December 5, 2012
by admin
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7 Ways to Control Media Madness with Kids

It takes a bit of trial and error to find what works for negotiating time limits on TV, devices and computers for kids. Because I see so many teens attached and addicted to their devices; I draw a line from my six and eight-year-olds’ incessant pleas to play more Temple Run to a total destruction of their quality time, creativity, potential intelligence, and just about everything good life has to offer. I know, I’m a little worked up about it.

For our generation of parenting, McDonald’s is a dirty word, Kindergarteners sing “I’m sexy and I know it…” and our kids’ animal avatars can crib a nap in a stranger’s den. No wonder we walk around commiserating about how to gain control of a culture delivering on our child’s every whim and increasingly out of our fearful grasps.

So, while I wean myself from media hysteria, I’m trying a few different approaches to give the kids enough screen time while I realize that it’s better to embrace reality and coax the best out of it for my kids rather than to run screaming for the hills at the mere mention of “Can I use your iPad to play….”

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July 11, 2012
by heather
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The Mix-Up

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Eight-year-old Son is attending an All American Sports Camp for the month of July. This is about as close to heaven as he can get. From 9 am to 3 pm each day, the kids play baseball, basketball, swimming, and hockey. His only complaint was that they weren’t playing football and soccer, too.

On the first day of camp, each child was given a gold camp t-shirt, a navy camp t-shirt, and a small navy duffel bag along with the instructions: “Campers must wear camp-assigned shirts and bring the equipment bag to camp each day.”

Seems pretty specific, right? “Does that mean we don’t bring your backpack?” I asked Son.

“I don’t know.”

“Which shirt do you wear?”

“We alternate each day.”

Ah.

So much for my finely tuned three-days-a-week-only laundry schedule. Continue Reading →

April 23, 2012
by heather
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One Fish, Two Fish

goldfish

Daughter wanted a goldfish for her sixth birthday. Well, in truth, she first wanted a hamster. But after changing diapers for four years, scooping kitty litter for close to nine, and cleaning up the back yard after Retriever, I said “no” to more poop in the house.

“Please?” she begged.

“Maybe when you’re ten. How about a fish?”

She brought home a book about hamsters from the school library. At bedtime, we flipped through the pages.

“See? They’re nocturnal animals,” I commented around page ten. “They’ll never be awake to play with you.” I worked this angle hard.

“Okay, I’ll get a fish.”

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March 14, 2012
by heather
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From Tree to Table

nugget

“What’s healthier?” Son asked while sitting at the kitchen counter one afternoon dipping his chicken nuggets into ketchup. “Nuggets or apple slices?” His apple was getting less attention.

“Well,” I began. “Let’s talk about that.”

Husband has been reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen which talks about eating food close to the earth and something your grandmother would recognize. Nuggets? Not on the list. Apple? Goes back to Adam and Eve. Close to the top.

“It’s good to eat food that’s close to the earth. Do you know what that means?”

He shook his head.

We discussed how an apple travels from the tree to his mouth: Not far if he’s picking it at the orchard in October; only a few more steps if someone else picks it, packs it, drives it to the store, and we buy it.

“Nuggets on the other hand – they cut up the chicken, then mash it with other things and turn it into these little pieces and add chemicals to keep it fresh.”

“Chemicals?” he looked up from his plate, nugget perched in mid-air.

“Food has to stay on the shelf or freezer in the store for awhile so they add preservatives and chemicals to keep it okay until we eat it. They’re also what make it taste good. But they’re bad for you.”

He nodded and popped the rest of the nugget into his mouth.

“So what do you think is healthier?” I asked him.

“The apple.”

“Exactly.” I returned to my magazine.

“Can I have some more?” he asked a few moments later.

I looked up, distracted. “Of what?”

“Those chemical things,” he said and pointed to the remaining nuggets on the cookie sheet.

I guess he got the point.

March 2, 2012
by heather
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Visiting New York City with Kids

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Visiting New York City with kids is easier than ever due to some exceptionally handy Apps that help you navigate the city and find age appropriate food and activities. But on a recent trip during February break, I learned two important lessons:

  1. The world is not G-rated. It’s R.

  1. Kid-oriented tourist attractions don’t necessary let your kid be…a kid.

More on this in a bit.

But first, the sites and Apps…

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September 12, 2011
by heather
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Elementary School Lunch Ideas

lunch-bag

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post titled, Preschool Lunch Ideas that compiled the wisdom of my friends into a handy list of great ideas to pack in a lunchbox. To this day, it’s my most popular blog post (by far, I think this has something to do with the fact that it comes up first in Google search results) and traffic spikes every August and September as thousands of moms search for smart ways to feed their kids when they’re no longer around to control what they put into their mouths.

And let’s just call it for what it is right here and now. We cram creative, nutritious and fun food into their lunchboxes thinking we have some control over what they eat. Wrong!

Once they enter elementary school and the teacher is no longer sitting at their table coaxing them to eat their vegetables before attacking the cookie, we lose control of the lunchbox. Every day they’re herded into a cafeteria with dozens of other wide-eyed, fidgety, eager kids who care nothing for mommy’s grand plan for them to eat the vegetables and carrots first before you have your cookie.

So, last week when my youngest started Kindergarten and I volunteered to help out in the lunchroom, I decided to update my original blog post with some practical truths. The list of foods my friends gave me in 2007 is still creative and useful for elementary school children. Here are some helpful hints to accompany it:

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August 24, 2011
by heather
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Car Talk

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For five weeks this summer, five-year-old Daughter and seven-year-old Son attended day camp from 9:00-3:30. Everybody loved it. My kids loved the counselors, the other kids, the field trips, the water slide, popsicles, and all the games they played.

I loved the 9 to 3:30 part. (It’s true, I did the happy dance but only about ten times a day.)

One added bonus was listening in on their conversations each morning and afternoon on the way to and from camp. Somehow, kids manage to take adulthood’s most serious subjects and strip them of their, well, seriousness.

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June 13, 2011
by heather
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Parenting with Scissors

Five-year-old Daughter has been trying to grow her hair long for two years. She came out bald and then sported a bowl cut until she was three. No, I wasn’t intentionally giving her a boy’s haircut. I just snipped a little here and a little there and she looked so cute with it short that it stayed that way.

Mother-in-Law said, “When are you going to grow her hair long like a girl’s?”

Doesn’t she look girlie enough now? Okay, I guess there’s some merit to long hair. We’ll let it grow.

When Daughter entered preschool, many other girls had long hair. She wanted hers long, too. Maybe their moms took extra vitamins during pregnancy or something but some of these girls can really grow their hair! (Maybe their moms didn’t go snip, snip, snip with the scissors that often during their baby and toddlerhood, either.)

Daughter’s hair struggled to reach her shoulders. It struggled to grow past them down towards the middle of her back.

“I want my hair to reach my butt,” she declared.

But long hair entails tangles and a daily battle to comb them out. We bought detangler and a new brush. Still tears.

Then came the battle over when to wear it up.

“It needs to be out of your face,” I said every morning.

She agreed until the middle of her fourth year. Then she fought back. Daughter likes her hair to hang in her face. I can’t stand hair in my face. Maybe it’s a tactile memory from years spent wearing two long braids to school (I was Laura Ingalls.)

I relinquished control over how she wore it except for soccer games.

“Strong girls who play sports wear their hair up. You can’t run down the field holding your hair back.”

Somehow the hairband got lost between the car and the field.

By last week, her hair was closing in on her shoulder blades and we were ready for a summer trim.

“Your hair will grow more if it’s healthy. We need to trim these dead ends.”

I bought a pair of haircutting scissors, determined to do better than the slanting bangs I gave her as a toddler and the chop, chop Frankenstein job I did on Son when he was two.

How hard can it be to trim long hair in a straight line?

Pretty hard, it turns out. She moved, I didn’t know what I was doing, her hair somehow sprung back up above her shoulders.

“You’re the worst haircutter ever!” she cried.

I was, frankly, relieved that she’d kept it factual and didn’t use the “hate” word. But I felt terrible. She’d worked so hard to grow her hair out. One slip and the whole thing had to be evened up. Or had I intentionally cut it higher than she wanted? Was I subconsciously trying to control her look? Lotta good that’s going to do me in a few years.

I put her to bed and studied the slightly sad look on her face. I’d disappointed her and it was no one’s fault but my own. She did look cuter with the trim but who was I to make that call? How she looked was my call when she was two. It wouldn’t be mine when she was twelve. Five isn’t as easy a stage to define.

I worried all night. I told Husband I’d scarred her for life. He doubted this haircut would be the defining factor in her future therapy bills.

When she woke up, Daughter was as happy and carefree as always. I’d already decided not to mention the hair. Buck up, move on, show her how to live with disappointment.

When we entered the bathroom to brush teeth before school, she looked in the mirror.

“Oh, I forgot about my haircut,” she said and tried to pull the ends around her shoulders but there was nothing to pull.

Instead, she said matter-of-factly, “I’m going to wear it up today.”

Really?

“That way nobody will know it’s shorter.”

I cringed inside. I’d gotten my way but I didn’t like the price. She’d probably never trust me with a pair of scissors again.

Note to self: Better to learn this lesson over a hairstyle than risk losing her trust over something greater later on.

May 18, 2011
by heather
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iPad, lo Pad

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Husband gave me a Kindle for my birthday last month. Yes, I’m a little behind on that, being a writer and all, but I’ve been attached to my hardcovers. Until I “got” the hook of instant gratification for any book you want. It’s a great thing.

A couple days in, five year old Daughter pulled the Kindle from me and started touching the screen. She tapped here, she tapped there. Nothing happened. She looked at me perplexed.

“It doesn’t work like that, honey. You have to push these arrows and then this button to go somewhere.”

I’d lost her on “push.”

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May 5, 2011
by heather
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The Greatest Show on Earth

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“Will there be trapeze?”

“Yes

“Tigers and elephants?”

“Yes.”

“High wire?”

“Sure will.”

Daughter sat back, satisfied.

I knew for sure there would be a high wire act at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Fully Charged circus because Husband and I had checked the web site the night before. Not wanting to disappoint her as I did when I tried a lesser, much lesser show (let’s not even call it a circus), this time I hoped the greatest show on earth would exceed her expectations.

We picked Son up early from Cub Scouts and drove to the XL Center in Hartford at 4 p.m. to miss traffic and catch the pre-show when the doors opened at 6 o’clock. We arrived by 5:15 and parking was easy – there are several lots around the arena plus a garage across the street and we chose an outdoor lot to miss traffic on the way out. There’s also a handy sports bar/restaurant, Coach’s, with a children’s menu for dinner before the show (though there is so much going on inside the doors, I’d head straight to the XL Center if you arrive anytime near 6).

By 6:15 we were in the doors, the kids’ eyes popping at displays of cotton candy, snow cones in clown or tiger cups, pink twirling light up wands, circus toys, toys, and more toys! Later, we said.

First we headed to our section and down to the pre-show. On the show floor, the three rings featured various acts: a beautifully costumed performer showing dance moves, clowns, and Asia, the elephant, painting (yes, painting!) We stood up close and watched her lift a paint brush with her trunk and color the canvas with multiple colors.

But that was merely an appetizer. The main course was indeed better than we could have imagined. From the moment the Ringmaster opened the show, we were mesmerized by this gorgeous and exciting performance. Where do I start? With the parade of nine elephants and all the colorful acts that open the show to live music and a peppy score? Or the exquisite costumes, each sparkling and colorful on a troupe of beautiful performers?

I’ll give you the highlights and encourage you to visit the show in Hartford this weekend (check out the discount offered here).

The nine elephants are a stunning sight. Animal trainer, Tabayara, is the star of the show as he commands each set of animals in amazing feats. In addition to the elephants, there are three rings of horses, dancing simultaneously, and after intermission: twelve tigers (twelve!) inside a large net with him doing exactly what he asks of them – including a kiss!

The strong men are ferocious and funny and the acrobats top it all off with wonder. What about basketball on bouncing stilts? And dare I not mention the human fuse? I’ll let you discover that one.

But the highlight for us, I must say, was the high wire act.

Daughter has been talking about the high wire for months and as luck would have it, we were eye level with the five performers who climbed up to the taught wire and had us holding our breath as they somersaulted, jumped rope, stood on each other’s shoulders and bicycled back and forth. When I looked over at Daughter, she had her hands on both cheeks, staring in wonder at the feats unfolding before her eyes. I knew then that Ringling Bros. had delivered even more than I’d hoped it would.

As we left the center, our thrill meter satisfied for a good stretch, Daughter turned to me and said, “Mommy, that is the greatest show on earth.”Yes, it was.