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February 2008

February 27, 2022

Are You Crazy Busy?

It happened again the other day. I was at the grocery store and ran into a mom I know from my son's school. "How are you?" I asked. "Just crazy busy!" she said, before launching into a laundry list of all the things she had on her plate that day.

All parents, it seems — and especially moms —  have a similar mental list. Grocery shopping, work, laundry, dentist appointments, carpool, baseball practice, piano lessons... It's enough to make us pooped before lunch.

That's why, when I heard about it, I had to pick up a copy of Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap! by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. Hallowell is a child and adult psychiatrist and the founder of The Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, MA. An expert on attention deficit disorder, he discusses how all of us — whether we have ADD or not —  can deal with "the rush, the gush, the worry, and the blather (which also includes clutter)."

I'm finding the book to be fascinating and really helpful. Hallowell lives in the real world and doesn't think we should toss the BlackBerry out with the bath water. But he does help us determine what really counts in life — and shows us how to focus on that.

Hallowell also has started a blog to discuss ADD and other issues, including those raised in this book. Check it out here.

Are you feeling crazy busy these days? What ways have you found to slow down and focus on the important things in your life? I'd love to hear your tips.

February 25, 2022

When Life Spins You Around

On Super Bowl Sunday, 2003, a drunk driver changed Woody Woodburn's life forever.

The journalist and father of two was covering the big game as a sports columnist for the Torrance, California Daily Breeze. "A few hours after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned the Oakland Raiders into twisted, total wreckage, 48-21, an uninsured drunk driver did the same to my Honda Accord," he says.

The accident changed not only Woodburn's body, but also his career and his relationship with his family — to the point where he now calls that day "a blessing."

I'm honored to share his story, which recently ran as an essay in the Los Angeles Times. Check it out here.

February 13, 2022

A Clear-Eyed Look at Parenting Through Divorce

Fellow writer and mom Lynne Meredith Schreiber just invited me to check out her new website, which is terrific.

But it wasn't until I clicked on her blog, "Nourish Cafe," that I really saw what a fearless and wonderful writer she is. Schreiber's writing cuts close to the bone and it was painful to read at times, as she described her life as a soon-to-be single mom to three young children.

But as strong as the emotion and pain were in her blog post, there was so much love, hope and clear-eyed strength there, as well. I'm looking forward to following her journey.

February 12, 2022

Guest Post: His Two Dads (What Kids Are Really Learning at School)

             

I'm so jazzed to feature a guest post from Cynthia Jenkins, AKA "Sugar Mama." LOVE her stuff. Jenkins writes a monthly column, and also a blog, for Parenting Orange County magazine in Southern California. As she puts it: "Sugar Mama writes, lives and bribes her kids with sugar in Laguna Beach, California. And sometimes in Target."      

I had every intention of turning my firstborn’s first-day-of-kindergarten angst into a column filled with conflicted feelings every parent goes through. On one hand, we’ve been waiting for our energy-charged kids to be old enough to fly the coop from the moment they could crawl — just for a little respite! On the flip side, each morning they wake up and don their backpacks marks one day closer to them leaving us permanently (and perhaps with someone they meet in kindergarten, no less!).
          

What if there’s a girl in Jackson’s kindergarten homeroom who wears rainbow-colored bows and likes trains? She’ll undoubtedly steal his heart from mine faster than I can say, “my baby.”

But the moment I start feeling this empty-nest-anxiety, I find solace in the fact that there are things Jackson will learn in school that he simply can’t get from home. And I’m not talking about reading, writing and arithmetic. I’m referring to the other 3R’s: Respect for Others, Respect for his Things, and Respect for the Environment. At least, these are the three tenents my husband and I committed to the moment we became overwhelmed with all the ”shoulda’s” in parenting. (So if our kids’ questionable behavior doesn’t fall into one of these R’s, we let it slide… Unless there’s blood.)          

But it’s the respect for others component to parenting that had us stymied by the time Jackson reached school age. Because unless we rented a melting pot of a family, inclusive of color, disability and alternative lifestyle, where was he going to gain an understanding of the real world? The world we hope he’d make a better place?

Not on our homogenous street in Laguna Beach, California… “Real Life,” folks, happens at school.          

So when it came to deciding on a kindergarten for Jackson, I had concern for things other than curriculum. I wanted to see the cars in the school parking lots, the names on the class rosters, the books on the shelves. I was, perhaps, looking for a glimmer of my own elementary experience. Born and raised in San Francisco, I had male teachers with boyfriends, a valedictorian named Monifa and a bus system that was public — not yellow with black letters. Did all this make me better at my times tables? Not necessarily. But did it make me a better person?

Most definitely.          

Or at least a better parent who can diffuse a land mine of ignorance before the light turns green.

Last month, while stopped at a red light with Jackson, he asked if he could have a play date with “Evan” from pre-school.          

“Sure. Let me find out who his mom is and see I’ll see if we can work something out,” I said.

“He doesn’t have a mom,” Jackson informed me.          

“Oh.” And I was immediately endeared to poor Evan. “Well, I’ll call his dad then.”

“Which dad?” Jackson asked. “He has two.”

Aha. This play date wasn’t about Evan. Nor was there a mom who had passed — it was about a boy with two gay dads.          

“Do you have a question for me about Evan’s family, Jackson?” I asked.

“Yeah, why does he have two dads and no mom?” he inquired.          

“Well, it sounds like his dads loved each other very much and wanted a baby, so they found a way to have one,” I offered.

“So, they’re... married?” he asked.          

“Maybe,” I said. “In some places, men can marry men and women can marry women.”

“So can I marry Evan?” Jackson asked.

“Well, I think you have to be eighteen, honey,” I said. “And you have to love each other no matter what.”          
“Well I don’t think we will, then,” Jackson said. “He pushed me off the swing today.” And then the light turned green and that was that.

You see, parents do all they can at home, and teachers nurture brilliant minds every day in school — but it’s the “Evans” in the world that teach our kids compassion, bravery and tolerance. I mean, this is a boy who will know firsthand about a love that defies boundaries, that gossip is hurtful, and judgment is usually a waste of time.          

Now that’s a kid I want at my son’s lunch table.

Am I conflicted this month, with Jackson’s first day of kindergarten upon me? You bet. It really does seem like yesterday that I held him in my arms as a newborn. Or when he muttered “mommy” for the first time. But with one tiny sneaker in front of the other, I accept that his time has come to navigate his future en masse — with friends, teachers and experiences that will shape his heart and mind forever.
         
And all this, on a little yellow bus...

So I’d like to dedicate this column to Evan and his family. Because of you, my son gained an understanding of love, compassion and tolerance I could never have found in a book.

And you’re not an “other,” Evan. You’re simply like no other.

February 11, 2022

How Does Your Kid's Car Seat Rate?

When our son, Matthew, was born, my husband and I had so many questions. Car seats, in particular, were confusing. What to get? Where to look for safety ratings? Would a particular car seat work in our car? Sheesh! Just the kind of hassles sleepless parents need, right?

Well, that whole thing just got a bit easier. A new government rating system grades child-safety seats on ease of installation. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have released ratings for 78 child-safety seats currently available.

NHTSA says 7 out of 10 child-safety seats are either the wrong size for the child or are seriously misused, reducing their effectiveness in a crash. (When properly used, child-restraint systems reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers in passenger cars. In light trucks, fatal injuries are reduced by 58 percent for infants and 59 percent for toddlers.)

For a complete list of the new rankings, visit www.nhtsa.gov and click on “Child Seat Ease of Use Ratings” under “Quick Clicks.”

Wish this had been around back in the day!

February 07, 2022

Guest Blog: Our Get-Fat-Tuesday Family Tradition

Here's a fun post from first-time guest blogger Ellen Cajka, who knows all about healthy eating (and when to not worry about it) AND raising teenagers. I love her "Get Fat Tuesday" family tradition.

Mardi Gras, otherwise known as "Fat Tuesday," was a lot of fun at our house this year. No, we didn't have a wild costume party, partake in alcohol or even "earn" multi-colored beads.

My 14-year-old daughter, Taylor, and I planned our own version of Fat Tuesday — and boy did we do it up right! We called it "Get Fat Tuesday." Taylor is giving up fast food for Lent, and I am giving up sweets. No small task! So we decided to go out with a bang.

We ordered  three different kinds of takeout: pizza, Taco Bell and El Pollo Loco. And we finished the evening off with 31 Flavors ice cream and had two scoops each. I was planning on having a hot fudge sundae, but after a piece of pizza, 3/4 of a cheese quesadilla, some Nachos Bell Grande, chicken and mashed potatoes, a sundae suddenly didn't sound all that appetizing.

We had fun planning and it certainly felt sinful enjoying all those forbidden foods. Sweets are my nemesis, and any teen would struggle to go just a week without pizza or a burger. It's going to be LONG 40 days and 40 nights.

But hey, maybe the Easter Bunny will bring me some chocolate.

February 06, 2022

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I'm excited about partnering with Cafe Press to offer readers top-quality Parent Talk Today t-shirts, hats, mugs and more — at family-friendly prices. Click on the "Cafe Press" box at right to check out the goodies, and have fun sharing the news about this fun, informative parenting blog.

February 05, 2022

Blog of the Week: Big Fun With the Traveling Mamas

Thanks to CajunMama, MountainMama, MudslideMama and DesertMama over at travelingmamas.com, I now know what king cake is all about at Mardi Gras. I know how to (try to, anyway) avoid nasty germs on an airplane. I learned that you can no longer take a snow globe in your carry-on bag on a flight. And I've picked up all sorts of cool tips about different Washington D.C. monuments, which will come in handy when we take our family there one of these days.

These four moms blog about great — and not-so-great — places to go with your kids, they share travel-industry news and they recommend new must-have items for traveling with kids. And they're a hoot!

Today's post, from MountainMama, is a Q & A with Traveling Mama Extraordinaire Nancy Sathre-Vogel. In 2006 and into 2007, she and her husband John and their two then-eight-year-old sons bicycled across the country, from their home in Idaho west to Washington, south to Mazatlan, and all the way to Connecticut, over the course of 12 months and 9,300 miles. Wow!

Check out the interview and learn about their upcoming adventures. You may be inspired to plan a once-in-a-lifetime trip of your own...


February 04, 2022

Get Thee Behind Me, Cheesecake!

How do you spell S-T-R-E-S-S?

My son, Matt, was fighting a cold this morning and trudged off to school looking like a doomed man. I had to take the dog to the vet. And then I had one of those work mornings I'd just as soon bury in the back yard...

But there was no time for pity parties. I had a lunch date scheduled with my friend Robi, who deserved to have a happy lunch companion for her BIRTHDAY lunch, for crying in the soup! Clearly, it was no time to actually cry in my soup.

But as I was driving to meet her at the Cheesecake Factory, where I usually order something diet-worthy, like the luncheon-potion grilled salmon, I was overcome by an urge to eat cheesecake. A BIG piece of CHOCOLATE cheesecake. Because (say it with me now) I DESERVED IT.

You know the drill: Stressed-out mom has a tough day and decides to indulge in something that (a) doesn't talk back, (b) provides unconditional comfort (at least until I try to fit into my jeans or I need an angioplasty) and (c) makes me happy.

Well, let's hear it for the power of friendship. Robi actually encouraged me to whine a bit over my salmon. (What a pal.) Then we went on to talk about everything from scrapbooking to writers' conferences. Some things are even better — and certainly better for me — than scarfing down a huge wedge of cheesecake.

I ended up bringing home a slice for my son as a special treat. (He's on the swim team and burns calories like crazy, but I don't even let him eat stuff like this all that often.) I checked out the nutrition information later and learned that one slice of the Cheesecake Factory's chocolate mousse cheesecake is (get this!) 780 calories and 55 grams of fat. Yowza.

Thanks to my Robi-therapy, I didn't rip open the to-go box and down the whole thing in the car on the way home.

And when he sat down for his after-school treat, Matt noticed that the edges had only been slightly evened up.

To follow this mom's weight-loss journey from the beginning, just click on "Weight Loss" on the "Categories" list at right and scroll down.


 

February 01, 2022

Infant-Hearing Screening Recommended by 1 Month

Is there a new addition to your family? If so, you'll want to hear this.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that all infants be screened for hearing loss by 1 month of age, diagnosed with hearing loss by 3 months and engaged in full intervention services by 6 months.

Since 2000, when the AAP’s Joint Committee on Infant Hearing first recommended that all infants be screened for hearing loss, the number of screened newborns increased from 38 to 95 percent. However, almost half of the children who failed hearing-screening tests did not receive appropriate, timely follow-up care. Intervention during the first year of life is needed to enhance the speech and language development of infants with hearing loss, says the AAP.

The new guidelines recommend that pediatric offices, typically a child's first medical home, ensure timely screening, diagnosis and coordinated medical and educational care for infants with hearing loss, preferably beginning at a newborn's first office visit. Ongoing checking for developmental milestones is suggested for each visit, and an objective, standardized screening is recommended at ages 9 months, 18 months and between 24 and 30 months or anytime a doctor or parent is concerned about possible hearing loss.

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