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Finally, late Seasonís Greetings to you and yours, -- a post-holiday surprise for the New Year. Nanny News is, as always, our gift to you, a full stocking, a jumble of miscellaneous goodies: an article on clean teeth (useful after the holiday candy), one to help children understand what empathy is (better not pout, better be nice -- isnít empathy an interestingentre to being nice?). Then there's towel origami (how to make a simple gift for Mom, Dad or any kid, anytime a bath is on the docket), and a little cooking contest to start off the New Year.

And, if someone in your family made a gingerbread house (or related creation) this season, send us a photo. Weíll start a Gingerbread Hall of Fame (GB houses are one of those things your editor used to make with your publisher when he was a babe. Somewhere we have a great photo of our dog, Sam, admiring ours - if I can find it, weíll post it!).


People can be nice in different ways.

Some are always happy. They smile a lot. They seem comfortable with themselves, and they like to share that comfort.

Some people, even if they donít smile a lot (theyíre probably busy thinking), give compliments: ďGood job!Ē or ďWow, youíre great at that!Ē They may or may not compliment often, but when they do, it makes us feel capable, successful.

Other people give gifts, big or small -- sometimes even grumpy people show their affection by giving gifts. Itís their way of saying, ďI love you -- donít take my grumpiness personally.Ē

There are a thousand ways to make other people happy. Sometimes itís by helping them, sometimes itís by realizing that they donít want to be helped. Sometimes itís by being with them, sometimes its just by letting them have time to themselves. It all depends on how it feels to you, so keep your antennae up. Thatís what empathy is; feeling what others feel.

Sometimes the best way to make others happy is just to be happy yourself. But how?

In any situation, the way you feel is your best guide to what to do and how to act, but knowing what you feel is key.

Believe it or not, itís not hard to be happy all the time. Itís just that not everyone knows how. That part is a well-kept secret.

(But I can whisper it to you: itís like flipping a single switch in both your head and your heart, and it sets them both straight. You say to yourself, ďI know what sulking feels like, and I donít like it. I think Iíll just feel happy instead.Ē)

To paraphrase Henry Ford, if you believe you can be happy, you will be. If not, you wonít. And thatís that.


My dentist says that brushing twice a day and getting regular checkups is a sales pitch for toothpaste, NOT a sound prescription for oral hygiene: it comes directly from a Colgate ad of a generation or two ago.

For one thing, if weíre supposed to brush after eating, why brush only twice, when most of us eat three meals? For another, why so much toothpaste? The ad shows it squeezed out the full length of the brush head. My dentist says toothpaste is just a lubricant; these days we hear that ďa pearlĒ of paste is plenty.

My impression is that water and toothpaste act equally as surfactants. (I do like the flavor of toothpaste, but a pearl is plenty.) That is, both bring food particles to the surface and rinse them away. Thatís why a Waterpik can be useful, especially if you already have cavities to get filled or, as an older adult, receding gums and spaces between your teeth. But if you havenít got a Waterpik in your purse, you can get a similar effect by swishing water vigorously after eating. That will loosen and dissolve sticky stuff, whether on or between the teeth.

Power-driven toothbrushes are nice for urging tech-driven children into oral hygiene, but I think their most important benefit is their gentleness. (I cringe when I think of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man scrubbing his teeth over the bathroom sink.)

We donít have to scour teeth to get them clean: healthy teeth have smooth surfaces. But we can over-brush, wearing down the surface to make the teeth more, not less, vulnerable to decay.

A Sonicare is gentle but effective. If you donít have one in your lunch box, a soft toothbrush used gently (and some good swishing with water) will do the job. Those old-fashioned plain, flat-headed toothbrushes seem less useful than the shapely new multi-colored ones, because the new ones make it easy to reach behind the teeth and up into the gums. Or some good, chemical-free chewing gum after lunch to keep the saliva flowing. If one keeps the gum wrapper in a pocket, disposing of the gum at some point becomes reasonable.

But my dentist recommends chewing a raw carrot. Or an apple -- the peel cleans the teeth. His three grown children have only 2-3 cavities among them, which he ascribes not to their regular brushing and flossing but to their diet. He emphatically does not recommend crackers, bread, pretzels, potato chips -- i.e., heavily refined snacks -- because they stick to the teeth, encouraging residual acidity.

Hard cheese is also helpful because it doesnít stick, it scrubs a bit as itís chewed, and the lactose in it has already been neutralized, so it does not create acidity.

Healthy teeth, my dentist tells me, are the hardest organic substance there is. They are little rocks. And like rocks they will succumb to an acid bath, slowly but truly.

Therefore, like rocks, all they actually need is removal of the acid with a good water (or saliva) bath. Acids are a natural component in the mouth. Along with chewing, they jumpstart the digestive process, so that, as long as thereís plenty of saliva along with the acid, teeth are okay.

But within 20 minutes of eating, any scraps left in the mouth (ďdebrisĒ, in dental terms) -- anything not swallowed -- will encourage acid production, the bodyís effort to digest and thus remove the debris. Thatís why Tic Tacs are not a good solution to halitosis: they just delay the subsidence of saliva and the ensuing acid bath.

And what about the matter of stimulating the gums? Healthy gums result from healthy eating that leaves the mouth clean afterward. Our ancestors, those who were around when human beings were just developing and teeth were new, didnít have highly refined foods, didnít even have lots of soft cooked foods, both primary components of todayís diet. The foods they ate had the ability to leave their teeth (gently) scrubbed: raw foods.

Furthermore they didnít have sugar in everything. If you read food labels you will find sugar as a primary ingredient in many processed foods, sometimes even more than it seems, since it is apt to be present in a number of forms -- sugar, cane syrup, corn syrup, honey, molasses -- all sweeteners.

That said, one way to get to the gums is by holding the toothbrush so that the tips of the bristles tickle the gum edges as you brush. (Itís easy to model this with a Sonicare, and perhaps with other electric toothbrushes -- see what works.)

And enough of the old discussion centered on whether to brush straight up and down or around and around. Itís both and neither, because whatís needed is not a mechanical approach but a sensing-in-the-moment approach: brush where the food gets caught -- under the gums, between the teeth, across the chewing surface, inside the mouth (behind both upper and lower teeth). It should FEEL good.

PB & -- You Name It!

In our family, PB&J wasnít the standard -- it was, believe it or not, PB & lettuce: the lettuce cuts the stickiness of the PB while adding a fresh texture -- all without adding either calories or sugar.

Second favorite was PB & raisins: spread the PB and then dot it all over with black raisins -- or any dried fruit. If the pieces are too big, slice or dice them first. You get as much sweetness as you seek without resorting to sugared jelly.

Somewhat later in life I discovered PB & bananas. Great stuff. Slice the banana lengthwise a couple of times, or crosswise, and lay the slices edge-to-edge on the PB. Sweet, more moist than raisins, easier to chew if thatís an issue.

Iíve never made PB & bacon, but I hear itís pretty good.

Of course thereís also ants on a log, that famous concoction of celery, PB and raisins.

And apple slices spread with PB.

Then thereís peanut sauce used for Asian chicken or noodles. PB cookies, too.

And thatís about the limit of my personal PB repertoire. (Anybody ever made a PB cake?)

But surely you have other recipes that are equally tasty. So letís do a contest.

Email us your favorite PB recipe, whether for a sandwich, a salad dressing, or any part of a meal (o yes, and thereís PB ice cream -- thatís tasty!). Include a photo of your child/children whipping it up (or eating it) and weíll post the recipe and photo crediting you -- and your child!


All recipes and photos submitted become the property of Please sign with only your initials and your town and/or state of residence. To protect your privacy, e-mail addresses will not be published.

Towel Origami

If your childrenís collection of stuffed animals already overflows the shelves, but they might like more, try this: animals from folded towels -- like Origami, but much simpler, no shelf space required, and a terrific way to speed a child to bath and bed. I learned this trick -- this small art -- on a Norwegian Line cruise, where the Philippine housekeeping staff make a towel animal for each passengerís bed at turndown time. Wikipedia says that the trend, now common on cruise ships, started with Carnival.

Per animal, youíll need just one or two bath towels, perhaps a hand or small towel, and/or a washcloth, ideally all of the same color.

You can find Eddie the Elephant and the Swan on YouTube. Amazon offers a spiral-book, How to Make A Towel Monkey and Other Favorites, by Carol Mulanax, which rates 4 stars for 11 reviews. And Alison Jenkinsí Jurassic Towel Origami, 80 pages of (probably original) dinosaur creations, lists also on

If I were going to use a towel animal as a lure to bedtime, I might set everyone up during the day: ďTonight, at bath time, Iím going to make you a surprise. Iím going to make a tubby-time animal,Ē (not a bed time animal, or youíll get the towel in the bed). ďAnd if youíre quick and settle down at bedtime, tomorrow Iíll show you how to make it yourself.Ē It should, I think ideally, become a bedtime activity: the animal waits for the completed bath, your youngster gets to dry off with it and anticipates making one himself for the next bath night.
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These articles provide information of a general nature only, and should be used only to supplement your knowledge. We hope you find the articles interesting, but cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in these articles. Nothing in these articles is intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your own physician if you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child.