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Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Stephanie Kearns, Vice President of Business Operations

 

In recognition of National Special Needs Month I’ll be sharing a series of blog postings about special needs and severe allergies with the help of peer parents who live with these fears or challenges every day.

 

Most people don’t know I had an older sister, Audrey, with special needs. She suffered with Cornelia de Lange syndrome at birth and fought to live until she succumbed to cancer and other serious complications at 8 years old. I was only 7. I loved my sister deeply but her presence and challenges were extremely tough for a little kid learning how to fit in and I often didn’t know how to approach people to let them know “it’s OK, she is just a little different!”

 

During her time on earth and after she died, I found myself fighting against stereotypes, going out of my way to talk to friends and strangers who had special needs, and advocating to eradicate the misused word “retarded” from my generation’s vocabulary. Different is intimidating and uncomfortable to most people and everyone has a different response to the idea of different, which can often times be perceived as dismissive and hurtful.

 

I have always found that the best way to respond to this is kindness, empathy, and warmth. In recognition of National Special Needs and National Down Syndrome Awareness Month this blog posting is written with the hope that at least one person will better understand special needs and find a way to connect their child with another child as a friend and equal peer who has special needs.

 

For this next posting, I conducted an interview with Megan Mennes a parent and English teacher and writer. I virtually met Megan after coming across a viral news story and immediately followed her Instagram and blog series, Define Crazy. I love and admire Megan’s open and honest writing, and the way she makes special needs familiar to all walks of life. I also recommend parents connect with Kids Included Together to learn about local opportunities to connect kids with and without special needs for activities in your community.

 

When was your child diagnosed with Down syndrome and how did you discover the diagnosis?

We learned Quinn would be born with Down syndrome when I was 24 weeks pregnant. We took one of the new noninvasive prenatal tests that measures fetal DNA in the mother’s bloodstream. While the test is not technically diagnostic, it detects Down syndrome pregnancies with 99.8% accuracy. Because the test was so new, part of us felt like it was incorrect; nevertheless, we prepared to have a child with Down syndrome, and we did.

 

What lifestyle changes have you made to adapt to living and raising a child with special needs?

My first instinct was to say that our lifestyle hasn’t changed since having Quinn, but that’s not entirely true. We are lucky enough to live in Houston, Texas, home to the world-renowned Rise School, a preschool for children with developmental disabilities. When Quinn was born, though, we lived on the opposite end of town (in a neighborhood we didn’t like all that much, to be honest). So we moved closer to downtown and, by extension, The Rise School. We love our trendy new neighborhood with its bungalows, coffee shops, and boutiques. We likely wouldn’t have moved here if Quinn didn’t have Down syndrome, so in a way, we actually have that extra chromosome to thank for our current living situation!

 

What are your biggest fears related to this and how do you cope?

My biggest fears for Quinn exist not in his academic success and opportunities. I know the law thanks to my years as a public school teacher and my Master’s degree in Education, and I will wield that knowledge like a sword to ensure that Quinn gets what he needs and deserves academically. But will he have friends? Will the other kids tease him? Will he be the only kid with Down syndrome in his kindergarten class? Will he have dates to the school dances? Be invited to slumber parties? And if he does, will it be out of pity or true friendship? These questions haunt me and keep me up at night.

 

How do you communicate your child’s special needs to your friends, family, other parents and caregivers?

So much of Quinn’s life is spent in the presence of other kids with Down syndrome that this hasn’t really come up yet. When it does, I’ll stress the fact that, when interacting with Quinn, we should presume competence. He is bright, curious, social, and able to do most things that other kids his age can do. It might take him a little longer, but he’ll get it. And if he doesn’t, don’t dismiss him. Work with him until he gets it right.

 

What could you not do that other parents whose children don’t have special needs can do? Nothing! Our life hasn’t changed much since Quinn was born. I still work, he still goes to school, his siblings still get all the attention they deserve, and our lives are so much more “normal” than I ever thought it would be when we received his diagnosis.

 

What kind of support is helpful to you? Do you rely on friends and family for any particular kind of support?

The support of other moms who are raising kids with Down syndrome is invaluable. Not only can they help me understand developmental delays, mysterious medical questions, and Medicaid waivers, but they are also there as a system of support. I’ve met some of my closest friends since having Quinn; the special needs community is like a family and we’re all here to support one another.

 

Tell me an experience you have had, if any, with a difficult friend or family member who didn’t understand how to engage with your child or offer the support you need? How did you help redirect them?

I’ve been immensely fortunate in that our family and friends have been nothing but supportive and have always properly engaged my child. We have had to share the importance of “people-first language,” meaning that we prefer to refer to Quinn as a child with Down syndrome, rather than a “Down syndrome child.” The latter implies that Quinn is defined by his disability. While it is a part of who he is, he is also so much more. But these are lessons I had to teach myself when I began this journey, so I aim to educate and avoid taking offense when someone with good intentions misspeaks.

 

What are the common misconceptions or misunderstandings about children with special needs? Include any inaccurate vocabulary or derogatory words.

My biggest fear with Quinn is that people will see him and automatically judge his abilities before even getting to know him. Just like typically-developing children, individuals with Down syndrome are complex and talented in many different ways. Assuming that he is a “retard,” that he can’t learn, that he won’t understand the feeling of being judged or left out is both ignorant and hurtful.

 

What are the top three ways other parents can embrace differences and shed discomfort with the unfamiliar?

1. Educate yourself. Meet other families raising children with disabilities. If you have questions, ask!

2. Educate others. Be open with your children when they encounter someone who looks, speaks, or acts differently. To avoid this discussion suggests you are ashamed of that person’s differences.

3. Take time to get to know us. Sure, we’re a family raising a child with special needs, but that doesn’t make us alien. Invite us to the birthday party or the play date.

 

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The New York Foundling, its funders, regulators, donors and/or employees.

The Foundling offers dynamic, progressive and evidence-based services and programs to 30,000 children and families each year. What makes our programs so unique and successful are our dedicated and committed employees and staff. Get to know the people inside our organization by reading our blog each week as we highlight a new staff member.  We’ll ask them questions about their role at The Foundling, what their passions and hobbies are outside of the office, and recognize their achievements and accomplishments.

 

What are your major responsibilities?

Being a Strategic Partnerships & Communications Coordinator means I get to wear a lot of different hats, and am able to partake in an abundance of assorted tasks varying from researching/ brainstorming for upcoming events and projects, to interviewing and writing pieces for The Foundling’s Blog, and much, much more.  In any area the Communications Team needs support; I am happily there to help!  I like to make things happen, and in Communications there’s always a new project to start and to carry out—there’s never a dull moment and I truly enjoy the ever changing atmosphere.

 

How does your department help the people and communities we serve?

We help The Foundling community by voicing the importance of our programs and events to the public in creative and informative ways.  We also raise awareness and spread valuable information/protocols within our staff sphere. It is our job to make sure the Foundling’s mission is accessible and well known.

 

What has driven you to be where you are today?

I have been on my own since I was 16 years old, and I have always had a lot of fight in me to better myself and succeed. I have experienced how cruel and unfair the world can be, but I have also been extremely lucky to not be jaded by those events and still be open to life’s adventures and beauty. Every challenge you encounter and every person you meet is a new opportunity to show the world you are a strong, intelligent, and a capable force! Hard work accompanied by a good attitude will always lead you in the right direction. With that stance I have been able to advance from being an intern at the Foundling to a staff member, while also going back to school and making the Dean’s List within one year. I can’t wait to see what the future holds because I’m just starting to rev up! 

 

What inspires you most about working at The Foundling?

What inspires me most about working at The Foundling is that we as a community and institution are able to provide the instruments that enable people to direct and better their own lives. The Foundling offers services that produce hope and gives the flexibility needed to allow change to occur favorably.  When seeking help from the Foundling, one is not alone; in fact you are empowered by a whole group of people who want to help you help yourself, your family, and your community.

 

Who is your role model?

I have never had just one role model! Throughout my life, I have taken aspects of important people within it and I have taken those elements with me. For instance, I admire my Mother for her tenacity, I admire my big brother for his charisma, I admire my husband for his determination—and I don’t know her personally, but  I admire Tina Fey for being hilarious! Between all these people, I have made up some deity form that I hope to be like one day. 

 

If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

One place I have always wanted to travel to is Iceland. I would love to experience the beauty of the Aurora Borealis, take a swim in the hot springs, and look out onto its dynamic landscapes of glaciers and rolling green hills—Oh, and see some icebergs!

 

Tell us about the latest book you’re reading?

I am currently reading “Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror” by Judith Herman, MD.  To say the least, it is not a light read, but I enjoy tying my leisurely reading to what I am studying in my school/work life. I find it very beneficial.

 

What is your spirit animal and why?

I see myself as a Gorilla as I am highly sociable, loving, and playful. But I am also incredibly strong and a force to be reckoned with.

 

State a fun fact about yourself.

In my senior year of high school, I was the lead female role in my senior class’s production of the musical “Pippin”.  I had never sung out of the shower before, let alone in front of another human being, so that was quite the experience!

 

Want to learn about other Foundling staff?

You can meet some of our other employees on TheMuse.com.

Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Stephanie Kearns, Vice President of Business Operations.

 

In recognition of National Special Needs Month I’ll be sharing a series of blog postings about special needs and severe allergies with the help of peer parents who live with these fears or challenges every day.

 

Last weekend my family and I explored the local street fair for some weekend fun and tasty treats. As the day went on I noticed my daughter was covered in angry red hives triggered by an unknown cause. My stomach jumped into my throat as I tried to remain calm for her sake and run through the checklist of things to do when your child has an allergic reaction. After rushing her home to shower her off and administer an antihistamine, the hives faded away and she went on with her merry day. It ended up being a minor allergic reaction but that split second of fear is a moment I’ll never forget like all moments when you feel helpless as a parent. This is nothing compared to the life threatening reality of severe food allergies.

 

My first interview was conducted with Kristen Rutter whose own child, Giuliana (age 4) is severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Kristen is an attorney turned Stay-at-Home Mom.

 

When was your child diagnosed and how did you discover the diagnosis?

She was diagnosed right after her second birthday. She had an anaphylactic reaction within minutes of eating her first bite of peanut butter. We immediately dialed 911 and she was transported via ambulance to the hospital, where she stayed for observation for five hours after the initial reaction. She was given a shot of epinephrine, a shot of anti-histamines and was sent home with a week’s worth of steroids. Knowing what I know now about food allergies, I consider us very lucky. We are so thankful we knew enough about food allergies that we dialed 911 right away. We had follow-up appointments with her pediatrician and a board certified pediatric allergist for further food allergy testing right away. 

 

What lifestyle changes have you made to adapt to living and raising a child with this condition?

Food allergies affect every aspect of our lives. The changes we have made are too numerous to list. The most obvious change is that we don’t keep any peanuts or tree nuts in our house. We also don’t purchase or use any products that may contain nuts or that are manufactured with nuts. We read every label of every product that we provide to our daughter and we have a strict non-sharing policy regarding food and drinks. We are very careful about where we eat out. We take our own food to many places and events including birthday parties, holiday parties, sporting events, the movies, school events and fieldtrips, etc. I make Giuliana’s lunch to take to school every single day. We have Epi-Pens in various locations including our home, grandparents’ houses, school, and a two pack in my purse at all times.

 

What are your biggest fears related to this condition and how do you cope?

My biggest fear is unmentionable. Food allergies are life threatening. There is no way to predict how severe a reaction will be. Every reaction has the potential to be life threatening. I am fearful that she may be bullied or made fun of because of her allergies. I am fearful that as she gets older, she might engage in risky behavior with unsafe foods because she wants to fit in. I am scared that she may not always carry her Epi-Pens with her when she starts to self-carry. My fears and concerns will change throughout her life as she enters and exits stages and ages. But my biggest fear will always remain the same. I am scared that one day, one bite could take her life.

 

How do you communicate the condition to other parents and caregivers, namely those parents in the child’s class or activity spaces (i.e. extracurricular activities)

I always tell teachers, instructors and other parents about her allergy and that she absolutely cannot eat or share any food or drinks with anyone. The rule is that she eats what we bring and that’s it. I will make an exception if I have spoken to a teacher or parent in advance and they have purchased and brought something that I know for a fact is safe for her, but all of that research and those conversations are conducted in advance. The rules are always clear-cut and we don’t make last minute or spur of the moment decisions. I talk about the signs of an allergic reaction and make sure that anyone who is supervising her knows what to look for, knows where her Epi-Pens are located, and knows how to administer them and what to do in the event of a reaction.

 

With all of the parties, celebrations, going away, welcome events, how do you ensure they are free of the allergen in question and do you take any measures to check?

The most important thing I do is call and speak to the host/hostess well in advance of the party or event. I learned to do that the hard way. There have been two occasions that I forgot to call in advance and one was a baby shower that, unbeknownst to me, was candy themed, and another was a birthday party that had PB&J sandwiches for all the kids. Both were very difficult situations to deal with. Now, I ALWAYS call the host/hostess before any event, no matter how big or small, to ask what is being served or if there is a party theme, etc. That way I make sure Giuliana has options that are safe and that make her feel included. If an event is being catered or is at a restaurant, I call the catering company or restaurant and ask them questions. I often make all of our own desserts for events and parties.

 

Do you have any limitations on what your child can or can’t do as a precaution from preventing an encounter with this trigger?

We do our absolute best to make sure Giuliana is included and able to participate with her family and friends in activities, events, fieldtrips, and whatever else she may be interested in. There really isn’t anything she can’t do without a little preparation, research and maybe some substitution. With planning, we have successfully managed parties, trips to the movies, play dates, school lunches, picnics, eating out, traveling, and even plane trips. We have gotten a lot of support from family and friends along the way.

 

Tell me an experience you have had, if any, with an uncooperative or dismissive parent who excluded your child’s from an event or activity due to her allergy?

I have heard nightmarish stories but I must say, we have never had a downright bad experience. Most uncomfortable or difficult situations have stemmed from my lack of planning in the past or from another parent’s misunderstanding or lack of knowledge regarding the severity of food allergies. I have not yet had (and hopefully will never have) an encounter with another parent who has blatantly disregarded the safety of my child or been dismissive and excluded her from something. We consider ourselves to be very compassionate people and try our best to surround ourselves with others who are compassionate and strive for the safety and inclusion of all children. 

 

What are the common misconceptions or misunderstandings about children with serious allergic conditions? Include any inaccurate vocabulary or derogatory words.

I think there is a definite lack of understanding regarding food allergies. Even I don’t know it all! Some people don’t understand that food allergies can kill. They think that a child might just get a stomachache, or a rash when exposed to their allergen. Many people don’t understand that food allergies are different from food intolerances. I will say it again, food allergies are life threatening.

 

A lot of people think that the amount of the allergen eaten has a direct affect on how severe a reaction will be. For example, someone might think that putting sugar cookies on a plate next to peanut butter cookies is okay because the sugar cookies don’t contain peanuts and how could one crumb kill someone? But it’s true, even the smallest trace amount of a person’s allergen could cause a reaction. That is why you hear talk about avoiding products that don’t even contain nuts but are just manufactured on the same lines as another product that does. Also, food proteins are sticky! Using hand sanitizer will not remove peanut residue from your hands. That is also a common misconception. Proper hand washing is a must. That also goes for cleaning surfaces, dishes and utensils, as well.

 

What are the top 3 goodies that a parent can produce at lunches, parties, or events that ensure your child doesn’t encounter these triggers?

Non-food favors! With any treats or edible food and drink, definitely talk to the child’s parent. What I would consider safe is not necessarily what another parent would consider safe based on their child’s needs and restrictions. Non-food favors/goodies are a great way to ensure every child is safely included. Pinterest is a great resource for finding different favor/craft/party ideas based on the celebration, whether it be a birthday party or holiday. Aside from talking directly to the child’s parent in advance and including non-edible goodies, look for brands that are top-8 allergen free, like Enjoy Life Foods. And then talk to the parent about providing something like that. Did I mention, talk to the child’s parents?

 

What about travelling? How do you go on plane trips, hotels, or even restaurant outings and ensure your child is safe?

It takes a lot of planning but we have done all of the above successfully! We try to be as prepared as possible. I always carry safe snacks in my purse so that we are never in a bind. We take a lot of our own food. With restaurants and resorts/hotels, I call in advance and talk to a manager about their food prep practices and feel out their level of knowledge regarding food allergies. When we fly, we take wipes and ask to board planes early to wipe down the seats we are assigned to. Sometimes the flight attendants will make an announcement regarding having a passenger with a severe allergy on board and sometimes they won’t. We have experienced both scenarios. We always have two Epi-Pens with us at all times.

 

What are the top 3 tips you would tell parents who do not have a child with a serious allergic trigger to best accommodate a child who does?

  1. Talk to the child’s parent. Find out what the child is allergic to and what their family rules are regarding food and drink. Ask how you can help safely include them.

 

  1. Try new products and substitutions! There are so many substitutions for things these days, like SunButter instead of peanut butter, or rice milk instead of cow’s milk. Introduce some of these products to your non-allergic children and explain why you are doing so. Children are naturally compassionate and want to keep their friends safe. You may also find that they love a certain product that is safe for their friend with food allergies. Everybody wins.

 

  1. Do your best to safely include children with food allergies. A few weeks ago, my daughter had her blood drawn for her annual food allergy testing. It was a very rough morning and a difficult blood draw. We left the lab in tears and she was so sad, disheartened and down. Giuliana had swimming lessons afterward and when we got to the pool, a friend of ours who was there with her three boys had brought some nut-free fruit gummy snacks for the kids for after the lesson. When Giuliana asked if she could partake in the after swim treat and the other mom told her they were nut-free (and I verified of course), her whole demeanor changed. Something as simple as another mom bringing nut-free fruit gummies for the kids turned her entire day around. When you safely include a child with food allergies, you do more than just keep them safe. You make them feel loved, included and accepted.

 

Lastly, what are your expectations from other parents when it comes to packing lunches, carpooling, and field trips? Do you restrict your child’s attendance or blast communication and confirm everyone got the message?

I don’t expect anything. I have hope that other parents will be mindful and considerate when packing lunches. The most important thing I can do is maintain open, honest and respectful communication with other parents so that I am better able to prepare for and ensure my child’s safety in any given set of circumstances or in any given environment. So actually, yes, I suppose I do expect that: open, honest and respectful communication

 

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The New York Foundling, its funders, regulators, donors and/or employees.

 

The information contained within this article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only.

The Foundling offers dynamic, progressive and evidence-based services and programs to 30,000 children and families each year. What makes our programs so unique and successful are our dedicated and committed employees and staff. Get to know the people inside our organization by reading our blog each week as we highlight a new staff member.  We’ll ask them questions about their role at The Foundling, what their passions and hobbies are outside of the office, and recognize their achievements and accomplishments.

 

What are your major responsibilities at The Foundling?

My department’s main goal is to hire exceptional employees that will go above and beyond to serve children, families and individuals. As a Human Resources Generalist at the Foundling, my major responsibilities include recruiting and being our employee’s main point of contact for any issues and concern that they may have. The best part of my job is the ability to meet so many different people who are so inspired by what The Foundling does, and who want to become a part of our organization.

 

What inspires you most about working at The Foundling?

The Foundling serves so many different communities—from foster children to young moms to individuals with developmental disabilities. Simply knowing that in some small way, my involvement with how our clients are ultimately taken care of inspires me!

 

What has driven you to be where you are today?

My parents have driven me to be where I am today. They have always showed me unconditional support in whatever it was that I wanted to do. They have always told me to follow my heart and I will succeed, and I have to say so far they have been 100 percent right!

 

Who is your role model and what do you admire about them?

My role model is my mother. She is the well-oiled machine that keeps my family going. She is one of the most loving, caring, and humble people I have ever met. I hope one day that I can be half the mother and wife that my mom is to me, my father and brother.

 

If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I have been fortunate enough throughout my life to travel to many beautiful places, both domestic and abroad. If I could take a trip anywhere in the world, I would want to go to Turks and Caicos. I have always wanted to go here, because it is an absolutely beautiful island and would be an amazing place to just relax and unwind. 

 

Tell us about the latest book you’re reading, or recently read?

I have recently finally finished “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. I have not allowed myself to see the movie because I was in the middle of the book. I am excited that I have finally finished it, simply for the fact that I can now watch the movie.

 

What is your spirit animal and why?

I would say that my spirit animal is a bear. Bears are playful and tough, as well as maternal and nurturing to their young. I believe I’m fun and can be tough when needed, and I am certainly the “mom” of my group of friends.

 

Want to learn about other Foundling staff?

You can meet some of our other employees on TheMuse.com.

Written by Foundling Friend and Guest Blogger Celia McGee

 

What Pet Should I Get?

By Dr. Seuss (Random House Children’s Books)

Ages: Pre-K-7 and the grownups who will enjoying reading to this to kids in their care!

 

As if one surprise publishing find and hoop-la of the year–Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman–weren’t enough, out pounces What Pet Should I Get? No deep shelter under a bright-blue rock or torrent of blinding snowflakes could have kept anyone from the news of this new Dr. Seuss release!

 

The sight and sound of the title alone represent inescapable hints that this is an addition to some of children’s top-of-the-pops favorites. With the return of the brother and sister from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish of 1960, bells and whistles will go off for parents and grandparents.

 

Younger readers may not be capable or willing to notice, unless subliminally, that the gist and “Should” of this book by Dr. Seuss’s creator and alter-ego, Theodor Geisel, also reinforces the quiet strong-arming of a parental presence, which stealthily has the last word or admonishment in much of his oeuvre.

 

What Pet Should I Get?  is Seussiana in milder form. This trip to a pet store is devoid of pranks and barely-averted disasters. It’s to choose one new animal family member—strong quandary alert for sibling shoppers who amount to more than one. Its subjects include the difficulty of decision-making, weighing options, pros and cons, and taking measured mental notes to prevent too much agony of choice.

 

Most of the pets on offer are as well of this reasonably everyday world, though rendered in Seussian-world colors and quirky details that any child can’t help but love. And, oh, how glorious the few pages where Dr. Seuss’s rather goody-goody duo let loose their imaginations, concocting entirely preposterous and vibrantly conceived animals of non-existent species, un-encountered outside the Seussiverse.

 

The Cat in the Hat isn’t exactly back. Still, to what creature do those eyes belong, peeping out from the dark of the covered basket our boy balances on his head on the way home, and on the final, open-ended page?

 

Interested in purchasing this book? Make sure to shop on Amazon Smile and select The New York Foundling as your charity of choice!

 

 

September is Baby Safety Month and serves as an important reminder for parents and caregivers to freshen up on some very important skills to create the safest possible environment for a child in their care. Below are five safety tips for parents and caregivers, courtesy of Baby Safety Zone and WebMD.

 

  • Keep furniture secure. The leading cause of injury to children is tripping and knocking furniture over, so be sure to secure all furniture to the floor or walls to avoid any harm.
  • Care safety. Never allow a child to sit in the front seat of a car or on your lap. Instead, securely place young children in an approved car seat. Make sure that the car seat is designed for your child’s age and that it passes all safety regulations.
  • Install (and test) smoke alarms. Make sure that there is a fully functioning smoke alarm on each floor of your home, and that the batteries in the alarm are changed frequently, about every six months.
  • Choking hazards. Check that all of the toys your baby is playing with are bigger than the size of their mouth so they do not accidentally ingest anything that could be harmful.
  • Emergency numbers. Create a list of emergency numbers and keep it nearby (at home and saved in your cell phone). Some of these numbers should include: your child’s pediatrician, the police department, the fire department, and poison control. The number for the national poison control center is 800-222-1222.

 

The New York Foundling offers a safe place to bring a child for up to three weeks, while parents can respond to short-term crises that could otherwise turn into a disaster. This haven is called the Crisis Nursery, and it is the only city-licensed emergency respite care facility of its kind.

 

Special thanks to Amanda E., summer intern at The Foundling, for researching and writing this blog post.

Internships present a great opportunity for students and young adults to learn about working at a nonprofit. This summer, a group of interns from across New York City had the chance to see our work in action, collaborate with staff and make a difference in the lives of the people and communities we serve. Below is our final intern profile for the summer.

 

Where do you go to school?

 

I attend Bennett College, an all-girls school in Greensboro, North Carolina.

 

What is your favorite subject?

 

One of my favorite subjects is writing. Writing allows me to tell stories I know and hold closest to me. It also allows me to voice my opinion on different subjects.

 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

 

In five years from now, I see myself still in school, possibly getting a Master’s Degree.  

 

Who is your role model and why?

 

For many years I have been surrounded by amazing women. One woman that has stood out to me for many years has been my cousin Terrenda White. She is the first in my family to graduate with a PhD. This means a lot to me because I was able to watch how much work she put in during this process. Seeing how dedicated she was meant so much to me.

 

What project did you work on while at The Foundling?

 

 

During my internship I helped the Human Resources Department create information packets that explain the different benefits available to staff at The New York Foundling. The packets included information about health insurance, the organization’s Wellness Program, and how to obtain an employee ID card.

 

What will you take away from your experience at The Foundling?

 

During my time at The Foundling, I have learned that working well with others helps things run smoothly and that The New York Foundling cares about all employees no matter how long you’ve been there.

 

What piece of advice would you tell future Foundling Interns?

 

Come well rested and ready to work.

 

What is your spirit animal and why?

 

I would say my spirit animal is a bear. A bear is strong and confident. I see myself as a born leader, helpful and often in charge. Bears also like to rest and have alone time.  

 

If you could take a trip anywhere, where would you go and why?

 

I would like to visit Mvezo, South Africa. This was the place Nelson Mandela was born.

 

What is the last book you read, what are you reading now?

 

The last book I read was “Piece of Cake” by Cupcake Brown and my current book is “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin.

 

Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Stephanie Kearns, Director of Business Operations

 

Earlier this year I wrote a post about 2 recipe suggestions for picky toddlers. As a result of that post, I was prompted to write a broader post on the approach to feeding strategy and more meal and snacking options. Nutrition is one of my top priorities when it comes to my family, especially my child. I love food. It is the one area of my life where I splurge. I’m not a clotheshorse, I’m not a world traveler, and I don’t collect stuff. I want to enjoy everything I eat and listen to my body’s needs to fuel my day and keep my energy up for an active family. I know it is not easy to encourage healthy eating with a new human who has discovered sugar and salt but I tell moms that you should feed yourself what you want your child to consume. This is a hard change but I promise it will change the way you feel and how you value your health. I defer to my trusty colleague Carlye Waxman, Director of Food and Nutrition to provide specifics about what children should eat and in what portions but I’m here to provide you with a road map for making the experience less stressful and shortcuts to provide health snacks easily.

 

The Picky Toddler – just say after me, “my toddler can’t break me, my toddler can’t break me!” But they try! Whew – my little girl once protested for an hour over requiring a cheddar cracker in lieu of her mashed sweet potatoes. But you have to stick with it. They will eventually follow your lead and you will break the cycle. It requires time and patience, both of which parents have very little of but once successful it feels awesome.

 

 

  • We use reading to keep our child entertained when mealtime is a struggle. Too much stimulus in the house can keep a child from settling down and focusing on eating. Choose a meal time book that they can focus on while eating. Use this tool to get in a groove and then slowly replace this with conversation about the meal, preparation, family stories and questions about his or her day.

     

  • Hiding nutrients – best trick in the book and I have mentioned this is past posts. Your blender or food processor is your best friend. Steam and finely chop any veggie and toss in whatever sauce you serve with pasta, chicken or spread on toast.

     

  • Having a family meal – sit with your child while they eat. If you are doing something else they will always think that is more exciting than eating the meal before them.

     

  • Rename foods to be more relatable to your child. Broccoli = Trees, Cauliflower = Snow Trees etc.

     

  • Out of sight, out of mind. Hide your indulgent snacks like cookies or candy so you don’t tempt your little one. If it’s there, they will want it.

     

 

The Travelling Toddler – This is a big one for me. You are always running around when you have a child, whether to school or play date or family visit. It is SUPER easy to grab pre-packaged snacks but they are usually loaded with sugar and sodium. Here are my favorite homemade or store bought healthy and kid friendly options:

 

 

  • Homemade trail mix – raisins, cashews, almonds, low sodium no sugar cereal tossed together. Give your child the baggie and they can enjoy the special treat! Don’t forget to be sensitive when providing snacks in environments where there might be nut allergies.

     

  • GoGo Squeez applesauce pouches. These can be for parents and kids. No sodium and no added sugar.

     

  • Mini muffins – I love to bake and Lillian loves muffins. You can make super healthy options. I use coconut oil in place of butter and very little brown sugar in my zucchini apple mini muffins. I also make cauliflower “muffins”. The shape sells it. Easy to pack in a hard shell travel container to keep from smashing.

     

  • Baby carrots or graspable chopped carrots. These are sweet, mess free and easy to pack.

     

  • Steamed and roasted string beans. “Green fries”|

     

 

The Daycare or Preschool Toddler – we are about to move from a daycare that provided all meals and snacks to one where we provide it all. Here are some packing tips to make it easier on your toddler and teacher!

 

  • Shop around for good quality food storage containers that your child can easily handle. The best and cheapest I have found are at The Container Store. The brand is Cool Gear.
  • They have freezable lunch bags to keep the meal cool in transit. This is a great product for travel as well. Here is my favorite option with lots of fun colors and designs: PackIt Personal Cooler
  • Don’t introduce new food options in school, especially in the beginning. Serve up their favorite choices when they first start so there are some comforts of home.
  • I advise against too many tricks when it comes to food. Once you start cutting sandwiches in the shape of their initials, you’ve gone too far. There is no going back so don’t make packing lunches a production – instead include a sticker in every other meal pack as a surprise that will be special to your child.

     

 

As your child grows older, limit the differences in your meal vs. his or hers. Start now if you can! This will encourage you to eat healthier and better define the quality time you need to connect with family. Bon appetit!

Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Stephanie Kearns, Director of Business Operations

 

A couple of weekends ago, I was frantically looking for the spout piece to match the lid of the pink and yellow cup before heading out for our play date. It must have fallen into a black hole because still today, I can’t find that piece. It’s like case of the missing sock in the dryer. Every mom and dad has a story about the hundreds of parts and pieces of the stuff that our kids accumulate but nothing is quite as maddening as the toddler cup epidemic.

 

I took this photo (attached) to showcase the myriad options that one can choose as a Sippy Cup. This is my own collection pared down.

 

Below is my personal experience of the best and worst options to help save you the headache and wasted money finding just the right one.

 

I’ve divided the options into 3 categories; spout, straw and sip and based my review on three key factors: ease of cleaning, ease of assembling, effectiveness.

 

The spout is your traditional lid with a defined spout with little holes to dispense water when your kiddo tilts the cup back. The straw is the built-in straw sucking mechanism that allows the child to hold the cup upright. Lastly the sip option which mimics the idea of an adult cup by using a lid that, when you tilt back to drink requires soft pressure of your child’s mouth to release water with slower flow than regular drinking speed.

 

Sip – this was the loser for me. The parts are extremely tough to install and if one piece isn’t in place the water dumps all over your child. With at least 4 parts on average, the likelihood of using this cup more than the first time is rare. Thumbs down!

sippy cup

Straw – if I had to pick a 2nd place, this would be it. There are various types of straw cups and some are better than others. The cup with the straw that retracts when you fold over a closing apparatus is the worst kind due to the very difficult installation of weaving the straw through a tiny opening every time you dismantle and clean. But the hard straw option that folds over can be pretty good as long as you keep a watchful eye on your little one since there is usually no flow stopper.

sippy cup 2

Spout-

This is the winner for me. The spout teaches your child to use a cup the way it is intended so the transition to a real cup is easier. This version also has the least amount of parts with typically 2 or 3 maximum so it is easier to take apart, clean and store parts. The downside to this version is the flow control pieces. Sometimes the removable parts that control how fast or slow the water can come out are too tight and make it hard for the child to get any water and others are too fast and cause the child to choke on water. The Playtex Playtime version has been the most successful option for my little one.

sippy cup 3

 

A few last thoughts…

 

Don’t count on the “spill proof” promise. Nothing is spill proof when it comes to a toddler! Lastly, the best piece of advice I can give you is don’t collect too many versions of cups. It is tough to remember the matching of parts and cups. You end up relying on the one cup out of twenty because you can’t match the pieces!

 

Happy sipping!

Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Stephanie Kearns, Director of Business Operations

 

As our family gears up for our 4th trip and the first of the upcoming holiday season with our not quite 2 year old, I’ve learned a lot of lessons about traveling with a young one. I’ve heard every secret in the book to keep kids calm, distracted, and even asleep while traveling on a plane. These tips below apply no matter how you travel but some are tailored to a plane trip specifically as this is the most limiting way of travel and no parent is ever quite ready for what might ensue on your adventures!

 

Activities – I’ve chosen to limit the amount of screen time my child has while in transit to any destination and at home. I’m overly sensitive to the idea that a young child’s brain hasn’t quite developed to properly process the screen defined activities available. However, this is absolutely the easiest and fastest way to calm and distract a child so many parents rely on this in a pinch and I’m one of them. I want to offer some alternatives that give you similar levels of kid satisfaction without the guilt.

 

  • Stickers. Listen, I don’t know what it is about stickers but they are pretty much the best thing in the universe according to kids. Our house is proudly littered with (easily removable) stickers. They are easy to pack too. Bring a small composition book and pack of stickers and count on your little one being occupied for a while. Create adventures on each page using different themed stickers. Don’t splurge for the $5 pack of 12 stickers at Container Store, grab the bulk options at a party supply store or the clearance bin at Target.

     

 

  • Silly putty – unlike playdough which can be too sticky and fall apart more quickly. Silly putty is sturdy and easier to hold. You can make shapes and stand the newly created objects up on the tray table or car seat tray.

     

 

  • Books – don’t underestimate the power of books in transit. Board books are usually easier to carry and there is less chance of a page being ripped out. Toddlers are in the development phase where the idea of repeating the same book over and over again is exciting for them as they recognize the next page before they see it. This can be exhausting on parents to re-read the same book 100 times but stick with it, try voices and sounds and prompt your child to fill in the blank with words so they can contribute to the story telling.

 

Products – There is no perfect travel product collection but there are some pretty great options out there to make things a little easier. I’ve travelled with and without my husband and when I was without him, some of these items were lifesavers! I have personally used all of these products.

 

  • Ok this first one is a little pricey but if you are a regular traveler you will not want to live without this! Sit n Stroll car seat http://lillygold.com/ This is a super easy stroller with retractable wheels that easily store inside the unit with one handed action. This is most appropriate for 0-1.5 but I know they are coming out with upgraded designs for a little older and new colors. The cushioned material is easily washable, and the option of being able to pop your baby out of the rental car while fast asleep so you can run into a restaurant and grab a bite adds some extra adult time to your trip! You can also install in a plane seat if you can swing the extra ticket price – splurge if you are flying solo with a kiddo.

     

 

  • The is my favorite option for kids between 22-44 lbs. It is a seat belt mechanism that is used with the existing seat belts in plane seats (THIS IS NOT FOR CARS!) http://store.kidsflysafe.com/ Bonus: they have a separate product to serve children and adults with special needs. Super reasonable and with the frequent Buy Buy Baby 20% off coupons, it’s a steal!

     

 

  • Portable high chair. I recommend 2 different options. One that stands alone and another that fastens to any dining chair. This first is the Ciao Baby Portable Highchair, it works like the foldable park chairs that you can buy at your local bodega during the summertime. The other is the Munchkin travel booster seat. The second one gets mixed reviews online but I found it to be the best of the options with a 3 point harness and storage compartment in the seat giving it double use when not being used as a chair.

 

Planning – Try not to drive yourself or your loved one crazy. If you’ve decided to travel with a child, embrace it and get to a place where you feel relatively comfortable so you can reduce your and your family’s stress. Just own that you WILL forget something but as long as it is not your child or significant other you can pretty much buy anything you could possibly need!

 

  • Booking travel at the right time, on the right day for the right price is daunting! Here’s the thing: You will not get the perfect plan in place so stop agonizing and save yourself some cash to use for a special treat at your destination by booking the cheapest at a reasonable hour! Traveling can dramatically change the nap hours of your child so don’t count on the perfect hour on the plane where they will drift into sleep. This happened once for us but due to all of the other travel discomforts she was cranky the rest of the day!

 

  • Airport arrival time: check in and load up do require more precise planning on the day. You don’t want to arrive too early as you’ll be sitting in the airport for too long. Just go with the average suggestion time by the airport. Print your boarding passes before you get to the airport. Airport security are usually a little more lax when you have a kid cause they can see you coming a mile away and want you to get through fast. Have your stuff in hand before getting in line and take a deep breath. It is just travel with a kid, not the bar exam. Note: airlines don’t let parents with small children board early anymore but if you have to install one of the devices above, talk to the attendant and they usually allow you to board early.

 

  • Hotel stay – try to find a room that mimics your set up at home. If your child sleeps in a separate room attempt to locate a hotel that has a door separating rooms to establish the same patterns. I recommend a hotel with guest laundry – no matter how much you pack, puke, spills, messes are even more frequent on vacation. Murphy’s law.

 

HAVE FUN!

 

Embrace the mess, love the mistakes and support each other. Happy travelling!