Senior Week

Senior Week

I am a two-time survivor of Senior Week in Ocean City. Not only did my parents let me go my senior year of high school, they let me go my junior year of high school, as well.  Both times I attended with relatively stable, well-behaved girls. Both times we stayed out of trouble. In fact, during the first trip, one of my roomies was questioned by an officer for throwing a can of beer away. She was of legal age (back in the day you could drink beer or wine when you were 18) and she was being responsible. He was impressed. She later married him. But I digress. Because, here’s the thing. Most of our well-behaved classmates did take risks they wouldn’t have taken at home. They drank when underage, they drove after drinking, they went to parties at other places where they didn’t know the hosts, they wandered off from the pack and didn’t show back up until morning, they swam in the ocean at night and they walked precariously on the balcony railings of high rises. They surely didn’t stay hydrated and they didn’t apply sunscreen. And the ones that did behave were put at risk by rescuing friends who were behaving badly.

As a parent, I understood this and encouraged my own children to take alternative trips with their friends. It wasn’t because I didn’t trust them. I did trust them. I trusted that they’d behave like kids and I trusted that they’d be surrounded by kids behaving like kids. I was realistic.

Each parent has to make the right decision for his or her child and I don’t disagree that Senior Week can be a good introduction to leaving the nest for college. So if you’ve decided to let them go, here are 10 tips to make it a safer experience.

  1. Encourage your children to skip Ocean City and find a destination where there are fewer opportunities for mischief. (I know, I know… Fat chance.)
  2. Sit down with your grad and discuss the rules. Number One Rule: Your child must answer his phone whenever you call and must check in on a regular basis.
  3. Encourage your child to park their car and leave it. Use the buses and mass transportation whenever possible and don’t ride with people they don’t know.
  4. Talk to them about drinking and drugs- the voluntary kind. Remind them that they are underage and if caught drinking, they could lose their license. (A new law in Maryland). Encourage them to be responsible for themselves and for their friends. Talk to them about involuntary drinking and drug use. Tell them to keep their glasses in their hands and their eyes on their drinks.
  5. Remind them about personal safety. Staying with the group. Avoiding strangers. And generally acting responsibly to ensure their own safety and that of their friends.
  6. Remind them to stay hydrated, use sunscreen and eat properly.
  7. Give them the number of the local emergency room and/or urgent care center and make sure they carry their I.D. (the real one) with them at all times in case of an emergency.
  8. Take advantage of HC DrugFree’s annual “Senior Week: Staying Safe in Ocean City” programs. Parents and seniors can meet with representatives of the Ocean City Police Department, ask questions and learn tips on how to have fun safely. Parents can also learn about their own accountability in providing vehicles, purchasing alcohol, signing leases, etc. for their children. It’s always nice to have the name of someone in the department your child can call if they get in trouble and it’s nice for you to have the name of someone to call if your kid forgets Rule Number One. (There are two upcoming programs on Thursday, March 13th and Thursday, March 20th. Check out the HC DrugFree page for more information.)
  9. If they’re headed to Ocean City, check out the Play It Safe Ocean City program, which offers perks like concerts, activities and free bus rides during the week.
  10. Finally, remind them that safety comes first and if they think a situation is out of hand, they need to remove themselves from the situation and/or involve an adult if necessary. (Promise them you will not ground them for life if they call you and need your help- or if you do ground them for life- that you still love them very, very much).

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After first rain in months, mud is the best toy. August 28, 2006. Image by David K from Dallas, USA

Whenever my grandmother would catch me or one of my siblings, when we were a lot younger (and, later, one of her great grandchildren) doing something disgusting, say licking a windowsill for example (it wasn’t me!), she would always console the governing child minder by saying: “A pound of dirt a year. That’s what every child needs.” I never thought much about this until I had children of my own and would catch them doing something gross like eating cat food or sucking on fingers…not always their own.

Despite my kids’ profound “moments of ew,” things do seem a lot more antiseptic these days than when I was a kid. There are now “wipes” in supermarkets to clean off your cart. Hand sanitizer is available in most public places. There are loads of products on the market to help keep junior from ever having to come into contact with real-life shmutz, and antibiotics seem to be prescribed more often than I remember (hence my little c. diff dilemma a few months back).

My other friends who are parents and I have talked a lot about whether we are becoming a little too much of a rubber-glove society and what effects this may have on our children and their immune systems. For example, one book I came across in the library Why Dirt Is Good by Mary Ruebush, Ph.D. (see, you can find almost anything in the library) states: “One result of our societal trend toward germophobia, supercleanliness, and heavy antibiotic use is weakened individual immunity due to lack of dirt. …we’ve also created evolutionary selection for the production of new ‘superbugs’–pathogens that can’t be killed by the usual sanitation methods and that resist antibiotic drugs.”

I’m not suggesting that we should allow our children to actually wallow in filth (or ingest it). And I think everyone will agree that we have no wish to return to the days of the plague or 30-year life spans. Some levels of cleanliness and germ-free living are definitely beneficial to our health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says: “An essential part of preventing the spread of infection in the community and at home is proper hygiene.”

But then they add: “To date, studies have shown that there is no added health benefit for consumers (this does not include professionals in the healthcare setting) using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap….” And… “Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria.”

This is still a pretty controversial subject, and I’m not sure anyone has yet developed the perfect solution. As with all things, it would seem that truth lies somewhere in the middle. As for my grandma’s dirt theory, she did live a very healthy and active (as well as sage and sassy) 98 years, but I never witnessed her consuming any dirt.

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.



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Child's hand drawing Saint Valentine cardChild's hand drawing Saint Valentine cardGet in touch with your children’s thoughts and feelings with a new Valentine’s tradition 

Warning: this blog post contains vast amounts of sugar content, but it will leave you feeling sweet without the calories: If you have grade school children, you have already received emails about classroom Valentine’s parties. This year, instead of dumping the bag of sticker cards and candy in front of my kids and letting them scrawl their classmates’ names on the tags, I decided to use this annual practice as a time for connecting. The experiment helped me gain a better sense of their school and social life.

While we addressed packs of vanilla Goldfish, I asked Second Grade Girl to tell me something about her classmates as she wrote each card. I learned that Alexi R. is her kindest friend because she shared her beads with the girls on the bus last week, including her sparkly ones; Dixon can burp the whole alphabet (I’m sure that will take him far) and R.T. is still not very nice. We had a long talk about this “friend” at bedtime.

Kindergarten Boy told me that Avery eats the same lunch every day: “It’s so weird, he always has two halves of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’m glad we have something different every day.” Yes! I’m doing something right. Noah is the funniest kid in class, but Kindergarten Boy always makes Olivia and Maria laugh. Then he showed me his robot walk, which was so hilarious I almost posted it here. Oh, and I can’t forget his best friend Benny because, “He says we shouldn’t drink from the school water fountain since the water comes from underground. It’s filled with dirt.”  I love the imagination of a five-year-old.

We may have been slipping a candy into each note, but the stories they shared were the sweetest part of this project. It gave me insight into their self-image as well as the way they interact with their peers, in addition to a few friendship pointers I needed to address with them.

Regularly connecting with your child is important to understand what goes on when our kids are “on their own”, especially since they’re away from the house seven plus hours a day, five days out of seven. Also, in light of the recent tragic events at The Mall in Columbia, I was able to sense any concerns they may have had without going into the details of the event. I also discovered that the school bus can be a big, scary place as the older kids discuss things younger ears shouldn’t be privy to. This Valentine’s exercise made me aware of the need to ask my kids more pointed questions about what they overhear on the ride to school. Finally, this activity was another example for them that I am available to listen, no matter what’s on their minds.

So stock up on some love, and meet me in the comments section to let me know how this experiment turns out for you.


Christina Lombardi is the Publications Manager for Howard County General Hospital.  She manages marketing projects at work and kids at home.





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Pregnant_woman2Eating for Two? Are You at Risk for Gestational Diabetes?

  • Do you have a family history of diabetes?
  • Were you overweight before becoming pregnant?
  • Did you gain more weight than your doctor recommended in your first trimester?

If you answered yes, talk to your doctor about monitoring your blood glucose level.

Your Diet, Your Weight and Gestational Diabetes

Eating for two may be a commonly used expression when referring to pregnancy, but this phrase can be misleading when it comes to the health and well-being of pregnant women and their unborn babies. Thinking about what you eat when you are pregnant and how much you weigh is part of being proactive when it comes to gestational diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, roughly 18 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes- typically around the 24th week of their pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in the blood instead of leaving and being changed into energy.

“A diagnosis of gestational diabetes doesn’t mean you had diabetes before you conceived, nor does it mean you will have diabetes after giving birth, although it does increase your lifetime risk of diabetes,” explains Abimbola Aina-Mumuney, M.D., a specialist in high-risk pregnancies at the Johns Hopkins Maternal Fetal Medicine Center at HCGH. “You need to talk to your doctor about your blood glucose levels to ensure you and your baby remain healthy.”

Thinking About Getting Pregnant?

According to Dr. Aina-Mumuney, taking care of yourself before getting pregnant goes a long way towards having a healthy pregnancy and delivery. She urges overweight patients to talk to their doctor prior to conceiving, so they can be properly prepared for the risks. Pregnancy risks linked to obesity include preeclampsia, diabetes, premature delivery, stillbirth and an increased rate of cesarean section delivery.

Dana Baras, M.D. an obstetrician on staff at HCGH, adds that “not only do overweight women have an increase in the likelihood they’ll have a C-section, but they have an even greater risk of complications of cesarean delivery.”

Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Many women are concerned about “normal” weight gain during pregnancy. “What is normal for one patient is not the same for another,” states Dr. Aina-Mumuney. Data suggest women who are overweight or obese should not gain as much weight as women with an ideal body weight. “A patient in her ideal body weight range could gain weight whereas overweight or obese women may not need to gain additional weight or gain very little,” explains Dr. Aina-Mumuney. “Women carrying twins or multiples may need to gain more weight, so it’s important to talk with your healthy care provider to determine what is right for you.”

According to the Institute of Medicine, a normal weight woman should gain between 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. “Women are often surprised that translates to only about 300 extra calories per day, less than three slices of bread,” says Dr. Baras.

What to do if You Have Gestational Diabetes

“We explain the importance of regularly testing blood glucose levels to women with gestational diabetes who come to HCGH’s diabetes program,” says Teresa Love, MS, RD, CDE. “We review their numbers and assess their eating style, focusing on carbohydrates. We help them develop a budget for carbs, outlining how many to eat. Just like you budget at home for other things, now these women have a budget for foods that raise their blood sugar. That is not to say they cannot eat carbs. There is a healthy middle ground in carb consumption.”

Love’s Wellness Tips for Women With Gestational Diabetes

  • The only beverage containing carbohydrates you should drink is milk.
  • Re-evaluate breakfast. Instead of cereal, choose eggs and toast or cottage cheese.
  • When it comes to diet, you are eating for 1 and ¼ – not two. A larger baby doesn’t always mean a healthier baby.
  • Incorporate exercise. You don’t have to be an athlete, but exercise moves glucose into the muscles where it belongs. It is often as effective as medication in terms of treatment.

For more information check out our entire series of videos at including:

Diabetes and Pregnancy  and Weight Gain and Pregnancy with Donna M. Neale, MD is the Director of the Center for Maternal and Fetal Medicine and Obstetrics at Howard County General Hospital, and Assistant Professor of the Gynecology/Obstetrics Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.


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Concerned About Your Child’s Weight?

The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research estimates nearly a third of youths today are overweight or obese; that’s more than 23 million children and teenagers. The Howard County Health Assessment Survey showed that one in two Howard County residents is overweight or obese, and that one in 10 Howard County parents were told by a doctor that their child should lose weight. In a 2008 survey, 17 percent of school-age children were considered overweight and 14 percent obese. Regardless of whether you think your child will outgrow his or her weight issues, childhood obesity has immediate and long-term effects on your child’s health and well-being.

Did You Know?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obese children and adolescents are more likely to:

  • Have risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Experience bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem
  • Be obese as adults; therefore, they are at greater risk for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoarthritis or having a stroke as well as have an increased risk for many types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix and prostate.

What is Overweight vs. Obese?

Obese children and adolescents have a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for their gender and age. The term “overweight” describes those with a BMI at or above the 85th but below the 95th percentile. To calculate your child’s BMI, visit According to Edisa Padder, M.D., a pediatrician on staff at Howard County General Hospital, the goal of BMI screening is to recognize the weight gain trends earlier and initiate prevention before serious obesity has developed.

What Can Parents Do?

Dana Wollney, M.D., a pediatrician on staff at HCGH, outlines simple things parents can do to help their children with weight loss:

  • Confirm that your child is ready to work on their weight.
  • Once they are committed, include their physician as an extra layer of accountability.
  • Establish goals so everyone is on the same page; work with your physician to determine what is a reasonable amount of weight loss.
  • Change one habit at a time. Once a new habit becomes routine, it is easier to keep and you are more likely to be successful.
  • “Close” the kitchen before bed to avoid snacking right before bedtime.
  • Offer fresh fruit and vegetables; they will help your child feel full and your child will come to appreciate natural sweetness.
  • Pack your child’s lunch for school and be sure to include fresh fruit versus cookies/unhealthy snacks.

Remember you don’t have to be perfect to claim success—even five pounds of weight loss has health benefits.

“A nutritious diet is necessary to maintain a healthy weight but exercise is important too. Family exercise time is a great way to strengthen both muscles and relationships,” says Dr. Padder. “Exercise does not have to be rigorous. A great way to start being active is simply walking together as a family. And, remember to be a good role model for your children; if your children see you eating healthy and exercising, they will be more likely to do those things too.”

calendar_2014smWeighing in on Your Child’s Weight

For more information, join us for a free panel discussion on March 25, 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center.  Join pediatrician Edisa Padder, M.D.; psychiatrist Robin Toler, M.D.; dietitian Ashli Greenwald; and exercise specialist Suzie Jeffreys to hear ideas, tips, and tools to help your child reach a healthier weight. Submit your questions in advance to Click here to register for this free discussion.

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Do you have an emerging reader who also thinks she knows what’s best for her – or is that just me? Well, if you do, and you’re trying to get some simple safety lessons through that adorable (and thick) skull of hers, I have a book for you.

You may want to hand your little reader/know-it-all Should Henry Wear a Helmet?: Staying Safe by Rebecca Rissman. Last month, my suggestions to cure a child of boredom put the onus on parents to do some of the homework, but this time it’s up to the kids to do the work. Ok, maybe parents will want to talk to the kids a little too.

Should Henry Wear a Helmet? is part of Capstone’s What Would You Do? Series designed to “guide readers through the decision-making process. Clear photographs present the scenario and possible outcomes, while simple text asks readers ‘What would you do?’ Brief explanations after each scenario spark conversation for a deeper discussion of the issue.”

Should Henry Wear a Helmet? gives young readers four scenarios to consider: 

1. Should Henry wear a helmet when biking?
2. Should Billy look both ways when crossing the street?
3. Should Bella wear her seat belt in the car?
4. Should Charlotte help her aunt with the cooking when her aunt has left the room?

These are important lessons written in simple and clear language. They serve a dual purpose, teaching basic safety lessons, but also helping the reader see that actions may have consequences they should consider before making decisions. I also feel that letting a child read these lessons on his/her own might more strongly enforce them since we all know that parents know nothing (at least in the minds of certain headstrong children).

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.




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