We Are Both Right

Preserving Memories – What’s Your Style?

old family photos

What are your family's memories made of? ©Jean Scheijen/stock.xchng

The other night, while I was rearranging the game closet (because it was about time) my daughter came up behind me and asked for her special pink book. “The one that’s all about me,” she said.

I reached up two shelves and handed over a fuzzy covered photo album that contains about two hundred pictures of her first two weeks of life. Yes, I take a lot of pictures. And my kids love me for it. ;-)

Actually, I have archived so many pictures that my husband jokes around that when we’re both gone someday, our son and daughter will be sitting in our house, looking at a room full of photo albums and portable hard drives, saying: “What are we supposed to do with all of this?”

But hey, it’s my memory-preserving style of choice.

Kids grow up so fast. There are so many special moments that I’m always thinking, I wish I could bottle this up and take it out down the road. The color of my daughter’s hair as I put it into pigtails for the first time. My son as a toddler digging into his favorite vegetable — corn on the cob. The looks on their faces the first time each of them rode a pony. Family gardening days out in the yard. Trips to the beach. Visits with great-grandma.

All of the random stuff that makes our family’s world go ’round. And so I take pictures. Lots of them.

There are so many other ways to capture a memory:

Keeping a baby book (although most moms feel a slight tinge of guilt when they think about their unfulfilled wishes for their baby book).

Blogging. I’ve gone so far as to print out most of the blogs I’ve written about my children, but somehow I don’t see them paging through these as much as they will our photo albums.

Scrapbooking, whether digitally or traditionally.

Logging highlights on Facebook–which our kids will probably hate us for someday when their potty training progress (and hang-ups) is still on full display for their prom date’s reading pleasure.

Videos–which are probably the best way to go back in time, if we could just settle on a format that’s going to last a lifetime!

What’s your memory-keeping style of choice?

Moms, Time to Have “The Talk” With Your Daughters — About Math

How do your kids feel about math? While both my kids do very well  in math at school, my son will tell you he loves it, while my daughter says that only does she not like it, she’s not good at it to boot. As it turns out, her lack of enthusiasm for the subject could totally be my fault.

A new study from researchers at the University of Delaware’s School of Education and reported in Miller-McCune finds that moms are less likely to talk to their daughters about numbers at a young age, potentially setting them up to have less confidence about them when they reach elementary school.

The research is fascinating, if not troubling. Scientists recorded mothers talking to their children who were between 20 and 27 months old. The moms mentioned numbers twice as much to their sons as their daughters. The number rose to three times as much when the number was attached to a noun — for example, “Here are five raisins.”

Alicia Chang, the lead researcher told Miller-McCune, “By grade school, boys are very confident at math, and girls are saying boys are better at math. The issue isn’t actual performance but perception of competence. We hypothesized that by the time you’re in grade school, you might like math because your mother was more likely to talk to you about it when you were very, very young.”

The researchers don’t think that the omission is conscious, simply parents talking to their children differently. Still, it’s something to be aware of.

What do you think? Does your daughter like math?

Best Of: How to Make Time for Your Spouse or Partner

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Being married with kids can sometimes give you tunnel vision. Wake the kids, feed the kids, play with the kids, get the kids to school, get the kids from school, get the kids to afterschool activities, feed the kids dinner, put the kids to bed and everything else that the kids need in between.

All important of course, but it’s also necessary to make time for your partner in all this — your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend — it doesn’t matter what they are called, but it does matter that you get some alone time together, or at least a few minutes to talk uninterrupted. But how? Certainly you could hire a babysitter for an evening, but that often comes with extra cost and not everyone has access to a person they trust.

Instead, consider ways to make time within the confines of your busy life to find time. Take advantage of the few quiet moments or carve out some time by making your own (some are better advised than others). Even if the kids are with you, it is possible! Here are our suggestions:

  • Tuck the kids into bed early, rent a movie or play a game and bring in take out for a late dinner
  • Consider taking a break from dinner time being family time for a night. Let the kids eat in the living room with a movie while you have a quiet dinner in the dining room (or vice versa)
  • Wake up early and eat breakfast together alone
  • Pack the kids in the car and go for a long drive. If your minivan or vehicle is equipped with DVD player, utilize it. If not, let the kids bring books or portable game systems that will keep them occupied. (Make an exception if you usually frown upon such devices.)
  • If you both work (or if one of you does) while the kids are in school or daycare, consider taking a “goof off” day
  • When the weather is nice, go for a walk as a family at a local high school on the running track. Let the kids run ahead (staying in sight of course) while you two talk.
  • Invite another couple with kids over for dinner. Let the children entertain each other while they play, giving the grown-ups a chance to socialize.
  • If there is another family you are friendly with, consider setting up a babysitter swap arrangement where you take their kids for a night and they take yours.

How do you make time for your marriage?

Why Yes, I am a Terrible Person

weblux/stock.xchng

This place looks pretty quiet and remote, but I bet the second I sit down my kids find me. ©weblux/stock.xchng

This is how desperate I am for some alone time. (And please, don’t take offense, I’m at my wit’s end here.)

Today, my husband will be attending the wake of a colleague’s father. A solemn occasion honoring and remembering a good man that I have never met (I was introduced to my husband’s fellow worker once). It will be a room filled with this man’s family and friends, all mourning his death and celebrating his life. And what am I doing besides writing out a sympathy card?

I’m begging my husband to let me go with him. Begging. Think the last piece of chocolate cheesecake begging.

“We’ll get dressed up!” I told him as I plead my case yesterday afternoon while our children zoomed around our house, high on an energy that can only come from a Friday that leads into a week off from school. “We’ll have an hour-long car ride alone together — we can finish our sentences without being interrupted! Maybe we can grab a bite to eat after!”

My husband raised his left eyebrow at me and gave me a look of semi-disbelief. “Are you trying to turn the wake of a man into date night?”

At that moment, my 9-year-old daughter ran through the kitchen with her 2-year-old brother on her back, both of them shrieking at the top of their lungs, their 11-year-old brother  (brandishing a light saber, naturally), not far behind.

“Please,” I implored. “Think about how quiet it will be.”

And that my friends, is what it has come down to.

I had lunch with an old friend and colleague recently who relayed  a story about her younger sister. When her sister’s children were small — probably around the age of my brood — she used to “joke” that even going to the dentist and getting a root canal was enjoyable, because it meant she had a moment’s peace.

Show of hands, how many of you are nodding your heads and saying to yourself, “Well, that sounds reasonable.”?

I thought so.

I love my children. More than anything else in the world. I never thought my capacity to love and care about someone else (and that’s three someone elses) could be so vast and deep. When they are happy, I’m ecstatic. When they are sad, I’m inconsolable. I have never laughed as hard as I do when one of my children is doing something silly. They keep me active and awake and engaged.  My smile is bigger because of them.  They are my light and my life and I’m a better person for them.

But they are loud. Oh, so very loud. And they like to interrupt a lot. And spill things. Also, yell. And I never get to watch my shows. (Seriously, I’m like four episodes back on Revenge.)

In any case, I’ve come to my senses and restored my sensitive gene. I will not be attending that wake. But I do go to the gym a few times a week. And if you knew me from days of yore, you’d know that my sudden interest in exercise is less about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and more about something else. (Hint: no one asks me to put the straw in their juice box while I’m on the treadmill.)

Still, even while I’m rolling my eyes and breaking out the earplugs when the herd of oxen I live with comes trampling through the living room, I tell myself that it won’t be like this forever. In fact, it won’t be like this for very long at all. And while quiet sounds like heaven right now, I bet ten years from now it will be deafening.

OK, let me have it. I’m an insensitive clod. But ‘fess up. What measures have you gone to to secure a moment for yourself?

11-Year-Old Willow Smith Shaves Head, Internet Explodes

Earlier this week, Willow Smith, the 11-year-old daughter of superstars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith tweeted a photo of herself with a shaved head.  Ironic when you consider Willow became a “household name” for her song and video, “Whip My Hair,” not surprising if you’ve ever encountered a tween and their mood swings.

In any case, once the photo was posted, the uproar was immediate and loud. Everyone in the blogosphere, from mommiesto celebrity reporters (to hairdressers) had opinions, all varied and all speculative. (Willow hasn’t indicated the reason behind the bold move yet.) The big question seems to be though, is it appropriate for an 11-year-old girl to shave her head? (Although in my opinion, the question should be is it appropriate for an 11-year-old to be on Twitter?)

For me, this is a “choose your battles” situation, both for myself and my child. Hair is not a permanent fixture on our bodies, and if my daughter decided she wanted to shave her head (ha, not likely) then I’d probably sit her down and have a serious discussion about why she wanted to do it. Had she considered the ramifications of her decision? What will happen when she walks into school that first time? Certainly you don’t want to tell your kids to chart their lives based on what other people think, but in the pressure-filled world of tweendom, it’s certainly an important consideration.

It’s tough because I want to let my kids to learn that their choices, both good and ill-advised, shape who they are and who they are going to be. But at the same time, as a parent, sometimes you need to know when to step in and say “No, you aren’t doing this,” offering them guidance as they turn into the person they will become.

Having said that, hair does grow back.

What do you think of Willow’s new hair style?

When Speaking Up Means Staying Quiet

Football stadium

Amanda discovered that sometimes advocating for your child means not saying a word. ©We Are Both Right

It’s a piece of advice that seems to transcend parenting books, styles and experts: Advocate for your child. There’s a lot of wiggle room in those four words, but for me, they always meant “SPEAK UP!” whether it was in the classroom, pediatrician’s office or even on the playground. If my child can’t articulate for themselves what they need, then it’s my job as mom to help them get it. I learned recently though, that sometimes advocating for your child means knowing when to stay quiet.

Over the weekend, my 11-year-old son and I attended an incredibly popular sporting event. A football game, you may have even seen it on network television (I hear the commercials are pretty funny). The circumstances of how we attended aren’t important, but that we did, just the pair of us, is. I was slightly nervous about going to an event like this without a male presence — not to demean myself as a woman, but in a stadium filled with rowdy, possibly inebriated fans, I felt like my son and I (decked out in gear supporting our team) were easy, vulnerable targets.

For the most part, I needn’t had worried. Our section was filled with fans supporting both teams and there was even a family sitting immediately to the right of us. At the beginning of the game, a group of three male fans about seven rows back were escorted out by security for having a bit too much to drink (something they denied but was then confirmed when one in their party slipped down the cement steps — ouch!), but otherwise we were in a good group of people who were just as happy to be there as we were. And while we were all hoping our team would win, just being at this game was enough to keep everyone satisfied.

Kind of. In the row immediately behind us, were a pair of 30-something males who were rooting for the team that we weren’t. That’s fine, except their choice of language wasn’t exactly the stuff nursery rhymes are made of. Now my son is 11, he’s certainly been exposed to words like this (not by me!), but not at the frequency and the intensity that these words were uttered (and shouted).

So what to do? If my husband was there, I’d either ask him to say something (chances are he’d do it on his own) or I’d speak up myself. Nothing confrontational of course, just a simple, “Hey guys, do you mind watching what you say? My kid is sitting right here.” But my husband wasn’t there and I wasn’t sure how these men would react to me, a mother and her child. Would they feel terrible for their transgression, curb their creative vocabulary immediately and apologize for their lack of tact and etiquette? Could be. Or would it go the other way and would I suddenly find myself in a not-so-great situation with my son looking on?

Honestly, I didn’t want to find out, so I did nothing.

Well, not nothing exactly. The next day, after the game was over (our team won!), I mentioned what had happened to my son to get his read on it. It seemed like he hadn’t even noticed, so caught up in the game was he, that the two dopes behind us never hit his radar. Still, in hindsight I question if I did the right thing. Maybe I should have said something, or even texted security (there was a number where you could report unruly game goers). That thought had passed through my mind at the time, but I was concerned that the pair would have just been given a warning, my hand would have been tipped and then a few choice foul words would have been the least of my problems. Also, I felt uncomfortable about “tattling” when I hadn’t had the courage (or good sense) to first speak to these men myself.

Overall, I’m comfortable with what I didn’t do and would probably make the same choice next time, but I’m curious what other parents would do in my situation. Seeing that the family sitting next to me didn’t speak up either, I feel like I’ve been validated a bit. What do you think? Did I make the right decision? Have you ever felt that staying silent was the best option?

Best of: What’s for Brinner?

breakfast for dinner

Breakfast for dinner anyone? ©Alicia Solario/stock.xchng

Brinner. Better known as breakfast for dinner. Or that quick fix on a busy night when you just can’t fathom take-out again.

What’s not to like?

Brinner is the easiest evening meal to pull off.

It can be as healthy as you make it.

The kids can help.

Did we mention it’s quick?

And in our homes, brinner often gets a better reception from the kids than when we spend close to an hour or longer finely mincing, dicing, and sauteing ourselves to a balanced meal (and a sink full of dirty dishes).

The husbands are a different story. Brinner is not a winner for either of them, although neither seems to mind if we serve the kids pancakes at 6 p.m. when they’re working late.

And at times like that, a mom will eat just about anything that doesn’t require a meat thermometer:

Sticky Waffles: Pop a few fluffy style frozen waffles (cinnamon work great with this) into the toaster. Set your preschooler up with a butter knife and a peeled banana to slice into quarter-inch rounds (or however they manage to do it). Spread peanut butter (optional) onto the toasted waffles, top with bananas and drizzle with honey. Warm, sticky, and yummy!

Egg Sandwiches: Eggs any which way with your favorite cheese, and bacon if you have a few more minutes to spare, smooshed between toasted English muffins, croissants, whole wheat, frozen dinner rolls, whatever bread you have on hand — it all works!

Veggie Frittata or Omelette: Same idea as above, just dump some whisked eggs and milk into an oven proof pan. Stir in diced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, peppers, leftover ham, or anything you have a chance at disguising for your kids. Top with shredded cheese and slip it into a warm oven while you find those paper plates.

Breakfast burrito: Line up bowls with scrambled eggs, hashbrowns (the frozen kind warmed up), salsa, sour cream and shredded cheese alongside warmed tortilla wraps and consider it a make-your-own kind of night.

What’s for brinner by you? Share your favorite “recipe” below and tell us about how many times a month you enjoy breakfast for dinner.

Best Part About a Kindle? No Paper Cuts

Kindle Fire © Amazon.com

My two older children each got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. So far they have been reading on them. Sort of. © Amazon.com

The myself from five  years ago would be horrified with the myself from today. While I was never one to shy away from the latest gadgets and gizmos, there was one aspect of my life that I considered tech-free and let me tell you, it was sacred.

Books.

I swore (undoubtedly on one of my many piles of tomes) that would never (EVER) read a book on one of those newfangled devices. Books weren’t just about reading, I would passionately cry. Reading is a tactile experience — books were all about hearing the page turn, smelling the ink, tripping over the stacks that I had accumulated next to my bed and behind the couch and in the sunroom.

But then I started talking to people who had e-readers and they made a convincing argument. With an e-reader, you read more, they said, because a book was always at your fingertips. No more heading out to the bookstore or the library — if you needed something to read, just fire up the device and away you go. As someone who had lapsed on my reading a bit (rotten kids) for lack of free time and lack of opportunities to actually go and get books, an e-reader sounded like a promising solution.

So I soon found myself relenting, and three Christmases ago, my husband bought me a Sony Reader. Despite it’s limitations, I was sold — totally. So much so, that for my past birthday I got a Nook Color. And it’s true, I am reading more (I’m spending more too, but that’s a story for another day).

When it came time to have the big pow-wow with Santa about what to give the kids for Christmas this past year, we were all in agreement. Nook Colors, just like their mom. I was partial to the Nook simply because it allowed you to borrow library books and share books with friends electronically. And with three people suddenly in possession of e-readers, I figured my credit card could use a break. But then Amazon announced their new Kindle Fire. It did everything the Nook Color did (including library privileges and the ability to exchange books with others) and more for $50 less. Santa’s on a budget and not brand-loyal so Kindles it was.

The kids were thrilled with their gifts, and so am I. And they are reading more. Sort of. We’ve had to come to a compromise. See, when I first got my Nook Color, the first thing I wanted to do was see what a book looked like on it. When my children opened their Kindles, they wanted to see what Angry Birds looked like. Understandable, but I keep telling them that when they were originally conceived, Kindles were strictly for reading, not for shooting birds across a landscape at some rascally pigs (hence the name e-reader and not e-save-the-pride-of-some-annoyed-animated-birds).

I got a lot of blank stares in return, so to that end, we’ve come up with plan. They are allowed to play games and stream (approved) videos on their Kindles. But for every minute they do that, they have to spend a minute reading. It’s been working well so far. My daughter has read about five books so far and my son is about halfway through The Hunger Games (a copy he borrowed through the Kindle lending library). They certainly have played their fair share of apps, but they are also using their Kindles for good — my husband and I told them they could get a small pet like a hamster or guinea pig and they’ve been using the devices to research the best options.

Hmmm. I wonder if there is such a thing as an e-pet. Much less messy.

Suzanne’s house is e-reader free (although she did purchase her first apps for her phone recently!) so I think I’m going to take all of these piles of books and bring them to her house.

Are Kindles Really for Reading?

reading with child

E-readers might be the new thing, but books are still king in my home. What is your child reading from these days? ©Horton Group/stock.xchng

Times change. And so do a mom’s opinions.

While I may have been Mrs. Anti-technology, my-kid-isn’t-touching-a-PS2*-and-especially-not-at-the-dinner-table just a few months ago, my stance has kind of softened since then.

It’s true that my four-year-old daughter is the reason I finally downloaded Angry Birds to my smartphone (to keep her busy during her brother’s basketball games). But she alternates between that and a math app that guides her through addition and subtraction.  And yes, my nine-year-old did get a netbook for Christmas — from his grandparents. But at least now he can check his fantasy football scores without monopolizing my desktop all day Sunday. And Monday. And Thursday. (Wish I had a netbook.)

So I’ll admit, handing them a screen of their own has its perks. There’s also no denying that their generation will have to be e-literate. I consider this an orientation to all of the gizmos that we can’t yet imagine which will be running their lives, making them toast in the morning, and walking their dogs Jetsons-style.

But that’s as far as I’ll go. Some things just have to stay old-school — for now at least. Like books.

What’s up with the Kindle Fire/Nook Color gadget that all the (other) kids had on their holiday wish lists?

A reading tablet, a book disguised as a screen? Sounds pretty crafty to me. Trick the kids into reading. I dig the concept. Except that’s not exactly how it pans out.

From what I gather, the latest generation of e-readers are more like a textbook with a comic book tucked into the center. You know, the ones that kids our age used to hold up in class while trying to look studious. At least that’s the picture that came to mind after I asked one mom on Christmas Day if the new gadget her daughter was toting around was a sneaky way to get her to read more. (Wink-wink. Mom-conspiracy in play.)

“No, not really,” she said, coming clean. “There’s so much other stuff on there — e-mail, apps, whatever — that she’s not purely in it for the books.”

Ahhh. So I see.

A Kindle’s not really for reading, after all.

They fooled us again.

How about you — are you quick to respond to requests for any and all technology with your kids? Or are you kind of holding back like me, staving off the screens with a invisible force field?

*Feel free to edit out my ignorance on the PS product line. I don’t even know if PS2s are handheld. Maybe I should ask Amanda. She’s way more into tech than me.

The Stuff Legendary Gifts Are Made Of

Holiday memories come in all shapes and sizes. ©We Are Both Right

Childhood memories fascinate me.

I love to ask my children what their first permanent memories are — things like the earliest point in time they can remember, what they were wearing or who they were with. My daughter’s is from last year’s vacation in California. My son’s earliest memory is playing with plastic dinosaurs in his room.

So no sooner than the first Christmas decorations appeared and pushed the Halloween candy into the clearance aisle, I was inspired to poll everyone I know about their most memorable holiday gift as a child.

The best reaction I got was from my husband. In less than a second he was telling me about a blue hockey helmet with a white cage that he went to the store a few days before Christmas to pick up with his dad. He brain-dumped so much detail on me about that Christmas that I felt giddy for him.

It made me recall the Christmas when I (or maybe it was my brother) got a magic kit. Even though I can’t remember whose name was on the tag, I have vivid memories of playing with the retractable wand and pulling a rabbit from a top hat. Also memorable is the year I got an electric Brother typewriter with the correct tape built in! Geeky, but oh so prophetic for this writer.

Still, the holiday that stands out most in my mind is the year that my brother was born just three weeks before Christmas. Now before you jump to any sappy conclusions, my kid brother is merely an accessory to this memory. (Sorry T., I know you thought I was about to publicly make up for my wrongs.) Anyway, that was the only year that my extended family let my mom off the hook for the huge family dinner that she usually prepared for 30 every Christmas Eve.

Instead, we celebrated a quiet evening at home with just our immediate family. We were lucky enough to have Santa stop by for his (her) cameo that evening, although I don’t remember any of the gifts he brought.

What I do remember is the gift I received from my maternal grandmother that year. It was a mushroom crate — the wooden, woven kind, held together with wire. There were two in fact — one for me and one for my sister — each with red gingham fabric sewn to fit inside the crate and draped over the sides to make a doll cradle. When I placed my favorite doll inside, it hugged her as snugly as my newborn brother in my mom’s arms.

The simple things.

For his own reasons, my nine-year-old also remembers his sister’s first Christmas. He was five and the unexpected jealousy following the ending of his only-child reign had just about worn off.

His big gift under the tree that year was an Xbox 360 (can you say parental guilt?). But the part he forgets (phew!) is that when we plugged it in that day, we quickly discovered that it had been used and broken, and then repackaged. My little guy (and his deflated dad) didn’t get to play with it until a big box store made good on Santa’s damages.

I wonder if it’s “the thing” he’ll tell his family about one day in so much detail that they feel like they were there with him. Or maybe that memory is yet to be made.

How about you — any big holiday surprises from childhood that still make you smile?

It didn’t take Amanda long to remember that special gift she wished for… and got!