Friday, August 29, 2014

Footing the bill for college

A decade from now when my son does an Internet search on me and comes across this blog, I want him to read this post in which I state the following:

I love you, and I am not footing your entire college bill.

This is not just because by the time my son will be in school, a college education will be around $200,000. It's because I want to teach you some personal responsibility. And I want you to have values. And character.

OK. It's mostly about the money.

But, at least we are talking about it. It turns out that most parents are not talking about splitting the bill with their children. Children believe that their parents will foot the entire bill for their education, and parents have different ideas in mind. And that's a lot of money that no one is talking about.

I went through college in less than four years. I had scholarships and grants and worked hard in school to keep them to knock some money off the final price tag. I also had student loans and my wonderful mother paid them off until I left school and then they became my responsibility.

But that is the point - I knew that was the plan because she talked to me about it ahead of time. While I was in school, it was my job to be a good student. When I came out, it was my job to be an adult. And I am really thankful she talked to me about it beforehand so I was in on the plan.

Thanks, Mom.

So, son: We're going to talk about money. Because it's your education and you need to help pay for it. Let's work on a plan together.

Who foot the bill for your education? Tell me in the comments.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Just five more minutes, Mom

As mentioned before, when it comes to mornings, I am awake and ready to go. This ability served me well in middle school and high school when I was responsible for getting myself awake, dressed and to school (via the bus or my own two feet) on time. I set my own alarm and I didn't hit the snooze button.
I know that there are other bees out there like me, just not a lot of them are teenagers.

Most of us learn (usually when our teen years are over) that teenagers actually need more sleep than adults, and they are getting much less than what they should be getting. (Are you thinking back to your teenage years right now? Are you yawning?)

I wasn't really surprised when I read the American Academy of Pediatrics was advocating pushing back the start times of school from 8 am to at least 8:30 am to allow students get more sleep. And, on the surface, it all makes sense.

But I remember being a teenager; and I remember being up late at night for various clubs, activities, homework and other random reasons. So, maybe that should be addressed as well. Teens who do too much in the evening hours are cutting into their sleep on that end, too. I'm not sure that a later school start is the only answer here.

Every school day when I wake my son I am greeted with a sleepy, "Mommy, can you let me sleep for just a few more minutes?" which is funny to me, because my son is too little to tell time and doesn't know what a "minute" is. But he is not too little to tell me that he needs more sleep.

Must be time to take another look at our bedtimes.

What time does your little one go to bed? What about you? When is your bedtime? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Taking care of Mom and Dad

My son likes to remind me that he is my only child. He'll snuggle in my arms and say, "you are just my mommy - no one else has you for a mommy but me." It's possessive and sweet and it comes with a lot of responsibility that he doesn't understand yet.

Being a single child, he will feel lots of pressures in his life, whether I want him to or not. For example, he is the last in the line of my husband's family, so it will be up to him to carry on the family name. And he will be the only one around to help my husband and I make decisions when we are older.

Both of those scenarios are a long way into the future, but I thought about the burden this places on my son after reading the Princeton study that says daughters do much more of the care giving for elderly parents than sons do. At first glance the numbers look pretty grim - daughters provide more than twice as much of their time per month than sons do. And if there is a brother and a sister around to provide care, sons do even less. But, when you dig through the numbers a bit more (it's all based on self-reported data), you'll find that men don't always separate "care giving activities" from "being a good son." So it's hard to tell where the story actually lies.

For me, I don't want to place the burden of responsibility on my son. I want to have a plan in place, so that when he wants to talk to me about my future I'm ready. I know I have a while before this all happens, but it's good to know that I will still be able to ease his fears when he is older. Because that's what mommies do.

Are you stuck in the middle of taking care of your children and your parents? How do you balance your ability to care for both? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Oh! You have a blog?

I don't broadcast my blog as much as I probably should. So, when I do mention it to friends or families and give a brief explanation of what it is about (news that all parents could use), I usually get one of the following reactions:
  •'s a mom blog then. That's nice. Change of subject.
  • You know what you should write about? You should write about <insert subject matter I would never write about here>.
I completely understand the first reaction. Parenting blogs aren't for everyone. In fact, I rarely mention my parenting blog to non-parents. I usually mention my other blog, which is actually my beloved, but often neglected podcast.

The second reaction usually reveals some insight into the person that I am talking to. I have learned about my friends' previously hidden political ideologies, conspiracy theories and new age thought processes from whatever they are telling me to write about. Some of them should get their own blog just so I can learn more about their crazy ideas. I'm fascinated, but it's not for me.

Then there is my husband, who reads my blog avidly to make sure I don't talk about him too much (just kidding, honey). Even he likes to make casual remarks along the lines of, "There's a blog post somewhere in this," whenever anything unusual happens at home. Sometimes there is a future post idea; most of the time there is not. (Sorry, honey, I'm not writing a post around the "pooping song.")

I started this blog a year ago, and I am happy to still be writing it. I've learned a lot after starting this blog - both about myself and about what my readers like:
And that makes me happy. Because it means we are interested in the same things. One year into this and I want to keep it going.

What's your mood toward your blog these days? A pleasure or a chore? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Apparently, I've peaked

I went on a date with my son. For five hours we hung out together, I introduced him to the Lego store, we ate ice cream, he went on a carousel ride and we bought some books. He told me that he wanted to go on another date with me soon because he was "happiest with Mommy."

I love spending time with him - he is affectionate, snarky, funny and my buddy. I came back from our outing in a fantastic mood and then read a study about how my happiness level supposedly peaked about a decade ago and that I was now at an age where women experience the most stress.

And I laughed so hard.

Here's the thing I love about studies: They don't always apply to everyone. So, when I read that study about how women in their 20s generally have more discretionary income and fewer responsibilities, I didn't get it. I was pretty broke in my 20s, and working a pretty tough job. More than a decade later, I find myself with a much better working situation, a better income, an amazing husband and a kid who cracks me up. Do I get stressed sometimes? Absolutely. But, most of the time, I'm ridiculously happy.

This is one case for me where a study just doesn't apply.

Little things like games of Uno, snuggles and a pb&j all make me smile. What about you? Are you happier now then you were in your 20s? What age do you think you peaked in your stress level? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Where did that skill come from?

Like a lot of parents, I often think about the nature/nurture influences on my son. In addition to his daddy's captivating eyes will he inherit a love of playing music, too? My little guy has already showed some proficiency at telling stories like his Mom, but will that skill continue as he grows older?

And what about these traits that don't seem to come from my husband or me? The sudden bursts of athleticism? Where did those come from?

Turns out, nobody knows for certain.

Researchers have studied the kinds of talent that span several generations for years to determine if creativity is really something that is handed down. This research often sparks the old debate: Is creativity linked to our genes and a hereditary trait or is it the result of the environment that we are exposed to?

It's intriguing to see researchers create tests to support their theories. The latest one in the link above deals around creative writing and finds that families tend to have similarly minded creative links - even among spouses. So, that would support the nurture theory more than the nature one.

But I like that it's not a clear cut science. It is fun to think that my son still has all this amazing potential locked away inside him and that at any moment he could surprise us with some hidden skill or secret knowledge.

What special talent do you have that is not in common with your family members? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hey, Dads: Is this really worth arguing over?

My husband and I were friends for years before we became a couple. All those years of friendship added up to lots of funny stories about mutual friends and was a great way to determine how compatible we are. Since the time of our transition from buddies to spouses, we've had relatively few arguments. Sure there are areas where we don't always see eye-to-eye, but overall, we are on the same page.

We knew that being a united team was important before having our son. I had no idea how significant it would become for his relationship with our child.

Lots of parents either avoid fighting in front of their children, or they will let their children hear them fight "fairly" using non-blaming language. (Or so I hear...I've never seen this successfully used in a real world scenario - just on TV shows and in movies.)

But when parents do fight, there is negative spillover for their children. And, as it turns out, these negative feelings strain a child's relationship with their father much longer than it will with their mother.

A study had moms and dad keep separate diaries of their lives for several weeks. When analyzed, they found that the father's relationship with his children after an argument with mom were more adversely affected for days afterward. Moms, on the other hand, were able to deflect the negative fallout much faster. The researchers who conducted the study believe that moms are better equipped to compensate for any marital tension than dads are.

Now, I am not saying that spouses shouldn't argue, because that is unhealthy and sometimes you need to air your feelings, but maybe we should be asking this question first: Is this worth arguing about?

I'm thinking that in most cases, the answer will probably be, "No," and everyone can go about their day a little happier.

Money, sex and housework are three of the top subjects couples argue over. What is one of the more ridiculous things you've argued with your spouse over? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, August 18, 2014


There were a lot of considerations that went into trying to find the right name for our son. We wanted something unique, but not crazy. Something that was meaningful to us, but wouldn't set him up for a lifetime of trying to explain his name to others.

And since then, I've learned lots of interesting things about how others perceive us by our names. And there are some pretty cool tools out there to help parents pinpoint naming trends.

One thing I didn't see coming was the ability to choose a child's name based off its domain availability. Yup, that's a thing now.

You can use the handy tool to type in the names you are thinking of (first and last) and see if the domain is available. And, of course, you can purchase the domain if it isn't taken.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. Sure, I've heard of parents getting domains and setting up social media accounts for their children, so maybe this is just one more gift that you could snag before the baby is born. (But what if you want the sex to be a surprise? Should you just snap up both names you are thinking of?)

My son is one-of-a-kind in every way - including his name. But I don't think I'll be buying his domain for him anytime soon. I'll let him make that decision for himself when he gets older.

What about you? Any interest in getting a domain name certificate before you get the birth certificate? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dinner for one: Eating by yourself

I know several moms who have multiple children with active schedules. Those Moms spend their evenings and weekends chauffeuring their children to various sports activities, musical activities and dance lessons. I'm always amazed by that (think of the planning and coordination that takes), and I usually have one question for them: Where do you find the time for dinner?

This is usually followed by a sigh or a slight shake of the head and an admission that it is a struggle. I've heard stories of multiple dinners, protein-filled snacks and dinner-on-the-go. There is not a simple answer.

Turns out, meals are a struggle for a lot of families. A recent study by the NPD Group report indicates that only 50 percent of families with kids eat dinner together 5 nights a week. (I sincerely hope that the rest of those families aren't stuck in a car driving between activities.)

The same study also has some interesting stats around solo dining: More than 50 percent of meals by everyone included in the study are taking place on a solo basis.

Why are we eating alone? Several reasons:
  • About 27 percent of households now consist of a single person.
  • Breakfast is squeezed into various morning routines, so people come and go from the table.
  • Lunch is based on quick and easy options.
I don't have much control of meals during the work week, although we do eat dinner together as a family almost every night. But weekends are another matter. My husband, who is a bit of a bear, usually doesn't join my son and I for breakfast. And I try to make sure we are all having at least one lunch together during the weekend. A lot of times chores just get in the way.

I like eating meals with my son. Mostly because we can bond over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and he tells me amazing stories and crazy ideas. It's time for him to sit still and for him to have my complete attention. I don't want to lose that.

It's time to take back our meals.

What runaway meal do you want to take back control of? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When families collide

I've got family on my mind.

I live close to my Mother (you're welcome, Mom). But most of my extended family lives in an area of the country that requires a 9-hour car drive. (And, if you have ever been in the car for nine hours with a talkative child, you know that the full drive time feels closer to 30 hours.)

But I digress.

I'm between family reunions right now. By that I mean that we just returned from an annual one for my father's side of the family (although we usually only attend every other year), and there is also an upcoming reunion with my mother's side of the family. Whenever I get to spend time with all my aunts, uncles and cousins I feel warm and accepted. And like a horrible family member.

But more on that in a moment.

After I returned from the first reunion, I came across this study on multi-generational households. Evidently, over 18% of the population is now living in a multi-generational household. It's important to note that for the purposes of the study, students living in dorms and young adults under the age of 24 were excluded (unless they were sharing a household with more than one other generation). What really interested me was that young men were more likely than women to live with multiple generations under one roof.

Why did this study capture my attention? Well, most of my extended family lives near each other and they always know what is going on in each other's lives. From the outside, they seem very interconnected. Part of me really admires that, and the rest of me has gotten used to the big yearly visits.

After a brief stay, and lots of "we wish you lived closer" comments and hearing about the details that make up their lives, I feel like I should make more of an effort to communicate with my extended family.

After all, I have a habit of doing nice things for my work family, why don't I make that effort with my extended family?

I feel another project coming on.

In the meantime, who in your family do you need to get in touch with more often? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Who is smarter in your marriage?

My husband and I have different educational backgrounds. I really enjoyed all my years of school, made excellent grades and went off to complete college in less than four years. My husband's experience was different as he doesn't have many fond memories of classes.

Turns out we are a pretty typical modern-day couple.

A study in the American Sociological Review has been taking a look at marriages formed between 1950 and 2004. It has determined that marriages between couples with the same level of education is the most common, but when there is a difference between education levels, women are nowadays more likely than men to have the higher level of learning.

For marriages that fell in the beginning of that spectrum - from the 1950s through the late 1970s - women who were more educated then their partners were more likely to have that marriage end in divorce. But such marriages that fall after 1990 with a more educated women show no higher divorce rates than other types of couples.

What does all this mean? Are we possibly getting rid of that stereotype that a man has to be smarter than his wife? Although we still have a long way to go toward equality and flexibility in marriages (like chores, for example), this is a great first step.

Reading this study made me think about my own marriage. Even though our feelings toward education are different, I would say that my husband and I are equally intelligent - but about different subjects. And that is what is important to me: My husband has a thirst for knowledge in some specific fields that he enjoys. A lot of times these fields don't overlap with what I enjoy learning about, but I'm happy about that outcome. Hopefully, in the future, my son will be able to glean knowledge from each of us and become a well rounded individual.

What about you? Who is the more educated partner in your household? Or are you educational equals? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Parents: Stop calling your kids

I would like to issue an overdue apology to my five roommates in college: I'm sorry I wouldn't answer the phone. Back in the pre-cell phone days (you know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth), a call would come into the dorm room phone, and I wouldn't move to answer it.

This drove my roomies nuts. How could I not want to answer a ringing phone?

It seems I haven't changed. I'll be playing with my son today and my phone will ping indicating that I have a text message. And this conversation will ensue:

"Mommy, your phone made a noise."
"I know. It's just a message."
"Don't you want to answer it?"
"Nope. I can answer the phone later. Right now I am playing with you."

And my son will smile at me.

Turns out my phone avoidance is actually a good thing. You see, my son is going to mimic my phone behavior. And it's good for me to teach him to not answer his phone every time it makes a noise. Especially when he is driving.

New research by Parallel Consulting has found that up to half of teens talking on their cell phone while they are driving are talking to their mom or dad.


I think whatever that conversation is, it can wait.

How about you? How often do you talk on the phone while you drive? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, August 8, 2014

There is now a happiness equation

Whenever I used to ask my mother what she wanted for a birthday or Christmas, she would always answer the same thing: "Nothing." If pressed, she would tell me that all she wanted was for us to be happy.

It's the sort of non-answer that a lot of Moms give. Yes, parents want their children to be happy, although we have to realize that we aren't responsible for their happiness. But how do you teach happiness or even know what is going to cause it?

Researchers at the University London College have been studying happiness, and they've actually created a formula that accurately predicts people's happiness levels. I can't replicate the formula here, but you can see it in the article by Time magazine.

Despite my best attempts at becoming a math genius, I need all those numbers translated into English for me. The basics of the findings report that to be happier, we need to lower our expectations (which sounds a lot like the marriage advice study) and that if we have positive expectations for an event, that those expectations will increase our eventual happiness level.

Fantastic. We've cracked the code. How do we teach that to our children? I, for one, am not about to crush my son's dreams of flying a flame car that shoots out candy to everyone by telling him to lower his expectations. So, here's what I am doing instead:
  • Vocalize happiness before and during activities. We play games as a family. And there is a little smack talk involved about who will win or lose, but there are also a lot of smiles as we play together. I just need to throw in a few, "I can't waits" and "This is so fun" while I lose at Uno.
  • Ask questions. I am going to start to ask my son more about what he likes to do and what makes him happy.
  • Be careful about building things up. In my search for finding adventures in the everyday moments, sometimes I get my son too excited. Like the time that we took him to the passport office and he had to engage with government employees that fit their negative stereotypes perfectly.
But happiness is bigger than my immediate family. I may have to reach out to my Mom (fair warning, Mom) and ask her what makes her happy. And my coworkers. And my friends.

What about you? What makes you happy? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A boy not meant for vegetables

When faced with vegetables, my son has come up with a go-to phrase:

"I'm just not meant to eat vegetables, Mommy."

It's funny, but at the same time, we need to expand his horizons. I've tried several things:
  • Serving vegetables in yummy forms. Zucchini bread and carrot cake are delicious, but they still have lots of sugar in them.
  • Pointing out vegetables that he does eat. Like potatoes (in French fry and pierogi form).
  • Hiding them in other foods. But I'm tired of pureeing carrots.
  • Peer pressure and psychological statements. He's become too smart to fall for "big kids like vegetables" and "don't eat them, that way there will be more for me and Daddy."
Turns out, I'm doing it all wrong. I should say nothing.

Researchers from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University found that children were more likely to eat vegetables when there were no associations made with the food. Basically, children were more likely to eat carrots when they were told nothing about them versus when they were told that carrots would help them grow strong or have great eyesight.

So, serve the vegetables on the plate and say nothing.

This may work well for younger children, but my son has already made food associations and believes that he wasn't meant for vegetables. Still, I have hope that this same method will eventually work out. I'll just put the veggies on the table where he can serve them to himself and then say nothing else about them.

If that doesn't work, I'll be at the food processor, pureeing some spinach if you need me.

What vegetables won't you eat as an adult? Tell me in the comments. (I won't tell your mother.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How does a pterodactyl say I love you?

There is a video of my son at seven months old. He is in his high chair with a sippy cup in front of him. In the video I ask him, "What does a baby pterodactyl say?" And he proceeds to screech and giggle in a manner that I find faintly Jurassic and very funny.

Since then, I have learned a lot about being a parent. And, thanks to my son, I have also learned lots about dinosaurs. (For example, I now know that "pterodactyl" is really just the informal name bestowed upon all pterosaurs.)

Recently I've learned that my son was probably really trying to communicate with me in those prehistoric screeches.

Research by the University of Washington has found that babies as young as seven months are "rehearsing" how to respond to their parents' voices. Evidently, their language centers light up with ways to respond to Mom and Dad, even though they can't vocally make the actual responses yet.

And that is pretty cool.

For me, it just makes that moment where my son said his first word (mama), all that more amazing.

What was your child's first word? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I survived being unpopular

We moved several times in my childhood, which meant that I had to start over in a new school several times. Although I did my best to fit in, I never made long-term friends this way. I can't really say, "We've been friends since childhood," about anyone. I had friends for a few years, tried to stay in touch, but we always lost each other along the path of growing up.

I'm sure starting those new schools made me more resilient or helped me build character or something like that, but one thing it didn't do for me was make me popular. I was a very smart, ordinary looking Catholic school girl. This information neither helped me when I moved in between schools or when I made the transition from Catholic school to public school.

But you know what? It was OK. I was used to having a small circle of friends - people that I trusted and who actually wanted my company. I'm sure the whole thing made me become more comfortable in my own skin.

Turns out that there is a recent study that looks at the popularity-seeking behaviors of middle school students, including intense romantic relationships, basing relationships on attractiveness and hanging out with an older crowd. These behaviors, according to the study, lead to greater instances in long-term difficulties in relationships and potential problems with substance abuse.

That seems like a lot of links to infer from one study, so I would think that more research is needed, but it does bring up the idea that in addition to all those other topics we should be talking to our children about (security, sex and being nice), we should add popularity to the list.

Were you cool in school? Tell me about it in the comments.