What Happened to All of That Candy?!

On Friday, Nov 10th, my daughters (ages 4 and 7) and I took advantage of a day off from school and transported your Halloween candy donations to the Ronald McDonald House of Danville (RMHD), PA. The Mountain Valley students and community were so incredibly generous with their candy donations that we had approximately 70 pounds of candy to share! I can't express my gratitude and appreciation for everyone who participated in the candy donation drive this year.

As we drove to Danville, I talked to my children about why were making this trip and who we were helping, but they couldn't quite grasp the gravity of the situation. That's understandable since their spongy, young brains couldn't connect any prior memories to this new experience. This was the first time they had ever done anything like this. 

For those who don't know, the Ronald McDonald House provides a home-away-from-home for children under the care of a pediatrician (under the age of 21) and their families. These children are receiving outpatient care and are referred by the pediatric department at Geisinger. The House "[keeps] families with sick children together."

Upon our arrival, I was immediately struck by the beautiful, peaceful, calm and welcoming exterior of the house. I'm not sure what I was expecting (Maybe a lot of red and yellow?). The building was secure so we had to ring the receptionist to let us in. She was very welcoming & kind and helped show us where we could take the candy donations. Ginnetta Reed, Director of Development and Communications, offered to give us a tour of the facility and I gladly accepted, hoping it would help my kids get a better understanding of all the good things this facility does for children and their families.

When you enter this house, you enter into a comfortable living room with a TV, coffee table, & leather recliners. Across the hallway is a beautiful, and in my opinion, state-of-the-art playroom for younger kids (complete with one TV for movies and one for gaming). There's a beautiful fish tank and plenty of books and toys for the kids to play with. The playroom was renovated in memory of a young girl named Nikki who tragically lost her life. What an amazing legacy this young lady has left behind! How happy she must be to see children enjoying this space that was created in her memory.

Just down the hallway is a kitchen and eating area for the families who are staying there. They can make their own meals if they choose but often there are people or organizations who volunteer to make dinner for the residents. Around the corner from the kitchen is a very clean and modern laundry room for the residents to do any laundering. Their bed clothes are taken to Geisinger and cleaned for them. I was told that this ensures any children under care won't have a reaction to new or frangranced detergents.

Just off the living room is a very peaceful sunroom which looks out on an incredibly fun and safe playground, complete with a water feature and fenced-in yard.

They have 17 regular rooms and 2 efficiency apartments. The apartments are equipped with kitchenettes and TVs and they are specifically for children who are being seen by the Oncology department. The apartment setting allows them to spend time with their families while receiving cancer treatment. There are not TVs in the regular rooms because the Ronald McDonald House wants families to talk about what they're experiencing and deal with all of the emotions they are feeling. Quality family time is a high priority there, and I love that.

The Ronald McDonald House has been seeing an increased need for their services over the past several months and due to that increase, all the rooms have been filled (they even have a waiting list sometimes!), so we didn't get to see the upstairs.

So what did my kids get out of it? My 4-year old was smitten with Nikki's Playroom and I'm not really sure she understood anything else. My 7-year old, however, was so excited about all the good things RMHD does. As a fundraiser, the house collects tabs (from soda, canned goods or pet food) and then recycles them. My 7-year old is all about getting as many tabs as she can so she can give them to RMHD. She's even considering starting a program to collect tabs at her school. And THIS is why we get our kids involved in community service projects. To inspire them. To teach them. To help them understand that we need to help others when and where we can.

Ginnetta, wherever you are, thank you for inspiring me and my children! We hope to see you again in the spring!

Please visit the Ronald McDonald House of Danville's website to learn more, and don't forget to 'Like' them on Facebook page.

Is Your Family In Danger?

In the last 30 years, the rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled according to the Center for Disease Control.

TRIPLED!

With a constant focus on calories in vs. calories out, being more active, and eating lower fat foods since the 1970's, how can childhood obesity be increasing like this? We've been following the "healthy diet" rules for years but things aren't improving. There are a lot of theories circling around right now about the cause(s) of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease and it's hard (like, a full-time job hard) to navigate this overwhelming field of research. One positive thing about all of this is that more money is pouring into research on these topics than ever before, so maybe an answer will come sooner rather than later.

One thing researchers and scientists (and parents) can agree on is that there is an immense amount of convenient, inexpensive, and nutrient-poor packaged foods available to us all the time. This wasn't so much the case back in 1965 when childhood obesity rates were more than three times lower than they are today.

As busy parents, it's easy for us to grab a granola bar and a juice box for our kids as we're headed out the door to whatever activity we have scheduled. Let's be real, granola bars are tasty! And we're busy! Our kids are busy! Everyone is busy. Eating and preparing real food takes time. It can also take money. There are mixed reviews about whether or not it's more expensive to eat healthy, but the fact remains that eating healthy today takes more time than most of us feel we have, especially when we can grab a quick protein bar or smoothie as we head out the door.

And can we talk about how convenient is it to have snacks in the car, ready-to-go, for when we pick the kids up at school and shuttle them to-and-from after-school activities?! Lifesaving, at times, right? That was an interesting term to use: lifesaving. But, are those packaged, ready-to-eat snacks really "lifesaving"? Let's call them what they really are: life-damaging. None of us are intending to damage the lives of our children, but it's exactly what we're doing when we provide them with these convenient foods.

So now what? Now that we know we might be unintentionally “damaging” our children’s lives, what are we supposed to do?

The way I see it, we have 2 choices:

  1. Change the foods we make available to ourselves and our children, or
  2. Keep doing what we're doing

I vote for option 1. Change. Robin Sharma said, "Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end." This won't be easy, but Jimmy Dugan told us that "The hard is what makes it great," and I am so ready for great.

How do we start to make this change? Here are a few of the things I’m going to start doing in my own life:

  • Make a plan for what to eat when the sugar cravings and/or hunger hit. In my home we will be focusing on eating good, high-fat foods that have moderate amounts of protein and low amounts of carbohydrates. My go-to food plan will be eggs, almonds, whole fat cheese sticks, & whole fat plain yogurt with thawed, frozen berries on top. Fruits and veggies will always be at the ready to grab and go.
  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store (avoid buying foods in the center isles)

  • Read food labels and be aware of the 57 names of sugar

  • Limit or completely eliminate processed foods

  • Manage my environment! I’m going to get rid of the stuff in my home that is damaging to our health (sugar, processed food, etc.)

  • And, perhaps most importantly, I will be kind to myself. As I stated before, we are all busy! And we are all doing the very best we can, with the information we have, to make the best possible decisions for our families at any given time. Am I right? My mental health is important to me and if I’m going to be a grouch to my kids because I’m freaking out about what to feed them and what they’re eating then that sort of defeats the purpose of trying to provide a better life for my family. With that being said, if I need to employ convenient, processed foods to help me out in a moment of panic and desperation, then I will do that. But you can be sure I will be trying to pick the items with the least amount of sugar and highest amount of quality, whole-food, ingredients. Hey, nobody is perfect, especially not me. Our lives are a work in progress! Any step we take in the direction to live healthier lives is a great step. What’s the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”?

We are well aware that we don't have all the answers (yet), but one thing we do know is that living healthier lives and creating stronger bodies is determined by what we eat and how we move. Please, join us in the fight against childhood obesity.

Here are some great resources to get you started on your journey:

How to Break Sugar Addiction: 7 Steps To Help You Stop Eating Sugar (5:43) Here’s a great video saying where the science is pointing NOW - that’s not to say this information can’t change in the future.

Fooducate Blog: This blog helps its readers by educating. Blog entries give objective recommendations and discuss the best choices in supermarkets today.

Small Bites Blog: This blog focuses on debunking “healthy eating” myths and educating readers on “food politics, nutrition policy, and deceptive food industry marketing tactics”. The author, Andy Ballatti, is a “Registered Dietitian who approaches nutrition from a whole-foods, plant-centric framework.”

HOW to Quit Sugar and Unhealthy Habits - (15:00) The key to quitting sugar is understanding the 5 things in your way: Your brain, environment, habits, gut and (maybe) friends.

Real Mom Nutrition Blog: Sally is a real mom (and registered dietician) who is keeping it real. This is a no-judgement space on the web where you can get some great information and recipes for your family. Sally has a sweet tooth and you will find some recipes here that include sugar, but Sally is heading us in the right direction and this blog could be a great way to help you phase into a healthier lifestyle.

Disclaimer: We are not doctors or nutritionists. We are parents and teachers. The content you will find on this blog is purely for informational purposes and does not constitute as medical advice. Always consult your doctor, dietician, or other health professional with your concerns.