We Are Both Right

Coming Up for Air

This is the type of coming up for air we wish we were doing right about now. Maybe next year. ©Juan Velasquez/stock.xchng

MYTH: Amanda and I have escaped to a tropical island with our husbands and are now sitting on teak beach chairs, pink drinks in hand, while we let this site accumulate dust bunnies.

FACT: The slow, quiet post-holiday weeks we anticipated have swallowed us alive. We are each ear-deep in science projects and laundry, work deadlines and stomach bugs. Dinner is pizza more often than not and by the time we’re each done wrangling the kids into bed, there’s just enough time to cap off the night with a melatonin cocktail. And maybe a quick phone call between us to say, “Yeah, I think I might be able to post something this week. Maybe.”

Just when did winter become the busiest season of all? I guess I should ask the same people who decided that the nice little rotation we had of baseball in the spring, football in the fall, and basketball in the winter should morph into each being a three season venture. Oh well. It’s all for the kids, right?

Anyway, as much as I’d love to chat, it’s time for me to take down my Christmas tree. The fake one. The real one came down January 2. I’m not that bad.

But I promise we will be back real soon. We have to. For sanity’s sake.

In the meantime, please tell us how you are coping with getting back to normal in this new year? We’re all ears.

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.

Our Two Cents: New Mom, Old Friends

new mom friends

When old friends don't fit a new life, do you hang on or let go? ©Hilde Vanstraelen/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

With the exception of me, my closest friends from college are still very much single and unattached. And ever since I had my son in March, I feel left out.

I just can’t keep up with their nights out anymore and it seems like everything they do is a bad fit for me now. It’s not that I expect them to hang out in my living room for late night feedings. At the same time I can’t gear up for a weekly bar crawl either, nor would I consider that time well spent away from my baby.

If they would just do dinner or something easy I would be happy to join them once and a while for two hours and feel connected. I still consider them friends but I feel like we’re living on opposite poles.

What do you think? Have we grown too far apart, or is there still a way to find some common ground?

–New Mom, Old Friends

Suzanne: I can understand why you don’t want to give up on these friends so easily. They’re your girls — the ones who probably saw you through lots of ups and downs, relationship dramas, road trips, apartments, etc. But the reality is that sometimes friends just grow apart, for reasons exactly like you explained. You are at different stages of life and the pieces just don’t fit. No matter how hard you try.

That’s not to say that you have to put a permanent end to these friendships. But maybe you just let them cool off for a while, staying in touch as much as you can but skipping the socializing. Then maybe some day, if you find yourself on more even ground (either they are less footloose and fancy free and/or you are more available for an occasional night on the town), you can pick up where you left off. For the time being, it would be good for you to branch out and find other new moms in your area who might turn into friends someday too.

Without knowing if you are in your 20s or 30s, I can’t say if you will take my word for it that this plan can work. But I have enough years and experience behind me to know that friendships (good friendships) can take a chill for ten years or longer and fall right back into place, like time stood still.

At the least, don’t feel like you have to confront your friends or beg them to accommodate you. Maybe the best thing you can do is let them continue at their pace, until you find a time when you see an opening to jump back on board.

Amanda: It’s an interesting phenomena — at least it was for me. As soon as I saw that first double line on the pregnancy test I suddenly became a homebody (not that I was this huge partier to begin with), content to sit on the couch and watch television. And once my son was actually born, I became even more interested in what was going on inside my house rather than outside of it.

I think this was partly because of all of my friends, I was the first one to have a child. If there were plans made, no one necessarily knew how to accommodate me and my son — myself included. Not only was I not yet comfortable nursing in public (I used to go into another room), I wasn’t confident in my abilities as a mom — not that my childless friends would have known any better, but any time my son would cry or spit up or do something that babies do I’d become super self-conscious that everyone would think I was totally clueless (and let’s face it, I was!).

Suzanne is right though, despite my self-imposed banishment, in time, when I got more comfortable being a mom and my friends caught up by having babies of their own, the playing field became level again and our friendships were renewed and stronger than ever.

Still, it sounds like you are missing your friends right now, if not the method in which they have fun. So be proactive. Instead of waiting for them to come up with plans that will accommodate you and your new little one, invite them over or out to dinner on your terms. Bring up the elephant in the room, acknowledging that while your socializing habits have changed, you’d still like to see them once in a while. Chances are if you miss them, they miss you too!

And in the meantime, start looking for other friends who are on the same plane as you family-wise. Check out your local library or community center to see if there are any programs for young children (many start from birth) where the moms are also encouraged to forge friendships. You could also try looking for online birth clubs — I know both Suzanne and I have made quite a few mommy friendships that originated through message boards.

Having fellow mommy friends will give you an important support group — these are people who understand how it is entirely possible that you haven’t brushed your hair or teeth since Wednesday and will completely understand your obsession with the contents and color of your son’s diaper and what they could possibly mean.

*******************************************************

How did your friendships change when you had kids? What advice would you offer New Mom?

Got a question that needs answering twice? Send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

All I Wanted for Christmas

bicycle for christmas

This isn't the bike I got that Christmas, but I bet there is a kid out there who is wishing for it very much! ©Schwinn

“A big blue bike with a basket and a bell.” If you had asked me when I was seven years old what I wanted to Christmas, that is the response you would have gotten. Even now, some (gulp) thirty-odd years later I can still remember the mantra — the cadence, the intonation, my fervency of delivery.

“A big blue bike with a basket and a bell.”

And that Christmas morning (ahem, night) when I came down the stairs, there it was. A shiny, sparkly blue Schwinn with a banana seat (this was the mid-’80s remember), basket and bell, just like I had wanted. Oh, I was so proud and so happy. And when I got to take it outside and actually ride it? Woo hoo!

Why that particular present out of all the gifts I have received over the years sticks with me more than anything, I’m not sure. I certainly asked for enough things and was lucky and fortunate enough to receive them (who else got a Cabbage Patch Kid?), but it’s that bike that always springs to my mind first when I start to reminisce about special gifts given to me throughout the years.

I’ll be curious to see what it is that my kids remember most about their Christmases when they get older and which gifts will stand out in their minds the most. Santa’s no slouch when he visits our house, and despite my grumbling every year that everything costs way too much and they have too much junk and we need to simplify already, there always seems to be a huge pile under the tree every year. I worry that maybe by giving them so many things and nearly everything they ask for (sorry C., no Air Swimmer for you), it waters down the specialness of it all.

I wonder too, will it be the gifts they longed for that their brains will conjure up fond memories of receiving or the ones they were totally not expecting? Or will their most treasured gifts be something altogether different — the moments that made the holidays special? Like last year when Santa came Christmas Eve afternoon while we were out ice skating because Daddy had to leave early for work on Christmas Day, or the year the big guy in red tracked us down in a Miami hotel room on Christmas morning after we had spent the day before riding a bicycle built for four under palm trees?

Honestly? I hope it’s a mix of both.

What was your favorite Christmas gift given to you as a child?

Suzanne has a few fond memories of Christmas gifts and also wonders what her kids will look back on the most.

That’s my iPad! Mine, mine, mine.

Forget planned obsolescence. It looks like technology manufacturers have thought of one better.

Just put your saved-all-my-latte-money-and-rewards-points-to-buy-this iPad into the hands of a toddler and it’s all but guaranteed that you will have to buy another sooner rather than later. Whoever thought of that plan is genius.

At least that’s what I’m thinking after reading about all the new apps and attachments that are coming out just in time for the holidays. Can you say crayon stylus?

Even the Brookstone catalog that arrived in the mail today has an iSomething accessory for kids on almost every page. Everything from a toy helicopter, sing-along microphone to spy robot offers the bonus of being operable via Mommy’s iPod, iPhone and/or iPad.

In other words, they are forcing us to share. Whether we like it or not.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I like to keep my pricey technology to myself. My children have plenty to keep them occupied that they don’t need to be half-owners of the phone, iPod or laptop that my husband and I just about managed to get ourselves into. It’s bad enough that our three-year-old iPod got corrupted over the weekend. I don’t think a preschooler who likes to rip it off the charger had anything to do with it, but it pains me nonetheless.

How do you feel about sharing your technology? Are you happy to hand it over once and a while? Or is it just easier to get them their own (and hope it doesn’t break too soon)?

One last question, and I guess this is my underlying hesitation about the whole thing: Do kids really need all this technology at such a young age? Sure, it’s how they will grow up, but does every toy have to be an app?

Best of: Reasons Why You’re the Meanest Mom

mean mom glanzerr©/stock.xchng

Sorry kid, if you want to go outside, you'll need to put your coat on. glanzerr©/stock.xchng

There’s an interesting little aspect of parenting that no one tells you about. Your kids may love you, but it doesn’t mean they have to like you. Especially when you are in “mean mom” mode — telling them not do something that they want to do or making them eat their vegetables or coming up with some other ridiculous “mom” rule that is completely unfair in the oh-so-silly interest of keeping them safe and healthy.

You know what we mean. One chilly morning last week (34 degrees fahrenheit), Amanda’s 11-year-old son stormed off to the school bus stop in a huff because she made him put on his coat. The horror! What’s next? A hat? Some gloves?

And that’s not all! Here are some more seemingly-obvious little rules that we’ve actually found ourselves uttering and, according to our kids, make us the meanest moms that ever lived. (Please save your phone calls to the authorities until you have reached the end of the list.)

  • No bare feet on the dinner table. (No feet on the table period.)
  • No using your little brother as a ball.
  • Your test is a week away? Great! Start studying now.
  • Jell-O is not a fruit.
  • Yes, you have to take a shower every day.
  • The ceiling fan is not the same as the monkey bars and should not be treated as such.
  • Please stop jumping on the trampoline, um, I mean couch.
  • The dog is not a horse.
  • No more slap shots with the hockey puck down the hallway.
  • You’re nine now, it’s time to use a fork.

We know we aren’t alone. Share your favorite “mean mom” moments in the comments section or on our Facebook page!

The Spirit of Christmas Pageants Past

It might not have been the role I wanted in the Christmas pageant, but one I'll never forget. ©Oriental Trading

Baa-baa.

Talk about memories. Thirty-two years later, and I remember my line from the Christmas pageant in kindergarten like it was yesterday. (I can still do my Copacabana tap dance recital number from that year too, but that’s neither here nor there.)

What is most amazing to me is how vividly I remember that day. It was my first year of Catholic school and the teachers were assembling us outside the gymatorium. Our parents were in folding chairs getting their Polaroid cameras warmed up.

Behind us in line was the afternoon class and I could see my cousin if I turned around and stood on tippie toes. They looked so cool in their drummer boy costumes, with construction paper hats they had made themselves. Not to mention that their song rocked.

And me? Well I was a sheep. Lamb. Whatever. No drum to bang. Heck, no human words to even speak.

Looking down at my costume, I wondered if I could go through with it.  My five-year-old Christmas spirit was sagging beneath the white batting my mother had secured to the fabric shirt, pants, and mitts that she lovingly sewed for me.  And at that moment, I didn’t feel any better than the lamb girl in front of me whose cotton balls were falling off before we ever made it to the stage.

I thought about being a rebel and walking in, instead of crawling on all fours as we had practiced.

Why couldn’t my name have been Mary and snagged me the starring role?

I looked sideways at the angels’ tinsel halos, wishing I was them.

And then it was go time.

Not one to shirk a role, I did my part. I smiled. And we sang:

Said the shepherd boy to the little lamb: Do you hear what I hear? Do you hear what I hear?

Still to this day, when I hear that song, I smile. And sing along. Because by the time we left that stage, I had a change of heart. It could have been the rows of smiles in the audience or the Holy Spirit getting a hold of me, but I was Scrooge no longer.

At the end of the play, I crawled out while the other lambs opted to ditch their character and walk.

And then we sat stage right while the drummer boys did their thing. They were good. So I sang along to their act too.

Parumppapumpum. On my drum.

Just like I do now whenever those two songs play.

What takes you back to your childhood holidays? For Amanda, it’s a bit of time travel.

The Christmas Mornings That Weren’t

It should come to no surprise to anyone that when it comes to Christmas, there are certain (ahem) secrets that we parents keep. Aside from the big guy in red, there are presents to hide, special Santa wrapping paper to buy and other assorted tips and tricks we employ in order to ensure that our children have the happiest of Christmases and memories to look back on.

Growing up, my parents were so determined on making us have a wonderful and magical holiday season, they even dabbled in a little time travel.

christmas present MeiTeng ©/stock.xchng

The truth about Santa Claus wasn't the only secret my parents kept from me. MeiTeng ©/stock.xchng

Every Christmas Eve, it would go the same way. My maternal grandparents (Memaw and Bepaw) would come over; we’d eat; sometimes we would visit other relatives; my sister, brother and I would sing a few carols; we would call that 800 number where you could “talk” to Santa and the elves; and then it would be off to bed so the magic could happen.

And as hard as it was to fall asleep, in what seemed like no time at all (heh) I’d hear it: a booming “HO! HO! HO!” coming from the living room. We’d wipe the sleep from our eyes, race downstairs in the still-dark early morning and “wake up” our parents and grandparents (who had slept over the night before). The next few hours would go by in a blur — a riot of noise, wrapping paper, food and  of course, gifts.

Once everything had been opened, my parents would announce that it was time for a little nap and that we kids should go back into bed for a little while. Memaw and Bepaw would head home to freshen up and we’d wake a short time (heh) later, nice and refreshed for the rest of our Christmas Day.

Sounds like a lovely, typical celebration right?

It does and it was. But there was one important fact that I got completely and totally wrong. For years. And years. And when I found out the truth, boy was I traumatized (to this day, my sister still rants about it).

We actually weren’t waking up Christmas morning to open our gifts. It was still Christmas Eve night. My parents would send us to bed and then wake us up once everything was set and Santa had come to visit. Our “nap” was actually everyone going to bed and we’d wake the real Christmas morning some six- or seven-odd hours later.

Why? I’m not sure. My mom says it’s just how they did it then. That’s fine, but still, it was just a bit disconcerting to learn that the precious holiday memory that I had, wasn’t exactly what I thought it was. (Seriously, I’m 50 miles away from her and I can hear my sister starting to howl as she reads this.) Even so, the truth doesn’t change the important part of my cherished memories — that I can still hear perfectly Santa’s big voice waking us up and feeling those butterflies in my stomach as I saw the tree laden with gifts (I still get them to this day although my excitement is for my children).

These days Christmas Eve night is spent with my husband. After we finish our magic elf work, we turn off the house lights and leave on the tree ones. We pour two glasses of wine and simply sit quietly, side-by-side on our couch, reflecting on the year and our kids. The next morning will be filled with laughter and pandemonium, but in those moments I get to really focus on how lucky we are and how much love is all around us.

No matter what time we celebrate.

When do you open gifts with your children? Is there a part of your childhood Christmas memories that aren’t what you thought they were?

While we aren’t exactly disagreeing this time around, Suzanne’s most favorite holiday memory definitely happened when she thought it did.

Best of: Things Parents Say

red barn

"Whaddya think, we live in a barn or something?" and other great parenting one-liners... ©Robert Walker/stock.xchng

You promised yourself it would never happen. And then one day it does.

Your parent’s words come out of your mouth.

Maybe it’s a phrase that makes you sound like a cranky pants instead of the progressive parent with a degree in positive reinforcement that you are. In some cases, it’s a saying that your kids won’t have a hope of understanding now (i.e. “You sound like a broken record.”)

But the first time it happens, it’s almost like a rite of passage. You have officially adopted the universal, age-old vocabulary of parenting. And when you hear other parents using the same lines as you (like my husband and I often do), it makes you wonder if somewhere along the way there really was a parenting handbook that had to be memorized.

I never got a copy, but it’s not too late to start the e-version. So here goes…

Why do I think that you just might have a few to add?

  • She’s not my kid, you are.
  • What do you think, we live in a barn?
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • I’m going to make you friends (perfect for siblings who are anything but)
  • Just wait until we get home.
  • I don’t have a refrigerator in here (my mom’s famous line that I’ve pulled out whenever my kids ask me for a chocolate milk, peanut butter sandwich, or a piece of cheese while we’re walking through a store and it’s obvious that all I have on me is my purse).
  • I’ll give you something to cry about (my personal favorite).
  • Hold your horses.
  • As long as you’re living under my roof…
  • Someday you’ll thank me.
  • Someday I hope your kids act like this for you.
  • You should be a lawyer (my Dad’s career advice to me at the age of five).
  • Don’t make me stop this car.
  • Why? Because I said so.
  • Watch out or your face will freeze like that.
  • Hay is for horses (handed straight down from my mom to my daughter, who thinks this saying is the cat’s meow).
  • This isn’t a democracy. It’s a dictatorship.

I haven’t had to use them all yet, but you just never know when these words of wisdom might come in handy. In the meantime, what are your favs?