Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Moved the blog

Hi all - if you enjoy Practical Parenting - please visit our new site.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The lego fridge for our kids college rooms

I saw this modular refrigerator on Inhabitat and see all sorts of possibilities for when the kids enter the dorm room life.

Besides which - the thing just looks cool. I don't think it has any affiliation with Lego, but it's super cool looking. I'd like to make sure it can hold a full gallon of milk before endorsing it. Perhaps we'll be adding these when our kids enter the teen years and commence eating (and drinking) us out of house and home.

Getting the whole story –parents, coaches and teachers need to get on the same page

In my recent, unscientific survey of parents of boys, I’ve discovered a 3 to 1 probability that sons won’t tell you extensive details about their day. Especially if something didn’t go their way that day. And with boy energy introduced to a world that expects 5 year old children to control impulses that physiologically require the brain development of an 8 year old, often things don’t go their way.

It’s hard to be a boy today. And it’s hard to be a boy’s parents.

Over the weekend, I received an extensive list of behaviors at camp that my son is exhibiting. Reading it made me feel really bad about myself and really bad about him – until my husband reminded me that we haven’t heard this litany from any other camp this summer. We know our son is athletic and competitive. We know that he needs to be pushed to his limits. We know he pushes every other limit as far as he can. He’s done well at camps that push him to do better and force him to play up.

We offered our son the choice to continue at this camp or do one week of baseball camp and one week of soccer camp. Surprising us, he chose the current camp. His logic – I can do both baseball and soccer at my current camp and I want to show that I can do this camp right.

Our strategy: Read him the feedback from his counselors – no editing. I wanted him to know that his behavior was noticed and not working. Then we focused on three things he could do today at camp:
  1. Cheer for his camp-mates and don’t ever talk about what he did himself. This humility thing is hard for him and this is a good way to practice it.

  2. If he is called out, asked to sub, scored upon or anything else he doesn’t like, no tantrums. Just take the referee/counselors call with dignity, sit down and cheer everyone else (see #1). This is another really good lesson.

  3. No pushing, shoving or trash talking on the field. The other kids don’t like it and he doesn’t need it to play well. I give this one a low probability of success.

According to Real Boys and The Minds of Boys (which I have read) and Raising Cain (which my sister has read), boys are hardwired to physicality and to compete. Not all boys are physical and competitive, but it’s not a disability to be competitive or physical although it does need to be channeled. As a parent, I’d like to hear from the teachers and coaches about what I can do to support my boy and help him adjust to the expectations they have for him. Like most parents, I’m winging it. I’m sure that the only thing guaranteed to work is time for that brain development to happen. In the meanwhile, anyone have any great ideas to get boys to tell you about their day – including what didn’t go their way?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Crimes and Misdemeanors - the incident call

As a parent of two energetic boys, I’ve learned to anticipate the inevitable call about an incident at school or camp. I understand that it is impossible to see everything leading up to an altercation. But to teach my sons something useful, I need to be very concrete and specific – so I need facts.

It’s simply not okay for a camp or school to call and tell me Taylor (or Benjamin) misbehaved without context. I need information and I am going to ask questions until I get it. Too often, the caller expects me to defend my child or justify his behavior without listening. That’s not my goal. My goal is to teach my child how he can make a different choice next time – but that takes some understanding of the situation. Take my recent incident call:

“Taylor really misbehaved – over the top. He was very upset that things didn’t go his way in a game.”
“Really? That’s surprising. Can you tell me what happened?”
“No, I wasn’t there. But his reaction was over the top.”
“What did he do?”
“He kicked and hit and screamed.”
“Do you know why?” - No
“Can I talk with him?” – Yes.

I learned from him that a friend of his first pushed him over the foul line on the field causing his goal to not be counted – but there was no tantrum then. Taylor did complain about what his friend did. That’s as far as I got before the camp director resumed the conversation and told me that I couldn’t help him justify his behavior. So far, I didn’t know what his behavior was except that it was out of character. My job as a parent is to understand enough that I can teach my child and to advocate for him if he cannot. In that order.

Luckily, his friend is in the karmic carpool and I had the chance to talk to the friend and the friend’s mom. The rest of the story:

After the game, the friend shut a gym door in Taylor’s face and Taylor shoved the door open and pushed back. Both boys were sent to the office. The friend provoked Taylor verbally there and Taylor hit him. That’s when I got the call. Taylor did not make the right choice, but after two or three successive provocations, I’m not exactly surprised. So the lesson was “choices when someone is annoying you.”

I am still concerned that the camp director didn’t have the facts and assumed that it was a sportsmanship issue about losing a game. My definition of sportsmanship doesn’t extend to two boys sitting in an office. My experience is that when kids get under each other’s skin, it’s best to separate them and let them cool off. Any other ideas (I was thinking a water hose would work too!)?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Baby Monitor Smack Down - webcam vs. traditional sound monitor

A good friend asked if I had any thoughts about if he should invest in a webcam baby monitor for his second child. He has a standard baby monitor from baby #1. With my first child, I bought multiple baby monitors because I couldn’t find one that worked reliably in our cordless phone, near our neighbors and wireless networked house. And our baby’s nursery is as far away as possible from the master suite – not intentional, but ultimately very nice. For the record, the (then) $19.99 Fisher Price Sound and Lights monitor was the absolute best.

We’re past baby monitors now – if our kids need us, they either come and get us or shout at the top of their lungs. And only the baby who cannot get out of her crib is tolerated using the shouting technique. I did a little research on these webcam baby monitors on Amazon and There’s a Dad’s actual experience here. But my recommendation to my friend – don’t bother with the webcam baby monitor.

First, most of the moments with a newborn are not all that interesting - sort of like watching paint dry. Of course they’re snuggly and cute and those hands and feet are just amazing. But it’s not really an interesting video stream. Think about how often you watch home videos – you’d watch more if they were edited. How often do you do that? I have about a year’s worth of video snippets that need to be burned to a grandparent and great-grandparent DVD.

Second, when they get more entertaining, they generally are moving all over the place so a stationary camera is likely to miss the most interesting activities. Cameras are portable for this reason.

Third, if you are going to do video-calls with family, it’s nice to control the environment a little bit. Plus every Mac can do this easily with iChat and I think PCs can do it as well. Not to mention it doesn’t invade the privacy of your home without your permission.

So, save the $170+ or apply it to a video camera and get good at posting the most adorable videos of your children that you can catch. I predict that the webcam just won’t get viewed often and everyone will still want the cute videos that they can kvell over with their friends.

What do you think?  What sort of monitor did you use and did it help you sleep or keep you up?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Breast or Bottle - both work just fine

Its a shame that anyone - medical professional or layman - would make a mother feel guilty for taking care of her child.

I breastfed 3 children for 12 months each because I both wanted to (important) and my body cooperated (important). Because my children were in day care starting at 9 weeks or so, they were also bottlefed (happened to be breastmilk, but bottle sanitation is as important).

When expecting mother's ask me about how to do it, here's what I tell them:

  1. Breastfeeding is NOT intuitive for you or your baby. Expect it to be something you both need to learn and will take practice. Share this gem of wisdom with your partner.

  2. Breastfeeding doesn't always work and the more anxious you are about it, the more likely it is to fail. Try to relax. And it still might not work - so be glad you have other options.

  3. Milk production requires sleep and water. Do everything you can to recover from pregnancy and delivery. This is not the time for supermom behavior. Even if you don't breastfeed, you need to recover to be a good Mom.  Drink a lot of water.

  4. Most of our generation was raised on formula and we're fine - if it doesn't work, don't make it more than it is.

  5. You will feel judged for every parenting decision you make. The sooner you believe in your own (with your partner, if you have one) judgement, the better your parenting life is going to be.

Hope it helps.

Read the original article -

SUNDAY MAGAZINE | July 22, 2009
Motherlode: In Support of Bottle Feeding
By Lisa Belkin
Although breast feeding should be encouraged, doctors urge more assistance for mothers who choose bottles.


Top 10 ways to be a geekdad while out on the lake - excerpt from Geek Dad

Added my three Geek Mom contributions:

  1. Calculating the number, speed and circumference of whips and figure-8s to make the tube ride fun and not dump the kids.

  2. Headset for the walkie-talkie in one ear, bluetooth for the cellphone in the other. Finding a walkie-talkie that’s bluetooth ready - bonus points.

  3. Tube-based webcam. 360 degrees.

Re-posting via Wired: GeekDad by Dana Bostic on 7/22/09

My children and I love spending time on one of our local lakes. Filling
the boat with gear, finding a nice spot to camp, tubing, knee boarding,
and cooking out are all part of what I really want to share with my
children. On this last time out, I did notice several Geeky activities,
so here I present my Top 10 ways to be a GeekDad while out on the lake.
Please feel free to comment with any Geeky activities that you enjoy
out on the lake.

10. Writing this article while on the lake. Did I take my laptop and
broadband access card on vacation with my family to one of the most
beautiful lakes in North America. Are you kidding?

9. Thinking how much better the picture would look with a Digital SLR.
Imagine how much detail I missed in this picture, if only I could have
shot this on a 10 megapixal SLR with 200mm lens.

Read the rest of Dana's post here and comment...