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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How much does body image impact on the mental health of today’s adolescent girls?

More than you think. According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the NYC Girls Project - by middle school, “body satisfaction” so “hits rock bottom” that “the self-esteem of those girls affected – nearly 70 percent – will not improve “until the age of 20.”

While dysmorphia is complicated by myriad cultural issues, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers well-researched ways of altering an adolescent’s perception of perfect. Here’s an excerpt from the published material (p. 13, pdf p. 28).

JHSPH adolescent media images

Another approach may involve simple exposure to great, dead-on young adult novels like Carolyn Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things.

Consider: junior-plus-sized Virginia Shreve is fifteen, smart-mouthed, and standing on the precipice of an emotional cliff. Should she take the plunge and mess around with a boy from school? A boy actually called Froggie? Or should she just go in the kitchen, call it a day, and eat another Twinkie?

Nothing seems right in Virginia’s life, but her insensitive parents (and truly rotten brother) are only half the problem. Her best friend has moved far away, and then, there’s that relentless queen bee at school. Not to mention, she may never ever be the size 2 of her mother’s dreams. And then, a harrowing event changes everything.

Sharply honest, young (and young-at-heart) readers will find themselves cheering for Virginia – all the way to her “a-ha” moment in a Saks Fifth Avenue dressing room, where self-esteem finally outweighs the scale.

Feel good about yourself, and read this book.

Aimee Zuccarini is a research assistant and instructor at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.


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noseOur toasty, heated homes do more than provide warmth on these cold days. For some, particularly children ages two to 10, the warm, dry air can trigger nosebleeds. Noses are rich in blood vessels and indoor air can cause the ones in the front of the nose to dry out and crack, resulting in a spontaneous bleed.

My five-year-old is a bleeder and I was one, too, growing up, so bloody noses don’t freak me out. What does alarm me is when my husband calls me at work to say Little C was playing in his room, got a nosebleed and ruined the new carpet in his room before going to get help. “It looks like a crime scene in here,” he said.

First things first, we treated the carpet. I’m kidding. My husband stopped the blood flow while I called the carpet company. In my defense, I wasn’t home at the time and this was new carpet, remember?

As for the nosebleed, here’s what you can do if this happens to your little one. Have your child sit still and pinch the soft, cushy part of the nose firmly with a tissue (just below the bony area) for about 10 minutes. Putting pressure on the nose presses against the bleeding vein. This should stop the flow and make the blood clot. No peeking to see if the blood stopped either! Letting up too early can reignite the flow. It’s also important to tilt their head slightly forward. Believe me, you don’t want to tilt back. I had a teacher do that to me once and there’s this little thing called gravity that made the blood rush down my throat. Ick!

If you have a little one who won’t sit still that long, read him a story or turn on cartoons to divert his attention while you’re holding his nose. If they’re old enough, teach them how to do this technique themselves so you don’t have a CSI moment like we did. Afterward, keep their activity light for a couple hours since the nose is still sensitive.

Usually when Little C gets a nosebleed, he’ll have repeat bleeds over the span of a week or so. It’s frustrating for him and one morning, as I wished him a nosebleed-free day at school, he said, “And I won’t pick at my nose today, either!” Oh, good idea. I didn’t think to remind him to keep his fingers away from his nose. I sympathize with him, however, as a nose healing from a nosebleed can itch and feel uncomfortable. A dab of petroleum jelly on the inner side of the nose will soften the scabs, making kids more likely to leave them alone.  Just in case your child can’t follow your advice to keep their fingers away from their nose, make sure to keep their nails short.

To discourage future bleeds, moisten the air in your child’s room with a vaporizer or humidifier. You can also keep the inside of your child’s nose moist with a saline nasal spray or dab antibiotic ointment around the opening of the nostrils.

For the frequent bleeder, or if the nosebleed usually lasts longer than ten minutes, you may want to consider a simple medical procedure to cauterize the vein so it doesn’t open anymore. Some people’s veins are closer to the mucous membrane of their noses and, being so close to the skin, it makes them more vulnerable to bleeds.

One last thing, if the blood does get on your carpet, don’t panic. We dabbed ours with vinegar and wiped it up after it bubbled to the surface. Little C’s room smelled like a dyed Easter egg for a few days, but his carpet is immaculate and it came clean without harsh chemicals. Now we’re just waiting for those spring temperatures to roll in.

For more information about nosebleeds and when to call your doctor, check out the Johns Hopkins Health Library.

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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