Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Distracted walkers: I didn't realize there would be a part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about distracted walkers, citing a recent study reporting an increase in injuries due to walking while being on a smartphone or other device. You can read it here. Go ahead, I'll wait.

So, when I came across this post in The Guardian, I had to do a follow up.

It is a call to action for people to stop navigating around distracted walkers - not to purposefully bump into them, mind you, but to get close enough to them so that they feel your presence and eventually will be conditioned to pay more attention to their surroundings.

In addition to this being kind of a fun experiment (see how close you need to get to people before they actually look up from their devices), it may actually save some lives.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Conversations at night

It's 3 am. The house is quiet. It is nice and dark, except for the blue lights on the computer router that cast weird shadows in the office. The dishwasher has long stopped running. Do you know where your child is? I know where mine is. He is right beside my bed. And he wants to talk.
Him: Mommy, I can't find my cat Stripe.
Me: (Instantly awake.) OK. Let's go back to your room and find it. (We shuffle off to his room where I start searching his bed in the darkness.)
Him: Maybe you should turn the light on.
Me: No, that would be bad. It's late. The dark is good.
Him: Well, if you turned on the light you could see that I am holding Stripe.
Me: ....
Him: See? (Holds up cat in the dark.)
Me: You had Stripe the whole time?
Him: Yes. I just wanted you and this way we could talk and it is good to talk.

Me: ....
I get him back in bed and remind him that he sleeps in his bed and mommy sleeps in hers, and that everyone sleeps at night and talking is for daytime. As I wander back to my room I can't help but wonder: Was that really sweet? Or is my child diabolical? I mean, he came into my room to wake me up to find his cat, but he knew that he had the cat the whole time.

Then I remember that he is three, so of course he is both diabolical and sweet - that is how three-year-olds work. But, in the morning (the actual time-to-be-awake morning) as I recount the episode to my husband, I wonder about light sleepers and heavy sleepers. My husband can sleep through a fire alarm; I wake at the slightest noise. Evidently, our brains are different.

And, I bet our son knows that. Which is why he only comes in our room to wake me up at night.

So, sorry, Mom, for all the times I woke you up in the middle of the night for no discernible reason.

How about your family? What middle-of-the-night conversations have you had with your children? Are you a light sleeper or did you turn into one when you became a mom?

Monday, October 28, 2013

How do you use your mobile phone?

It's true that more and more moms are relying on their smartphones to help keep them organized and in touch with the world of adults. But, it turns out that moms are now admitting to being distracted by their phones.

I've talked before about screen time and toddlers, but like most moms, I need to have a conversation with myself about screen time. So here we go:
Lauren, you need to put down your phone. That text you are answering/word you are about to play to cream your husband at Hanging With Friends/email you are going to check/call you are screening/movie you can't remember that you are going to look up on IMDB is no where near as important as whatever your son is doing right now. He is three years old and at the verge of making long-term memories that he will be able to recall well into his 80s. Do you want his first memory of his mother to be of her hunched over her phone tapping away at something? No? I didn't think so. You don't have to cut cold turkey, but you definitely need to cut back: You really don't need to look something up right now. If calls are important, there will be a voice mail. Technology can wait until he is napping.
So, who is with me? Do you use your phone too much?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Let's talk (and talk, and talk, and talk)

One of my favorite parts of having a baby was that I always had someone to talk to.

Previously, I was the crazy lady in the grocery store muttering to herself (for the record, I was trying to remember what dinners I was making that week). After having my son, I was that good mommy who kept up a running conversation with her child. All. The. Time.

My son spoke early and often. And I take total credit for it. I asked him questions, pointed out the world to him and kept up a narrative of everything we were doing like a bad '80s cartoon (seriously, go back and watch them - they tell you everything they are doing as they do it.)

The studies that show how parents influence their child's language skills are numerous. But lots of parents have trouble figuring out how to talk to their baby. So here are some tips that worked for us:
  • Make sure you are talking to your baby, not just around your baby. Your child picks up more words and context from you directly talking to him, rather than just listening to adults talk in general.
  • Narrate everything. And I mean everything. Have you ever pretended that you were on a cooking show and that you had a studio audience? (I can't be the only one.) Well guess what? Your baby is now your audience. Put on a cooking show, give a speech for earning the mommy of the year award, convince the world why you should be elected supreme ruler.
  • Don't ever use baby talk. Enunciate your words correctly the way you want your child to say them.
  • Words matter to babies; knowledge doesn't. Your baby is not going to fact-check you when you start talking about the different trees in your neighborhood or types of clouds in the sky. (But you will want to learn those facts later on when your child is 3 and repeats everything you say.)
  • Learn new words together. Go to and sign up with them to learn a new word every day. Use it often around your child (now you are both learning).
  • Sing or read aloud. If you have really run out of things to say, start singing or reading a story to your baby. It doesn't even have to be a baby book - inflection matters at this point, not plot.
Now that my son is older we still use a lot of these tactics with him. Yes, I do have to look up the answers to a lot of his questions now (I am, evidently, missing a lot of elementary science knowledge.) But I still like him to learn new words, because it makes me crazy proud when he is able to tell his teachers what an ichthyologist does or when he uses "substantial" correctly in everyday conversation.

What other tips do you use to help your baby/child build their vocabulary?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Would you want your child's health records online?

It was six weeks after having my son. My C-section scar was recovering nicely, I had giant breasts from nursing and like all mothers of babies, I was incredibly sleep deprived. There I stood with seven pages of forms to fill out to enroll my son into school, and I had full-on mommy brain. I tried my best to answer their questions:

Weight? No idea. It changes so often, but I think he is heavier than my cat.
Height? Ummmm...tall for a baby
Number of feedings per day: Lots. Sometimes less if he is really hungry. All I know is that my boobs are tired.
Current immunizations: Uhhhhh....all of the ones he is supposed to have. (I think).

It would have been so much easier if I had access to his last set of medical records to look up that information. Think about all the wellness visits that take place within the first year of life. It's hard to keep track of all that baby data. 

So, it makes sense to me that a recent study suggests online access to children's health records may help parents remember to keep all those wellness appointments.

Do you have online access to your child's medical records? If not, would you want it? Have you ever struggled to remember your child's medical details?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Is your first child really the smartest?

I am the second child in my family, and I was a pretty smart kid: advanced classes, honors student, deans list - all that good stuff (you're welcome, Mom). So, I was really surprised to read that, overall, first-born children are actually smarter. Even more surprising, is that this is true internationally.

But why is that?

Don't get me wrong, my older brother is pretty smart. (I actually don't know if he and I conform to the study or not.) But I am curious. Is it because Mom and Dad are able to focus more attention on their first child? Is it because they are stricter and expect more from their first-born? Is it because older children have to grow up a bit faster to help teach and take care of their younger siblings?

I'm not sure, but this article by the Atlantic does a nice job of taking a look at the varying theories as to why first-borns are (generally speaking) smarter.

So, what is the situation for your family? Do you see a difference between your first and subsequent children and their school performance?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What's in a name: Beyond Jennifer and Jessica

Hopefully by now you've seen this really great gif that shows the most popular baby girl's names since 1960 (in the U.S.). If not, please take a look at it here; it's a fascinating view of how name popularity spans the country.

The animated gif got me thinking about baby names in general. When I was little, "Lauren" was not a popular name, but now I meet other Laurens all the time (with lots of different spelling variations). And when it came to naming my son, my husband and I wanted his name to be special and meaningful to us.

So please, share your stories in the comments. How did you get your name? (Are you on the most popular list?) And what criteria did you use in naming your child?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Is that baby snoring?

Image by Walt Stoneburner
It's late at night. You are about to head off to bed, but before you do, you make a quick stop in your child's bedroom. After readjusting the covers (how do they kicked off every night?) and retrieving various animal friends from the floor, you hear it. It may be quiet at first, but then it becomes an easily identifiable sound. Is your child snoring?

Yes, lots of children (and adults) sometimes snore. But, this recent study from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center suggests that children are more likely to snore if their parents do. So now the question becomes: Do you (or your spouse) snore?

I think most people realize that snoring disturbs your sleep, but it can be far more serious than a grumpy child in the morning. Take take note of the snoring, especially if it is loud, persistent and if it seems that your child has behavioral problems in the daytime. Once you have all that information, it is worth having a conversation with your doctor. Your child's long-term health could depend on it.

What about you? Do you snore? Do you ever worry about your spouse's snoring keeping you awake at night?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Car seat safety: When to face forward

I remember the day we changed my son's car seat to a forward-facing position: It was on his first birthday and he had reached the seat's height and weight limit (we actually got him a new seat and installed it on his birthday). He was so excited to see out the front windshield, and as we drove around, I could see him straining to see more of the road.

But, I'm really glad we waited to make the switch to forward-facing, especially in light of this survey by Chicco that reveals only some parents are actually following the safety guidelines for their car seats.

I'll admit it is confusing - the laws on age limits can change yearly and they vary by state. I really like this application on BabyCenter's website to help parents determine what the laws are in each state (still, you should double-check the information, as I am not sure how often BabyCenter updates their data.)

When did you move your child to a forward-facing seat for the first time?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sunny skies: Celebrating the Sunshine Award

The ever inventive Emma at P is for Preschooler (whose blog I've recently fallen in love with) was kind enough to nominate me for a Sunshine Award. According to Emma, the award is given to "bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere." (I'm touched, Emma!) And here are the rules:
  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger. (Emma is a brave woman who wants her child to take risks and isn't afraid of a little mess - my kind of mom!)
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself. 
  • Answer 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you. 
  • List 11 bloggers.  They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger that nominated you.)
So here we go. Eleven random things about myself:
  1. I tell people that my cat is retired as she doesn't deign to chase lizards or bugs, because frankly, she deserves a restful life.
  2. I have a podcast where I tell original short stories for grown-ups that you can find on the iTunes store by searching for "stories for grown-ups" or on
  3. My husband and I met when I was 11, and we were friends for six years before dating.
  4. We used to have an alligator living in our backyard, and I was OK with that.
  5. Somehow I have lost the ability to sleep in, even when no one is around to wake me up.
  6. I hate running, but I do it anyway.
  7. I love bad movies from the 1980s - I have seen Red Sonja a disturbing number of times. Is it on now? I'll watch it again.
  8. My favorite holiday is Halloween.
  9. I am excited that it is fall, because that means I can wear boots again.
  10. I wish I was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich right now.
  11. When I was younger I wanted to go skydiving, but the older I get, the more I don't want to go.
Here are the questions Emma asked me:  
Have you ever traveled outside the country? Yes, and I have lots more places I would love to go. Travel is good for the soul - get out and teach your children how to explore the world.  
What's your favorite time of year? Early fall - when it is cooler but the trees aren't bare yet.  
Are you an introvert or extrovert? Both. I can be shy in close-knit situations, but I have no problems talking in front of strangers.  
What is your social media or blogging pet peeve? Limiting my time spent on these activities - I want to stay updated without it taking over my life.  
What are the ages of your children, if you have any? My son is three-and-a-half.  
What is your favorite part of blogging? Connecting with other amazing mothers.  
If you could learn another language, which would you choose? Spanish - and I am not sure what is stopping me.  
What's the first site you check when you come online? My homepage is set to Google.  
What song do you never get sick of? At Last by Etta James  
What musical instrument, if any, can you play? I can't play any instruments.
When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? I really didn't know. (Come to think of it, I still don't know.)

Here's my list of amazing, inspiring bloggers that I am nominating:

And here are my 11 questions for the above nominees to answer:
What's your favorite book and why?
What time do you get up most mornings?
What's your favorite way to relax?
If you could rename yourself anything, what name would you choose?
What do you most wish you could teach your child?
What is the last non-children's song you listened to?
Name the best family tradition you have.
What is your biggest fear?
What did you like most about being pregnant?
Should peanut butter be crunchy or smooth?
When was the last time you danced?

Thanks for the nomination, Emma! To all the new nominees - I'll be looking for your posts!

Playing favorites: Which child is your favorite?

My son is my favorite child. He is also my only child, so I have no problems writing that sentence. But parents of multiple children may experience guilt when identifying one of their children as their "favorite."

This is a tough subject, but let's be honest here and think back to your own childhood: If you have siblings, you could tell me in an instant which of you was your mother's favorite and who was your father's favorite. It may have changed as you moved from adolescence to adulthood, and your parents may have never said it aloud, but you always knew. The favoritism may have caused tension in your sibling relationships, but hopefully you found relief in the fact you were loved and were able to let it go.

As a parent now, maybe you make a conscientious effort to treat your children fairly and ensure they never discover which of them you prefer. And that is a smart move for now, but it may affect your health later on in life.

Recent research suggests that having the non-favorite child act as caregiver to an ailing mother often leads to depression. That's right: If you are an elderly mother in need of a caregiver and your non-favorite child steps in to help you, it could lead to depression.

(I'll just let that sink in for a moment.)

Is there a way to become the favored child in adulthood? Aligning your outlook on life to match your mother's is one way. Another way is to overcome any deviant behavior. But whether you are the favored child or not, the bottom line is to accept yourself for the wonderful person you have become.

When you were growing up who was the favorite child in your family? Are you willing to admit in the comments which of your children is your favorite now?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Raising a leader starts at home

I was a shy child. I remember when my mom took me to a birthday party for a friend of mine, and I sat in the corner by myself for the entire party and wouldn't participate in any activities (sorry, Mom). Somewhere along my life's journey I got over my shyness, and now I have no problem getting up in front of people (even strangers) and giving speeches or talking with people I don't know at parties. After thinking about it, I believe this is because my Mom kept giving me opportunities to get over my shyness.

This has me thinking: What opportunities should I create for my son to help him with his fears? And after reading this University of Nebraska-Lincoln study on leadership, I have an idea on where I want to start. The study links participation in community service to being a future leader, and that is the type of confidence I want my son to enjoy. He is still young, but I think we can find some volunteering opportunities in our community to start having the conversation with him early and often.

What fears did you have trouble overcoming as a child? What qualities do you want to help instill in your children and how do you plan on putting them in action?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Talking with Family Members

When I was little and I wanted to talk with my brother, I would yell for him (Sorry, Mom). To cut back on the noise, my parents eventually installed an intercom system (we lived in a big three-story house) so we could stop yelling for each other and start buzzing each other instead. That lasted about a week, and then we went back to standing at the bottom of the stairs yelling each other's names.

So, I am not really that surprised that families are turning to technology to talk with each other in the same house. Does it seem a little silly to send a text message to someone upstairs to let them know that dinner is ready? Maybe. But, maybe it is better than yelling. Children have a hard time using their inside voices as it is.

I'll admit to sending my husband a text when I was upstairs and he was in the garage, but I think I may draw the line at talking to him via video.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mom says she is proud of me

I am an adult.

I am financially stable. I have a family of my own. I exercise even when I don't like it. And I eat healthy foods.

And yet, my Mother knows how to make me feel like a little girl again with such a simple statement, "I am proud of you."

I sent my Mom a link to my podcast on iTunes and she listened and told me she was proud of me. And that is all it took to make my day.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not starving for praise. My husband is crazy supportive and tells me he is proud of me when I deserve it. But, there is something about receiving your parents' approval, something in those five simple words that makes the whole day brighten.

So, I am going to keep that in mind and use those five simple words (I am proud of you) to my son whenever he earns them.

Hey, Mom. I'm proud of you, too. After all, you raised a great daughter.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Can you text and walk at the same time? (Hint: The answer is no)

Image by adpk.
We all know not to text and drive by now. (Right?) But how many of us walk and text or participate in other forms of "distracted walking?"

I try to be cognizant about not using my smartphone around my son - to be fully present when I am around him so that his main childhood memory of his mother isn't one of me with my body hunched over a handheld screen. But I know that I have texted while walking, and of course, I use my headphones while I jog.

This recent report by Safe Kids Worldwide has shown me what a horrible example I am being - especially for teens.

My phone is now going to stay in my purse. And if I need it, I will pull over to the side of the sidewalk first.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What's the division of labor in your household?

There is a new study by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics showing that moms do more child care work than dads do. Evidently, mothers spend more hours per week than their husbands on a combination of responsibilities at home, with children, and in the work place. I am sure that no one is surprised by this (although it is nice to have confirmation, sometimes.)

What is surprising is that mothers are finding more meaning in the work they do - whether it is child care, home care or work - than fathers do. So, basically, we moms do more work, but we feel more complete as people and a greater sense of accomplishment.

So, I am now curious - how do the study's findings compare to your household? What is the ratio of child care between you and your spouse and who do you believe enjoys the work more?

Women are smart: We need more of them as scientists

I'm getting my niece a chemistry set. 

Well, not now. She's still little. But when she is old enough, I plan on getting her a chemistry set and then help her create small explosions. (I have a feeling we'll be doing this at my house and not at my brother's.)

Although I made good grades in science and math, I was never really into it. And, I remember thinking that there weren't many good science and math role models while I was growing up. (Everyone always pointed to poor Marie Curie, who died of radiation poisoning - which doesn't really inspire anyone to take up science.)

But, this latest study about the shortage of women in science and technology jobs makes me think that I need to be a better advocate for my niece. Why do we still have gender barriers in this day and age?

So, I am going to do more activities based on science, technology and math. I'm doing it for my niece who needs to know these subjects are viable for women. I'm doing it for my son who needs to learn as much about the world as possible. And, I'm doing it for me, so I can rediscover some knowledge that I must have lost along the way.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Would you hand your child $300? No? Then keep your phone to yourself

Image by adpk.
I think about the number of times I have thoughtlessly handed over my phone to my son. Normally, I think about the amount of screen time he has had that day and his overall behavior, but I rarely think about the fact that I am handing over an expensive piece of equipment to a child.

And, I am sure that many parents don't think about it either, which is why this study on parents spending around $2.8 billion to replace broken phones and other gadgets is an eye-opener.

I have a very strong case around my phone since I am apt to occasionally hand it over to my son, but I like their additional rules:
  1. Never take your device to the bathroom.
  2. Don't use electronics while eating or drinking.
  3. Don't place them in bags where they can be crushed.
My phone has been damage-free so far (knock on wood). What has been the most expensive piece of equipment you've had to replace because of child's play?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Who is afraid of the dentist? I am

Play-Doh dentist kit
OK, I'm not really afraid of the dentist. I just really, really don't want to go. 

Happily, my son doesn't know that. 

And that is a good thing because a recent study suggests that if a parent is afraid of the dentist then it is more likely that a child will exhibit fears, too. That makes sense.

For the record, the last dentist I saw was actually very nice. On his patient form he had a section that said: Are you afraid of the dentist? Yes or No and Please rate your fear on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most amount of fear). Smart man.

I am trying to let go of my dentist anxiety and erase the memories of the fluoride trays and all the suctioning and start new happy-dentist memories with my son. We read books about the dentist and talk about our teeth and gums. A dentist came to his school and talked to all the children. He and I floss together. 

But I think I am going to stop short of getting the Play-Doh Dr. Drill set (pictured). Are you kidding me?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Are you talking about my generation? Living on the cusp

I have no idea what generation I am actually in. Since there are no officially agreed upon cutoff dates, I can only say that I was born during the overlap years between Generation X and Generation Y.

I am fine with having characteristics that are hallmarks of each generation. Like my Gen X brothers and sisters, I grew up during the emergence of music videos, did not idolize world leaders and wore a lot of flannel during the grunge years (sorry, Mom). But, like most of my Gen Y siblings, I lived the majority of my life in a single parent home, got along extremely well with that parent (love you, Mom), am not very religious and participate in social media.

Normally, this living on a cusp isn't a problem for me. I just find it confusing when I read articles on generational research that play with the cutoff dates and I wonder where I fit in. But, then sometimes there is a nice blend of generations: This Ad Age article on millennial parenting is intriguing in the way it points out that millennials act just like the parents before their generation.

If you wonder how millennial you are (no matter what your age is), you can take this Pew Research quiz to find out, then defend or criticize your score in the comments.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Future Homework: Pay attention to the world

When I was in seventh grade I had a school assignment in which I had to interview someone about what life was like during the Depression. I ended up interviewing my grandmother, even though she was a little girl at the time.

I think about that now that I have a son, and I wonder what future homework assignment I will be interviewed for one day. And that makes me a bit nervous, as I tend to go through long periods of time where I don't pay as close attention to world news as I should.

So, now I am making an effort to pay more attention to life outside of our borders. So one day, when I am asked what life was like during major event in my lifetime, I can give a more well-rounded viewpoint.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mommy needs her sleep

To be a good mommy, I need my sleep.

When we first brought our son home from the hospital, my husband and I created a rule: He wouldn't sleep in our bed. We let him sleep in his own space (a crib), in his own room. We all slept well (or as well as any parent can with a baby in the house.)

I did share a bed with my son once when we were on vacation. He was frightened about sleeping somewhere new, and he cried relentlessly unless I was laying next to him. I woke up sore from his kicking me all night, and I barely slept with all his rolling around.

So it surprises me to see 14% of parents sharing a bed with their infant. I have to wonder about the overall quality of sleep in those families.

Now that my son is older, I am glad that we put that rule in place. He knows that he is not allowed to sleep in bed with us, and I believe that we all sleep better for it. And don't we all need more sleep these days?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fighting the Bully at Home

I have a feeling that somewhere out there is a team of psychologists and scientists thinking of all the things they had to go through when they were a child that they wouldn't want their own children going through. And that team is why we now see all the changes toward safer playground equipment and better ways to talk to children and schools with alternative teaching methods and this latest study on bullying among siblings.

As a sibling, I read that study and immediately thought, "Hey, yeah...that makes sense." And then my second thought was, "Where was this thinking when I was little?"

Oh well. We are learning new things every day, right?