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January-February 2010




  • Kid’s Corner -

    Fun in the snow

    Mom’s Corner -

  • How to Dress a Kid for Winter-Dress in Layers

  • Dad’s Corner -

    The Proper Way to Shovel Snow

  • Planet Earth -

    The Coldest Winter in Years

  • News -                                                                                                        

    The Top Ten news stories of 2009


              Welcome to the Doc Grubb newsletter for January-February 2010.

Because the entire nation is wrapped in snow and ice with incredibly cold temperatures are covering most of the nation I thought this month we would write about how bad this winter is compared to past winters, how to dress for winter and activities children can do in the snow as well as soon insights on snow shoveling technique.

Many psychologists feel that winter can be a depressing time, for children and their parents. Bad weather keeps people inside and if you go outside you need special clothing or equipment to spend time outdoors. However, winter offers great opportunities for the family to be together outside getting fresh air and doing special activities. The time that your family spends together indoors and outdoors during the colder winter months can build memories, strengthen relationships, and just be all out fun with your children.

              2010 also marks the start of a new decade so it’s interesting to look at the big news events of the past year. Many of the big events, such as the Health Care Reform proposals and the economy will continue to be big news items and affect our lives way into the new decade.

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      This winter is starting off with record deep freezes! BRRRR!  Much of the United States is experiencing the coldest weather and the largest amount of snow in the past 25 years. My son’s school actually closed two days early for Christmas Vacation. If you are like my son, you start listening for school closings and plan an afternoon of snow fun outside when the weather gets cold and the weather reporters start talking about snow. Sometimes, they start talking about snow DAYS ahead of the actual event.

To stay warm when you are outside, you need to bundle up with loose layered clothing under a waterproof coat. Yes…wear layers. Always wear gloves, a hat, boots and a scarf or neck warmer around your neck. You’ll have a lot more fun in the snow if you are warm and comfortable.

Here are some great activities you can do this winter:

Go Sledding Find a nice hill that you can walk to dragging your sled. The hill should not be too steep. Walk around where you will be sledding and check it out BEFORE you start sledding. If there are large rocks, trees, tree roots, wooded areas, debris or irrigation pipes hidden under the snow, it may be too dangerous for sledding. Several years ago the son of one of our friends was killed in a tragic sledding accident.

Build a Snow House Build the house just like you build a snowman, but pack the snow in the shape of bricks and when you stack them, overlap the edges. A cake or bread tin works great. Just have your mother spray the inside with “PAM” so the snow falls out easily. Building a snow house without a roof is easier and you don’t have to worry about the roof collapsing. We like to put a flat piece of cardboard on for a roof and then build some snow furniture inside the snow house. You can even build a snow village with several houses with streets and sidewalks to connect all the houses.

Igloos and Snow Caves. If you have lots of snow, instead of building a house, it can be more fun to build an igloo or snow cave. We use aluminum bread pans as a brick mold for an igloo. Digging out a snow cave is fun, but be careful that it doesn’t collapse on you. Put your math and engineering skills to use.

Paint The Snow All you have to do is to fill some spray bottles with water and food coloring and go crazy in the snow. Write your name in the snow or make a large message in the yard. My son and his friends like to have contests to see who can make the fanciest drawing in the snow.

Ice Skating Many families enjoy ice skating together during the winter season especially. Skating takes a little practice and expect to fall. Be really careful if you are heavy like me because ice skating requires steady ankles. Here in D.C. we have really nice ice rinks near the White House but there are many indoor skating facilities in a lot of cities.

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It’s winter and it is so easy for children to get cold. The key is to DRESS THEM IN LAYERS! Dressing in layers helps your kids stay warm and dry and to adjust to the temperature as their activity level changes.

There should be at least three layers of clothing:

  • The under layer (underwear)
  • The insulating layer, and
  • The outer layer

 The Under Layer/Underwear - You body will produce sweat even when you are cold. The innermost layer will carry (wick away) perspiration away from the skin and transports it to the adjacent insulating layer. For this to occur, the wicking layer must be thin and in direct contact with the skin. Cotton is not a good material for the under layer because it does not wick away moisture.  My wife doesn’t like this rule. She likes to have each layer consists of cotton.

Insulating Layer - The insulating layer traps air which keeps you warm. Loose fitting layers trap more air. Wear layers and you adjust your layers as you get warmer from exercise.

Outer Layer- Eddie Bauer was one of the first to use goose down in jackets with squares sewn to keep the down separate to trap air. Your outer layer doesn’t have to be a thick coat as long as you have an inner and insulating layer underneath the coat.

How to Dress a Child for Playing in the Snow

A Warm Jacket or Coat Pick one that is a size bigger than the size the child currently wears so that you can layer underneath the coat. A hood attached to the coat is great! If the child forgets to take a hat to school, he will still be able to cover his head when the class goes out for recess on a chilly winter day. Down or synthetic filled coats with a waterproof shell are great. Down is really light weight and especially good because it works with the body’s temperature by constantly trapping the body’s heat within its feathers.

Snow Pants are practical and popular. These pants go on under the winter jacket and will be the first layer of outdoor clothes the child will put on when getting dressed to go outside to play in the snow. You can keep them even warmer if you put a pair of long underwear underneath the snow pants.

Snow Suit Some children prefer to wear one piece snow suits that replace both the snow pants and the jacket. These are warm and keep snow from getting under the clothing.

Snow Boots, sneakers, shoes or other types of boots are not practical for snow play. Snow boots have a warm, removable lining and have a waterproof foot. They should be easy for your child to pull on without assistance. Fleece-lined boots keep feet warm and dry, and rubber soled boots with deep treads provide good traction in slippery conditions. Heavy wool or cotton socks keep their feet even warmer. When feet get cold, it’s less fun and children don’t often tell us when their feet are cold.

Winter Hats, Mittens or Gloves and Scarves Children playing in the snow on a winter day especially need to wear a hat or a warm jacket hood. Very young children will need a hat that ties under the chin to keep it in place and older children can use a hat with ear flaps.

Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves and are easier to put on for young children who have difficulties getting their fingers into a pair of gloves. Older children may find it easier to play in gloves, though mittens keep the hands warmer.

A scarf keeps the neck warm and also helps to keep snow and wind from getting down the top of the jacket. Neck warmers are safer than scarves because there is no additional fabric to pose a strangulation risk.

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In the Washington, D.C. area where I live we’ve had the heaviest snow fall EVER in December with over two feet of snow in just one storm. My son and I got out and over two days shoveled our driveway. As you know shoveling snow causes muscle fatigue, low back strain, vertebral disc damage, and even spinal fractures. Some of these injuries result from excessive stress to spinal structures and others by slipping and falling. The sudden twist of the fall is a major cause of injury.

            Learning how to shovel snow properly can definitely help prevent injury.

General Comments:

If you experience pain of any kind, stop immediately and seek assistance.

Avoid caffeinated beverages. These are stimulants and may increase heart rate and cause blood vessels to constrict.

Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. It is important to re-hydrate your body often.

If the ground is icy or slick, spread sand or salt over the area to help create foot traction. You can also put a thin layer of snow over the ice to create better traction. This is also better for the environment than salt or dirt.

Dress in layers. Wear clothing that is easy to move in. This isn’t a fashion show.

Wear a hat because you lose a lot of body heat through your head.

Proper boots are essential for keeping feet warm and dry.  Soles with ridges provide traction and balance!

Wear gloves that will keep your hands warm, dry, and blister free.I like to use mittens so my hands stay warmer.

The shovel should be ergonomically correct and tall even for you to use without straining—a shovel with a curved handle. Many hardware stores and home centers stock ergonomically designed snow shovels. These shovels help you to keep your back straighter reducing spinal stress.

Sometimes a smaller blade is better. You will not be able to shovel as much snow per shovel load, but the load will weigh less, which puts less strain on the spine.

Get a shovel made to push snow (the blade is usually curved). It is far easier to push snow than to lift it.

Consider spraying a bit of silicon lubricant on the blade to keep the snow from sticking to the shovel.

Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart to maintain balance. Try to keep the shovel close to your body. Lift with your legs—not your back. Do not twist your body. Dump the snow in front of you. If you need to move the snow to the side, move your feet—do not twist!

Don’t throw snow over your shoulder! Go forward with the snow.

Fresh snow is lighter in weight—so clear snow as soon as it has fallen. Snow becomes dense as it compacts on the ground. Wet snow is very heavy. One shovelful can weigh 20 pounds or more!

Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks to stretch your back and extremities. Take time to stretch to prepare your body for activity.

Community Involvement
Not everyone is able to shovel their sidewalks and driveways. Consider volunteering to shovel sidewalks and driveways of senior citizens in your neighborhood. There is no better way to offer community service to those who can’t shovel themselves.

              Remember to pile the snow on grass if your can or at least have some grass edging the driveway and sidewalks. The earth’s warmth will keep the concrete and pavement drier and help them to dry up much faster.

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    Winter of 2009-2010 Could Be Worst in 25 Years

Every year I look at the Farmers’ Almanac to see what kind of winter we can expect. According to the 2010 Farmers’ Almanac this winter’s temperatures will average below normal for about three-quarters of the nation. It is predicting that a large area of numbingly cold temperatures will cover the area east of the Continental Divide to west of the Appalachians. The coldest temperatures will be over the northern Great Lakes and Michigan.

Almost all the eastern half of the United States, even Florida, is enduring bitterly cold temperatures. The last time a large swath of severely low temperatures struck the nation was in January 1985. This winter has already been rough for many areas of the country, with several blizzards dumping high accumulations of snow upon the Plains, mid-Atlantic and New England. With the entire eastern half of the country in the throes of this arctic snap, this is shaping up to be the coldest winter in many people's memories.

The cold air currently streaming across the Upper Midwest into the East and South will only compound the winter problems of the nation.  Temperatures have not been this low since the winter of 2002-03, which is known as the benchmark for frigid conditions in the last decade. However, that year the cold was not as widespread as what is happening now.

What about snow/rain/ice? Near-normal amounts of precipitation are expected over the eastern third of the country, as well as over the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains, while drier-than-normal conditions are forecast to occur over the Southwest and the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes.

Blizzards? While three-quarters of the country is predicted to see near- or below average precipitation this winter, significant snowfalls are forecast for parts of every zone. For the Middle Atlantic and Northeast States, for instance, we are predicting a major snowfall in mid-February; possibly even blizzard conditions for New England (indeed, even shovelry is not dead).

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2009 was the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Because this is such an important milestone I thought that it would be good to look at the top news stories of the year.

1. THE ECONOMY: Despite a $787 billion federal stimulus package, much of the U.S. economy continued to sputter throughout the year. The jobless rate topped 10 percent, scores of banks failed, the federal deficit tripled to a record $1.4 trillion, and stocks fell to their lowest levels since 1997.  Stocks have rebounded about 30% over the past year but the future is guarded for investments.

2. OBAMA INAUGURATION: the nation's first black president took the oath of office.

3. HEALTH CARE: A sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system, extending coverage to millions of Americans who don’t have health insurance, was a top priority for President Obama. But Republicans were almost unanimously opposed, leading to complex, bitterly partisan showdowns in both chambers.

4. AUTO INDUSTRY: General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy. I never thought we would see General Motors disappear. A saying in the 1950s was “what’s good for General Motors is good for the USA.” How times have changed.

5. SWINE FLU: Swine flu struck tens of millions of people worldwide, worrying governments as supplies of vaccine failed to meet demand. In the United States, according to federal authorities, swine flu sickened an estimated 50 million people, hospitalized close to 200,000 and killed 10,000.

6. AFGHANISTAN: As we decreased the number of troops in Iraq, we’ve increased them in Afghanistan. Casualties in Afghanistan have continued to increase and President Obama, after lengthy deliberations, agreed to send/”surge” 30,000 more troops.

7. MICHAEL JACKSON DIES: The "King of Pop" died at the age of 50. His doctor became the focus of a Los Angeles police homicide investigation. Elvis’ doctor also faced criminal charges for prescribing too many narcotics after Elvis died.

8. FORT HOOD RAMPAGE: An Army psychiatrist was accused of killing 13 people and wounding dozens more at Fort Hood, Texas before being seriously wounded by police gun fire.  Having a health care provider harm patients violates the most basic tenet of medicine, “above all…do no harm.”

9. EDWARD KENNEDY DIES. Sen. Edward Kennedy, who carried on the family legacy after the deaths of his three older brothers, died of brain cancer. He had a heavy burden to carry from his family.

10. MIRACLE ON HUDSON: A US Airways passenger jet made an emergency landing in the Hudson River. All 155 passengers survived in what was dubbed "The Miracle on the Hudson."

Have a safe and happy Holiday Season, from our family to yours

Wherever they may be



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