Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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!

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.

Are BPA-Free Plastics Safe?

Not Safe Enough?

Not Safe Enough?

I remember getting rid of my trusty Nalgene bottle when BPA-Free became the big thing.  I tried switching to stainless steel, but couldn’t stand the taste.  I’ve finally settled on glass, but it’s not always the most convenient.  Frances is still at the stage where every sippy cup gets tossed on the floor when she’s through with it, so unless I want to hold it for her it has to be plastic.

I figured as long as we stuck with BPA-Free sippy cups, I didn’t have to worry too much. Well, it turns out that recent studies are showing that other plastics are just as full of estrogenic activity as BPA when put through the same cell-based tests. Since the plastic industry isn’t required to test the chemicals that have replaced BPA unless there is proof that they are harmful, consumers have no idea whether or not these new plastics contain endocrine disruptors.

It seems to me that no one is in a big hurry to vet the new plastics. I mean, if each new plastic is proved harmful, what are we left with? There is no way that plastic is going away any time soon. Even I loathe to give up plastic completely, since the ten minutes Franci drinks from her sippy cups is ten minutes I get to spend cleaning or eating or blogging.

Fortunately, there are tons of great alternatives to plastic these days. Many of the new glass bottles have rubber sleeves that protect them from normal use. Although I haven’t found a glass sippy cup I’m willing to trust, we do like our Dr. Brown’s glass bottles.

Last year I tested out several glass water bottles and found that Aquasana
bottles are the cheapest and easiest to drink out of. The best part is that my drink never taste like plastic or metal!

My favorite water bottle

My favorite water bottle

Instead of storing leftovers in plastic containers, we’ve switched to glass. It’s actually more convenient, since most are microwave, oven and dishwasher safe.

We may not be able to cut plastic completely out of our lives, but at least we can limit our exposure.

Are you worried about BPA and other plastic chemicals?

Fluoridating Your Baby

Use Fluoride Toothpaste!

Use Fluoride Toothpaste!

Second to vaccinating, the hot-button issue with conscientious parents today is whether or not to give your child fluoride.

If you live in a municipality that has more than 400,000 people, your water is most likely fluoridated. There are also plenty of communities whose drinking supply naturally has fluoride, especially if you live in the west. The only way to know how much fluoride is in your water is to read the Consumer Confidence Report that the EPA requires each community water system to provide. (search “Consumer Confidence Report” and your town name to find your local report).

There’s a lot of propaganda out there on both sides of the issue. Groups like the Fluoride Action Network cite a myriad of studies that “prove” how “dangerous” fluoride is. They make no concessions that fluoride can be beneficial, despite evidence that it is one of the only substancs that can actually re-mineralize teeth. They tend to showcase communities that have toxic levels of fluoride occurring naturally in the water that cause wide-spread bone-density issues. While it’s true that some water sources have too much fluoride, the excess is actually removed from water in industrialized places.

Topical fluoride application is more beneficial than ingestion, modern studies are showing. Dental fluorosis is one of the first signs of too much fluoride, and looks like white spots on the teeth. It is caused by consuming too much fluoride while the teeth are forming under the gums. Low-income communities have higher rates of fluorosis not from the water supply, but from canned food and juice.

However, fluoride makes teeth resistant to acid so that the bacteria can not dissolve them or cause cavities. Which is why the American Dental Association recommends that you use a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on your baby’s teeth as soon as they come in.

From all the research I’ve read, there isn’t much point in ingesting extra fluoride. In fact, it can cause permanent discoloration. That’s an inconvenience, but not dangerous. It would be impossible to digest a toxic amount of fluoride in a community with water fluoridation, so don’t waste time worrying about that. If you want to avoid dental fluorosis, eat fresh vegetables instead of canned, and don’t drink fruit juice.

Instead, focus on the topical application of fluoride if you want to prevent cavities. In fact, the wide-spread use of fluoride toothpaste has done more for the decline in cavities than Community Water Fluoridation ever has.

As for Franci, I’m not going to give her any more of her fluoride supplement. Instead, I’m going to start using a grain of rice sized dot of fluoride toothpaste when I brush her teeth. She’ll end up ingesting some of it any way, which will be enough for those adult teeth buds that we won’t see for a few years.

What are your views on Community Water Fluoridation? Do you give your kids fluoride supplements or use fluoride toothpaste?

  • Filed under: Baby Care, General
  • Confessions of a Parent



    Being a parent requires a lot of sacrifices and compromises, most of them on the part of the parent.  Every once and a while it’s your baby’s turn to make the compromise.  This often results in a great story to be told to other parents, grandparents, and your spouse! If things can’t go as planned, they may as well be good for a laugh!

    Last week I confessed that Franci sleeps in a second-hand drop-down crib. It gets even worse! Some of your kids may have rooms “as small as a closet”. Frances doesn’t have a room: she actually sleeps in our closet. The space is just big enough for a full-sized crib, so she sleeps with hangers full of clothes looming above her.

    She’s actually slept in several closets in the past year. One time while visiting family, we didn’t bring our portable crib and so she slept in a large tupperware. Which we put in a closet. It was nice and dark and very quiet, and she slept like, well, a baby.

    So, fess up! What’s your biggest confession?

    When Babies Mimic Animal Behavior

    A girl and her dog

    A girl and her dog

    Frances has always been curious about our pets. She loves to crawl over to our dog and give her pats and pets. Before we could get Franci to reliably say “Papa”, she could tell you a puppy said “arf-arf”.

    Since she’s so in-tune to our dogs, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when she started barking along with them. If someone knocked on the door, she would happily join in on a round of alarm barks. What really came as a shock was the time when the UPS truck could be heard rounding the corner, and Franci started barking even before the dogs did!

    I’ve heard of dogs teaching babies to crawl and go up and down stairs. You can find videos of dogs teaching babies to play fetch, and even one of a cat teaching a baby how to walk!

    Have your kids learned any skills from your pets?

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  • Filed under: Family Life, General
  • Stockpiling Update: Year End Review

    My freezer four months later






    Happy New Year everyone! It’s time for me to take stock of the deep freeze and see how we did. We didn’t manage to eat all the freezer food, but we came pretty close.  Like most yearly goals, all we needed was another few days!

    Here’s the run down: The door used to be full of side dishes and lunches, and now it’s full of breastmilk, so I don’t really count that. The middle shelf has quite a bit of baby food at the moment, but the way Franci eats it will be gone quickly.

    The bottom shelf used to be full of meat, but now it contains butter, nuts and nut flour, and chocolate. Basically, things that don’t have to be refrigerated but since a full freezer is an energy efficient freezer, I might as well store them there. [While technically I am stockpiling baking ingredients, I can’t bring myself to count them as such since I can’t go out and buy them at a moments notice (being specialty items).]

    The one question I get most often is whether or not we got sick of the meals. I chose some pretty good recipes that our family considers comfort food, like Lasagne and Chicken Pot Pie. So the answer is No, with one exception. I’m sick of roasts! I think the shelf would be empty if not for the roasts. I’m not a fan of pot roast, and it seems like any related cut tastes the same to me once you slow cook it with carrots, potatoes and onions. And it is surprisingly hard to come up with recipes that don’t end up tasting the same! I tried one Asian version, and it was a failure. So if anyone has a recipe for slow cooked beef that might be less traditional, please share!

    I may have failed my goal of finishing the freezer meals by the end of the year, but I feel pretty good about the progress. I hope I’ll be able to declare victory by the end of the month!

    Black Friday

    Get in line!

    Get in line!

    Do you plan on hitting the shops today? Or were you lined up last night with a belly full of turkey waiting for the doors to open. Maybe you are in your slippers on the couch with your laptop open and credit card near by as you read this post.

    I’ve never been that interested in Black Friday, my self. I’ve been an off-peak shopper for years, since I have no patience for lines and I like to get my errands done as quickly as possible. I find the whole concept pretty fascinating, and I’d love to hear what you consider to be the pros and cons of Black Friday shopping.

    How do you feel about Black Friday? Are you boycotting the stores or are you trying to be the first in line to get the best deals?

    Waking up to a sick baby

    All better!

    All better!

    Frances can no longer sleep through the sound of a single dog bark, but doesn’t wake up after vomiting all over herself?  Motherhood is full of surprises!

    This morning Franci awoke at her usual time with her usual smile and giggle, accompanied by a little surprise for her dad: a huge pile of dry vomit. At some point in the night, she had puked in the crook of her arm while on her stomach. The dried chunks covered her face and hair, and her sleep sack and pajamas were cold and damp. Whatever made her sick worked it’s way out of both ends, because her diaper was in a similar state of affairs.

    An infant getting sick in the middle of the night isn’t big news, I’m just incredulous that she slept that way for hours! And that she didn’t even notice upon waking up. The smell alone was enough to make me cry. That and the thought that my poor baby slept in her own barf. Maybe she wasn’t upset because whatever made her stomach turn was short-lived. Her temperature and temperment are completely normal and if you ignore the load of bedding tumbling in the dryer, it’s like none of it even happened.

    Every parent has at least one good vomit story in his or her repetroire, so let’s commiserate. What’s your best tale of puke?

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  • Filed under: Baby Care, General
  • The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
    Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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