“Wherever I go – in stores, on the street, in restaurants, in people’s homes – I see repetitious scenes of whining, and tantrums, and – even more unsettling – an increased number of kids who look sullen, unrelated, and unhappy.” – Robert Shaw, M.D.

At a recent gala store opening the freebies were flowing — at least till mid-morning when one nine-year-old’s favorite treat ran out.
Several of us customers watched as the sales rep offered the young customer a substitute.
She took the rep to task — loudly.
“That’s not fair!” she stamped her foot. “Everyone else got the one I want! I deserve to get one too!”
The embarrassed parent intervened with an appeasement bordering on pleading: If the child would just be quiet, she’d take her somewhere else and buy her the unavailable item.
The late child psychiatrist, Robert Shaw, would have called this gift – this opportunity – “a teachable moment” – one in which an active parent might seize the day and demonstrate “an ethical response” to such unacceptable petulance.

But that didn’t happen.

the epidemicIn The Epidemic, Shaw dogmatically reasons why:
Today’s indulgent parents are either absurdly permissive or “checked-out” to their children’s emotional needs. They provide all the bells and whistles of excessive living, but scrimp on the moral input.
Case in point: today’s mutation of self-esteem. Where it was once a normal, healthy by-product of emotional development, according to Shaw, it isn’t any longer. Parents in large part, can thank themselves: “Lavishing excessive praise” on their kids, lobbying teachers “for sugar-coated assessments, even lowering expectations,” have all helped foster the current crop of little “self-worshippers.”

And who are the parents Shaw targets? Certainly not “The Have Nots.” “Primarily,” he stresses, “[it’s] a problem in middle- and upper-class families … comfortable families, where there’s plenty of money but simply not enough parental time…” Shaw also gets on that all-powerful electronic babysitter – television. American preschoolers (he says) spend up to fifty-four hours a week in front of one, absorbing TV’s endless communication of both the simplistic and insidious. Messages like “It’s okay to use weapons to deal with conflict. It’s okay to swear, bully, have sex, drink alcohol, and disrespect the adults in your life” have all contributed to the dearth of empathy and compassion in our children.

Indeed, he goes on: “Kids today demonstrate such a startling lack of character traits that many schools resort to a regularly scheduled moral curriculum.”
Disquieting when you think about the lifeline teachers already provide to both student and parent. Disquieting when you think about the “dissatisfaction of American teachers today. For the record, more than 200,000 will choose to leave their profession this year.1

The Epidemic is a stinging, grim, and discomfiting diatribe. Parents will resent and buck everything Shaw criticizes. But in the end, we all have to take it on the chin.

Every critical moment of your child’s life deserves you in it.

Aimee Zuccarini is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.

1(Would Greater Independence for Teachers Result in Higher Student Performance? PBS Newshour, August 18, 2014)


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groundbreaking food gardensI hope you have gotten some great produce from your garden this summer. Our garden is beginning to wind down, as yours probably is unless you have made great plans for a fall garden. This is actually a good time to begin thinking about next year’s garden! Now, when your “failures” (no, scratch that) “disappointments” are decomposing in the compost heap, is a good time to record what you would do differently. Do you really want your bean plants that close together? Your carrots that far apart? And what a disappointment that new variety of tomato was! Now, the good variety—let’s save some seeds!

It apparently is a good time to introduce new books on vegetable gardening as well. Here are some shiny new additions to Howard County Library System‘s shelves.

timber guideTimber Press has published several guides to gardening with advice specific to the climates of various parts of the U.S.–the Pacific Northwest, the Mountain States, the Northeast, and, luckily for us, the Southeast. The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast (2013) is by Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I was happy to see her association with a seed exchange group since the gardener at my house is looking for advice on saving seeds from the best of our tomatoes. I really like the organization of this book. After a brief introduction to our climate, we have Gardening 101, and a section on garden planning. Following these are chapters for each month, covering “To do this Month,” what to “Plan, Prepare, and Maintain,” what to “Sow and Plant,” and “Fresh Harvest.” Each month is closed with a “Skill Set” project like staking or drip irrigation or starting a compost heap. The final 50 pages are an alphabetical guide to “Edibles A to Z.” There are some gems of advice in here—I want it for my home bookshelf!

Jean-Martin Fortier, in his The Market Gardener: a Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming (2014), demonstrates how a “micro-farm” of only one and a half acres can produce enough to feed 200 families in their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), in Canada, no less! In their 10 years at the business Fortier and his wife have developed some clever techniques and devised special equipment, shared here in clear line drawings. His chapters on pests, starting seeds, fertilizing, and more are enhanced with sidebars giving tips and advice. In spite of the author’s Canadian home-base—cooler by far than our climate—very little of his advice would not be useful in Maryland!

Do you like to browse through magazines to see how other peoples houses look inside? Do you like to see how beautiful their gardens look and long to replicate their successes? Take a look at Niki Jabbour’s Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden (2014). The gardens vary from “Wildlife Friendly” to “Critter Control,” from “Eggs and Everything,” built around a chicken coop, to the “Edible Campus” planted between buildings at McGill University. You won’t find gorgeous photos here, but colored sketches that I find more instructive. There is truly something for every gardener in these 250 pages.

year-round vegetable gardnerNiki Jabbour’s previous book, The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener (2011), is a similarly useful guide, especially for the gardener who does not want a break from planting and harvesting. She promises to show “how to grow your own food 365 days a year no matter where you live.”

Josie Jeffery’s new book, The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting, promised great things— “an easy organic way to deter pests, prevent disease, improve flavor, and increase yields in your vegetable garden,” but was a mild disappointment to me. I really liked the short introductory chapters, but got lost trying to use the colored dots to mix and match the strips (three to a page) that represent the central crops, aboveground companions, and belowground companions. Maybe with a little more study I could appreciate it more, but it seemed like too much work. Still it’s a useful directory of plants—and pretty to look at!

Maybe these garden planning books will help you decide to become a year-round gardener—or just a better summer gardener! Good luck!

Barbara Cornell joined the Howard County Library System in 1993 as Assistant Branch Manager at the new Elkridge Branch. Since 2000 she has enjoyed a shorter commute to the Glenwood Branch.

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pumpkinThe crisp cool temperatures, the gradual appearance of colored hues in the vegetation, and the leaves falling one by one in their choreographed descent, are all signs that autumn is officially upon us.  In addition, there are your traditional celebratory markers of the season’s arrival, such as hayrides, Halloween stuff everywhere, and (of course) pumpkins galore! There are plenty pumpkin patches ready to be explored, pumpkins being sold for carving and decorating, pumpkin drinks, pumpkin deserts, and pumpkin dishes.  Coincidentally, pumpkins begin to ripen in September, which makes them readily available through fall and winter.  And though, we primarily associate pumpkins with Fall and Halloween, we should also begin associating them with healthy eating (if we don’t already).

nutritional healingPumpkins aren’t simply great as porch decorations, or for adding seasonal flavor to your beverage of choice.  Pumpkins are vegetables rich in antioxidants and vitamins (particularly vitamin A), and low in calories.  On October 5, 2014, the Huffington Post published an article titled 8 Impressive Health Benefits of Pumpkin, which notably mentioned some of the many healthy reasons we should all be incorporating more pumpkin into our diet.  The health benefits listed in the article include keeping eyesight sharp, aiding in weight lost, promoting heart health with pumpkin seeds, reducing cancer risk, protecting the skin, boosting one’s mood, post-workout recovery, and boosting the immune system.  Each of these benefits may come as no surprise due to the high level of antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E found in pumpkins.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute website, antioxidants are “chemicals that block the activity of other chemicals known as free radicals.  Free radicals are highly reactive and have the potential to cause damage to cells, including damage that may lead to cancer.”  While the body does naturally produce internal antioxidants known as endogenous antioxidants, it also relies on external antioxidants known as dietary antioxidants found in the foods we eat.

functional foodieBalch’s Prescription for Nutritional Healing touts the importance of vitamin A; as one of the types of dietary antioxidants, which promotes eye health, enhances immunity, maintains and repairs epithelial tissue, and protects against colds and infections, guards against heart disease and stroke, and lowers cholesterol levels.  And in Nix’s The Functional Foodie we learn that some of the many antioxidant carotenoids found in pumpkins include beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A), beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin.  Balch further explains that carotenoids, a class of phytochemicals, are fat-soluble pigments found in yellow, red, green, and orange vegetable and fruits; they have the ability to act as anticancer agents, decrease the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, and inhibit heart disease.  One of the most commonly known carotenoids, beta-carotene, can be converted into vitamin A, and is therefore one of the main sources of dietary vitamin A.

Pumpkins are being sold in many places this time of year, and are plentiful in locally grown pumpkin patches right here in Howard County, such as Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City, and Gorman Farm.  So whether you make it to a patch or your grocery store, get yourself a pumpkin and start reaping the health benefits that pumpkins have in store.

When Jinelee De Souza isn’t channeling her inner super-heroine at Howard County Library System as an Instructor & Research Specialist, she’s doing so at the gym, during impromptu photoshoots with her bff, and everywhere in between.

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Published by First Second in 2013, Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel Relish is full of tips, tricks, and little tidbits about food, while still managing to tell an interesting and relatable story about her life.relish

In this memoir of her life growing up surrounded by and enjoying food, Knisley describes seminal memories she attaches to different cuisine. Many of her stories are funny, some are poignant, and some are a little sad – but all of them involve eating, selling, and living alongside food and cooking. Each chapter is followed by a recipe – all of which sound delicious and are broken down enough that even I could cook them. There’s a lot of variety in the included recipes, extending from huevos rancheros to sushi to the best chocolate chip cookies. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Knisley’s bright, colorful, and clear style that’s simply entertaining to look at and read through. It’s fully colored, very bright, and eye catching. The cartoony figures fit in perfectly and the food is only a little simplified and very easy to understand. I wouldn’t expect drawings of food to be as enticing as photos in a fancy cookbook, but Knisley does an excellent job taking advantage of the medium.

In chapter 8, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the cheese”, Knisley explains how her mother worked at the cheese counter of a gourmet food shop in New York City. Knisley eventually followed in her mother’s footsteps, working at the cheese counter of a gourmet store in Chicago after graduating from art school. The chapter closes with “A second-generation cheerful cheesemonger’s Cheese Cheat Sheet”, which veritably explodes with as many cheese facts as can be fit into a two page spread. This page also contains my favorite fact from this book – one that made my lactose intolerant husband very happy – “Aging cheeses breaks down lactose, so most aged cheeses can be eaten by lactose intolerants!” I think he now thanks Lucy Knisley quietly every time he enjoys a delicious slice of extra sharp cheddar.

Relish is all at once a memoir, a graphic novel, and a cookbook, and it does a nice job at all three. Knisley has a very pleasing style of both writing and drawing, making her work very accessible and enjoyable. Plus, her stories are just fun to read and her experiences and feelings are very relatable, even if you didn’t grow up surrounded by gourmet food.

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, for a decade.

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teach your children wellLast month, I discussed some vexing behavior exhibited by parents during children’s sporting events. Among my key points were my belief that competitive environments can be very good for children, that there are some people who need to learn to deal with disappointment and frustration in graceful ways, and, mainly, that some adults might need to consider teaching and modeling methods of civil communication/behavior to their children. I also looked at some causes for some parents’ own lack of self-control, namely “ego-involvement.”

I hit on a lot of what I wanted to in that post, but in light of Choose Civility Week, I felt like there might be even more to say on this topic (plus, some of what I discussed I felt bore repeating since soccer season is in full swing). Around the holidays last year, when I was battling (and blogging about) an attack of the “gimme’s” in my house, I mentioned the book Teach Your Children Well by Madeline Levine, Ph.D. I remembered liking the book very much, so I decided to revisit it to see what it said with regard to parents’ “exuberance” toward their kids’ activities.

Levine does not discuss athletics in her book so much, but she does address parents’ over-involvement in their children’s sports, as well as other activities, to illustrate some of her points:

“We must shift our focus from the excesses of hyperparenting, our preoccupation with a narrow and shortsighted vision of success that has debilitated many of our children, and an unhealthy reliance on them to provide status and meaning in our own lives, and return to the essentials of parenting in order for children to grow into their most healthy and genuine selves.”

Levine covers in greater depth the ways parents can model and teach a greater sense of fair play, civility, ethics, and even independence to their children (and avoid the pitfalls of their own ego-involvement). I can’t even begin to go into the detail that she does in her book, but she provides key steps and examples to help during different age ranges. For example, in the chapter focused on 5-11 year-olds, she covers friendship, learning, sense of self, empathy, and play. In the chapter on the middle school years, puberty and health, independence, and peer groups are discussed. And for high school ages, Levin focuses on adult thinking, sexuality, identity, and autonomy.

She devotes the last two chapters of the book to “Teaching Our Kids to Find Solutions” and “Teaching Our kids to Take Action.” And, in the “Taking Action” chapter, one of the key components she discusses is self-control. Levine discusses how many children’s emotional difficulties may have at least some footing in problems with self-regulation. She asserts, “The importance of the internal ability to say no, to control impulsivity, to delay gratification cannot be overestimated as a protective factor in child and adolescent development.” But she also warns that parents can overreact to lack of self-control and “catastrophize the situation” to the point that teaching opportunities are missed.

Levine strongly suggests that some of the best ways to help a child develop better self-control include letting him/her experience and learn to manage moderate amounts of distress and challenges, positively acknowledging your child’s ability to “go against the crowd” and not succumb to peer pressure, and modeling good self-management strategies. Again, if you don’t want your kids to be bad sports, make sure that you are not exhibiting that behavior yourself.

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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Are you guilty of skipping breakfast in the morning? Did you know there is science to support the belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? If you are like me, you answered “yes” to both those questions. Would you say “no” to getting more fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, zinc, and iron? Would you say “no” to having lower blood cholesterol levels, better digestive health, and to helping your body regulate insulin levels? Of course not! Together we need to say “yes” to eating breakfast every day – and if you have kids, your kids will be more likely to eat breakfast if you do. If you need more compelling reasons to eat breakfast, read this.

Breakfast is one of the easiest meals to make healthy. The next time you are in the grocery store check out the cereal aisle. There are many healthy options. Look for a cereal with more than 5 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of sugar. Grab a bowl, add some skim milk and fresh fruit, and take just a few minutes to start your day off right.

soup to nutsHoward County Library System has a great collection of cookbooks to help you plan your morning meal. The Mason Jar Soup to Nuts Cookbook by Lonnette Parks is a fun way to get started. In this book you will find recipes for pancakes, waffles, muffins, granola crunch and more. You can make the jar recipes for your family and then make some as gift jars for relatives and friends. The best part is that you can make them ahead of time. I hope this book will inspire you to make your own mason jar creations. You can create your own parfait by layering yogurt, fruit and oats or granola in a mason jar. You can choose any yogurt, but Greek yogurt usually has the most calcium and protein. Oats contain beta-glucan a type of fiber that has been shown to help lower cholesterol when eaten regularly. Add your favorite fresh or frozen fruit. Bananas have a healthy dose of potassium, an electrolyte that helps lower your blood pressure naturally, and bananas will help keep you feeling full longer. Strawberries and blueberries are rich in antioxidants and are lower in calories than many other fruits. You can make these colorful parfait jars in advance, so all you have to do in the morning is grab one and a spoon. If you take your jar to work you will have to beware of co-workers who follow you with spoons!

hungry girl 300If you would like something hot for breakfast instead, you can try some of the protein-packed, low-calorie hot breakfast egg mugs recipes in Hungry Girl 300 under 300: Breakfast, lunch & Dinner Dishes under 300 Calories by Lisa Lillien. Some of the recipes to try in this book include the Denver Omellette in a Mug, Eggs Bene-Chick Mug, or the All-American Egg Mug. Most can be ready to eat in ten minutes! These recipes use a liquid egg substitute. Eggs are a healthy source of protein and nutrients like Vitamin D. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people with normal cholesterol, limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day. You can read more about the AHA dietary guidelines here.

smoothiesYou will also find a chapter (4) on “no-heat-required” morning meals. How about a Double-O- Strawberry Quickie Kiwi Smoothie? You can make this in five minutes with 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 peeled kiwi, ½ cup fat-free strawberry yogurt, and 1 cup crushed ice. Smoothies are easy to make with little mess. They are great for breakfast on-the-go and are only limited by your imagination and what you have in your refrigerator. For more smoothie ideas try Superfood Smoothies: 100 Delicious, Energizing & Nutrient-Dense Recipes by Julie Morris. Finally, you might want to check out Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons by Megan Gordon for some delicious seasonal recipes.

Are you hungry now? Are you already thinking about what you can have for breakfast tomorrow? If you are like me, you answered “yes” to both of those questions. Breakfast will give us the energy and fuel we need to get through the day. We are ready to make the commitment to break for breakfast!

Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.

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