Thursday, September 26, 2013

PRODUCT REVIEW: Alba Botanica, Giovanni, and Burt's Bees Hair & Bath Products

About a year ago, I had to go see my dermatologist due to what appeared to be a rash on my scalp.  Turns out it was dermatitis.  The doctor made it seem like I would have to use a scalp spray and prescription shampoo on and off for the rest of my life due to flare ups.  I was not a happy camper.

I decided to give all natural shampoos & conditioners a shot to see if they would require me using the medicated shampoo/spray less.  Turns out, it worked.  It's been months since I've had to use the prescriptions I was given on my scalp.  As a note, I recently went back to using Suave temporarily because all natural products tends to cost a little more and I've already noticed the dermatitis is flaring up again so I'm going to repurchase some all natural goodies.

This is a review of the all natural bath products I've tried to date with my honest opinions.  The first thing I'm going to point out is that I'm from Florida and we have hard water here - so if you see in my notes "did not lather well" or something like that, could be related to the type of water we have here and may not be applicable to you should you wish to give these products a go.

Let me start off by saying that if you've ever visited Hawaii, you will LOVE these products.  Every morning in the shower reminded me of our trips over there and brought a goofy smile to my face (you know how they say a sense of smell triggers memories - totally true).

Specific products I used:
Body wash: LOVE this product - it lathered up nice & bubbly and smelled fantastic.  It rinsed cleanly and left a slight hint of tropical passion fruit without smelling like I doused myself in body spray.  Would definitely purchase again.  Only complaint is I felt like I went through it quickly and for $10 I'd like it to last at least a month.

Shampoo: I was kind of meh on this product.  It didn't really lather which made it more difficult to apply and work into the hair in my opinion.  However, after showering my hair looked clean and smelled nice - and my dermatitis did not bother me so overall I feel the product worked effectively.  I think I would have preferred a more cream based shampoo as opposed to this gel (especially since it apparently has coconut milk in it).  Would probably buy again, but mainly because I like the other products so much.

Conditioner: the conditioner was great - it was a nice thick cream and I didn't need to use a lot.  It smelled wonderful and left my hair shiny and feeling great throughout the day with a slight hint of coconut (again, it was a nice smell, not an overly perfumey smell).  I brush my hair right out of the shower when it's still wet and I did not have a lot of issues with tangles.  Would definitely buy again.

Facial cleanser: this is one of those cleansers that wakes you up in the morning due to the infusion of pineapple (smells great!).  This product gently exfoliates due to the acid in the fruit it's infused with - so you get the exfoliation without the harsh scrubbers that you find in some cleansers.  I really did not notice a huge change in my skin from using this product - it just maintained the status quo.  My face did feel clean and refreshed after using and my skin did not dry out (as sometimes happens with overly chemicaly cleansers).  Overall, this product basically broke even for me - it did what I expected it to do, but I wasn't in love with in.  I would probably purchase again because finding a good all-natural face cleanser is difficult.

These products remind of the Aveda products I used to use (but cost much less).  I LOVE this shampoo/conditioner combo and would definitely recommend.

Specific products I used:
Shampoo: Root 66 Max Volume - this shampoo lathered wonderfully (even in my hard water!).  I could actually feel it working in my roots (I have notoriously thin hair).  This product has been great on scalp and rinses cleanly - I love LOVE these products and would definitely purchase again.

Conditioner: Tea Tree Triple Treat - this conditioner smells heavenly and feels great in my hair and on my scalp (yes, it's got mint as an ingredient and who doesn't love that fun scalp tingle?).  It's a thick cream that coats hair and moisturizes.  Rinses cleanly and I'm able to brush my hair right out of the shower.  LOVE this stuff - would definitely purchase again.

I was not impressed with the Burt's Bees product I tried.  I know the company is owned by Clorox and I feel like their "all natural" goods have perhaps taken a hit due to cost savings measures.  Who knows?  I do know that the body wash product I tried did not deliver like I hoped it would.

Specific products I used:
Body wash: This body wash is specifically marketed as an exfoliating body wash.  Personally, I got none of that out of it.  The body wash consistency seems to be halfway between a gel and a cream wash.  Due to the royal jelly (I'm assuming), it doesn't have an overly pleasant smell.  I used the same amount I use with other products, however this body wash did not lather hardly at all - I got some light bubbles for the top half of my body and it felt like I was using my loofah with nothing on it by the time I hit my legs.  I did use the whole thing because I'm not a huge fan of waste, but this is not something I will be purchasing again. 

If you're interested in trying these (or other) all natural bath products - has a great selection of all natural products that are sometimes hard to find in stores.  They also ship for free if you order over $35.  You can buy all your household goods there (I get my all natural laundry soap from them as well).

Do you use any all natural products in your house?  Which ones do you love or dislike?  Share below.

use code: GALL7676
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Disclaimer: I was not requested to review, nor was I compensated in any way.  The thoughts expressed above are mine and were observed firsthand.  
Note: link above is an affiliate link.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Healthcare in the US vs other nations - a brief summary of why it's broken

You have to love John Green.  I really don't have to comment on this in any capacity because he does such an excellent job of explaining why US healthcare is broken (i.e. ridiculously expensive and unreasonable).  Give it a watch - then leave your comments below.  I'm honestly curious!

Disclaimer: this post is purely my opinion and is not meant to offend any one in any way.  If you choose to comment on this post, please do so respectfully.

Winter Car Seat Coat Rules

Since it has started cooling down for fall and approaching winter, I figured I would go ahead and share the following: wearing winter coats in a car seat is a huge no no.  The thickest item a child should ever have on is the equivalent of a thin fleece jacket.  When in doubt on whether an item is ok for a child to wear in a car seat, put the jacket (or whatever it is) on the child and put them in the car seat - adjust straps accordingly.  Then remove the child, take the jacket off and put the child back in the car seat.  If the straps fail the pinch test, that clothing item is too bulky and should not be worn by the child in the car seat.

Some tips to keep kids warm:

  • Put jackets on backwards after child is strapped in car seat.
  • Cover car seat with blanket.
  • Turn car on and get it warmed up prior to putting child in car seat.
If you're still thinking, it's ok - see these pictures and YouTube video below:


For Christmas my husband & I purchased the Tag for our son Bryce (13 months at time of Christmas).  After watching Bryce figure it out (he's still putting two and two together that to hear the words/sounds from the book you have to tap it with the pen), I must say - I am thoroughly impressed by this product.

It's easy to use.  You load it kind of like you would an iPod or Kindle, you go to Leapfrog's website and download Tag software onto your PC, then "load" books onto the Tag.  There is a space limit, but we have yet to reach it and you can swap the books on & off should that ever occur.  Honestly, I have no idea how the "pen" differentiates between books, but it is very cool - you tap the words on a page and the Tag reads it to you.  You can also tap all the characters or objects and they will make some sort of sound or talk - it's very interactive.  Another nice thing is that - if you wanted - you can just read the books like normal books.  So it's nice to know that if you ever forget your Tag, yet have the books handy, you can still use them as a form of entertainment.

The various Tag books feature a variety of characters from Disney, Nickelodeon, etc.  We are currently using the Tag Junior books as that is the level my son is at.  The books all have different learning elements, which are clearly stated on the cover, such as letter recognition, counting, etc.  The Tag Junior books are board books and cost about the same as a traditional board book - approx. $8 a book.  In my personal opinion, they don't skimp on the content either, which is nice when compared to other board books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar (a classic to be sure, but other parents know, light on content).  The Tag books will run you a little more, but are also longer - more like a traditional children's book (approx. $11-$12 each).

My biggest peeve about this product isn't actually about the product itself.  As I stated above, my son was only 13 months old at Christmas and as you can see from the picture the Tag is designed for children ages 4-8.  Initially, I purchased the Tag Junior (picture below).  As you can see, the Tag Junior is designed for children ages 1-4 (the category my son falls in).  The Tag Junior works the same way as the Tag, however has an easier device for small hands to hold - it's shaped like Scout (the Leapfrog puppy).  I mentioned in passing to a co-worker that I had picked one up for my son for Christmas and she told me to return it and buy the Tag.  The Tag Junior retails for $30 and the Tag retails for $32.50; however the Tag will "read" both Tag Junior and regular Tag books (Leapfrog has a progressive reading system); whereas the Tag Junior will ONLY work with Tag Junior books.  Ergo if you started with the Tag Junior, you would eventually have to purchase the Tag to progress to a higher level of books (assuming your child loved the Tag system and you wanted to continue using it).  You will also be able to verify this on the box (and the books) that the Tag works with both kinds of books, whereas the Tag Junior only works with Tag Junior books.

That being said, all in all I LOVE this product.  While I know he's young now, I already see that my son likes the "interaction" with the book that the Tag creates.  It's the same as me reading to him, but he gets to control everything - it's also helpful that he can play with it on his own, when I'm busy cooking dinner for example.  We own several Leapfrog learning products and I think they make learning fun & easy - it also helps that they're not incredibly annoying given the fact they produce sounds.  I would highly recommend this product, but I would recommend you skip the Tag Junior and just go with the Tag - the pen is wide enough that my son does not have issues holding onto it and he already has figured out which end goes on the book.

You can purchase the Tag reading system at any large retailer.  We bought ours from Wal Mart.
Here is a link to Amazon's site:
Amazon: Leapfrog Tag

Does anyone else have the Tag or another type of "reading" toy?  I'd love to hear your comments!

Disclaimer: I was not requested to review, nor was I compensated in any way.  The thoughts expressed above are mine and were observed firsthand.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Did you know smoke detectors expire?

My co-worker recently bought a new home and when I asked him what he was up to this weekend, he said he was heading over to Home Depot to buy new smoke detectors.  When I asked him why, he informed me that smoke detectors "expire".  I had NO IDEA!  My home will be 10 years old in 2014 so I'm now planning to replace mine as well.

For an easy to read (and follow) guide on smoke detector maintenance check out this site.

Another thing I learned, once a year you should take a vacuum to your smoke detector to clear particles out of it so sensors function effectively.

This right here is proof that you learn something new every day - hope it helps you!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Help! How can I get my new baby to sleep through the night?!

Yay – your baby is here!!  You’re breastfeeding (or formula feeding) and life is awesome.  Then a few months go by … you love your squidgy bundle of joy, but you’re starting to feel it and you’re getting tired.  Then maternity leave ends … now these middle of the night feedings are taking their toll.  What’s a mother to do?

How to get your baby to sleep through the night

This is the story of how I eliminated nighttime feedings with my son.  While I could’ve done this sooner, I got him sleeping through the night at 5 months old (I went back to work when he was 3 months old).  I consulted my pediatrician and did a bunch of research (via books & internet) and this is what worked for us.  Recognize that every baby is different, but in general – they are physically capable of sleeping through the night at anywhere from 3-5 months (it will come down to your emotional strength as a mother – you’ll see what I mean below). 

General information, tips & advice (from articles I read and my personal experience):
  •           Per my pediatrician, when babies are 11-12 lbs their tummies are physically large enough to hold enough food for them to be content through the night. (It is important to note that “through the night” generally means your baby will sleep a solid 6-8+ hours).  That is why you will often hear people say “mine started sleeping through the night at 2-3 months” (depending on the size of their baby).  Your baby should be getting approximately 2 oz per every pound they weigh of milk (whether BM or formula) per day – so if you have a 20 lb baby, they should be getting roughly 40 oz of milk per day.  This will decrease slightly as you introduce solid foods as nutrients will be consumed through the food; however your baby should consistently be getting approx. 24-32 oz per day even with food to maintain good bone/brain development.  Lastly, babies of this age should be getting approx. 14 hours total sleep throughout the day/night.
  •           Babies often follow routines – either set by parents/daycare or they set them themselves.  When trying to alter baby’s routine, you should make gradual changes and not try to change multiple things at once.  A good example is – you may notice results following the recommended steps below; however perhaps on the weekend your baby’s schedule is different from the schedule he/she follows at daycare – during the weekend you may notice relapses in your progress.  This is because you’ve tried to change too much all at once.  While trying to get your baby to sleep through the night, try to keep the rest of his/her daily routine as on point as possible (i.e. if you’re planning a trip or an outing sometime soon, maybe wait until that has passed to try changing this aspect of his/her daily routine).  Personally, we try to keep Bryce’s schedule at home on the weekend (in terms of feedings/naps) within a one hour window of when they do it at daycare – it keeps him happier and come Monday he doesn’t fuss at school when things are changed.
  •           If you’re breastfeeding, I found the following to be helpful as you try these steps: (1) baby needs to sleep in his/her own bed, in his/her own room – this is for multiple reasons, but the primary ones being (a) when you lactate in the middle of the night (i.e. leak) – baby can smell the milk and automatically assumes it’s time to wake up & eat and (b) most babies (of course every baby is different) are somewhat fitful sleepers – a baby’s REM cycle can be drastically different from an adults and they tend to sleep more towards semi-wakefulness than adults do; by limiting the amount of distractions by putting baby in his/her room (i.e. you won’t hear him/her roll over – he/she won’t hear you roll over) you increase the likelihood of baby enjoying uninterrupted, deeper sleep (and you too!) – not to mention, you’re able to increase intimate time with daddy (which is a pleasant perk) ;).   (2) when trying the steps below (as much as it sucks) – get out of bed to feed baby, go into baby’s room and sit in the rocking chair or glider to feed the baby.  Make sure baby stays awake for a complete feeding (15-30 minutes) and then put baby back to bed immediately and go back to your own bed.  Personal experience: we would start Bryce out in his bed and when he woke up (2-3x a night depending) I would go get him, pop him on the boob and come back to bed; what I came to find as I followed the steps below was that he was just “topping of his tank” (i.e. taking a few large mouthfuls and going back to sleep) – he was nursing more for comfort than nutritional value (and because it had become part of his “routine” to wake up & eat at that time).
  •           If your baby is 6 months old and you haven’t established a baby food routine (i.e. your just experimenting here or there) – establish that first.  Get baby consistently eating baby food for 3 meals a day, plus milk and then attempt to make the change.  At 6 months – each meal should consist of roughly ¼ cup cereal/oatmeal (we did oatmeal), ½ tub of baby food and 4 oz bottle of milk (including whatever milk you stir into the food) (morning & afternoon snacks should be able half that amount of food, same amount of milk).
  •           Never wake baby up to eat, only respond to baby.  Maintaining the cycle of nighttime feeding is counterproductive to getting baby to sleep through the night.  Also, if you haven’t already – don’t change baby at night unless baby has gone poop or is excessively damp.  An obvious tip – keep lighting very dim or none at all.  The less you disturb baby, the better. 

Ok – so now to the process, lol – if you follow the steps below you should be able to wean your baby of nighttime feedings within 1-2 weeks (depending on how you proceed):

Step 1: Observe routine: unless your baby already has a set routine of times they wake up, for the first day or two observe your baby: what times do they wake up, how many ounces do they eat at each nightly feeding (for breastfeeding: how long is baby “actively” nursing – not just suckling a mouthful here or there – yes, you’ll need to stay awake for this process).  If baby is being sporadic (i.e. sleeping through the night and then randomly not) – it’s probably one of two things: (1) baby is going through a growth spurt (should last anywhere from 2-5 days) or (2) something else in baby’s routine has recently been changed and baby is still adjusting.  If the wakefulness is sporadic (especially if it’s a growth spurt): respond to baby’s needs, but after a few nights make an effort to return to the routine of sleeping through the night so baby doesn’t get “used” to waking up to eat in the middle of the night again.

Step 2: Decrease ounces per feeding: Now that you know when you’re baby wakes up and how much he eats – it’s time to “wean” him off the nighttime feedings.  IMPORTANT NOTE: per my tip above, baby should be getting anywhere from 24-40 oz of milk per day – if he’s already getting that much during the day, then you don’t need to be as observant about eliminating nighttime feedings; however if baby is a finicky eater during the day and tends to chow down at night, you will need to be hyper observant during the day (ask for reports from daycare if necessary) – baby’s ounce intake per feeding should increase during the day as you eliminate nighttime feedings (you’re “shifting” baby’s eating schedule).  If your baby generally eats 4 oz per nighttime feeding, reduce the amount to 3 oz on the first night, then 2 oz on the second & third nights and then 1 oz on the fourth & fifth night (if you’re breastfeeding, reduce the number of minutes you feed – go from 20 min to 15 min to 10 min).  As you decrease the number of ounces, the number of nighttime feedings should naturally decrease (i.e. if he’s waking up 2-3x a night, hopefully one nighttime feeding will automatically take care of itself).

Step 3: Eliminate feedings (this is the most difficult step): After you’ve gotten your baby down to approx. an ounce of milk for his/her nighttime feeding (or approx. 5-10 min on the breast), it’s time to eliminate the nighttime feedings altogether.  If baby is still waking up 2-3x per night, eliminate one nighttime feeding at a time (usually eliminate this feeding for approx. 2 days then begin trying to eliminate another).  If baby wakes up 3x per night, eliminate the first and last feedings first – then the feeding in the middle of the night.  Here comes the hard part: baby will continue to wake up (remember, it’s still part of his/her routine) – you’ve already established he/she doesn’t really “need” anything (because you’ve gotten him/her down to hardly any milk); ignore baby for 5-10 minutes (if crying persists past 10 min, get up – feed baby the ounce you’ve gotten down to and try again the next night).  This may last for 2-5 nights, but eventually baby will realize (a) he/she doesn’t need to wake up and (b) he/she doesn’t want to.

I won’t lie to you – this was, to date, the hardest thing I’ve had to do as a mother – ignore my crying child; however it is important for baby to get a good quality of sleep (and for mommy, lol) – so by getting through this, we’ve both been better for it.  I haven’t researched if there’s any evidence of it, but I would tend the think the older baby gets, the more difficult it is to “shake up” their routine (like when moms try to wean babies from pacifiers or bottles).  Also, when baby transitions to the 1 year old room at daycare, they only take one two hour nap a day, so it’s important to get baby sleeping through the night so he/she gets enough “overall” sleep throughout the day (they continue to need 10-12 hours a day at 1).  Other moms have recommended a bedtime routine to help – I’m sure that works for some moms, honestly we have no routine (though we do try to eat dinner around the same time every night) and Bryce naturally puts himself to bed between 8-9 pm.  We do actively play with him from the time we get home (6:30pm) until dinner (7:30-7:45pm) and then we calm down.

I wish you all the best of luck with this – know it won’t be easy, but you’ll both be better for it on the other side.  Also, I hope what I wrote didn’t offend anybody – this is just the route our family went and it worked for us.  Every baby (and every family) is different and has to find what works for them.  If you have suggestions on how to get baby to sleep through the night - let me know below!  Also, if you try this method, let me know how it works for you!

Main reason I had issues initially getting my son to sleep through the night (I went back to sleep too!)

Car seat safety: how long should my child be rear facing?

This is a question that comes with a lot of parental opinions.  I know moms whose 1 year olds are forward facing and I know moms whose 5 year olds are rear facing.  I was fortunate enough to have a friend who linked me up with some great resources regarding car seat safety and the safety of my son.

My story: When my son was born we had the Graco Snugride car seat (great seat!) - however, we bought this seat used off Craigslist which I later learned was a big no no.  His convertible seat was bought new online - a Britax Marathon (great seat, I love it) - however, I later learned that Britax seats are best for children under the 30% for height for rear facing.  The reason being that in rear facing mode the straps need to come from below the child's shoulders and you should have an inch of shell remaining above the top of the head - never going to happen for my kid.  When my son was about 14 months old, I went ahead and flipped him front facing - he seemed to enjoy being able to see & interact with me more.  At 21 months (after all I have learned), I returned him to rear facing and plan to keep him that way as long as possible (preferably to age 4).  I just ordered him a Diono Radian RXT car seat to accomplish this.

Instead of trying to explain the many reasons why rear facing is preferable to front facing, I will show you this simple YouTube video by way of explanation:

Now, you may be asking yourself: ok - yes, rear facing is safer, but how long do I need to do it?  Well, if I'm honest - the US is a bit behind a lot of other countries in this regard.  The AAP just recently revised their opinion that you should rear face a child until a minimum of age 2; however the consensus among car seat technicians (and our friends across the pond) seems to be age 4 as this is when spinal ossification occurs.  The older your child is when you decide to forward face, the better - your child's body is more proportional the older they get (whereas with babies through age 2/3 most people notice that their children appear to have "large" heads - i.e. their head is not proportional to the rest of their body).

Now - here is the real reason I wrote this post.  A lot of parents tend to complain, "oh I can't see my child", or "oh, my child is uncomfortable with their legs all squished up".  This is simply not true - small children are super bendy and are perfectly comfortable riding rear facing.  Car Seats for the Littles recently put out this great article: Rear Facing Car Seat Myths Busted.  I highly recommend you give it a read.

What are your opinions are rear facing vs forward facing in a car seat?

Other informative links:

See our other posts on car seat safety:
My son is his Britax Marathon - rear facing.  Approx. 33 in & 26 lbs

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Cash Challenge

In this modern world of debit and credit cards (not to mention online shopping!) - paying with cash has kind of become taboo.  I've even noticed in line at the grocery store people huffing because the person in front of them is paying with cash and it takes longer, cashier has to verify and give change, etc.  BUT - can you SAVE money if you just use cash?

Honestly, you could probably stop reading right here and have your answer.  YES, I could save money if I only used cash.  Why?  Well (a) I can't buy anything on the internet using cash and (b) when I'm forced to actually hand over my hard earned money, I think about the transaction a bit more than when I swipe my debit card.  And all of us know swiping our credit card equates to spending money that was never really ours in the first place.  Turns out there have been studies that show we're willing to spend a lot more when we use our cards versus cash - up to 100% more!

So what is the cash challenge?  Roughly analyze your spending habits (or what you "think" they are) and at the beginning of the month take out that amount of money from an ATM in cash.  For example, if you spend $500 a month (not including things like mortgage, utilities or other bills you pay online) then take our $500 in cash.  Now here comes the trick - you have to make this amount last for the month.  At the gas station, out to dinner, at the grocery store, for daily lunch or coffee ... all of that extra discretionary spending.  Do you think you'd make it to the end of the month?

Personally, I know I would not.  I have a love for and all other sorts of online shopping.  However, it is a goal of mine to save to contribute towards household projects so I am going to propose the cash challenge to my husband for October.  As a side note, I actually do track all of our spending in Quickbooks software and break it down by category (hey, I'm a type A accountant - don't judge) so I will be super anal about collecting receipts during this process.

How the challenge actually works:

  • Take out your monthly discretionary spending amount at the beginning of the month and put it in an envelope in your desk drawer or some other safe space.  Also place a pen & notebook nearby.
  • Everyday (or however often you need to), take out an amount of cash.  Use the notebook as a type of check register - write down the beginning balance (ex: $500) and how much you took out.  For extra information (to see how bad your spending habits really are) write down what you intend to use the money for - then at the end of the day, revisit the notebook and write down what you REALLY spent the money on.
  • See if you make it until the end of the month.
Not only will this help have more respect for your money - if you're really hoping to save, this is a great first step because it will show you your money may not go as far as you think it does (especially if you've been supplementing your spending with credit).

Give it a try - then come back here and let me know how it went for you.  Or if you've already tried the cash challenge, how did it work for you and what did you learn?

Ladies: how many bras do you really need?

Ok I realize I'm the exception and not the norm, but I kind of only own one bra at a time and then replace.  My bra gets washed once a week and I work a normal desk job (so not a lot of sweating going on).  Basically the minute I get home, the darn thing is off and I'm in a comfy tee and some shorts.  Now I may be kind of a hippie, but I don't like bras.  I mean - we all have breasts, what's the big deal?  After the birth of my son, I got even more blase about it because (let's face it) those girls are never going back to their prim & proper state after breastfeeding.

After reading some recent articles it seems the norm is five bras:

  • One "fun" bra
  • Two everyday bras - most common colors nude & black
  • One convertible/strapless bra
  • One sports bra
However, it would appear that on average at any give time women can own up to 16 bras at a time and buy about 4 new bras a year.  Apparently we'll spend roughly $4,000 in our lifetime on (you guessed it) bras!

Back to the above list - to be fair, I do own a sports bra and a nursing bra, but I don't own a single strapless bra.  Underwires are so uncomfortable to me.  Can you tell I'm a tshirt and flip flops kind of girl?  I don't much care for high heels either (especially chasing my  2 year old around ...).

How many bras do you own?  Any advice for me to expand my collection?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering the tragedy of 9/11

Throughout history there have been several horrific events, we learn about them in history class all the time.  However, up until I hit 11th grade - I'd only lived through one or two - and had no memory of either.  As I sat in my mid-morning calculus class, it was just any other day in the life of a typical high school student, I was struggling to understand what the heck my teacher was talking about when another teacher came in and very quietly spoke to our teacher (Ms. Jones - yes, I still remember her name as well).  Ms. Jones went over to the class TV and turned on CNN and said we were done with class for the day as there was an emergency situation.

Now you have to understand - I was born in the '80's ... the Cold War was over, I had never lived through a real "war" - yes, there was Desert Storm in the early '90's, but that was a foreign conflict fought overseas.  I had never been directly impacted by a violent situation within our borders.  I had never even had the bomb training at school my parents had (where you hide under your desk).

When the news came up and showed a combination of live footage and flashback footage of the planes hitting the towers all I could think was - "this has got to be a trailer for an upcoming movie or something".  I had never (and have never since then) seen anything like it.  It has totally put other things in perspective for me in relation to my family members - my dad was in the Navy during Vietnam, my grandmother was alive during the Great Depression and WWII ... when they tell me about those times, all they ever were to me was stories.  Sad stories to be sure that we should learn life lessons from, but stories all the same.

But this - I lived through this.  I lived through something that will show up in every history book written from 2002 forward.  It's crazy.  Someday my son will go to school and he will learn about that tragic day and I'll tell him where I was and how I felt - scared.  I was scared - scared for myself, for my family - for all the people in New York who I didn't even know.  But I was also proud - proud of the way we as a people came together and helped one another.  First responders rushed in (and many died) trying to help their fellow man - going above and beyond the call of duty.

No matter how you feel about the political actions that followed the tragic events of 9/11 - this will always be a day of remembrance for every American who was alive and watching the news that day.  Whether you were directly impacted or not, that day solicited strong emotions in us all and I believe it's important to reflect back and remember where you were and how you felt.

Where were you on 9/11 and what emotions were you going through?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Should you pay your child for good grades?

A few years back there was an article in USA Today about school systems providing monetary rewards for kids who do well in school (and on tests ...).

My personal experience growing up is that we were paid for good grades (like $5 for every A or something like that); however as I grew up I realized this system of reward could also be skewed (for example: I got a B in AP Bio while my sister got an A in the lowest level science class - she got $5 and I did not).

I haven't thought about this issue yet and what I'll do about it - after all, my son is only almost 2.  However, after reading a few blog posts lately on the topic I do have some thoughts and I'm curious to see what yours are as well.  At the end of the day, what I desire most is for my son to have a genuine passion for learning - I don't want to have to bribe him to get up and go to school and do well just for some monetary reward on the back end, I want him to get joy from the educational experience.

We make learning activities fun at our house - when we're practicing counting or our letters, often times snacks are involved (how many grapes do I have?).  I'm hoping to instill in my son at a young age, a joy for learning - a curiosity to be sated through books & education.  Will I reward him for a job well done in school?  More than likely.  Will I promise him on the front end of a school year that good grades will equal rewards?  Probably not.  I would prefer for him to make the association that hard work in turn equals rewards since this is how the real world works (good employees earn raises and promotions, they aren't promised them when they're hired).  I also think I will reward him in other ways aside from money - if he does really well in school perhaps we'll take a trip to some foreign country as a family where we can have fun and learn about other cultures.  If he does really well on a test, perhaps when he asks for something on one of our shopping trips out, I'll agree and say something to the effect of "you've done so well in school this week, I'm really proud of you - if you want that toy, I'll buy it for you".

I guess my conclusion on the whole matter is - I believe children should be rewarded for performance well done, I'm just not sure I agree with the whole approach of cash payments for good grades.  What are your thoughts on this matter?

Disclaimer: this post is purely my opinion and is not meant to offend any one in any way.  If you choose to comment on this post, please do so respectfully.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What your child can teach you about happiness

This is one of the BEST articles I've seen in a long time: 18 Things Children Can Teach Us About Happiness by Melissa Sher.

Reading this truly touched my heart because I see all these traits in my 2 year old son Bryce (except maybe the ones about sleeping - the kid almost never willingly wants to sleep).

This article brought to mind one particular event with my son, one day he was out playing in the backyard when I was indoors doing (what else) some light cleaning (read: picking up my toddlers mess ... again!).  I hadn't noticed that it hard started to rain (but we live in Florida, so that happens a lot) when suddenly I heard giggles coming from the back yard.  When I went to investigate, all I could do was smile.  I quickly ran back inside and grabbed my camera to snap a few shots - my son was outside, fully dressed - dancing and playing in the rain (with genuine delight!).  Up to this point, I thought he hated cold water (he's not a huge fan of his sprinkler we bought him) so I was delighted and surprised myself.  I stood there for several minutes, not making him aware of my presence and just watched him with tears welling in my eyes - "he's growing up" I told myself "don't ever forget these small moments".

Children truly help remind us about what's important: the moment.  You never know if the next one is going to come or the one after that.  Sure we can plan for the future (believe me, I'm a very type-A planner), but we can't guarantee the future is going to turn out exactly as we had planned - that's part of what makes life so fun - the what-if factor.

What's a memory of your child that brought you happiness or reminded you why children are so wonderful?

Bryce playing in the rain:

Gender neutrality - thoughts?

This is a subject I've come across many times during my research as a parent.

Here are some great articles in case you're not 100% up to speed on "gender neutrality" and Gender Neutral Parenting (GNP):
If you haven't heard the concept before, in general - GNP refers to raising you children without strict gender roles (i.e. if you son wants to wear pink or your daughter wants to dress up like Superman, you're ok with it).

There are more and more times since my son was born that I'm grateful for the time that I live in.  Gays no longer have to hide who they truly are, we're free to love amongst the races and there is more open-mindedness and acceptance for people of all walks of life.  This is the world I always wanted for my son.  My only wish for my son is his happiness - whatever walk of life he chooses, I just want him to be happy.  He'll have my love regardless, that after all, is unconditional.

I am a proponent of GNP, but not stringently so (like the couple in Anna North's piece above).  My son routinely plays with my purses, clothes, shoes & makeup.  Let's be real here: he's only 2.  He sees mommy using it and he's curious.  I don't believe for a second that my son exploring and playing with these items is going to fundamentally alter who he is as a person. 

When my husband & I decide to conceive another child, I'm going to purposely buy my son a doll (and probably a play crib and stroller) - why you may ask?  So that he can adjust to the new baby in our lives by doing what mommy & daddy do - feeding the baby, walking the baby and putting the baby to sleep.  If anything, should some of this experience stick with him subconsciously, I'd like to think it will someday contribute to him being a good father for his own children.

In general, I really don't define toys as for one gender or another.  Do I purposely buy my son dolls?  No.  Does he play with them at school?  Yes.  Does this bother me?  No.  If we happened to be at the store, and he communicated to me that he wanted a doll - would I buy him one?  More than likely.  The only way my son will ever grow and learn and become who he is truly meant to become is by exploring all of the options available to him - and I want that for him, I want him to discover what he truly loves and commit to those things with a passion that will bring his life happiness.

What are your thoughts on Gender Neutral Parenting (GNP)?  Do you think gender stereotypes will ever truly disappear?  Should they? 

Disclaimer: this post is purely my opinion and is not meant to offend any one in any way.  If you choose to comment on this post, please do so respectfully.