Little Red Hoodie

Internet predators are a pressing concern for parents. Youths are becoming increasingly more tech-savvy, and forms of online communication are growing at an alarming rate. All too often we hear tales of horrific tragedies involving social networking sites, and know that many of these could have been prevented with parental monitoring and frontcover imagediscussions about internet safety.

Until recently, I thought that such monitoring and discussions were something that I did not need to worry about for quite some time since my child is still very young and I teach at an elementary school. My thinking drastically changed after overhearing a conversation among second grade girls at my school about an upcoming sleepover. When I think of young girls’ slumber parties, I picture snacks, games and movies, but instead, the girls were planning to log on to their sisters’ social networking sites. From this moment, I knew that I needed to take responsibility for educating this demographic about internet safety, and wanted to encourage others to do the same.

After this incident, I began researching young children and internet use and found some disturbing information. For example, in 2008 according to the Rochester Institute of Technology:

  • Approximately 48% of students from kindergarten to first grade interact with others on the internet.
  • Of these 48%, nearly half of the students had already been exposed to something online that made them feel uncomfortable.
  • To make matters worse, one in four of these children did not report his or her experience to an adult.

Given these findings, I was more convinced than ever that children are never too young to be introduced to the concept of being safe on the internet.

After exploring countless books, videos and the like, I found that there were many products, websites, and resources that helped educate parents and older children. However, I found no such internet safety resources and materials that were specifically geared toward introducing the subject to younger children. Then it hit me: there is a parallel between the Big Bad Wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood story and internet predators, and this would be a perfect way to introduce the concept to this age group. Pulling from this idea and what I have learned about quality children’s literature from my years of experience as a teacher, I wrote Little Red Hoodie. This children’s picture book is a modernized version of the classic tale in which the Big Bad Wolf plays the role of an internet predator posing as Granny online in an attempt to lure Little Red into his trap. I spent countless hours working to make the book child-friendly and humorous, so that the topic could be introduced in a nonthreatening way. My hope is that the book will initiate a critical conversation among families and perhaps even help prevent future tragedies.


  • Educate yourself and your children about internet safety. Local police departments often offer various materials and programs to the community. There is also a wide variety of organizations and website that provide such resources including the following:
  • Be mindful of the growing number of ways that your child can utilize the internet to interact with others. For example, many video games now allow children to go online and interact with other users.
  • If you choose to use Little Red Hoodie as a tool for teaching your family about internet safety, here are some suggestions:
    • Read the book at least once for enjoyment before using it to get into a serious discussion.
    • After reading the book, help lead an open-ended discussion by asking questions such as the following: “How did the Wolf trick Little Red Hoodie?”, “Why do you think that the Wolf used the computer to try to trick Little Red Hoodie?”, “How do you think that the story would have been different if Little Red Hoodie would have asked her mother before leaving the apartment?”, “What do you think Little Red Hoodie should have done?”
    • Post “Little Red Hoodie’s Rules to SAFE Internet Use” near your computer (found on the last page of the book).

National Influenza Vaccination Week

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges parents to vaccinate themselves and their children from the seasonal flu and H1N1 influenza during National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW). NIVW is a national observance established to educate the public about the importance of influenza vaccination and is being held January 10-16, 2010. Originally scheduled to be held in December of 2009, the date was changed to a time that demand for flu vaccines usually decreases significantly. The CDC hopes to encourage more people to get vaccinated to help curb the spread of both H1N1 and the seasonal flu.National Flu Week

“Vaccination is your best protection against seasonal and 2009 H1N1 flu viruses,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at CDC. “Influenza is a contagious disease that can cause symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, extreme tiredness, runny or stuffy nose, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Complications can include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and some neurodevelopmental conditions.”

“This year, more than ever, do all you can do to protect yourself and your children from the flu,” says Schuchat. “The 2009 H1N1 flu virus is spreading rapidly. We’re already seeing it attack otherwise healthy children, teens, and young adults. Medical clinics on college campuses are being flooded by persons with influenza. So keep informed, wash your hands often, cover your coughs and sneezes, keep sick children at home, and if you’re sick, stay home from work and get you and your family vaccinated against seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu.”

Children are in the high-risk category for the H1N1 influenza virus, as it seems to have a stronger impact on young, healthy kids than the seasonal flu usually does. It is recommended by the CDC to vaccinate all people ages 6 months to 24 years for H1N1 influenza and seasonal flu and especially any person who has a medical condition that would make them more susceptible to complications of influenza, such as asthma or an immune disorder.

Many people wonder why it is necessary to get an influenza vaccine yearly instead of once, or every few years like other vaccines. The CDC states:

Flu vaccines are effective for a year from the time they are administered. For children ages six months to eight years who have never received a seasonal flu vaccine before, two doses are needed, spaced four weeks apart. One dose will suffice for older children. For the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine, all children through age 9 years should receive two doses.

As for infants younger than six months, the CDC says this:

Children under six months are too young to receive flu vaccine, but they are among the most vulnerable to developing serious, even fatal, complications from flu. This makes vaccination of their family members and caregivers especially critical for their protection.

CDC also recommends that close contacts, especially family members and caregivers of all children less than six months old, get a seasonal flu vaccine each year to provide added protection to this high‐risk group.

If you have questions about whether your child should or should not receive either type of influenza vaccine, please talk with your child’s doctor who can help you determine whether or not to vaccinate and which type of administration (injection aka “flu shot” or the flu mist nasal spray) is the best for your child if you do choose to vaccinate.

For more information and resources about protecting your children from H1N1 and seasonal influenza, please visit

They Want Independence…You Want Them Safe: Middle Ground?

Independent GirlBefore setting a limit, offer empathy and recognition of their needs or wants. Saying, “I understand that you want to join Tommy in going to the park after dark and that you feel there is nothing to worry about.” Validating their feelings also models respect and the importance of valuing each other’s perspective. Rather than immediately devaluing their requests as immature or possibly dangerous, recognizing their desires as something that within their world makes sense, lays the groundwork for your child to become an empathic adult.

Problem solving or compromising together shows your child a way to reach a resolution in a mature and calm manner. For instance, “Since I feel it is unsafe to go to the park after dark, is there another time in which the two of you could go?” Offering choices is a great way to foster autonomy within limits, such as, “It’s cold out and you gotta wear a coat. Which would you like, your black one or your green windbreaker?” Being consistent, of course, is always key and staying firm when concerns over their safety is warranted. It is our responsibility to take care of our children. However, it is also our duty to ensure they are learning the way to be safe and healthy.


familycoach-book-smallerThis post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method” used in practice for a number of years, and released for publication just this past September. The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world. The Family Coach Method is also being taught as an Educational Series where parents can join with other moms and dads in live calls with Dr Kenney.

Radon & Lung Cancer: Keeping Your Kids Safe from the Ground Up

While we are trying to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals, we often overlook potentially one of the greatest risks in our home – radon, a radioactive gas. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among Safe from the Ground Upnon-smokers. Surprising, right? I would have guessed secondhand smoke. The EPA estimates that radon causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

Another cause for concern is that recent research suggests that children who live in homes with high radon levels may have an increased risk of developing childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The research found that children exposed to “intermediate” levels of radon had a 21% higher risk of developing ALL as compared to children exposed to the lowest levels. Children exposed to the highest levels of radon relative to those with the least exposure had a 63% greater risk of developing ALL.

Plus, January is National Radon Action Month, so this is the perfect time to talk about radon and what you can do to reduce your exposure.

But first, you are probably thinking what the heck is radon? Radon is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas produced by the decay of radium. Radium, in turn, is produced by the decay of naturally-occurring uranium present in soil, rock, and ground water. Certain areas in the United States have a higher potential to have elevated radon levels because rocks with higher uranium levels are located in those areas, but radon can be found all over the US. The EPA estimates that nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the US has elevated radon levels. The Office of the Surgeon General recommends that all homes be tested for radon.

As a gas, radon escapes rocks and soils by moving through what are known as soil pore spaces and rock fractures. Outside, radon gas isn’t a problem because it disperses. Typically, the concentration of radon in outdoor air is 0.4 picoCuries per liter of air (pCi/L). But radon in homes and other buildings can be a problem. Your home’s air pressure is usually lower than air pressure in the soil around your home, so your house can suck in radon like a vacuum through cracks, utility entries, seams, and other openings in the foundation, as well as from uncovered soil in crawl spaces. Radon can be a problem indoors because it can build up to unhealthy levels. The EPA recommends that you take action to reduce radon levels if testing shows radon above 4 pCi/L.

Radon is a very heavy gas, so it tends to accumulate in basements or at the floor level. Thus, occupied basements, houses on slabs and houses with rooms cut into hillsides are the ones most likely to have high radon levels.

Because radon is odorless and colorless, it has been called the silent killer. Not only are there no signs that radon is present in your home, there are no signs that you are being exposed. It causes no symptoms that you might notice and the harmful effects are delayed many years. Once exposed, there is no treatment.

Radon can also enter your home through your water if the water supply contains dissolved radon. Radon enters water as bubbles from radium decaying next to the water. These bubbles easily escape when the water is agitated, so most surface water supplies have low radon concentrations. You also ingest some radon when you ingest water. However, the risk of lung cancer resulting from inhaling radon is far greater than the risk of stomach cancer from ingesting water with radon in it.

If your home’s water supply is from a municipal system, the mixing, treatment, and long residence time (the time it takes the water to make it from the treatment plant to your home) result in dilution and release of radon. By the time it reaches your tap, it is highly unlikely that you will have radon present, unless it is a very small public municipal system. However, a home that is supplied by a private groundwater well may have radon enter the home from the well water. But, radon in water can be readily treated.

If radon gas is present in your home, every time you inhale you get a dose of radioactivity in your lung. Radon gas decays. When radon decays, small radioactive particles are released. If you inhale radon (or the particles), once in the lungs, the tiny particles damage the cells that line the lung. These particles release small burst of energy as they decay. These small bursts of ionizing radiation can affect DNA, leading to mutations that may turn cancerous. The latency period for developing lung cancer from radon exposure is twenty to thirty years.

The increased risk of lung cancer from radon exposure is greater if you smoke. But even if you don’t smoke, elevated concentrations of radon in the home pose a fairly significant increased risk of cancer. For a home with 4 pCi/L, the lifetime risk of cancer is 7.3 out of 1,000 persons. That is really high, surprisingly high, especially when you compare it with the 1 in 1,000,000 risk factor generally used to regulate contaminants in our environment. And, “scientists are more certain about radon risks than from most other cancer-causing substances.”

Research has not yet determined whether children are at a higher risk from radon than adults. However, some children’s health advocates have suggested that children may be more sensitive because they have higher respiratory rates than adults. Also, the EPA has determined that exposure to carcinogens in the first two years of life is more significant, and a factor of 10 should be applied. Data generated from Japanese atomic bomb survivors suggests that exposure before the age of twenty years may have more significant health effects than exposure later in life. The American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that “until further data are available, it seems prudent to assume that the risks to children are at least as large as those determined in occupational studies.”

The EPA has developed a map that generally predicts radon levels in three general areas of the United States. But, you cannot use the geologic potential to determine the actual radon levels in your home. Some overlying soils with low uranium levels nonetheless have high radon levels, and vice versa. You must test your house to determine actual radon levels.

The good news? It is easy and relatively inexpensive to test for radon. You can purchase do-it-yourself kits from your local hardware store or online. The National Radon Program Services at Kansas State Univ. has test kits available for online purchase (you must create free account to access). Also, many state programs offer free or low cost test kits – just contact your state’s radon office.

Short term and long term test kits exist. A short term test is typically exposed to your home’s air two to seven days before being sent to a lab, and long term tests are usually exposed 90 days. If you buy a kit from a hardware store or online, make sure the test kit is state-certified. A study by Consumer Reports found long term tests more reliable than short term test kits. Radon levels can vary day to day, so a 90 day exposure period gives a more accurate reading of a home’s average radon level. Of the seven short term kits tested by Consumer Reports, only the RTCA charcoal canister was accurate enough for Consumer Reports to recommend. Two of the kits, Accustar’s Short Term LS Radon Test Kit CLS 100i and Kidde’s Radon Detection Kit 442020, under reported radon levels by almost 40%! Of long term test kits, Consumer Reports recommends, and found most accurate, Accustar’s Alpha Track Test Kit AT100. Of course, follow the instructions, including maintaining closed house conditions. You can also hire a trained contractor to test your home. Contact your state’s radon office for a list of qualified contractors.

If your child is in a daycare or school, ask if the building has been checked for radon. A lot of times daycares are in the basements of buildings, and bottom level rooms and basements are more likely to have high radon levels than other rooms. Of course, keep in mind that the lung cancer risk from radon exposure is related to both the radon level and the length of time one is exposed. Consequently, if the exposure time is short, even large radon concentrations may not contribute to a significant risk.

If the testing determines that radon levels are elevated in your home, then fix the problem. Radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by as much as 99%. EPA recommends fixing your home if one long term test, or two short term tests, show radon concentration levels above 4 pCi/L (or 0.016 working levels, also used in the industry). However, there is no safe level of radon established. EPA also recommends that you consider fixing your home if the radon level detected is above 2 pCi/L. If you have a radon problem and you decide to fix it, the EPA’s Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction has a good discussion of available technologies and how they work for different foundation types.

If you have determined that elevated levels of radon are present in your drinking water, then you can fix it before it enters your home with a point of entry system. A point of entry system will usually consist of granular activated carbon filters or aeration. Granular activated carbon may be less expensive to install, but the filters can collect radioactivity thereby necessitating special handling upon disposal. An aeration system may cost more to install. A point of use system is also an option and will remove radon at the tap, so from your drinking water. However, a point of use system will not eliminate exposure to radon escaping from other water uses in the home.

Finally, sealing cracks and other openings to prevent radon from entering the home is an easy approach to radon reduction. However, the EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone as a method to reduce indoor radon concentrations. Sealing has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently. Identifying and permanently sealing all the places where radon is entering is difficult. A home’s normal settling will also open new ways for radon to enter.

Radon may sound scary, but it is easy to test for it and inexpensive, and the solutions are relatively easy. And it isn’t just about living green, but about keeping your kids and yourself safe. From the ground up.


Editor’s Note: all links in this post were updated effective 12/31/16. No other data in this report has been modified.

Summer’s Lifeguard

Summers Lifeguard***EDITOR’S NOTE*** This product is no longer being sold – no further information is currently available. This post remains to introduce this wonderful concept designed by Summer’s parents and to inspire others to pursue similar paths.

On October 13, 2006, at just 21 months old, my daughter, Summer was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Because AML is fatal without treatment (and even with treatment the overall survivor rate is low), Summer began intensive chemotherapy within hours of the diagnosis. The treatment process lasted over six months, with the majority of the time spent in-house at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

As part of her treatment, Summer had a central venous catheter (CVC) surgically implanted in her chest, through which, she received her medicine and treatment. Less than a month into treatment, my husband Brad discovered that part of Summer’s CVC was twisting, which could cause the tube to break, and bring about serious complications including the need for additional surgery.

After several unsuccessful attempts by the caring pediatric oncology nurses at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, to find a remedy, Brad and I realized we needed to design our own solution. During this time, Summer’s CVC broke twice within two days. (After three breaks surgery is required to implant a new central line catheter!) I contacted a family friend, Karen, a retired nurse who is also a sewer, and together we developed Summer’s Lifeguard™, a Central Line/Port Wrap.

The primary concerns were minimizing the risk of infection (due to no immune system) and avoiding additional surgery, by ensuring Summer’s (CVC) was out of her reach. The unique design literally wrapped the lines of the CVC around her body, with padding and soft fabric that cushioned Summer to make her more comfortable and allowed for her mobility. Karen, as a nurse, added some unique features that provided easy access to the lumens for administration of medicine, and color coded tabs that matched the lumens for easy identification by hospital staff and caregivers. Four drafts later, we finally settled on a design that met all of Summer’s needs. And now we have designed a version that is universal enough to fit any child regardless of where their CVC is implanted on their chest.

Although Summer reached remission in May of 2007 and enjoyed a wonderful summer, she relapsed in November 2007. Summer completed a bone marrow transplant in January 2008. She is facing many challenges, specifically chronic graft versus host disease (GVHD), but today I am blessed to say she is a happy, active pre-schooler.

When Summer was originally diagnosed, I would tell her that she was a soldier of God, and her “armor” included her entire family and friends, her medicine, and all the doctors, nurses, and specialists treating her. Summer’s Lifeguard is an important part of this soldier’s armor in her fight against cancer.Summer with SLG2

Due to the interest by other parent’s of critically-ill children and through the encouragement of the nurses and doctors at Children’s Medical Center, Karen and I have formed a company called SIYA, Inc, located in Texas. The mission of this company is to provide medical protection with safety garments and other devices for patients, while providing peace of mind for families. After three attempts, Summer’s Lifeguard received clearance from the FDA in May of 2009 as a class I exempt medical device which means that hospitals can carry Summer’s Lifeguard and nurses can determine if a patient needs the device.

We’re thrilled to know that through our efforts, we can now give other parents of critically-ill children a little peace of mind and comfort to their child.


If your child has a central line or portacath, here are some things to consider:

  • Have your nurse use a Biopatch on the exit site of the central line or port as another precaution. (According to Ethicon 360’s website: “Catheter-Related Blood Stream Infections (CRBSI) are the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.”
  • Have the dressing changed weekly around the exit site of the catheter.
  • If your child develops a rash, examine what kind of tape is being used for the dressing, many children develop sensitivities to the tape.
  • When using Summer’s Lifeguard:
    • Have your child lay down on their back to put on the wrap.
    • If your child is a transplant patient, you will want to put on a clean wrap daily (…therefore, it may make sense to have at least one extra wrap available).

Signs of Leukemia:

Believe it or not, it is different for everybody, and it sometimes may seem minor, like a cold that just won’t go away. To that note- if your child is experiencing symptoms of illness or a cut/scrape, or unusual and a lot of bruising, that won’t go away- have a Complete Blood Culture (CBC) done right away.