With the food riches of Thanksgiving behind us, Christmas is looming just around the corner (about three weeks to be exact). Though many get caught up trying to find the perfect gifts for family and friends, it’s easy to forget that presents don’t always need to come in shiny packages.
Today’s #GivingTuesday, a national movement that started just last year. The goal: create a national day of giving where people can pay it forward. Whether that means donating to a favorite charity or volunteering at your local shelter, being charitable is all about finding the causes that matter to you.
One toy company is taking that mentality and spreading the joy throughout December. Tegu, known for its award-winning magnetic blocks, recently introduced a new member to the family: the Tegu Elf. And he’s on a mission to give back this holiday season.
From now until December 20, he will be tracking the hashtag #TeguElf across social media–Tegu’s Facebook wall, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Once he finds a person in need, he’ll send a special present your way, anything from free Tegu products to a restaurant gift card.
To get the elf’s attention, just send out a message with the hashtag and the thing you’d like most this Christmas. Don’t forget to look outside your immediate family, too. The elf is on the lookout for charities to donate to as well.
In the weeks to come, be sure to track his movements and announcements on Tegu’s Facebook page. Each day, he offers something new (such as free cubes placed in every fifth order on the site). In the meantime, if you have your own plans to give back today, share a picture explaining your good deeds using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #UNselfie.
The time it takes you to do something for others will feel so much better than battling a sea of frenzied shoppers.
Parents caught up with renowned authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus just before their latest book, The First Affair, hit store shelves. Known best for their breakout novel The Nanny Diaries and its sequel Nanny Returns, Emma and Nicola have since moved from nannyhood to motherhood. Here the writing team chats all things Nanny Diaries, being moms to their 3-year-olds—a daughter for Nicola, a son for Emma—and their latest must-read for moms.
How were The Nanny Diaries born?
EM: We heard mothers who neither stayed at home nor worked complaining about their help. It was a very one-sided story because the help was never really interviewed and didn’t have a voice. We really wanted to talk about everything we had witnessed and experienced and that whole side of the conversation. We set out to write Nanny Diaries.
NK: We never imagined that it was going to create a very large career change for us or that we’d be sitting here talking to you about our seventh book 13 years later.
How did working as nannies affect your parenting style and your relationship with the people who take care of your children?
NK: As a nanny I ran a very tight ship. If you sort of establish what the rules are day one then you never have to do it again because they know their boundaries and kids find that very comforting. As a parent, it’s a disaster. Sophie runs roughshod over me all the time. We always sensed that being a parent and being a nanny are not the same things at all, but G-d they are not the same things at all. The other great thing that I feel like I got from being a nanny, why I would recommend it to anyone for at least a year as a twenty-something job, is that I really viscerally understand how fast this is going to go in a way that I don’t think you can unless you’ve raised kids. I don’t sweat a lot of things. I just know that it’s going to be fine. A lot of people say raise your first like your fourth. And she was my fourth. She was my 31st in many ways.
Does your experience as a nanny have an affect on the way you treat your babysitter when she comes over?
EM: It’s always at the very front of my mind. I am constantly aware of her perspective in this and that she never becomes part of the woodwork to me. I think something that really shocked me as a nanny were parents who sort of assumed the worst from the get-go. People who didn’t accept the benefit of the doubt. I see through her eyes. Also, I’m so touched and humbled by the effort that she makes, the level of good thinking that she does for my child.
NK: I’m so appreciative. When I come to pickup at the end of the day I just want to hand them a flask of whiskey. I’m like “Oh my G-d, you’ve been with twelve 3.5 year-olds all day. Are you ok?”
EM: I would walk in with a beer if I could.
Do you think your books—from Nanny Diaries all the way through The First Affair—appeal to moms?
NK: I hope so.
EM: I think just because you’re a mom it doesn’t negate, if anything you’re probably more enhanced, that you’re a woman trying to find your place in the world.
NK: We try to write the kinds of stories that we like to find the time to read now. They have to be a page-turner because you are just too tired for anything where you don’t have a question that’s keeping you going. We like to write stories about some aspect about being a woman that hopefully resonates with everybody. I think our moms are our most loyal group. I also think moms don’t really want to read about being moms when they get some down time.
EM: I don’t. I don’t want to read anything.
NK: When you go to a fiction place, that’s not my escapism.
EM: Maybe that changes when you have like an 18-year-old.
I’ll check back then. What initially drove you to write The First Affair?
NK: I think certainly when the most memorable occurrence happened in recent history it was something that really struck us because we are the exact same age and because we made so many mistakes in our early 20s. We were so lucky to come of age before the internet when those mistakes didn’t follow us into our first job interviews. They didn’t follow us even into our next relationships.
EM: To us, this story was a fascinating place to spend some time. The tremendous thrill of being in a secret like that and the paralyzing burden of being in a secret like that, especially when your sense of yourself is just beginning to be form…. Then for a mom, your sexuality, your relationship, it does tend to get pushed to the side. You’re just trying to get through the next five minutes. And to take yourself back to a time when this paradox is a 360 [from life now], it was everything you were in. We have the reader ask for herself, would I have chosen that? Would I have followed him? Would I have kissed him? Would I have called him back? For us, certainly, as mothers writing it, it was a great place to spend five hours a day. For a mother reading it, it’s just a totally different problem sequence than what you’re in for your day-to-day life.
With all of these public scandals that have exploded in the media recently, how do you feel about raising children, specifically a daughter, in a place where not only this is happening, but it’s happening for the world to see? How do you navigate that?
NK: I get overwhelmed by a lot of things. There are things that I get overwhelmed by before I even get to that place. Sexting I get overwhelmed by. The internet. The fact that the average age of first porn exposure is now 8. Even if you have netnanny on your computer, they’ll go to someone’s house who doesn’t. I think we’re a generation who is going to have to relinquish a lot of control and try to give our children the best context that we can for the information they’re going to get bombarded with and hope for the best.
There is a great line in Tina Fey’s BossyPants in the prayer for her daughter when she says may her daughter avoid the eyes of the creepy soccer coach because it’s not the beauty that draws him but the damage—which is incredibly astute. So my first and foremost goal is to create a child who doesn’t have a gaping hole in her soul. So I’m hoping that Sophie is not wounded. That chocolate cake will just be chocolate cake. That her married boss will just be her married boss. That none of these things are going to hold the power and the magnetism because she won’t be trying to work through some childhood trauma. That’s my job.
On the flip side, coming up as a man in this world, how do you go about raising maybe a respectful child or a child who is aware?
EM: I was thinking Tina Fey is exactly the quote. I think we have to aim to just keep—and not moreso with a young man than a young woman—but to just [let them] know how loved they are and to have love be a clean, balanced part of their lives.
NK: Sophie just discovered this book that I’m obsessed with. It’s called Visitor for Bear. It’s about a bear who has a sign on his door saying no visitors allowed and this little mouse just wants to hang out. It is the cutest story and now I need to get her the rest of the series. It’s really funny. Sophie walks around the house going “No visitors allowed!” “Vamoose!” “This is insufferable” “Intolerable!”
EM: My son is going through, as they all do, a huge vehicle phase. Mostly it’s about looking at vehicles and choosing our favorites and me being told what my favorite is when it’s not. The Richard Scarry books, like Things That Go, anything with tons of pictures. We recently got into a series called Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold. If I could give a shoutout to anything in the childhood world I have to say Daniel Tiger. I want to write a love letter to everyone on that staff. It is so perfectly thoughtfully lovingly done. And as a parent it is the one thing out of everything that we dip in to that really helps.
Watch this video to hear more from Emma and Nicola about their journey from Nanny til now.
The Facebook-Free Baby
Are you a mom or dad who’s guilty of ‘oversharenting’? The cure may be to not share at all.
Child Care Cost Hikes Derailing Women’s Careers
At a time when women’s issues have become a political football in the national arena, many states have been chipping away at funds aimed at supporting working mothers and families, even as federal subsidies are drying up and the cost of child care is climbing.
Baby Names: The Latest Partisan Divide?
Styles of baby names, it seems, are nearly as different in various parts of the country as voting habits. More progressive communities, Laura Wattenberg says, tend to favor more old-fashioned names. Parents in more conservative areas come up with names that are more creative or androgynous.
Crib Products May Be Deadly, Experts Say
There’s a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying more and more babies are suffocating while sleeping, and they’re warning parents to keep cribs empty.
Parents Beware: If Your Teens Party, You Could Pay the Price
States have different “social host laws” and under some of them, a parent can face criminal charges and hefty fines if an accident occurs as a result of any underage drinking at your home. Even if, say, you’re away on vacation and have no idea that anything is going down in the first place.
School Bans Disabled Girl From Using Walker
Kristi Roberts was stunned when school officials insisted that her disabled 5-year-old daughter switch to a wheelchair from the walker she’d been using for the previous two years.
Study: Healthy Eating May Help Children with ADHD
There’s limited evidence that any particular diet or supplement helps kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but at least some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may help while fatty “Western-style” diets do these children no favors.
Seeing Social Media More as Portal Than as Pitfall
Though there are certainly real dangers, and though some adolescents appear to be particularly vulnerable, scientists are now turning to a more nuanced understanding of this new world. Many have started to approach social media as an integral, if risky, part of adolescence, perhaps not unlike driving.
Many moms love using Facebook to keep faraway friends and family members up-to-date on their children. Statuses such as “Johnny is getting his first tooth!” and “Susie took her first steps today!” are common in many news feeds. But what if, while scrolling through your Facebook friends’ updates, you read “[Friend] is expecting a child?”
Thanks to Facebook’s newest feature, it will probably only be a matter of time before you will. Expectant parents can now add their unborn child to the list of their relationships on their profile. Parents-to-be can choose to include the name, due date and even an ultrasound picture of their unborn child.
Adding your unborn baby to your relationships on Facebook isn’t all that different than posting a status that you’re expecting, except a status is fleeting. Old statuses are quickly hidden below the “Older Posts” link on your profile as you write new updates. With Facebook’s new feature, your unborn baby is always prominently displayed on your profile.
Most parents love to write about and to post pictures of their children on Twitter and Facebook. According to a study conducted by AVG last fall, 92% of U.S. toddlers have an online presence by the time they reach the age of 2. If parents are already writing about their kids online, is writing as their kids the next trend?
Gary Shirley, a dad featured on MTV’s reality show Teen Mom, is one parent jumping on this trend. On Tuesday he created a Twitter page for his 2-year-old daughter, Leah, and began tweeting in “her” voice. Shirley immediately received harsh feedback, forcing him to tweet again: “You guys, it should be obvious that Leah has no contact w Twitter. This is just a fun concept that will in no way affect Leah herself.”
Keeping up with your own social media sites can be time-consuming enough, so should you be making accounts for your kids? Judging from the negative comments Shirley has received, the answer is “no.” Most people who responded to Shirley thought that pretending to be your child is creepy, not cute. Still, more than 5,000 people seem to think otherwise — because that’s the amount of followers little Leah has amassed in just a few days.
Would you make a Twitter or Facebook account for your child?
When Deborah Copaken Kogan snapped a photo of her 4-year-old son, Leo, in the pediatrician’s office on Mother’s Day and uploaded it to Facebook, she was looking for a few laughs (and probably some sympathy). The photo’s caption was, “Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day quite like a Sunday morning at the pediatrician’s.”
According to Slate.com, Kogan brought Leo to the doctor because he had a rash and a fever, and she feared strep. Leo was sent home with antibiotics, but the next day he was sicker and Kogan was back at the doctor. His new diagnosis was scarlet fever. Kogan continued posting pictures of Leo on Facebook to share with friends.
On the third day, Leo woke up so swollen and puffy that he was almost unrecognizable. Kogan sent pictures of her son to the doctor and posted one on Facebook. Before she heard from the doctor, Kogan got a call from Stephanie, a former neighbor and actress. Stephanie urged Kogan to bring Leo to the hospital; her own son had similar symptoms a few years earlier and was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, a rare and sometimes fatal auto-immune disorder.
After receiving more comments and messages on Facebook from friends with the same suspicions, including a pediatrician and a pediatric cardiologist, Kogan brought Leo to the hospital. They were right: Leo had Kawasaki disease.
He will need tests on his heart every year for the rest of his life, but he is recovering and doing well.
Kogan, who originally joined Facebook to monitor the cyber-bullying of her oldest child, is grateful for how being part of a larger network of friends helped “diagnose” her son in a timely matter and also offered support during a difficult time. She recently wrote, “Thanks to my Facebook friends and their continuing support, I do not feel so alone.”