Squidalicious Reviews

A Very Useful Event: Nintendo & the American Heart Association
November 15, 2010, 9:15 pm
Filed under: health | Tags: , , , , ,

I am a health-slacker from a family with nasty heart problems. It is not a great combination. I know I need to be careful, and I know exactly what I should be doing to take better care of my health, but a kick-in-the-pants reminder about prioritizing well-being is always welcome. So, when lovely Justine from Brand About Town asked me if I’d like to attend a Nintendo & American Heart Association-sponsored health event at the W San Francisco, I said yes, please!

Jenijen came with me, as she was miraculously available. We rode to San Francisco in a cushy shuttle arranged by Wii ambassador Kim Postlewaite from Tippy Toes and Tantrums, whose company I always enjoy. Jen & I talked about how we both gravitate away from complainers and towards non-complainers, how that trickles down into asking our kids to tell us what they do like and do want — instead of moaning about what they don’t like and don’t want. An eerily prescient conversation, as you will see.

Upon arrival, we were asked if we’d taken our Heart Health Survey — I had, but my crappy 5.7 out of 10 score meant I was too embarrassed to request the Heart Health Score pin that the 7+ scorers were nonchalantly sporting. We were served delicious honey yogurt, granola, and dried fruit parfaits — and not the chewing-on-bark kind, but the kind that makes me wonder why I don’t eat that way for breakfast more often since it involves assembly rather than cooking.

Then we got to play with the Wii and Wii Fits. I confessed to Jenijen that I’d never even seen a Wii IRL before, so she showed me how to use the controller, then used her veteran skills to wipe the floor with me on Wii Bowling. I could definitely see how the Wii could encourage couch-planted gamers to become more active — my hurt pride aside, the free-form play was a lot of fun. I could also see why fellow parents of kids with autism recommend the Wii, though I think my son Leo might have a hard time manipulating the controller. Regardless, I’m planning to mooch a session with Leo at a Wii-owning friend’s house, ASAP.

Then we were ushered into the speakers room a scrumptious healthy lunch — grilled chicken with a fruity sauce over a variety of grains mixed with wilted greens, nuts, and whole cooked grains — including the quinoa I already adore. Again, forehead slap — this kind of food is not difficult to prepare!

We listened as Hank Wasiak told us how to approach our health from the perspective of Asset-Based Thinking, which was similar to what Jen & I were discussing on the way to the event — getting away from negative, downside-focused “deficit-based thinking.” Here are some of Hank’s points, as they relate to taking charge of your own health*:

  • Asset-based thinking is about focusing on what’s possible, and what’s working.
  • You need behavior change to improve your health, and behavior change is not easy.
  • You need to make desire more important than fear.
  • You are the one who is in control of your health.

Then we had a Q&A session with four doctors whose specialties ranged from pediatric weight intervention to cardiac surgery & repairs. This was my favorite part of the entire event, and I was not alone in wishing we could have spent more time questioning the good-humored and incredibly knowledgeable doctors. Here are some of their points*:

  • 82% of cardivascular disease is preventable through lifestyle changes.
  • 1 in 3 women will die from cardiovascular issues — as opposed to, for instance, 1 in 41 from breast cancer. Life-threatening cardiovascular disease is much more common than cancer, and we need more awareness of this risk.
  • 73% of women who have heart attacks have symptoms in the previous month, usually unusual tiredness or insomnia — so if you start seeing these symptoms, you need to be diligent and assertive in having your doctor evaluate your cardiac health.
  • 43% of women have no chest pain even in the middle of a heart attack.
  • Stress is a big factor in heart health.
  • Today’s children are the first generation that may have shorter life expectancies than their parents, due to obesity.
  • Children as young as three years old are now developing plaques in their arteries.
  • Modeling for your kids is important when it comes to healthy food habits, in terms of portion sizes and food choices. Practice what you preach, what you want them to learn.
  • Kids are motivated by “food justice,” older kids can read books like Omnivore’s Dilemma, teens can see Super-Size Me.
  • Salt is an acquired taste, like sugar.
  • Sodium is mostly an issue with processed foods, but this is not always obvious with items like bread. Read labels.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup tricks your body into taking in more sugar calories than regular sugar, because fructose bypasses you body’s normal sugar regulatory system, and your body doesn’t register all those extra fructose calories as “sugar.” For more information, see UCSF’s Robert Lustig’s work on Sugar and Obesity.

Even though we all wanted to keep drilling the doctors, our time was up. But it wasn’t too much of a hardship, as it was time for more Wii madness and a tasty dessert of gingered-lime fruit salad and smoothies. We also got to write letters to ourselves, which the AHA people will be mailing us in a few months. Mine said, “You will take action to get your cholesterol under control through diet and exercise or else you will be obligated to publicly humiliate yourself on you blog.” But I won’t have to do that, thanks to all the excellent tips, info, and guidance we received during the event — right?

The website of the American Heart Association, Heart.org, contains many resources for helping evaluate, improve, and maintain heart health.

*Practical disclaimer: My notes are not a literal transcript of the event, and many contain errors or omissions.


Winners for My Brother Charlie Book Giveaway!
April 22, 2010, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Hurrah and congratulations to the three contest winners who will be receiving copies of My Brother Charlie, the new children’s book about autism by Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete!

In first place is Christina Faria, who will be winning the signed copy of My Brother Charlie. Here is what Christina said:

This gave me a much needed smile today. I can’t wait to get my hands on my own copy of the book. Too cute!

Second place winner Rose Deduyo will get a regular copy of the book. Her comment was touching:

I would like to have a copy of the book because I would like to know what is like to have a typical child at home & how it feels to have someone who child like nature to help an autistic child/sibling.

We have a 6.5 years old Daniel who has been diagnosed with Autism. We have no relatives around, no neighbors in the community who has typical child so Daniel will have a role model, whom he can “play with.”. At least through reading a book like My Brother Charlie by HRP, I could at least imagine and dream deep in my heart that Daniel has someone who could teach him how to play the truck, race cars, run with another child, how to play soccer at the point of view of a typical child. Thank you .

Third place winner Stephanie will be sending her regular copy of the book to her sister, an early education teacher:

My sister collects children books and teaches early education and I think this would be an excellent addition to her collection to teach children.

I will send along the winners’ email addresses to the powers that be; you all should hear from them shortly.

Thank you to everyone who entered. Thanks also to Holly and Ryan for their generosity. I am so glad the books will be going to good homes, that My Brother Charlie’s message of autism acceptance and love will be reaching so many people!

Winners were chosen via Random.org. If you would like to verify that you were indeed entered into the drawing, enter the email address from your comment into this contest’s Random.org verification page.

Liking Myself, & The Mouse, The Monster, and Me
November 1, 2009, 7:15 am
Filed under: books, review | Tags: , , , , ,

Liking Myself and The Mouse, The Monster, and Me are two very sweet self-help books for kids by Pat Palmer. They are full of good advice and exercises for children who need help strengthening their identity and self-awareness. I imagine they’d be especially nice for conversational kids with autism, but they’d be appropriate for any child whose self-esteem is affected by social challenges.

My youngest, almost-five Mali, appreciated the emotional permission granted by Liking Myself and its simple yet important messages such as “Anger is an OK feeling” and “It is okay to like yourself and be your own good friend.” She did not notice that these messages were gently reinforced and repeated in several different formats — she just liked that Liking Myself had games, and encouraged her to draw and write right in the book.


Children who can read Liking Myself on their own should definitely do so, but I recommend reading Liking Myself with your child, at least once. Mali was much more willing to talk about her feelings when questions were posed “by the book.” And many of her responses were surprising — I think of her as a confident and content child, but when “the book” asked her what she liked about herself, she shrugged. Eventually she said, “I like that I have a great Mommy” (awww) but that was not an answer about herself. So we continued reading, and went over the book’s descriptions of nice traits some people have. She was then able to identify several excellent points about her excellent self. I don’t think the concept of “liking herself” had been posed to her before, and was glad to see her explore it. If you’d like to see her explore Liking Myself, click on either video clip:

The Mouse, the Monster, and Me is for older kids like Mali’s ten-year-old sister Izzy, and deals with thornier topics like assertiveness, handling criticism, and the difference between compliments and flattery. It reinforces its lessons with exercises and checklists. It is right up Izzy’s alley.

Both books are small, floppy, workbook-format paperbacks.  They are printed in black and white, and hand-lettered with homespun illustrations. I wonder if this lets them slide down more easily than the bright-colored, gender-based, and task-oriented American Girls self-help series. I certainly found them more self-friendly, if such a term exists — they focus less on finding solutions to common social problems, and more on helping children know, accept, and better themselves so they can be more confident and caring social beings in the first place.

If you’re looking for material to enable your child’s self-acceptance and social awareness, and especially if your child likes scripts or tends towards perseveration, I really do recommend Liking Myself and The Mouse, the Monster, and Me.


Compensation disclosure: I received one free review copy of each book. I so heart free books!