Monday, April 24, 2017

Is it "Pokemon Go" or "Pokemon No?"

My son, like most boys in his class, is really into Pokemon right now. They don't play the card game (they don't know how), but they enjoy collecting and trading the cards and memorizing lots (LOTS) of information about each character. Side note: Later on in life when he is complaining about having to memorize information to pass a history test, I will remind him about all the memorizing he has done for Pokemon - for fun.

I don't want or have much knowledge about Pokemon, but I have found it to be a useful distraction: For example, when he had a bloody nose, I asked him a series of questions of who would win between two characters to prevent him from fixating on the issue at hand. He instantly calmed down to consider who would win in a battle against Squirtle.

So, we don't play Pokemon Go, as it goes against both my principles of increased screentime and time that I would spend having to know about the Pokemon realm.

But, I have to admit that families who do engage in that game see the benefits of additional time spent together as well as much-needed exercise. I like both of those things.

So now, I am torn.

Maybe someone needs to come up with an augmented screen game that gets us outside and doesn't involve characters I can't stand. Or, maybe, we should just put down our phones and go on a hike and scavenger hunt.

Do you play Pokemon Go? Why do you like it? Tell me just a little bit about it in the comments.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Where to save money on your vacation

I had an amazing time with my family on vacation last week: We had periods of adventurous fun and some downtime to just read and relax. It was a mix of everything to appeal to everyone. Some of our time was spent on paid excursions, and I didn't wonder at any point if they were worth the money: They were all super fun and I loved doing them.

But, then I got home and read this study in which scientists attached brain wave monitors to a family on vacation and found that they had just as much fun doing the free activities (walking in a park or exploring a market) as the ones they paid for.

I have so many questions.

First of all, they just covered one family. And we all know that some families are more easily entertained than others. I am not sure that all families would be entertained by the same things.

Also: Would you sign up to go on vacation with a brain wave monitor on your head? I am not sure I would.

I have reached a baseline with most of the vacations that I take these days: I expect to have some fun and some relaxation. And that's it. I don't try to build them up or look forward too much or dissect them afterward, as I find that if the baseline expectations I have are met, then everything on top of that brings me extra joy.

Do you prefer adventure-based or low-key vacations? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Another reason why I miss our cats

I really, really miss our cats. They have both moved on from us, and I still find myself missing their presence in our lives. I know my son misses them (well, the one he can remember), as he occasionally sings me a song about her and how sweet she was.

I'm not sure if his memories of the cats are legitimate, as he is reaching the age in which he is starting to lose his memories. But, I have told him that having a pet was good for him - even before he was born. Studies (like the one on the link) have found a relationship between family pets and the presence of a specific type of bacteria that decreases the likelihood of obesity and asthma.

Add to that all the benefits you've read about family pets a hundred times before: Stress reduction, lowered blood pressure and (for children who are allowed to help out), a sense of responsibility. Pets are good for us.

So, what I am saying is: I miss my cats.

Do you have any beloved family pets that pre-date your children? Tell me all about them in the comments.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The truth about teen driving skills

We were on vacation last week. (Did you miss me? I missed you.) On the long way home, my son came up with a plan after he saw my husband and I switch places in the driver's seat. He thought it would be a great idea for all of us to take turns driving, as he was fairly certain that he could sit on my lap (since he can't reach the pedals) and steer.

Hahahahahahahaha. No.

(That was my reaction.)

He wasn't phased, however, and reminded me that he would be "driving before I knew it."

That got me to stop laughing.

I know that when the time comes for my son to start driving, I will have to check myself to make sure that my reactions (ohmygod-ohmygod-ohmygod) don't negatively impact his confidence. I'll also have to make sure that I try to assess his skills accurately.

This small study points out that many parents rate their children's driving skills based solely off their results on the driving test and their basic vehicle knowledge, but they forget to assess other skills that aren't tested to get a driver's license: risk management, visual awareness and anticipation of other drivers.

So then the question becomes how do you help your child practice those skills? If you have any ideas, I'd love to see them in the comments.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Funding your maternity leave

When my son was in daycare, there would be a moment right before I would leave where he would cling extra tight to me. He wouldn't cry or beg me not to leave - it was just an extra hug that was hard to part from. His teacher would try to help the transition by saying something along the lines of, "Mommy has to go to work and make that toy money."

It was a sweet sentiment, but it wasn't exactly true: I was a working Mom and was helping to pay for a lot of expenses - including that daycare.

Don't get me wrong - the daycare was a nurturing environment filled with wonderful caretakers, but when I talk to about-to-be-first-time Moms today, I tell them one thing: Stay at home with your baby for as long as you can.

The six weeks I had with my son just were not enough, and I wish we had paid leave laws for all parents.

But, since we don't have that in every state, some women are turning to crowd-funding their maternity leave expenses.

I'm generally not a fan of asking others for monetary gifts, but in this case I am all for it. After all, if you are going to be a parent, you are going to have to get used to doing things that are far outside of your comfort zone.

What do you think about crowd-funded maternity leaves? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Finding a friend when you are sick

The weather in Charlotte has been crazy lately - it snowed a few weeks ago and then it all melted by mid-afternoon, there have been days with temperatures in the high 70s, only to have it all plummet the next day into the 50s with rain. You know: Spring.

And this is also the time of year when I hear much more hacking and wheezing in the office than I would like. Yes, some of you have legitimate allergies, and I feel for you. As a fellow allergy sufferer, I know how uncomfortable it is to have your sinus canals attack your respiratory system from within. I can hear your suffering - there are tissues in the top drawer of my desk if you need them.

But some of those people are just plain old sick.

I try to set a good example for my employees: When I am sick, I stay home. That doesn't mean that I work from home, either. It means that I take time off to get the rest I need. But I understand that lots of people are going to power through their colds and still get some work done.

But why are you in the office?

All this time, it never occurred to me that people might be coming into the office while they are sick because they are lonely. Evidently, being lonely while you are sick makes you feel worse.

I know this study is small, but is this some sort of mind-control by the viruses that are out to get us? I know I don't enjoy spending time with other people when I am ill...so unless a disease has taken over my brain to make me want to hang out with other people to spread the sickness further...I'll be home in bed.

When's the last time you were sick? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Hope for sunshine; plan for rain

I used to find pithy sayings kind of annoying. Sure, they are easy to remember, but do people really say things out loud like, "Tact is the unsaid part of what you think." or  "Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor." or "I can't adult today." (Disclaimer: I have a sign on my desk that says that last one.)

The older I get, the more I like these phrases. It's like a parenting wisdom nugget all wrapped up in a tidy package. I still feel very weird saying them. And clearly my son doesn't enjoy them.

But now, a story:

It rained on my wedding day. No, not rain. Poured. And, as we were set to have the ceremony outside, I had a minor meltdown in the morning (also: Thanks, Mom, for being the shoulder I cried on) and then I sucked it up and went with my backup venue while my wonderful husband bought some giant umbrellas. You see, I always have a backup plan and my husband is very good at going with the flow.

And that is probably how I ended up with my personal life motto of: Hope for sunshine; plan for rain.

I say this to my son when we talk about planning things; I say this to coworkers when we talk about contingency planning; if I could sew, I would put it on a cushion. This saying reminds me to look for the good in life.

And looking for the good in life is important for so many reasons, not just because optimists tend to have better health, but because who wants to hang out with a grump without an umbrella?

What's a saying you find yourself frequently repeating to your family? Tell me in the comments.