’s behavior too.

3. Decide Who Is Responsible

Before getting your new addition, have a family meeting about who will be responsible for what. Every family member can take part in actively caring for an animal. Young kids can help with feeding, older children can be responsbile for taking dogs out for a walk, and you can handle the vet appointments. It’s a team effort and everyone must be on board and willing.

4. Be Pro-active With Pet Care

Certain things trigger unwanted behavior from your pets. If you don’t cut your cat’s nails, she’ll probably shred your furniture. If you don’t scoop the litter box, she’ll probably pee outside of it. If you don’t take the dog for a walk, he will have an accident in your house. To avoid having fur on everything, brush them properly with a product like the Furminator, recently featured on Lifetime Television’s The Balancing Act. I tested it myself, and it made a huge difference in the amount of fur my cats shed. You know what needs to be done — so do it. It’s the best way to avoid any mishaps.

5. Know Your Budget

Pets are expensive. Make sure you know what you are getting into financially. Sit down with a calculator and figure it out. A small dog will cost $1300 for the first year alone. If it isn’t in your budget, it isn’t in your budget. Better to know that now than when you’re faced with a $500 vet bill and contemplating getting rid of your beloved Fido.

6. Give them love

Animals need a lot of attention. Without proper love and care, your pet will become depressed, and just like depressed humans act out, so do depressed animals. Dogs will destroy your home and cats will pee all over. Make sure to pet them, walk them, and cuddle them to ensure they are happy and healthy.

Pets are a big responsibility. They take commitment, time, and caring. Don’t expect your children to be on top of caring for your pet even if they swear they will. After all, they’re kids. Know what you’re getting into when adopting a pet so that that dog won’t be put to sleep and your kids won’t be devastated when your cat has to go to a new home.

I received a Furminator to try out on my pets. My opinions here are my own, though I can’t speak for my cats.

5 Quick Dinner Ideas for Busy Nights

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Photo: Quiltsalad

We all have those days when the clocks strikes 4 and we have no idea what we are making for dinner. But take-out can be expensive and unhealthy, and how much pasta can your family eat? There are better backup plans to have in place when you hit a dinner snag.

1. Sandwiches

They’re a kid favorite anyway, so break out the bread and let everyone make their own dinner. Cold cuts, peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, or even grilled Nutella can be perfectly paired with some microwaved veggies, canned soup, fruit, or chips for a quick, satisfying dinner.

2. Soup and Salad

A classic quick meal, soup, and a salad are quick and easy to prepare. Plus, if you have a variety of soups on hand, everyone can choose their own. You can create a salad bar for the kids to build their own salads too. It’s much more fun to eat a salad when you’ve designed it yourself.

For an even more satisfying soup meal, you can stock the pantry with prepackaged ingredients from Frontier Soups. Just add fresh ingredients to their dry soup mixes for a filling dinner.

3. Prepackaged Meals

Just because a dinner comes in a bag, doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy. Kashi makes some great frozen dinners like their Steam Meal entrees, which are natural and filled with fiber and protein. You can also create your own “prepackaged” meals on a Sunday afternoon to save for a night like this.

4. Scrambled Egg Burritos

Quick, easy, and unexpected. Grab those tortillas or wraps and scramble up some eggs. Add peppers, onions, salsa, cheese, and whatever else you like on a typical burrito. Bam! Dinner is served.

5. Mix and Max

There’s probably enough leftovers in your fridge for everyone to create their own unique dinner. Tuesday’s leftover spaghetti, Wednesday’s BBQ chicken, and Thursday’s meatloaf can be paired with frozen veggies or salad for a complete meal in a jiffy.

Don’t panic when you forget to plan for dinner. Some quick thinking, a well-stocked pantry, and a little creativity can go a long way to make a great meal.

How to Get Out of the House on Time (Without All the Yelling)

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Photo: timsamoff

This is serious stuff. Getting out of the house on time and without drama is a challenge with children. Between lunch boxes, backpacks, science projects, and whatever else you need to have with you when you head out the door, your morning routine can become a chaotic mess quickly. Make sure you have a plan.

1. Start on Sunday evening

Make a lunch and snack menu for the week so you always know what you’re preparing for the kids. This will save you that time you often waste standing at the pantry or refrigerator and staring at all the food. You can also spend Sunday evening looking over the schedule for the week to make sure you are aware of and ready for any appointments, after school activities, or field trips that are scheduled. Make sure the ingredients for a healthy breakfast (protein, whole grains, and fruits) are ready for the morning rush.

2. Pack the night before

Make lunch and have book bags packed and by the front door before anyone goes to bed. Each child should make sure he has everything he needs, including sneakers for gym, signed permission slips, homework, and library books to return. If it’s winter, make sure all boots, mittens, scarves, and hats are accounted for and ready to be put on as you run out the door. Pack the bag for your work, too.

3. Wake up at the right Time

Waking up too early can sometimes have the same effect of waking up late. Your mind is tricked into believing you have an endless amount of time to get ready, and that means you end up wasting time. Plan to wake up at a certain time depending on how long it takes to accomplish each morning task. And stick to that morning schedule. Set the timer for breakfast if you have to so that you and your children are aware when time is up for eating and you all must get dressed and brush teeth. If you wake up before the sun rises, consider purchasing an alarm clock that wake you up with light to help your body to recognize that it’s morning.

4. Go to bed

Getting the right amount of sleep will help you wake up on time. But in the winter months, waking up before the sun can be difficult. Our bodies simply aren’t ready. So go to bed early based on the recommended times for your children’s ages.

5. Build a few extra minutes into the schedule

There’s no accounting for freak meltdowns, bathroom mishaps, or traffic. Give yourself extra time to get where you need to go. Otherwise, your car trip will turn into a stress-fest and you’ll all be worked up before you get anywhere.

6. Don’t yell

Whatever you do, don’t yell. You shouldn’t need to with your new system in place, but even if you’re frustrated, remain calm. When you yell, your kids get upset and stressed and therefore make you more upset. Try giving instructions one at a time such as, “Put your shoes on.” Giving too many instructions at once, or instructions that are too vague, creates confusion. If you tell them what’s going on clearly and concisely, they are more likely to actually hear you since there’s only a few words to take in.

Create a morning routine and stick to it. There will always be days when things don’t go as planned, but when everyone knows what is expected of them and what the rules are, your mornings will go more smoothly.

How to Include Children With Disabilities in Your Family Exercise Routine

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Photo: Honza Soukup

January is Family Fit Lifestyle Month, the perfect excuse to get your family off the couch and moving. But if one of your children has a disability, you may think it’s impossible to find something the whole family can participate in.

Well, not only is it not impossible, it’s extremely important. According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, the obesity rate in children with disabilities is an astounding 38% higher than in children without disabilities. Exercise can help reduce the chance of your child developing chronic and secondary conditions, and it also provides the added benefits of increased self-esteem and greater socialization. But even if your child can’t be physically involved, she can participate. It’s easier than you think.

Plan it Out

You know your child’s abilities better than anyone. Get creative and come up with some ides together. If your child is unable to walk, swimming may be a great option.

Adapt

Change the way you view exercise. If your child doesn’t weigh too much for you to carry her, get a special backpack to include her in your walks or hikes. Purchase a adaptive bike for your child to use or ride in with you.

Seek Opportunity

Your local parks and recreation department may have inclusive recreation programs available including baseball teams, dance classes, martial arts classes, and gym memberships. All you have to do is ask.

Do It for Charity

Sign your family up for a charity walk-a-thon or 5k. Your child will love having the wind in her hair as you guide her and her chair to the finish line.

Take Lessons

Lessons such as horseback riding work double-time as therapy for children with disabilities from cerebral palsy to vision impairments. Horseback riding in particular has been shown to improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, motor development, and self-esteem according to Kids Rein.

Pick a Sport

Most sports can be adapted for children with disabilities including golf, soccer, archery, biking, baseball, skiing, and water sports.

Check It Out

There are more opportunities and ideas available at I Can Do It, You Can Do It.

There are plenty of opportunities to include your child with disabilities in your family exercise routine. It will benefit your entire family to make sure each member is included in the fun. Chat with your child’s doctors before hand to make sure any activity you pick is appropriate and safe for your child’s needs.

Tagged: children with disabilities, family exercise, including children with disabilities in family exercise routine, inclusive recreation, sports for disabled children, therapeutic lessons

How to Get Your Family Exercising This Year

It’s a new year. Did you make a resolution to be healthier and lose those extra pounds? Why not get the entire family in on it? According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, less than 20% of adults, and only one in three children get their recommended amount of physical activity each day. Obesity has doubled among adults since the 1970s.

January is Family Fit Lifestyle Month. The best time to start any new healthy habit is right now.

Exercise is probably one of the toughest habits to start, but also tough to break once you’re in the groove. Plus, exercise has amazing benefits. It keeps you healthy from your heart to your bones, reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. It also boosts your mood, gives you energy, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves your self-esteem because you will be looking better and feeling better. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to spend time with your family.

Plan It With Their Interests in Mind

Schedule one morning or evening a week to a family activity such as bike riding, walking, hiking, or something your children love like skateboarding. Taking an interest in their activity will help build a strong connection between you.

Sign Up

Take a class together. Local parks and recreation departments and fitness centers offer everything from yoga and dance to Tae Kwon Do and swimming.

Think Variety

Pick a new activity for each weekend such as ice skating this week, mini-golf next week, and snowshoeing the following week. All you have to do is a web search on local activities, or pick up your local parenting publication to find some great ideas.

Take Advantage

There are opportunities in each day to get a little more exercise into your routine and promote healthier habits for your entire family. Skip the elevator and take the stairs. Park the car farther away from the store, and walk anywhere you can such as through your local downtown.

Form a Daily Habit

Each night after dinner, take a walk together through your neighborhood rather than watch television. It may help you all wind down and sleep better.

If You Build It…

…they will play. Turn your yard into anything you can imagine: an ice skating rink, a baseball field, a Frisbee disc course, a soccer field, or an obstacle course. It doesn’t have to be perfect or even permanent, just something that works and gets your children (and you) outside.

Do It for Charity

Sign up for a bike-a-thon, walk-a-thon, 5k, or fun run for a great charity. Not only will you be raising money for a worthwhile cause, you’ll be motivated to train and practice for the big event.

Seasonal Outings

Each season brings with it new fun activities. Apple picking and pumpkin picking in the fall, snowshoeing and skiing in the winter, hiking and yard sale shopping in the spring, swimming and boating in the summer. Check your local newspaper for events happening in your area.

Get a Dog

Your kids have been begging for one anyway, right? Having a dog is the perfect excuse to get outside. He needs to be walked. He’ll want to play fetch. He might jump in the lake. Maybe it’s time to break down get that new best friend for your family.

Join the Gym

Joining a gym doesn’t have to be expensive. Planet Fitness memberships start as low as $10 a month per person (They were just featured on The Balancing Act!) and the local Y has family memberships for under $100 a month.

Even one change in your routine will lead to more changes and before you know it, you won’t know how you ever lived without exercise. It can be tough to stay motivated sometimes. But if your family supports each other, and acts as one another’s cheerleader, it will help. You may also want to consider starting fitness diaries to keep track of your goals. Don’t forget that you are your child’s biggest role model; be an inspiration.

Please remember to consult with your family doctors before beginning any exercise routines, especially if you or your children have any pre-existing conditions.

My Daughter and Cystic Fibrosis

Pregnancy with my daughter Maggie went so smoothly I feel guilty talking about it. Besides some mild morning sickness and a flash of heartburn here and there, we were both so incredibly comfortable with her in the womb that she was still in there two weeks beyond her due date. But that’s where the comfort and ease ended. Once labor started, life got rough. Maggie and I both developed fevers and when she was finally born 16 hours later, she was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for evaluation. Doctors tested her for anything that may have caused her fever, but they never found the source. After four days, she was sent home with a clean bill of health. But the relief and promise of good health was short-lived. Just two days later our lives were forever changed by four painful words from the pediatrician, “She has cystic fibrosis.”

Unlike my husband, I had never heard of cystic fibrosis (CF). I didn’t understand the words. I had no idea what it meant for my daughter or how drastically our lives had just been altered. I prayed repeatedly for the doctors to be wrong, for the tests to be wrong. But they weren’t. At just 6-days-old, my daughter’s life was given an expiration date and I was left wondering why.

Maggie is one of only 70,000 people in the world living with CF, a life-threatening, progressive, unpredictable, and incurable genetic disease. Despite the fact that only 30,000 Americans have CF, 1 in 33 Americans is a carrier of the gene and in 1 in 400 couples, both partners are carriers. Of those couples, there is a 25% chance any child they create will have CF. Maggie has only a 50/50 chance of living to see her 37th birthday.

Within a few days of Maggie’s diagnosis, we were visiting specialists and learning how to take care of our daughter. Her daily routine would include hands-on chest percussion therapy and pills to help her digest food. But that was just the beginning. Over time, we would add nebulized medications, special vitamins, inhalers, and a $16,000 machine to help clear her lungs of mucus.

Now, Maggie is almost four years old and already has mild lung disease. To keep her as healthy as possible and alive, each day she does her treatments without fail. As soon as she wakes up, she uses an inhaler of Albuterol to open her airways. Then she does a 10-minute nebulized medication called Pulmozyme to break up the mucus in her lungs. This is followed by 20-30 minutes of The Vest, an airway clearance device that vibrates, shaking her lungs so she can cough any mucus out. Throughout her day she takes over 16 enzyme pills to help her absorb food (her pancreas doesn’t work) so that she doesn’t die of starvation, as well as numerous medications and vitamins to help her stay healthy. Before bed, she uses the Albuterol inhaler and does another 20-30 minutes of The Vest. When she’s sick, she does nebulized Albuterol and The Vest four times a day for 20-30 minutes. None of this guarantees that she will stay out of the hospital, won’t need a lung transplant, or will even live to see age 37. But it does help. In the 1950s, children with CF could only expect to live to age eight. So while the treatments are inconvenient and Maggie doesn’t always want to do them, they are a blessing because they are literally keeping her alive. As she ages, more will be added to her routine, because CF is sneaky and progressive, and can take a person from healthy to dying with one respiratory illness.

Until a cure comes, every cough is frightening and ever sneeze makes us jump. While we do have fear for Maggie’s future, we also have hope, because the CF Foundation and Vertex pharmaceuticals are working on the next best thing to a cure – medications which target the underlying cause of CF, rather than therapies to treat the symptoms. These drugs, which are still in trials, hold the possibility of a normal, healthier life span for children like Maggie. And isn’t a long, healthy life all a parent really wants for their child?