Wednesday, April 16, 2014

5 Things Only a Mother Knows

The blog has been quiet for weeks. I apologize, but only a little. I'm in that parenting purgatory where my toddler has dropped her naps and requires constant entertainment or else she will find it herself; an option that usually doesn't end well.

And maybe it's the blood moon or the just some good ole fashion luck, but by god, all of my kids are asleep at the same time. I attempted a nap, but thought a blog post was long overdue.

There are certain things I didn't learn until I became a mother. Little things that never would have occurred to me otherwise. I thought I would share some of these things with you. I would love to hear what being a mother has taught you as well!

1. It isn't easy to pick a nose. You can't pick your kids. And you can't pick your nose. But you can pick your kid's nose. Just not easily. There are many times a day that I'm face-to-face with a nose full of boogers. It's incredibly difficult to get kids to sit still enough to efficiently pick their nose. It's like trying to grab a hummingbird.

2. Showering is scary. This is universally a mom thing. Didn't think it was possible to shower under 5 minutes? Try doing it when your kids are awake. I'd probably find a shower at the Bates Motel more relaxing.

3. Parenting and horror films have a lot in common. Beware the squeaky door. Curse the creaking step. And whatever you do, don't be the first one to make eye contact.

4. Children can smell fear. And ice cream. Think your kids are sleeping? Think again. One tug on the freezer door and they are at your side faster than {insert preferred southernism here}. It's really incredible how acute their hearing is; especially since they have yet to hear the words, "put your laundry in the hamper" despite constant reiterations.

5. Not all hours in a day are 60 minutes. I know. Mind blown. But it's true. Just ask any mom. The hours between 3:00pm-6:00pm are actually close to 90 minutes each while the hours between 8:00pm-11:00pm are roughly 45 minutes each. Don't believe me? Try to watch your favorite TV show during each time frame and see which one takes longer.

There you have it. A little mom knowledge imparted. What mom knowledge do you have? 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vaccines. Do it!

I've been sitting here trying to figure out how to approach this delicately. I realized, there are some topics that just can't be dealt with in a diplomatic, delicate manner. For me, vaccinations is one of them.

I understand that parents have the right to care for their children as they see fit. And for the most part, I'm on board with that idea. However, there are some "parenting choices" we can all agree to be deplorable; abuse, neglect, abandonment. The issue of vaccines is a hot one. People on both sides of the argument are passionate and certain they are right. But only one side is supported by science (and yes, I support science).

Here's the thing many well-meaning parents forget; not all illness against which we vaccinate are eradicated. Many are and many were. Until folks decided to stop vaccinating. Now they are coming back and endangering those who are legitimately unable to be vaccinated (too young, insufficient immune systems, allergic, etc...).

What made me decide to write about this very controversal topic? No, it's not because I want to alienate friends who choose not to vaccinate and it's not because I like confrontation or nasty comments. It's because a friend has recently been faced with the very reality of what's happening because parents are choosing to forgo shots.

Her 4 year old daughter, who is fully vaccinated, contracted whooping cough. Whooping cough, aka pertussis, is one of those previously eradicated very series infections that is once again sweeping the nation. In fact, any of you who have had a baby recently were probably offered and/or given the pertussis vaccine while pregnant or before you left the hospital. Babies can not receive this vaccine until after 2 months so they rely on the transfer of immunity from the mom in utero and/or herd immunity. They are helpless against it. They are also at greatest risk of death if contracted.

So, what does all of that have to do with my friend's 4 year old daughter? Well, she has just barely 2 month old baby siblings. Her little brother and sister have not been vaccinated and are at increased risk of contracting this potentially life threatening disease. Because the 4 year old was exposed to an unvaccinated child at a time when she had a suppressed immune system (i.e. a cold), she is now a potential life threatening risk to her baby brother and sister.

How did the 4 year old contract it if she's already vaccinated? Well, that's easy. Vaccines guard against the most common strains of a disease and reduce the effects of other strains. What messes up the system is that those who are not vaccinated are opening the door for the bacteria that cause whooping cough to continue to exist and evolve into new strains.

Choosing not to vaccinate puts others at risk. It's as simple as that. Yes, there are risks, but they are minimal compared to the risk of actually contracting the illness against which the vaccine protects. The research is vast and consistent. VACCINATE YOUR CHILD. /rant

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Week & Review

Wow! What a week!

This week I was able to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming and sneak away for some much enjoyed professional development. I attended and presented at the National Association of School Psychologist 2014 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C.

There were some fantastic presentations and I'm planning a series of blog posts based on the great information I absorbed.

One of the benefits of these conventions is the exhibits. Strolling through table after table of new products, services, and programs can be quite daunting, but it can also provide the opportunity to discover new gems.

One potential gem was the Emotes! program. For a detailed description, check out the website. For a quick and dirty explanation, keep reading.

Emotes live in the internet. They were created when all of the emotions of internet users came together. A great power was created and split into creatures called, the Emotes! Each Emote represents a different emotion which is clearly represented in their name. Super is the Emote of confidence, Abash is embarrassment, and Joi is positive thinking; you get the idea.

According to the website:
"The goal of the Emotes project is to help young people increase their emotional intelligence and boost their emotional vocabulary—the ability to put feelings into words. The Emotes books, comics, toys, and interactive web content provide children with an engaging way to explore and express their emotions. "

The authors offered a couple of books for me to review which I was more than happy to accept.

**Disclaimer: I was provided these books free of charge; however, I was in no way compensated for this review. Therefore, I feel no pressure to provide anything other than an honest review.**

First, I read one of the picture books:

Joi's Cyber-Coaster Adventure: An Emotes Book About Positive Thinking
By Matt Casper & Ted Dorsey


Joi "The Excited" discovers there's a festival coming to town. He gathers his friends to help prepare for the festival. He helps his friends see the positive side to situations. Suddenly, the evil Dr. Viro (who wants to steal all of the Emotes) sends his creation, Negataur, to take control of the Cyber-Coaster. The only solution is to combat the Negataur with positive thoughts.

Good News:

There's a great message repeated in the book; "Imagine it! Believe it! Do it!" Optimistic thinking can be a difficult skill for children to master since they are mostly self-centered and emotionally reactive. I like that there is a mantra that can accompany the book, providing a follow-up reminder for the child..

In the back of the book you will find suggestions, written in kid friendly language, for improving positive thinking.

Visuals are appealing and engaging. These books are obviously designed with boys in mind, but could certainly be engaging for all children.

Bad News: 

The story and message gets a bit muddled. Because it's a picture book there isn't much time for character and plot development. I think the message would be more clear if there were fewer characters involved.

At one point, an Emote relates to Joi that there may be a practical solution to their problem. The practical suggestion is dismissed for positive thinking instead. While, a positive perspective can help the problem solving process, practical solutions shouldn't be overlooked.

The author clearly doesn't want children to mistake positivity for gullibility. And that's almost a pro, but it interferes with the overall message and seems more like an afterthought and "CYA" addition to the book.

I would be interested to find out what the data reveal about the effectiveness of the picture books for improving a child's emotional vocabulary. (More on that on their website too)

Next, I read a chapter book aimed for older elementary age children.

Color Me Odd: Or How I Learned to Stop Pretending and Love Myself 
By Matt Casper, MFT


Odd has to decide which club he would like to join. He doesn't seem to fit into any of them. Feeling alone, his friend Abash takes him to his secret lair. There, Odd replicates himself into more popular clones. However, Odd doesn't find much fulfillment watching other versions of himself fit in. Eventually, he learns that it's better to "Bee" himself than pretend to be something different. And so, he starts his own club where everyone fits in.

Good News: 

I enjoyed the chapter book much more than the picture book. The characters were more well developed and the plot moved at a good pace.

The message is clear; be yourself. The story is engaging. There are even a couple of funny nods for us old folks (i.e. "Falling and can't get up").

Bad News: 

After reading both the picture and chapter books I noticed a glaring weakness, few girl characters. In fact, after reading the books and researching the website the best I can tell there are at least 12 main boy characters (or emotions) and only ONE girl character (or emotion) and she is ::cringe:: Amore "The Lovestruck." On the plus side, she's athletic? I think this is a serious oversight on the part of the authors.

I understand that the book's target audience is boys (although the mission statement doesn't support this assumption). The books reinforce the fact that it's ok to, "Feel ALL of your emotions." I would argue that by not including more girl characters the author may inadvertently support the social construct that boys can feel a range of emotions while girls can only feel "love." A message already indirectly reinforced ad nauseum.

Again, the author's mission statement explains;
 "The goal of the Emotes project is to help young people increase their emotional intelligence and boost their emotional vocabulary—the ability to put feelings into words. The Emotes books, comics, toys, and interactive web content provide children with an engaging way to explore and express their emotions. "
Without more female characters there's a large portion of "children" left out. Part of developing social and emotional intelligence includes role playing. Who are the girls supposed to imitate? Amore? Are they supposed to always pretend to be in love? That doesn't seem like feeling ALL of your emotions. I would like to see the authors resolve this weakness.  Especially if the goal is to roll this out for schools to integrate in their general (or small group) curriculum, which undoubtedly won't be assigned by gender.

Final Thought? 

Overall, I think this program is a great idea. The books are visually engaging, the characters are compelling, the storylines are good, and the online component is dynamic. Add some girls into the mix and I'm sold.

If you are interested other book reviews check out my Independent Princess Book Review.

Also, one of the authors, Ted Dorsey, has an at-home SAT prep kit worth a look.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Plea to Facebook

Dear Facebook,

Your autoplay function on videos is quite dynamic and at first didn't seem entirely awful. However, I don't think this option was fully considered before implementation.

Here's the problem, I have many friends with varied threshold levels for graphic images. Twice this weekend I've been exposed to videos I never would have chosen to watch because the graphic nature surpasses my threshold (and I expect more on the way). Those who shared the videos were well meaning. The videos are intended to bring attention to issues that might otherwise go unnoticed and so I don't feel the need to go as far as flagging these videos as abuse.

And really they aren't. They simply fall outside of my comfort zone. As a mother of young children, my emotional threshold is already met, I don't need to overload it with heartbreaking, graphic, or obscene (but not "abusive") videos. I'm sure there are many other people who are perfectly fine to watch what is being posted.

I simply want the option to play or not play the videos. There really isn't much more to it than that.

As a society, we have so much shoved in our faces without our consent. It is with utmost sincerity that I ask you, Facebook overlord, to revert to a time when I could scroll through my Newsfeed without fear of motion sickness or emotional stress.

Facebook users everywhere.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Double Layer Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

My husband had one request for his birthday; a cookie cake. I couldn't just go to the store and pick up some generic cookie cake, no that would not do. I needed to rise to the challenge. And, I did:

I've never made a cookie cake and my main concern was an under-cooked center. I reviewed some recipes that baked the cookie at 350 or 375 and they all insisted you need a proper cookie tin. Spoiler: You don't. I used two 9 x 1.5 inch cake pans.

I started with my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, you can find it HERE.

I divided the dough into thirds. I pressed one-third into each prepared pan (make sure you use flour & butter or baking spray so cookie will easily slide out of the pan). You will have a third of the dough leftover. This ended up to be perfect because I tried to transfer the first cookie before it had cooled completely and it fell apart...

Bake the cookie cakes at 325 for 20-23 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. This is very important; see above paragraph.

Next, I made two batches of icing.

For the white icing, I used Paula Dean's 7-minute icing recipe. This icing is better if you let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours. If you need something faster I'm sure any white icing recipe will do.

For the chocolate icing, I used Wilton's chocolate fudge icing.


Once cookies have cooled completely, carefully remove from pan. I alternated circles of chocolate and white icing for the center of the cake to give it the checkerboard look. Then, I placed the second cookie on top. I used chocolate icing for the outside, frosting it as I would any other cake. Then, I used a star tip to line the top and add a little decoration. Finally, I dusted with powdered sugar.

I placed the cookie cake in the fridge so the icing would set, but took the cookie out about an hour before it was time to cut.

The cake was perfect and decadent. And so much yum.

I hope this made sense. I'm blogging it as an afterthought (hence the instagram pic). Let me know if you try it or have any questions!

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Weighty Question

Since Father's Day doesn't fall on a school day, my oldest daughter's school does a "Daddy & Donuts" day. It's very sweet. It's an hour or so in the morning, the kids make crafts for the dads, and fill out a silly questionnaire. It's the same questionnaire they fill out for Mother's Day.

Mostly, the questionnaire is standard with questions like, "What's your Mommy/Daddy's name" or "What does your Mommy/Daddy like to cook." They are cute questions with a "kids say the darnedest things" intention.

However, (there's always an however, isn't there) there's one question that they ask that bugs me:

"What does your Mommy/Daddy weigh?" 

Again, this is meant to result in silly answers. So far, my daughter answered 60lbs for both the mommy and the daddy worksheets. I guess that's her go-to estimation. It seems like a throw away question; at first...

Then, I started to think about this.

The intention of the activity is to be both cute and a sign of appreciation for the parents. Other questions like, "What does Mommy/Daddy say before you go to bed", produce answers that warm my heart. But, the weight question? It makes me sad. Not because I feel like my daughter thinking I weigh 60lbs is bad, but because it starts an association between love and weight. Doesn't it?

My daughter is proud of her answers on these activities. She's also a perfectionist who wants to get the right answer. She will ask us if she got the answers right and then begins an odd conversation to have with a 5 year old.

In our family, we focus on health and not weight. My daughter will not be the skinny girl; she is going to be a solid athletic girl. It is our job to teach her to respect, care for, and love her body. Yet, here she is in Pre-K being told that knowing someone's weight is important. It is as important as how we provide for those we love, what we like to do, or how we spend our time.

Sure, I'm probably reading too much into this, but with girls as young as 3 (3!) preferring "skinny" dolls to "fat" dolls and girls as young as 10 wondering if you can sleep yourself "skinny", I certainly think it's worth considering how we are reinforcing weight as a measure of worth.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mom Exercises

I really like using exercise apps like Runkeeper or LoseIt! It's a great way to track my progress and force accountability. However, I have found that many of the "exercises" I engage in on a daily basis aren't options on the apps. Here are my suggestions for exercises these apps should include:

1. Lunch Squats - Crouching behind the kitchen counter in an attempt to eat lunch without a child snatching it out of your hands and claiming it for themselves. 

2. Couch Bounce - Repeatedly sitting and immediately getting back up to comply to a demand or to finish/fetch something you've forgotten. 

3. REM Power Lifts - Carrying a suddenly ten pounds heavier sleeping child to any location. Bonus points if the child fell asleep on the floor or sleeps on a top bunk. 

4. Infant Carrier Transfers - Anytime you have to transfer an infant carrier to a stroller or you have to carry it around for longer than 10 seconds. Bonus points if infant is over 7lbs. Double Infinite, bonus points if you have another child who demands being held while you are carrying the carrier. 

5. Leaving the House With Any of Your Kids - Anytime you have to leave the house with any of your kids. This should count as running a half marathon. 

What exercises would you add to the list?