Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ladies & Gentlemen of the Treehouse

I am moving. Sort of. 

I recently accepted the position of Editor for Blissfully Domestic's Homeschool Bliss channel. Because much of the content is related to that which I published in Henry's Treehouse, I will no longer be posting to this blog. 

You might be thinking, "What does homeschooling have to do with Henry's Treehouse?" Quite frankly, a lot. I strongly believe that no matter the formal venue for education, children are ultimately educated in the home. And though the Homeschool Bliss channel does focus on homeschooling as a formal educational venue, the channel offers a TON of resources related to education in general. 

Finally, I am in the process of redesigning my other blogs. My goal is to create one (or maybe two) seamless blog(s), and I am currently working with a web designer on this project. I promise to post the site as soon as we are completed, although don't expect anything until after the first of the new year.

Thank you all for your support and readership. Please visit me at Blissfully Domestic, and if you are interested in contributing to the Homeschool Bliss channel, let me know!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

While under construction...

Please visit me here! or here! or here! Thanks again.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank you.

Thank you, friends, for reading Henry's Treehouse.

Over the last four months, we have blogged together about issues that affect our lives as parents, educators, and child advocates. I have learned so much from your input and ideas, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts, ideas, and opinions with all of you.

As I look ahead, I have decided to combine a couple of my blogs, and in turn, I will be shutting the door to this chapter of Henry's Treehouse. Within the next month, I plan to launch a new blog design and theme, thus opening a new chapter to Henry's Treehouse.

Please stay tuned for more information.

In the meantime, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

College email is so last year?

A friend sent me this article about a prestigious college's decision to forgo new email accounts.

What do you think?

"Officials at Boston College have made what may be a momentous decision: they've stopped doling out new email accounts to incoming students. The officials realized that the students already had established digital identities by the time they entered college, so the new email addresses were just not being utilized. The college will offer forwarding services instead. Starting next year, freshman enrolled at Boston College won't be given an actual email account complete with login and inbox, just an email address."

So, is this the start of a new trend? I think so. There are a few concerns, but in time, I think this is the way colleges and universities will go. It does make me think about a young man who I knew through a previous job. He had an email address that consisted of a gang name. Let's hope that students like him find a more appropriate email address to use when they start their college career!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Do you have a high schooler who is college bound? If so, ask your child's School Counselor for the school's Peterson's StudentEdge access code.
If your child's school does not have one, encourage them to get one - access codes are FREE for school administrators!
Do not pay for access! Every school should be able to acquire an access code that allows administrators and students access to this resourceful website.
What is StudentEdge? StudentEdge is an online resource that gives students the opportunity to engage in the college planning process with tools and timely advice such as entrance exam preparation, financial aid information, practice standardized tests, and many other helpful tools. The site is customized to a student's grade level so there are tons of resources depending on whether your child is a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior.
Remember, there is no reason to pay for access to this site. Be in touch with your child's School Counselor today for more information about this valuable resource.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ohio abortions on the decline

I read the headline, Ohio abortions decline, and I thought, "great news." 

But then I read the article. 

According to the article published in The Columbus Dispatch, "In 2007, 30,859 pregnancies were terminated, down more than 6 percent from the previous year and the lowest number since the state began keeping statistics in 1976. A report by the Ohio Department of Health shows abortions have been declining since 2000, when 38,140 were performed."

Wait, did I read that right? Over 30,000? Just in the state of Ohio? Holy smokes! That is a crazy-high number!

Here are some of the facts:
  • About 1 in 8 abortions were performed on women younger than 20.
  • Women with at least one child accounted for 60 percent of abortions.
  • Eighty-two percent of the abortions were performed on unmarried women.
  • Women between the ages of 20 and 24 accounted for a third of abortions, more than any other age group.
  • Eighty-six percent of abortions were performed before the 12th week of pregnancy.
  • Ohio continues to have a lower rate of abortions than the national average.
  • Although Ohio statistics are not available, national figures show that unintended pregnancies are increasing among lower-income women while decreasing among higher-income women.
  • Nationally, those with a high-school diploma or less underwent nearly two-thirds of the procedures.
So what do you make of all this? I think it is wonderful that abortions are on the decline, but to know that my state still performs over 30,000 abortions every year? Well, we have a LONG way to go.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I want this book.

I must tell you about a book that I recently discovered (and no, it's not a new book, I'm just behind the times).

Poetry Speaks to Children is a collection of nearly 100 poems from amazing poets such as Emily Dickinson, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Langston Hughes. The featured poems are those that speak to children through rhyme, rhythm, fun, and sometimes, mischief. Additionally, the book comes with a CD featuring many of the authors reading their work - how cool!

I love this book because I think poetry can be intimidating. But if we expose our children at an early age to the work of fabulous authors (not simply nursery rhymes, although those are good, too), then when our children mature, they will be more likely to turn to those sometimes intimidating authors. 

In addition to the delicious poetry, the book is beautifully illustrated making it fun for the littlest children to read. 

And check out this review on NPR (and listen to Roald Dahl read The Dentist and the Crocodile!). 

I love a book that both children and adults can enjoy!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Let your kids 'give' this holiday season.

One thing that I hope to instill in my son (and any future children) is the desire to give back to the community. Certainly I cannot force this on him, but there are ways to nudge him in the direction of philanthropy. 

One option is YouthGive. YouthGive, where young people are building a world of good, allows parents to create a Giving Account for their children. The children are then able to manage their own virtual foundations. Parents simply deposit money via PayPal, and then their child can choose from a variety of nonprofits and decide how much to donate. There is no minimum, and parents monitor the child's donations along the way.

According to the website:
YouthGive helps to grow the next generation of givers and global citizens, believing that everyone can be a philanthropist.
YouthGive is giving by the many, for all ages, with local and global impact.
Help us create a new story for youth and families, one that empowers us all as caretakers of our communities and the world.

Consider engaging your child(ren) in the giving spirit this holiday season, and beyond!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A teen on teens

Ever wonder what your teenage daughter is thinking? What is going through her head as she storms out of the room stomping wildly up the stairs and slamming every door behind her? 

Well now you can take a peak into the madness behind her irrational behavior (or is it?) at On Teens Today

On Teens Today is a blog created by Vanessa Van Petten, a young woman well beyond her seventeen years. Vanessa and seven other teens discuss their perspectives and opinions on issues such as sex, academics, and relationships. 

I found this note from Vanessa on the website:
Welcome Brave Parents
HOORAY! Finally, parenting advice from the kid’s perspective! It’s usually impossible to get more than one-word-answers from us, but here I hope that I, along with my 8 teen writers (age 13-17) can be honest about real issues that teens and pre-teens are dealing with, so parents can actually understand us (well at least a small part of our world)…and we can finally develop better relationships.
As much as I LOVE my freedom, I know that adolescents are often two steps ahead of parental controls and because of this, watched many of my friends make really, really bad decisions. So, we have decided to break open the door to our SECRET, terribly complex world and let you in. Ok, I am exaggerating just a tad, but I do truly believe that *if we help each other stay informed, we can stay safe, supported and become happier adults.*

So next time you are at your wits end, log on. Who knows, maybe someone from Vanessa's posse can clue you into your daughter's apparent explosion over a seemingly innocent, "no, honey, you cannot stay over at Michael's house on Prom night."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stop the stigma - is controversial?

Yesterday's post was a first for me, and I'm excited about it!

I have been blogging since February, but it was not until yesterday that I received my first negative comment following one of my posts.

I have always asked people to be honest and express their opinions - that's the fun of the blogosphere. But until yesterday, I never experienced a negative response to one of my posts.

After first reading the comment, I felt my blood pressure rise and my heart begin to race. But I quickly realized that it was so cool! Someone actually read something that I had to say (although in this case it was a post of a letter from a third party), and my words caused them to actually "feel" something. I love it!

Unfortunately, the individual who commented did not leave their name or a link to their website. It's not a big deal, I simply find it interesting. I'm constantly dishin' out my two cents but I think there is something to be said about someone who posts an anonymous comment. Hmmm.

Oh, and how interesting that I have never received any negativity from my political posts (I post a lot of political mumbo jumbo on alidotes) or controversial posts regarding abortion, etc., but it was the post about de-stigmatizing self-mutilation that struck a chord with someone. Not sure what to make of that, but it's interesting.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I received my first negative post, and I can officially say that I am part of this crazy little world called the blogosphere! Thanks for joining me on the journey.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stop the stigma.

Please read this request.

As a parent, I am often concerned when I see blatant evidence of our broken society: graphic graffiti on a sidewalk, nudity on television, violence in video games. And as a mental health professional, I am passionate about breaking stigma, such as helping people to understand that to see a therapist does not imply that something is "wrong" with a person. 

I recently received the following request from a colleague. This request spoke directly to my heart as a mom and mental health professional. I contacted the highlighted party immediately because I am not only a concerned citizen, but I am also a concerned mom, educator, and child advocate. Please consider sending a message to this company.

This came from NAMI StigmaBusters:

The Burton Snowboard Company in Vermont, an international leader in the sport industry, recently unveiled its “Primo” line of snowboards, featuring graphic images of self-mutilation. NAMI is protesting the company’s insensitivity to public health concerns.

For people living with mental illnesses, self-injury unfortunately sometimes is a means of coping with severe emotional stress. Physical injury becomes a surrogate for emotional pain. The Burton images reinforce impulses toward such violence and essentially trivializes them.

Spectrum Youth & Family Services in Vermont , which provides housing and services to homeless, foster and at-risk youth, has protested the toxic snowboards by suspending its participation in Burton’s “Chill” program— which provides free snowboarding lessons to disadvantaged youth in cities around the country. Chill’s mission? “To build self-esteem.”

In a newspaper article , Spectrum’s executive director objected also to a Burton snowboard line that features Playboy models, which is being protested by other groups: “I think I have the right to get on a [chairlift] this winter with my 5-year-old and not have him subjected to any of these scenes…I think I have the right not to have my son ask me, ‘Daddy, why is there a picture of someone’s naked bottom on that snowboard? Why is there a picture of a bloody hand all over that snowboard?’”

Please send Burton a message:
  • Primo snowboards are a public health hazard.
  • Self-injury is not a sport. There is nothing athletic about self-mutilation.
  • Graphic illustrations of bleeding fingers are insensitive and trivialize a symptom of mental illness.
  • Be one of the good guys. Stop toxic marketing. Support mental health education instead.

Mr. Laurent Potdevin, CEO
Burton Snowboard Company
80 Industrial Parkway
Burlington, VT 05401

StigmaBusters involved in youth-oriented programs are especially encouraged to contact Burton’s Chill Program to emphasize that the Primo line is a black-eye to the good the company tries to do. They are at risk of losing goodwill and credibility.

Katherine McConnell
Burton Snowboard Company
Director of Chill Program

Friday, November 14, 2008

Telling our children that we care about them

With so much going on in our lives and the lives of our little ones, we sometimes forget that our words, no matter how insignificant, can make a difference in a child's life. 
Giving our children praises is crucial to building their self-esteem. And letting them know that we care about them helps them to turn to us when they need to talk. 
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hosts a Family Guide website. There you can find a list of phrases that you can say to your child to let them know that you love them. 
Sometimes it's not simply saying, "I love you," although that is a great thing for a child to hear, but often it's saying, "how can I help you," or, "I know you are sad so tell me about that." Letting our children know that we want to listen is often enough of an invitation for them to share their thoughts, concerns, and feelings with us.
Check out the list, and make it a point today to tell a child that you care about them.
*I realize that some of you might be thinking, "I tell my child that I love her everyday," and your child thanks you for that. But this list includes phrases for various situations, and it's a simple reminder that the little things really do count.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sexting - have you heard of it?

I read this commentary on Teen Checkup, and I thought, "thank goodness my child is still a baby." Really, God help me when it's time for me to make decisions such as whether or not my child will be allowed a cell phone. It's not boding well for him.
According to the commentator, young people, especially those in middle school, are engaging in a behavior called "sexting." Sexting occurs when kids (or anyone, for that matter) take naked pictures of themselves and then send the picture to others (who then forward the picture to an unimaginable number of people). Did your mouth just drop to the floor? Because mine did the first time I read this.
And I like to think that I am not naive. In fact, I have received naked pictures through spam or immature friends via text message. But never did it occur to me that young people would take pictures of their own body to be flashed across the digital world - for what, fun?
As if the natural consequences of this behavior are not enough, sexting is actually child pornography. Under federal law, child pornography is a criminal act, and is defined as a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, painting, photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image or picture, where it depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene. 
For instance, a 15-year-old Ohio girl is facing felony charges and may have to register as a sex offender after allegedly sending naked pictures of herself from her cell phone. What might have seemed like a funny game is actually a criminal offense.
The commentator concludes, "some people may argue that sexting is harmless and, perhaps, a form of safe sex. I would agree if 18-year-olds were doing it."
Excuse me, but even as an adult, I do not find sexting harmless. I find it disgusting, offensive, and troubling. And if any man text me a picture of himself in the buff, you better believe I would file a harassment charge.
If you have a teenager who has a cell phone, please talk with them. It is the parent's job to know what information and communication children are receiving from all media and digital outlets.
There are many benefits to allowing your child to have a cell phone (sorry, I don't discuss many of them here), but that doesn't mean your child should be allowed phone privileges carte blanche. 
Let me know your thoughts on sexting and how you intend on working with your teen to prevent them from ever being involved in such behaviors.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Let's eat.

With the holidays approaching, I wonder how many of us are engaging in food, fun, and family the traditional way - sitting together around the table.
Anymore it seems that families and their overstuffed schedules are running in fifty different directions from the time the bell rings to the time everyone falls into their beds way past bedtime. So how are we making time to actually sit and eat together? 
According to a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, "families who eat together have healthier, more balanced diets. Making family mealtime a priority not only improves everyone's physical health, but it also contributes to their overall well-being and mental health."
One thing about eating together that appeals to me is that it allows me to control what my son is putting in his mouth. When he is elsewhere, I never know what he is receiving in terms of food and nutrition. And as he gets older and spends more time away from home (boo-hoo), I know that this will be an even greater struggle.
Additionally, eating together as a family allows parents to establish hopeful habits for their children. One day my son might go off to college thus taking a sabbatical from home-cooked meals for weeks or even a month at a time (say it ain't so). But I will have some peace in knowing that five years at college surely can't negate my eighteen years of meal-together rituals established here in my home.
Furthermore, my husband was raised in a small town miles away from a restaurant of any sort. Nearly every evening meal that he consumed was prepared in his mother's kitchen and delivered to the family at the dining room table. Now my husband might be a rare breed, but because of this delicious upbringing, my husband can cook a serious meal - breakfast, lunch, dinner - you name it, he can cook it. What joy that brings me my family!
Additionally, mealtime is a perfect lab setting for learning socialization skills and manners. The dinner table is a wonderful place for children to practice how we want them to behave in public. Though mealtime can and should be enjoyable, there is no harm in learning how to keep our napkin on our lap or how to ask, "can you please pass the salt?"
Finally, eating together establishes ritual and tradition. I take great comfort in knowing that, no matter what happens during the day, my family will be together for dinner. Growing up, I always sat in the same seat on the same side of the table during our meals together, and it would not have felt the same had my father, for instance, taken a different chair at the table one evening. To me, our everyone-has-an-assigned-seat was like a security blanket.
In fact, a 2004 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine study found that families who regularly eat together are closer than those who eat separately. When we sit down with our children we create an environment conducive to communication. Mealtime is a great opportunity to actually talk with our kids rather than simply mentioning something in passing as we often do when we are scurrying off to the next event. Also, dinnertime occurs at the end of the day, which means that by then, we all have some catching up to do.
As we approach the holidays, it would do us all good to break-in the dining room table before our company arrives. Nothing fancy, nothing formal - just family, food, and memories.
To read more about the wonders of mealtime, visit this article.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Stranger

I received this email as a forward. I have no idea where it originated.

A few years after I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.
As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger ... he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries, and comedies. If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future!
He took my family to the football and cricket games. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.
Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)
Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home ... not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush.
My dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.
I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked ... And NEVER asked to leave.
More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. If you could walk into my parents' den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
His name?
We just call him 'TV.'
*Note: He has a wife now ... We call her 'Computer'.

With my recent posts on technology, I thought this story was a perfect illustration!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Candy, Consumption, & Cavities

If you still have Halloween candy lingering around your house, you might want to consider ridding of it, and quick. 
According to a CNN.com/health article, the fewer episodes of candy eating, the better. The author states, "although some parents may be tempted to space out the amount of candy their children consume after Halloween, dentists have advice to the contrary: When it comes to teeth, it's better to eat a whole lot of candy at once than to space out candy consumption over time." Repeated consumption leads to cavities thus it's better to eat a bunch of candy and then brush your teeth rather than spreading that candy out over time.
So if you must, spend the rest of the day gorging on leftover Halloween candy. Do what you can to limit your child's exposure to the cavity-producing substance over time, and insist that your children brush their teeth after any candy consumption from this point forward. 
And really, did you need another reason to be the one to finish off the last few Snickers?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lessons from a potato peeler

I read this article (and watched the video) about Joe the Potato Peeler on Park Avenue. Joe is a hard-working, passionate, and dynamic salesman. His story is simple yet inspirational. Though his story offers many "life lessons," the most valuable lesson that I gained from Joe the Potato Peeler is that loving what you do is invaluable. This great lesson is one that I hope to teach my children though I don't think it is a lesson that can be taught. Rather I believe life experiences - celebrating our successes and overcoming our mistakes - allows us to gain the perspective that leads to such life lessons. It is my hope that I allow my children to celebrate their successes and learn from their mistakes so that they can ultimately learn to love what they do no matter what that is.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Post-election instructions

It is now two days since the 2008 Presidential Election, and naturally, the country is still on fire - either on fire because of excitement or on fire because of disappointment. And though these last few days have been intense and emotional, I encourage everyone to step back and look at this historic moment from a child's perspective. What are our children learning from this? What are we teaching our children through this?
November, 2008, provides us with a wonderful opportunity to teach our children great lessons surrounding politics, liberty, and citizenship.
I recently read a fantastic commentary by a Christian educator, Dr. Mosbacker. I believe that his instructions to us are profound and necessary during this time of transition. Even if you do not aline yourself with the Christian faith, I believe that these instructions are worth considering because they focus on nonpartisanship through a greater cause.
Here is an overview of Dr. Mosbacker's instructions, though I encourage you to check out the entire commentary on his blog.
  1. Pray for the new President and mean it.
  2. Pray for our country.
  3. Verbally express due honor to the Office of the President and to the man who occupies it.
  4. Use the election to teach your students (or children) how to work through the various policy issues from a biblical perspective - not from a Democratic or Republican one.
  5. Instead of always protesting what is wrong, offer solutions and prepare our students (or children) to do the same.
  6. Celebrate the moral progress that this election represents.
  7. Remember that "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."
*The picture of the troops circled in prayer was too beautiful not to include in this post. What an example they are!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

TV, Teens, & Sex

According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, teenagers’ exposure to sexual content on TV is linked to teen pregnancies. The study found that teens exposed to high levels of sexual content on television were twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy in the following three years as teens with limited exposure.
The study's lead author cautioned that exposure to TV is not the only factor relating to teen pregnancies. She stated, “we don’t think that [TV] is necessarily more significant than some of the family and neighborhood factors that can lead to teen pregnancies. But even when we removed all the other factors, we still saw a compelling link between a high exposure to sexual content on television and teen pregnancies.”
Additionally, the study's abstract states: 
This is the first study to demonstrate a prospective link between exposure to sexual content on television and the experience of a pregnancy before the age of 20. Limiting adolescent exposure to the sexual content on television and balancing portrayals of sex in the media with information about possible negative consequences might reduce the risk of teen pregnancy. Parents may be able to mitigate the influence of this sexual content by viewing with their children and discussing these depictions of sex.
It seems that I continue to be made aware of research challenging my decision to let my son watch TV. As for now, I limit his TV exposure as best I can, and as he matures, I intend on having some very honest conversations with him about what he sees on TV, on the computer, in magazines, and anywhere else that the media is present. I believe that is ultimately the best that we can do as parents - talk to our kids. It is impossible to protect them from everything, but it is very possible to talk to them about anything.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The next President: Invested in our children's future

Today marks one of the most historical elections of all time. It is my hope that we are engaging our children in healthy political debates, and educating them about the electoral and democratic processes. Both presidential candidates are invested in the future of our children, and each has written an essay highlighting the importance of young people in this election. 
I share their words with you.

A More Peaceful and Prosperous World
by Senator John McCain

Throughout this election we've been fortunate to witness the inspiring involvement of so many young Americans, many of whom are not even old enough to vote. Families are bringing their children to campaign events; teenagers are canvassing neighborhoods; and college students are organizing student groups. With so much at stake in this election, I am proud to witness the involvement of this new generation of Americans. They understand their participation is not limited to the ballot box: they are volunteering their time and effort to improve the well-being of our country.

Blogs, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube have changed the way young people participate in the political process. I have made it a priority to reach young people by participating in such venues as the MTV/MySpace Presidential Dialogue, hosting a blog on my website, and reaching out through social networking sites.

Reaching young people isn't simply about the logistics of how you communicate; it is about what you communicate. Young people are not fixated on a single issue. They want leaders who will address the many critical issues directly affecting their lives, the lives of their families, and the people in their communities.

At town hall meetings across the country, I am repeatedly inspired by the commitment of the young women and men who crowd in to have their voices heard — veterans home from Iraq, relating what they saw, telling us to let them win; volunteers with the ONE Campaign talking about their efforts to alleviate global poverty; recent college graduates wondering what I will do to make health care affordable; and the countless young people who ask how I plan to combat the problem of climate change.

After 9/11, leaders in Washington missed an opportunity to call young people to service. Young men and women, who are willing to give of themselves and sacrifice, want a leader who will ask something of them. Young people want — and deserve — to have their opinions respected and their concerns taken seriously. I know this and will continue to call on young people to serve causes greater than their own self-interest.

Young people understand the power that the political process wields as a force for change, and they are actively engaged in harnessing that power to bring about change for their families, their communities and their world. I see, in the efforts and enthusiasm of America's youth, that our nation's best days are ahead of us. I hear the message of young people loud and clear, and as President, I will honor the obligation of today's leaders to leave the next generation a more peaceful and prosperous world than the one we have today.

Choices for a Rising Generation
by Senator Barack Obama

We are in a defining moment in our history. We're fighting two wars. Our planet is in peril. Our economy is in turmoil. And the dream that so many generations fought for feels as if it's slowly slipping away.

Now, I know that the easiest thing in the world for young people to do is nothing at all. To turn off the TV, put down the newspaper, and walk away from the stories about Iraq or Darfur or the rising levels of joblessness and hopelessness in our own communities. To go about their busy lives, wishing these problems away, expecting someone else to solve them. To remain detached and indifferent.

But I hope they don't do what is easy — because sometimes, there are moments when what's truly risky is not to act. What's truly risky is to accept things as they are instead of working for what could be.

Taking action can mean getting involved politically. We've seen huge numbers of young people taking part in our campaign. They're knocking on doors and making phone calls and helping fight to bring about real change in this country.

But action can also happen outside the political arena. I was born the year that John F. Kennedy called a generation of Americans to ask their country what they could do. And I came of age at a time when they did it. They were the Peace Corps volunteers who won a generation of goodwill toward America. They were the teenagers and college students who knew it was probably safer to stay at home, but still decided to take the Freedom Rides down South. And because they did, they changed the world. And they inspired me, just out of college, to move to Chicago to help lift up neighborhoods that were devastated when the local steel plants closed.

So at this historic moment, we must ask our rising generation to serve their country as Americans always have — by working on a political campaign or joining the military, by doing community service or relief work abroad. Because that's how real change has always come — from ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things; from all those, young and old, black, white, and brown, who were willing to do what was risky and what was hard and put their shoulders to the wheel of history, and turn it towards opportunity and equality and justice for all.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Children & Politics

Here are a few great tips for engaging children in the election process. My favorite is "take your children with you when you vote." Even though our son is too young to understand what goes on, my husband and I will be taking him with us tomorrow. It is a tradition that we want to start because we believe that our behavior is what will shape his desire (0r lack of) to one day be an actively involved citizen.
It is our honor and right to vote tomorrow - not simply for us, but more importantly, for our children's future and the future of our family.
And if you haven't already, PLEASE exercise your right to vote tomorrow!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick-or-Treat caution

Last night, as I returned from trick-or-treat at my parents' house, I thought about all the Halloween hype and the real dangers of the holiday (we spent beggar's night at my parents' house because they had friends and family over for hot dogs and s'mores). In my opinion, parents need not worry much about poisonous candy and boogey-men but rather the simple dangers that are associated with young kids running around in the dark in floor-length costumes. Before your child heads out, ask yourself: What is the likelihood that a driver will see your child if she darts out in the street? Is your child carrying a flashlight? Is your child trick-or-treating in a well-lit area? Is your child wearing roller shoes? Is your child's costume hitting the ground, or is his mask making it hard for him to see where he is going? These concerns are the real concerns of trick-or-treating. I encourage everyone to be extra cautious this time of year as children are running around after dark, wearing dark-colored costumes, and lacking the proper gear (reflectors or a flashlight) for a night-time outing. 
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Too sexy Halloween

With Halloween only a day away, many parents are scurrying to find their child a costume for the holiday. But their shopping might prove to be especially challenging as many of the costumes available are too sexy for their young one(s). 
Author and professor Diane Levin recently spoke with the Los Angeles Times about this concern.
Halloween costumes for 7- and 8-year-old girls and even younger have become downright titillating, and for tweens and teens, the vast majority of those sold in stores and on the Internet are unabashedly sexually alluring.
Little girls and their big sisters are being encouraged to get dressed up, in many cases, like child prostitutes. Then, they wander the night judging and being judged by their friends as to how well they meet the provocative standard and begging for candy from strangers.
This is a continuation of what's been going on for quite a while: Halloween costumes are reflecting an increasingly sexualized childhood.

So what is a parent to do?
Simply put, say NO!
Levin put it this way:
Say you go to a store with your 8-year-old and she's trying to get a sexy costume and you're insisting on something more wholesome. It's becoming a battle. You need to stop and ask, "What do you like about that costume?" She may say, "Jenny and Susie all have something like that and they'll think I'm a dork if I don't." And then you say, "But my concern is that that looks like a costume for an older person. It seems we need to find a costume where you feel OK and I feel OK. How about this one -- which looks a little sexy to me but I feel OK with it?"
The idea is to let kids know we're there, we hear them, we're going to influence what they're learning. But we're also going to respect their thinking. So when kids need our help, they're more likely to come to us.
I'm a big fan of this - talk to your child, listen to your child, respect your child, and try to find compromise. Sure, you might end up putting your foot down, but at least have a conversation with your child first. There is a lot both parent and child can learn from these situations, and ultimately, we want our children to be safe and to understand the importance of our concern(s) for them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

School for the Blind Marching Band

On Saturday my husband and I went to a pep rally before a college football game, and featured there was a group of amazing young people, The Ohio State School for the Blind. What is especially exciting about this school is that their marching band has been selected to march in the 2010 Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, California. Yes, folks, I said march. Assisted by sighted marchers, this band consisting of 17 members will be heading cross-country to be the first blind band to march in the legendary parade.
When I first learned of this, I was overcome with emotion. This is about young people doing amazing things, deserving amazing opportunities, and embarking on uncharted territory. You better believe that I will be looking for them on TV as I watch the 2010 parade, and I will be cheering them on from 3000 miles away!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Background TV not good for kids

In my seven months of motherhood, I have spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not I will allow my son to watch TV (movies and videos included), and if so, what limitations will I put on this privilege. Well the time has come for me to get serious about this decision. Just this morning I had my son in my arms, and as he fussed, I switched the TV from the Today show to the Disney Channel. I kid you not, my son was so enthralled in Handy Mandy that within minutes, he had fallen asleep. 
I was somewhat shocked by the effects of one program, but more than shocked, I was feeling guilty. I had used TV to put my child to sleep. And he's only a baby! And though I hate to admit it, this wasn't the first time that I have turned to the TV to entertain my son. 
Because I realize how easy it is to use the TV as a babysitter, child-calmer, and baby-soother, I decided to start thinking seriously about the issue and making some decisions. I imagine that I will allow him to watch some TV, but how much, I am still not sure. I am finding that it is not simply about what he watches. It's equally important that I consider what I am watching when he is present. Not only because of the PG-13 rated content of many shows and commercials, and the link to childhood obesity, but also because of the exposure to constant background noise.
According to a recent study, leaving the TV set on disrupts young children while they are playing and may be detrimental to a child's development. The study found that background TV disrupts the toy play of young children, even when they paid little attention to it; "when the television was on, the children played for significantly shorter periods of time and the time they spent focused on their play was shorter, compared to when the TV was off." According to the study's lead author, "Background TV is potentially a chronic environmental risk factor affecting most American children. Parents should limit their young children's exposure to background television."
Hhm. This complicates things. I not only need to consider limitations to my son's TV exposure but also for mine. And my husband's. Fortunately we only have one TV (and we plan on keeping it that way), but our house is small, and when the TV is on, it nearly fills the entire house with background noise. And I can't help but wonder if the constant background noise is a factor in the attention deficit disorders suffered by so many of our youth.
This recent study leaves me with more to think about as I decide what is best for my son. But more importantly, it leaves me with a challenge. Am I willing to sacrifice my own entertainment for the health and well-being of my son? I hope so (though easier said than done, I am sure).

Monday, October 27, 2008

A board game for parents

This is interesting: Parent Talk, a board game for parents about parenting. Parent Talk encourages communication between partners about how to raise their children. The players move through questions and scenarios that are designed to instigate discussion between family and friends. It's a fun, and hopefully light-hearted, way to get talking about many issues that you and your partner might not have thought about before having children.
Here is an example of one of the questions:
Your backyard is fenced in. Your 3-year-old loves to play outside. You have a lot to do inside. Do you let your child play outside alone?
a. You must be joking.
b. No! She is too young to be unsupervised even for a moment.
c. Only if I can keep an eye on her through the window.
d. Yes, if she has other children with her.
e. None of the above.
How would you answer? Do you know how your partner would answer? And if you and your partner disagree, can you find a compromise?
Parent Talk is a unique way for parents to tackle the many issues that confront parents who simply want to raise happy and healthy children.

Friday, October 24, 2008


The last couple of posts have been way too serious. Invite the kid in you to come out and play!
This is a safe and fun site for kids, too!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More on the abortion debate

Alyssa's comment to my previous post prompted me to do more research on the subjects of abortion and Planned Parenthood. I realize that by expressing my frustration and disappointment with Planned Parenthood, I am leaving young women with no other options during their time of confusion, fear, and despair. If they cannot turn to Planned Parenthood, then where can they turn? Unfortunately, the answer is grim.
I tried to put myself in the shoes of a young girl, maybe 15-years-old, who just discovered that she is pregnant. After crying and freaking out, I think that I would start googling. 
So the first thing I googled was "abortion." The top three search results were as follows: Wikipedia, AbortionFacts.com, and Planned Parenthood. Beyond that, there were a couple of other potential resources, but most of the results related to the medical definitions of abortion. 
I realize that Planned Parenthood is the most available, well-known, and reputable option. I think that is why I am so disappointed with them. And I'm disappointed in our society that there isn't a less biased resource available to women. Actually I wish that Planned Parenthood offered young people equal information and resources from both "sides." In other words, what if I am a young girl who believes that abortion is a sin. Who is going to talk me through that while respecting my beliefs? And maybe that's not the role of Planned Parenthood, but then how can they claim that they stand for knowledge, equality and choice? 
I had not heard of AbortionFacts.com, but because they were the number two search result, I decided to check them out. 
AbortionFacts.com is sponsored by Heritage House, a pro-life, pro-family, Christian organization. The information is strongly pro-life, and the site offers several hotlines and resources for women contemplating abortion. 
As stated by AbortionFacts.com: "Our mission is simple. We have brought together quality information on the abortion debate from many different sources and made it available to the world in one abortion megasite. We believe these facts point to an obvious conclusion. You are free to accept or reject this conclusion. We simply ask that whatever you do, do it on the basis of fact."
One of the site's links is to OptionLine. OptionLine offers the opportunity to reach a consultant 24-hours a day via phone, email or instant message. According to OptionLine, available consultants will connect individuals to nearby pregnancy centers that offer the following confidential services:
  • free pregnancy tests and pregnancy information
  • abortion and Morning After Pill information, including procedures and risks
  • medical services, including STD tests
  • early ultrasounds and pregnancy confirmation
  • confidential pregnancy options
  • after Abortion resources including community resources that help with post-abortion concerns
Unfortunately, AbortionFacts.com is not well-known, reputable or user-friendly. The site is poorly constructed and hard to read. I would love to find a balance between Planned Parenthood and AbortionFacts.com - a thriving and approachable resource that truly provides EVERYTHING a young woman needs during such a difficult and potentially life-changing time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Planned Parenthood: Not Recommended.

Abortion has and always will be a hot topic surrounded by an enormous amount of debate, and I am extremely hesitant as I consider leaving this post knowing that the word alone is enough to fire people up. But I have a thing or two to say regarding this issue, so at the risk of stirring the pot, here I go.
The abortion debate is making headlines in my state of Ohio as the Ohio Supreme Court is called to determine whether or not Planned Parenthood systematically ignored evidence of abuse against girls who visited Planned Parenthood's 37 Ohio clinics for abortions. These allegations stem from a 2004 case when "a 14-year-old girl showed up at a Cincinnati abortion clinic accompanied by a 21-year-old who was not her relative." The 14-year-old went to a Planned Parenthood clinic with her 21-year-old soccer coach who had impregnated her. The girl identified him as her step-brother, and she gave the clinic her coach's number saying it was her father's. The coach used his credit card to pay for the abortion. The coach was later convicted of seven counts of sexual battery.
The fact that Planned Parenthood fell for the ruse suggests that its staff and doctors are willing to overlook evidence of abuse. Planned Parenthood approved the child for the abortion overlooking several red flags that should have caused them to suspect statutory rape.
I'm not going to further discuss this issue because it disgusts me to no end. But the story did spark a desire in me to better understand the parent consent laws in my state (they vary from state to state).
In the State of Ohio, a minor must receive parental consent in order to receive an abortion. It's very hard for me to believe that this consent can be given over the phone, but as in the case cited above, it happens - wow. 
While researching this issue, I came across a resource developed by Planned Parenthood for teens: teenwire.com. I really want to support a resource that offers teens sex education because I believe that talking with our kids about sex is important. But Planned Parenthood's site rubs me the wrong way. They throw out phrases such as, "the best way to protect yourself is to get a prescription from a health center or private health care provider before an accident happens," and "most women, in the long-term, experience feelings of relief after they have an abortion." Um, excuse me? The best way to protect yourself is called ABSTINENCE. Who are these yahoos? I'm not a proponent of abstinence-only education, but let's get real here, it is the only surefire way to avoid STD's and pregnancy. Geesh. And what about this "relief after an abortion" b.s.? Sure, I imagine that there is an element of relief that many women experience, but the women that I know who have had an abortion struggle continuously with that decision. And by continuously, I mean they have struggled for YEARS.
I wish that I could support Planned Parenthood's efforts, but I'm so disappointed by their pro-abortion and pro-sex philosophies. Sure, they can argue that they present facts and education, but anyone who has a brain can see that what they present is hardly unbiased. 
I want to believe that Planned Parenthood offers young women with everything that they need during such a difficult time: facts, counseling, prayer, resources, love, support, truth. But sadly, my research leads me to believe that they don't. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Don't believe everything you hear as Halloween draws near.

October 31st is approaching which means it is almost time for us to send our children out collecting treats only to make them dump everything onto the living room floor so that we can sort through it all. Throw out any candy that appears partially opened, and most certainly dispose of anything that has been repackaged or hand-baked! Oh, and take test bites of each individual candy in case someone buried a razor blade in one of them. 
Every year, I receive Watch-Out! emails from friends and family that basically say the same thing - bad people want to poison and hurt your children so don't let them eat any candy that resembles x,y, or z. 
Sure enough, I received my first Watch-Out! email this morning.
This particular email claimed that the local sheriff's office is urging parents to be suspect of a drug called Strawberry Quick. The "alert" was printed on professional letterhead, and it contained information about a form of crystal meth that looks and smells like strawberry candy. There was even a link to a Fox News article that covered the dangers of this drug. 
I am always suspect of these emails, and thanks to a colleague of mine, I have discovered Snopes.com. Let me make one thing clear: Snopes.com is not the absolute when it comes to uncovering the truth about suspicious information and rumor. Snopes.com simply investigates seemingly harmless rumors and attempts to set the record straight.
In the case of Straweberry Quick, Snopes validates that some drug dealers sell crystal meth that is colored and coincidentally resembles Pop Rocks, but Snopes argues that this drug is not flavored in order to market the drug to children. Snopes backs up this information by uncovering the layers of updates and email examples that have been floating around in cyberspace attempting to freak out parents everywhere.
Let me be clear, there is always the possibility that some bad man could candy-coat crystal meth and drop it in your child's trick-or-treat bucket. But the reality is that there are more "bad" people who instigate a seemingly harmless email chain of false information than there are "bad" people who are really going to seriously harm your child. Some immature and computer savvy teenager probably thinks it's funny to send out a spooky email in order to ruffle a few feathers. 
Again Snopes.com is not the end-all-be-all. But it is a good place to start when you are wondering if maybe someone is trying to get a rise out of the public during an already eerie time of year.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mighty Mommy

Whenever I have a grammar question, the first website that I turn to is always Grammar Girl. Hosted by Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl tackles grammar and writing in a way that is accurate, witty and funny. Her grammar tips are "quick and dirty," and her claim-to-fame is her "Quick and Dirty Tips" podcasts. 
In addition to grammar galore, her site features quick and dirty parenting tips from The Mighty Mommy. Each week, host CJ Feierabend shares her practical parenting advice in short podcasts. Feierabend offers tips from diapering to taking family photos. In addition to downloading the podcasts, one can read the entire episode transcripts online. 
Mighty Mommy is a great resource for moms-on-the-go who could use parenting advice (can't we all?) but don't spend a lot of time reading online. Simply download the podcasts and listen to them when you are squeezing in a morning jog or driving across town to pick up the kids.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mommy Einstein

According to an article in The Sun, Babies aid mothers' brains. Though many moms-to-be report suffering from "baby brain" (forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, etc.), experts now believe that when baby is born, mom's intelligence soars. The study performed tests on rats that showed mom rats became braver and faster once becoming a mommy. Experts believe that during pregnancy, mom's brain is rewiring to cope with motherhood, and it is when baby is born that mom receives her IQ boost.
But scientifically proven or not, mom's have a remarkable ability to successfully juggle meal planning, house cleaning, baby rearing, schedule planning, spouse maintaining, and the list goes on - moms certainly don't need a rat to tell them that they are brilliant!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Veggies and Fruit and Nutrition, Oh my!

In conjunction with a grant from Ohio Action for Healthy Kids, a local elementary school initiated a "Take a Taste" program which gives children a chance to sample different fruits and vegetables. The monthly program offers elementary school children a taste of healthy foods that they might not typically find in an ordinary snack pack. The goal is to increase nutrition in young people by exposing them to a variety of nutritious foods. School is a great lab for this program because healthy kids equates to more on-task, alert, and energized students. What a wonderful and fun way to invest in a child's healthy and education!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Teens, Text, Talk, Drive

UPDATE: To see related post by same author, please check out BlogMommas.

Last week I published a post discussing Ford's MyKey programmable computer chip which allows parents to limit their teen driver's speed. I like the idea, and I said that I would like it even more if it somehow disrupted the teen driver's cell phone signal so that he/she could not talk or text while driving. 
Well ask and you shall receive! This morning I read an article about a device that would do just that.
Nationwide Insurance Co. has teamed up with Aegis Mobility, and they hope to offer a service next year that "informs a caller or texter that the intended recipient is driving and can't be reached at the moment. Meanwhile, the driver would be oblivious to the call and free to focus on driving."
DriveAssist is a downloadable software that uses motion-sensing technologies to determine when someone is driving (the service can be disabled if the user is a passenger). With DriveAssist, callers can leave a voice mail, send an emergency alert, have the call connected when the driver is done, or even find out where the driver is located. The software offers flexibility by allowing the driver to make 911 calls and allow some numbers to always come through.
So far no cell-phone carriers have signed on to provide the service, but Aegis is hoping to launch DriveAssist next year. Though the price will depend on the provider, it is expected to cost between $10 and $20 a month (a bit pricey, if you ask me).
What a great way to insure that your son or daughter is faced with one less distraction while on the road.
For more information, check out this video.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Drive through flu shots

Often I roll my eyes at our culture's demand for convenience. I could literally spend the entire day in my car - not getting out once - and still accomplish A LOT. A productive yet staionary day could look like this: drive through for coffee, drive through the bank, drive through the pharmacy, drive through for lunch, drive through the dry cleaners, drive through for a daiquiri (only in Louisiana), drive through the library book drop-off, and pick up dinner curb-side. Whether it's our increasing "drive" for cramming more into our already over-scheduled day or just sheer laziness, America has found a way to make almost everything quicker and more convenient.
And in an effort to stay active and have real interactions with human beings, I try and avoid the drive-through whenever I can (but it's so darn easy to simply drive through when I need a diet coke). 
But there is a drive-through initiative that I can support: drive through flu shots! That is one cause that really is better when made easier!
Face it, no one wants to get their flu shot. Sure they want to be healthy and stay healthy, but a needle in the arm? No thanks. So in an effort to make this less-than-desirable task easier, many groups have worked towards making this less of a hassle and more of a convenience.
Most of us have been to the grocery store when it's announced that flu shots are available near the pharmacy, but now there isn't even a need to get out of your car!  
I first heard about this in my own community. Our county's health board is offering flu shots for a minimal fee at a nearby park. All they ask is that you wear short-sleeves so that your shot can be administered with your window rolled down as you remain seated in your car. Can you believe this? 
I then googled "drive through flu shots," and found that this is a nationwide trend. "Clinics" are popping up all around the country. Many of these clinics offer free shots to individuals on Medicare and Medicaid stating that no one will be turned away for the inability to pay. Wow - how awesome. Efficient and cost-effective! 
If you are interested in driving through for your flu shot, I encourage you to google "drive through flu shots" and the name of your city. 
Because I would feel guilty if I wasn't completely honest, I must admit that I never get a flu shot. I might get a cold a couple of times a year, but that's about it. I have my reasons for not getting the shot, but I'm not a physician, so this certainly isn't my recommendation. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it is recommend that most people get a flu shot, especially people over 50, children ages 6 months and older, and women who are pregnant. For a complete list of Who Should Get Vaccinated and Who Should Not Be Vaccinated, check out the CDC's website
I should also note that there is now a nasal-spray flu vaccine available and is approved for use in healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant. To my knowledge, FluMist is not available at drive-through clinics, and usually FluMist is only offered per request at your doctor's office.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vitamin D & Kids

A recent report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends doubling the amount of vitamin D consumption for infants, children and adolescents. It recommends that all children receive 400 IU of vitamin D a day. 
According to the AAP's website: "adequate vitamin D throughout childhood may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. In adults, new evidence suggests that vitamin D plays a role in the immune system and may help prevent infections, autoimmune diseases, cancer and diabetes." Additionally, it is recommended that children receive daily supplements of vitamin D as most children do not get enough vitamin D through diet alone.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Children & Cars

A nearby community suffered a great loss over the weekend when a young boy was struck and killed by a driver in a parking lot. The tragedy occurred during a morning of sports games at a local sports field. The young boy (4-years-old) was leaving a youth league football game with his family (his father is a coach) when he was struck by a pickup truck that was driving in the crowded parking lot. The boy was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead. 
This incident is especially concerning because of the environment in which it occured. I would hope that drivers in a youth field parking lot would be especially cautious knowing how many children are running around. I would also hope that drivers would be driving slowly so that if an accident did occur, the impact would be minimal. And this little guy was with his family, meaning that his parents were present, and I imagine that other adults were nearby when the accident happened.
But this tragedy demonstrates that you can never be too careful. These things happen so quickly, and I imagine that the many cars and people in the parking lot had something to do with the likelihood of this accident. 
There is a national organization that aims to prevent accidents like this. Kids and Cars' mission is "to assure no child dies or is injured in a non-traffic, motor vehicle related event." They believe that these types of accidents are preventable, and they offer valuable resources geared toward preventing a child from being injured or killed. They offer specific resources including information regarding the following topics:
  • Backed Over by Vehicle (Backovers)
  • Hit By Vehicle Moving Forward (Frontovers)
  • Car Theft With Child In Vehicle
  • Children Left in Vehicle (Heat Stroke Or Hyperthermia)
  • Incidents Involving Power Windows
  • Vehicle Set in Motion by a Child
  • Underage Drivers
I urge everyone to peruse the Kids and Cars website - these incidents truly are easily preventable.
*I realize that some of the above statements might seem blameful, and I realize that this incident was merely an accident. I only point out that the situation appeared to be harmless because it helps us to understand how even "safe" situations can have unexpected and serious concerns.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cold meds update

Less than a week after the FDA reported that they saw little evidence that over-the-counter cold medications work in children under 6-years-old (but fearing that parents would give kids adult medicines if the products were taken off store shelves), drug companies conceded that children under four should not be given over-the-counter cough and cold remedies. Pediatricians have asked that the drug companies take this one step further by ceasing all marketing of these medications to children under six.
According to an article Tuesday in the AP, drug companies stated that this warning, along with a warning to parents to not give children antihistamines to make them sleepy, will appear on the medications' labels this cold season.
The AP article offered these additional tips for giving cough and cold medicine to children (source: Consumer Healthcare Products Association):

Parents should never:
  • Give adult medicines to a child.
  • Give two or more medicines with the same ingredients at the same time.
  • Give antihistamines to make a child sleepy.
Parents should:
  • Give the exact recommended dose, using the measuring device that comes with the medicine.
  • Keep OTC medicines out of sight and out of reach.
  • Consult their doctor if they have any questions.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Learning from dad

I am constantly having conversations with moms who feel guilty. Guilty that they didn't spend enough time with one of their children. Guilty that they didn't get the laundry and cooking and cleaning done that day. It truly amazes me that moms constantly judge themselves when, let's face it, moms are accomplishing a crazy amount more than anyone gives them credit for.
But how often do you hear a dad express these same feelings of guilt? Not often. Men are definitely wired differently than women, and there might be a few things that women can learn from them regarding this cloud of guilt. Parents.com offered these three suggestions:
  • Dads don't try to do it all. Men don't attempt to work full-time, be the primary caregiver to the kids, cook dinner, maintain the home, socialize with their friends and make time for their spouse. They just don't carry those expectations for themselves, plain and simple.
  • Dads don't feel guilty when they take time for themselves. Men seem to constantly be looking for ways to squeeze in a round of golf or a poker night with their buddies. And when these opportunities arise, they don't think twice about having some me-time.
  • Dads don't blame themselves for everything. When his little one hits another kid at playgroup, dad doesn't analyze his parenting and blame himself for this otherwise normal childhood occurrence. 
So how can us moms be more like the dads? Well, try not to check EVERYTHING off your list everyday. Sure, it's important to get things accomplished, but what's the big deal if you leave one or two things unchecked? And indulge in me-time when you have time (and if you don't have time, make time!). The more refreshed you are, the better off you are as a mom. And finally, embrace what are normal childhood situations. Just accept the fact that your child is going to do something embarrassing and outlandish; it's just a fact of life and not a result of your parenting skills.
Don't get me wrong, I do it too. I read a friend's blog or listen to a friend's story, and I think to myself, "ugh - how is she doing it all?" But just when I think I'm less than superior, I check in with my fatherhood-is-treating-me-well-husband and he reminds me that he hasn't picked up a broom in months and that round of golf he played on Saturday felt great. And when I ask him if he feels the slightest bit of guilt when our son has a 45-minute meltdown before bedtime, he gives me this quizzical look and asks, "why would I feel guilty?"

Parental control

So what do you think of this idea: Device will help parents limit teen drivers?
Apparently, Ford Motor Co. is rolling out a new feature called "MyKey" on many of its 2010 models. MyKey, a programmable computer chip in the car's key, is designed for parents who want to limit their teen drivers to 80 mph. Additionally, the computer chip allows the parent to limit the system's volume and to enable a function that sounds continuous alerts if the driver doesn't wear a seat belt.
Ford's director of electronic and electrical systems engineering put it this way, "Our message to parents is, hey, we are providing you some conditions to give your new drivers that may allow you to feel a little more comfortable in giving them the car more often."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "more than 5,000 U.S. teens die each year in car crashes. The rate of crashes, fatal and nonfatal, per mile driven for 16-year-old drivers is almost 10 times the rate for drivers ages 30 to 59."
I like this "MyKey" idea. I would like it even more if it somehow disrupted the teen driver's cell phone signal so that he/she could not talk or text while driving. And so that I could still talk to my son even with his cell phone disengaged, allow the parent hands-free audio access into the vehicle so that I could still get ahold of my child to tell him things like, "don't forget, curfew's 11:00pm," or "if you stop by that party then you can kiss Homecoming goodbye." Not to worry, I have fifteen years before my child(ren) will be driving so there is plenty of time for the invention of these nifty enhancements. In the meantime, I am going to pray that I do not become that crazy, overbearing, always-nagging, helicopter parent that I so loathe.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

SIDS update

This month the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine published a study suggesting that using a fan while a baby is sleeping appears to significantly cut the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. 
According to the study, fan use during sleep was associated with a 72% reduction in SIDS risk. The reduction in SIDS risk seemed more pronounced in adverse sleep environments. For example, fan use in warmer room temperatures was associated with a greater reduction in SIDS risk compared with cooler room temperatures. The study concluded that fan use may be an effective intervention for further decreasing SIDS risk in infants in adverse sleep environments.
According to the study's lead researcher, Dr. De-Kun Li,  fan use increases air movement in a baby's bedroom that could protect babies from re-breathing carbon dioxide. "If parents want to take an extra measure, they should consider using a fan," he said. But he stressed that using a fan isn't a substitute for placing babies on their backs to sleep.
The frightening thing about SIDS is that there is no known cause, only known risk factors.
The risk factors include: 
  • Tummy or side sleeping
  • Soft sleep surfaces 
  • Loose bedding
  • Overheating
  • Smoking (both mothers who smoke during pregnancy and exposure to second-hand smoke)
  • Bed sharing
  • Preterm and low birth weight infants
I commend researchers and advocates for working so diligently to better understand this syndrome which is the leading cause of death in children under one year old. Thanks to their efforts, the SIDS incidence has decreased drastically from 1980, when out of 1000 live births, 1.5 babies died, to now, out of 1000 live births, only 0.5 die from SIDS. That is a tremendous and successful effort for which I am truly grateful.