Monday, January 30, 2017

Me and my little shadow

I was looking through our family photo albums when my son plopped himself into my lap. (Full disclosure: I love that he still does that.) He was about three years old in that particular album and as we looked through the photos and I told him stories, I realized how much time he spent following me around. If I was in the kitchen, he was there. If I went into the laundry room, he was there. If I went on any chore, he was there. I recall wondering if my privacy and sanity were ever going to return.

Life is a little different now. My son likes to do activities on his own, and although he will sometimes tell me that he is in a room because he wants to be in the same space I am, for the most part, he has reached an age in which he is not following me around all the time.

And because I am an irrational person, I now miss him following me around. I also now know that I missed a big opportunity with him, as toddlers move the same amount as their parents do. In a study that amazes me, researchers discovered that if parents move more in their day, their toddlers will take their cue from them and do the same. Similarly: If parents are more sedentary during their day, their children will follow suit.

The study was done with preschoolers, but I have hope that my son is still at an age where I can influence some of his behaviors. So, I need to move more - if not for myself, then maybe for my son.

Do you move enough during the day? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, January 27, 2017

What your home says about you

My Mother calls me a classic underbuyer.

There are probably many reasons for this: The fire that we had when I was little that taught me that possessions are not important. Or the series of apartments and moves that we went through that taught me to go through all my things once a year and get rid of what I didn't need. Or maybe even being married to my husband who values empty space as much as I do. Add it all up, and I have found that I am fortunate enough to live an uncluttered life.

Even with that knowledge, I am not sure I would invite a researcher into my home to tell me how it reflected our lives. But, that is exactly what some very brave people did, resulting in the Center of Everyday Lives of Families study.

The study found some problems that plague most families: Too much screentime, not enough family time, families aren't eating meals together. But, much to my surprise, there was a sneaky extra member of the family that was causing everyone additional stress: Clutter. It came in the form of toys, full garages and buying in bulk and was a source of strain for busy people who didn't have time to tackle the problem and felt overwhelmed by it.

Like most times when I've read about clutter stories, I had the itch to go and clean out my closet. (Thanks, Mom!) All of this just reminds me how unimportant stuff really is.

How often do you get to de-clutter your home? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My husband's other mom

Sometimes my Mother and my husband trade texts. I have decided this is unbelievably sweet (as long as they aren't discussing me).

For her part, my Mom adores my husband - she calls him when she needs help with something, they have been known to refer to each other as "son" and "mom," and she has always welcomed him into our family.

For his part, my husband has a profound respect for my Mom, offers to take care of chores and other tasks for her and supports me when I want to spend some time alone with her.

So, they get along really well. I mean, there was that one time right before our wedding, where my Mom put him into a half hug/half headlock to have a "private discussion," but neither of them talk about this. (Although I do have photo evidence of its occurrence.)

I never really stopped to analyze my husband's relationship with my Mom until I read this article which points out that his being on good terms with my parents is crazy important.

So, thanks, Mom and Honey, for having fun with each other, and respecting one another and accepting one another as family.

But, seriously, do not trade texts about me.

Does your husband get along with your Mother? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Are you a snooper?

One day I asked my work team to stand in a circle, unlock their phones and pass them to the person on their left.

Let me stop right here and explain a few things. My team has an incredibly strong support structure in place and the level of trust is incredibly high. They also love team building activities, so I have to choose ones that are a little more personal.

So, there was my group: Entrusted with one another's phones. And...none of them looked. None of them sent a weird text message or even opened an app. They talked about the huge responsibility they felt have that much access to someone's life and how it was sacred to them. They took care of each other.

And that makes my team very rare - because evidently a lot of people are snooping on their loved one's accounts.

All this made me think about the privacy conversations that take place in our household. My son already understands that security is important and to keep his passwords secure. But, he also knows that my husband and I share access to phones and maybe that is a future topic of conversation - when to share and when not to share.

Have you talked to your child about online snooping? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, January 20, 2017

I'm not angry at you

"I'm not angry with you; I just want to talk."

I find myself saying this to my son more and more often. I say it when he's gotten a bad report on the bus. I say it when he's yelled at me for reminding him to brush his teeth and he claims I didn't ask him to do that. I say it when I know he is lying to me.

It is my way of reminding my son that I am not going to blow up at him. It is my way of reminding myself to not blow up at my son.

It has taken me a lot to get to this point, but I have found that the reminder that I am not angry helps him to be honest with me. We all want our kids to be honest, but we forget to create the positive connections for them: If you talk to me I will do my best to listen without anger.

As hard as this is now, I try to keep my eye on the prize and think of the positive connections he is making now, hoping that they will carry over to when he is a teenager and has more to confide or conceal from me and the stakes are a little higher.

So, I repeat my phrase for both our benefit. And I hope it works.

How are you valuing honesty in your household? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Today, I stepped on a LEGO

At least twice a month, I step on a LEGO. I look upon it as an exercise to hurt myself and not curse aloud.

To be fair, it could be worse. My son is generally good at cleaning up his LEGOs when I ask/repeatedly tell him to do so. The problem is that he owns approximately 1.5 million LEGO bricks and it is (understandably) difficult to keep track of them all. There is, for example, at least seven that have migrated their way under my desk, there are a few that I am convinced are just permanently part of the carpet and the vacuum cleaner snacks on a few of those really little round ones every time it runs.

As most parents will testify, stepping on these little bricks hurts a lot. A whole lot. And I've never understood that there is a whole lot of science behind why they hurt so much until I stumbled across this delightful video.

Granted, knowing all of that ahead of time doesn't make me stop stepping on LEGOs, but it is a good thing to think about to distract myself from the inevitable pain.

What toy are you tired of stepping on? Tell me in the comments. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Your child's working week

I am a working Mom. I put in more than 40 hours at the office and come home to household responsibilities. I take my son to cub scouts and swimming lessons, and I go through spelling words with him at night. I would like to think that our lives are pretty typical of a family with two working parents.

When my son wants to start a new school activity I take a close look at it and try to think of its overall impact in his schedule as well as my schedule. Because I really don't want my son working more hours per week than his Daddy and I do. 

Evidently, that is a real danger now: With the amount of homework and assignments, sports, clubs and after school activities, children are now in danger of putting in an over-40 hour work week.

When I look back at my childhood, I had some activities that I was involved in (like Girl Scouts and dance classes) but they didn't take over my life. I still had plenty of free time to play with friends, read books, ride bikes and be a kid. I want that balance for my son as well. It's up to us to make sure that his life doesn't become all work and no play.

Does your child work more than 40 hours per week? Share their daily grind in the comments.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Spending time with others

Because my son is an only child, he tells me that he gets "bored" and "lonely" quite frequently on the weekends. I am not sure if this is a result of him being an only child or not, as it generally happens after his screentime is up and he is unsure of what he wants to do next.
Bored and unfocused.

It never lasts for long, which is good, because I try to be sensitive to his loneliness. I have an older brother, and although we didn't get along or play together well, he was still around. Lonely is a concept that single children have to learn how to combat early.

But loneliness is actually a feeling that all of us have to learn how to combat - whether we are only children or not - because feelings of loneliness actually reduces our lifespan.

Some people may look at that link and reach the conclusion that children need to spend more time with their parents in their later years, and that may be the case. But I think we are all responsible for seeking company outside of our families when we need to and to not wait until they seek us out.

Of course, this is how I feel now, and I may need my husband's help to remind me when I feel lonely for my son's company and wondering why he doesn't call me that I could reach out and call him.

Who do you like to spend time with when you are lonely? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The unknown effects of obesity

I'm back to work and lots of my coworkers have stated that they plan on getting healthier in the New Year. I'm not big on resolutions (I like challenges instead), but I try to remain supportive of their efforts and take walks with them whenever they need a buddy. I think that anything we can do to move more in the day is a good goal.

Like most parents, I want to be healthier - both to be a good role model for my son and have a chance at keeping up with his energy level. But, I am all about balance, so I am also totally using the cake pop maker I got for Christmas. Because it is awesome.

But beyond the role model thing, I never thought much about how my weight may have an affect on my son. As it turns out, we are only recently discovering that there may be a link between weight of parents (that includes Dad as well) and a child's early development (think block building and learning to use utensils). Children were seen to have a delay in early motor skills (if Mom was obese) or social skills (if Dad was obese).

Researchers who are spreading this news don't have enough information to draw additional conclusions or access to additional similar data to confirm the results, so I suppose at this point it is more of a general awareness for parents-to-be: Your weight matters for more reasons than you think.

What are you doing to be a healthier role model for your child? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The technology of sleep

During winter break, my son woke up every morning at around 6 am in an insanely cheerful mood and ready to tackle whatever fun the day would bring. (Mind you, this is the same little bear who grumbles and growls every other morning when his alarm goes off around 7 am.) Although I enjoyed the morning company, after five days of this I asked why he was able to get up so much earlier during his time off. He said it was because he wanted to have the most fun in his days off as possible and didn't need as much sleep on non-school days.

I, on the other hand, need my sleep.

For more than a year I wore a fitbit and became enamored of my sleep data. I loved seeing how much sleep I actually got, but I ran into an eventual problem - the only thing I could do was look at my data. There was no way to "fix" my sleep behaviors based off my numbers...they were just numbers.

So, I was a little tickled to read about all the new sleep tech that is out there - from wearables and pillows to entire mattresses that collect movements. And while some things can be adjusted (like the temperature of a pillow or the contours of a mattress), we are really just collecting data on ourselves and have no way to fix the main problem: We all need more sleep.

I wonder if anyone has tracked if sleep increases when we remove all the devices from the bedroom.

In other news, it's good to be back at school and to our regular routines again. (Well, it was...then we had a snowy weekend and now school is cancelled.)

How much sleep do you normally get each night? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The thing about girls and math...

When I was in fifth grade, I missed a few days of school due to sickness and when I came back, I had some trouble getting up to speed on fractions. They were hard and awful and I cried at school one day because I thought that I would never understand them. And I am pretty sure that in that moment, I decided I wasn't good at math.

Looking back, I wonder if that little bit of frustration kept me from pursuing any additional science careers. I did, for the record, still make excellent grades in math and the sciences (except for biology because I didn't enjoy dissecting things), but I grew up with the perception that I was not good as good at math and science as I was in other subjects, so I shouldn't pursue them.

After talking to a lot of other women, I have learned that this story is fairly common: I believed I wasn't good at math, so I didn't pursue a degree in the sciences. It is such common thinking in fact, that researchers are starting to study what it would take to get more women into science careers.

What they are finding is that there is a clear gender divide: All boys need to pursue a science career is an interest. Girls, however, need both an interest and a perceived ability to perform well.

Why do girls need that extra push? There is one school of thought that we are placing too much emphasis on perfection for our daughters. And no one can live up to the expectation of perfection.

Do you encourage your children in math and science? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The obsession over parenting

I (clearly) read too many parenting articles. I read them because I enjoy them; I read them hoping to learn something new; I read them for this blog. So, when I saw an article around the American obsession with parenting, I had to click on it.

It wasn't what I thought it would be. I was hoping for an explanation of why I am so compelled to read stories about other parents and what they are doing and how I can incorporate what they know into my life. What the article mostly covered was a discussion on how middle- to high-income families are able to apply widely published parenting tricks faster than their lower-income peers.

Don't get me wrong: The article is an interesting read, but the title made me wonder more about my own parenting skills more than anything else. I think that I am like a lot of parents that way - always wondering if my child's behavior is normal or why other parents don't seem to have the same problems that our family has.

I know that I am not alone with my struggles as a parent, even when it still feels that way. So, I read articles, and I trade stories with other parents, and I hope that in the end the kid will be alright.

Are you always wondering about your own parenting skills? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The problem with resolutions

I've been thinking a lot about resolutions and how I don't make them. Instead, I try to do 100 of something. I am still working out the details of what that will be this year, but in the meantime, I have been thinking about my resistance of resolutions and how they normally get broken.

The problem for me is that resolutions feel like a self-inflicted restriction. Yes, we all say we want to exercise more, be more fiscally responsible or eat better, but it's hard to keep that up and it's easy to slide into the old habits. Also: Sometimes I question if people really think about the work it takes to create the new habits those changes bring on.

Let's take screentime as an example. By now, we have probably all seen that parents are just as addicted to their devices as children (if not more). So, let's say you want to be a good role model and cut back your screentime use - would you be able to do that? What if a text comes in? Or what if you are talking to a friend and can't remember the lead singer of Kajagoogoo and it is just on the tip of your tongue and driving you crazy and you have to look it up? Or what if you wake up on a Saturday feeling lousy and just want to watch television all day?

Do you really have the will power it would take to stop yourself and remember that you've already used all your screentime that day?

In my house, I am the keeper of my son's screentime clock. I tell him when he has hit his limit, but there is no one to keep me in check. And I think that is a huge part of what makes resolutions so difficult for me: I need someone checking up on me from time to time.

Did you make any resolutions this year? Tell me how you plan to keep them in the comments.