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Kate turns seven next week. She’s asked to get her ears pierced so we’re going to head to the mall the day before her party that way she’ll be able to show off her earrings to her friends.

I got my ears pierced at the ripe old age of eight back when you had to go to a doctor’s office to have it done. I don’t remember my parents ever saying “You can’t get your ears pierced until you are X years old.” I didn’t even ask until I turned eight and by then it was fine. I’ll never forget sitting on the examining table, kicking my legs and waiting impatiently for the nurse. The only problem was this: the clinic only had one piercing gun.

I got one ear pierced and it hurt and the gun made a loud snapping noise. I freaked out and refused to get the other ear pierced for at least 20 minutes. I remember asking to go look in the mirror at my one throbbing lobe. I studied my dark red ear lobe with the gold ball in the middle with a look of terror on my face and told my mom I didn’t want to get the other one done. My mother, who had no problem with letting me get my ears pierced in the first place, did put her foot down on this time. I was not leaving the clinic until the other ear was pierced. She had to pay either way, I had insisted I really, really, really wanted to do it and I had one ear pierced already. I finally left with a gold ball in each ear and 32 years later, I still wear earrings almost every day.

Thankfully, most of the stores that offer ear piercing today have two guns so both ears can be pierced at the same time. That would have saved both me, my mother and the nurse half an hour of whining back in 1982. If Kate chooses to go through with it, I’ll let her. If she changes her mind at the last minute, that’s ok too. But if the store doesn’t offer two ears at once—we’re finding one that does. I can see the exact same thing happening with Kate.

I have a few friends who have gotten their daughter’s ears pierced shortly after birth. I don’t have any strong opinions on the matter either way. Ear piercing at a young age is often a cultural practice and it’s up to each set of parents to decide. I’ve heard a few moms say they don’t feel like it’s their choice to decide when put holes in their daughter’s body and that if she wants to do it, she can decide when she’s older. Yet, at the same time, I’ve never heard an adult who had their ears pierced as an infant feel as though she was harmed or emotionally scarred or even unhappy with her parents’ decision. So many ideas of what is right and wrong, when it comes to parenting, are really a matter of what is right or wrong for individual families and if others do differently, that’s their business.

If you have a daughter, does she have her ears pierced? How old was she? How do you feel about infants having their ears pierced?

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First Day of School,  Our third-grader and first grader!

First Day of School,
Our third-grader and first grader!

As the mother of three children, two of whom are now in early grade school, I’ve noticed the trend of parents keeping their children home another year. Lauren, our first child and now a third grader, was born on October 7th. The kindergarten cut-off for our school district is September 25th. Lauren was a bright, active and very extroverted toddler and was the same as a preschooler. I couldn’t keep her busy enough on our limited budget for preschool and five-year old dance classes. Had she been been born two weeks earlier, I would have gladly sent her to kindergarten. In hindsight, was it better to keep her home the extra year, even though I didn’t have a choice, so that she was older and therefore better able to meet school age expectations? Probably. But I still would have sent her.

Lauren was, however, not the oldest in her class. Not by a long shot. There were many kids, both girls and boys, who had been born right around mid-August, who made the cut-off for kindergarten by well over a month, but who didn’t attend kindergarten until the following year. This trend has not worked out so well for my April baby, Kate, who wasn’t “close enough” on either side of the cut-off to keep home for another year or not. Kate, now in first grade, has classmates who were born in August while she was born in April of the following year. What concerns me is this: the educational milestones that children are expected to meet in kindergarten are a far cry from what they were when I was a kindergartner in 1979. I remember coloring and singing and playing house and doing some work with letters and numbers. But it wasn’t until first grade when I remember learning to actual read—“the cat sat on the mat.” Now it seems that kids are practically expected to be reading at that level when they enter kindergarten. As a July baby, I was exactly five when I started kindergarten and six when I started first grade. But my five year old started kindergarten with kids who turned six before kindergarten even started. Looking at what is expected of children now, I can honestly say, I wish we’d had that option. But it is what it is and I have a feeling that as the kids get older, the gaps start to close. Babies change so much from one month to the next and until they are seven or eight, six months to a year can mean eons of change emotionally, physically and socially as their little brains and bodies continue to grow.

Two years ago, when Lauren was in first grade, she was reading at “grade level.” Even in the two years that have passed, what would have been grade level then, is considered “under grade level” now. So Kate, even though she is now reading at the same level Lauren was in first grade, is considered below grade level because the bar has been raised. I absolutely believe in giving our children a good education and it saddens me how far the United States has fallen behind compared to other countries. But here’s one of the problems: Grade schools are demanding more and more skills from our kindergarteners and first graders but all kindergartners come to school with different levels of preschool experience and some are much older than the other children. Some might have been in daycare, some might have been in a curriculum based school or even pre-K, some might have had a Waldorf background and some might enter kindergarten with no previous school experience whatsoever. We have private preschools and public elementary schools. With the higher expectations on kindergartners, it means some kids are more likely to be labeled as “under grade-level” right from the start. Is one option better than the other? I don’t know. But I do know that preschool is far from free, in fact, it’s pretty darn expensive.

Have you held any of children back from kindergarten even though they made the cutoff? Or do you wish you had? What are your thoughts on the expectations your school has of your young children?

Photo Credit: E A McKenzie

Photo Credit: E A McKenzie

You’ll never guess where I am as I sit and type this, completely uninterrupted with a pleasant white noise humming in the background and my water bottle and a few snacks sitting at my feet. I’m on a plane…(drumroll, please)…and I am all by myself! On Friday I flew direct from Denver to New York City for a quick trip and it’s the first time I have flown without a child in over nine years.

Living in Colorado but having all of our extended family and childhood friends on the East Coast means we have spent a lot of time flying back and forth across the country. Those with family closer by might do extended road trips, like I remember as a child.  Several times a year we would drive from Vermont to Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey to visit family and spend anywhere from two to four to eight hours in the car.  Since I’ve been lucky enough to be a stay home and do some free-lance work writing from the comfort of wherever I can set my computer, I’ve been able to travel quite a bit—as long as I bring the kids with me. Over the years that has gone from one infant, to a toddler and an infant, to a six year old, a toddler and an infant, and so on and so on.

This weekend was my first weekend flying alone has been rather unreal. My luggage is light, my carry-on practically empty and I’m appreciating every single minute of sitting alone in this cramped seat. My flight from Denver to New York was delayed about 35 minutes before finally taking off. I was practically giddy with delight  that it was so easy. I found myself wanting to tell strangers how wonderful this experience was. “I don’t mind just sitting here on my computer, or reading (reading!!) or even just…sitting! It’s so RELAXING! And EASY! How could anyone ever complain about flying when they aren’t traveling with children?”

When I’m traveling with the kids, I usually spend a good deal of time bent at an unnatural angle with my head stuffed under the seat in front of me trying pull something out of my carry-on for Lauren, Kate or Cooper with one hand while the other holds onto whichever child is the current “lap baby.” I can get write this blog, I can snooze, and best of all, I can get up and use the restroom by myself without needing to nervously leave any children sitting alone for a few moments or worse, trying to cram them all into a dirty airplane bathroom with me all at once.

I was in New York for business (which is still sounds strange as I write it) doing some networking for my nonprofit Big Hearts Big Soles Inc. and I actually had the pleasure of bring shoes to the kids at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, New York. The faculty and students were friendly and welcoming and I got to hug a lot of new friends good-bye when I left. I met Nadia Lopez, the amazing principal of the school and even saw Vidal himself, dressed in a suit and tie, in person. Later that night, the friend from high school with whom I was staying, dragged me all around New York at night, to see the nights. At first I protested that I was a tired mom who needed to rest up before heading home to my children, but finally I gave in. I ended up feeling very grateful that I was able to walk around and marvel at a special place in our country, without worrying that I would lose one of my precious children if I focused on anything else for a moment.

On this flight back, I’m appreciating both the little things and the big things that I often take for granted. It’s so easy to do things without having all three of my kids being with me and I really appreciated being able to take a two night break. But I also miss them and I can’t wait to see their smiling faces in a few more hours and to wrap my arms around them and give them big hugs. As a stay at home mom, who often feels so busy and overwhelmed by parenting, that I feel like I can’t enjoy my children the way I think I am supposed to, this trip has been a gift to me in many ways.

Have you traveled without your children recently? How did you feel on your first time away from home?

Photo on 2-23-15 at 6.48 PM #3

“A tantrum or temper tantrum is an emotional outbreak, usually associated with children or those in emotional distress, typically characterized by stubbornness, crying, screaming, defiance, angry ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification and, in some cases, hitting. Physical control may be lost; the person may be unable to remain still; and even if the “goal” of the person is met, he or she may not be calmed.[1][2][3][4] A tantrum may be expressed in a tirade: a protracted, angry, or violent speech.”—Wikipedia

I have to admit, I chucked as I read Wikipedia’s definition of a temper tantrum because it’s so spot on. My favorite part is “even if the goal of the person is met, he or she may not be calmed.” This pretty sums up the inexplicable, incomprehensible, mind-bending and exasperating part of dealing with a child who is having a fit. Whether I am in the middle of a public place or in the privacy of our home, it seems I am often trying to prevent tantrums, stop tantrums that could not be prevented or dealing with the aftermath and the self-doubt that occurs after it’s over. If I give in to the tantrum, I feel like I am enabling bratty, spoiled behavior and that my child is doomed to grow into Veruca Salt. Or worse, if lose my own temper, but I don’t give in, have I scarred my child with my own anger and been a walking talking contradiction: Do as I say, not as I do. The perfectly calm voice of authority, who doesn’t express emotion in response to his or her child’s ridiculous raging is often a lofty goal for a tired and busy parent. Sometimes, the best way to perceive a child’s tantrum even the most trying, stressful, grey-hair and bags-under-your eyes producing behavior, is through the lens of humor. Because for the most part, the reasons for most tantrums are pretty funny, even if dealing with them in the moment isn’t.

Lauren, age 3, had an absolute conniption fit because her Polly Pocket’s hair was “too radiant!” And she kept screaming about how this radiant hair was NOT OK. My mother and I tried not to laugh while we simultaneously marveled at her advanced vocabulary. She was mad because the dolls hair would not lay flat and was sticking up (yes, like rays of randiant sunshine) around her head. After that, I only bought Polly Pockets with plastic helmet hair.

Kate would lose her mind if Lauren got the purple bowl when SHE wanted the purple bowl for her cereal. So we’d switch bowls and suddenly, the PINK bowl seemed much more appealing and Kate would be losing her mind because she should have that bowl and Lauren shouldn’t. This is a perfect example of the “goal being achieved” (i.e. getting the bowl you want) not ending the tantrum. Any logical human being, with properly firing synapses, would be baffled by this completely irrational display and might try using reason, “But you GOT the purple bowl. You wanted the purple bowl. Here have it.” This same person would be amazed when the previously coveted purple bowl was thrown on the floor, even if it was full of ice cream. This is when you know the problem isn’t the color of the bowl. The problem is an over-tired, over-stimulated or overly-hungry child who is just plain cranky and just needs an excuse to have a melt down because that’s how they tell us all is not right in their world, even if they don’t know why.

I can’t even remember what set Cooper off yesterday, I can only remember him yelling and pointing at his sister, saying “But Lauren is standing on the FLOOR!” He was obviously very, very ticked off about something and he needed to vent so he stood there furious and raging about how she should NOT BE “standing on the floor!” Lauren just stood there looking confused and I made a funny face at her like “Aren’t little kids just silly sometimes?” And then later I made sure to tell her all of the things that she used to get very upset about, like dolls having radiant hair or her stubborn insistence on wearing a certain shirt even if it was in the dirty laundry basket and covered in mud stains.

 

What is the funniest or most ridiculous thing over which your child has had a meltdown?