Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Family Day-tripping to Dana Point, California August 31, 2009

This article is from my Parenting column on the LA. Edition of Please visit to SEE PHOTOS of Dana Point!

Dana Point Harbor has something for every member of the family. Located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Dana Point Harbor is gorgeous, and easily accessible–by boat, bike or car! Divided into the East and West Basin, both operate as a separate marina. 

Nestled between the basins, you’ll discover curious waterside shops, a variety of restaurants, ice cream shops and walking paths. When my sons and I met up with photographer Kristianne Koch and her children, Merrik and Maliea, one morning for breakfast, we chose Coffee Importers, 2008 Best of Dana Point gold medal winners for best healthy choices, best breakfast, best sandwich, and (of course!) best coffee.

Our children are all aged four and under. While we look forward to the day when we can enroll them in Dana Point’s sailing school for kids, kayaking or windsurfing, our little ones enjoyed spotting “humungous” crabs in the water, petting the many dogs walking by, and spending the day examining tide pools, floating on a surfboard and making sand castles on Baby Beach.

A native of nearby San Clemente, Kristianne grew up visiting DP Harbor. Here is her Top Five List of Things to Do:

1) Tidepools/Dana Marine Life Refuge Low tide brings tide pool adventurers to the far west side of Dana Point Harbor. 

2) Baby Beach It’s safe to go back inthe water! OC Weekly rated water quality at Baby Beach grade  F over they years, but 2008 saw an improvement with a fair C. This year, Baby Beach received straight A’s from April to October, and during year-round dry weather, reports OC Weekly. (Dana Point recently received a federal earmark to study pollution in the area, so that might help prevent this year’s grade from being a fluke.)

3) Whale watching Whale watching and novice-to-expert fishing trips run daily out of Dana Wharf.

4) The Ocean Institute Nestled against the bluffs in Dana Point Harbor, this nonprofit organization is closed during the week for ocean preservation classes but facility tours are available Thursday and Friday at 4 pm. Open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. Thursday & Friday: 3:30pm 45 min.
$2.00 per person, members are free.

5) Happy hour at Wind and Sea  Merrik and Maliea love to talk to people out the big windows overlooking the sidewalk.

There are numerous waterfront choices for dining, from the casual to the romantic. Catch an early breakfast, or watch the sun go down with a glass of wine and a memorable dinner.

Harbor Deli 
Tel: 949.496.0424
New York Style Deli

Slice of New York
Tel: 949.496.1447
Italian Food

Jolly Roger
Tel: 949.496.0855
Casual Dining on The Waterfront

Jon’s Fishmarket
Tel: 949.496.2807
Fresh Pacific Caught Seasonal Fish

Proud Mary’s Restaurant
Tel: 949.493.5853
Family-owned Restaurant on the Waterfront

Wind & Sea Restaurant
Tel: 949.496.6500
Fresh Seafood and Steaks on the Waterfront

Beach Cities Pizza
Tel: 949.496.0606
Pizza with Homemade Sauce. Sandwiches, Salads and Pasta

Coffee Importers & Deli and Scoop Deck Ice Cream
Tel: 949.493.7773
Seaside Patio, Fresh Roasted Coffee Drinks, Pastries, Desserts, Bagels, Soups, Smoothies, Fresh Juices, and Ice Cream.

El Torito Restaurant 
Tel: 949.496.6311
Mexican Cuisine

Gemmell’s Restaurant (Rebecca’s favorite! Gemmell’s is very welcoming to children, but also a nice romantic spot for celebrations.)
Tel: 949.234.0063
Traditional and Classic Fine Dining

The Harbor Grill
Tel: 949.240.1416
Inventive, Fresh Seafood, Extensive Wine List, Premium Cocktails

Harpoon Henry’s Seafood Restaurant
Tel: 949.493.2933
On The Water Seafood Restaurant and Extensive Wine List

The Brig Restaurant
Tel: 949.496.9046
Great Home Cooking

The Beach House
Tel: 949.496.7310
Brunch, lunch or dinner.

For more info: Book a family photo session with Kristianne! View Kristianne Koch’s portrait portfolio, blog and personal/fine art galleries, or book a session. Or, contact her at or 949-702-7707.

The Ocean Institute
24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr.
Dana Point, CA 92629
Phone:(949) 496-2274

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More About: Vacation · Things to Do · Education · Child Development · Activities for Kids · LA Kid Activities · Slideshows · Baby’s First Year


Childhood epilepsy pinpointed in kids aged 1-5

This is from my Parenting column on the LA Edition of

A form of partial epilepsy associated with auditory and other sensory hallucinations has been linked to the disruption of brain development during early childhood. The new findings focus on the development of synapses, the connections between brain cells.

“During early childhood – roughly between the ages of one and five – the brain undergoes a period of major circuit remodeling,” explains Matthew Anderson, MD, PhD, a principal investigator in the Departments of Neurology and Pathology at BIDMC, who lead researchers in a study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Our discovery that a familial form of temporal lobe epilepsy can develop at this point demonstrates the fragility of the brain during this critical period.”

Anderson, who is also an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Pathology at Harvard Medical School, explains: “At birth, the brain is loaded with excitatory synapses which help make nerve cells ‘fire.’ However, if these excess synapses are not adequately ‘pruned,’ they can overgrow, leading to excessive transmission of excitatory signals and the development of pathological conditions, including learning disabilities and autism in addition to epilepsy.”

Using a genetically engineered mouse model created in his laboratory, together with brain slice patch-clamp electrophysiology techniques, Anderson and his scientific team found that a mutant form of the LGI1 (leucine-rich glioma-inactivated 1) gene was preventing the normal brain development. (According to Wikipedia, since its earliest discovery, the LGI1 gene has been implicated in the control of cancer metastasis and in a predisposition to epilepsy.)

“The first clue was our discovery that LGI1 is not expressed until the exact time when excitatory synapses are matured,” said Anderson. “We subsequently learned that the mLGI1 gene was indeed prohibiting excitatory synapses from being adequately pruned, leading to an increased excitability of circuits in the brain which left it prone to excessive synchronous discharges that are characteristic of epilepsy.”

Autosomal dominant lateral temporal lobe epilepsy (ADLTE) is characterized by frequent partial seizures (two to five per month) that are associated with auditory or other sensory auras. Tonic-clonic seizures also occur in the majority of ADLTE patients, but are infrequent, developing only about once a year.

“These partial seizures can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life,” notes Anderson. “Because patients can be disoriented and excessively tired following a seizure event, their day-to-day lives can sometimes be seriously disrupted. And when it comes to driving and other activities, there is still a real danger associated with this condition.

“One important reason to identify genetic causes of epilepsy is the hope that these discoveries will eventually lead to new therapies,” he adds. “By identifying this new pathway, we may have found a new target for future drug development.”

Study coauthors include BIDMC investigators Yu-Dong Zhou (first author), Sanghoon Lee, Zhe Jin and Stephen E.P. Smith, and Moriah Wright of Tufts University School of Medicine.

Parents can read more at, the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, People Against Childhood Epilepsy, and Charlie Foundation to Help Cure Pediatric Epilepsy.

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Find deals on organic food, save time, and eat better! August 27, 2009

Filed under: Freelance writing,health — rjlacko @ 12:33 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Confused when purchasing organic? Or are you a regular organic food eater looking to eat well and save money? For more information on how to shop wisely and handle food safely, consider these tips from

  1. Buy fruits and vegetables in season to ensure the highest quality. Also, try to buy your produce the day it’s delivered to market to ensure that you’re buying the freshest food possible. Ask your grocer what day new produce arrives.
  2. Read food labels carefully. Just because a product says it’s organic or contains organic ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.
  3. Don’t confuse natural foods with organic foods. Only those products with the “USDA Organic” label have met USDA standards.
  4. Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running water to reduce the amount of dirt and bacteria. If appropriate, use a small scrub brush before eating apples, potatoes, cucumbers or other produce in which you eat the outer skin.
  5. Peel your fruits and vegetables and trim outer leaves of leafy vegetables in addition to washing them thoroughly. Keep in mind that peeling your fruits and vegetables may also reduce the amount of nutrients and fiber. Some pesticide residue also collects in fat, so remove fat from meat and the skin from poultry and fish.
  6. Buy organic food at farmer’s markets when you can. Not only is this a great way to buy organic food that’s in season but you get to talk to the farmers directly about how the food is grown. Plus you support the farmers who have invested in organic growing processes.
  7. Buy in bulk. Whether you’re shopping at a natural foods store, supermarket or co-op, buying in bulk is a great way to stretch your food dollar. For beans, grains, lentils and nuts, head straight for the bulk containers. Just make sure you have a cool, dry place in your kitchen to store your dry goods for a few months.
  8. Be flexible. To nab the best deals on organic foods, write “three vegetables” on your shopping list and then look around at store specials. Do the same for proteins and grains. Never ever buy an item that you don’t need just because it’s on sale or you have a coupon.
  9. Shop online. Can’t find a local source for the organic food you want? Don’t give up. You may be able to order the organic foods that you want online. The GreenPeople directory from the Organic Consumer Association is a good place to begin your online search for affordable organic foods. And be sure to check out this list of cyber-markets offering organic products from Organic Kitchen and Diamond Organics.
  10. Grow your own. If you’re really serious about garden-fresh organic produce, why not plant your own? Seeds are available from companies such as Seeds of Change. And Organic Kitchen has a big roundup of organic gardening tips. Start small and recruit your kids! Carrots, radishes and beets are easy to grow.
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At-home fetal monitoring no substitute for med eval August 26, 2009

This article is from my Parenting column on the L.A. edition of

The joys and worries of pregnancy–especially the first time!–can be numerous. One way moms-to-be often comfort themselves is with an at-home personal fetal monitor (Doppler device). The sound of baby’s heartbeat is certainly reassuring, but can the sounds of a normal heartbeat give the entire picture of a growing infant’s health?

A hand-held Doppler device assesses the presence of fetal heart pulsations only at that moment, and it is used by midwives and obstetricians to check for viability or for intermittent monitoring during labor, explains Dr. Thomas Aust and colleagues from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral in a recent article in the British Medical Journal.  “In untrained hands it is more likely that blood flow through the placenta or the mother’s main blood vessels will be heard,” say the authors.

The article outlines a case of a 27-year-old mom-to-be (at 32 weeks into her first pregnancy) with reduced fetal movements; She had first noted a reduction in her baby’s activity two days earlier but had used her own Doppler device to listen to the heartbeat and reassured herself that everything was normal.

Further monitoring by the antenatal care team was not reassuring and the baby was delivered by Caesarean section later that evening. The baby remained on the special care baby unit for eight weeks and is making steady progress.

Following this case, they searched the internet and found that a fetal Doppler device could be rented affordably by the month or purchased outright. Although the companies state that the device is not intended to replace recommended antenatal care, they also make claims such as “you will be able to locate and hear the heartbeat with excellent clarity.”

Speaking as the mother of two sons born in a birthing tub at home, assisted by midwives, I can agree that it is tempting to try to assuage worries for our baby’s health using a variety of methods; I purchased my own hand-held doppler at a drugstore (but it didn’t work nearly as well as my midwife’s. In fact, I put it aside because the intermittent, faint sound caused me more worry). The bottomline: A safe, low-risk birth of a healthy infant requires regular and attentive care by a licensed midwife or docrtor.  There are no appropriate subsitutes for experienced care by qualified health practictioners.

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General Hospital celebs read kids’ books for Speakaboos! (pics)

This article is from my Parenting column onthe L.A. editi0n of

Kelly Monaco, Rebecca Herbst and other cast members from ABC’s General Hospital taped a reading for a children’s book for Speakaboos on their GH set on August 20. With the celebs’ help (and the help of all Speakaboo celebrity readers), Speakaboo continues its cause to support reading and education for our youth.

15% of contributions to charityThe book will be available on and partial proceeds from their recordings will go to charities supporting children’s health and wellness.   
Speakaboos is an online publisher that celebrates classic literary properties for children such as Curious George, Arthur, Goldilocks, Snow White and Aesop’s Fables through the voices of today’s biggest stars including Kevin Bacon, Nick Cannon, John Krasinski and Kelly Ripa
recordingFeaturing storybook videos online with original illustrations and music accompanied by educational activities, games and contests, parents and teachers are encouraged to try the included story guides, lesson plans (based on national standards), and worksheets to reinforce educational lessons at home and in the classroom.  
genhosp3Speakaboos contributes 15% of all revenues to charities supporting children’s health and wellnesspartners with premier educational organizations such as the National Education Association
The entire Speakaboos library is available for viewing online for free on and available for download on the website at $0.99. Speakaboos’ goal is to try to reinvigorate the story telling process of classic children’s stories by having today’s hottest celebrities bring new life to these classic tales. 
You can hear some of our most popular celebrity-read stories on these links:
 For more info: Listen to all other celebrity tracks at Speakaboos.
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Fit = better grades! 3 Easy tips for kids August 25, 2009

The strong link between physical fitness and academic achievement, as reported by eMaxHealth, means that the way your family eats and exercises influences your child’s success at school. But the alarming number of overweight children—one in three, according to KidsHealth—tells us that raising a child with a healthy body weight is getting tougher.
The start of a new school year is a great time to introduce wholesome routines. Besides improving performance in the classroom, the healthy behaviors children learn will help them sustain optimum health as adults.
Carole Carson, the author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, says that parents’ homework is to teach and demonstrate healthy habits so that their children can do well at school. Here are three back-to-school tips for getting FIT:
F = Focus on fun: Fuel your child’s body with a nutritious breakfast. Encourage your child to pack his or her own lunch, choosing from healthy options. Stick smiley faces on the plastic bags containing vegetables or fruit. Replace soft drinks and sports drinks with water or milk. Buy your child’s favorite cereal, and add nuts and raisins to create a special trail mix. If your child eats at the school cafeteria, review the menus and help your child make healthful choices. Keep easy-to-eat fruits (such as bananas and apples) and vegetables (such as baby carrots) handy for after-school snacks.

I = Incorporate movement: Indulge your sense of fun by going outdoors and playing kickball or catch with your child, or go to a playground and swing on the swings together. When outdoor exercise isn’t an option, consider investing in one of the popular video exergames, such as Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Fit. Encourage your child to move by limiting screen time—the time spent sitting in front of a television, computer or standard video game.

T = Team up: Instead of driving your child to school, travel together on foot or on bicycles. Tackle weight loss by forming teams among family members and with neighbors. Join parents’ groups that support physical exercise during the school day and healthy food choices in school cafeterias. Share the task of preparing the nightly meal with your child. Use suppertime to talk about the day’s events and reconnect.
Medical and educational professionals agree that fit and active kids learn better. Focusing on fitness as a family will result in good grades today and the joy of watching your child become a healthy, active and productive adult tomorrow.

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Moving from worry to wonder August 24, 2009

Filed under: Freelance writing,health — rjlacko @ 10:38 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

The following was published in San Clemente Presbyterian’s NEWSBREAK magazine. Editors are welcome to use it as a FREE REPRINT, simply by adding my byline. 

Is something troubling you? You may have heard, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” In times of darkness or struggle, it’s easy to speculate whether God must love you the most to give you such a load to carry! In fact, He loves you so much, He doesn’t want you to worry at all.

The worry-free life may seem like an absolute impossibility, until—and here’s the key to pretty much everything—you start to see your troubles from God’s point of view. What do your problems look like to Him?

Imagine a teacher presenting a tough assignment to his students. He expects the class to begin to research possibilities, discuss the topic together and consult those who are experienced in the topic, and hopefully, to learn and grow. What if, instead, they only sat behind their desks, worrying about how they’ll how they will ever find answers, or get the assignment done on time?

Our Father wants to teach us, shape us, send us on a new path, or stop us from going a step further in the wrong direction. He may throw us a curveball to help end cycles no longer working for us, or fix something we didn’t, in our limited view, know was broken.

When faced with a “life assignment,” does He hope we will lay awake at night worrying? That we will cry out, that we will ask, “Why me?” Of course not. When God allows us our newest challenge, He does so with the loving expectation that we might be inspired to new action, to look at our life from a different perspective. He wants us to shift gears, be creative, find a new path or method, and cooperate with people who share our goal and can help–or benefit from its resolution.

The author Harold Stephens said, “There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.” The ultimate weapon against worry is action.

I don’t know why you are struggling with a particular problem, or what lesson God intends for you to learn, but I do know that God does. Just ask Him.