Archive for the ‘ Mom Tricks and Tips ’ Category

“Ramshackle Glam”: A Great Book, a Great Guide, a Great Gift–All in One

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

I met Jordan Reid on a TV shoot about moms, called MomTales. This is how we bonded:

Me: You know, when I’m not with my kids, I miss them terribly and I just want to be with them. Then as soon as I’m with them, I want them back in preschool.

Jordan [nodding]: There are only so many hours in the day you can spend playing Triceratops Versus T-Rex. At some point, you really just need a good trashy magazine and a margarita.

From there, we never stopped talking, except when the director told us to pay attention to the shoot.

This is a woman who runs a million miles and hours with a smile on her face, high heels (though she disputes that in her new book), and a wit about her that makes you instantly relax and laugh.

She has a 2-year-old boy, 2 dogs, a husband, and a full-time career as a style blogger on her site, Ramshackle Glam. Which means she also does TV appearances, goes to conferences, meets with advertisers, and somehow manages to post numerous times a day. With pictures. I’m lucky to get 2 posts out a week. Now she just came out with a book, also titled Ramshackle Glam. Where she gets the time to juggle all this is beyond me. Oh, and did I mention she’s pregnant with her second child?

People like her both inspire me and give me a much-needed dose of mom energy. But what I really like about Jordan (and her book) is that she keeps it real. She’s so relatable; she’s the kind of mom friend you picture having a glass of wine with and talking about how you may have accidentally-on-purpose thrown a remote at your husband last night because he forgot to tape The Bachelorette. Or how all your hair — no, but seriously: all of it — fell out six months after you gave birth. (Except for the hair on your legs; that’s holding on just fine, and you know that for a fact because you cannot for the life of you remember to shave it.) [This is a true excerpt from her book, fyi.]

I tore through it in just 3 nights. Then passed it on to a friend who is expecting her first child. It’s a super fun, entertaining read that also gets to the core of why motherhood can be so damn hard, heartbreaking, heartwrenching, and heartwarming at the same time.

Mother’s Day is around the corner. Know anyone expecting? Or a new mom? This is the gift to get them.

Here is my interview with Jordan about her book:

What inspired you to write a book?

I’ve wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember — since I was about four years old — but after I had my son in 2011 I realized that I had a lot to say about motherhood, and especially about the judgment that can so often color a new parent’s experience. Before I had my son, I would not have called myself a “maternal person” at all (and honestly, I still don’t know that I would; I mean, I adore my son, but I’m not one of those people who’s just awesome and natural and amazing around kids), and I was very, very nervous going into motherhood.

I was frightened that having a baby would take away some fundamental part of me, that I wouldn’t be able to recognize myself anymore once I was a Mom. But what I discovered is that having a baby changes a lot, but it doesn’t change everything. You can still do all those things — from wearing the clothing that makes you feel good to connecting with your partner to having a house that feels like a home instead of a Baby Zoo — all that you used to do “before”…but you just might have to be a little more creative, that’s all.

How would you sum up your book? Is it for expecting parents, new parents, old parents?

The advice in the book is tailored towards new moms, but really, the fashion, beauty, home decor, and entertaining tips are only a small part of the book. What Ramshackle Glam really is, is a memoir of motherhood, and I think that the stories about marital struggles, guilt over your parenting choices, and the challenges of making friends as a mom are things that every parent — young and old — can relate to.

What has been the hardest part of motherhood for you?  

For me, the hardest part of motherhood has been figuring out how to live in the moment, and to not worry too much about “how fast it goes.” I can’t tell you how much that stressed me out, hearing from everyone on the street, “Oh, it goes so quickly, they’ll be grown and gone before you know it!” But over time I’ve discovered that while of course you miss every stage when it passes…the stage that you’re in right this very moment is almost always the most fun and exciting of all.

What about pregnancy? Have the challenges changed from your first to second pregnancy? 

With pregnancy, I’d say the hardest thing for me the first time around was just wrapping my mind around what day-to-day life would look like a few months down the road…because I had no idea. I couldn’t fathom how I’d get my stroller up the stairs to my walk-up apartment, let alone how I’d actually, you know, raise a human being. And that’s part of why I wanted to write Ramshackle Glam, to let people who may feel similarly get a peek into what’s-to-come, and to know that yes, it’ll be hard…but it’ll also be okay. The best ever, actually.

With this pregnancy, the hardest thing has been the fact that there’s really no “chilling out and enjoying the experience.” There’s no downtime to rub oils on my skin or meditate on the life we’re bringing into the world or play classical music to my stomach or whatever it is that we did when we were expecting our son — I can’t even remember; it feels like a lifetime ago. So honestly, when this baby arrives it’s going to be a bit of a shock. Fortunately, we’re also a little more prepared this time around, so hopefully that will balance it out.

You are a woman who is all about how to funk up your style, your “glam”…how do you feel in this regard about having a daughter? 

You know, I actually wrote about this the other day because I had a few friends say to me something along the lines of, “you must be so excited to be having a girl!” And what they meant was that I must be excited about the girly stuff that comes with having a daughter…dresses and such. And of course I am excited about those things — I’ve certainly spent my share of time in Baby Gap over the past couple of months buying little cheetah-print outfits — but the truth is that while I certainly am looking forward to all the things that come along with having a daughter…what I’m most excited about doesn’t have anything to do with her gender at all.

She may be into dresses or she may be into board shorts or she may be into things I can’t even imagine, and all of that is just part of what makes having a child so exciting. I know that who I’m raising is not a “little girl,” but a person, and our experience as parent and child will be as individual as she is. The style stuff is fun, of course, but when it comes down to it the most important thing I can do — the only thing I can do, really — is to support my daughter and be there for her whoever she may be and wherever she may go.

How the hell do you have time to do your life? You seem like superwoman. Tell me your secret. 

Ha! Thank you. Does “constant, massive anxiety that propels you into action” count as a secret? That, and the fact that I keep obsessively detailed lists of every single thing in my life in my iPhone — that helps.

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Would You Sail the Seas With Babies? The Kaufman Family Did

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Before I had kids, I was obsessed with travel.

When I was pregnant with Fia, I continually said that I wasn’t going to change my traveling lifestyle a bit. I said I would strap the baby on my back and just “go.” In some ways, I did. But it wasn’t as simple as taking her and a backpack. I took a steamer trunk of baby supplies wherever I went. I was cautious. I remember strolling her through O’Hare at 8 weeks thinking, I am doing this! I am still my old self. But what wasn’t my old self was the fact that I was exhausted and crying. A lot. Still I forged on. We took 21 flights that first year. All domestic, all safe and within a doctor’s reach.

I also declared when I was pregnant with Fia that we would indeed, go to the World Cup in South Africa, like we had always planned. We had tickets and we had gone to the games in Germany 4 years earlier. And the Euro Cup 2 years after that. Why wouldn’t I travel with a 6-month old, barely vaccinated, on an 18-hour flight, halfway across the planet? I would simply strap her on…

It didn’t happen. And I didn’t miss the fact we didn’t go. It was just too much.

That’s not to say it’s impossible. But it’s hard and not without risks. Plenty of people do it, plenty don’t. I sit here torn, internally debating the front-page story today: The Kaufman family who took their 1- and 3-year-olds on a sailing trip around the world, only to have it go awry 3 weeks in.

Their 1-year old girl, who had salmonella a few weeks earlier, came down with a fever and a rash that wouldn’t go away. Then the steering on their sailboat stopped working. From reading the stories and their own blog, it appears she got sick, but they didn’t give up the trip. It was only after the ship stopped functioning that they radioed for help and got rescued. I don’t know how much time lapsed between the two incidents. I hope it all happened nearly at once, or I will begin to judge their judgment.

They had a dream. They wanted to sail around the world. They had doubts, too. Here’s an excerpt from Charlotte Kaufman’s blog on Day 8–March 26:

The girls have no one to talk to but each other, and me and Eric. There is no true place to have alone time. We can’t go for a run, or take the girls for a stroll to get their wiggles out. We are all tired. We rotate watches. The wind dies completely at night and the resultant swell makes it very difficult for Lyra to sleep. She won’t sleep wedged in a lee cloth, or in the baby chair we brought her. She ends up rolling all over the place, waking up frequently, and burrowing into my side to try to find a place where her body won’t move. This keeps me up, or wakes me up, and the whole thing is exhausting….

…There is a lot to be said for reaching a goal. Not everyone gets to realize their dreams in life, so I really am trying to focus on the amazing things. Like the fact that I’m doing something that very little people have ever done, or ever will do.

I guess as a parent, this is where I begin to wonder what the point of their “goal” is. The children are too young to really remember this, or frankly enjoy it.

A couple years before I had Fia, my 64-year old Aunt Nancy and I went to Tanzania, to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Two days before we flew home Nancy got sick. Not emergency-room caliber sick, but stomach pains so severe she could barely eat or drink. I was worried, but since she was an adult and could talk to me about her exact illness, I felt reassured she would be okay. And she was. Back home the doctors said the strenuous climb had caused the lactic acid to build up in her stomach. They gave her medicine and she recovered.

There are obvious risks when you travel no matter your age.

I think when you become a parent though, you have to decide what the reasons behind your goals are. If they are purely selfish and just for you, then I think you need to reevaluate why you’re doing something. If you really think they are going to enrich your entire family–including tots–well, then, maybe it’s worth it. I can only say that from where I sit, it’s not a decision I would have made. But I’m not them.

Phil and I often impose the “risk-benefit” analysis on one another. Example: is it worth speeding to get your kid picked up from preschool in time? What is the risk versus the benefit? It’s pretty simple. But still, I can’t say I haven’t gone faster than I should, even with Em in the car with me, to get Fia on time.

I think this comment on Charlotte’s blog summed it up best for me:

As an older cruiser my advice is to not be afraid to turn back if it gets too hard. There is no shame (and a lot of pleasure) in coastal cruising in the Carribean, Mexico or South America while the kids are young. You can sail until you are 70+ so why not do the Pacific on a comfy vessel with a washing machine, hot water and separate shower, down the track. Look after your marriage and your kids…

As I sit at my breakfast table, with a nice cup of coffee, I feel the comforts of my life. The sun is streaming in, I hear the birds and I hear Emmett laughing to himself as he pages through a book. I have everything I need.  Our days are very content. And mellow. It’s a space I have had to learn to enjoy since I had kids. I have found happiness in the tedious and mundane.

But there is still a part deep down that can’t wait to travel again. To stay in a yurt in Mongolia and hike through Bhutan. I want to show my kids the world, but it will be when they are a little older–when they can understand it, and take it in. I also want it when they can voice their pain or discomfort. Fia is getting close to this time. She started asking me about going camping last night. But then she came down with a rash and a pain in her leg. She said her rash “stung” but she couldn’t explain if the leg pain was sharp and shooting or just dull. I put cream on the rash and it went away. I suspect it was from the 90-degree heat wave we are having. And the leg pain was probably exhaustion because she hadn’t slept well the night before. Still, it’s a huge relief to have her doctor on speed dial and a short drive away.

I tiptoe in their rooms every night before I go to bed. I touch the hair on her forehead and put my hand on Emmett’s heart. Then I go to sleep feeling safe. My children are secure, and therefore so am I. Adventure will come later. And it will be amazing. But right now, this is all I need.

 Death Valley with family, Dec 2012
Preparing to sleep on rooftop, Dogon Country, Mali, West Africa
 On Top of The World, Tanzania, Mt Kilamanjaro

In mountains of Belize (also with Aunt Nancy)

In Timbuktu, Mali (before the coup d’etat)

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When Can Your Child Have A Sleepover?

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

It seems a crazy question to even be asking when I have a 2 and 4-year old. But suddenly Fia is asking me when she can sleepover at a friends house. Ummm, never?? When you’re 21? Can I come too?

Of course, when she’s older I am sure she will be allowed to have and go to sleepovers. I know I loved it growing up (probably more just to get away from my crazy family). I also know it will be hard for me to let her go. I anticipate how incomplete the night will feel, as if I’ve lost a limb. I say that now, but things have a way of progressing in the parenting world. I know something I think I will “never” do now will become easier to grasp when the time is right.

However, I can’t imagine any sleepover happening before the age of 10. Am I crazy? Do kids really grow up so fast these days that 4 is the new 13? I really don’t think I ever asked to sleep over when I was that young.  I also know we didn’t go on all the “playdates” the moms of my generation go on.

Fia usually asks this question right after a playdate ends. She wants to know why we can’t stay longer and when she can spend the night with that friend. Or vice versa. She is equally interested in what color her friend’s pajamas are and what kind of bed they sleep in. When her friends come over, they actually “play” sleep. This usually happens while Emmett runs around with a garbage can over his head ramming into walls. I often think in those moments I see the real difference between boys and girls.

At any rate, this all still seems like too young of an age to even know what a sleepover is, much less request one. (I guess as I write this, I’m realizing maybe she doesn’t fully grasp what a sleepover means.) Any one else having this experience? If so, what are you telling your child? For now I just say that sleepovers are for much bigger girls. She has no real sense of time, so the next question is:

“How many night time naps until I’m a big girl?”

“Thousands,” I reply. Truthfully.


Sleepover pic via Shutterstock

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A Choking Hazard Every Parent Should Know About

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Latex balloons are the devil. At least if you have kids under the age of 8. And especially under the age of 3. Yet, I’m still guilty of letting Fia and Emmett have one while I wheel them around the grocery store. It’s hard to say “no” when the man at the counter readily hands them to my kids. But I should. And I will.

Besides food, a latex balloon is the #1 cause of choking deaths in children. Notice I didn’t just say, “choking.” I said “choking death.”

The latex can stick to the sides of their throat. And if you try and give them CPR, guess what can happen? The balloon can inflate. In their throat.

Here’s an excerpt from the Children’s Health Network website:

“Most incidents occur when children suddenly inhale a deflated balloon they have been chewing. Warn your child never to chew or suck on pieces of rubber balloons. Even teenagers have died from this freak accident. Chewing on an inflated balloon is also dangerous because it could burst.”

A friend of mine once told me about this danger and I was really careful with Emmett during the first year. But now that he’s 26 months, I kind of figured he was out of the woods. Not even close. I went to a seminar on parenting/discipline last week at Fia’s school. It had nothing to do with safety. But someone started talking about their kid’s birthday party and the instructor said to us, “If you take nothing else home tonight other than one thing, it’s this: please don’t have balloons at your kids’ birthday parties. Please don’t give your kids balloons until the age of 8.” Then she detailed why.

I just felt like I had to pass it along to all of you. And now you can pass it on, and so forth. Let’s start a no-balloon revolution for toddlers! Or just use Mylar. Those apparently are safe. But then I guess you need helium. So just think of something else. Like streamers. Or post some ideas here. Thanks all!


Pic of balloons courtesy Shutterstock

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People Still Hated Me for Calling Coddlers Idiots. So…Here Goes. Again.

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I can only hope that the reason so many people disagreed with my follow-up post on coddling your kid is because I used poor examples. My post focused on constantly seeing parents “asking” rather than “telling” their kids to do the right–and obvious–thing. My specific examples were when one kid took Emmett’s toy and the parent failed to have him give it back. The other was a little girl sitting on top of a slide for 10-15 minutes and the parent not having her come down or move out of the way so other kids could use it.

What I said repeatedly was it was part of a larger problem we have with parents afraid to teach their kids proper boundaries. Guys: IT WAS EMBLEMATIC OF A LARGER PROBLEM!

But my mistake was ranting on two examples where the punishment didn’t fit the crime. In my mind, I’ve seen so many ludicrious situations of parents not parenting, that these put me over the edge. However, it’s my bad for not conveying better scenarios. And thus, many of you just saw a crazy lady ranting over a toy.

What I should have ranted on is the kid who threw Fia off the swing 6 months ago because he was jealous that his mother was pushing her. The mom simply shrugged, hugged him, then said, “He gets jealous if I even look at another kid.” As if that is n-o-r-m-a-l.

I should have ranted on the kid who threw sand in Emmett’s face 4 different times and was allowed to continue. We left the area. Not him.

My original examples weren’t strong enough to call parents idiots. But I hope these are.

Or what about the kid who came over for a playdate, found a 4-foot stick in our yard and started waving it around, nearly decapitating Fia. The mom’s response? “I like it when he experiments. I don’t like to tell him no.” Oh, okay. Well I will.

“Hey Simon, can I take that stick so we don’t hit somebody?”

“No!” he shouted and ran off with it.

(Of course looking back I realize my fatal flaw: I asked. Didn’t tell.)

I decided to use distraction to get the stick-weilding maniac and idiot parent to move on to something less dangerous. I turned on the hose so they could splash around. Guess what he did? In a matter of seconds, he turned it up all the way, sprayed the entire side of our house (where the windows were open, thus drenching our kitchen), then sprayed Fia in the face. Of course, I immediately turned it off. Not because the mom told me too. She had no real problem with it. All she said was, “Simon, we really shouldn’t spray water at people should we?” Oh perfect. Let’s ask him. He didn’t give a sh-t. He had no boundaries. Needless to say we never had a second date.

Now, tell me, all of you who disagreed with me: Do you still? Do you possibly see what I’m saying?

People seem to be fixated on my two examples and are losing the forest through the trees. Maybe that’s because they don’t want to see it. The people who have experienced what I have totally understood my points and I thank you for backing me up.

“I completely agree with you! This is what is wrong with so many children today. They are brought up without correction or proper guidance on what is right and wrong. I am always the one to back down and direct my children to something else just because of a misguided child and I’m tired of it too.”

 But here’s a classic naysayer:

“I sincerely hope myself and especially my child do not ever have the unfortunate fate of running into such a distasteful mother. I can only imagine how this woman’s children will turn out.”

I will tell you how they are turning out: polite, patient, well-behaved, and not jealous of my love for them or any other child. But when I said that in my follow up, I got chastised for “bragging.”

I find myself not only hated but also completely perplexed by those who don’t “get” what I’m saying. Luckily, I’m not alone. Just Google “entitled kids” and you’ll see the epidemic it’s become. It’s debated on talk shows and news programs, it’s repeatedly a front-page headline on many mainstream magazines and newspapers, and it has nearly taken over the blogosphere. So I do get comfort knowing that most people who disagree with me are “those parents” whom so many of us are taking issue with (unless my examples were poor–which I take responsibility for–and now you get it). So don’t worry. I don’t want a playdate with you either.

I went to a parenting seminar at Fia’s school this week. A woman who is a registered nurse and a professional educator in the parenting arena taught it. Her name is Amity Hume Grimes. She’s not famous; she doesn’t have a book (yet). But what she told a crowded room of parents seemed to resonate with all of us. Here’s what she said when I asked the question: “Should you ask your kids to do something like give a toy back, or should you tell them?”

“If there’s not a choice to be made, then you don’t ask. You tell. The only time you would ask in that situation is if you wanted to give them a choice on whom to give it back to, i.e.: “Do you want to hand it to me or put it back on the ground?” You don’t just stand there asking a toddler over and over if they want to give it back. Especially if the toddler isn’t responding.”

Sidenote: I’m not talking about autistic or special needs kids in any of these scenarios. I know that is different.

She also concurred that parents nowadays are so afraid of tears and tantrums. They want to keep their kids shielded from any discomfort, which isn’t smart. Or good. Mainly because it’s completely unrealistic. You aren’t setting your kid up for real life if they’re constantly coddled.

“Children need to experience the consequences of their own actions in an age-appropriate manner in order for them to develop into self-confident, responsible individuals,” Grimes says.

Amen. Parenting is not a democracy. And if you treat it as such, it will backfire and the world will be a place of high-anxiety for your child. Not to mention a nightmare for the rest of us. Is that what you want? Like she said, tantrums and tears are the only way young kids can express their frustration. So let them. And teach them in the process.

I challenge any of you naysayers to find me a parenting expert who says kids should never cry, they should never be told what to do, and they should only be asked and given choices. And by god, find me one who thinks it’s okay if a 4- or 5-year-old gets jealous if you hug another child. It happens, but shouldn’t it be worked on? Don’t you want your child to have self-confidence and security that you have enough love to go around? When you find that person ask them if it’s also okay to hit, pull hair, throw sand, take toys or hog a playground without any consequence.

Ask them if a mommy blogger (me) who says that she parents with love, patience, and guidance, thus producing polite, well-adjusted kids, is “bragging.”

Oh, and while you’re at it, I would also love for you to find a parent who likes to brag about their self-indulgent child and their neglectful parenting practices.

“Simon hit a girl with a stick and I was so proud!”

So there you go.

The past two playground trips have been amazing for me. Why? Because for some reason there are a lot of grandparents around right now. And man, do they ever get it. Emmett and a boy his age played with toys they both brought. The grandparent encouraged his grandson to play and share and I did the same. They had so much fun. No one grabbed. No one hit or threw sand. But that grandparent was patient, loving, and firm.

Fia had the same experience just yesterday with a little 3-year-old girl and her grandfather.  They played ring around the rosy, hugged, went down the slide together, and did the swings. We didn’t have to intervene once. It was clear these kids were raised with rules, boundaries, and love. And I’m guessing there were probably a few tears and tantrums along the way.

So maybe all you who disagree should ask yourself this question when it comes to society’s epidemic of coddled kids: Are You Part Of The Solution? Because it not, then you’re part of the problem.


Pic of hair pulling via Shutterstock

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