Friday, July 29, 2016

The height I once was

I am shrinking.

I take a bone supplement every day, try to walk more often to stretch out my stuffed-behind-a-desk-all-day body and even recently got a new mattress, and yet, I am shrinking.

I'm sure it was happening gradually all along, but the problem is I hadn't had my height officially measured in a long time. And then a few weeks ago, I participated in a health screening where they officially took my height and I was shorter than I expected.

"It happens to all of us," the nurse said.

The nurse, who seemed like a calm, rational individual, didn't seem to think it was a big deal, but it does bother me more than I would like.

Since then, I've noticed that a few of my trouser hems drag a little, whereas before they were the perfect length - a constant reminder that gravity is slowly dragging me down to its level with every step I take.

I should take some comfort in the fact that adults overall have reached their peak heights some years ago and are averaging out much shorter than in the previous decade. But no, that didn't help.

What finally did help was my son, who likes to measure his height against my body. He is now at my sternum and was so excited that he said he would be taller than me when he grew up.

"Will you reach the things off the high shelves for me that I can't reach anymore?" I asked him.

"Of course, Mommy. I would do anything for you." he said.

I feel better now.

What height did you always wish you were? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The way we play

My brother recently texted me a photo of a wooden critter playset and asked if I had something similar to that when I was little. I affirmed for him that I was the proud owner of many Sylvanian Families: Skunks, foxes, bears, squirrels - I had them all (thanks, Mom!). I adored these woodland, hard-working creatures and their plastic-molded dollhouse homes. I recall that at one point I the owl family living with the mouse family in a harmonic utopia. 

But that is what I liked to do when I was little - play dollhouse. And, honestly, my tastes haven't changed that much because I still like playing the Sims in which I create people and their homes and direct their lives and they have to do what I tell them to do. (No one should read too much into that.)

When my son was born, we bought him a variety of gender-neutral toys. But soon, he began showing a preference for trucks, which lead to my learning the name of every construction truck known to mankind so I could be ready to discuss it with him at a moment's notice.

The point is that my son chose what he wanted to play with. And most children learn to chose their own toys when they are around nine months of age. Researchers are now discovering that sometimes it doesn't matter the range of gender-neutral toys you provide children to play with, because children will play with whatever they want to play with

So you shouldn't freak out if your daughter chooses to play with dolls or with cars. You should let your son play with the kitchen set or with the ball. The point is to just let them play.

What was a favorite childhood toy of yours? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The color of your urine

At some point in my twenties, I learned that my urine should always be really light yellow - never dark. I vividly remember reading that but can't recall where. For some reason, out of all the health advise I've collected (and forgotten) over the years, that piece has stayed with me: If the color is too dark, you need to drink more water.

I keep a reusable water bottle at my desk which I fill every morning. And my water drinking routine begins: Open emails (take a sip), go to a meeting (sip, sip, sip), come back from the bathroom (sip)...until all the water is gone.

I was happy to learn that after all these years, this one guideline still holds true about water consumption.

Now I have to figure out how to teach my son to check his pee color.

Let me explain: I have noticed during the summer months that as he plays outside, he doesn't always realize that he is hot and thirsty. (He's distracted by all that fun, I guess.) So, he needs a signal to see that his body needs more water.

Since he is six, this may be a good time to introduce the concept of checking urine color: Body functions are still fascinating to him, and since I finally see him closing the bathroom door more often than not, I want to have him continue his journey of complete bathroom independence.

But then again, teaching your child to check their pee color may be too weird.

I'm open to suggestions, though: How do you help your child realize they need to drink more water when you aren't with them for the majority of their day? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Getting to bed on time

It's 7:30 pm. Let the battle begin.

Let's say (for fun) that I can somehow get my son upstairs to start his bedtime routine at 7:30 pm (without the stalling, last-minute things he absolutely "has" to tell me and without any whining). Let's just say that happened. What follows is a series of check-ins. Did you flush? (Oops.) Did you wash your hair? (Not yet.) Are you dried off? (I'm about to do that.) Have you brushed your teeth? (You didn't tell me I had to do that!)

On a good night, we are in his room at 8 pm, ready for him to search for the perfect book to read to each other before I leave his room at 8:30 pm.

The entire bedtime routine is an hour long process that feels much, much longer.

So, maybe it's a struggle, but it's worth it. Not only do I want him to get to bed on time so that he has enough sleep, but I want him to get to bed on time to help him dodge any weight gain or other health issues that may be associated with a later bedtime

I have tried starting the routine earlier (which doesn't always work with our two-parent working lifestyle), lists to help him move through his routine (varying success/failure rate) and kept the routine the same for several years. They don't help speed the bedtime process along, because one thing is fundamentally clear:

No child wants to go to bed.

So, I will continue to prod him through his routine, until someone has a better idea.

What's your trick to get through the nightly bedtime routine? Tell me in the comments. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Stressing out right after your vacation

I think by now, most Americans realize they don't take enough vacation. There are plenty of stories out there telling us we don't use all our vacation time, and polls measuring how many people are going to take a vacation this year and even reminders that vacations actually boost productivity in employees when they return to work. The prevalence of these stories tend to increase in the summertime, but you can readily find that several are published every year.

I try to be a good role model for my employees and take my vacation days, because I want them to know it is expected that they take time away from work. Even better, I do not work on my vacation - I let those emails pile up in my inbox while I'm away.

And I do return feeling refreshed. But then, I open my inbox and instantly feel behind. And that causes stress.

I understand why some people say that they don't take vacations because of work: There are not always people on hand to back you up and when you return, you feel like there is a mountain of work waiting for you. So why bother to go at all?

And yet, I still go on vacation. Vacation is my time with family or friends. My time to explore the world a little. And those things are important. The work can wait.

Do you plan on taking a vacation this year? Tell me in the comments why or why not.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Play that funky music, momma

I like upbeat music. I listen to it when I run, when I am cooking and when I am cleaning. It puts me in a happy mood, which is always a good thing.

My wonderful husband used to be in a band, and his musical tastes tend to run heavier. I had a friend once refer to his music choices as "angry guy punk." (In fairness, my husband doesn't play this music very often in our son's hearing, as the lyrics are sometimes questionable.)

I have noticed that our son leans toward liking the same music that I like. He even refers to it as "happy music" and often asks me to add whatever song I am featuring to his playlist on my iPod.

Our taste in music is not innate, as researchers are currently learning. It is completely shaped by our experiences and exposure. The exposure is something that I have to keep in mind for my son.

So, I'll play my music, but I've been expanding the decades to include songs from every era. He can now come downstairs all sleepy-eyed in the morning to hear "Chain of Fools" by Arethra Franklin (which lyrically is not very happy, but the musicality of the song is fantastic) and start dancing with me in the kitchen.

And you know how much I love to dance in the kitchen.

So, now I am on the lookout for great music from every age. As long as it keeps us happy.

What music preferences have your children developed? Are they similar to yours? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Your little sister, the entrepreneur

Before I begin today, I understand that there have been a lot of studies debunking the idea that birth order is something that influences people's behaviors.

But I am still fascinated by birth order and how often it works out. It may one day be designated as "the modern-day astrology," but I am hooked.

So, here we go.

I am the baby of my family. I don't think I was spoiled or coddled, but my brother may have a different opinion about that. I was definitely a good child (you can ask my Mom to verify that one). I also am the most likely person out of my family to run my own business.

Let me be clear: I don't want to be self-employed. I love my current job and my current team, and although I like being a boss, I don't want to be the boss. Researchers found, however, that last-borns tend to have a higher tolerance for risk and are more likely to run their own businesses.

Unless, of course, Mom and Dad already run their own business and your older siblings went into the family business. In that case, babies of the family are going to do something opposite. Because they are the babies of the family.

And we like doing our own thing.

Are you the baby of the family? Do you think that birth order has any bearing on the person you are today? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A few wishes for my hero

Today is my Mom's birthday.

I won't disclose her age, but it strikes me that she has spent more than half her life as a central figure in my life: She has raised me into the woman I am today, she has been my rock when I falter, she is the one of the few people in life I enjoy cooking with, and she is always there for me when I need her.

Birthdays are funny things - we celebrate our bodies successfully completing another trek around the sun and the passage of time. A lot can happen in a year, and yet sometimes it feels like nothing at all is actively happening.

Looking back at the past year with my Mom, I wish I had spent more time with her, I wish I had asked her more questions, I wish we had more afternoons spent with quiet and a cup of tea.

Hopefully, I won't be wishing all of these things again next year at this time.

What I do know is this: Moms shape the world. When we are little, Moms are the center of our lives. We slowly push our Moms away and they orbit us for awhile, until they take comet-like projections and dip in occasionally to check on us. No matter our age, we need our Moms to make sure we are still where we need to be in life

Yes, I may have taken the celestial metaphor too far, but the point is this:

Mom, I love you to the moon and back. Thanks for everything you do for me. And I hope you smile on your birthday.

What do you want to tell your Mom today? Share with me in the comments.

Friday, July 15, 2016

When you leave the room, turn off the light

When I was a Girl Scout, we were taught about recycling and saving water. Full of my righteous knowledge of how to save the earth, I would nag family members at home if they left lights on or faucets running too long.

Here we are, 30 years later, and life hasn't changed. 

Researchers took a group of Girl Scouts (yes, really), split them into two groups and taught each group ways to save energy. One group was taught about residential energy saving measures like turning off the lights, and the other group was taught about alternative methods of transportation to save energy such as biking to work. And, like good little scouts, they went home and immediately lectured their parents. 

But here's the thing: The group that became the light switch police in their family's home actually did influence their families to turn off the lights more often. (In fairness to the other group, it is really hard to convince your Dad to bike to work, but I am certain those girls tried.)

All of this makes me wonder if I was part of some sort of recycling/water conservation study when I was younger and just didn't know it. Or maybe, Girl Scouts are just really good leaders in the ways to improve our world.

If you were a scout when you were little, what is one of your favorite memories? Share with me in the comments.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I can't hear you right now

On the long drive back from our vacation, my son was happily ensconced in the backseat of the car with a movie on his iPad and his headphones on. They are those wonderful children's headphones that have a limit on them so the volume won't be too loud in his ears.

And yet, when we stopped for lunch, it took two tries and me tickling his knee to get his attention. 

We have a rule that he has to wear his headphones in the car so that we don't get distracted by his movie sounds. And I don't encourage him to wear his headphones in the house. But as I looked at him yelling "What?" to me when I was trying to get his attention, I couldn't help but think how completely tuned out of the rest of the world he was right then.

It's inevitable, I know. As this piece in the New Yorker points out, wherever you go in your daily routine, you see people wearing headphones. I know that I see them as I walk into the office in the morning, on coworkers as they type away at their computers and in stores when I do my weekend chores. 

I understand the desire to tune some things out in life, or the need for some relaxing music while you work or even the upbeat music you want to hear to gear up for your day. But maybe, just maybe, we should unplug once in a while so we can hear what the rest of the world sounds like.

Or at least hear when someone is telling you it is time for lunch.

What are you listening to when you wear your headphones? Share with me in the comments.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Keep off my (very small) lawn

My son does not like the backyard in our new house.

In our old house, there was a big backyard that was mostly flat and it was perfect for water battles and running around. In the new house, the backyard mostly consists of a hill (that will be great for sledding on), but we definitely can't have water battles there.

It's smaller, too.

And that means we are pretty much on trend with a lot of new home construction, as more and more Americans are choosing to have a larger house over a larger lawn.

When my husband and I started looking for a new home, we originally had "large lawn" on our list of features we wanted. But then we fell in love with a house and a lot, and I have absolutely no regrets (in fairness: I also don't have to mow the hill in the yard, as my wonderful husband takes care of the yard maintenance).

So, we have a smaller lawn, which means that I have to work a little harder to give my son opportunities to play outside - whether that is riding bikes, taking our water battles to the community area or visiting the playground and pool more often. And maybe if it snows this year and he is able to sled down the hill, he'll be happy with our yard.

Was the size of the lawn a factor in choosing where to live? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Saying you are sorry at any age

My niece and son (who are the same age) recently spent a week together in the same house during a family vacation. It was a bit of a social experiment, as they are both incredibly smart but have wildly different personalities.

In the end, they did better than any of us could have expected: They played together, and then they would disagree and separate for a bit before playing together again. For some arguements, there was parental intervention; on others, we let them work it out for themselves. 

One thing I was happy to see was that when they did wrong each other, they usually apologized unprompted.

Teaching your child to apologize is a mixed bag. When children are little, they may not understand the meaning of the words, but eventually (you hope) they associate them with wrongdoings and as a means to mend a relationship with someone.

For parents who believe that a prompted apology is an empty gesture, there is some growing research that indicates even a forced apology can make someone feel a little better.

For me, I am a firm believer that practice makes perfect, and that it is a splendid idea to encourage apologies from an early age. One day, they will get it.

Do you prompt your children to say "I'm sorry," even if they don't always mean it? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Too much food, glorious food

I recently went on a multi-family vacation with my brother's family and our Mother and Step-dad. The first thing we did after arriving at the house was go food shopping. And we bought an amount of food that was scary to me. The fridge and pantry were overstocked with food, and there was no way that we were going to go hungry.

And yet, throughout the week, I tried not to over-indulge in food. I did my best to not allow my son to snack between meals, especially since every night became a dessert night while we were on vacation.

I understood why we filled that house with food for our family vacation. We, like most families, show our love through food. Unfortunately, this is a detrimental correlation, as we are wasting a lot of food this way. Up to 40 percent of food is thrown away in families, and a good portion of that has been attributed to "parental over preparing." (Other times, it's us throwing away those aspirational vegetables we never got around to eating.)

I try not to needlessly fill up the pantry and fridge in our household, although I know it happens when we are having a stressful time in our lives - that is the time where I buy comfort food items that would not normally line our pantry shelves. Most weeks I try to focus on the monthly meal plans and grocery store lists to keep the amount of wasted food to a minimum.

As for the end of the vacation, as the last family in the house we did end up throwing away more food than I would like (our cooler only held so much), and it is definitely something I'll keep in mind the next time we all take a trip together.

Do you feel like your family is wasting too much food? Tell me why you think that in the comments.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

She's growing up too fast

I can still remember the day the nuns and teachers separated the girls and the boys in seventh grade to cover sex education. In retrospect, it was probably worse for the boys, since the monsignor was brought into the school to talk to them. We girls at least had the female science teacher in addition to the nuns.

At one point during the talk - which didn't actually cover the topic of sex - we discussed menstruation. It turned out that almost all the girls in the class had already had their period, making the puberty talk a little too late.

I've talked before about the need to openly talk about puberty and sex education in an age-appropriate way early and often. For girls, the talks may need to ramp up faster than most parents would be comfortable with.

In the latest longitudinal study, girls are experiencing puberty at a much earlier age than parents expect - before the age of eight for a lot of them. In addition to forcing parents to talk about body changes earlier than they would like, life is harder for girls who hit puberty sooner: They face a higher risk of obesity, body issues and even diseases.

There is no singular cause for the earlier onset of puberty - the study makes that clear. The important factor is that parents open the conversation with their daughters (and sons) well before it is needed.

Are you worried about the early onset of puberty in your children? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Helping out Mom and Dad

My son has plans for when he becomes an adult. They include marrying a girl named Suzie (we currently do not know any Suzies, but I am accepting applications for his future wife), getting a house down the street from ours (with a trampoline and waterslide inside), and getting two jobs (one at NASA and one as a dolphin veterinarian, but not a marine biologist) so he can make lots of money.

I have asked my son what he plans to do with all the money he will earn, and he said that he would need it so we could all take trips together. This makes me happy - both because my son wants to spend time traveling together and because he plans on paying for it.

My son - even though he is little - has the same "take care of family" mindset that many children have about their parents. Much to the older generation's surprise, children are more than willing to help out their aging parents financially.

That's the good news.

The bad news is there are lots of conversations children are not having with their parents around financial planning, estate needs and long-term care needs.

But, hey, you have to start somewhere, right?

Are you willing to help your parents financially as they get older? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Dear Mom, send more underwear

When I was a little girl, I went to Girl Scout camp. I loved it all. I loved the time we spent in the pool every day, that we went canoeing, that we sang songs around the bonfire and sleeping in the tents in the woods.

I even loved the slightly mandatory "write your parents a postcard time" that we had on the second day of camp so we could tell our parents that we were OK, that we did indeed miss them and the list of items that we had forgotten to pack.

My happy camp memories, however, may eventually pale in comparison with the camp that I am sending my son to over the summer. His camp includes activities like swimming and hiking, as well as pizza and ice cream party Fridays, huge inflatable water slides and science experiments.

I am jealous of his camp.

I'm not the only one, as more and more adults are booking themselves into adult camp. Some do it for the nostalgia, others do it because they've never experienced camp as a child, and lots of adults do it to relieve stress.

After reading the article on the link, I am reminded that many adults seem to need help just letting go of their phones. It's almost like they need permission to unplug and enjoy the real world. 

Of course, I am also reminded of all the things that I didn't like about camp: The middle-of-the-night walk to the latrines, the bugs, the boredom when it rained. The truth is that I don't want to go back to camp. But I could book myself a room in a hotel and leave my phone off when I really need to get away from it all.

Would you ever attend an adult camp? Tell me why in the comments.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Please go home, Mom

Sometimes, I work late.

It's not intentional, but things happen, and I work a little later than I originally intended to. It's not frequent, as I am a huge advocate of the work/life balance for my employees, and I believe in setting a good role model for them and showing them that I don't work late (at least not very often).

And it is a great thing to go home on time - more time with my family, more time together at the oh-so-important family dinner table and more time with my husband.

And now I have another reason to go home on time: It's harming my health.

Every extra working hour over 40 starts to take its toll on women, giving them an increased likelihood of stress-related illnesses and chronic diseases. By the time a woman hits the 60-hour mark, she has tripled her risk of heart disease. Men, on the other hand, have a higher likelihood of arthritis, but none of the other diseases.

Researchers believe the disparity comes from women still performing their old-fashioned gender roles in addition to their working roles, meaning they take ownership of more of the household chores and family-rearing duties, earning them more stress in the process.

So, to all the working Moms out there, let me just say that it is time for you to clock out and try to take a well-deserved break. I know that it is easier said than done, but it is worth it if your health is at risk.

How many hours a week do you work in an office? Over 40? Tell me in the comments.