Tag Archives: parenting

Dear Mr. Thompson, THANK YOU.

For the second time in as many weeks, there has been a story in the news about students’ lunch accounts being overdrawn and lunches being thrown away. Luckily, this most recent story had a happy ending. That’s because Kenny Thompson in Houston, TX decided to do something about it. When he learned that children at the elementary school where he was a mentor and tutor were eating cold cheese sandwiches or going without lunch because they didn’t have enough money in their accounts to pay for a hot meal, he decided to pay off all of the overdrawn accounts—to the tune of $465.

I was overcome when I read about what Mr. Thompson had done for those children—because I used to be one of them. There was a time growing up when my family struggled financially. My brother and I qualified for the free or reduced lunch program—it was the only way my mom could afford for us to have lunch everyday. Though I was by no means the only person I knew of in the lunch program, I was terribly embarrassed. So I either chose to skip lunch, saying I just wasn’t hungry, or I secretly used what little money I had saved to pay for my own lunch so that my friends wouldn’t know the truth. It’s been 20 years, and I can still remember how embarrassed I felt and how scared I was that I would be found out.

I ache to think how those children must feel when their trays full of healthy, hot food are thrown away in front of them, their shame for something over which they have no control put on display. I am beyond thankful that that was not common practice when I was in school, and I pray that my girls never have to endure such cruelty.

We try to teach our children empathy and compassion for those less fortunate, but this is the model they are seeing at school from adults who are supposed to help set an example. And we wonder why we are noticing more and more behavioral and emotional problems in kids today. I would challenge any adult to walk away from a similar humiliation unscathed and with their self-confidence and self-esteem fully intact. I am 32 years old—I have years of cognitive and emotional development on my side, and I think it would still reduce me to tears. Just think about how children process that type of behavior when they might not have the skills necessary to understand it or deal with it. Think about how they may emulate it in the future because they think it’s acceptable.

I understand that schools are businesses, with budgets and policies just like any other business. But taking away a child’s food is not the way to address a parent’s financial issues. Contact the parent, document the debt and then eventually turn it over to a collections agency—just like any other business would do. There is a serious flaw in our society when an inmate is fed better than a third grader, and even more so when people think that is okay.

So thank you, Mr. Thompson, for showing us that not everyone can just look the other way while a child goes hungry or is publicly shamed in the name of “policy.” Thank you for showing us that there are still kind and compassionate people in the world. Thank you for serving as a role model for children and parents alike and showing us all what acceptable behavior truly looks like. Thank you for inspiring us to open our eyes—and to do something about what we see.

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Great Toys for Fine Motor Development

Another one from the archives (sorry guys, the holidays are keeping me busy!), but I thought this post might be helpful to other parents who are looking to buy toys that are not only fun but can also aid in your child’s fine motor development. It’s crazy to think that a year ago when I wrote this, my daughter was in therapy and we were concerned about her gross and fine motor development; now, you would never know there had ever been an issue—what a difference a year makes!

As a result of her bilateral hip dysplasia, my little one has been in physical therapy every other week for the past few months. While we largely focus on her gross motor development, our therapist  spends some time working on fine motor skills as well. The therapy has done wonders for O’s muscle tone and mobility, and I have learned so much about how to help my daughter pick up new skills and ways to encourage her development. Our therapist, Kristy Jones, PT, has recommended some toys to help promote fine motor skills, and I figured I would share them for any moms doing a little holiday shopping.

Large knob puzzles, like the Melissa and Doug Large Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle, are great for beginners because they are easy for little ones to pick up with all of their fingers. Kristy suggests looking for puzzles that aren’t too busy, so it’s easier to match the puzzle pieces with their correct spots. Similarly, smaller knob puzzles are great as well but for a different reason. “The ones with the smaller knobs are good for development of the pincer grasp and require more precision to put the pieces in,” says Kristy.

A Shape Sorter should also be in every kid’s toy box. The Fisher-Price Growing Baby Elephant Shape Sorter is perfect and inexpensive. Start with the circle blocks, then the square ones, working your way up to the stars. At first, your little one may just pat the blocks in as you hold them over the right openings, but they’ll quickly get the hang of it on their own.

Large, soft blocks are great for little ones learning to stack. The B. One Two Squeeze™ Soft 123 Blocks from Target are perfect. The non-slippery texture makes them easy to grasp, pick up, and stack.

The Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack stacking rings have been around for forever and with good reason. They help babies learn hand-eye coordination, they’re easy to pick up and they’re SUPER FUN to crawl around the house with in your hands—just ask my daughter.

Crayons might seem a bit advanced for your little one, especially if everything is still finding its way to his mouth, but as soon as he’s not tasting his way around, try out the Crayola Triangular Crayons. The shape helps tiny hands get a grip and, bonus, they won’t roll off the high chair tray!

Finally, hammer toys (for lack of a better term) help babies and toddlers develop their hand-eye coordination, not to mention their aim! The B. Whacky Ball hammer toy will provide endless entertainment—and eventually your little one will start whacking the crap out of those balls. (Sorry, no matter how I wrote it, it kind of came out dirty, so I just gave up.)

Happy Shopping!!

Holiday Tipping for Child Care


This post is from the archives but still very relevant. Last year was our first year tipping our daycare providers, and we wanted to be sure we got it right. After all, these people take care of the most important thing in the world to us (and by now, they are like family). Hope this helps other new parents who are asking the same question we did- what’s an appropriate child care tip?

As this is my first Christmas with a child in day care, I’ve been thinking about what’s appropriate in terms of a holiday tip or bonus. I’ve done some research online and found that suggestions range from a handmade gift from the child to two weeks’ pay, quite the chasm.  Shockingly, some holiday tipping guides leave out childcare providers altogether, which just baffles my mind. Let me get this straight—I should tip the person who cuts my hair but NOT the person to whom I entrust the most precious thing in my life on a daily basis? Riiiight.

I found several helpful guides online, including:

CNBC’s Holiday Tipping Guide: 2011

Emily Post’s Holiday Tipping is Really Holiday Thanking

Kiplinger’s Holiday Tipping Tip Sheet

Real Simple’s Holiday Tipping Checklist

After some thought, we settled on one week’s pay for our day care provider, half a week’s pay for her assistant and a small gift from our daughter for each of them.

But I’m curious, what’s the norm? Especially in metro areas like Washington, D.C., where do others fall on the tipping spectrum?

And Your Top Potty Training Tips Are …

We’re getting ready to dive into the potty training pool (which sounds gross, but you know what I mean). So I recently asked my Facebook followers to share their #1 potty training success tips to help psyche me up. The advice was so good that I couldn’t just keep it to myself!

Marlayna said:
Rewards. My daughter gets a mini M&M so she really likes going potty now. 

Lisa said:
We tried every bribe in the book. The only thing that worked was taking her to what would be her preschool and telling her she can’t go to school if she wears diapers. That was it. . .!

Jessica said:
Evan was motivated by Thomas the Train underwear. He really, really wanted to wear them, but we only let him if he was using the potty. The one thing I learned that seemed counter-intuitive was not making a huge deal out of it when they go potty. Let them know they did a good job, but if you get too excited it can cause them to be anxious next time.

Charity said:
Keep a pack of post it notes in your purse to cover the automatic flushing sensor in public bathrooms! Nothing more scary than a toilet flushing while you are holding on for your little life trying to potty!

Penny said:
My sisters and I all did the same thing – during the day, we simply put them in underwear. We didn’t make a big production of it. We didn’t reward or scold. All 6 were potty trained quickly and most never had an accident. We started when they were between 27 and 30 months.

Danielle said:
… don’t start too early (because then it’ll just take longer and frustrate everyone involved!), and be consistent. They really do just wake up one day and “get it.” 

Margo said:
Just remember it is unlikely he will still be in a diaper at 16. Which means, he will get tired of it in due time …

Nancie said:
A step stool so a big boy can urinate standing up, and paper targets to sink! Oh, and M&Ms are a very good thing.

Elaine said:
… I just started offering underwear or pull-ups, and eventually they chose underwear. Plus I would do a lot of asking during the day if they want to go to the potty. No rewards other than a lot of jumping up and down and clapping!

Thanks to everyone for such great, tried-and-true advice!

How Dora Made Family Game Night Just a Bit Awkward {and also hilarious!}

During our vacation this summer, my family was playing a nice, wholesome game of Bananagrams before dinner one night. Everything was quiet as we all concentrated on building our words. Olivia sat quietly on the couch nearby watching Dora the Explorer, as bits and pieces of the cartoon floated through the background. All of a sudden, we hear “Use your hands and squeeze really hard!” Umm, a little weird, but okay, let’s see where this is going. Then Dora and Boots start singing:

“I love to squeeze my squeaky squeaky squeaky!
I squeeze him up high!
Squeaky Squeaky Squeaky
I squeeze him down low!
Squeaky Squeaky Squeaky
I squeeze him reaaall slow!
Squea-ky    Squea-ky    Squea-ky
I squeeze him fast too!
Squeaky Squeaky Squeaky
Squeaky, I love you!”

This might not sound that bad when you read the lyrics, but I promise you that it sounds downright dirty when you hear it. I tried to find a clip of the song, but I didn’t have any luck. You’ll just have to trust me on this one—it’s ripe with innuendo.

I made the mistake of glancing up at my husband, who of course, was thinking the exact same dirty thought as I. But what made this whole scenario really hilarious/awkward was that my brother, his fiancé, my step-mom, my dad, and my little sister were all trying (and failing) to stifle their laughter as well, and nobody wanted to acknowledge exactly what they found so funny because, well, did I mention I was sitting next to my dad??

No sooner had we all returned our attention to the game when Dora announced that she and Boots needed to go to the Gooey Geyser. Well any semblance of composure that we had totally crumbled. Olivia, not realizing what we all found so funny starts yelling “Gooey Geyser, Gooey Geyser, Gooey Geyser!” which made me both cringe and laugh harder. Then through our laughter, we hear The Map exclaim, “The Gooey Geyser spurts out goo! Kersplooge!” Umm, did anybody at Nick Jr. watch this episode before it hit the air?!

At this point, we’re all laughing so hard that we’re in tears. Seriously though, I wonder if anyone at Nick Jr. voiced any concern about this episode or if they all just read the script and said, “Really into squeezing Squeaky. . . okay I buy that. Gooey Geyser spurts out goo, yep. ‘Kersplooge’—great adverb. The kids will love it!”

To the cartoonists, who I find it hard to believe didn’t know exactly what they were doing, I’d like to say THANKS. Dora the Explorer is usually one of the most annoying cartoons Olivia watches, but you guys decided to shake it up a bit and provided these parents with a much needed laugh.

“Here comes the goo!”

It’s Potty Time?!

Olivia is one month and one week away from her second birthday, and she did something recently that sent panic coursing through me. She asked to use the potty.

I was not prepared for this. I knew potty training would be coming soon enough, but our pediatrician told me that Olivia wouldn’t be ready until she was no longer wet in the morning. But now here she is, running after me every time I go to the bathroom, crying, “I wanna potty! My potty! Mine!” Uhhhhhh. . .??

I don’t know if she really wants to try using the potty or if she’s just saying it to say it. The doctor didn’t mention anything about children who beg to use the potty. I don’t think I’ve ever once even mentioned going to the bathroom like a “big girl” because I’ve heard and read so much about not pushing it too early, so I’m not sure where this is coming from.

Anyone else experienced this? Should I ignore it or run out and buy a potty? Any suggestions on a good training potty? I’ve seen the Elmo one at Target and figured I might start with that since she loves Sesame Street. Lots (and lots) of questions! Any tips/advice would be appreciated!

Will New Study Help or Hurt Breastfeeding in America?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Lev Dolgachov

News broke this week about a small Scottish study that says that exclusively breastfeeding for six months may not be the best recommendation. The study, conducted by Aberdeen and Stirling universities and published in the British Medical Journal, suggests that by recommending six months of exclusive breastfeeding (as the World Health Organization currently does), we are actually setting new mothers up to fail.

I have very mixed feelings about this study and the press it has received. On the one hand, the study focuses on communication, support, and setting realistic expectations. Having had a very difficult time with breastfeeding in the beginning (as I talked about in this post), I can completely relate to the pressure, feeling guilty for not “getting it right,” and the need to be up front with pregnant women and new mothers that breastfeeding does not always come naturally and is not always sunshine and rainbows.

On the flip side of the coin, I worry that this study is going to provide an excuse not to breastfeed and may lead to more new mothers giving up on breastfeeding too soon. The study itself isn’t the problem here—it actually outlines fairly convincingly how this point of view may help improve the number of breastfeeding mothers and how long women stick with breastfeeding by adjusting the expectations and ratcheting down the pressure on new moms. No, the problem here, in my opinion, is how this study is being presented in the media. In a quick Google search of this story, the top headlines include:

Breastfeed exclusively for first six months? Surveyed moms say no way

Many Women Say No to Breast-Feeding for 6 Months: Survey

Exclusive breast-feeding may just be too hard, study says

Study of the Day: Breastfeeding for 6 Months is an Unrealistic Goal

If a pregnant or (worse) struggling new mama comes across one of these headlines but, for whatever reason, doesn’t dig deeper to see what the study really says, what impression are they going to have of breastfeeding? Will they throw up their hands and quit before even trying?

I don’t think anyone could or would argue against breastfeeding being the best option, but new moms are a fragile bunch (at least I was) and a little sensitivity and responsibility on the part of the media could go a long way toward the public’s perception of this and other breastfeeding studies. I understand that headlines need to be sensational and grab the reader’s attention, but they should also give a glimpse of accuracy.

What do you think—will this study and the way it is being portrayed in the media help or hinder breastfeeding in America?


Norovirus. . . Fun Times

Today has just been a bundle of fun. Everything started out perfectly normal—that is, until I got a call from daycare at 9 a.m. informing me that Olivia had spit up (something she hasn’t done in months). It wasn’t bad and she wasn’t running a fever, so they decided to let her nap and see how she was afterward. Apparently, the situation deteriorated rapidly because, before long, I got a second call asking me to come pick her up, as she had just blown grits all over the place. By the time I made it there, she was wrapped in nothing but a towel, having thrown up all over herself. It was the most pitiful sight I have ever seen. This is the first time she has ever had a stomach bug and, man, when she does something, she really does it! She went straight for the norovirus, of cruise ship fame, and there’s a major outbreak of it in Fairfax County. Olivia was the second casualty of this virus at daycare just this morning. So since many of my readers are in the DC metro area (and even those who aren’t, this is good info to have), here’s my PSA for the day!

Noroviruses are a group of highly contagious stomach bugs that spread rapidly from person to person through contaminated food and drink, contaminated surfaces, and direct contact. Symptoms often develop suddenly and generally last 1-2 days. Symptoms include:

Stomach cramps
Low-grade fever
Muscle aches

Children in school or daycare are extremely susceptible to the virus. Most often, symptoms don’t arise until 24-48 hours after exposure (though they can occur as soon as 12 hours following exposure), which means children are likely to spread the virus without displaying any symptoms. By the time the symptoms start, it’s usually too late. Because small children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths, this is a difficult virus to contain in a daycare setting.

The most dangerous aspect of the norovirus is that it can cause severe dehydration, especially in young children. Make sure to give your child plenty of fluids, such as Pedialyte. My daughter also likes the Pedialyte Freezer Pops, which are great right now, since she’s cutting a few new teeth. For her upset tummy, I have been giving her Nabisco’s Premium Saltine Minis—they are the perfect size for her little hands.

If you or your little one is unfortunate enough to come down with this nasty bug, be sure to wash your hands obsessively and try to disinfect as many surfaces as you can. I’ve also been using the sanitary setting on our washing machine for her clothes, bedding and anything else that ends up in the line of fire. And when all else fails, Netflix has about a year’s worth of the Backyardigans at your disposal!

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/gastro/norovirus.htm

S**t Kids Say

If you missed “Modern Family” last week, Lily dropped the F-bomb (bleeped, of course), and it was freaking hilarious. Or at least I thought it was, but I happen to have a mouth like a sailor—sorry Dad. Apparently, the Parents Television Council did not find it very funny, calling the episode’s storyline “in poor taste.”

I definitely watch what I say around my daughter because she’s like a sponge, and no parent wants to get that call from daycare about the choice words their kid busted out with during circle time. But fret not fellow sailors (or people who just have a sense of humor), experts say it’s no big deal. “Kids say swear words as soon as they talk,” according to Timothy Jay, a psychologist at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts who studies psycholinguistics and obscenities.

Apparently, 2 years old is about the time some of us will get that awkward phone call from daycare. But the bottom line is that little ones don’t really understand what they’re saying, and they certainly don’t learn it from television. That’s where we come in as parents. It’s our job to monitor what our kids are watching or listening to, and to watch what comes out of our own mouths. Still, no matter how vigilant you are, it will happen. I remember my angel of a little sister asking my step-mom what “sh*t” meant when she was 4 or 5 years old and then immediately bawling when she realized it was a bad word—it happens to the best of them. Just try not to let them see you laughing.

Now I better go put a quarter in the swear jar for my post title (and probably for my lovely artwork too)!

The Great Cheerios Controversy

General Mills recently came out with Peanut Butter Cheerios, and the move has parents across the nation up in arms—especially parents who have children with peanut allergies. On the one hand, I personally love peanut butter and can be found most afternoons eating it by the spoonful at my desk, so Peanut Butter Cheerios sounds delicious to me. But on the other hand, I have two good friends with severe peanut allergies, so I know just how dangerous it can be.

As a mother, I cannot even imagine how nerve wracking and scary it must be to have a child with a food allergy. Toddlers are notorious for putting anything and everything in their mouths, and children often share food with their friends. Because Cheerios are a playground and lunchroom staple and a familiar snack, I get why this new cereal worries parents who have allergic children.

For their part, General Mills has released the following statement:

Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter contains PEANUTS. Cheerios has a commitment to allergen management. We can say with complete confidence that MultiGrain Peanut Butter Cheerios will not cross-contaminate other Cheerios varieties.

 Currently, Honey Nut Cheerios, Banana Nut Cheerios, and Oat Cluster Cheerios Crunch contain ALMOND.  Only Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter contains PEANUTS.

All other varieties, including original Cheerios, Multi Grain Cheerios, Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, Chocolate Cheerios, Cinnamon Burst Cheerios, Frosted Cheerios, Fruity Cheerios, and Yogurt Burst Cheerios, do not contain nuts.

As always, If you’re concerned about allergies, we highly recommend that you always consult the allergen listing and the ingredient label on any product you may consume.


So what do you think, should Peanut Butter Cheerios be banned as many are suggesting?

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