Raising A Moral Child

The New York Times had a great article last week on Raising a Moral Child, written by Adam Grant. I think it’s worth sharing and talking about because it seems like it is becoming an increasingly difficult task. Why is it that the more information and resources we have, the harder it is to ensure that our children are thoughtful and hard working?

Before reading the article, I was under the impression that it’s more important to compliment the behavior of the child than the character of the child. Research is showing the opposite, however. So next time, instead of saying, “thank you for helping,” say, “thank you for being such a good helper” and you might find your kids repeating their kind actions more often.

Happy to Help!

Happy to Help!

Another important point the article brings up is that guilt is different than shame. Grant says, “Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing.” Guilt is a feeling that can be changed by changing your behavior, but shame runs so deep you can’t get past it. None of us want our children to feel like they are bad people, so instead of expressing anger or withholding affection when they misbehave, it’s better to voice our disappointment and explain, “why the behavior was wrong, how it affected others, and how they can rectify the situation”.

Grant also points out that the old tenant, “do as I say, not as I do” is as ineffective as ever. Research proves this. He cites an experiment in which school kids earn tokens for winning a game and have the opportunity to donate some of the tokens to a child in poverty. The children most likely to give, and who gave the most even weeks later, were those that watched their teacher give tokens to a child in poverty without saying anything about it. You might think that the students who not only saw their teacher give, but heard her lecture about giving might be the most generous, but this wasn’t the case. Kids who only witnessed the generosity, and weren’t preached to about it, were more likely to be generous months later.

I thought Grant’s article was so interesting, I might have to pick up his book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success In the meantime, I’m going to make sure I praise Franci’s character and lead by example, instead of merely lecturing about good behavior.

What are you doing to make sure your kids grow up to be kind, thoughtful and helpful? What methods do you find to be most successful?



Review: Airbnb Vacation Rentals

Airbnb Rental

Our Recent Airbnb Rental

We were out of town earlier this month and instead of staying in a hotel, we booked a rental through Airbnb. For the same price as a suite, we ended up with a whole house! It was a dream, and we plan to use Airbnb every time we travel.

There are a million things that make staying in a house better than staying in a hotel. First of all, everyone had their own room. Frances slept soundly during her naps and at night and we didn’t have to worry about tiptoeing around her crib. Secondly, I was able to make her fresh food in the kitchen, and we cooked several meals while we were there, which saved time and money.

One unforeseen bonus was that unloading and loading the car was so much easier than usual. We didn’t have to lug our many bags through a hotel, and then park the car in some big lot. Parking was free and just steps away from the front door.

Often times hotels are crowded into one area of town that may or may not be a desirable location. Perhaps if you want to be near the airport or close to low-end chain restaurants, a hotel is a way to go, but we wanted to be in a trendy part of town that has no lodging but is within walking distance of tons of shopping and restaurants.

Especially if you have kids, going with an Airbnb rental can give everyone a little extra space that will make a vacation that much more relaxing. Our house had a huge backyard that would have been perfect for playtime (if the weather had cooperated). I noticed there was even a croquet set in the closet I would have loved to use, if it hadn’t rained the whole time.

Unlike some of the other vacation rental companies, Airbnb provides a bit of guarantee things will go as planned. For one, you pay the company directly, and they pay the rental owner. So if you have any issues with your stay, you can appeal to Airbnb and they will moderate.

Reading the reviews of a rental are essential before booking, since they will tell you how good the rental owner is at communicating and how accurate the rental description and other details are. Writing your own review after your stay is highly recommended, especially if you want to have a good reputation as a renter (leaving a good review prompts the owner to write you a good review). Just because you want to stay some place, doesn’t mean you will be approved. And if you are disrespectful of the rental, don’t expect to be approved next time. The owner will leave you a bad review and warn other rental owners off you. The system is pretty self regulating that way, as long as you are diligent in reading the reviews and going over the house rules.

One thing to keep in mind when renting a house or apartment (as opposed to staying in a hotel) is that you will have to do some chores before you leave. They are not really a big deal, and only take a few minutes. You’ll probably have to load the dishwasher and start it. The beds will need to be stripped and the washer started with sheets and towels. And you might have to take out the trash. Other chores, like making up the beds, sweeping or toilet scrubbing, are covered by the cleaning fee.

All-in-all, it’s totally worth it if you are traveling with kids, or as a group. The freedom of being in a private space and the amenities provided (like a fully stocked kitchen) ensure that we’ll be using Airbnb in the future, as long as there are rentals available at our destination!



When to Start Daycare

Daycare

Daycare

I’ve always thought that eventually Frances would go to daycare for a few hours a week. It might be “wasted money”, since I work from home, but some days it seems like she’d have a lot more fun at daycare than sitting around the house listening to me say, “not now, sweetheart, I’m working”.

Daycare offers more than just a break for me. We’re still new enough to town that we haven’t met many people, so Franci doesn’t have a lot of play dates. We’re talking once every 8 weeks or so. I would like her to be exposed to other children a little more often, not to mention other people in general. She’s very wary of new people right now, and I can’t help but think that’s because she only sees the same half dozen faces regularly.

We do things a particular way in our house, and I imagine things operate quite differently at daycare. I figure it would be good for Franci to be exposed new things and new ways of doing things. It can’t hurt, right?

Right now I’m going through a big internal debate concerning the best time to start daycare. Our “first choice” has space opening up in June, and Frances will be 15 months old then. She would go for three hours a day, three days a week. If we don’t start then, we’d have to wait until February for the next enrolment opportunity, when Frances would be almost two.

Is it better to start early, or wait until she is a little older? I’ve read that kids under two aren’t developed enough to “play” together, but I don’t know if that is true. If we wait until she’s two, will it be harder her to be away from me for the first time? Or is the separation period difficult no matter when you start?

A Series of Salad Recipes: Spanish Salad

Spanish Salad

Spanish Salad

I became a big fan of the Spanish Salad when I was studying in Spain. It’s quick and easy to make, with lots of “optional” ingredients, depending on how much you want to put into it. My room mates would make this salad with just iceberg lettuce and dressing. It might be a little sad, but it is surprisingly good!

It’s a refreshing salad that can be filling if you add in tuna and hard boiled eggs, and it’s a nice option if you are serving Spanish, Mexican, or Cuban food. For some reason a vinaigrette or kale salad just doesn’t pair with latino food flavors for me.

Spanish Salad

Salad:

  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Canned Sweet Corn, drained
  • Canned Tuna
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Sliced Hard Boiled Eggs (optional)
  • Pickled White Asparagus (optional)
  • Manzanilla Olives (optional)

Dressing:

  • Kosher Salt
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with dressing ingredients.

Greening Your House with Indoor Plants

Air Purification System

Air Purification System

I love being surrounded by living things, so we have always had a lot of house plants. In my opinion, you can never have too many. It turns out that there is more to having house plants than enjoying their greenery year round.

In 1989, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America did a two-year study that proved indoor plants are successful at removing benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air. You can read a good summary of the study here. The house plants most effective at removing these chemicals are Bamboo Palm, Chinese Evergreen, English Ivy, Gerbera Daisy, Dragon Tree, Corn Plant, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Chrysanthemum and Peace Lily. These are all easily found, often at the grocery store or hardware store, if you’re too busy to make an extra trip to a nursery.

If you have children or pets but want to enjoy the beauty, oxygen production and air cleaning properties of house plants, you may want to choose varieties that are not poisonous. While most toxic house plants aren’t that bad (they cause skin irritations or stomach aches but won’t kill you), it might not be worth the risk. Check out this website that lists safe and toxic house plants.

Even if you don’t have poisonous plants in your home, it’s a good idea to teach your kids to look but don’t touch. You never know what kinds of plants they will encounter outside or at someone else’s house.

Walking Practice

Walking Practice is Serious Business

Frances is dying to be mobile but hasn’t quite figured out the balance portion of walking. I blame it on her big head, because it isn’t for lack of motivation.

Since she loves walking but needs help, and my back can only take so much bending over, the Melissa & Doug Alligator Push Toy is the perfect activity.  Franci spends hours every day pushing it around the house. The only caveat is that someone has to turn her around once she reaches a dead end. She’s not particularly good at steering it, either, and constantly gets it stuck on chairs, corners, the couch.  She lets me know right away that she’s stuck and needs help.

Still, I can usually sneak in a few chores while she is occupied, which every parent knows is worth it.  She’ll often stop at the couch, coffee table or other furniture and take the time to explore.  I get in a few extra minutes while she navigates along the furniture before returning to her walker and continuing on her way.

One dead-end in our house is a sliding glass door. When she runs into it, she takes a few moments to look at the trees, birds, dogs and whatever else she see outside. She presses her belly into the handle bar of the walker and reaches her arms out to stretch, or scratch her head, or conduct the music that’s playing over the stereo.  I know she’s ready to turn around when she’s no longer babbling contentedly and starts yelling “Ma-ma!”.

Since walking is her favorite activity these days, she’s put many miles on her Alligator Push Toy. So this toy is fully endorsed by me and Franci.

Cuppow Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Megan for winning a regular size Cuppow canning jar lid, Cuppow wide mouth canning jar lid and BNTO lunchbox adapter!

Thank you to everyone who entered!  If you didn’t win this time, you can buy your own Cuppow products over on Amazon or the Cuppow website.

Wide Mouth Cuppow Lid

Wide Mouth Cuppow

Cuppow-regular

Regular Mouth Cuppow

BNTO Canning Jar Lunchbox Adaptor

BNTO Lunchbox Adaptor

Planning for Baby Number Two

Preparing for a New Sibling

Preparing for a New Sibling

I’ve often heard it said that there is no “right” time to have a baby. How likely is it that your career, finances and home-life are all perfectly stable at the same time? If you wait for everything to be perfect, you might be old enough to be a grandparent! Sometimes it’s best to just take the plunge.

When it comes to planning siblings, there are multiple theories. Personal preference is the biggest factor, but it turns out there is some interesting research done on the subject of the healthiest time to conceive.

Some parents think it’s best to have another baby right away. Then you get all the diapering and late nights out of the way and the siblings are close enough in age to enjoy the same activities. Plus, you’re still in baby mode. Your breast-pump is still handy and you haven’t given away your bumbo or boppy yet. If you’re taking time off from work to raise your kids, you’ll be back in the game sooner if your kids are closer in age.

Of course, two under two is a recipe for chaos. The oldest isn’t ready for school yet, and you’ll be dealing with two sets of diapers, tantrums and teething all at once. The first two years of this arrangement, so I’ve heard, can put a lot of strain on a marriage.

Other parents prefer to wait a few years. They want plenty of time to enjoy each child’s first milestones, and they want to be well rested before thinking about 2 a.m. feedings again. They’ve had years of experience as parents, and have a lot of wisdom under their belts. Plus, the older sibling will be in preschool which means you’ll have more one-on-one time with the new baby. Or if you work outside the home, you’ll have plenty of time between maternity leaves to make yourself invaluable to your boss.

The flip side is that as soon as you’re finished with diapering and naps, it’s time to start it all over again. Your older child is so used to your attention, she may have a harder time adjusting to sharing you with a new baby. You’ll be chasing after an energetic preschooler while keeping an infant entertained, and exhausting prospect.

A third option is to wait until the first is in full-time school before having another baby. Each child gets the benefit of full attention, and the oldest is responsible enough to help out and be a mentor for his new little sibling.

However, he might not agree that this new responsibility is as great as you say it is and long for the days when he was an only child. Not to mention, switching between baby mode and grade-school mode isn’t for everyone. And instead of spending 20 years raising kids, you might be spending 25 or 30.

How far apart are your kids spaced? What’s your theory on the best time to have another child?

A Series of Salad Recipe: House Salad

House Salad

House Salad

I call this our “house salad” because if you come to dinner, you will more than likely be served this salad. It’s our go-to salad, and I make all the ingredients ahead so I can throw a salad together each night. I’ve discovered that if I always have shredded carrots and cabbage, washed lettuce and prepared dressing on hand, we eat a lot more salad.

We always eat salad at the end of the meal, and Franci has started anticipating the “salad course”. She loves Gorgonzola so much, she gets very pushy about demanding her fair share. I’ve had to start adding extra to the salad, just so there’s some left for me!

Dinner guests frequently ask me for the recipe for the vinaigrette dressing used in this salad. Since “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” isn’t a satisfying list of ingredients, I finally sat down and figured out what the measurements are. This dressing recipe will make enough vinaigrette for multiple salads.

House Salad

Salad:

  • Butter Lettuce
  • Shredded Carrot
  • Shredded Root Vegetables (i.e., beets, turnips, parsnips, radishes)
  • Shredded Cabbage
  • Candied Pecans
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola

Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 4 tbs Dijon Mustard
  • 2 tbs Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3 tbs Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well to emulsify.

Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl and dress with the vinaigrette.

p.s. Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for a set of Cuppow canning jar lids and adapters!

Nightmares or Night Terrors?

Nightmare or Night Terror?

Nightmare or Night Terror?

Frances has been waking up in the night a few nights a week in a fit of tears. This is very unusual for her, and distressing for us, because she seems so sad! At first I thought it was night terrors, because I’ve heard that’s a thing for infants and toddlers, but now I’m not so sure.

Night terrors usually don’t start until a child is 18 months, and are different than nightmares in that the child cannot be awakened or comforted. Franci is only 13 months, and when we go to comfort her, she is awake and responds immediately to our attention.

Night terrors are a type of parasomnia, like sleep walking or sleep eating, and affect about 5% of the population under five years old. Most kids outgrow it, but considering that an episode lasts between 5 and 45 minutes, every incident must feel like it lasts forever. Especially since the best thing you can do is not wake her and simply make sure she doesn’t hurt herself while thrashing about.

Night terrors also differ from nightmares in that a child has no recollection of a night terror, but will often remember his nightmares. So while a night terror may be more traumatic for the parent, a nightmare is more distressing to the child.

If you have a family history of parasomnia, and your child is over-tired, he is more likely to suffer from night terrors. If the night terrors are predictable, some sources recommend waking your child before an episode occurs to disrupt the cycle. You can also wake your child after the night terror to make sure they don’t drift right back into deep sleep and have another episode.

Nightmares usually happen in the second half of the night, not the first (when night terrors usually occur), because that is when dreaming is most likely to take place. This is consistent with Franci’s recent behavior.

They can also be triggered by traumatic events. She’s had a couple of bad falls lately as she becomes more mobile, which makes me wonder if she’s more bothered about them than I thought. She also had blood drawn a couple weeks ago, which was definitely traumatic for both of us. She’s too young to talk about her nightmares, so it’s hard to know for sure. Maybe her premolars, which are definitely coming in, are bothering her. Or maybe she just has a really wet diaper!

Whether she really is having a nightmare, or is just in discomfort, the remedy is the same: comfort her, change her diaper, nurse her back to sleep. I’m worried we’re starting a habit of night nursing, something we haven’t done in eight months.

Is there something else I can be doing to help Franci through her night-time troubles? How do you cope with your baby’s nightmares?

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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