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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Note To a New Mom


I became a mom at 26. I really didn’t know what I was doing and I very clearly remember thinking that I was suddenly very important. So, do most other new moms. A family friend decided to write a play (and actually tried to find someone to produce it – which never happened) about her “journey to motherhood”. I’m not saying that becoming a parent isn’t joyous or magical, but sometimes I feel the need to let new mommies in on the secret that they aren’t the first or only ones to have ever had a child. So…

Dear New Mother,

1.      I don’t want to hear the gory details about your labor and delivery. Yep, you had an episiotomy. It isn’t anything particularly pleasant. I know that and I don’t want to relive it.

2.      Don’t register for weird baby things. No one wants to buy you 26 rubber coated baby spoons. And, I feel very uncomfortable at the thought of buying you nursing pads – are you going to ask for tampons too?

3.      Your baby did not purposefully wink or say “mama” at two weeks and she’s not speaking in sentences at 6-months. Every mom thinks her baby is the smartest, but there are certain sequences of development that you just can’t ignore.

4.      You aren’t the first new mother to think her story would be an awesome novel. Many a new mom have put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard) after pushing a baby out. Yes, this is a wonderful memento to have for yourself, but unless you have a truly unique tale to tell it’s unlikely that anyone wants to publish 200 pages filled with 150 ways of saying how much you love your baby.

5.      Stop telling everyone how your baby will be potty trained by 12 months because you read an article in a parenting magazine. Chances are at are two your toddler will still be in pull-ups.

6.      Don’t tell me that I’m a bad parent because my 12-year-old plays video games or has an iPhone. Saying that your child will be technology free is a nice sentiment, but if he’s only 2-weeks-old you  aren’t in a place to judge. Get back to me on how the tech0free lifestyle is going in a few years.

7.      You did not, I repeat not, discover infant and toddler crafts. You aren’t the irst mom to let her little one paint with pudding, mx glitter in with finger paint or mix up a batch of your own play dough.

8.      Your toddler isn’t more important than my tween. Don’t brush of the fact that your 2-year-old just ran my 12-year-old’s foot over with the shopping cart at the grocery store. Apologize, or better yet have your child apologize. Just because my son isn’t sobbing doesn’t mean he isn’t hurt. Believe me, he is still a child too.

I know these may seem harsh, but I wish someone had clued me in to these things when my son was younger.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The HPV Vaccine and Your Tween


Vaccination Debate
79 million people in America have the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With roughly 14 million new cases annually, HPV largely affects teens and young adults (although everyone who is sexually active is fair game). Although HPV may go away on its own, if it doesn’t this virus can cause caners in both men and women. Wait, what? I had always been under the impression that HPV was the culprit behind cervical cancer, and that was it. Sure, I knew that it could cause genital warts, but other types of cancers – and in males too? Yep. The CDC notes that this STD can cause cancer of the penis, anus, vagina, vulva and even back of the throat. Approximately 19,000 women and 8,000 men are diagnosed with cancers related to this virus each year. Yikes!

HPV Tween
 
So, when my son’s pediatrician brought up the HPV vaccine in his annual well-check visit I was totally on board. Honestly, I understand the whole vaccination debate, but I am 100% for my son not having to get any kind of preventable illness. I don’t want him to get polio, whooping cough, chicken pox, measles or HPV. I don’t believe that vaccines are the root of all evil, and I feel comfortable in believing the pediatrician’s medical expertise over what some random person who may have read an ‘article’ says about the ills of immunizations.

I was a bit surprised that the pediatrician was bringing this up at my son’s 12-year-old visit. Really? Isn’t that too young? Are we thinking that tweens are sexually active now? Maybe. I’m sure some of them are. But, the doctor explained that the vaccine has the best chance of working if it is given at age 11 or 12. I know other parents who believe that vaccinating their tweens against this virus gives the green light to have sex (or unprotected sex). I don’t. It’s just a safety precaution to me. At 12, my son is still somewhat iffy on anything having to do with sex (his dad did give him the ‘talk’ and bought him a very detailed book for kids on the mechanics of puberty).

That said, I wasn’t sure how to respond when he said, “Mom, why do I have to get a shot?” Not only did he need one, but he had to get the two boosters. And, we had a light-up fridge magnet that the pediatrician’s office gave us to remind me to make the booster shot appointments at the correct intervals. So, now I was charged with having to explain why he was getting a vaccine and what it is for. I went the simple, straight-forward route and said, “When you get older and are ready to be romantic, it can help you from getting one type of disease. It’s called HPV.”

Will you let you tween get the HPV vaccine? If so, how will you explain it? Leave a comment below and share!

 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Facebook and Your Fantasy Family: What's Real Online?


If you’re a parent (and I’m assuming that you probably are if you’re taking the time to read this) then you’ve undoubtedly spent at least a moment or two thinking about what social media means for your child. You’ve probably taught your child about the perils of posting and how the anonymity of the Internet means that anyone can lie about who they are. I mean, look at the MTV show “Catfish”. It’s a whole series built on the concept that so many people lie on Facebook that a super-nice, well-meaning guy (and his trusty sidekick) have to travel around the country helping people to sort their online love affairs out. And what does “Catfish” teach us? Everyone (or at least, most people) lies on the Internet.

So, what about parents? Do they lie on the Internet? I’m not talking about some stay-at-home dad catfishing a pretty 22-year-old across the county; telling her that he’s really a 25-year-old aspiring rap star when he’s really on diaper duty all day long and has a beer gut the size of Santa’s belly. I mean—are parents glossing over the truth when it comes to how they present their children to their friends and family online?

How many pictures do you take? I take a ridiculous amount. Of the 300 or so photos that I snap during a day out at the zoo, a museum trip or a family birthday celebration, maybe one or two look “ok”. For example, during the two-hour dinner to celebrate my grandmother’s 91st birthday my 12-year-old son spent roughly an hour and a half playing games on his phone, 10 minutes eating, 18 minutes rolling his eyes and grunting answers such as “I don’t know” and “I guess school’s ok”. During the remaining two minutes he put a (somewhat forced) smile on his face and sat for a few photos with his great-grandmother. Did I post the pictures of him with his head buried in his iPhone? No way. I did post the pics of him gleefully grinning next to great-grandma. For all anyone knew, he spent the whole day sweetly smiling and having pleasant conversations with the birthday girl.

What I’m getting at is the idea of only putting out there what we want other people to believe. No one wants their FB friends to think that their 4-yar-old is a tantrum-prone tyrant that spends half the day painting the kitchen floor with pudding and the other half screaming at mommy. Instead, they want their family and friends (especially those that live in another state or the ones that they haven’t seen since Madonna was like a virgin and Molly Ringwald was pretty in pink) to think that they have a perfectly pretty, sweet little angel. Instead of posting their reality, they collage together a fantasy family who eats freshly picked organic veggies at the local farm while wearing 100 percent stain-free perfectly matched clothing and smiling ear-to-ear with freshly brushed teeth.

I wonder what Facebook would look like if every parent took a week to only post their true daily lives. On Monday maybe there’s a picture of little Johnny heading off to preschool wearing his Spiderman PJ’s (with mom straggling behind wearing her applesauce-stained yoga pants and the same sweatshirt that she’s had on since Saturday). Later in the week you might see the turbulent tween Tina caught in an action shot—slamming her door on dad’s nose. On Friday night you’d possibly see a mad dad grounding teenage Tommy when he sneaks in at 1 a.m. (even though his curfew is 11). Let's not forget about those squeaky clean kitchen shots that we see online. After all, don't you scrub the tile with a toothbrush daily? This isn’t to say that we don’t all have our own truly honest fine family moments. But, do we really believe that our sister’s new baby is the giggling joy that she presents her as on Facebook 24-7?

My challenge to you is to take a day, a week or more and post your real-life pics. Instead of editing your life, show of your reality. Maybe it is as picture-perfect as it looks online, or maybe there are really piles of laundry, screaming tots and sulky teens.
I'll start it out right here: A holiday picture that isn't exactly Facebook ready (yes, this one never made it online). We had just woken up, no makeup, stained sweats and if you look off to the back you'll see the mess in the family room.
 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Toddlers vs. Teens: Boys Edition


Toddlers vs. teens? Which group presents bigger challenges to parents? When my son was a tot he was less-than-well-behaved. My favorite story to tell is the time when he asked for a cookie at the mall. Well, asked is a nice way of saying demanded it at the top of his lungs. When I said no (it was almost dinner-time and why should one mall cookie cost the same as two packages of perfectly good cookies at the grocery store, anyway?), he threw a fit. And he threw his toy car. Right into my lip. Which started bleeding. But, of course I got no empathetic looks from passers-by, just stares like I was being a bad mommy. Clearly I should have let him have the cookie and the bleeding lip was well-deserved.

Even though that was a challenging time, as my son turns into a teen I’m beginning to wistfully wish for those cuddly toddler times. So, to help myself (and anyone else who thinks that whatever time period their child is in is definitely the toughest), I thought I’d make a little comparison chart.

 

 
Toddler
Teen
Independence Level
Over the top- telling that tot what to do will result in a tantrum.
Over the top – telling that teen what to do will result in a door slam.
Curiosity
He’ll explore what happens when he drops mommy’s phone in the toilet.
He’ll explore what happens when he and his best buds split a bottle of Boone’s Farm.
Testing You
How long can he cry before you give in and get him that cookie or billionth sippy cup of juice?
How long can he beg and plead before you let him use the car on Saturday night?
Hygiene
He doesn’t really care. He’d probably be ok with wearing a pull-up all day if it meant extra time playing with his train table.
A not so subtle scent mix of sweat and Old Spice or Axe.
The Opposite Sex
He’s worried that they’ll take his toys.
He’s perfectly willing to hand over his toys (e.g., cell phone, car keys, etc.) if it means a date to the prom.
Vocabulary
Various grunts, groans and made up words.
Various grunts, groans and made up words.
Mode of Transportation
His feet.
You wish his feet. But, it’s more likely your car- with him behind the wheel.
What You’re Spending On
Things that begin with the letter “T”, like trains, trucks and toys.
Things that begin with the letter “C”, like cars and college.
Favorite Person
Mommy!
He’ll say it’s his friend or girlfriend, but deep down – it’s still mommy.

 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

5 Ways To Stop Your Child From Losing School Stuff


Ah, another school year is almost over. Here I thought that I made it through the whole year without hearing my son say, “Mom, I need some money. I lost a library book and have to pay for it.” Every year it’s the annual losing of the book. My son comes home (it’s always towards the end of the year, when they take stock of what’s missing) and says he has absolutely no idea what happened. There’s a library book, book his teacher loaned him or some other book that he’s managed to misplace – and the school wants their $10 for it. Last year he found the “lost book” before school ended. As it turns out, he had actual found someone else’s lost book. We still had to pay the fine. Oh yeah, and by we I mean me.

In strolls my seventh grader today, having just run home from a day if school. “Mom! I need $5!” Usually when he asks me for money he doesn’t really mean cash. He wants to use my credit card to buy a new game on Xbox Live. “For what?” I asked. “Well, I kind of lost this library book in December.” In December? “And, why am I just hearing about it now? And how did you lose it?” He said that he forgot to tell me (of course) and that he had just put it down – and magically it disappeared.

It’s funny how things magically disappear around my son. It’s not just books. It’s pencils, pens, markers, notebooks, socks and just about anything that’s not permanently tied or nailed down. Now, I know that my son is hardly unique when it comes to loosing things. When I talk to his friends’ moms they admit that their sons are also kings at losing everything from books to backpacks. So, what’s a mom (or dad) to do? Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve tried to get my son’s organizational skills on point and stop him from losing so much stuff. He still loses some things, but the amount of what is going missing  has certainly gone down.

1.      Make a list. Every day. This may seem like a lot of work, but it can drastically reduce the number of things that your child loses, misplaces or plain old forgets. Hang the list by the door (whichever one you leave out of in the morning). The first list should include everything that your child needs for school. Check it off with a marker or cross each item out. Doing this allows you to say, “See, you did bring your gym shorts to school this morning” when he comes home and insists he never had them.

2.      Unpack the backpack immediately after school. It will be much easier for your child, tween or teen to remember where he left his library book if he’s if it’s closer to when he misplaced it. If you wait a few hours (or until the next morning) he will have completely forgotten.

3.      Make him pay the fines himself. I’m not talking about large dollar amounts. But, if he has a $5 fine, have him do some extra chores around the house. Just handing over the cash only teaches him that mommy will fix his mistakes. If he’s old enough to have his own after-school job, he can subtract the cash from his paycheck.

4.      Don’t overload him. Does he really need 12 pencils, 15 pens, 2 sets of markers and 4 notebooks? Probably not. Instead of expecting him to keep track of a small stock room of products, give him a manageable amount of stuff to take with him to school. He’ll be less likely to lose things if he doesn’t feel like he has to constantly take inventory if his own private Office Depot.

5.      Label it! If every boy in his seventh grade class has almost identical blue basketball shorts for gym class, label the inside with your son’s name. This will help him to pick his out of the pile of lost items.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Work At Home Ideas for Moms: Writing Jobs


Teen Tips
I have lost count of how many of my new mom friends say something such as, “I’m going to be a stay at home mom now, but when my child is in elementary school I’ll go back to work.” What is the deal with the fallacy (or maybe fantasy) that once your child hits first grade it suddenly opens you up to a world of free time and the possibility of now suddenly working full time? Please let me know if you have a fantastically fabulous paying job that allows you to come in at 9 a.m. (after school drop-off) and lets you leave by 2:30 (to return home in tome for pick-up). Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the other school-related issues that parents of older kids have to deal with. So, your boss should be okay with:

·         Letting you come in a few hours late (or not at all) during snow days in the winter – provided you live in a cold climate.

·         The fact that you’ll probably need to take off a few random days here and there for school conferences, in-service days and the other days that your child won’t have school during the work week.

·         Allowing you to cut out a few hours early to help out with your child’s class Valentine’s Day party, the school’s Halloween parade or the winter holiday craft shop.

·         The work-day phone calls from your child’s teacher or school nurse.

·         Having you run out in the middle of the day when the call from the school nurse is to tell you that little Johnny has a fever.

·         Taking the summers off (or at least a few weeks in between the end of school and the start of camp).

Sure, when your child hits the tween and teen years he can stay at home by himself and some of these what-if’s may seem irrelevant. But, that still doesn’t mean you’ll want to miss out on your seventh grader’s orchestra concert because you’re stuck in a meeting or your eleventh grader’s track meet because it’s at 3 p.m. and you’re still at the office. If working is a must, but working outside of the home makes your cringe, consider one of these work-at-home ideas. There are ideas galore that fall under the WAHM category. With that in mind, this post features ideas for writers:

·         Internet content provider: Not everyone’s a writer, but if you are (or have real expertise on a specific subject); this is an option for you. Beware of sites that want to pay extremely low fees such as a few dollars for a 500 or 500 word article. You won’t make enough money to call it a job if you’re getting paid peanuts. Also keep in mind, just because you’ve experienced something doesn’t make you an expert. Being a mom qualifies you to give parenting advice from your own point-of-view, but doesn’t mean that you’re a child development professional. In a somewhat related example – a friend of mine told me a story about a woman who applied for a teaching job at the preschool where she worked. Under experience she said that she had occasionally observed kids playing at the local park. Kind of creepy and not real experience.

·         Blogger: yes, as a blogger you are technically creating content. But, it is for you and not for someone else. Instead of writing what other people want you to, you get to pick your own topics use your own style and work as your own editor. While this freedom sounds refreshing, it’s not a guaranteed paycheck. If you write a dozen articles for a website (who has already agreed to pay you), you’re getting a check. If you write a dozen articles for your blog, you may or may not make any money – depending on how you monetize your blog and what your viewership is like. Additionally, you have to promote your blog yourself. There are hundreds of millions of blogs out there. So, getting yours noticed is often more of a job than the actual writing is.

·         Marketing and PR: This is an excellent option for advertising professionals who want to work from home. Write marketing materials for companies or craft press releases that you email out.

·         Reviewer: This one typically doesn’t pay well, but it’s uber-easy and won’t take up much time. Basically a company or review site pays you to write brief blurbs that focus on the pros and cons of a certain product that you’ve used. You post it (or they do) and then collect a paycheck. This is not the same thing as writing a sponsored post on a blog.

·         Ghost writer: Someone wants to write a how-to, memoir or any other type of book, but they can’t exactly write. You take their ideas and write the content. After you’re done, your client puts her name on “your” book. You won’t get credit for it, but you will get paid.

·         E-book writer: You have a book idea, but can’t find a publisher. You can create your own e-book that you self-publish on a platform such as Kindle Direct Publishing. Like blogging, you’ll have to do all of the promotion yourself if you want to see a profit.

 Are you looking for more tips on parenting and tweens/teens? Check out and follow my Pinterest board!

 
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dressing Provocatively: The Impression Teen Girls Make on Boys


Not an outfit for a middle schooler?
The other night I was out at dinner with family when my 12-year-old son suddenly stopped staring at his iPhone and started staring out the window of the restaurant. Whatever could have broken his technology induced haze? Surely it was a fire engine or brilliantly flashing police car. No, he wasn’t still in preschool so those options were out. When I peeked out the window I saw what had caught his attention. Two teenage girls were standing nearby. Not just teen girls, but teen girls dressed in mega-micro miniskirts and high-heeled leather boots. My uncle (who has an 11-year-old daughter) said, “I’m sure those girls are much older than you. Probably in college” to my son. “Nope,” my tween replied, “They go to my school.” Yes, that’s right – middle school. “But they, they…” my mother stammered, “They look like hookers.” Yes, that’s right too.

Dressing provocatively is hardly a new trend for teen girls. My mother remembers the girls having to kneel down at school to make sure that their skirts were long enough to touch the floor. Plenty of girls got sent home to change. That said, it’s disturbing to see the little girl who my son walked home with in elementary school get out of her mom’s minivan, wearing daisy duke’s and thigh highs (and it’s pretty much a fashion don’t).

Not only does it make me cringe that these girls are dressing so – well for lack of better word, slutty – at such a young age, but I wonder what our young sons are thinking. In 2013 a junior high school in California banned girls from wearing tight-fitting pants, citing that it distracted the boys. When I see a provocatively dressed tween or teen, I think, “Why didn’t her mother say something or teach her how to dress in a stylish, yet not hooker-like, outfit.” But, as the mother of a boy, I realize that it’s my job to teach him how to respect women – no matter how much skin they show. While it’s completely normal for a boy (especially a just-going-through puberty teen) to drool over a scantily clad member of the opposite sex, it doesn’t mean that he has to treat her like she’s not a person too. Instead, us mommies of boys can talk to our sons about how to treat a girl – even if she’s showing more skin than a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.

So, I sat my son down. Well, actually I thought that might embarrass him, so I casually brought up the subject during the car drive to school. When I asked if he ever noticed that some of the girls in his grade dress “older”, he immediately responded, “Yeah, like Jane (that’s not her real name.” He was talking about the thigh high-wearing girl who I saw getting out of her mom’s minivan.  I asked him if he thought that dressing like Jane made a girl look prettier. I got the eye roll and, “I dunno.” I moved on to asking him if he thought that the way a girl dress made him think that she might act a certain way – like she might want to have lots of boyfriends. He said, “Nooooo mom. I think people just dress differently. I don’t really care how a girl dresses. It’s just clothes.”

If you’re looking for some sort of answer or 10 definitive tips on how to keep your teen son from oogling the girls in his grade or 5 ways to help your neighbor tell her daughter that it’s not appropriate to wear a thing sticking out of the top of her short shorts, I don’t have it. While my son thinks clothes are just clothes, yours might think that Jane is rather slutty.  How would you talk to your tween or teen about this subject (you can discuss it in the comment section below)?

If you’re looking for more tween and teen information, check out and follow my Pinterest board on the subject.

 
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