Preventing Toxic Stress

Preventing TS 5Stress is a normal part of life, and it can motivate people toward reaching goals. However, it can, especially in young children, hinder mental, social, brain, and personal development since humans are not born automatically instilled with the most productive ways to deal with stress.

What is toxic stress? An informative place to start is (CDCHU) Center on the Developing Child/Harvard University.  The definition provided there is…“While moderate, short-lived stress responses in the body can promote growth, toxic stress is the strong, unrelieved activation of the body’s stress management system in the absence of protective adult support. Without caring adults to buffer children, the unrelenting stress caused by extreme poverty, neglect, abuse, or severe maternal depression can weaken the architecture of the developing brain, with long-term consequences for learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.”

Stress is our body’s reaction to being overstimulated, feeling threatened, overwhelmed, being uncomfortable with new places and people, and stress can be brought on by too much excitement too. If stress is not managed properly, it has the potential to lead to a damaged immune system and lifelong health issues so says the Psychology Foundation of Canada. Tantrums, nonstop crying and whining, violent outbursts, a relentless sense of being tired and withdrawn, headaches, trouble eating/sleeping, bad habits like biting nails, hair twisting, and sucking thumbs have the potential to develop if toxic stress is left to wreak havoc upon a child—a child who wants to trust family members and teachers.

The Psychology Foundation of Canada emphasizes, “Preschoolers can handle stress better Blog kids 2when they have a healthy, balanced lifestyle with good food, lots of time for physical activity, play and relaxation, and daily routines that make their world feel predictable and safe.”

Negative Impacts from Stress

Mental Development

If everyday stress and/or chronic long term stress are left to simmer without intervention, logic tells us ABCs, 1-2-3s, and all other knowledge needed to mature travel a longer, rougher terrain to get inside of a child’s mind. If a child is stressing over a bully waiting for him/her outside on the playground, or stressing about his/her mother’s reaction to a teacher’s note, basic survival kicks in. The ABCs and 1-2-3s pale in comparison.

Social Development

If everyday stress and/or chronic long term stress persist, undesirable behaviors might manifest, like becoming that bully on the playground, tantrums, inflicting self-harm, loud outbursts, or a child shutting down to become anti-social is a real possibility. It’s crucial for strategies, routines, and action plans be in place that children are aware of to decrease the chances of stress damaging their social development.

Personal Development

If everyday stress and/or chronic long term stress become too acceptable for a child, what personal goals will be disregarded because surviving is more important? Maybe a child desperately wants to learn to read, but constant teasing about it feeds a negative message about school, so that child gives up. Parents, teachers, and caregivers can reduce stress so children feel safe in their environments, safe to learn.

Toxic stress can be prevented through awareness, education, and resources made available to anyone in need of them. Keep in mind…

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that “many adult diseases should be viewed as developmental disorders that begin early in life and that persistent health disparities associated with poverty, discrimination, or maltreatment could be reduced by the alleviation of toxic stress in childhood.”

  • Risk factors for children to become exposed to toxic stress “include examples of multiple stressors (eg, child abuse or neglect, parental substance abuse, and maternal depression) that are capable of inducing a toxic stress response (AAP).”
  • Stress-induced alterations in the design of a child’s developing brain can have possible permanent effects on a range of important functions “such as regulating stress physiology, learning new skills, and developing the capacity to make healthy adaptations to future adversity (AAP).
  • “Impaired parenting—defined as harsh, inconsistent, or indifferent parenting—is known to be related to poor developmental and emotional outcomes in young children, says the National Center for Children in Poverty.
  • Resources like Prevent Child Abuse America, National Center for Children in Poverty, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The Psychology Foundation of Canada, school counselors, social workers, and child welfare programs can assist parents/caregivers, teachers, and the community to protect children from toxic stress.

The more parents/caregivers understand about the development of children, the better equipped they will be to get their children off to a good start. Pediatric doctors, schools, child welfare programs, and the community all have the potential to impact this issue. Take time to learn about toxic stress, and then spread the word!

Please feel free to comment, and share this post.

Thanks for visiting the Noracast!

Bully

Lee Hirsch’s BULLY is shocking, informative, and thought provoking as it takes the audience on a dangerous and terrifying journey into a realm where bullies rule. This realm spreads out across America like a devastating infection, claiming lives and ruining youthful days better spent pursuing dreams.

The children in this movie—Kelby, Ja’Meya, and Alex, all have a story of their own to tell. Each story is filled with deep sadness. Each story pulls on a person’s heartstrings. David and Tina Long recount about the actions of bullies that eventually became too much for their son, Tyler. Tyler, only 17 years old, hung himself.

On The Bully Project website, it was stated, “Over 13 million American kids will be victims of bullying this year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the nation.” Okay, that number is just as shocking as the documentary, which is why neither should be ignored. Children deserve to feel safe going to school, learning at school, and then returning home. The website is full of tips for parents and schools who are interested in taking action against this frightening situation. Parents are encouraged to talk to their kids about this. If your child is being bullied, or if your child is a bully, helpful information is there.

Watching this movie, I could not help but to wonder…

Why was there no accountability placed on the actual bullies? The victims were the ones hassled, interviewed, and made to feel like they deserved what they got.

Were any of the schools held accountable for what was happening on school property and buses?

Were any of the bullies referred to social workers to try and figure out why they were being so cruel? Were their parents or caregivers involved at all? What about consequences?

Do states require schools to have and enforce some kind of action plan for educating students/staff about this issue, and then if so…how is this action planned enforced?

Now, many, many more questions are bouncing around in my head. This movie certainly is a call to action, so I must do more research and find out if our local schools are actively fighting against bullying. The Bully Project/movie is powerful and memorable. I was encouraged after the movie to see snippets from the proactive segments that showed how initiating bully awareness and educating children on what to do really did make a drastic difference.

What are your thoughts about this issue? Do your neighborhood schools have a bully awareness program/protocol?

Thanks for visiting!

Sugared and Spiced with Wicked Delight

Excitement grows as Halloween approaches, bringing with it a feast of wicked, little treats that are sure to delight the youngest of Halloween rookies, as well as seasoned veterans seeking confectionary treasures.  As much fun as it is devouring the sweets and trick or treating, the best thing about Halloween is how it makes ordinary days…exceptional, full of laughter as we all appreciate the magic found in life.

Are you looking for treats to make your family and friends smile? If so, the Noracast is here to help. It takes little effort to dip a ghost shaped, sugar cookie into warm, white chocolate, and swirling a spider web upon the top of cupcake is as easy as making pumpkin pie. Easy is the key word for busy families, so scroll on down to discover spooky treats you’ll all enjoy!

Funny Bones: Found at Disney Family Fun, Funny Bones makes the most out of white meltable candy wafers, thin rod pretzels of varying lengths, and mini-marshmallows. All you do is melt the white candy wafers, attach mini-marshmallows to the pretzel rods, and then spend some quality time with your kids dipping the would-be bones into the bowl of white candy. Kids of all ages will love this recipe!

Batty Cupcakes: I love bats. Check out this video of a Flying Fox (Bat) at the ColumbusZoo.  These bats are mega-bats, and they are amazing creatures. Oh! I must stop myself…back to the wicked delights. How about these Batty Cupcakes? Simply bake your favorite cupcakes, ice them with chocolate icing, and then use a smidgen of white icing, mini-M&M’s, thin mints, and Andes Crème de Menthe Candy to make adorable bat cupcakes.

Creepy Spiders:  Okay, I can never get enough information on bats, but spiders? Only on Halloween can they ever be discussed with me! This Creepy Spider recipe is more than okay with me, because they look delicious, and kids can help assemble them, which is mighty important for Halloween to be fun for everyone.  Basically, you mix a chocolate fudge cake mix with butter and an egg, shape into balls, bake, cool, and then decorate.

Strawberry Ghosts: Boo! These Strawberry Ghosts are too cute to frighten even a bird, but they do look yummy! Besides a tiny bit of time, just gather up strawberries, white baking chocolate, shortening, almond extract, and miniature semisweet chocolate chips to bring these Halloween babies to life.

Ghosts and Goblins Pudding Cups: Pudding is a dessert few can resist, so top off a cup of pudding with a Cool Whip ghost and a Halloween hit has been created! This dessert can be made quickly and easily with instant pudding, crushed chocolate cookies, Cool Whip, chocolate chips, a plastic sandwich bag, and clear plastic cups.

Meringue Ghosts: This recipe seems easy, and I’m definitely going to try it, so please let me know if you’ve ever summoned Meringue Ghosts. This recipe calls for egg whites, cream of tartar (which I’ve never purchased) sugar, vanilla, and miniature semisweet chocolate chips. These ghosts look almost too good to eat.

Feel free to share any of your favorite Halloween treats or tips. Thanks for visiting the Noracast…and Happy Halloween!

The Best Worst Days Ever

Life is funny. Kids want to grow up faster than ever, and adults dream of bygone days when life was simple, when they were five or six, or maybe ten years old. As a mother of six children, well…now, mostly young adults, I spend too much time at the grocery store. Frequently, I see parents struggling with their kids, dropping groceries, and they look utterly exhausted. Last week, I saw a young mother pulling a grape lollipop out of her daughter’s hair. Yes, the child was screaming and kicking. Ah, the joys of motherhood!

You may think I’m crazy, but I’d give just about anything to get those long, sleepless—wonderful days back. I had five kids in seven years, and then seven years later had my sixth child. Yes! I was busy. They say there’s no use crying over spilled milk, but have you ever dropped a gallon of milk? I have, more than once, and it is one of the worst messes I’ve ever seen. Milk is not content to simply puddle around your feet. Oh, no. It must splash all over the refrigerator shelves, before it seeps under the refrigerator, and of course, this is while dinner is cooking. That means the dinner rolls are long forgotten until the smell of crispiness attacks your nose. Fun times…

Although the day I dropped a gallon of paint from atop a ladder on the second floor, only to watch it bounce and thrash down the steps to the foyer was truly horrendous! The paint exploded from the can to make huge spirals all over the wall I just painted. Those spirals, being a flat paint, dried super fast and had to be sanded off. The walls, carpet, foyer tiles, and me were a disaster, and I did this one to myself. Uh-huh…that was a bad day.

Oh, it gets better. My little darlings, all creative little sprites…loved to make me “things.” One morning, I awoke to find a cheese design on my wall. Actually, it was quite pretty, but cheese sticks…and when removed, leaves an oily mark. Nothing on earth would wash away the oil, so the oily remains had to be cut out, repaired, and painted. Try to imagine what they did with eggs and blue paint.

My youngest daughter, Brenna, still laughs until her eyes water, when my family recounts how she distributed an entire bottle of maple syrup all over our downstairs. I believe she was around four years old and did this in the middle of the night when I was in a coma. That morning, I stepped into a gooey puddle as my foot hit the foyer, and it was downhill from there. She managed to dribble that syrup all over the couches, floors, TV, her toys, and anywhere else she could find. Brenna was kind enough to make sure the silverware drawer was adequately doused as well.

Can I top that? Yep, I’m afraid so. Max the ferret probably made for one of the most memorable days my family has had…so far. Occasionally, the kids would let him run around the house. Unfortunately, Max loved to hide. After a few hours of looking for him, my daughter discovered he’d gotten stuck in my husband’s favorite stereo speakers. Let’s just say, hubby was not happy. The speaker died, Max lived. Yikes! What a day from you know where.

Those were the days, though. Every night, I tucked my kids in bed and knew they were safe and sound. I heard them giggling and telling each other goodnight. A child’s laugher is precious, isn’t it? So if parenting brings you any days like my past episodes…smile. Milk can be sopped up, walls can be repaired (many times), and ferrets can survive stereo speakers. Although, I’d suggest keeping cheese out of reach! The worst days become the best memories never to be relived, but wished for always.

Feel free to share your childhood antics, or family mishaps, and bring a bit of laughter to someone.

Thanks for visiting the Noracast!

Tempting Them with Tortellini

Tempting Them with Tortellini

Glass panels in the antique door rattle announcing the kids, and their boisterous entourage, have arrived home. Book bags hit the floor, and shoes are kicked off as stress from a hard day at school is discarded as well.

Tashi, and Mushu…lovingly called Moo Moo, leap around while barking like crazed hyenas, even though they are tiny dogs unaware the plump squirrels in the backyard are more ferocious.

“Um, what smells good? Is dinner ready? We’re starving!” say the hungry gang of teens hustling into the kitchen.

Starving, indeed…but it is not only food they desire because that simply satisfies the emptiness in their stomachs. It’s the delicious combo of dinner and decompression that makes coming home so inviting.

Just as a deep sea diver must decompress for safety reasons, people need to decompress as well, and kids need it more than ever. With college entrance exams, like the ACT and SAT, state exams, final exams, weekly homework, learning to drive, peer pressure, and deciding what they will do for the rest of their lives…kids absolutely know the definition of stress.

One of the easiest, most scrumptious ways to tempt your kids to venture home after school, or work, is with good food heavily spiced with a pleasant atmosphere. My kids always look forward to tortellini with meat sauce. If meatballs are simmering on the stove, all the better, and if I’m really in a super mood, then garlic bread just might be toasting in the oven.

Now, on to some menu suggestions, and tips, so dinnertime will be simple, satisfying, and provoke lively conversation to enable everyone to unwind. Be sure to use the Internet to your advantage for new recipes. Visit allrecipes, Cooks.com, Southern Living,                 Taste of Home, and healthy living budget recipes at Kraft Recipes.

Rules at the Round Table:

Same rules apply if your table is square, rectangular, or octagon, but establishing family rules for dinnertime is essential for everyone to feel at ease.

  • Unless an emergency situation is looming, like a parent having surgery, or a baby is about to be born…cell phones, laptops, iPads, televisions, etc., should not be invited to dinner. This is important because rather than technology controlling the atmosphere, people actually speak to each other.
  • Dinnertime is not the time to reprimand kids. It would be impossible for me to enjoy my dinner, if I was being reminded, even in a polite way…that I screwed up something. Better to tell Johnny he forgot it was garbage day, and he got an attendance notice from school after dinner.
  • Model the behavior of using an “inside” voice, good manners, and ask questions to get the conversation going. At my home, we usually have six to ten people eating, so “outside” voices are too much for us all. Kids love to tell you about the best, and worst, parts of their day. I also like to ask my kids what they did to make someone’s life a little better. The best part of my day is hearing they made a difference.
  • Cleanup is for everyone! (This one is my favorite.)

Simple Suggestions:

  • Spaghetti Sauce- If you barely have time to breathe like me…use these shortcuts to make sauce that tastes like homemade. I combine two different brands of ready-made sauce, such as Hunts and Ragu, and then I add a splash of olive oil, a tablespoon of minced garlic, parsley, salt/pepper, and approximately three tablespoons of brown sugar. White sugar can also be used, and it really tames the acidic taste of store bought sauce. Add a jar of pizza sauce and pepperoni to any store bought sauce, and then sprinkle each serving with mozzarella cheese. It’s so good!
  • Chili is a delicious meal that’s made better if warm cornbread is by its side. Any type of roll, or toast, adds that something special to a family dinner.
  • Cook ahead of time! This is one way to stay fairly sane while trying to provide meals for your family. While cleaning up the kitchen, go ahead and cook the ground beef, and get the sauce ready for the next day. Coming home is less stressful when the cooking is done. Spaghetti sauce, lasagna, taco meat, crepes, soups, Sloppy Joe meat, and various chicken recipes are candidates for “night before preparation.”
  • If your kids get home before you, having visible snacks, like a fruit bowl filled with apples, oranges, nectarines, and bananas, will encourage healthy snack habits. A particular hot spot for other light snacks helps with that after school hunger, and there are lots of choices with yogurt to satisfy your kids as well.
  • Chef Boyardee Pizza: Love it! Try making one pizza using both of the packets, versus two thin pizzas. Add green peppers, onions, mushrooms, sausage and extra cheese and you’ll have a tasty pizza to please the crowd.

As you can see, dinnertime can be that part of a day where family and friends come together to be thankful for all their blessings, especially each other. What suggestions, or recipes, do you have to make dining together more enjoyable?

Thanks for visiting!

It’s Always about the Marshmallows

It’s Always about the Marshmallows

“Um…”

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

John Wooden

If Pride and Prejudice is put in the DVD player, then homemade hot chocolate had better be heating on the stove. Oreo’s are expected to show up before show time and so are Twizzlers. However, heaven forbid if marshmallows fail to plop down into the steaming cups of chocolate milk. So what if there are no marshmallows?

Well, life will go on…that is true. But the marshmallows, floating in the chocolate pool until they melt making a creamy foam, adds an extra punch. Details, like a teaspoon of cinnamon in brownie mix, a handwritten note that’s been painstakingly decorated, or that unanticipated hug when needed most, are examples of things capable of enriching any day. I smile, saturated with happiness, when I see a kind note of encouragement left on my computer, especially since a super busy teenager took the time to write it.

Celebration New York Style

Details are important. Look at this photograph of New York City taken on New Year’s Eve, 2009. The shot oozes with a sense of commotion detailing how crazy the atmosphere is in NYC, especially when a celebration is under way. So many windows create interesting patterns above the people, some reflecting light while others are dark…which easily relates to the crowd since some of them possess hearts of light, while others are filled with darkness.

Black Cat in Athens

Although it may seem this photograph of a cat lacks details, it actually provides fantastic inspiration for poetry or a short story. The details are there…look again. Haphazardly white-washed, the steps look in need of repair because large gaps exist and weeds are growing. The black cat is not wearing a collar, and it may possibly be sniffing for food. The dirt in the larger pot is low and a small piece of paper is inside the pot, plus the plant on the step looks dead. So questions arise. How many cats live at this place? Could the piece of paper be important? Is the owner of this place in need of help? The photograph makes me wonder about what the front door looks like and who lives inside. Ah, yes…details. They are juicy tidbits that enhance everything.

As far as details in the craft of writing, let’s consider only characterization for this post. The most memorable characters are the ones whose personalities jump from the pages as a direct result of their characterization being filled with unique details about their past, present, and future goals, their habits…likes and dislikes, and details that reveal their inadequacies. Sometimes, what a character does wrong is more memorable than what most people would consider his/her high points. A flawed, but likeable, character with a deep dark secret…who gets into a precarious situation, compels many readers to find out what happens because they can relate to that on some level. Perfect characters? Does anyone know a perfect person? That would be difficult to relate to.

If by some chance you hit a grocery market today, snag a bag of marshmallows. Make hot chocolate, and add a handful of details to an ordinary day. You’ll smile with glee while snuggling on the couch with that special person…because life should be filled with marshmallows.

Add some fluff to life!

What are the details in your life that make it special? Have you had the pleasure of receiving a unique gift, or gesture, that while not necessary to survive, it caused joy? Feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for visiting the Noracast.

Greetings!

Spring into Simplicity

Living in Michigan makes seeing and feeling welcomed sunshine a true blessing, but it also signals the onset of spring. What is wrong with that? Absolutely nothing if you are a perfectionist in every aspect of your life and you’re organized to the nth degree for spring cleaning, lawn care, upcoming holidays, summer vacations, and your home requires no repair from winter’s beating. Don’t get me wrong…I thoroughly enjoy the warmth and longer days, but lately, I’ve been feeling the desire to simplify every aspect of my life so spring and summer are the best ever.

Let’s look at some ways to spring into simplicity and “live,” not just survive.

Spring Cleaning: One of the most efficient ways to simplify spring cleaning is to use an all-purpose cleaner like Scrubbing Bubbles® Nature’s Source®. This product cuts through grime and grease without leaving a residue, plus it is plant-based and its strength comes from natural, biodegradable ingredients. Use this product on appliances, floors, fiberglass, hubcaps, countertops, sinks, showers, glazed ceramic tile, and stainless steel. GreenWorks® is another natural, all-purpose cleaning product that will make cleaning faster and less of a hassle.

Recycle/Give Away/Sell: Go on an adventure and find lost treasure! Room by room, closet after closet, and even that dreaded “catch all” drawer in the kitchen must be explored and sorted out. Decide which items are keepers and discard, recycle, give away, or sell items accordingly. What will you get from this adventure? More space to organize, possibly some cash, and best of all…that pleasurable feeling of being generous toward others may saturate you as well. Blujay, eBay, Overstock, and eCrater are examples of online auctions/marketplaces to buy and sell items.

National Do Not Call Registry: Register your home/cell telephone numbers so time is not wasted on numerous, unwanted telemarketing calls. No matter what I’m doing, even if I’m high up on a ladder painting, I feel compelled to answer all calls because of a possible family emergency, so this registry helps. Make sure to read the website information before you register.

Internet: Pay bills online, review and print medical transactions, change cable service, find more affordable service providers, and shop for upcoming holidays/birthdays online. Skip going to the video store by using Netflix and take advantage of their one month free trial. Be sure to check out their Watch Instantly option.

Dinner: One of the most important questions is, “What’s for dinner?” Visit All Recipes, Moms Who Think, Betty Crocker’s Dinner Made Easy, and Campbell’s Kitchen for delicious dinner ideas. Make double batches of meatballs and chili to use later in the week. Try to plan out five or six meals and then shop for them at once to save time. Keep in mind buying larger quantities will save money, so have hamburgers one night and then tacos the next.

Honesty in All Things: This sounds almost too simple, but be honest. Look at yourself, home, job, relationships, and finances. What needs cleaned up? What have you tackled well enough to leave alone? If you see any areas in need of spring cleaning…go for it. Being honest means less time wasted on regret and less time wasted trying to remember lies or deceitful actions that may eventually overlap to a point of no return. Also, this positive outlook on life will ensure you do not over obligate yourself to friends, family, work, or organizations. Too much of anything can be overwhelming, so if you truly cannot attend or host something, then tactfully decline.

Share the Load: If you live with others, then sit down and discuss ways to share chores. The chores could rotate weekly or monthly, or everyone may choose to chip in and have some chores serviced by a company. Children grow up to be more responsible if they learn early how to help and take care of their home/belongings. If your home has space for this, place three laundry baskets in a hallway to automatically allow for separation of darks, lights, and colors. This makes doing a quick load of laundry before work, or bed, much easier. In addition, if everyone works together the night before to pack lunches, charge cell phones, and pick out clothes, then mornings will be more pleasant.

Shop Ahead: Holidays, birthdays, picnics etc. are inevitable and most enjoyable, but they can be difficult to shop for if caught off guard. Make a list of anyone who is on your gift list and write down a few ideas for each person. It’s a great idea to also write down the holidays/events that are fast approaching and take note of what you’ll need extra for them. Keep this list handy, buy in bulk, and shop ahead as much as possible to save time and reduce stress. Don’t forget to shop online!

NutshellMail: This is a fantastic, online service that manages your social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, by sending updates to your inbox on your schedule. This way, you can check all of your social networks at one time.

If you have suggestions for simplifying life, please leave a comment. Thank you for visiting!