Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Don't co-sleep (with your husband)

We've all seen those old television sitcoms (or at the very least, Fred and Wilma Flintstone) where the husband and wife are sleeping in separate beds. This mostly had to do with The Production Code of 1930 (also known also as the Hays Code), which, among other things, forbid showing a married couple with a double bed. Here's a link if you would like to learn more. But maybe they had the right idea.

According to a new study by Toronto's Ryerson University, couples who sleep separately actually sleep better and often report being happier in their marriage. The study has found that 30 to 40 percent of couples sleep apart at night for a variety of reasons that include snoring, not enough room, restless leg syndrome and sleeping environmental issues (think heating/lighting).

You could probably add "becoming a parent" to that list, as first-time moms and dads quickly learn that long-time parents weren't joking when they said, "Congratulations on your new baby! You'll never sleep well again!" Between night-feedings and multiple waking periods as schedules adjust, new parents often forget what their bed even looks like.

So, all of those reasons to sleep separately make a lot of sense to me, but I just can't let go of my husband. Sure, we've made our sleeping arrangements as pleasant as possible: we have a king-sized bed so that we each have more sleeping space, the cat sleeps on my side of the bed at my feet and we've never let our son sleep with us. Do we still have problems? Yes, sometimes we both snore from sickness or poor pillow positioning, I steal the covers, he tosses and turns, I like it as dark as possible, he would prefer the thermostat to be set to permafrost. But through all of this we compromise, and we're still going to sleep together in the same bed. (Maybe we're both just stubborn.)

What about you? Do you sleep separately from your spouse? Is this something you would like to try out and see if it works for you?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Yes, I am going to write about peanut butter. Again.

For those of you who don't already know, I love peanut butter. Like, a lot. Because my son can't have it at school, I make sure to give him a pb&j at least once a weekend. In addition to peanut butter being crazy yummy, I love that I can use the Omega 3 variety of peanut butter to help him reach his Omega 3 daily requirements.

Image by Shawn Carpenter
What's Omega 3? Let's pause this post for a quick & dirty science lesson.There are 3 types of Omega 3 fatty acids: 
1. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
2. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
3. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

These fatty acids are important for brain, nerve and eye development in infants. And in children and adults these fatty acids are helpful with protection against heart disease, reducing symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dementia, joint pain, other rheumatoid problems and they can boost immunity. 

But after reading this new study in Maternal and Child Nutrition, I realize that he still may not be getting enough Omega 3. The study says that children between the ages of 1 and 8 are consuming less than 93 mg of DHA daily, which is well below the recommended 250-500 mg of EPA + DHA for children. 

So, how do we fix this? Well, at home we only serve him an organic milk that has DHA added to it (which, looking at that list of health benefits up there, I should probably be drinking, too.) But, I need to start including more foods that have these fatty acids naturally, such as certain fish, walnuts, flax seeds and dark leafy greens.

Some of the items on that list might be a problem with a picky eater, so I may need to find more recipes that incorporate them in a way he will eat. Sounds like I have more work to do in my 100 challenge.

What about you? Do you think your family gets enough Omega 3? Were you even aware of all its benefits?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Where The Oregon Trail has lead us: Educational video games

Many wagons fail to make it all the way to Oregon...

I played The Oregon Trail in school. That doesn't make me feel old, because that game is still going - see here. I learned lots of stuff from playing the game, like family members could die from measles. Or typhoid. Or dysentery. Or drown while wading across a three-foot deep river. Or that I would never be strong enough to carry all that buffalo meat back to my starving family. It was a great break from social studies class, despite the fact none of us ever made it to Oregon.

(Seriously, if you ever won at Oregon Trail in school, let me know in the comments. I would love to celebrate your success with you.)

I'm thankful that my son has more to look forward to than creating roadside grave markers for members of his trailblazing party. Educational video games like SimCityEDU are teaming up with teachers to integrate video games in the classroom. In their game series, students will learn population management in cities, as well as how to reduce pollution and increase jobs. They will have to monitor their city's finances as well.

And that's not all. It looks like more companies are signing up to create educational games that teach students other skills - not to replace what they learn in the classroom, but to supplement it. And that is a trailblazing team I'd like to join.

What about you? How do you feel about video games in the classroom? Do you play any educational video games in your household? (And, seriously, did you make it all the way to Oregon?)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Let's learn something: The skeletons of your childhood can be found on YouTube

Background image by Shawn Campbell
I woke up the other morning with a song stuck in my head. That's not unusual for me. But it was a song from my childhood that my brother and I used to sing all the time. I'd repeat the lyrics here, but at this point in the story, they wouldn't make sense.

So, naturally, I texted my brother the lyrics (so they could get stuck in his head, too) and he told me that they came from a cartoon.

At this news I was floored. I had no idea that song was from a cartoon (I seriously thought it was something we had made up or was the hallucinatory product of roller skating in the basement and breathing in too many mold spores). But, no, it was from a cartoon. And my brother, being the industrious chap that he is, found it on YouTube.

Now, before I reveal the cartoon, let me be clear: My brother and I watched a ton of bad cartoons when we were little - everything from the Snorks and Thundercats to the Herculoids and Space Ghost. What I'm trying to say is that we watched a lot of crap. But this is just epic.

It's called Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea and you should totally watch the opening here.

Did you catch that amazing exposition? "Ever since the time of the Great Cataclysm, the Arkadians have lived deep in the center of the Earth. They believed they were the only survivors of this great devastation. Their civilization thrived under the power of their sun, the Tehra...until it began to fail. In desperation, the children of Arkadia broke the law and entered the forbidden Archives, searching for a solution. What they discovered gave them hope. Anxiously, they used their special powers and created a messenger to the people above. They named her Arkana..."

All that for a children's cartoon? How did this not win an Emmy? This cartoon is awesome! My five minutes of web research shows that there are characters called The Inquisitors of the Living Crystal and a pirate called Sleazeappeal who has a song. There are also characters called Bic and Bac and it is their song that was stuck in my head (albeit, we didn't remember all the lyrics correctly). 

So what's the point of all this?
  1. First of all, I watched way too much television when I was little, which explains why I am so strict with my son's screen time today.
  2. Also, my husband and I often have discussions about what treasured media from our childhood we would want to share with our son when he is old enough. My husband has thought long and hard about what order to show our son the Star Wars movies (and I think he agrees with the Machete order). As for me, Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea won't make the list (but only because I can't find it on DVD).
  3. And finally, way to go YouTube! Thank you for bringing back some very strange memories for my brother and I to share over texts and for allowing me to cross "Figure out origins of weird Arkadia song" off my bucket list.
What treasured childhood show do you want to share with your child and what's the worst cartoon you watched when you were little?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I can't believe I'm writing a post about baby poop - but it may save lives


Any parent who has survived potty training/toilet learning/whatever you want to call it deserves a medal, or at the very least, deserves to have that accomplishment listed on their resume. Parents who have survived potty training have acquired a bevy of skills which includes patience, high-stakes negotiation and grace under pressure. I believe that parents who have survived potty training have also "leveled up" in the parenting world, because we no longer have to talk about, think about or deal with our children's poop.

I'd like to think that I am a good friend to my non-mommy acquaintances in that I have refrained from telling them any story related to my child's bodily functions. I have never told them about the "blue poop" incident of 2012 or the "what do you mean green can be normal?" week of 2011. I have never told them about the smell differential equation we worked out after introducing solids to my son's all-breast-milk diet. Most of my reasons for not having these conversations is that I remember life before mommyhood and being disgusted by those stories. I promised myself long ago that I would not subject my friends to hearing similar stories from me. For the most part, I think I've done a good job keeping my word.

But, now I am going to break that promise, and talk to you all - mommies and non-mommies alike - about baby poop. Because a group of researchers at Flinders University in Australia are soliciting samples of baby poop. (Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Go ahead and read it again if you need to. Click on that link if you still don't believe me.) You see, the researchers are looking for the presence of certain gut bacteria in infants. Once they can confirm its presence, the researchers will synthesize an oral re-hydration agent that can stave off the effects of dehydration in babies with acute diarrhea. Since close to one million children under the age of five die annually from that illness, in this instance baby poop could save lives.

So, today - and just for today - go ahead and share your baby poop story with me in the comments.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Are we stalking our children?

I was by a peaceful lagoon somewhere, having a glass of something multicolored and delicious with an umbrella in it. There was soft music playing and someone was approaching me to ask if I was ready for my massage, which I could have by the lagoon in a private cabana if I so desired.

Then I woke up to the crying of my infant son, who was wailing loud enough to hit the red lights on the baby monitor.

And that was fine. That's what we got the baby monitor for in the first place: I am a light sleeper by nature, but "regular person tired" and "new mommy tired" are completely different levels of exhaustion. (The mommy version lasts longer, too.)

I loved my son's baby monitor - it had audio and sound and measured the room temperature. I loved being able to spy on him when he was asleep without actually having to tip-toe into his room (of course, I did that, too). 

But the baby monitor is where I would draw the line.

Lots of companies are now offering wearable devices, so that parents can monitor heart rate, breathing patterns, body temperature, baby position and other ambient conditions of the room. They can be worn as a boot, anklet or onesie, and there is even a smart diaper that can scan dirty diapers for signs of infection. Read more in-depth info about these devices and how they work here.

To the diaper, I say: We parents spend enough time with our children's bodily functions. I have witnessed everything from green poop (thanks, grape juice!) to blue poop (thanks, food dye!). Please don't encourage us to analyze these things further.

To the other devices, I say: I get it. Parents who need extra reassurance may find these items comforting. Parents who have children who fight routines may want the data to look for patterns. But, for me, this all seems a few steps too far. For one thing, all the data is tracked and analyzed by a smartphone, meaning that these companies are compiling a massive data set of infant health records (to what end?)

And, finally, even with the advanced monitoring tech, parents are still going to worry. That's what we do. It comes with the title.

What baby tech would you consider using for your little one?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why some parents stop saving for college and start saving for day care instead

My son loves his school. In an affectionate, nurturing environment, he learns socialization skills, masters safety scissors and learns insanely adorable songs. Because of the amazing teachers at his school, he can tell me who Johnny Appleseed is, can identify all his continents on a map, and gets plenty of exercise. We do his homework together every week to strengthen the concepts he learns there. I love his school and his fearless teachers. And I also know how lucky I am that we can afford to send him there.

The latest studies show that child care costs in the U.S. have increased eight times faster than family income. That means some families have found child care costs to be the biggest chunk of their family spending, and other families have realized that a year's worth of child care costs are about the same as a year's worth of college tuition costs. (Ouch!)

Here are some of the report's other findings:
  • Child care fees for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) in a child care center exceeded annual median rent payments in every state.
  • In every region of the U.S., average child care fees for an infant in a child care center were higher than the average amount that families spent on food. 
  • In 31 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual average cost for an infant in center-based care were higher than a year's tuition and fees at a four-year public college.
My mother was a stay-at-home mom for a long time (thanks, Mom). Then my brother and I became latch-key kids (is that even legal anymore?) when she had to go back to work. She has lots of stories of our growing up, because she was there for every moment of it until we were old enough for pre-school. I've been a working mom and a stay-at-home mom - both of those situations are hard/wonderful for very different reasons.

So, this report has really resonated with me. At first I thought that there had to be a cheaper solution, but after reading the report it becomes clear that it isn't a option: Caregivers are already among the lowest-paid professionals in the U.S. I think about the kindhearted people who watch my son every day; the ones who have been there through potty training nightmares and on his days of great success. Yes, they deserve more money - there is no doubt about that.

But I also believe that education is important and should be available to everyone who wants it. So what's the answer?

Have you chosen your situation (stay-at-home mom/working mom) for a reason that is related to child care costs? If so, please share your story in the comments.

Monday, November 18, 2013

PG-13 movies found to be just as violent as R-rated movies

On June 8, 1984, my mom took my brother and me to see Gremlins. It was a birthday present for me (thanks, Mom!). I loved the scenes with the cute little mogwai Gizmo, and I even lasted through the cocoon scenes. Then that first gremlin attacked; I spent the rest of the movie under my seat. We may have even left the theater early.

In my mom's defense, when we saw the movie, it only had a PG rating and the trailer for it was fairly benign.  Eventually, the Motion Pictures Association of America would site Gremlins (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) as two of the movies that influenced the creation of the PG-13 rating. The rating indicates that parents are strongly cautioned that material in the movie may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13. And that "there may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence." Which brings us to the reason for this post.

The December issue of the the journal Pediatrics explores violence in films. Their research indicates that violence has more than doubled since 1950, gun violence in PG-13 films has more than tripled since 1985 and since 2009, PG-13-rated films have contained as much violence as R-rated films.


Although part of me is glad that we have the MPAA rating guidelines in the U.S., I don't completely trust them when it comes to what my son is/will be allowed to watch. (Someone will have to leave me info about rating systems in other countries in the comments - I would be interested to learn how they work and if parents trust them.) My son is still really little, and I am very picky about what he watches. I know he is far from able to handle the death scene in the Lion King or the first 5 minutes of Finding Nemo, but for movies that I haven't seen already, I rely on other parents. I especially like Parent Previews for their in-depth information and reviews about the movies we think our son might like to see. I also like to use them for a prompt about movie content I may have forgotten about.

What about your household? What movies were you nervous about letting your child see for the first time?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Let's learn something: How to ground ourselves

Background image by Shawn Campbell
My Dearest Son,

You are not even four-years-old yet, but already you've learned so many things: How to walk, talk, use the bathroom, sing, play with friends, make pb&j sandwiches, ride a bike and so much more. And I know that you have plenty of other things to learn between now and the time you will leave me for college.

Yes, I know I just said "college." I am aware that college is many years away. Do I expect you to college? Yes, absolutely. I want you to have an excellent education even though the price of tuition by the time you will be ready to go frightens me immeasurably. (But, you are completely worth it, and I am preparing to pay for a share of your education now.) Even if you put it off for a few years and want to travel the world or something first, I will still encourage you to go. But I will stop at "encouragement."

You see, I will not force you to go, because by that point in your life you will be an adult. And as an adult, you should be capable of making your own decisions by then. If you can't, then I feel as though I will have failed you as a parent. I see lots of stories of helicopter parents following their children to college and then even to the workplace, and that honestly scares me. (Parents calling professors about grades and talking to HR at prospective companies? Yikes!)

Part of letting you grow up is letting you fail, letting you learn the consequence of your own decisions and teaching you how to think through choices before you make them. By the time you get to adulthood, hopefully you won't need me anymore (but, just for the record, I'll still be around to support you - I am your mother, after all.)

I know that we've already started this process: You decide what you want to wear to school every day, you decide between lunch choices, you choose your next activity. And in the years to come I am going to continue to give you more choices, more freedom and more responsibilities. It won't be easy (for either of us), but it is something I am promising you know: I'm going to learn to let you go a little. It's something my mother did for me (thanks, Mom), and it's something I can do for you.

I love you, and because of that, I am letting you go a little every day so you can become your own person: One choice at a time. 

Your Mommy

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Grandparents are awesome and necessary and maybe even crucial to evolution

My son is lucky enough to have three sets of grandparents, and they all love him immeasurably. He has individual names for all of them (Grandma & Grandpa, Nana & GrandBob, Pap-Pap and Anya), and he relishes his time with each of them. He talks to them on the phone, sees them in person whenever possible and looks at pictures of them as I tell him stories. We talk often about how important they are in his life.

And it looks like grandparents are becoming more important in a lot of lives. According to the AARP, across the United States, nearly 7.8 million children are living in homes with grandparents present, 4.9 million live in grandparent-headed households, and 2.6 million live in homes where the grandparents say they are the primary caregivers. Obviously, the recession saw a lot more combined families and the need to fall back on grandparents as a safety net. So we are all incredibly lucky that grandparents today are living longer and have the resources available to fill in the family gaps when they appear.

But even those of us who are not living with a grandparent can take a moment to appreciate them for the role they play in our children's lives. When I first had my son, I used to admonish my mother for spoiling him. After reading The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruice Feiler, however, I learned that spoiling grandchildren is what she is supposed to do (and wow, is she good at it!) I save her and myself a lot of stress by implementing a "Nana's house, Nana's rules" attitude when we visit her. 

Grandparents are special. (Evidence even suggests that grandmothers were even a crucial step to human evolution, as they watched younger children when mothers had new babies.) Let's celebrate them, appreciate them and love them for who they are - whether they are a hands-on grandparent who hides treasures in the backyard or a natural born teacher who wants to waltz with their grandchild. Thanks for being there for all of us! Also: What do you guys want for Christmas?

What do you love about your child's relationship with their grandparents?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An instrumental way to improve your child's hearing...eventually

Image by tracky_birthday
As any mother of a three-year-old knows, you spend a lot of your time asking your child, "Are you listening to me?" (The answer, by the way, is almost always 'no.' Children have much better things going on than listening to their mother.) One way to improve your child's hearing may be to give them music lessons.

Yup. Researchers at Northwestern University have found that people who took music lessons in their early years actually have better hearing capabilities throughout their lives. That is pretty cool.

(So, I guess at this point I should say thank you, Mom, for all those piano lessons with Sister Statler. She was a lovely - albeit ancient - nun and totally worth your investment. Also, I should say that I'm sorry, Mom, that I didn't keep up with it.)

But what does this mean for parents? Does this mean that your three- or four-year old will suddenly start paying attention when you start talking? Ha, ha, no. (Seriously, did you think that for even a second? You are so funny with your hope and your optimism!) But what it does mean is that in addition to all the other amazing things learning an instrument can bring your child (help with math, patience, dedication), you can also add better hearing to the list.

What instrument did you learn to play as a child? What instrument do you wish you played now?

P.S. I am terribly sorry about the awful pun in the title. I couldn't help myself; I was weak.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My backseat driver can't see over the steering wheel

Image by mkrigsman.
I'm an average driver: I've never had an accident or even a ticket. I consider myself to be safe and alert when on the road (at least most of the time). Being a mom has just increased my sense of safety. And it's not because I am carrying precious cargo; it's because whenever I am driving anywhere, I have to pay extra close attention to respond to the endless remarks of my backseat driver. 

These are things I regularly hear from the backseat:
  • What does that sign say?
  • How fast are we going?
  • You forgot to turn on your turning signal. 
  • Do you see the red brake lights on the car in front of you?
  • The yellow lights mean slow down, Mommy.
  • Where are we going?
  • What road are we on again?
  • Is this going to be a short trip or a long trip?
  • I think the park is to the left.
  • Can I see the map? 
  • It's time for us to play some of my music now.
  • You should have a drink in the car for me at all times.
  • Do you have any snacks?
  • I wish you would let me drive.
In addition to all this, my son has fallen in love with Emily, which is the name I've given to the GPS in my car. (Everyone names their GPS, right? I can't be the only one.) He wants to hear her at all times, as though he doesn't trust me to get us where we need to go. Even to the places we travel every day. If I dare to go a different way than Emily dictates (because of traffic or to get gas), then I hear an explosion of unhappiness from the backseat.

I'm also thanked randomly for strange things that I didn't know he was paying attention to. "Thank you for parking in my favorite parking space, Mommy," or "This is my favorite way to get to home; thank you for going this way," or "I'm really glad we took the Mommy Bus today." (As opposed to the Daddy Wagon.) At least he is polite.

The upside to all of this is that I know my son is paying attention. And that means that I have no trouble remembering my little mantra of making sure we are all safe when we are in the car. Because whenever I forget, he will remind me. From the backseat.

Do you have a backseat driver in your car?

Monday, November 11, 2013

What age did you introduce your child to technology?

I remember the evening very clearly: We were out with my in-laws at a very popular Chinese food chain restaurant. It was packed with people and from the time we arrived until the time we got our food, it took almost two hours.

And my son, who was only about 22 months old at the time, was quiet and contented when the food finally arrived - all because he was playing an animal noise matching game on my phone. 

Did I hand him my phone right away? No. We talked, played hand games, colored, read a book, folded paper into origami shapes, told him a story, played with the fleet of cars that lives in my purse and about a dozen other things to keep him occupied before I finally handed over my phone. I do not regret that moment - it kept him calm in a loud and difficult situation.

After that night, I started to wonder if he was too young to have access to technology. So, I was interested to read that 38% of children under the age of 2 use mobile media. Yes, I am aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents should bar all screen time - including mobile devices - for children under 2, but I also recognize that the world is rapidly changing. When my son does get his eyes on a screen - be it television or a video game on my computer - it is almost always educational and it is under parental supervision. (And I am trying really hard for it to not be my phone.) Do I slip up? Of course.

The important thing is that my husband and I discussed media use in our household and came up with a policy that works for us, and I encourage you to do the same. As our son has gotten older, the rules have changed a bit. But as long as we communicate those changes to him, I think we are doing OK. 

What about you? What age did you introduce your child to technology? And what is the policy in your household for screen time?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Got something yummy to share?

To all my food blogger friends and chefs debonair:

I need your help. I am on a mission to try 100 new recipes in the next year. I have lots of recipe books and websites to help me, but I thought I would reach out to the experts: Other moms.

I'm looking for tried-and-true meals to surprise and/or delight my family. Can you share a favorite recipe with me in the comments or (even better) post a link to your favorite recipe? It could be a dinner dish, a breakfast tradition or even a lunch idea...all would be welcome.

If I try one of your meals, I'll list you on my home page sidebar and definitely comment on your site (I'll probably even follow you with the hopes that you will lead me to even more yummy dishes).

Image by Shawn Carpenter
Here are some made up FAQs to help submit recipes:
  1. Does your family have any allergies?
    No. Thankfully we are food allergy-free. We are all omnivorous although someone is picky about onions (but is fine if I substitute onion powder).
  2. I have a great dessert for you to try.
    I am sure it is divine, so please do not send it to me. We are trying to eat a little healthier this year, so I prefer the meals to be non-desserts.
  3. Any other restrictions?
    No pasta-based meals, please. We love pasta and I've accumulated a dozen too many pasta dishes, so I'm looking for something a little different.
  4. Do you have a crock pot?
    Yes, and if you gave me a some direction of what to put into it, we could become BFFs. I love my crock pot and make a fabulous chili in it, but it gets lonely and needs me to cook more things in it.
  5. Do you like peanut butter?
    Yes. Yes. Yes!
Thank you so  much for your help!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Let's learn something: The Mom appreciation game

Background image by Shawn Campbell
Our family is fairly laid-back. My husband and I are incredibly fortunate that our son somehow inherited all of our good genes and relatively few of our evil ones (and there were lots of the evil ones to go around).

But we all have bad days. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar or has an extreme case of denial. When we have bad days in my house, I like to play the "When my Mother was my age" game for a little perspective. You can play, too (preferably with your own mother or other parent of choice, not with mine.)

Here's how to play:
  1. Determine what was going on in your mother's life when she was the same age as you are right now. If you are unsure of what was going on in your mother's life during that time, I think we both know that you owe your mother a phone call. Yes, I am serious. Call your mother and ask her. It'll make her day.
  2. Realize that what you have going on right now is comparatively not as bad as the life and times that your mother went through.
  3. Enjoy your life. (At this point you may want to call your mother and apologize.)
For example, I might say:
When my mother was my age, she had a 14-year-old son and an 11-year old daughter. She was going through a divorce and working long hours at a job she was overqualified for to send me to a private school and to support us in general. She was also budgeting to save enough money to buy all our Christmas gifts without using any credit cards. In addition to all that, she regularly encouraged our friends to come over on her rare weekends off to play, and she taught me how to cook. There was no household Internet or regular cell phone use, and Roseanne was the top show on television (but we weren't allowed to watch it because it wasn't considered a nice family show).

Suddenly my three-year-old's stubbornness doesn't seem so bad now. Excuse me while I go call my mother to apologize.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hey Mom: Keep your eyes on the road

Image by mkrigsman
Your little one is in the back seat of your car. Where is your rear view mirror pointed? At the back windshield or at your child?

The Monash University Accident Research Centre released a study that indicates Australian drivers spend almost 20 percent of their drive time distracted by children. Although no other country-specific study exists, I have no doubt that parents of other countries also have this bad habit.

We've all done it: Even we parents who are really good about not answering our cell phones while driving have reached back to push some dirty sneakers off our seats or open a snack or help with a fallen toy.

And we need to stop. Since my son was very little, I've made a habit of asking him if everyone was buckled up for safety before starting the car. But, from now on, I am going to add this to my speech:
Is everyone buckled up for safety? Great! Remember that while the car is moving, Mommy needs to keep her eyes on the road. That means that if you need help with something, you'll have to wait until I can stop the car first. This is to keep us safe on the road and other cars safe, too.
Cheesy? Probably. But maybe my saying it will remind both him and me that in our family, safety comes first.

Hopefully you've never had an accident from distracted driving, but please feel free to confess your bad car habits in the comments. (We won't judge you.)
parents spent almost 20 percent of their journey turning around or looking in the rear-view mirror to check on the kids
parents spent almost 20 percent of their journey turning around or looking in the rear-view mirror to check on the kids

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

As a woman, I'm not really qualified to write about this

I'll be upfront about this - I am not qualified to write about circumcision. And it's because I am a woman. But I want to talk about it anyway.

The Center for Disease Control reports that the choice to circumcise boys is on the decline in the U.S. The study doesn't point to an exact reason, but experts hypothesize that ethnic make-up, concern over care after the procedure and a growing movement by groups like Intact America are part of the decline.

That's all great to read, but soon-to-be parents of boys have to go through the very real process of making a very personal decision that will affect their son for his entire life. And, oddly, other people like to give you their opinion on circumcision and want to know what you've decided. That needs to stop.

When my husband and I learned we were going to have a son, we had the "to cut or not to cut" discussion. Although I had my opinion on the subject, ultimately, I let my husband take the lead on the conversation. Because, frankly, as a man he had more knowledge on the subject and could give me an outlook that I wouldn't have no matter how many articles I read on the topic.

So, we made our decision and haven't thought about it since (well, until today when I saw the study).

I'm not trying to influence anyone on the topic of circumcision one way or another. What I am doing is telling people that it is none of your business to ask what other parents decide for their son. And women, listen to your husband on this topic - he has the inside track and your son's best interests at heart.

Monday, November 4, 2013

This media stuff is complicated

I write a lot about screen time. I never intended to, but stuff just keeps popping up, like moms being distracted by their phones, or distracted walkers becoming a serious problem with teens and children, or that there seems to be little evidence about the educational value of phone games and apps. that last one true?

Researches from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development now claim that playing games can make your brain more powerful.

The study found that people who played at least 30 minutes of Mario 64 every day for two months actually grew significant amounts of new gray matter in three areas of the brain correlated with spatial navigation, strategic planning, working memory, and motor performance.


Their research, of course, is geared more toward theraputic interventions on psychiatric disorders and on adults, but all the same, I can't help but think video games may help children with their motor control skills, memory and visual mapping (depending on the system you play.)

So, what's a mom to do? 

This mom is going to go with the wisdom of her mother (thanks, Mom) and many other women before her and stick with the mantra of "all things in moderation." Sometimes, children just need to play and we don't need to worry if it is good for them or not. So, go and save the princess, Mario. (But, do your homework first.)

What's the video game policy in your house?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The cat doesn't understand daylight savings time & Moms are people too

Our cat (who we love) is on a diet. And she is hungry. HUNGRY! She knows that Mom will be the one who is going to get up and feed her. I woke at 6 am, which (thanks to the end of daylight savings time) was really 5 am, and decided I might as well stay up and enjoy the extra hour of my day.

As Moms, we cherish our time to ourselves. If we have any free time in our schedules, we think about the things we have to get done and the myth of getting some extra sleep and all the little things in between. Our days are made up of chores, activities, routines, work, play, education and sleep.

With all of that going on, we forget that we deserve time to ourselves.

When my son was born, he was the center of my world - especially the first year when I breast fed him. But now that he is a little older, he can play on his own for longer periods of time, and I can focus on something else.

I have memories of my mother doing other activities - gardening, writing, meeting up with friends - activities that did not include me. And that is how I learned that Moms are people, too. (So, thanks, Mom!) I started carving out my own time with my 100 challenge. I thought it would take all year, but I've finished reading 100 books. Now, I need 100 of something else. (Yes, I will still be reading.) 

I encourage you all to try it: Challenge yourself to a new hobby, or take the challenge and complete 100 of something:
  • Complete 100 puzzles.
  • Write 100 blog posts.
  • Plant 100 trees.
  • Journal 100 pages.
  • Create 100 pictures.
  • Knit 100 scarves.
Just do something new and that is separate from actively being a Mom. Does 100 sound like a lot? Don't think of it as 100 - think of it as 2 per week and you'll be so happy when you finish to see what you've accomplished. Do it for yourself (get back in touch with the person you were before you had children). Do it for your spouse (so you have something new to talk about before you both fall asleep on the couch.) Do it for your children (so they learn that Mom is really an amazing complex person).

As for me, I'm going to try out 100 new recipes next. Since I'm up early, I think I'll start with breakfast.

Let me know what you are going to do in the comments.