Monday, August 27, 2012

The Risks of Hand Washing.

Yep, you read that right.  I said risks.  and I mean risks.  I may be in the minority on this but hear me out.

No, no, you say. Washing hands protects children from diseases.  The CDC recommends it.  Your fellow P-SAHM recommends it.  How could it ever be bad?  The answer is complicated.  Obviously hand washing is important and helps prevent diseases.  But let me tell you a story.

When my children were toddlers, I started dropping them off at the gym day care so that I could tackle my post-baby belly.  The runny noses of strange kids and overall griminess of the toys totally freaked me out but I knew I needed to exercise for my own health.  So every day I cringed as I dropped them off and gave them a little squirt of hand sanitizer as I picked them up.  Sounds reasonable, right?  I am sure most of you would do the exact same thing.  But . . . .

One day Miss M. left the gym really upset.

me: What happened?
Miss M: A kid touched my arm.
me: You mean, a kid hit you?
Miss M: No.  He just touched me but the kids at the gym are dirty.  Right, Mom?  I don't play with them   so I won't get germs. . .

And with that, I stopped washing their hands as we left the gym.  The benefits of avoiding a few colds, didn't outweigh the risks of raising a daughter who was afraid to interact with other kids.

My husband and I are both prone to anxiety.  Not only that but OCD runs in both sides of our family.  Our poor kids have the genetic deck stacked against them when it comes to anxiety, so I want to do everything in my power to build an environment for them that discourages anxiety.  Since germs and hand washing are part of typical obsessive/compulsive behaviors, we downplay it.

We wash hands before we eat (if I remember) and after we use the bathroom.  I mention germs but I don't emphasize them and I have not taught them to wash their hands for 20 seconds.  I do not want them to feel like it is possible to wash their hands incorrectly. This seems like a slippery slope to the repeated hand washing so stereotypical of OCD.

Yes, it is sometimes hard for me not to chase them around with hand sanitizer or force them to wash their hands repeatedly when I catch them picking up goat poop because it looked like "a lemon" (we did wash repeatedly for that one) but I stand by my decision to prioritize protecting them from compulsive behaviors over avoiding germs.  I do not want my children to feel like the world is contaminated.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hidden Dangers From Sharing Smartphone Pictures Online

Parents, if you haven't already, turn off the GPS setting on photos from your smartphone that you post online. Click here for a great explanation about how metadata stored in photos can easily share details that you may not want to be sharing, including your home address.

Check out this alarming news report about how easy it is for someone to find out where you or your child lives, attends school, daycare, etc. 

Click here to get instructions on how to turn off the geotagging setting on different smartphone models. It's a pretty simple process. This site has more detailed instructions if you are having problems.

I am a little appalled that the factory setting for this isn't to have it turned off, since most people are not aware of what is being shared in metadata. Please pass along this information to other parents. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to school, back to flu season

Kids are gross. Yes, they are also adorable and funny and wonderful, but there is a whole lot of disgusting mixed in with all of that cute stuff. Last month, we went out for breakfast at a pancake house. At some point during breakfast, I noticed Sunny chewing on a piece of gum.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.
“From under the table” She replied.

Initiate dry-heave. All the hand-sanitizer in the world couldn’t help me with that one. 

My son Boober showing how gross/cute kids can be simultaneously

School is starting soon, along with cold/flu season. I know to expect the onslaught of nasty crud my son brings home from preschool. Just the thought of it frustrates me. Microorganisms are such an abstract concept. Even as an adult it’s easy to forget that they literally coat every surface we come into contact with.  How am I supposed to make my preschooler and toddler aware of their existence and keep that in their memory? Thankfully, a few things seem to be working.

Ideas for teaching kids about germs and hand washing:

Glitter object lesson
I've heard it described as the herpes of crafting. Glitter is insidious. No matter how careful you are, it seems nearly impossible to keep it from coating every surface. Once it’s on you, good luck getting it off.

But, it is the perfect illustration of how easily germs are spread. I had one of my kids dip their palms in glitter and shake the hands of all of the other children in our preschool co-op. It was everywhere- their clothes, their hands, their faces. I may be cleaning up glitter for the next ten years, but if my sparkly object lesson prevents even one nasty virus from infiltrating our home, it will be worth the mess.

The hand washing song
According to the CDC website, we should wash our hands for twenty seconds, or for the amount of time it takes to sing the happy birthday song twice. My kids are always in a hurry. They like to barely wet their hand and then run out of the bathroom if I’m not watching closely. But, the bathroom song helps. They sing it twice since it takes about the same amount of time as “Happy Birthday,” but the added bonus is that it reminds them of how they need to wash their hands.

 (To the Tune of  Frere Jacques” or “Are you sleeping Brother John”)

Over, under, Over, under, Scrub between, Scrub between, Rinse the tops and bottoms, Rinse the tops and bottoms, Hands so clean! Hands so clean!  

Elbow sneezing
Teach your kids to sneeze into the crook of their elbow. Sneezing into your hand isn’t as sanitary. Even if you wash your hands right afterwards, think of all of the things you touch on your way to the bathroom.

Got Nose Pickers?

Maybe threats of severed extremities isn't your style, but it's how I roll. I read this Shel Silverstein poem to my kids every once in a while. I caught Boober trying to stick a carrot up his nose to "feed the snail" once, so make sure you clarify that sharp-toothed snails ONLY eat fingers. 

Another fun resource is Youtube. It is replete with videos about germs and hand washing. Click here for a music video from Sid the Science kid about the Journey of a Germ.

Does anyone else have some tips to share on helping to keep the crud at bay? 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Worry p0rn: A Confession

Wonderful Site Httpthewanderlustprojectcom

What's Worry p0rn, you ask?  Well, let me give you a scenario.  You notice a rash on your daughter's belly, so you start googling rashes and pictures of rashes.  So far so good, right?  BUT  . . .one click leads to another and before you know it, two hours has passed and you are reading an obscure forum complaining about the side effects of a medicine your child "might" need if it turns out she has whatever obscure disease you have self-diagnosed her with.  Meanwhile, your house is trashed and your children have been stuffing themselves on chocolate chips because you were "too busy" to make them a snack.   That, my friends, is Worry p0rn.  And I used to be an addict.  In fact, my husband is the one who coined the term.  

Want another example?  Remember back when Swine Flu was all the rage?  I was obsessed.  I spent hours on forums debating the swine flu vaccine.  I checked Google Flu Trends multiple times a day (a pretty cool site, BTW . . . if you are not compulsive about it).  I spent hours scouring the internet for swine flu updates and statistics.  Worry p0rn at it's finest.  And, the good news is all this worry and effort totally protected my family.  Oh wait.  Not really.  It didn't do a single bit of good.  In fact, I lost hours of time with my husband and children because I couldn't stop looking for that "one more site" that would have the answers.  

I'm hoping some of you can relate to this.  If not, you can all have a good laugh at my epic Paranoid-SAHMness.   On the off chance that you do relate, here is what helped me.  I started journaling and honestly noticing whether my worry p0rn was helpful.  It literally never was.  I never once felt better or reassured.  Looking up topics always led to more things to worry about.  Even if the first 10 websites I found said everything was okay, I would keep looking until I found the one with the worst case scenario.  I feel anxious just thinking about it.

Finally my husband convinced me to stop cold turkey (he may or may not have threatened to cancel our internet).  It wasn't easy.  At first, not "researching" every little thing on the web made me feel like I was putting my children at risk.  Like it would be my fault if something bad happened because I didn't scour the web hard enough.  But over time, it got easier.

A Hypochrondiac's Nightmare
i love xkcd

I still fall off the wagon sometimes but for the most part I am worry p0rn free.  In fact, this year I bought my kids sunscreen without checking its score on EWG first.   A major accomplishment.

Okay, fine.  I gave in and checked it a few days later but that was after I had already used the sunscreen.  So I am still counting it as progress.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Worries of a Paranoid SAHM: Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

My sister called me in tears today.  She had . . gasp . . .broken a Compact Fluorescent light bulb (CFL) right in front of her 15 month old.

Her husband just laughed her off, "Babe, it's not a big deal."
"But, they have mercury vapors," my sister sobbed.
"They do?"  Not the response she was hoping for. People who don't already know that CFLs contain mercury are not qualified to offer reassurances.

My dad (the doctor), my mom and sister all told her not to worry and that it wasn't a big deal. But my sister didn't need rational reassurances.  She needed sympathy and understanding.  Paranoid SAHM to the rescue.

"Oh no.  Did you immediately open the windows and leave the house for at least 15 minutes," I asked? See, as a fellow Paranoid SAHM I had already researched what to do in case of a broken CFL and I could hear the relief in her voice as she said, "You've researched it too?"  "Of course," I said. "And if it were me, I'd leave the house for the rest of the day."

Now rationally, my sister and I know that it is really not a big deal.  I even told her as much, but I had to admit that I would be freaked out too.  If you want to join our freak out party, check out the  EPA web page on cleaning up a broken CFL.  

If that's not enough to freak you out, check this out.  Researchers have found that if you clean up broken CFLs right away, there is no harm at all BUT (and this is the freaky part) broken CFLs continue to emit mercury vapors for at least 43 days (that was the length of the study).  Yikes.  It is crazy to me that this is the more environmentally friendly option.  

What's a Paranoid SAHM to do?  

Here's what the EPA says:

  • Open windows, turn off ventilation (so that the vapors don't circulate around your house) and leave the area for 15 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes, clean up the shards using duct tape, or a wet cloth depending on the surface.  Do not use your vacuum or it will get contaminated as well.  
  • Put pieces in a glass jar or sealed plastic bag and dispose of outside (check your local regulations though, some areas require CFLs to go through hazardous waste rather than curbside pick up).  

What this Paranoid SAHM does:

Call me self-centered but I would rather use incandescent lights than bring mercury into my home with young children.   Even the EPA recommends not using CFLs in floor lamps, or bedside lamps because the bulbs are more likely to get broken.  We do use one in our porch light, and my husband installed one on our stairs.  But it freaks me out every time I turn it on.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Letter to my Daughter About Beauty

Dear Sunshine,

Last week, you knocked your teeth out. You were doing your usual thing- being a daredevil, conquering the world with your balance bike on an extremely steep driveway with tons of uncoordinated gusto. 

After our visit to the dentist, I pulled out the camera and asked you to smile. You flashed me the biggest grin imaginable, so proud of yourself.

Then I broke into tears. It was a strange reaction, I know. I didn't cry because I was sad about your new smile (it is epic amounts of adorable), and not out of guilt for your injury (you are a force even the most attentive mother probably couldn't completely contain), but because of your beautiful, innocent confidence.

You see, you haven't let the world affect you yet, and it is so breathtakingly beautiful.  I wish I could bottle it up and hand out that confidence to the world. 
It can be hard being a girl in this silly world. People come in all different shapes, colors and sizes. The world is like a rainbow- so many different people to see. Beautiful people. But how would you feel if someone told you that the only good color in this rainbow was green? Wouldn't that be dumb? I like green, but a rainbow made of all green wouldn't be half as awesome as one with all the colors.

Sometimes, people tell other people that they are only beautiful or important if they look a certain way. 

In China, they use to think that small feet were pretty. I don't know why. Big feet are awesome for helping us swim fast and for balance, but somewhere along the way, someone decided little feet were the best... and everyone started believing them. 
So many people started believing, that they even began breaking their feet to make them look smaller. Isn't that Silly?!

Photo sources: top and bottom
I don't know about you, but I'm glad I have feet that I can run and jump with. My feet take me places- they aren't something I spend too much time looking at. I think I'd fall over with those silly, painful small feet.

In other parts of the world, they do all kinds of interesting things for the sake of what is considered beautiful:
They stretch their lips and put plates in them

And in other places they stretch their necks with rings.

It may seem strange to us, but we didn't grow up in those places. It's hard for us to understand.

 It  can be more difficult for us to see some of the things that we do when we are immersed in it. Here are just a few examples of what people where we live may do for the sake of beauty:

Photo source
Some people paint their faces with makeup

Others wear swimsuits that would be hard to swim in, because they think it makes them look pretty. I bet the high heels would make it hard to run and play in the sand, too.

People even make silly faces because they think it's pretty

Other people put lots of things on their body.

Isabell Caro: French model and anti-anorexia crusader, died at age 28

Some people even start to think that their body has to be a certain shape or weight, and make themselves sick trying to look that way.

Not all of these things are bad. It can be fun to be artistic and creative with our appearance. I like putting on some red lipstick when I'm feeling fancy. But, somewhere along the line, a lot of people started to believe that the best way to express themselves was through how their body looked on the outside.  But Sunshine,  true beauty is much too powerful to ever let anyone put it into a small, defined box. True beauty is deep. It is contagious. It is how a person makes you feel in their presence. It is inspiring.
Aimee Mullins, paralympian athlete
It is someone who has the strength and determination to do what some might say is impossible.

Photo source 
It is compassion.

It is seeing another person's need, and trying your best to fill it.

Stephanie Nielson- Plane crash survivor and mother, pictured with her daughter
It is love that conquers all. Love that grows deeper with trials.

Beauty is sharing laughter

Sally Ride: First American woman in space)
It's reaching for the stars. It's not ever letting anybody tell you that you can't achieve something.

It's having the courage to stand your ground

and honoring those who have paved your way with their example.

It is knowing that even the smallest among us have something to teach us, knowing that every soul is priceless.

Beauty is wearing your Superman jammies with pride because you know that being girly is so much more than just pink and princesses.

Beauty comes in so many shapes and sizes and colors

Photo source
True beauty gets better with age

Mommy when she was pregnant with you (Photo by Kim Barlow)
Beauty is creating something so much bigger than yourself... and loving yourself through all of your body's changes

Beauty is proudly smiling through broken teeth and a fat lip because you know how awesome you are, knowing you are tough, knowing that you will get back on your bike and try again.

 So, the next time someone tells you that you are beautiful, take it as a compliment, because you know what true beauty is.