Monday, February 28, 2011

Playtime- it's a science!

One of the coolest things about my work is that I get to observe parents and preschoolers every day. More specifically, I watch videos of mothers and their children playing together and look for different behaviors and qualities. Then, we take those qualities, give them numbers, and see how they relate to other parts of the child’s life (e.g., verbal development, behavior problems).

One specific aspect we examine is what we call parental sensitivity. It has to do with how in-tune to the child the mother is and it manifests in lots of ways. For example, a very sensitive mother usually won’t insist that their child play with toys in a certain way and will even embrace the ‘new’ way her child approaches a toy. So, for instance, when her child decides to ‘cook’ the blocks in the play oven, a sensitive mom might remark, “Oh, I see you’re pretending that the blocks are food! What delicious meal are you making?” This not only allows the child her own creativity and independence to express herself, but it also encourages interaction and imagination.

Another way moms and dads can be sensitive and in-tune with their children during playtime is by letting the child take the lead, or being ‘child-centered.’ Being child-centered is in contrast to being adult-centered. Think of it this way: playtime isn’t about just you. It’s about your child or, better yet, the relationship between you and your child. A child-centered parent allows her child to influence the pace of play, but can tell when her child needs support (steadying a toy so that the child can manipulate it) or redirection (getting bored and moving to another toy/activity).

Being sensitive is in contrast to being intrusive- insisting that your child play according to your agenda and being overly directive ("Do it like this. No! Not like that! It doesn't go there!") or overwhelming your child with instructions or stimulation ("This one's green and this one's red and this one's blue. What's this called? What this called? What's this called??" When your child is clearly interested in something else.) OR being detached- going through the motions in an unemotional sort of way, not really paying full attention to what's going on.

Now wait a second. I know what you're thinking. You've all been there. Probably in both situations, but most definitely the latter- the 'I'm exhausted, you woke up 7 times last night, how in the world do you have energy for playing or expect me to have energy to play with you right now?' state of mind. It's okay. Remember when I told you it's okay not to be a perfect parent?? Okay, now that that's out of the way...

A different aspect we look at is called cognitive stimulation. Cognitive stimulation fosters healthy child development and is even related to outcomes like grades and obesity! So, what is it? Stimulation for preschool children starts with a goal of teaching. The goal can be accomplished in lots of ways: labeling objects or pictures in a book, having the child label, demonstrating how tools and toys are used, or even just commenting on what the child is doing in a descriptive way (“I see you’re using the green hammer to hammer the blue nail.”). Other ways to stimulate your child can be much more imaginative- encourage pretend play by pretending with your preschooler or create a story as you play. Try to balance learning and having fun!

This is just a small glimpse into what I get to do on a daily basis and what we look at when we watch moms and kids play. Want to know more about how to make the most out of playtime? I highly suggest The Ready Method.

P.S. One group of researchers thinks playtime is so important (and it is!) that they’ve created what they call the Ultimate Block Party 

Happy playtime!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tough Stuff: When a Parent is in Jail/Prison

It’s a scary thought- that either you or your child’s other parent could wind up in jail. An even scarier thought? That your child would have to face the reality of having an incarcerated parent. But it is the reality for about 3 million kids every day.

It’s easy to say ‘that would never happen to my family.’ It’s also very easy to judge the families that it happens to. One of the smartest things I’ve ever heard was told to me by a mentor in college: ‘On the whole, most every parent is trying to do the very best for his or her child.’ In short: don’t judge parents.

In situations where one or both parents are incarcerated, it’s up to the other parent or some other caregiver (often a grandparent, aunt, uncle, foster parent) to care for the child, who will undoubtedly have many questions about where his or her parent is. Unfortunately, very few resources exist for these caregivers. However, one book that tackles this extremely tough situation is What Will Happen To Me? By Howard Zehr and Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz.

What Will Happen To Me? profiles several children, giving glimpses into their thoughts and emotions when they had to deal with having an incarcerated parent. But, in my opinion, the crème de la crème of this book is the latter half that gives caregivers a guide to caring for children who have a parent in jail or prison. The guide takes caregivers through:
  • Questions frequently asked by children and suggested answers based on the opinions of early childhood experts and rules of the prison systems
  • Dealing with specific emotions children may experience as a result of having an incarcerated parent
  • The logistics of staying in touch with incarcerated parents
  • Handling the return of a parent from jail or prison
  • Self care for caregivers
  • A ‘Bill of Rights’ for children of incarcerated parents

The book is great and based on the guide, here are a few take home points:
1.     Always tell children the truth about where their parent is
2.     Children will need lots of reassurance regarding their emotions and feelings during this difficult time
3.     Communication with the parent is important, if possible
4.     Self care for the caregiver is important, as is an outlet for emotions

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Parent of the Week: Kristan

This week's Avant Garde Parent of the Week is Kristan. She's a fellow Texan who has a precious little cowboy! Read on as she describes her transition from the work world to the mommy world...

As always, if you'd like to be a Parent of the Week or would like to nominate someone, email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!


Hi, my name is Kristan and I have been married to my wonderful husband Michael for 5 years.  I am a full time mom; wow it has taken me a long time to say that!  I never desired to be; I always wanted and pictured myself in the "working world".  I was laid off from my job when Austin was just 4 months old, and I had a hard time finding the time to look for a job with the little guy.  Then I lost the desire to go back to "work" (although some days it would be far easier!).  So, here I am, in love with my little guy and a full time mom!  My hobbies are cooking, walking at the park, church, enjoying family time, and reading (when I have time). :)

Austin is now 15 months old and has been very busy ever since he was mobile!  We stay very busy with Kindermusik, play dates, church, and story time.  All of these are fun, but I would have to say playing at the park has been Austin's new favorite thing.  We go to the park almost daily, swings and slides are fun, but dirt and sticks are fascinating to my little guy!  It is so much fun to see his little mind observe and take it all in!  Music has also been a huge part of Austin's life every since he was born.  I started playing music for him when I put him down to nap so I didn't have to tip toe around the house while he was sleeping.  Now, it is a huge comfort for him but it has become educational as well with his age.  Kindermusik has helped him grow and learn a steady beat, we also sing about are hands and toes!  It is so amazing to see how much he can absorb at such a young age!

I think what surprised me most about parenting is there isn't always an answer!  I finally accepted after many moments of defeat to relax and enjoy the ride.  I didn't come into parenting with a plan, but everyone said you will figure it out.  Well I feel that it took me a while, but here I am flaws and all doing the best I can!  

Each week I try to have a new experience with Austin.  A few weeks ago we were iced in, all the schools and roads were closed.  I put all of Austin's balls in my bathtub and made a big ball pit.  Another week we went to a different park and I let him walk in the sand bare foot, he didn't like the texture of sand in his toes, but it was so funny to see his little face!  Moments like those will be in my mind forever, experiences and adventures are the best and I look forward to many more with him!

Kristan and Past Parents of the Week: Feel free to grab the Parent of the Week Badge:


Monday, February 21, 2011

Teaching Children Independence

Every parent wants his or her child to become independent. When children get older and enter adulthood, independence is important so that parents can retire and children are no longer draining their financial resources see their children succeed the way they always knew they would. But when children are younger, independence seems to serve a more immediate need. Whether it’s cleaning up toys, putting away mealtime dishes, or even just moving shoes out of the doorway, once children master the fine art of doing things independently, life seems easier and less stressful for the whole family.

A recent report from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at Vanderbilt University breaks downs simple steps for parents who are in the midst of trying to teach young children how to just ‘put away your shoes, already’ without becoming too frustrated.

 Here are some highlights from the report for parents of preschool-aged children:

  • Break down routines into steps and stay positive. While it’s a knee-jerk reaction to say ‘stop splashing the water!’ it’s much more positive and effective to say ‘all done washing/brushing teeth. Now let’s turn the water off.’
  • Think of it as a ‘how to’ (remember having to write these in school?). Use words like ‘First’ ‘Next’ ‘Then’ ‘Last’
  • Be encouraging. Don’t reprimand. This will discourage your child from wanting to perform tasks independently
  • If your child is reading, consider leaving funny notes- ‘I don’t like to get splashed!’ on the toilet seat, for example

How do you help your child learn independence through routines?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Avant Garde Parent of the Week: Kimberly

This week’s Avant Garde Parent of the Week is Kimberly from Stinker Pinkers! I love, love, love her and you will, too! Her blog is one of my daily reads and she has two of the CUTEST little boys on this green Earth. Enjoy!

As always, if you'd like to be a Parent of the Week or would like to nominate someone, email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!


First I'd like to thank my virtual BFF Allie over at Little Baby Fields for nominating me for this.  I will admit most weeks I don't feel like parent of the week...in fact most days I joke that I am not going to make Mother of the Year...again!  But parenting is a journey...so here we go! 

Tell me a little about you- Who are you? What do you do? Do you dance in the car?
My name is Kimberly and I am a new stay at home mom to my two little boys.  I run a blog called The Stinker Pinkers, which is a hodge-podge or a hot mess of my mommy life. I am a new transplant to Indiana from Minnesota.  I recently left my job as a Social Worker to move here for my husband’s job.  Speaking of husbands…I have one!  His name is Rich, we've been married for 6 years and he is a great dad and really should be the one featured as the parent of the week…he keeps me sane to be able to be a good mommy.   We also have a 4-year-old Shih Tzu who we adopted last spring named Phoebe and an 8-year-old cat named Bridget.  Both pets were named after my favorite TV or Movie Characters; Phoebe Buffet from Friends and Bridget from Bridget Jones Diary. 

I am an aspiring freelance writer hoping to make a go at that from home so I can continue to be available for my children even when they are in school.  I love to write and I am working on my writing skills.  What I lack in eloquence in my writing I make up for in personality…ha! ha!

I can’t say I “dance” in the car, I sway and “raise the roof.”  I suppose that is a form of dance…but I encourage the boys to car seat dance…that is where you are still safely buckled in but able to get your groove on!

Tell me about your kiddos
Oh my children.  My boys are wonderful, sweet, mischievous, curious, naughty and funny. I could rave about all their GREAT qualities and complain about all I have to work on with them, it’s a real balance!  Ian is 4 years old.  He is growing up so fast and I love the age he’s at.  He is old enough to help his brother with things and knows how to listen to directions when he chooses too.  He is in preschool, which he really loves and is a smart kid!  Dalton is 2 years old.  He has been walking since he was 9 months old and has not stopped moving since.  He is putting sentences together and plays well independently.   He likes trains, that’s his major interest at the moment.

What surprised you most about parenting?
I am going to sound totally naïve when I say this.  I had no idea when we choose to have children how hard it was going to be!  I must have read every book about being pregnant and forgot to study up on what happens after they are born.  The phases are the hardest. Because once you think you’ve mastered the phase they have immediately moved on to something new you have to work on with them.  People kept telling me when they were born, “enjoy it! The time goes so fast.” And I thought,  “oh my gosh!  That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.  I haven’t slept in 2 days and I have vomit on my shirt and they want me to enjoy this!” But now I do get it.  Time with your children does go quickly so I do try and savor the moments and the memories with them. 

What one tip would you give other parents? 
Don’t take yourself as a parent too seriously.  I sure don’t!  I think when we become parents we automatically think we have to be this strict disciplinarian, keep our children away from TV, and sing only songs that Barney would sing around the house.  One of the best things you can do for your children is make sure that they know you adore them and love them, but the world does not revolve around them.   It’s okay to be yourself and be a great parent.  I notice a lot of moms trying way to hard at being perfect and making sure their children have everything.  I think you should just be you and your kids will ultimately respect you for that!  Don’t be something you’re not!  As an example, I have two boys.  I have felt like I need to start liking sports and encouraging them to like sports.  Um…I am a girly girl.  I hate sports.  It’s not in my blood.  So I decided I would wear lots of pink, buy myself pretty Vera Bradley bags and stop trying to be the stereotypical mom of boys and just be who I am.  My boys like that their mama is a bit of a girly girl and I think it makes me a better mom because I’m being true to myself.

How have you had to be Avant Garde as a parent?
I was raised in a family of all girls.  So I have had to learn how to parent boys.  Girls play a little more quietly than boys.  My boys need to burn energy a few times a day.  It leads them to jumping off high surfaces and running around in circles.  Winter months are awful for moms with boys.  So I started exercising with my boys in the house when we can’t get out.  We use a lot of workout videos and dance music and we get into our work out clothes and 'burn baby burn!'  My boys think it’s fun that they are “exercising” and I get in a little workout and an activity.  Even if it only lasts 10-15 minutes it’s good for everyone! 

Thank you so much for allowing me to share some things about my family and why I love being a parent.  My favorite parenting quote is: “Parenting the days are long but the years are short!” There is no greater honor than to be chosen by God to parent a child! 

Kimberly and Past Parents of the Week: Feel free to grab the Parent of the Week Badge:


Monday, February 14, 2011

Extreme Parenting: How Far is Too Far?

Here's my CBS 11 clip on the topic. Many, many tanks to CBS Dallas for having me- I have such a blast sharing with parents this way! (Read on- there's more below the clip!)

We all heard the story of Tiger Mom- and if you didn’t, here’s a recap: strict, Chinese, Yale law school professor mom raises two daughters the ‘traditional Chinese’ way, according to her- including practices such as forcing them to practice piano pieces for hours at a time with no bathroom breaks and throwing less-than-acceptable Mother’s Day Cards back at them. Her argument? It teaches them to live in the competitive, unforgiving, global society.

My argument? Children need to have a say in their lives (you knew I was going to say that, right?!). When parents outright reject the opinions of their children and exert complete power over them, children cannot grow and develop as independent, self-governing individuals. Think about it: if someone is always making decisions for you (and rejecting the few decisions you do make on your own) how will you ever learn to think on your own and live independently and fearlessly in the world around you?

There’s always the question of: My child is painfully shy/timid. Should I push him to join a club/group/sport?
I definitely don’t think it’s a mistake to introduce the idea of joining an organized activity. You can do it in a gentle way- make a list of lots of activities you think might interest him and see if any catch his eye. If he says no, talk about why. But if he persists with his decision not to join, I don’t know that I’d force him to. Think about it this way: if he’s that shy, would he really enjoy being a part of a large group? Or would it just be overwhelming and intimidating? He’ll have the experience of being a part of a group in other ways: classroom activities, group projects, etc. and he’ll get camaraderie through his close friends and family. Just because you think being a part of an organized sport or activity would be good for him doesn’t mean it’s the only way for him to experience life.

My daughter is getting overweight. Unfortunately, I know that attractive people are treated better in this world- should I push her to lose the weight?
Hopefully as a parent, your reasons for wanting a child to lose weight are health-oriented and not appearance oriented. You should always encourage your children to focus on what other people have to offer on the inside- things like morals and character traits, not appearance.

That said, there are, of course, health benefits to being of a healthy weight. When helping a child maintain a healthy weight, researchers are unanimous: keep the focus on health, not weight. Help your child choose healthy foods and balanced meals, exercise and stay active, and get enough sleep. Don’t focus on pounds or the way she looks. Doing so will only lead to dissapointment.

My child wants to quit an activity he is involved in. Should I let him? Or push him to stay in it?
Here’s a situation where it’s probably best to talk about why your child wants to stop the activity. Is it because he’s no longer interested and/or is becoming interested in something else? Then it may be time for a change. Is it because he’s had a tough season and doesn’t like losing? Then it’s time for a talk about why not every season will be a winning season (a tough conversation- but end it on a high note à what can you improve on next season?).

This situation is one where you and your child really have to talk it out together and use your best judgment.

At the end of the day, remember: your child is a different person than you are. She may be interested in similar things as you were as a child, but she may not. Do your best to have an open mind and be supportive.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Inspiring Creativity Through Stories

When I was in elementary school, I wrote my own version of a children’s book (for a school project). It was called ‘Stinky the Dog.’ I must admit, it was loosely (closely?) based on our own family pet. In the story, ‘Stinky’ smelled horribly bad, but no one in the town wanted to hurt his feelings, so instead of telling him that he stunk, they all just wore gas masks. And everyone lived happily ever after. Sigh.

Do you ever make up stories with your kiddos? Creating stories with your children and turning them into books and illustrations can be great fun- even with the youngest of youngsters! Plus, kiddos come up with the best, funniest stories- just imagine how great it will be to read them back five or ten years from now!

One kiddo who has done just this has actually published her stories- have you heard of her? Paris Morris, at the ripe old age of 12, writes stories about her younger twin sisters. Her first book, I’m Having Twins! chronicles the changes young children experience when a sibling (or two!) comes along- but from the invaluable perspective and voice of a child. And can I just tell you how great the illustrations are in these books?! Perfect even for the youngest of bookworms! Her NEXT book, Paris goes to San Francisco, is coming out this Valentine’s Day!

Oh, and you might want to click on my giveaway tab at the top of the page, hint, hint!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Research with Children: What it's Really Like

I’m a researcher. It sounds kind of boring when I put it that way. But you read this blog, right? And you enjoy it, right? (Right??) Well, Most everything I write is based on...research. People who donate their brains to science. Heh heh. That was a research joke. Okay.

But really, research with children is important because it informs policy, interventions, and education and curriculum. Ever wonder how teachers know how to help kids who are falling behind in reading? Research. Know why doctors tell you to put babies to sleep on their backs? Research.

So how do I find out all the information I write to you about? Some research, like the kind I do, is conducted by going out and visiting families in their homes. We interview parents and ‘play games’ with kids (which are really research tasks- we’re collecting data- but they really are fun games for the kids. Really. Fun.). One of the tasks we do is like this little gem but modified for younger kiddos. We go back to the lab (it looks more like an office), enter the data into a computer, crunch some numbers, analyze them, and write up articles to share with the scientific community. Sounds easy, but in actuality, it takes a lot of time, money, and energy.

Some research is conducted via the computer- through surveys and questionnaires. This is the kind you yourself can be a part of. Yes you can be an indelible part of science and make your imprint on the face of research forever. (Too cheesy? Did it have an impact?)

It’s super easy to participate. Below are just a few studies that you can be a part of. An ethics board reviews each of the studies before allowing them to collect data from participants. In each study, you are not required to give any identifying information and you may quit at any time.

1. Study of mothers’ experiences and feelings about childbirth and the transition into being the mother of her new baby (for mothers of babies under 12months) Click here

2. Study of parents’ feelings and attitudes about how children use objects such as blankets and toys (parents of 2.5 – 5 year-olds) Click here

3. Study of children's emotional development (parents of 12-26 month old children) Click here

If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, have a young child, and are interested in participating in research, there are several opportunities listed here.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Parent of the Week: Julie

When I read the post for this week's Parent of the Week, I thought, 'I like her. We could be friends.' I think you'll all feel the same. Julie is down to earth, funny, creative, and just plain awesome. She blogs over at Ad Bits - check it out after you read her post!

As always, if you'd like to be a Parent of the Week or would like to nominate someone, email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!


Tell me a little about you- Who are you? What do you do? Hobbies? Do you dance in the car?
I am a thirty year old mommy to two little girlies (Molly, 3 years and Adrienne, 20 months) and a Sheltie (Allie, 7) and wife to one handsome guy with big ears (the better to hear me with!).  The girls and I stay at home and play normal things like school, dress-up, and Candyland, and some not so normal things like, “smell my feet and say ‘ewwww!’” or the “Mommy-is-a-sick-dinosaur, but-I-have-the-magic-crystals-to-save-her” game.
When I’m not picking play-dough out of the carpet or scrubbing Jell-O off the wall, I like blogging (obvious!), writing, reading, knitting, jogging (short distances at a slow pace is my style), and caring for my exotic doorknob collection.  Just kidding about that last one.  I also like stupid jokes.
I do dance in the car!  And sing and apply make-up and read and talk on the phone and eat and do ab exercises.  But never text.

Tell me a little about your children.
Oops, I jumped the gun on this one, didn’t I?  I already introduced Molly and Adrienne, but of course I’m happy to tell you more about them!  Molly is a 38 pound ball of blonde energy.  She’s not scared of anything (even T-Rexes!) and will tackle anything or anyone.  I love her confidence and silliness.  Adrienne is the opposite of Molly.  She is cautious (crossing thresholds makes her nervous- anything could be on the other side!) and quiet.  Adrienne won’t just give smiles out unless a person has earned it.  She is sincere and sweet and will always take time to snuggle with her Mommy.

What surprised you most about parenting?
The guilt!  I always thought my parents punished me for fun.  I truly believed they enjoyed it, but the truth has come out.  It’s awful!  Parents don’t want to be cranky!  We don’t want to give you a time-out!  Being the bad guy stinks!  Kids, when you’re upstairs crying, there is a good chance your Mom is downstairs crying.
The only thing that surprised me more than the guilt was the complete adoration.  I think any mom will agree- all the clichés are true!  Kids really do change your life.  I really didn’t have any idea I could love somebody so very much.  They really do give my life new meaning.  True, true, and true!  

How have you had to be Avant Garde as a parent?
I read all the books like every mom-to-be, but I had no game plan going into motherhood.  Should I be strict or lax when it came to nap times?  What about nursing?  I knew I was going to do it, but had no plan for a schedule.  Co-sleeping?  I couldn’t make up my mind!  I am very much a Libra and pregnancy just magnified my indecisiveness.

Once my babies arrived, I just started winging it (and I still do- but don’t tell them; they seem to think I know what I’m doing!)  As it turned out both girls put themselves on a nap schedule.  I just fed Molly whenever she was hungry, but Adrienne did better with planned mealtimes.  I didn’t co-sleep with either girl until they were nine months old and then only for a few months, until they started kicking the crud out of me. 

Now that the girls are a bit older innovation and creativity seem critical in a different, how-to-keep-them-entertained kind of way.  Some of my most innovative moments have come from sheer desperation.  What mom hasn’t masterminded some sanity-saving game (like “close your eyes and guess what’s in my purse”) in a waiting room to appease crabby, crying kids?  That’s a breeding ground of innovation for we mommies, right?

Thank you so much Avant Garde Parenting for letting me be Parent of the Week; it is such an honor! 


Julie and Past Parents of the Week: Feel free to grab the Parent of the Week Badge:


Monday, February 7, 2011

Who Takes Care of Mommy: Update

actual storm photo
I'm so sad to tell you that the forum I was scheduled to attend got cancelled because of severe weather. Last week, we got a few inches of solid ice, covered by 6 inches of thick snow, topped off with over 100 hours of sub-zero temperatures. Where do I live, you ask. Dallas, Texas. That's right. The land of heat and cowboys, 70+ degree Christmases, and record breaking summers. I'm sure many of you also had to deal with the crazy winter storm. I'll tell you- I've never seen anything like this in my life. 

Anyhow, said forum will be held- but in June.

However, since I think the topic of self care is so important, I decided to give you some fun, easy, free(ish) ways to take care of yourself!

But first- here's my CBS 11 clip on the topic!

1. Take a bubble bath. Have you ever heard that saying that once you have children, the only privacy you can get is in the bathroom? Take advantage. In fact, spend ten extra minutes. Do not feel guilty.

2. Make what you want for dinner. Even if you end up making something else for your kids, make yourself what you want one night a week. You'll love yourself for it. Do not feel guilty.

3. Get dressed up on a Tuesday. For no one else but yourself. If you don't want to get dressed up, at least put on your nice makeup (we all have it- the 'nice' lip gloss). It'll make you feel good.

4. Car dance. I'm telling you, it turns a bad mood good. Kesha's my guilty pleasure- what's yours?

5. Give someone else a compliment. Brightening someone else's day will make you feel good on the inside. Try it.

What do you do to take care of yourself? Read more...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Parenting Quick Challenge: Focus on You

Monday's post asked 'Who takes care of YOU?' If your answer was 'I don't know' or 'No one really,' then it has to be YOU who takes care of you! Today's Parenting Quick Challenge is a repost because I think it's so important to take time out for yourself. It makes you a better you and it makes you a better parent.

Today's challenge has two parts:

1. Take some 'me' time, even if it's just 10 minutes. Resist the urge to empty the dishwasher, fold the laundry, or take out the trash. Instead, make yourself a cup of hot tea, soak 10 minutes longer in the shower, or send an email to an old friend. It will recharge you and you'll feel energized.

2. Tell you children something about you. Tell your very young children your favorite color or food; tell your older children how you deal with happiness or frustration- but make it about you. Children learn through actions and sharing something unique to you will help them learn that every person is different. 

Okay, you know the next part. Tell me about it! What did you share? What were your children's reactions? Read more...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Parent of the Week: Erica

I’ve got an extra special Parent of the Week- Erica. She’s an American. Who married an Englishman. Who now lives in the UK. Everybody now! But really, Erica has had some amazing adventures traveling back and forth with her kids, and, let's be honest, she deserves a trophy for even attempting it!

Tell me about your children.
I currently have 2.3 children. Joel is 3 and a half. He is the dream first child! So much fun. Interested in everything, very chatty and full of energy. Alice is just over 1. And again full of personality. She is very determined and loves her mummy! And baby number 3 is due in early May.

How did you meet your husband and wind up all the way in the UK?
I studied abroad in London for six weeks one summer. I met Phil the first weekend I was here and fell for him straight away. We got engaged 4 months later, (its not easy to date someone in a different country. Even a phone call was a challenge with a 6 hour time change!) and married 3 months later. Then I moved to London.

Can you see any big differences between American and UK parents?
It’s really difficult to say because America is really big and everyone has such different styles/ attitudes, but the most noticeable thing is maternity leave. Here mothers get a year off with each child. They are paid during this time and guaranteed their job when they return. Plus most jobs are very flexible with part-time/ job shares for parents who choose to return to work. I do stay home full time, but it means that there are lots of mums around me with little ones. I think this has helped with my transition into parenthood because I was surrounded by experienced mums. They helped with the cultural differences.

Have you traveled to the US with your kids? How did the trip go/What's your best tip for traveling with kids?
I’ve done 4 transatlantic trips with kids. Two with babies, one by myself with an 18 month old and one trip with my husband with both kids. I won’t lie; it’s a really long flight. At best it is 11 hours. Plus you have the journey on either side to and from the airport. Lots of food helps. Once they hit the magic age of about 18 moths and start to watch TV it gets much easier. Otherwise just go with a positive attitude and be prepared for the worst. Then I am always pleasantly surprised that it was easier than I expected. Sadly the hard work awaits you when you arrive. It’s the time change that my kids always find the hardest!

Tell me a funny story about one of the kiddos.
Joel has started asking "why" to everything! So I decided to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Joel- I'm hungry
me- why?
Joel- cause I want something to eat.
me- why?
Joel- stop being ridiculous mummy!

What American comfort items do you miss?
I am starting to miss less and less these days. There is always the feeling here that I am foreign so I guess I miss feeling normal. Something most people don’t ever think about. I am always the one with the funny accent! But I love it here, and I love that I get to live in such a great country! It feels like I am on always on an amazing adventure!

- Oh and I love Butterfingers! If anyone makes a trip to the US I always ask them to bring one back!!

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