Premium Podcast Help Contact Dr. Laura Dr. Laura Designs Return to
Join Family Premium Login Family
Tip of the Week

Today's Family Man
'Values-Based Holiday Shopping

By Gregory Keer

Gimmee, gimmee, gimmee is a refrain parents here from (at least) November till the end of the holidays. It's hard to blame children for their insatiable requests for more and bigger gifts as marketers bombard them with 'must have options and their friends have parents who are dealing out the goods. It's difficult for a kid not to be motivated by other boys and girls shouting, 'I'm getting a Furby! or 'My parents bought me a Game Boy Micro!

One of the toughest tasks for a parent in this materialistic mayhem is to teach values. But the moms and dads who come out on top are the ones who stick to the program of educating their children about moderation, the needs of the less fortunate, and what's more important than the things we own. Here are some ideas for instilling principle in young consumers.

Gifts for Kids to Give to Others
  1. Let's List Again

    I've frequently recommended that a parent not even step foot in a retail outlet without first having made a list of things his or her child may want. Preparing in advance allows you to set a number of gifts and a budget in advance, thereby managing a child's expectations and teaching them the limits of money. The same thing applies when shopping for other family members and friends.

    Have your kids make a list of things they want to give to each person, working with them on the budget and the appropriateness of each gift. While you do this, discuss with them why they are choosing the specific present and what they think the result of the giving the gift will be. Often, children are disappointed by the reactions their friends or family give when receiving an item. Before this happens, teach your child that it is indeed the thought that counts and that giving is its own reward. You can tell them that not everyone has the ability to understand this, so it's important to derive self-satisfaction from the act of giving.

  2. Give Unto Others What You Would Give Your Kid

    For friends, give what your kids would want for themselves. Have them tell you what to get or have them shop for it themselves. Of course, a young girl may not want a 'Bonecrusher 2005 for Christmas, so you should do a little guiding about the recipient. But buying something your child values puts the friend on an equal footing.

    A couple of other tips: While shopping, buy two for the holidays or birthdays. Or keep the list of what you buy and return to the stores for sales on those same items.

  3. Be Personal

    For relatives, give something personal. Create-your-own pottery, handmade cards, photo albums with photos of special times spent together. What counts is how the gift connects with a friend or loved one.
Beyond Disposable Fun and Worthwhile Gifts for Kids
  1. The Gift of Time

    A museum pass or amusement park pass provides your kids with an opportunity to spend more time with you. Also consider "gift certificates" with dates for times you will take one child out with mom or dad for special dinners or other outings.

  2. Year 'Round Gifts

    In addition to the museum or park passes, try joining a book club in their name or make your own book club good for 5 to 10 books throughout the year and stamp a homemade card each time you buy one with your child.

  3. Philanthropy

    Teach your children about those who don't have the same privileges. Have them choose a toy to send to a charitable organization. Take them to the donation place so they can see the people who are getting these gifts. Making it personal will have a more lasting effect on a child who needs to understand that others don't have it as good as him.

  4. Board Games

    Board games, a deck of cards, puzzles for family times. Ages two on up will like this option, which increases family time.
These ideas are some of many others that creative, values-minded parents can use. At the core of the suggestions are understanding the needs of others and realizing that the time we spend with each other trump any video game or fashionable clothing that money can buy.

copy; 2005 Gregory Keer. All rights reserved.

Gregory Keer is a syndicated columnist, educator, and on-air expert on fatherhood. His Family ManTM column appears in publications across the country, including L.A. Parent, Boston Parents' Paper, Metro Augusta Parent, and Sydney's Child in Australia. Keer's parenting advice is found at his online magazine,, which is the #1 ranked site for fathers, according to Amazon's Alexa ratings. In addition to writing for Parenting magazine and the Parents' Choice Foundation, Keer contributes to USA Today, Pregnancy magazine,,,, and Keer is also a featured guest expert on television and radio and advisor to the Cartoon Network. He and his wife are the proud parents of three sons. Keer can be reached at his Web site, Permission granted for use on

More >>

Tags: Religion, Values

The Punch That Parents Don't See
By Vaughn Alaine-Marshall

The job of nurturing an impressionable mind has always been a challenge. The once gradual ascent into adulthood is now a sharp rise. Every single day parents in America are confronted with the task of monitoring their child's influences. New technologies, social crazes and information portals emerge on a monthly basis, making the job of policing what goes into a child's brain all the more difficult.

The attempt of previous generations to counter this quandary reflects our modern standard of censorship. School reading lists now have an emphasis on classical works. Films now warn of offensive content. Music controls its controversial artists with corporate strings. The Internet, the latest parental predicament, is vast but awareness of its power is leading to its restraint. Individual standards of decency dictate what is suitable for viewing in different households, however like any old boxer will warn you, 'it's the punch you don't see that knocks you out...'

More money is being spent on television production than any other time in the industry's history. Television's fiscal resurgence is on the back of reality programming. Reality-TV shows, especially those of the talent show format, are gaining legitimacy and fulfilling the need for more family-oriented programming. For a parent, this is the punch you don't see.

Recognize the Punch
  • Every year the airways carry another slew of reality drama packaged for families. The highest-rating and most profitable show in the genre, American Idol, has built its franchise upon young adults chasing their dreams.

  • American Idol thrives because of its feel-good music moments and viewer participation. From the outside, American Idol is wholesome entertainment. The reality of this reality-TV show though is not so benign.

  • American Idol and it spin-offs intentionally project cruelty under the guise that it is part-and-parcel of the entertainment industry. American Idol reproduces the dynamics of bullying children deal with in schoolyards across the country every day.

  • By making it family entertainment only legitimizes this behaviour.

  • Children who have been victimized are much more likely to be depressed, anxious, withdrawn and distrustful, even in adulthood, and more likely to miss class and underperform in school.

  • The impact of America's most watched television show has been linked to the growing incidences of cyber-bullying.

  • In 2008, researchers at Yale School of Medicine found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in children.
Reality shows are not only shaping how impressionable minds interact in the schoolyard, but what is perceived as reality. Unlike scripted television shows, there is no suspension of disbelief. American Idol and its affiliates claim to make superstars out of ordinary people; however the reality is far from this. Confidentiality agreements suppress the hundreds of contestant horror stories resulting from reality-show experiences.

Mental-health workers have discovered that people who compete on these shows suffer severe and often long-lasting psychological trauma as a result. American Idol is no different to any other television show produced in America except that it works on a fundamentally different premise - that it is real. The winner is chosen before a single second of the show goes to air. Impressionable minds take American Idol on face value.

The punch that parents don't see is not drugs, sex or violence - it's the subtle impressions. Parents cannot control every stimulus - only give their children perspective to make balanced judgements. Dreams are an expression of the soul's desire and shows like American Idol stimulate our hearts to achieve extraordinary feats. It's when their promises and methods are rooted in fiction the greatest damage is done.

Every day, parents all over America are giving their children wings hoping they achieve whatever it is they want. The punch we don't see is giving children hope when there is a dead-end and legitimizing a show that encourages meanness. Dreams do not materialize overnight, but they do come true. And they are a direct result of courage, perseverance and talent that parents nurture in developing people every day.

Vaughn Alaine-Marshall is the author of the ground-breaking reality-television novel Uuml;berstar. Born in Sydney, Australia, Vaughn is a chiropractor who put a career in private practice on hold after four-and-a-half days to co-found the international publishing firm Hendlin Books. Based in Hamburg, Germany, Vaughn is bringing the vision of his firm's two namesakes - Jimi Hendrix (HEND-) and Charlie Chaplin (-LIN) - into the publishing world. Vaughn's debut novel, Uuml;berstar, is a funny and explosive exploration of reality-television as told by insider sources from the world's biggest reality shows. For more information granted for use on

More >>

Tags: Women's Point of View
A Little Spring Cleaning
Cliff Ennico

Every three months or so, I clean out my e-mail files to make my computer run faster. Whenever I do, I always run across a few e-mails from readers with terrific questions that are too important to delete without at least a 'quick and dirty response. Here are a few:

'I want to start a cleaning business for residential homeowners. It will be a sole proprietorship initially. I want to make sure no one else uses my fictitious name. What do I need to do, and how much will it cost?

As a sole proprietorship, you are usually required to file a 'fictitious name certificate with your county or city clerk's office for a small filing fee (usually $5 or $10). This doesn't give you the legal right to use the name, but a good clerk's office will always check prior filings to make sure no one else is using the same name in your city or county. Likewise, they will make sure no one else files a certificate after you with the same name. Sadly, in some larger municipalities, the clerk's staff are too busy to do a thorough search, such that two local businesses end up using the same name and have to 'duke it out in court.

If you need greater protection, you can register your name as a federal trademark with the U.S. Patent Trademark Office ( or a state trademark with your state Secretary of State's office (for a listing of Web addresses, go to This is the best protection for a company name, but it will cost you anywhere from $500 to $1,500, depending on where you live and how much research your attorney needs to do. DO NOT attempt to do it yourself online; most trademark sites are extremely tricky, and it's easy to make serious mistakes in the application process if you don't know what you're doing.

'I am starting a bridal accessories business that will be by appointment only. I am creating purses using public domain and out-of-copyright patterns, as well as my own designs. Since I will be selling only in local craft bazaars and boutiques, do I have to copyright my designs? I really don't want to do that.

There's no law that says you MUST copyright your original designs. It's just that if you don't copyright them (by registering your design with the U.S. Copyright Office,, anyone else can rip off your design and there won't be much you can do about it. Here's an idea. Make sure the following notice appears somewhere visible on each of your bags: 'copy;2005 [name of your company]. All rights reserved. By doing this, you are claiming what lawyers call a 'common law copyright, meaning that if someone blatantly rips you off and you can prove they did, you may be able to take some legal action even though you didn't register your designs with the Copyright Office.

'I received an e-mail warning today from a Website threatening to share and sell private information about me that they received from another Website. At the bottom of the e-mail, there's a note saying 'if you wish to eliminate your information from our database, you must send an e-mail to the following address and type in 'opt-out' in the subject tab. In the body of your message provide your name, address, city, state, Zip Code, Social Security Number and birth date.' Should I do it?

I would avoid doing this. If this Website obtained information about you from another Website, why would they need you to repeat all the information in your 'opt-out message? That seems a little fishy to me. I especially don't like the idea that they want your Social Security Number and birth date.

My suspicion is that this is an attempt to get information from you that they can then either sell to someone else or use to 'spam you themselves. Worse, you may be opening the door to a possible identity theft. Don't wait three months to delete this message; do it now!

Cliff Ennico ( is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at COPYRIGHT 2005 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on

More >>

Tags: Military, Values

Healthy Children forLife - Breakfast:
Setting Your Child Up for Success

By Linda Miner RNC, CHN, CMTA

Imagine building a housewithout a foundation. It may stay standing for awhile, buteventually it will start to shift and crack and eventuallycollapse. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast should beconsidered as important to your body as a solid foundation is to ahouse. The word breakfast literally means "breaking thefast". After you stop eating in the evening, there is usuallyabout 12 hours until you rise and eat again. Although it isimportant for your body to rest during the night, it is extremelyimportant to begin nourishing your body once you awaken. As soonas you eat, your metabolism revs up. The internal organs,including the brain, can perform their respective functions and youhave energy to begin your day. On the contrary, if you don't eat,your metabolism is not activated and the body starts to go intostarvation mode. The human body has a natural instinct topreserve itself and basic functions begin to slow down as the bodyresponds to a lack of nutrients. By not consuming breakfast, youstress your internal organs, you have trouble concentrating becausethere is no energy for your brain, and you create a body that isdestined to be obese as it learns to hold onto fat due to thisperceived famine. Therefore, eating a healthy breakfast is anextremely important habit to teach your children. So what are thebest choices for breakfast?

Start with Fruit: A great habitto instill in your children is to have fresh, whole fruit to start theday. Fruit gives you tons of energy, it's full of nutrients andenzymes for digestion and most varieties have a good amount offibre.

High Quality Carbohydrates: Itis very important at every meal to have carbohydrates andprotein. Let's start with the carbs. When it comes tobread, insist on multigrain. White bread should be considered a"treat" just like candy. My youngest daughter likes when I make"Mamp;Ms". No, not the chocolate kind. I toast up somesprouted multigrain bread. Then after buttering it, I sprinkle alittle cinnamon and evaporated cane juice (i.e. real sugar) ontop. Cinnamon is a great blood sugar stabilizer and powerfulantioxidant. Then I cut the bread into the letter "M", the firstletter of her name. Somehow this makes it taste much moredelicious.

Be Cautious with Cereals: Manypeople ask me about breakfast cereals and instant oatmeal. I amnot a fan because most are loaded with sugar, are low in protein andfibre and spike blood sugar levels. Check the glycemic index (GI)and you will see that many cereals have a higher GI and spike bloodsugar more than white sugar ( You generally want to eat foods with a glycemic index rating of lessthan 55. Do not be fooled by advertising that says "wholegrain". That still usually just means one grain NOTmultigrain. You want to purchase cereals that have more than onegrain. Nature's Path (,Kashi ( Bob's Red Mill ( have some excellent cereals, but make sure you check thenutrition label. Look for at least 4g of protein and 3g offibre.

High Quality Protein: Next, Iwould recommend a good source of protein. Plain, low fat yogurtis great because it is loaded with protein, is an excellent source ofcalcium, has lots of good bacteria for the intestines and is easy toadd flavour to. Stir in the aforementioned fruit, some honey ormaple syrup, some chopped up nuts and a high quality granola and youhave a very satisfying breakfast. Or make a smoothie with thefruit and yogurt. In my experience, if you give them straws, kidsare more likely to drink it. It's all about making it fun. Stay away from presweetened yogurts that are loaded with sugar. One of my daughters' favorite breakfasts is what we call "string cheeseegg". I pour egg whites into a fry pan and the girls "string" thepart-skimmed mozzarella cheese over the top. I serve it rolled upand they love it. What a great blast of protein

By starting the day right, your kids will be ready to perform theirbest in school, in sports and in life.

Linda Miner is a RegisteredNutritionist specializing in Metabolic Typing. Linda works with clientsonline to help them restore their health by re-establishing balance inthe body. Through one-on-one coaching and an individualized food planbased on your unique characteristics, Linda can help you achieveOptimal Health. Learn more at and Permissiongranted foruse

More >>

Tags: Parenting

Five Ways to Use Children's Fiction Books to Encourage Good Behavior
By R.J. Nimmo
Author of Tales of the Mustard Twins: The Ancient Egyptian Ennead

'I suppose all the world's a stage, a proudly grinning mother consoled herself as we all searched for our seats to watch a play being put on by the children at our local elementary school. She nodded at her son who, despite not getting the lead role, was dressed up in his Peter Pan costume. 'My son's really very good. I don't know why he wasn't cast this year. After all, she confided in me, 'the boy they have in the part is such a troublesome kid. Why not pick a child more deserving of the chance?

I quickly found my place at the front of rows of collapsible chairs set up in the gymnasium, and the stage lights went up on Neverland. As I watched the play I couldn't stop thinking about the mother's comments; she was right. The boy (who was a playmate of my friend's youngest daughter) was repeatedly in trouble at school with very poor grades. However, on stage tonight as he fumbled and mumbled his way through his lines he was evidently enjoying himself, and, at the end of the performance I overheard his beaming parents encouraging him: 'We told you it would feel great, didn't we? Flying like Peter Pan and getting the best of that nasty Captain Hook!

I am convinced the boy was cast at least in part as the result of a secret pact between the drama teacher and his concerned parents who wanted to reinforce in their child the virtues of behaviour as espoused by the popular hero in J.M Barrie's story.

These same principles can be applied just as effectively every day with your own kids. All the world is indeed a stage, so it is a great idea to use favourite fiction book characters that kids instinctively cast themselves as on their own 'world stage #151;i.e. in the playground, with their friends etc. #151; to help build confidence and encourage good behaviour.

Start by identifying the positive messages and lessons in your children's favourite stories, then get ready to use the fun tools that we fiction writers have handed you!
  1. Firstly, as parents, recognizing that society's values are largely transmitted to children through fictional stories, so it is important that we be aware of the value and relevance of the lessons acquired from the kinds of books, stories and other entertainments that we are all exposed to as kids.

  2. Avoiding scolding kids for acting out roles, playing dress-ups etc, at inappropriate times, such as meal times or bath times, with demeaning phrases such as: 'I am not playing games with you; stop messing about in that fantasy world of yours and do as I ask. This sends the wrong message; kids instinctively know the difference between reality and fantasy and their imaginations should always be encouraged regardless.

  3. Positively reinforcing desirable character traits in story characters by discussing them and even acting them out. For example, where appropriate, have children examine their own behaviour by discussing, or role playing, how their favourite hero or villain might react. Kids respond to this because it lets them use elements of play to examine their behaviour in a non-threatening context. Try something like: 'Should you be talking to your sister like that? That sounds like something Count Olaf would say to the Baudelaire children in Lemony Snicket #151; do you think Olaf is a good character or a bad character?

  4. Reinforce character traits, but also emphasize the positive action elements in a story #151; this one isn't just for boys, either! For example, make a game out of doing chores by actually encouraging children to dress-up and help out. Comments like: 'Now see if you can clear away your toys faster than Harry Potter waving his magic wand will inevitably have the desired effect!

  5. Work story elements into the daily routine to encourage discipline etc. A good example of this is a tactic my friend, Sadie, uses. Her daughter #151; who is going through a familiar 'fairy princess phase #151; refuses to go to bed at the appropriate time. Sadie overcomes this simply by saying 'and now it's time to put on your princess pyjamas and pretend to be Sleeping Beauty. This method is far more effective than ranting about curfews and demanding teeth are brushed!
Young adult and children's entertainment expert, R.J. Nimmo is the author of The Ancient Egyptian Ennead, the latest young adult fantasy novel to be published in the 6-book Mustard Twins series. He has been featured in national and daily newspapers articles, discussing the influences of popular entertainment on children and young adults. He is currently living in London, England. Visit him at Permission granted for use on

More >>

Potty Training 101
Jodie Lynn

I am not a fan of potty training children early. In the ten years I have been helping parents with potty training, I have never known even one who was completely toilet trained when starting before the age of three. This means never having to wear a diaper or pull ups when going to bed or taking a nap -- and the most crucial test of all, waking up dry after 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Those parents that say that their kids are trained usually regress sometimes before the age of five, especially if it has been a stressful and frustrated training.

Spanking, yelling and threatening always backfires. If a parent pulls a power play, the child will become absorbed in the unnecessary battle and become overwhelmed. Stress rises to a new, yet negative level. Unfortunately, for parents, the kids win on this one. They can use potty in the potty or potty in the underwear as a powerful tool resulting in negative retaliation creating major challenges in switching back and forth from potty training, poor eating habits and mood swings.

Using food as a reward is not a way to entice toddlers into becoming potty trained.

In fact, this can lead to harmful eating habits as well as using food for emotional satisfaction.

Here are a few tips that have seemed to work for others.
    1. Concentrate on potty training only. Don't make it hard on kids but you will have to watch them almost every minute. Do not go anywhere with them for two weeks unless you can take the potty with you.

    2. Use stickers as a reward. Let them pick out the stickers at a store.

    3. Wrap up small gifts found as rewards after each time they successfully go to the bathroom. Children love to open presents. Put them inside a big box and let them choose the one they want to open. Rewrap them. That's right. Use them repeatedly. After they begin to get potty trained, tell and show them there are only six presents left and then, "they'll be all gone." Each time you let them open one, say, "Look, there's only 5 more left, but we have stickers," -- or whatever else you'd like to use.

    4. Do not use food as a reward. Sweets, candy, or any type of food is not good for a positive reward system at this age. It will only leave them anticipating food as rewards for other accomplishments and could lead to eating disorders later in life.

    5. After each successful potty trip, clap and say, "Whoohoo. You are such a big boy/girl! Good job!" Go call someone and share the news. Let the child tell them what a good job that they did. This only reinforces positive experiences for potty training.

    6. Make up a calendar with tons of pictures of your child on it. Make the days of the week large squares to have plenty of room for the stickers. Let your child put up a big star each time he/she goes to the potty on that specific day.

    7. Put Cheerios in the toilet and let the boys aim at them. Since they are a little more difficult to potty train, there are other incentives on today's market to attract little boys to the potty. Check at your favorite store for such tools.

    8. Buy many books during clearance sales. Keep a box of books by the potty. If possible, read a page or two or share a picture book. Read one or two books, if your little one needs to go number two.

    9. Monitor food and liquid intake. Take your child to the potty on a schedule. You will have to watch the clock to monitor food and drink intake. Cut out liquids two hours before bedtime and no caffeine -- ever.

    10. Ship your precious little one off to grandmas or an aunt's house, if things get too hairy. Sometimes, other folks can potty train our children better than we can. If you have a relative who is willing to help and your kiddo won't "walk the plank" for you, let someone else try. You might be surprised how quickly the job will be completed.
Above all else, let the child show and tell you when he is ready. It may not be the calendar timing you'd like to follow, but the frustration is just not worth the repercussions.

Remember, accidents will occur at the least expected time. Stay cool and anticipate it as part of parenthood#133;this too shall pass.

copy; 2006 Jodie Lynn

Jodie Lynn is an award-winning internationally syndicated family/healthcolumnist and radio personality. Her syndicated column Parent to Parent ( has been successful for over 10 years and appears in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and throughout the Internet. She is a regular contributor to several sites including, and is the Residential Mom Expert for Lynn has written two books and contributed to two others, one of which was on Oprah and has appeared on NBC in a three month parenting segment. Her latest best-selling parenting/family book is Mommy-CEO, revised edition. Permission granted to use on

More >>

Tags: Family/Relationships - Family, Morals, Ethics, Values, Relationships, Relatives, Religion

Easter Egg-stravaganza!
By Tawra Kellam

OK, so the kids noticed on the calendar that Easter is approaching and they want to make a huge production of dying eggs. In the past, the little stickers you bought at the store sufficed, but now they want the real thing. Here are some old standards with a few new ideas for you.

Before you decorate Easter eggs, cover the entire table with newspaper. Keep a huge roll of paper towels or rags handy for messes. Have each kid wear one of dad's old (now disposable) tee shirts. To make egg stands, cut toilet paper roll cores into one inch cylinders and use for egg stands. Decorate with stickers or paint.

Decorating eggs the traditional method.

Hard boil eggs. Fill several mugs with boiling water and add 1-2 tsp. vinegar. Place a few drops of desired food coloring in each mug. Place eggs in mugs for several minutes until eggs reach desired shades. Remove with a spoon. Place on paper towel to dry. When dry, polish with a small amount of shortening on a paper towel. Buff until glossy.

You can draw or write on the eggs with a light colored or white crayon before dipping. The drawing will remain white after the egg is dipped. To clean out mugs, put a little bleach water in the cups and soak for a few minutes.

Glitter Eggs - Place 1 tablespoon each of glue and water in a cup. Stir the mixture and then paint the eggs with it. Sprinkle with glitter. This can also add sparkle to already dyed eggs!

Crepe Paper Eggs - Wet a white or dyed egg. Dab torn pieces of colored tissue paper or pieces of pretty colored napkins on the eggs. When the paper dries, the paper falls off and leaves the color behind on the egg.

vvvvDecoupaged eggs - Tear small pieces of wrapping paper, napkins, stickers, or clip art. Mix equal amounts of glue and water. Paint egg with glue mixture. Place paper on top and then cover with more glue mixture. Let dry.

Spotted Eggs - Place 1 tsp. of cooking oil in dye. Dip the egg. The oil will cause the dye to make an irregular pattern on the egg.

Waxed Eggs - Dip a portion of the eggs in melted paraffin or candle wax. Then dip them in the dye. Remove from dye. Dry and peel off the wax. The egg will be white on one half and colored on the other half. You can also dip in dye before waxing to get two colors.

Tawra Kellam is the publisher of is an expert in frugal living. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income. Permission granted for use on

More >>


Protect Your MedicalInformation
By John Sileo

Medical records are one-stop shopping for identity thieves. There is noneed to slowly gather bits and pieces of someone's personal information- it's all packaged together: Social Security number, name, address,phone number, even payment accounts.

Crooks have received everything from medication to a liver transplantusing a stolen identity. And that's only the tip of the iceberg! Morethan just medical treatment is at stake. Once a thief's medicalinformation is entered into your records, it's extremely difficult toget rid of that information. It's conceivable, for example, that at alater date, you'll need a Type A blood transfusion but be given thethief's Type B with dire consequences.

Identity theft of medical records has more than doubled since 2008, asstated in Javelin's 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report. It's notdifficult to imagine the misery that a million Americans have sufferedduring the past two years when their identities were stolen. And the Poneman Institute, in their NationalStudy on Medical Identity Theft, states that another half millionpeople loaned their insurance cards to uninsured family members andfriends. The unsavvy lenders have incurred huge medical bills in this'friendly fraud.

Larry Ponemon says that, on average, it costs $20,000 to resolve amedical identity theft case. Unlike credit card companies, where thebanks incur the losses, the victims often have to pay for thefraudulent care and sometimes lose their health insurance or have topay higher premiums to restore their accounts. Even though there areHIPAA laws to protect your privacy, not all health care organizationshave strict safeguards in place.

The risk goes even further: if someone is treated using your identity,your medical records will more than likely be altered and couldcompromise your treatment and ability to get service. Accordingto Larry Ponemon, "stolen medical records offer a complete dossier toget a passport in a victim's name that could be used for terrorism."

Ways to Protect Yourself:
  • When you receive anExplanation of Benefits from insurers, read it carefully and save -don't throw it away even when it says "this is not a bill"! If atreatment date or doctor's name is not familiar to you, call theinsurer and the billing physician to resolve.
  • If your wallet is stolen,contact your insurance company just as you would your credit cardcompany. Don't carry your Medicare card in your wallet. Carry aphotocopy and black out the last four digits of the SS#.
  • Urge your health careproviders to ask patients for photo ID's.
  • Ask your doctors for copiesof everything in your medical files, even if you have to pay for them.
  • Monitor your credit report.If you see medical billing errors, contact your insurer and the threecredit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
  • Avoid Internet andstorefront offers of free treatment and supplies.
  • Ask for a list of benefitspaid in your name and an "accounting of disclosures" which shows whogot your records.
About the author: To furtherbulletproof yourself and your business, visit John's blog at To book John at your next event,visit Sileo became America's leading Identity Theft Speaker amp;Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 toidentity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department ofDefense, Pfizer and the FDIC.Permissiongranted for use

More >>

Tags: Marriage

Blind Date 101:
Are You "Uncool" If You Don't Meet Over Booze?
By Connie Bennett, C.H.H.C.

There we were, my blind date and I, in a classy bar in one of Manhattan's chicest hotels. While the ambiance and locale were romantic, my feelings were far from that.

You see, as I sat innocently sipping my sparkling water and striving to maintain poise, grace and dignity, my date surprised me with a question that had a nasty, condescending implication.

"Don't you drink?" my companion quizzed me with a sneer.

Indeed, as my date was downing an alcoholic beverage-I think it was bourbon and water#151;his question and the tone in which he delivered it were most assuredly a "putdown."

Excuse me, I'm being condemned for opting for sparking H20?

"You've got to be kidding," I thought, as I was clearly taken aback.

The implication was by eschewing alcohol, I was being terribly "uncool."

My simple answer, "I better not, because I have a big day tomorrow," didn't seem to fly with him either.

As the evening progressed, the Drinker pressed further.

"Well, at least you have wine, right?"

Again, I replied by saying that it would be better for me to stay away from booze and keep coherent, because the next day I had a daylong life-coach training course beginning at 8:30 a.m.

On the way home, I searched through my memories. Darn, I realized, my initial instincts had been correct. Some seven years ago, when I first moved to New York, I'd met the same man! And guess what? Back then, the Drinker had the same you're-so-weird reaction when I chose sparkling water over alcohol. (How's that for embarrassing#151;but also amusing and entertaining?)

Look, I try to be open-minded when meeting new, potentially eligible men, but this booze incident really took the cake, if you'll pardon the oft-used, sugary expression.

My goal these days#151;10 years into living sugar-free (or close to it)#151;is to inspire others to vibrant health, good cheer and ultimately a juicy, sweeter life than they've had until now. (Thankfully, as attested by the thousands of e-mails I regularly receive, I am making a difference in people's lives.)

But then how do I reconcile my get-a-healthy-life mission with my need to go on blind dates#151;often for drinks or coffee#151;until Mr. Right comes along?

By being true to myself#151;no matter what the consequences or the reaction.

Yes, phooey on the booze-drinking, slightly pot-bellied, but super-successful blind date Drinker!

Frankly, I refuse to be intimidated, embarrassed or coerced into engaging in self-destructive behavior. I've spent enough years treating my body like a garbage can#151;no more! (Admittedly, though, I'm still working on my too-many late nights and my clutter woes. Hey, I'm not perfect.)

Now that my date with the Drinker is no more than a humorous memory (and fodder for a fun essay), let me share some tips to help you, too, in uncomfortable social situations.
  1. First off, be true to yourself, no matter what. In other words, wherever you are and whomever you meet, do only what feels right to you, even if it means that you'll occasionally encounter a put-down#151;either overtly stated or implied.

  2. Secondly, don't let anyone's condescending attitude corner you into behaving in a bad-for-you manner that you'll deeply regret the morning after. (I'm not making sexual innuendoes here#151;rather, I mean the next day when you step on the scale after blowing your diet or when you have a horrible headache after drinking or doing something else your body didn't like.)

  3. And finally, hang onto a vision of the types of people you'd like to meet and befriend. (Trust me#151;I will no longer meet a blind date who turns up his nose at me because I don't drink alcohol.)

For the record, here's the answer I never delivered to my condescending date: No, I do not drink alcohol anymore#151;I haven't for ten years, since kicking sugar.

Sure, I'd like to indulge in wine from time to time, but booze in my body derails me. The alcohol reacts like sugar and does me in with what can only be described as a horrific, three-day hangover. Not to mention the strange post-booze behavior (edginess, irritability, brain fog, etc.) it engenders. (Oh, and for the record, I'm not a recovering alcoholic.)

Actually, it's rather ironic that as I've become healthier, some men#151;certainly not ones I'd like to date#151;find me flat out undesirable simply because I no longer share their "babits" (bad habits)#151;drinking wine, eating sweets, smoking cigarettes or drinking coffee.

But let's face it: many women and men are just like me. They, too, have the same sort of adverse reaction to alcohol, caffeine, sugar or cigarettes. Their bodies demand that they be treated with care.

Anyhow, I don't care if my future boyfriend or friends drink in front of me#151;just as long as they don't hold it against me that I don't and can't.

Ultimately, what this "Connie-why-don't-you-drink?" attack made me realize is that I need to hang around health-minded, empowerment-oriented men and women, who respect my decision not to drink.

In other words, we healthy folks need to stick together. Or, perhaps#151;without saying anything at all#151;I can serve as a good role model to drinkers, smokers, sugar-eaters, etc.

Anyhow, I'm still not ruling out blind-date drinks in bars#151;I'll just stick to my sparking water and let the man judge me as he wishes.

But that's why I'll probably meet more compatible men when I'm out and about on the tennis courts, bike paths or jogging trails rather than in bars.

Connie Bennett, C.H.H.C. is author of the book SUGAR SHOCK! (Berkley Books). She is a certified holistic health counselor, productivity coach, journalist and former sugar addict, who quit her horrible habit 10 years ago (in 2008). These days, despite occasional pressure from a blind date or friends, Connie now shuns the sweets and "quickie carbs" she once over-consumed and therefore has more energy, greater enthusiasm and better concentration than ever before. Learn if sugar has control over you, too, by taking the quiz at Permission granted for use on

More >>

Tags: Parenting

200+ Ideas For Summertime -- Or Anytime -- Fun!
Copyright Deborah Taylor-Hough
Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Since we don't use the phrase "I'm bored!" in our home,we never hear our kids complaining about being boredduring those long days at home during the summermonths. But ... I have to admit that we're still anincredibly normal family.

Even without the "b-word" in their vocabulary, there arestill those times when my three children (ages 16, 12and 8) just seem to be at a total loss for something constructive to do.

On one of those "I-can't-think-of-anything-to-do" days,I had my children sit down and make a list of everythingthey could do completely on their own without parentalhelp. After they brainstormed about it for over an hour(which was a good anti-boredom activity itself), thekids had a list of about fifty activities. Surprisingly,they even included a few household chores like dustingand weeding! I decided to ask for input from some othermoms, and now my children have a list of over twohundred ideas to beat summertime boredom, and thelist just seems to keep growing.

Thanks to the suggestion of one mom, we've put eachitem on this list onto individual pieces of paper, placedthe papers into a container, and when the children need inspiration for an activity, they draw two or three papers and then decide which idea they want to do, either as a group or individually. The mom who suggested pulling ideas out of a container told me she found this method more helpful than giving the kids a huge list of possibilities. By narrowing the choices down to just two or three, it was easier for the kids to pick out the one that sounded the best to them.

In no particular order, here's our current (but continuallygrowing!) list of activities:
  1. ride bikes
  2. roller blade
  3. basketball
  4. play board games
  5. make a tent out of blankets
  6. squirt with hoses
  7. run through the sprinkler
  8. jump rope
  9. read books
  10. blow bubbles
  11. make homemade play dough
  12. play with play dough
  13. press flowers
  14. do crafts with pressed flowers
  15. write a letter to a relative, friend or pen pal
  16. clean bedroom
  17. vacuum livingroom
  18. clean bathroom
  19. make a craft
  20. draw
  21. color
  22. paint
  23. pull weeds
  24. watch a movie
  25. write stories
  26. use binoculars
  27. use magnifying glass
  28. use microscope
  29. bird watching
  30. write a play
  31. act out a play
  32. invent circus acts
  33. perform a circus
  34. play card games
  35. make art on the front walkway with sidewalk chalk
  36. play catch
  37. play baseball
  38. collect rocks
  39. collect leaves
  40. collect feathers
  41. play Frisbee
  42. make Frisbee's out of old plastic lids, decorate with markers
  43. dust the house
  44. brush the pet
  45. write letters
  46. read a magazine
  47. play dress-up
  48. play Cowboys
  49. pick vegetables
  50. play outside with the pet
  51. build a fort in your rooms
  52. build a fort in the backyard
  53. do a jigsaw puzzle
  54. play on the Geosafari
  55. play on the computer
  56. listen to a story or book on tape
  57. do extra schoolwork to get ahead
  58. do brain teasers (ie: crosswords, word searches,hidden pictures, mazes, etc.)
  59. cook
  60. prepare lunch
  61. surprise a neighbor with a good deed
  62. play store
  63. prepare a "restaurant" lunch with menus
  64. hold a tea party
  65. have a Teddy bear picnic
  66. play with toy cars
  67. play dolls
  68. play house
  69. chase butterflies
  70. collect caterpillars and bugs
  71. plant a garden or a pot
  72. collect seeds
  73. hunt for four-leaf clovers
  74. learn magic tricks
  75. put on a magic show
  76. plant a container garden
  77. sprout seeds or beans
  78. make sock puppets
  79. put on a puppet show
  80. make Christmas presents
  81. make homemade wrapping paper
  82. make homemade gift cards
  83. make picture frames from twigs glued onto sturdycardboard
  84. crochet or knit
  85. make doll clothes
  86. sew buttons in designs on old shirts
  87. run relay races
  88. make bookmarks
  89. take a quiet rest time
  90. take a shower or bath
  91. bathe a pet
  92. feed the birds or squirrels
  93. watch the clouds
  94. organize a dresser drawer
  95. clean under the bed
  96. empty dishwasher
  97. vacuum under the couch cushions and keep anychange found
  98. write these ideas on pieces of paper and pick outone or two to do
  99. whittle
  100. whittle bars of soap
  101. practice musical instruments
  102. perform a family concert
  103. teach yourself to play musical instrument (recorder, harmonica, guitar)
  104. fold laundry
  105. sweep kitchen or bathroom floors
  106. sweep front walkway
  107. sweep or spray back patio
  108. sweep or spray driveway
  109. wash car
  110. vacuum car
  111. vacuum or dust window blinds
  112. clean bathroom mirrors
  113. clean sliding glass doors
  114. clean inside of car windows
  115. wash bicycles
  116. clean garage
  117. play in the sandbox
  118. build a sandcastle
  119. work with clay
  120. copy your favorite book illustration
  121. design your own game
  122. build with blocks or Legos
  123. create a design box (copper wire, string, odds-and-ends of things destined for the garbage, pom-poms, thread, yarn, etc.)
  124. plan a neighborhood or family Olympics
  125. have a marble tournament
  126. paint a picture with lemon juice on white paper andhang it in a sunny window and see what happens in afew days
  127. finger paint with pudding
  128. make dessert
  129. make dinner
  130. give your pet a party
  131. paint the sidewalk with water
  132. start a journal of summer fun
  133. start a nature diary
  134. have a read-a-thon with a friend or sibling
  135. have a neighborhood bike wash
  136. play flashlight tag
  137. play Kick the Can
  138. check out a science book and try some experiments
  139. make up a story
  140. arrange photo albums
  141. find bugs and start a collection
  142. do some stargazing
  143. decorate bikes or wagons and have a neighborhoodparade
  144. catch butterflies and then let them go
  145. play hide-and-seek
  146. create a symphony with bottles and pans and rubberbands
  147. listen to the birds sing
  148. try to imitate bird calls
  149. read a story to a younger child
  150. find shapes in the clouds
  151. string dry noodles or O-shaped cereals into a necklace
  152. glue noodles into a design on paper
  153. play hopscotch
  154. play jacks
  155. make up a song
  156. make a teepee out of blankets
  157. write in your journal
  158. find an ant colony and spill some food and watchwhat happens
  159. play charades
  160. make up a story by drawing pictures
  161. draw a cartoon strip
  162. make a map of your bedroom, house or neighborhood
  163. call a friend
  164. cut pictures from old magazines and write a story
  165. make a collage using pictures cut from old magazines
  166. do a secret service for a neighbor
  167. plan a treasure hunt
  168. make a treasure map
  169. make up a "Bored List" of things to do
  170. plan a special activity for your family
  171. search your house for items made in other countriesand then learn about those countries from the encyclopediaor online
  172. plan an imaginary trip to the moon
  173. plan an imaginary trip around the world, where wouldyou want to go
  174. write a science-fiction story
  175. find a new pen pal
  176. make up a play using old clothes as costumes
  177. make up a game for practicing math facts
  178. have a Spelling Bee
  179. make up a game for practicing spelling
  180. surprise an elderly neighbor or relative by weeding his/her garden
  181. fingerpaint with shaving cream
  182. collect sticks and mud and build a bird's nest
  183. write newspaper articles for a pretend newspaper
  184. put together a family newsletter
  185. write reviews of movies or plays or tv shows orconcerts you see during the summer
  186. bake a cake
  187. bake a batch of cookies
  188. decorate a shoe box to hold your summer treasures
  189. make a hideout or clubhouse
  190. make paper airplanes
  191. have paper airplane races
  192. learn origami
  193. make an obstacle course in your backyard
  194. make friendship bracelets for your friends
  195. make a wind chime out of things headed for thegarbage
  196. paint your face
  197. braid hair
  198. play tag
  199. make a sundial
  200. make food sculptures (from pretzels, gumdrops,string licorice, raisins, cream cheese, peanuts, peanutbutter, etc.) and then eat it
  201. make a terrarium
  202. start a club
  203. take a nap outside on your lawn
  204. produce a talent show
  205. memorize a poem
  206. recite a memorized poem for your family
Have a wonderful summer! (And for all you people inthe Southern Hemisphere, feel free to save this articlefor December reading!)

--Deborah Taylor-Hough (wife and mother of three) is a free-lance writer, editor of the Simple Times ezine, author of the bestselling book "Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month" and the newly released "Frugal Living For Dummies(r)" (Wiley, 2003). Visit Debi online and subscribe to her free e-newsletter at: Permission granted for use on

More >>