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HPV Vaccine: Fewer Doses Recommended for Preteens


Based on recent studies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is recommending that children 11 to 14 years old receive only two doses of the HPV vaccine instead of three.

The vaccine protects against cervical and other cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

However, the CDC says that teenagers and young adults who start the vaccinations later, between at ages 15 to 26, should continue with the three doses.

The new advice is based on a review of studies showing that two doses in the younger group “produced an immune response similar or higher than the response in young adults (aged 16 to 26 years) who received three doses,” the C.D.C. said in a statement. The two doses should be given at least six months apart, the agency said.

The government agency noted that the two-dose schedule should make the process easier for families and hopefully will increase the number of preteens getting the vaccine.  So far, despite the vaccine’s proven effectiveness, immunization rates have remained low.

HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, according to the disease centers. They are spread by intimate, skin-to-skin contact, and by vaginal, oral and anal intercourse. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active people become infected at some point. In most people, the immune system destroys the virus. But in some, the infection lingers. Some viral strains cause genital warts, and others can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis and back of the throat.

The vaccine is recommended for preteens and young teenagers, ideally before they become sexually active, because it works best if given before a person is exposed to HPV.

The CDC still recommends vaccination for young people who have already had sex, saying that it should provide “at least some protection.”

HPV vaccination rates are slowly rising for boys and girls as parents begin to understand the health benefits for their children. Many pediatricians are now recommending the vaccine as a regular part of a child’s inoculation routine.

Story source: Denise Grady,


The Magic of Music


“Where words fail, music speaks,” wrote Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson and he was so right. Music is the universe’s official language where old and young share its beauty and complexity.

Alzheimer’s patients have been known to respond with joy and excitement when played their favorite music after being non-responsive to other stimulus.

Children jump in rhythm and clap their hands when they hear the sounds of instruments playing. Hundreds of YouTube videos show how quickly tears can turn to smiles and giggles as the first notes of Disney’s  “Let It Go” spring forth. 

Is there really anyone who isn’t deeply affected by music?

Research has shown that particpating in music benefits children when learning other subjects and offers kids a variety of skills they can use throughout their life. 

“A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.

Can particpation in music make a child smarter? There’s a difference of opinion about that. However, it’s safe to say that it takes an assortment of specific skills to sing or play an instrument or do both simultaneously.

For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.

“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.

Children have learned how to sing and speak in other languages by listening to cross-culture songs. I even picked up a little French from the Beatles’ “Michelle” when I was a child. “Michelle, ma belle, Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble,Tres bien ensemble.”(These are words which go together well, together well.)

According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.

Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a non-musician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches a specialized music curriculum for children aged two months to nine years.

Playing music makes your brain work harder, but what about just listening to music? While some studies have noted that learning to play music can enhance your brain, listening to music just makes you feel good. But really, isn’t that wonderful too?

Music enriches your life. It’s captivating and has the power to make you smile or cry. Most of all, it’s universal.

Introducing children to music at a young age opens the door to new adventures. Whether it’s classical or hip-hop, country or rock, bluegrass or blues, jazz or Dixieland, African rhythms or Mongolian throat-singing; borders and politics may separate people, but nations and communities will share their music.

“There is a massive benefit from being musical that we don’t understand, but it’s individual. Music is for music’s sake,” Rasmussen says. “The benefit of music education for me is about being musical. It gives you have a better understanding of yourself. The horizons are higher when you are involved in music,” he adds. “Your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced.”

Yes, music is the official language of the universe and a beautiful gift to share with our children.

Source: Laura Lewis Brown,


Kidde Recalls 4.6 Million Fire Extinguishers


A lot of families have fire extinguishers in their homes in case of a small fire. Kidde makes one of the more popular brands and is recalling 4.6 million of their plastic valve disposable fire extinguishers.

A faulty valve component can cause the disposable fire extinguishers not to fully discharge when the lever is repeatedly pressed and released during a fire emergency, posing a risk of injury.

This recall involves 31 models of Kidde disposable fire extinguishers with Zytel® black plastic valves. The recalled extinguishers are red, white or silver and are either ABC or BC rated. The ratings can be found to the right of the nameplate. 

Manufacture dates included in the recall are July 23, 2013 through October 15, 2014. A 10-digit date code is stamped on the side of the cylinder, near the bottom. Digits five through nine represent the day and year of manufacture in DDDYY format.

Date codes for recalled units manufactured in 2013 are XXXX 20413 X through XXXX 36513 X and 2014 are XXXX 00114 X through XXXX 28814 X.

A complete list of the nameplate affixed to the front of the fire extinguishers is located on their website at

Kidde has received 11 reports of the recalled fire extinguishers failing to discharge as expected. No injuries have been reported.

The fire extinguishers were sold at Home Depot, Menards, Walmart and other department, home and hardware stores nationwide, and online from August 2013 through November 2014 for between $18 and $65, and about $200 for model XL 5MR.

Consumers should immediately contact Kidde for a replacement fire extinguisher at Kidde toll-free (855) 283-7991 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at and click on Safety Notice for more information.


It’s Turkey Time! Safety Tips for Preparation & Cooking


We’re closing in on Thanksgiving Day and the time of year when families gather together, give thanks and enjoy a fabulous meal. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or it’s the first time you’re in charge of making the holiday meal- you need to know the safest ways to thaw, prepare, stuff and cook your turkey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC) offers these suggestions to keep your kitchen and meal safe.

When preparing a turkey, be aware of the four main safety issues: thawing, preparing, stuffing, and cooking to the adequate temperature.

The Food Thermometer: Using a food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine desired "doneness" of meat, poultry, and egg products. To be safe, these foods must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any harmful microorganisms that may be in the food.

"Doneness" refers to when a food is cooked to a desired state and indicates the sensory aspects of foods such as texture, appearance, and juiciness. Unlike the temperatures required for safety, these sensory aspects are subjective.

Some food thermometers must be calibrated to ensure that they read food temperature accurately. Find out if your thermometer can be calibrated.

Safe Thawing: Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The "danger zone" is between 40 and 140°F — the temperature range where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the "danger zone."

There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven

Safe Preparation:  Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey. If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can then be transferred to other foods. After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.

Safe Stuffing: For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. Stuffing should not be prepared ahead. The dry and wet ingredients for stuffing can be prepared ahead of time and chilled. However, do not mix wet and dry ingredients until just before spooning the stuffing mixture into a poultry cavity, in/on other meat, or into a casserole. If stuffing a whole turkey, chicken, or other bird, spoon the stuffing in loosely using about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, because heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.

Using a food thermometer, make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F, possibly resulting in foodborne illness.

Safe Cooking: Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. Cooking times will vary. The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

For more information on safe internal temperatures, check out,

Have a wonder and safe Thanksgiving!




Recall: Cracker Barrel’s Animated Toy Monkey Due to Burns


Giggles International is recalling about 13,000 of their Animated Sing Along Monkey toy due to the possibility that the battery compartment can reach temperatures up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, posing a burn hazard for children.

This recall involves Giggles International Animated Sing-Along Monkey toys. The monkey is made of brown and beige plush material and is about 9 inches tall. The toy is designed to hold a songbook titled "5 Little Monkeys" and to sing the song when activated. A red music note is on the bottom of the monkey's right foot and the face of a child with its hands covering its eyes are on the bottom of the money's left foot. Recalled sing-along monkeys were manufactured between 6/7/2014 and 7/5/2014 and have batch code GP1410028.  

The manufacture date in the M/D/YYYY format and batch code are printed on the bottom of a white fabric label attached near the base of the monkey's tail. The monkey toys came in a tan colored box with words "Animated Sing-Along Monkey," "Sing along with me!" and "I play peek-a-boo with you!" on the front. The age advisory "For ages 3+" and the warning that batteries are included are also on the front of the box.

Giggles International has received two reports of toys overheating and melting their battery compartments.

The toy is sold exclusively at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores nationwide from September 2014 to October 2014 for about $25.

Consumers should immediately take the animated monkey away from children, remove the batteries and return the toy to any Cracker Barrel Old Country Store or contact Giggles International for a full refund.

You can contact Giggles International at (800) 738-6018 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at and click on Recall at the top of the page for more information.

Toy monkey recall


Holiday Decorating Safety Tips


Millions of American families will enjoy the beauty and fun of decorating a Christmas tree and hanging lights this Holiday season.  Whether you choose an artificial tree or a fresh tree, there are steps you can follow to make sure that your tree and decoration space are safe.

Many house fires occur during November and December when Christmas lights and candles are pulled out and used. Not only are fires a hazard, but plenty of people end up in an emergency room due to injuries from falls, lacerations, back strains and children ingesting foreign objects.

The Consumer Protection Safety Commission has a great list of tips to help you make safety a priority.

1. Take special care with sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Lacerations were among the top reported decoration–related injuries last year.

2. Avoid trimmings that resemble food or candy that may tempt a child to mouth or swallow them.

3. Place decorations with small removable parts that can pose a choking hazard to young children out of reach.

4. Purchase only holiday light sets that bear the marking of a safety-testing laboratory. Fires sparked by holiday lights caused 10 deaths last year.

5. Examine new and old light sets for damage. Discard sets with cracked or broken sockets, frayed or exposed wires, and loose connections.

6. Keep burning candles in sight and away from places where kids and pets can knock them over. Between 2010 and 2012, candles were the source of an estimated 6,500 residential fires annually, causing 80 deaths, 650 injuries, and $237 million in property loss per year.

7. Place lighted candles away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.

8. Look for a label that reads “fire resistant” when purchasing an artificial tree. Check live trees for freshness. If the tree is fresh, the needles should stay in place and not break. It should be hard to pull them off the branches. Check the trunk to see if it is sticky. If so, it's definitely fresh. Check for loose needles by banging the tree up and down on the ground. Expect some needles to fall off but if a lot fall off, move to another tree. One that loses a lot of needles is no longer fresh and could be dry enough to be a fire hazard.

9. Place live Christmas trees away from heat sources, and keep trees well watered.

10. Read “Ladder Safety 101” for tips to prevent ladder falls this season. You may think you know everything there is to know about using a ladder, but even the “experts” can make mistakes and wind up in the ER.

It’s easy to get complacent when decorating for the holidays; it’s something a lot of families do year after year often using the same decorations. After a certain amount of time, these decorations can become worn and damaged. Make sure your holiday doesn’t turn into a visit to the emergency room or worse by brushing up on some simple safety tips.




Prepackaged Caramel Apples Linked to Listeria Outbreak


This is the time of year when people eat food combos that they might not typically eat. One holiday treat is caramel coated apples, however, this year there is a warning to avoid pre-packaged caramel coated apples due to the possibility of contamination with Listeria.

Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with public health officials in several states and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples.

Out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that U.S. consumers do not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided.

Although caramel apples are often a fall seasonal product, contaminated commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may still be for sale at grocery stores and other retailers nationwide or may be in consumers’ homes.

Investigators are working quickly to determine specific brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

As of December 22, 2014, a total of 29 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 10 states:

·      Arizona (4)

·      California (1)

·      Minnesota (4)

·      Missouri (5)

·      New Mexico (5)

·      North Carolina (1)

·      Texas (4)

·      Utah (1)

·      Washington (1)

·      Wisconsin (3).

Illness onset dates range from October 17, 2014, to November 27, 2014. Nine illnesses have been associated with a pregnancy (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant).

Among people whose illnesses were not associated with a pregnancy, ages ranged from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 66 years, and 41% were female.

Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) occurred among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years.

All 29 ill people have been hospitalized and, five deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to three of these deaths and it is unclear whether it contributed to a fourth.

The fifth death was unrelated to listeriosis.

At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy.

These products could have a shelf life of more than one month. CDC, the involved states, and FDA continue to work closely on this rapidly evolving investigation, and new information will be provided as it becomes available.



New Year Resolutions for the Family


As 2015 closes its tired eyes, 2016 is ready for full steam ahead! The beginning of a new year is often the time when people take stock of where they’ve been and where they want to go. It’s a great time for families to set new goals and discuss what is important to them.

Resolutions do not need to be difficult or overwhelming. In fact, the simpler the resolution, the better.

One small step at a time and before you know it 2017 will be here and your family will have accomplished more than they thought they would!

If you’re searching for ideas, here’s a list of suggestions.

1.     Spend one day out of the week unplugged from any unnecessary electronics or social media. Cell phones and computers have become a necessity these days, but too often they are overused for texting, social media and mindless Internet searches. Set a goal of spending at least one day a month (if not per week) without your gadgets, and instead, enjoy the outdoors or have a board or card game marathon.

2.     Commit to better eating schedules and choices. Healthy eating habits provide benefits for the whole family. Ask for your kids input when planning meals and discuss ways to make everyone’s choices healthier. Positive discussions about health and food can have a big impact on a child’s lifetime eating habits.

3.     Plan family outings that involve exercise. Make it fun and easy. Daily walks, bicycling, swimming even an indoor dance party can get everyone moving without a lot of expense.

4.     Read with and to your kids. Libraries are great places for young children to experience new books and reading programs. A whole new genre of books have peaked an interest in reading for many teens. Summer is a great time to start a family book club, when the kids don’t have homework competing for their time.

5.     Spread the household responsibilities. Having a system for household responsibilities spreads out the work instead of having it all fall on one person. Try keeping a chore jar with slips of paper for kids to pick which chore they'll do that week, such as taking out the trash. Print out this chore chart and put it on the refrigerator or a clipboard to help your family stay on task.

6.     Teach and reflect kindness. Kids learn how to be kind by their parent’s example. Bring unkind or rude comments to your child’s attention. Discuss how to handle frustration or angry feelings. Most of all, exhibit kindness towards your mate and others. Teach compassion through community service when an organization needs volunteers. Children who volunteer to help others in need have a broader view of the world.

7.     Get more sleep! The fact is, you all need at least eight hours of sleep to stay healthy and productive. Some children need more than that. Make sure bedtime is quiet and computers and cell phones are shut down at least an hour before bed.

8.     Teach your children how to manage money. Have them create a budget with their allowance or gift money and help them stick to it. Again, being a good example not only helps the whole family’s budget, but also teaches children the difference between want and need.

Also don’t forget to take a little time out for just you and your spouse. The occasional date night can help you reconnect and have fun together. Being a parent is hard work – one of life’s most demanding and rewarding. Don’t forget that you need to take care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually to be the example you want to be.

Have a Happy New Year!

Source: Erin Dower,



New Year’s Resolutions for the Whole Family


For many people, the new year is symbolic for fresh beginnings or a clean slate. Resolutions are abundant as we reflect on where we are now and where we want to be. A new year can bring individual changes and family changes as well.

We not only benefit from New Year’s resolutions; our children can also learn a lot about self-discipline and the value of making goals.

Start by making New Year’s resolutions a family tradition. Sit down each December and reflect on the past year, discussing your accomplishments and goals, as individuals and as a family. In your resolution conversation you can each talk about what worked this year and what didn’t.

Dr. Benjamin Siegel, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, suggests saying, “Each one of us is going to state a few things that we want to continue to do and things we’d like to change that would make us feel better about ourselves and how our family works.”

Everybody gets a chance to weigh in. Everyone gets a turn at sharing something they are proud of and something they want to improve about themselves. Parents can go first- setting the tone for the rest of the family. One way to express feelings is to write down your thoughts. If your children are old enough to write, have them write about their accomplishments and goals. If your child is too young to write or just beginning, you can help them out by writing what they want to say.

One option is to save the writings and next year you can pull them out and talk about them before making new resolutions. Your family can also use them as a guide throughout the year. 

Try to limit the resolutions to those that are do-able. It’s easy to get swept up in the possibilities of out lives- make sure that for the next year, you keep it simple- one step at a time. One hundred resolutions are way too many for anyone to tackle!

You can make a master list to hang in a public spot, like a bulletin board in the kitchen. Dr. Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, suggests making a resolution box, in which each family member can drop in his or her resolutions, then pull them out at a later date to review them.

Each family member is a different personality and age. For younger children, something as simple as spending 15 minutes cleaning their room is an achievement. As younger children age, they can be more active in coming up with goals, which will mean more to them as they are achieved.

For preschool-aged children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends resolutions that focus on cleaning up toys, brushing teeth and washing hands and being kind to pets. However, parents who consider these behaviors part of their regular expectations may want to provide resolutions that focus on higher goals.

Clarke-Pearson suggests preschoolers be encouraged to work on listening and helping skills. A resolution could be “I will be a better listener when Mommy or Daddy asks me to do something” or “I will help out more when Mommy or Daddy asks me.” If you keep it simple, your child is more likely to understand the concept as well as succeed.

Of course, the best way to help your children learn the value of achieving goals is to be a good example. Just as with everything else you do, your child is watching. “Parents should be reflective about how they wish to be in the coming year,” Siegel says. “It’s a good opportunity to promote good mental and physical health.”

When the time comes to review resolutions, make sure it’s a positive experience. This is not the time for punishment. It’s important to be flexible and understanding, especially if the child is making the effort. “You don’t penalize if you don’t fulfill a resolution,” Clarke-Pearson says. “The resolution is not written in stone. It’s a guide.”

However your family arrives at resolutions, the best part is that you’re doing it together and learning how to manage your role not only in the family but also in the larger world.

Source: Laura Lewis Brown,


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Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!


Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!

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