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It wasn’t until the 1960s when a typical middle class household had a television, but today, nearly all of us do—and not only that, but access to information and images of all sorts, all the time on our laptops and smart phones. One very useful and under-used tool that both the World Wide Web and Television can provide for modern-day children, other than keeping them entertained and quiet for a while, is the ability to look into the lives of others. What exactly do I mean by this? Read on.

“I am so hungry—I’m starving! No I do not want a banana or a sandwich or cheese and crackers or carrots and hummus….etc etc.”

To satiate this sort of starvation, I like to serve a hot, savory episode or two of “Survivorman.” “Do you see that man, there? He hasn’t eaten in three days and now he’s cooking up some juicy grubs that he found in a hollow log for dinner. He’s so hungry that even though those grubs aren’t the most delicious food in the world, he’s eating them because he’s really hungry and he needs to eat to stay alive. Oh, you think a banana sounds pretty good, after all? Good choice! I bet Survivorman wishes he had a banana right now too!” I am trying to teach Lauren, Kate and Cooper that food doesn’t have to be “their favorite” or the “one thing that they are in the mood for” if they are really hungry. Sometimes we need to eat for survival. You aren’t really starving if you have enough caloric energy to turn down half a dozen snack choices.

“I’ll clean my room later. It’s not even very dirty,” or “I’ll clean my room but I am emotionally attached to every scrap of paper I’ve ever scribbled on and every contraption I’ve ever made from paper-towel tubes, 8 feet of scotch tape, cotton balls and empty water bottles. That’s NOT trash. That’s a trap for bad guys!”

Time to Clean Your Room!

Time to Clean Your Room!

Time to watch Hoarders: Buried Alive. Yes, it is hard to throw things away sometimes and cleaning up isn’t always fun. But we do these things for a reason because if we don’t, we can actually be buried in our own possessions–just like that woman who can’t walk through her living room anymore on TV. I can relate to being emotionally attached to tangible possessions, books, my children’s artwork, old notes and souvenirs that I’ve saved since I was a child but I draw the line at holding on to actual trash. We don’t need to keep the ripped box Barbie came in—even though it is a pretty color pink and has pretty pictures on it. And the apple core under the bed? Yes, the way the mold is growing on it is really cool, isn’t it? It’s like a science project. In fact, it’s so much like a science project you can take it to school and show it to your class or you can throw it in the trash—where household science experiments involving old food belong.

“I hate brushing my teeth! Noooooo!”-followed by or while running away and/or kicking.  To combat the occasional  Toothbrushing Strike, I have Googled pictures of rotting teeth and shown them to the kids. I really have. Plaque, gingivitis, possible cavities and inevitable dental bills are something too abstract for a lot of kids to grasp and many remain convinced that toothbrushing is simply a cruel and pointless nightly ritual. Thank you Google for bringing Reality and Graphic Images into our home. A single close-up picture of rotting teeth truly does speak 1,000 words…while the 10,000 words spilling from a parent’s mouth often go unheard.

How do you use TV or the internet to convince your children to do things or to put things like “hunger” into perspective? Or maybe you don’t…but would you?

 

Storms in Colorado

Storms in Colorado

Fourteen stuffed animals
One pair of clean underwear
A toothbrush (that was a surprise!)
A tin “Frozen” box with $1.83 inside
A water bottle
Three markers
A pad of paper shaped like a Halloween kitten
A box of kids’ energy bars stolen from the kitchen cupboard

Q: What do the above items and the picture of the ominous looking storm clouds have in common?

A: They are what a first-grader packs in an Emergency Preparedness Bag in case of a tornado.

Before last month, I never worried much about tornadoes. We do have them in Colorado occasionally but usually on the plains. We live fairly close to the Flatirons which are the beginnings of the Rocky Mountains. I had always thought the mountains somehow offered us protection from storms gaining enough energy to become tornadoes.  Apparently, that isn’t the case–see the article at the bottom of this blog called “Fact or Myth: Colorado’s Mountains Offer Protection from Tornadoes.” Rats.

The increasingly intense weather that much of the United States (not to mention the world) has been experiencing lately has made me more and more nervous Within two years both of my home states—Vermont and Colorado, experienced devastating 100 year floods where rushing water and steep terrain made perfect conditions for fast moving walls of river water and snow melt to destroy houses and roads, move boulders the size of small cars, rip trees up from the roots and generally wreak havoc upon anything in its path.

This past May and June we’ve had more flooding in Boulder. We had a month straight of rain, several damaging hail storms, lightening storms that lasted for hours and so much electricity in the air that the clouds flashed like strobe lights. We’ve also had dozens of tornado warnings—and at least nine tornadoes have touched down in Colorado. One of those was twenty miles from here in Longmont. That’s the closest I’ve ever been to a tornado.

Now I realize I need to stock up on bottled drinking water, canned food, batteries and flashlights and we now have a  “tornado plan.” If a tornado or super storm comes our way, the whole family will head to a large storage closet with no windows that is under the stairs in the basement.

For those of you who have experienced extreme weather, and especially those of you with infants and toddlers, do you have a designated place to go in your house? And if so, what supplies do you keep there? Drinking water, extra cans of formula or baby food? Do you have extra disposable diapers in case you can’t wash your cloth ones for a week? What else do you have on hand for your little ones?

The first day of summer!

The first day of summer!

After a month straight of rain and grey skies (which is very rare for Boulder, Colorado) the first weekend of summer vacation finally feels like summer. It’s sunny and in the mid-80s. The kids are at the neighborhood pool with Daddy and right about now, I’m hoping he’s applying a second layer of sunblock to any exposed patches of skin.

I recently read a blog that listed the 11 Worst Sunscreens for Kids and I was dismayed to realize we actually have what they are calling “The Worst” in our cupboard right now.

Putting sunscreen on my kids is probably the only thing I don’t like about summer. They whine, protest, wiggle and run when tell them it’s time to put it on. Maybe that’s because they don’t understand the cause and effect of “Not wearing sunblock” and “Getting a painful sunburn.” They’ve never been sunburned, unlike their sun-spotted mother, and I aim to keep it that way.  But because they don’t really understand the importance of wearing sunscreen outside, they don’t feel as inclined to cooperate as they might otherwise. In fact, it might be easier to apply an even layer of lotion on a ticked-off, greased piglet who is trying to get away than to put it on my children. I don’t know how many times they’ve gotten sunblock in their eyes because they squirm when I am trying to cover their faces. Sunblock and eyes are not a good mix ever for anyone involved--the Sunblocker, the Sunblockee, and anyone else whose trip to the beach or the pool depends on everyone in the group being adequately slathered and preferably, not screaming in pain.

I’ve yet to find a sunblock that meets all of my requirements:

  • Non-toxic
  • Organic
  • Doesn’t cost a fortune
  • Goes on quickly and evenly

It also needs to meet my kids requirements:

  • Doesn’t make them white and pasty looking
  • Doesn’t sting eczema flare ups
  • Doesn’t run into the eyes

The best sunblock I have found, that meets all but a few our combined prerequisites for perfection, is Sierra Madre Sun Cream. It looks and smells so delicious, sweet and creamy with a light citrusy scent, that I almost want to spread it some toast and eat it. It doesn’t sting my children’s sensitive skin, it’s fairly waterproof, it all-natural and non-toxic. The kids do complain that it makes their skin white (that would be the zinc, which is a physical blocker and one of the best ingredients to look for in a sunblock), it is rather thick and pasty but it rubs in well but unfortunately, it costs a small fortune. We use it as often as we can but sometimes, we do resort to the chemical concoctions in a pinch. I’d rather risk possible long-term effects of the chemical exposure than the immediate effects of a nasty sunburn and the long-term risks of skin cancer and sun damage.

We’ve also avoid sunburns by:

  • Wearing SPF clothing
  • Wearing SPF swimshirts
  • Wearing wide brimmed hats
  • Staying inside during the hottest, sunniest parts of the day
  • Wearing sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection

How do you keep your little ones from getting sunburned? What is your favorite sunscreen?

 

Click here for the EWG’s (The Environmental Working Group) list of 217 Best Beach and Sport Sunscreens.

To many of us, Memorial Day Weekend is a time to kick-off summer with BBQs, parties and family get togethers. But while we’re tossing frisbees, playing horse shoes, filling up the kiddie pool and making sure the cooler is stocked, let’s not forget all of those families who are spending Memorial Day in a different way: grieving for their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, uncles, aunts and cousins who lost their lives, their limbs, their eye-sight or their ability to walk and talk, serving our country and protecting our freedoms.

As a mom of three whose husband often comes home late from work only to have time to help with bedtime and then is off again early in the morning, I can’t imagine having my husband  deployed for months or years at a time. The soldiers who serve our country do not just risk their lives for us, they sacrifice every day by missing the births of their children, milestones, first lost teeth, holidays, graduations and things many of us take for granted: like reading a bedtime story, kissing a boo boo, or changing a diaper.

So today, instead of writing a blog about an experience I haven’t had, I’ll simply say this: Thank you for the sacrifices you make to support the soldiers you love and thanks to the soldiers themselves for the work they do to keep American civilians safe and free.

Are you a military family? How are you celebrating Memorial Day? And since I don’t have an appropriate picture to post of a Military Family for this blog, please feel free to share yours. We salute you!

 

I have three children, two girls and a boy, and all of them have very different personalities. I was just thinking back to their first year of life when they were reaching milestones like rolling over, sitting, crawling, clapping, walking and talking. Both of my girls were verbal very early and Cooper, my youngest and only boy, was much less so. What’s interesting, however, is not when they started speaking, but what each child’s first word actually was because I can now see that the word each child said first is representative of their personality today.

Lauren’s first was “Dada.” She began saying “Dada” at around ten months and would point at her daddy and smile as she said it over and over. Today Lauren is a people-pleaser. She loves to make her dad proud of her and she lights up when he praises her.  She’s a class clown, an actress, an extrovert and very popular with her school peers. It makes sense that her first word was a way for her to connect with a very important person in her life.

Kate and Bear 2011

Kate and Bear 2011

Kate’s first word was “Dog.” When Kate was born our 110 pound Rottweiler/Shepard mix named Bear was still alive. Kate would point to her and shriek and smile and say “Dog! Dog!” She also loved to point at and name any dog we passed on a walk. Today Kate is my emotionally fragile child, my most empathetic child and a care-giver. She picks up on the emotions and pain of others, and she cannot watch a show if it involves suffering or dying animals (neither can I!). She shines when she is around animals and seems to need the silent unconditional love that only a dog can provide. Dogs don’t judge or correct or criticize or care if you were just naughty. They just want to love and be loved. No matter how imperfect you may feel inside, a dog looks at his human and only sees the good things.

Cooper’s first word was “Ball.” Being the youngest and the only boy in the family, Cooper has been exposed to all kinds of girl and gender neutral toys and books. However, by design, he has come out fitting every stereo-typical boy trait there is. He loves all sports, he is interested in anything he can throw or kick, and he’s a natural athlete. We’ve had friends tell us he’ll be a high school soccer or basketball star for sure. He probably will be. From about one and a half, he’d watch others and then seem to unconsciously mimic their  form.  Even as a teeny toddler he was taking the two or three dribbles players always take before a free-throw, set his feet, bend his knees and then throw the ball in an upward arc toward the basket. He’s left footed and right handed and he continues to be very focused on sports and well, balls.

Are my children’s first words simply a coincidence or am I reading into their significance too much? Maybe. But I do believe children are motivated to verbalize things that they care about. Many children’s first word might be Mama. That’s certainly a no-brainer. Identifying the Center of Your Own Personal Universe is the perfect first word to master. What was your child’s first word? Do you think it reflects anything significant about his or her personality?