Posts Tagged 'daily life'

Breaking up the day

two kids in strawberry patch

Strawberry picking was a great way to break up our routine.

Now that I’m home with the kids, I’ve found that I hear, “Mom, mom, mama, mommy, hey mom!” more often than my sanity budgets for. I love my kids with all my heart, but they are always there. I mean, right there! Often so close to me that I accidentally step on them when I turn around after hearing my name called for the umpteenth time.

One of my big breakthroughs as a stay-at-home mom was realizing that everyone—even 5-year-olds—needs alone time. I try to make sure everyone gets alone time during the day, even me. As a family we love each other unconditionally, but let’s face it, we get on each other’s nerves. Being able to go in a room and close the door when you need to has helped one of my kids tremendously, so I try to work it in before anyone reaches the breaking point.

I’m gonna get “fan mail” for this next one, but I don’t monitor screen time. Never have. I used to think I did and even felt bad that I didn’t, but one day I was talking to a mother who had adult twins. She was telling me how much she loved Barney when her kids were little because it gave her a break. I thought about that for a minute and thought, “We’re all in the trenches, especially when they’re little. Why kill myself over surviving?”

Now, I’m not advocating using the TV or other device as an alternate parent, but some days, it’s a lifesaver. I also use a TV show or two to take a mid-day break and chill for a little while. Naps are sometimes necessary, but most days we can just relax for a bit and get back out there.

All in all, I like to have a bunch of activities as options for the day and try a few things. We might head to the library in the morning and set up the sprinkler in the afternoon. Some days, we go to mall play places or parks, others we visit with friends. Bike rides, looking at garage sales (seriously, my kids love how much crap they can get for $1), and drawing chalk cities on the driveway are all great ways to engage with kids. I also like to have them help me make lunch and pick what we have for dinner (not that they’ll eat it). I even have a Pinterest board called “Keep them out of jail” that’s full of kid-friendly, cheap activities to keep them occupied, which has a great side effect of letting me stretch my creative muscles.

All in all, we’re surviving. We’re staying busy. And we’re trying to enjoy the ride.

– Rebecca Calappi is the adoptive parent to boy/girl twins and a freelance writer. She is a Capricorn, if you want to send her birthday greetings.

Finding my tribe

group of women friends

I couldn’t be as effective at parenting as I am without my mom tribe. In fact, I have a few. Each one serves a different purpose for me. One is a person, I belong to a twins group and an online group. I tried getting into another one, but it just wasn’t for me.

My person has been there, done all of it with three kids. She knows when I need to vent, when to worry with me and when to tell me to get over it. I need that. We all do.

In the earliest days of my motherhood, I made sure to find out if Beaumont’s Parenting Program accepted adoptive families. The director was very understanding and got us into a multiples group in the next cycle. It was wonderful. Now, five years later, we still meet with three of the families regularly. I love them. I loved being in a group of people who had two babies at the same time. We all had dark circles under our eyes. We all went through it together. One day, I hope to be invited to those kids’ graduations and even weddings.

My online tribe is more of a secret, like Fight Club. We just lay it all out there. It’s a safe place to rant, swear, and be disenchanted with children and partners. It’s also a great resource for swapping items, a great knowledge storehouse for childhood illnesses, and it’s way cheaper than therapy. They are my people.

The fourth tribe is an amazing group of women working on their online business. I liked them a lot, but in the end, we weren’t a good fit. And that’s OK. I still admire their product from afar. I found the distance in that relationship that I needed and struck a balance.

We all have our “go to” group or friend to help us get through the craziness of parenting. At least, I hope we do. We all need someone to reaffirm that no, you are not losing your mind. Your child is just nuts right now, but don’t worry. It will pass. It always does.

It really does take a village to raise a child. But, more importantly, I think it takes a large suburb to raise an effective parent.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

Breaking digital addictions

girl holding smartphone while looking out window

Did you see the recent study from Harvard noting that increases in Facebook use correlated with decreases in well-being, even after controlling for baseline levels of use? This was the case even when the study participants were “liking” and posting, rather than merely “lurking” on social media. The authors conclude:

“The full story when it comes to online social media use is surely complex. Exposure to the carefully curated images from others’ lives leads to negative self-comparison, and the sheer quantity of social media interaction may detract from more meaningful real-life experiences. What seems quite clear, however, is that online social interactions are no substitute for the real thing.” – Shakya & Christakis, 2017 (emphasis is mine)

In previous posts, Phubbers and the iPhone Effect and Stuck in Cyberspace: The hidden dangers of Internet addiction, we discussed the power of technology to pull us out of our everyday lives and even put our relationships at risk.

Nonetheless, we all see the benefits of using computers and smartphones, and even television and video games can have valued uses. Ideally we want a balanced relationship with our technological gadgets. Remember that overuse of technology is a habit, and like all habits, it can be hard to break. Also, we often handle social anxiety by retreating into our digital worlds; this doesn’t help us build relationships or deal with discomfort.

This HelpGuide.org resource lists key features of smartphone addiction, includes an online quiz, and offers tips to help break digital addictions. Here are some of the highlights, along with a few tidbits I’ve learned through working on my own smartphone use:

  • Make technology your servant, not your master.
  • Goal is to cut back to healthy levels of use.
  • Think before you automatically pick up phone.
  • Turn off notifications on apps and games.
  • Review responses before sending.
  • Make “good habits” easier and “bad habits” harder. Remove apps or move icons off home screen
  • Keep phone away from bed (light filter).
  • Read “real” books in bed. Also, e-readers that do not emit light should not disrupt sleep.
  • Buy an alarm clock.
  • Adjust your settings to silence your phone at night. The timer/alarm will still go off and certain contacts can still call through for emergencies.
  • Realize: You don’t get those minutes back that you spent aimlessly drifting through the internet.
  • Set goals for when you can use your smartphone and use a timer to keep yourself honest.
  • Turn off your phone at certain times of the day.
  • Replace your smartphone use with healthier activities (e.g., physical activity, talking to others, reading, etc.).
  • Spending time with other smartphone addicts? Play the “phone stack” game: Everyone stacks their phones in a location out of arm’s reach, and just interacts with each other.
  • Limit “checks” of your phone. Wean yourself off compulsive checking.
  • Maybe most importantly, curb your fear of missing out, and tune in to what is going on around you. You may really be amazed at what you see and who you talk to when your face is not stuck in a screen!

– Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s

Chicago with kids: Nonstop fun

Let’s pretend we’re penguins!

My husband and I have a serious travel bug, but we’ve been grounded since having kids. For either cost or reasons lacking courage, we haven’t had it in us to go anywhere far with twins.

But we just got back from Chicago, and I’m so glad we went. The kids had a blast. We had a great time. It was amazing.

We started by driving to New Buffalo, Michigan, then taking an hour-long train ride into the city. The kids thought this was amazing and we thought it was economical and relaxing. For all four of us to take the train round-trip, it was $120. We’d have to pay $50 a day to park in Chicago.

girl at Adler Planetarium exhibit

Mission control at Adler Planetarium

After a short cab ride (another thrill for the kids) to our Airbnb, we set out to explore. My husband did great research and found a reasonably affordable place to stay that was central to what we wanted to see and do, as well as close to public transport. Luckily, the kids are just 5, so they ride for free on city buses and trains. Do your research, though. I thought we’d Uber around with them, but in Illinois, Uber has to abide by car seat laws, which means we’d have to tote their boosters around or pay an additional $10 per seat through Uber. Public transportation such as taxis and buses are considered commercial, so boosters aren’t necessary.

Our first stop was the Field Museum. I was warned that the museum was outdated, stuffy and not too kid-friendly. I found it the exact opposite. Just as we passed through the admission area, a dinosaur walked out — and not a Barney type, either. This guy was impressive! The museum was awesome with lots to look at, touch and do. But take this little bit of advice: Pack your own food. We had a small snack from the café there of three bags of chips, a water and two chocolate milks. Our total was $18.

boy watching two dolphins

Dolphin watching at Shedd Aquarium

The next day, we went to the Shedd Aquarium. It was a blast. From climbing rocks dressed like penguins to seeing the dolphin show and even watching a 4D SpongeBob movie, we all had a great time.

Finally, we headed to the Adler Planetarium. We didn’t spend a ton of time here, but what time we did spend was fun. It was definitely my least favorite of the three; it had a great play area for kids, but the rest of the museum went way over my 5-year-old’s head.

All in all, it was a great trip. I wish we’d been able to experience more of the cuisine, but time for that wasn’t in our favor. I guess we’ll have to go back again!

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer enjoying her newly enhanced mom status and past Parenting Program participant.

Stuck in cyberspace? The hidden dangers of internet addiction

We are surrounded by cyberspace! Computers connect and help us in so many ways. We often take for granted all of the resources at our fingertips, at least until the power goes out! I’m enjoying the wonders of technology right now as I write this post on my computer and technology will allow you to read it. Technology is an amazing tool.

However, any tool can be used as a weapon. This same technology can be used for cyberattacks, cyberbullying, and even increased depression and anxiety resulting from too much negative news consumption. Too much screen time can horribly impact our relationships, health and mood.

How does this happen?

The immediate gratification from computers and mobile devices create a powerful reward loop that works something like this:

feel bored or unhappy → tap into internet or game → feel entertained/better

The reward pathways that light up in our brains when we use the internet are the same pathways that light up when we use alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs. Wow! Whether we use technology to escape bad feelings or just in a habitual way, risk factors for significant problems.

Taken to extremes, people can actually become addicted to the internet. There is scientific debate whether it’s truly considered a “mental disorder,” but we do know that psychological and social problems occur. Both China and South Korea identify internet addiction as a significant public health issue, and the United States is starting to take this issue more seriously as well.

How do you know if you or someone you love is addicted to the internet? A recent study describes signs, and you should consult a professional if you see:

  • “changes in mood,
  • preoccupation with the Internet and digital media,
  • the inability to control the amount of time spent interfacing with digital technology,
  • the need for more time or a new game to achieve a desired mood,
  • withdrawal symptoms when not engaged,
  • continuation of the behavior despite family conflict, a diminishing social life and adverse work or academic consequences” (Cash et al., 2012).

Parents know that kids need reduced screen time and lots of face-to-face, active interactions to thrive and grow. But at the same time, screens are all around us and the constant pull of notifications from emails, text messages, games and apps can leave us distracted and scattered. So how do we balance the benefit of technology with the hidden dangers of these amazing machines?

First and foremost, practice what you preach! If your phone is your constant companion, start being more mindful of how and when you use it. Specific tips for breaking digital addiction in our next post, so stay tuned!

– Dr. Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s

Phubbers and the “iPhone effect”

college students on phone and texting

Cropped image. John Morgan, Flickr. CC license.

iPhone Effect: Shortly after one person in the group brings out their iPhone, the rest follow suit, ultimately ending all conversation and eye contact.
– Urban Dictionary

The term “phubber” comes from a blend of “phone” and “snubber.” We’ve all been phubbed. You know the feeling: you’re talking to someone and his eyes drift down to his phone. Maybe the person checks it and replies in the middle of talking to you, without even acknowledging he’s doing it.

But, are you a phubber? Let’s find out! Here are a few of the indicators. Do you:

  • Check your phone during meals with others?
  • Check your phone during a lull in conversation?
  • Glance often at your phone while talking to someone?
  • Place your cell phone where you can see it when with others?

Take the full quiz!

comic-for-phubbing-app

How do “phubbees” feel? Surprise: Not great. In fact, it’s one of the newer factors in relationship dissatisfaction. A recent study at Baylor University found that phubbing your partner can become a significant source of conflict and leads to less relationship satisfaction. Why? Basically you’re prioritizing whatever is coming in on that phone over spending time with that person. Another study compared quality of conversations with and without cell phones present, and found that conversations were much more engaging and empathetic when phones were not in view or in a hand.

Why do we phub others? Simple: our phones are addicting! The reward pathways in our brain light up when we check our phones. These are the same reward pathways that drugs and gambling activate, by the way. Think of a phone like a slot machine — there could be something useful or interesting going on, and we don’t want to miss it! Pretty soon it’s habitual, we just pull out our phones and check whenever we are bored. Notifications pop up constantly from text messages, emails, social media or games. No wonder we can’t pay attention for long.

We’ll have more posts on this topic, but for now, you’ve learned about the “iPhone effect” and what phubbing is and why it’s harmful. Let’s not sacrifice the real world for the digital world. Do your relationships a favor and put the phones down! As I tell my kids, “The internet will still be there when you get back.”

– Dr. Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s

Code brown: Adventures in potty training

Little girl potty training her teddy bear

Cropped image. Manish Bansal, Flickr. CC license.

Take 1

At 18 months old, my daughter, we’ll call her C, started to show an interest in the toilet. I thought it was too early, but my mom insisted on getting her a potty. “She’s ready, honey,” Mom would say.

What do you know? On the first day we had the potty, she pooped in it. I squealed with delight. High-fives were flying. I was jumping up and down, yelling to my husband to come and see. All while my inner monologue was running wild: “Could it be?! C is diaper free at a year-and-a-half?! Do I have one of those mythical children who potty train themselves at a super young age?! This. Is. Amazing.”

This enthusiasm, however, was apparently quite terrifying because C wouldn’t even look at the potty, let alone sit on it, for weeks afterwards.

Take 2

We stopped being potty pushers and decided to take a more relaxed approach — we would let C tell us when she’s ready to start. However, around the two-year mark, a group of kids in her daycare class began potty training and we needed to jump on the bandwagon.

“But she’s not ready. Real underwear? She’s too little for that. Can’t we wait a little longer?” I begged her teacher. Nope. We had to reinforce at home what was being taught at daycare. Fine, way to be totally logical. We’ll try again.

Take 3 and 4 and 5…

At daycare, potty training progressed nicely. In the beginning, she often had accidents when they were outside playing (she didn’t want to stop to go to the bathroom) or during naptime. Lately, it’s been very infrequent, maybe once a week if that. Go daycare!

At home, it’s a different story. Rarely will C use the toilet and we never leave the house without a diaper or training pants on. I don’t get it. We’ve tried everything: sticker charts, chocolate chip bribes, positive reinforcement, commando weekends. I don’t know if I can read another “How to Potty Train Your Toddler in Three Days” article.

We’re constantly taking her into the bathroom and sitting her on the toilet with no results. On several occasions just moments after we leaving the bathroom, she had an accident (once hilariously on my husband while they watched TV; it was an especially juicy bowel movement).

Another favorite: going poop in the bathtub. I guess it is relaxing. But seriously C, a “code brown” is never a good way to kick off the bedtime routine.

So here we are nearly year after her toilet interest piqued and still changing diapers. Friends and family say not to worry. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “It’s best to avoid assuming that your child will begin training by a certain age.”

Most of my brain agrees – she’s only two and half. I get it; she has plenty of time. However, a small part of me is confused — why is potty training going so well at daycare and not at home? What’s their secret? Is C is just trying to fit in with the cool kids and go to the bathroom on the toilet? (I guess there’s worse forms of peer pressure.) But seriously, do I need a parade of toddlers to come through my house every hour and use the bathroom so C will too?

Oh, potty training. One of these days, we’ll figure you out. In the meantime, let’s commiserate. Share your potty training adventures in the comments below.

– Anne Hein is a volunteer with the Beaumont Parenting Program and mom of a strong-willed toddler. 


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