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Archive for October 2009

What to do with all that candy?

As a kid, I would always have a pillowcase full of candy after trick-or-treating on Halloween. I would dump it out and sort through my heap, creating smaller piles of KitKats, Hersheys and other candybars. I also would have a miscellaneous pile for Jolly Ranchers, Tootsie Rolls and the littler pieces of candy that I would trade for chocolate with my little sister.

Now that I’m a parent, I’m a little wary of all the candy that ends up in my children’s baskets. My son is pretty good about self-regulating, but my 3-year-old is a chocolate fiend like her mom and would definitely eat her weight in candybars.

So this year, I think the Candy Fairy is coming to our house. I told my daughter she plans to leave a gift in exchange for some of the candy. (We haven’t had the Tooth Fairy over yet, but my son already has had dealings with the Weapons Fairy.)

If you have older kids, you might want to consider heading to KiDDS Dental on Monday (Nov. 2) between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to trade some of that candy in for cash.

According to this news brief in The Spokesman-Review, KiDDS Dental will pay children $1 a pound for the Halloween candy. The dental office will then donate the candy to U.S. troops through Operation Gratitude. Kids also will get glowing electric toothbrushes.

“Kids can still have all of the fun of trick-or-treating, and now their piggy banks will benefit as well,” Dr. Jared Evans of KiDDs Dental told the newspaper.

Children can bring their unopened candy to KiDDS Dental/EPJ Orthodontics, 1327 N. Stanford Lane, Suite B in Liberty Lake or to KiDDS Place, 506 E. Hastings Road in Spokane.

What do you plan to do with all that Halloween candy at your house?

No, we don’t spank but we certainly scream

A friend recently passed along this New York Times article that made me really think about my actions as a parent.

In “For Some Parents, Shouting is the New Spanking,” writer Hilary Stout explores the way some parents punish their kids by yelling.

“I’ve worked with thousands of parents and I can tell you, without question, that screaming is the new spanking,” Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions told The New York Times. “This is so the issue right now. As parents understand that it’s not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do. They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don’t work to change behavior. In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice. They feel guilty afterward, and the whole cycle begins again.”

Does this sound familiar? While reading the story, I felt as though the reporter was writing about me.

In her article, Stout interviewed parenting experts who said that some parents resort to yelling as a way to release stress especially since so many moms and dads lead such as hectic lives.

Yelling has become the norm in many families, but its effects can still be harmful, according to sociologist Murray A. Strauss. “But it affects a child,” he told the New York Times. “If someone yelled at you at work, you’d find that pretty jarring. We don’t apply that standard to children.”

How often do you find yourself yelling at your kids? What can parents do to curb this behavior?

How pregnancy and childbirth strengthen women

When most moms think of pregnancy, they have memories of food cravings, weight gain, fatigue, maybe stretch marks and bloated ankles. As much as I loved being pregnant and feeling my baby kick in my womb, there were also moments toward the end when it became so uncomfortable that waiting for birth felt like an eternity. (The 50-pound weight gain certainly didn’t help.)

The experience, I think, makes us tougher in the end. Talking to other moms about pre- and post-pregnancy bodies, I’m becoming convinced that the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth actually make us stronger – not just emotionally and mentally, but also physically.

A recent article from the Times in the United Kingdom explored this theory and found that for some women who already exercise and play sports, “motherhood appears to leave the female body better able to cope with extreme physical demands than ever before.” Medical experts interviewed in this story pointed to several factors: a surplus of red blood cells that are rich in oxygen-carrying hemoglobin during the first three months of pregnancy; an increase in blood volume, which improves the body’s ability to carry oxygen; and also a surge in hormones – more testosterone could increase muscle strength while relaxin, which loosens the hip joints for birth, could also improve joint mobility.

The biggest benefit for some, however, is psychological. The article used the example of Norwegian marathon runner Ingrid Kristiansen, who said the experience of giving birth raised her tolerance for pain and therefore made her a better athlete.

Greg Whyte, professor of applied sport and exercise science at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “Women re-evaluate where they can anchor pain and many psychologists believe that woman’s pain threshold is effectively reset so that when she resumes or takes up training again, nothing ever seems as uncomfortable.”

Moms: What was your experience? Was it tough to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight or did pregnancy and childbirth make you physically stronger? I’m also curious about how breastfeeding might have affected or perhaps improved your performance during sports and exercise.

Setting an example for kids

Poor Falcon. In this YouTube video, as his father gets interviewed by the Today Show, the little boy who was part of the balloon hoax last Friday literally starts vomiting on camera.

His brothers look horrified as he pukes all over them. His mother, meanwhile, finds a square-shaped Tupperware dish and places it in front of her son as he continues to throw up. His dad, however, doesn’t miss a beat and continues the interview.

Why did his parents continue to keep him in front of the TV cameras in light of everything that this poor 6-year-old has been through?

Parenting experts have weighed in on this issue, of course, and several have condemned Richard and Mayumi Heene for telling their son to lie. (According to the latest story from the Associated Press, the Heenes spent two weeks planning the stunt in order to land a reality TV show. The sheriff in Colorado’s Larimer County also alluded that a few media outlets also were in on the hoax.)

What in the world kind of parents would model this kind of dishonesty and attitude that ‘we can use and abuse other people in our lives in order to get a little publicity?’” Dr. Joanne Stern, author of “Parenting is a Contact Sport” told Philadelphia Metro.

Using their kids for personal gain and instructing them to lie “is sort of like prostituting your children for money,” she said.

The Heenes now face potential charges including conspiracy, contributing to the deliquency of a minor and false reporting to the authorities. I hope authorities also recommend counseling for the whole family.


The “unlived lives” of parents

We all make sacrifices as parents. Some of us put careers on hold. Others postpone education, trips and other opportunities. Most of us go without some of the luxuries we once had before kids in order to pay for preschool, save for college, or sometimes, simply to make ends meet.

After a while, we don’t really see these life changes as sacrifices. They’re simply part of having children.

 The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung once said, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

I don’t really know the full context of that quote, but after reading it earlier this week, it made me reflect a little bit on some of the things in my life that I’ve put on hold.

The quote showed up in a story posted by a reader on the Parents’ Council blog. The article, “Parents: Are They Making The Grade?” explored how some moms and dads “would rather focus on how their kids are stacking up, holding up or moving up, rather than how they themselves are scoring on the parenting scale.” After quoting Jung, the writer wrote: “So live a little; take some learning risks in front of your child; do something each day for pure joy; and stop riding your child’s coattails – ride your own.”

Now I’m left wondering: Is it really possible to simultaneously meet your own needs and fulfill your aspirations while taking care of your family? Are you better off doing one before the other instead of trying to do everything all at once?

Kids and fast food

Every once in a while, my husband takes my kids to McDonald’s.

We’ve talked a lot about fast food – how it’s fattening, unhealthy, bad for the planet, etc. But it’s no longer a mystery to my kids. At 3 or so, it seemed that both of my kids already recognized the golden arches. And even though my children tried to appease me by parroting my own words, “No, we don’t eat fast food,” I knew they secretly yearned to try chicken nuggets, drink soda pop and play with the little plastic toy inside every Happy Meal.

So despite my best intentions early on, we eventually gave in. Eating fast food is not a regular practice at my house, but like sugar, TV and all the other things I thought we would ban from our household, I didn’t want fast food to be something forbidden that it would almost become an obsession for my kids.

New York Times dining editor Pete Wells did the same thing in his latest column, “Happy-Meal Me.” He actually took his 5-year-old son, Dexter, to McDonald’s.

“For some well-meaning parents, McDonald’s is anathema,” he wrote. “They would no sooner take the family out for Happy Meals than they would let their kids follow the meal with a postprandial cigarette. My convictions aren’t quite that strong, but Dexter’s friend pretty much got it right: Other kids eat there. Mine don’t.”

But when his son asked, “What’s in the food that makes it bad for you?” Wells figured it was time to learn first-hand. His account is quite fascinating, I think.

While we try really hard to eat whole foods at my house, I don’t think an occasional Happy Meal will make my kids fat and lead to unhealthy eating habits. I won’t condone fast food, but I also don’t want to be a snob. In this economy, a 99-cent hamburger might be the only food that some people can afford.

How about you? Do you let your kids eat fast food? Why or why not?

What’s the best way to teach moderation?

After School Sports

“On a windy fall afternoon, dozens of children ran, shouting and laughing, across the lawn at Westview Elementary School, enjoying an exuberant game of tag. The kids had been separated into groups labeled Jeeps, Cadillacs and Corvettes by physical education teacher and cross country coach Sam Compogno.

“Car lot!” he yelled, meaning everyone was “It.” However, one little girl had already forgotten the rules. She looked up at her teacher. “Mr. C. what’s car lot?” she asked.

What looked like after-school play time was actually training for the first elementary cross country meet of the season. “We want to make it fun for them,” said Compogno. “I’m into tricking them into enjoying running.”

It doesn’t take much trickery. Many children are born to run, and thanks to a local nonprofit organization, Active4Youth, Spokane-area elementary students once again have the opportunity to participate in cross country.”

How imporant do you think after-school sports programs are for elementary kids?

Lessons from parenting and how they translate into the workplace

Moms and dads who spend a few years staying at home full-time to care for their kids sometimes worry about re-entering the workforce.

First, there’s a gap in their resume. Second, by staying at home instead of going to an office or participating in conferences and other professional gatherings, they’ve also missed out on networking opportunities.

But most of all, they worry about what their potential employers might think about the fact that they’ve devoted the last few years to their families and household. After all, how do playdates, doing laundry, volunteering at school, cooking meals, driving kids to soccer, etc., prepare you for a career?

Many would argue that parenting and running a household can actually provide valuable training for the work that takes place every day in offices, clinics, newsrooms and other workplaces. Moms and dads who may not be earning a paycheck are using the same skills that are needed in the workforce  – they’re the ones who help organize school fundraisers, manage multiple schedules, volunteer at schools and other community groups, balance the household budget and care for the well-being of people.

A recent blog post at The Wall Street Journal made some parallels between parenting and the business world. Good parenting is like good management, according to Patrick Lencioni, a management consultant and author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable.”

Here’s a question for parents who have worked part-time or who have spent an extended period of time outside the workforce to take care of children: What did you learn by staying at home and how did these skills and lessons prepare you to re-enter the workforce?

School Libraries and 21st Century Learning

Lisa Layera Brunkan is a Spokane mom and a co-founder of the Washington Coalition for School Libraries and Information Technology, an organization that advocates for funding of school libraries.

When budget cuts threatened to cut librarian hours at local elementary schools two years ago, Brunkan and two other moms started a grassroots campaign to keep funding for school libraries. They succeeded. Last year, the Washington Legislature included $4 million for school libraries in the state budget after the lobbying efforts of the Spokane moms. Librarians across the country have described the women as “heroes,” according to several media reports including this story from The Spokesman-Review. Earlier this year – thanks to the efforts of these moms – Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill that included teacher librarians and school library materials as part of the state’s definition of “basic education.”

This past weekend, Lisa delivered a keynote speech in Washington D.C. at the 2009 School Library Journal Leadership Summit, which focused on librarians as “leaders of 21st century learning.”

In a recent e-mail exchange, Lisa shared her perspective on the topic of 21st Century Learning:

At the highest levels of the rhetoric that informs education policy, a debate is raging as to whether or
not there are actually any new skills for the 21st century. The critics maintain that the really important skills are not new; they point to copious evidence that our kids’ ‘core skills’ (like reading and writing) are waning, and they wonder aloud if the ‘movement’ isn’t driven by software and tech companies looking to sell more stuff to young people and schools. On the other side of the debate are those who believe that preparing a student for work and life in this age requires an upgrade that
infuses our existing education paradigm with a focus on problem-solving, critical-thinking, collaboration, creativity and the media literacy that will more closely mirror what will be encountered on the other side of a diploma.  As a parent, I find myself wanting both for this generation of children— core knowledge and applied practice that emulates the world they will need to survive in (read: be employed)….

 Whereas the 20th century gave people the tools for ‘emotional intelligence‘, the hope is that the 21st century leaves us with a ‘tech-intelligence’ that allows people to be effective users of information and technology. …

 We see the school library as uniquely positioned to bridge the educational / technological / information gaps that exist between the 20th and 21st centuries.  At the very center of a school’s culture and curriculum, the school library can be transformed into a vital and vibrant 21st century learning commons. In their work with entire educational communities (students, teachers, parents, and administrators), teacher-librarians have the potential to be strong and effective educational leaders in the 21st century. Far from being obsolete we see the library as a bit of a panacea and librarians as guides for minding this digital gap.

Here are some of the questions that Lisa and the other Spokane moms have been asking parents from all over the country:

1. When you hear the term “21st century learning” what comes to mind (with respect to your student)?
2. What do you believe should be added to education and what do you worry might be neglected?
3. Are there any new ways of learning and knowing that you believe your student will have to excel in, in order to flourish?
4. Your child is growing up in the demographic that has been dubbed “digital natives.” What does this make you think about?
5. How do you see the school library in this context? How do you see the role of the librarian evolving?

Laughter=Good Medicine

Local author and speaker Deanna Davis was having one of those days. Her baby had spiked a fever and had all the symptoms of a nasty ear infection. Then her toddler daughter came into the room crying and holding her nose. “What’s happened?” Davis asked. “I got a flip-flop up my nose,” wailed her daughter.  More here:

On Oct. 9, Davis, the author of “The Law of Attraction in Action” and “Living With Intention,” will appear the Spokane Masonic Center as part of her Blue Flip Flop Tour. She says, “We are hard-wired to connect with other women in times of crisis or stress.” But adds that the pace of our lives make it difficult to make time to nurture friendships.

Do you make time to spend with friends? How often?




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This blog is intended to provide a forum for parents to share knowledge and resources. It's a place for parents young and old to combine their experiences raising families into a collective whole to help others.

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