Hurricane Hacks For The Newbs

So like most of the country we recently relocated to Florida. And since reports point to me being in good company, I’m willing to be it’s a LOT of new transplants first Hurricane Season. So I figured it’s my civic duty to share best practices or hurricane hacks curated from the folks who live here.

When I put out the call to my peeps for Hurricane tips I did not expect at all to receive the amount of brilliant information I received. I ignorantly thought living landlocked in Tallahassee during Katrina that I knew a thing or two about hurricanes and yikes was I wrong!

I spent most of my adult life in Los Angeles where we have to worry about fires and earthquakes, neither of which come with any warning and so I had a false sense of security thinking oh hurricanes give you plenty of time to prepare. And while yes that’s a distinct advantage an ignorance of all the risks that come with a hurricane can put you at risk.

The squad advised that when dealing with a hurricane you have three specific issues:
1) the hurricane itself (high winds, rains, rising waters);
2) enduring long periods of time without power;
3) flooding so extreme it renders most roads unusable.

So you have your storm and then the after the storm you need to deal with. After the storm you’ll likely not have power AND you’ll also face being trapped in your residence due to the roads being flooded. During the storm you’ll want your property protected from the wind and floods as best as possible but it seems to me most of the problems begin after the storm has moved on.

My neighbor really hammered home to me the rule of three. She says if it’s a category 3 and there are 3 days left before land fall she makes sure her car is completely gassed up because she said whether or not you leave, there are literal runs on the gas stations and they run out of gas as a result. She said expect lines at the pump and try never to go below a half tank during the season. (A big yikes for ADHD me who loves to live on the edge a quarter tank at a time).

So my sorority sisters, whoooowhee they showed up in the comments with tips. And then I realized ok these Kappas know what’s up what about the rest of South Florida, so I opened up the question to a few parenting Facebook groups and the result is this: a delicious snack of the best information curated by yours truly.

5 Floridian-Approved Hurricane Hacks:

5) Handle Your H20
– complete all wash, you may not have runing water to finish the laundry
– stock up on drinking water
– fill tub with water in the event you don’t have water for flushing toilets
– freeze ziplock bags full of water to double duty as ice and drinking water

4) Plan for Power Problems
– batteries for anything essential
– battery powered flash light
– battery powered radio
– battery powered fan, it’s still going to be very hot
– acquire a generator if possible, otherwise locate neighbor with one
– charge ALL devices up until power is lost
– Amazon has a solar charger for devices (https://www.amazon.com/Charger,Solar-20000mAh-Waterproof-Flashlights-Cellphones/dp/B078RQH9WK/ref=asc_df_B078RQH9WK/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=241942515097&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4455492954941394837&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9012012&hvtargid=pla-546870385394&psc=1)

3) Batten The Hatches!
– wind is coming secure anything that can be launched
– do not *contrary to TikTok* dump outdoor furniture in the pool
– don’t drain the pool, apparently they can then be launched
– hurricane shutters
– look at your trees and trim any dead looking future projectiles

2) Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
– who is on your team and what are their needs (meds, first aid etc)
– be prepared to entertain children when you can’t take them anywhere and have no electricity
– have a pet plan for any nonhumans on the squad

1) Food Food Glorious Food
– consume all produce as soon as possible
– stock up on canned foods *that your family actually likes* because you might be living off it for a few days if the roads are really bad
– for those who can eat nut butters I had a ton of people suggest PB&J materials
– stock up on formula
– make sure you have pet food
– a grill can make outdoor cooking possible when the power is out

And, pretty much everyone backed up this TikTok tip I heard: if the Waffle House closes this hurricane is going to be bad and you better try to leave.

I hope this helps, y’all know me I love a plan! Right now I’m tracking some disturbances in the Gulf that are scattered and not organized which means I have plenty of time to aquire the above items. Let me know if you have any hacks for hurricanes or any fears I can crowdsource for you too!

Somebody, Pump the Brakes!

There’s a popular saying about parenthood: “The days are long but the years are short”. Any parent you run that by will nod in agreement, heck yes, the years shoot by! My baby is seven now and next week is her last week of First Grade. In approximately 7 weeks I will have a Second Grader. My friends with younger kiddos have asked me at one point or another what the biggest difference is once school starts. I can without a doubt tell you that if growing up is a flame, then school is the gas. 

She still has these adorable baby hands. Her face is changing. She wakes up taller and looking different almost every day now. We went surfing over the weekend and it was incredible to see how strong she was paddling compared to exactly this time last year. In 12 months she became strong enough to paddle through waves back to her coach. That’s not 12 months of surf training by the way, she hasn’t been surfing since this time last year. Over the course of the year she became able to carry the surf board, get it in the water and start catching her own waves. Now I find myself on the sidelines more. I’m no longer the coach’s helper I’m simply a spectator. She’s the queen of “let me do it myself” and the duchess of “actually can you help”. Perhaps one of the more interesting things I get to witness as a parent is seeing all of her friends branch off into various interests. They’re able to express what they want to try and what they want to pursue. 

Warning from my friend

I was warned seven is going to come with specific challenges. Apparently 7 year olds are prone to tantrums and allegedly more tantrums than some two year olds! You read that right, we have to prepare for 7 year old tantrums. My friend who is a child development specialist broke it down for me like this: their brains are doing a major change right now from how am I similar to my caretakers to how am I different from them. That’s a MAJOR shift in how the brain processes the world. This means they’re going to take what you say and test if it’s really true, so if you have shown them one way of tying their shoes they might want to try their own way of doing it – and the results can sometimes be frustrating, cue the tantrum. In our discussion about brain changes, I asked my friend if being at school all day and all the energy that takes kinda zaps the “frustration tolerance” they have and she said school is absolutely a factor. All day long their little brains are firing 100 miles an hour trying to learn not just the school work but how  to get along with others, boundaries, navigating frustration and conflict in a school appropriate way … etc etc etc. She said that will fry anyone let alone a kid whose brain is making new connections all day long. AND, perhaps this is the biggest take away … MEET THESE TANTRUMS WITH LOVE. You and I both know ketchup touching the fries is not a big deal but if you had a day of frustrating experiences and now your fries have ketchup touching them BEFORE YOU WANTED THEM TO, you’d be out of the ability to respond well too. Remove the poison fries, give your exhausted one some new ones and a big kiss. Think of how you feel at the end of an exhausting day and then you get home with your take out and the order is wrong … you definitely were upset. That’s the 7 year old experience.

Another thing she warned me about was deliberate boundary testing ala the “terrible two’s”. Ok that one she did not have to warn me about because I have been feeling CRAZY lately at the amount of times I have to repeat myself to get basic things done like “brush your teeth”. At the peak of my frustration I counted 7 commands to brush her teeth that went completely ignored. I kept scratching my brain like how do I fix this because I’m either going to lose my temper, become a perma nag or she’s just never going to listen to me again. This time I went to Pinterest and I saw “chore charts”. Don’t get me wrong brushing your teeth is not a chore. But I liked the idea of a checklist. Baby Daddy bought me a printer when we moved to Boca so I put it to use and printed out three identical checklists and hung them up in her bathroom, outside her bedroom door and on her bathroom mirror. They itemize everything she has to do in the morning before she’s allowed to play with her toys or watch TV. HALLEJULAH people this worked the first try and hasn’t failed me since. Turns out she likes having a list. She likes checking things off and she even added more steps such as “Call Mema” to her list. Thank you Pinterest for the inspo.

I plan on enjoying my sweet girl all summer as I was warned the kisses and the sugar are going to dramatically reduce and come to a full halt. While I knew logically this day was coming, my mama’s heart is not ready. Every kiss she plants, every “I love you” note she writes I cherish because I know those days are numbered. This is the year I am supposed to become “not cool” and I’m gonna take it on the chin but I’m not looking forward to it. I love kissing her forehead which still has a teeny bit of baby squish left to it and I am going to squish her every single chance I get. I’ve seen preteens they want none of that!

Where my 9-11 year old parents at? I want to look ahead and prepare! Drop me a comment or a note with some stuff you wish you knew or things you want other parents to know about. 

America’s Mommy Issues

If I was writing a Yelp review on what it’s like to be an American Millennial Mom we’d be getting 1 star and I’d be calling the manager:

“Rude receptionist. When you deliver in America you’re more likely to die here than in any other developed country.

Bad store policy. Bad legislation that won’t guarantee paid leave. American mothers recovering from giving birth and needing to produce milk for their babies have to rush back to work sooner than any of their peers in other developed nations. For those of you who have not experienced matrescence giving birth requires physical recovery. I had a therapist compare it to the equivalent of surviving a car accident in terms of how long it takes your body to recover.

Overpriced. American parents shell out the most money for childcare than any other country. Childcare is so expensive that many households opt to have one parent stay home to perform the unpaid care labor because it can be cheaper. In most households the mother is the one performing this unpaid labor. This often hinders them when they attempt to reenter the workforce.

Bad Results. Once again compared to other countries for overall quality of experience the US is beaten by 37 other countries. I can’t even name 37 countries off the top of my head and yet there are 37 of them with better results than us. And that research was PRE pandemic. Now American moms have the honor of sending their kids back into mask-optional schools despite American children not being eligible for preventative vaccines. American mothers are more likely than any other mother in the developed world to bury a child due to gun violence. If they survive childhood they will incur crippling debt in the pursuit of higher education.”

That legit would be my review. The above issues affect some dads so I don’t want to exclude dads but the reality is the brunt of this is falling on moms. Last year was career genocide for American mothers with the widespread school closures record numbers of women were forced out of their jobs in order to provide unpaid labor in the form of childcare and online learning. I could’ve been part of that statistic as it was my first chance at free childcare (kindergarten) but the tumultuous year kept me in childcare limbo and I couldn’t realistically even apply for any job knowing at any moment my childcare scenario would change. So there are people not included in those numbers like me who wanted to stage a comeback and are further delayed. Anecdotally when I am on the phone with my friends who do not have children all of them are saying they’re not so sure they want American parenthood. Add the climate crisis into the mix and the conversation turns to the ethics of bringing a kid into this dumpster fire. Factor in political tribalism that is gripping our entire nation. Masks and vaccines becoming pawns in what should be a UNITED effort to protect ourselves. Children populating ICU’s because adults won’t do what they need to. I was a New Yorker on 9/11 and when I tell you the collective energy was collaborative and patriotic that is an understatement. We are losing more people a day in this country than in the 9/11 attacks and we’re more divided than ever. Grown men screaming about masks and their right to infect others is the climate my kid is navigating.

Mom in America

I promised you all from the beginning I would always report back on what it’s like to be a mom. Well today I’m coloring in the global comparison to help you arrive at the conclusion that American moms are not ok, not compared to most other countries. And if you’re not a parent consider some empathy for those of us who are. I am shedding a light on some very real issues American moms face in 2021.

Often times when I post a bummer I’m flooded by well meaning friends with messages of encouragement and “what can I do to help” requests. I am ok, I’m doing better than most of my peers thanks to family privilege. Check in on your other mom friends though, I guarantee you they’re in need of support. Be the village. Step up, mask up, vote up and be our village. Hire moms. Trust me we are great in a crisis as demonstrated throughout this pandemic.

Observations From The Trenches of Zoom Kindergarten

What a wild year. Us moms have been hit especially hard having to juggle many colliding scenarios in an ever changing landscape. It feels like every morning the rules change, like we’re in The Labyrinth and Jareth keeps moving things but we don’t get Ludo we get The Cleaners!! In this week’s change up, we received days notice that the district was pivoting to virtual learning, leaving us to scramble and hastily set up a classroom. Because I had been following the numbers I knew another shut down was likely so I had a plan in my head for the functional aspect of setting up a kindergarten in my mother-in-law’s house. But, I was legit dreading the entire situation. Anyway my brain analyzed the future scenarios I saw speed bumps and hurdles.

The district meticulously bagged and boxed enough supplies to get us through MLK Day which is their projected re-open. Color coded folders with papers in order, books, Chromebooks, crayons, markers, dry erase board, more site reading books, workbooks, individual bags with supplies for specific craft projects (such as clay, glue, scissors etc) were assembled for each child by the teachers and distributed by the teachers. As I type this, Miss Rook is on the way to our house to drop off supplementary worksheets. Once I saw all the gear they sent home, I got to work laying it out so #TheHandful could do as much of the work on her own as possible, ideally reducing the amount of times I need to help her locate various items. I then sat in the room and looked at her daily schedule to try to line up the supplies as they’d be used and then charged up her Chromebook before practicing the log in myself anticipating log in issues for the first day. First day had predictably a bunch of technical hiccups but now that we’ve been at it a week I have had some observations y’all. I have had some observations!

Parents really have the audacity to just join in on these Zooms, interrupting everything to both yell at the teacher and “correct” the teacher. We had a grandpa repeatedly unmute himself to ask the teacher how to work the Zoom, in the middle of her lesson. We had mom scream and berate the art teacher. I can’t stress this enough: in front of 20 five year olds, screamed at the teacher because her own child couldn’t find the clay the kids were supposed to use and because of this the kid interrupted her conference call. We had a mom interrupt the reading and comprehension lesson about Christmas to make sure the teacher knows we give gifts out during Christmas – the lesson was for the kids to read three sentences about Christmas and then repeat back what they read. No mention of gifts. Mom needed to repeat for about 2 full minutes that we give gifts on Christmas. Again, this is during the reading comprehension lesson asking the kids what they just read. Can you imagine if parents did this in a classroom, kicked open the door to shout and scream at a teacher and then slam the door shut and leave? That’s the virtual equivalent here. Can someone explain to me why parents do this? Per my Instagram DM’s from my teacher friends, this happens to them a LOT.

Another series from my Instagram stories that got my DM’s flooded was when I posted about how involved the job is of managing virtual kindergarten and the messages were heartbreaking. A mom who’d just made partner at a law firm was in tears because she had to keep reducing her workload to keep her two kids on track. Another didn’t have enough computers for all her children to do virtual school. One was freaking out because she literally had $50 to last her until the next paycheck and her kid’s school needed them to purchase supplies but she also still had to feed everyone. It’s affecting a lot of marriages, I had more than a few messages about moms having flat out rage towards their husbands. A lot of messages about all the virtual school falling on them while their husbands work remains unaffected. It’s been documented that women are disproportionately affected by school closures. I even have a friend writing a thesis on how the pandemic is career genocide for women.

Kinder kids need a lot of tech support, that should surprise no one. The bulk of my day is spent helping with logging in and then the rest of it is making sure she understands the assignment / isn’t running out of the room or playing with toys. She accidentally logs out or closes the Zoom all day long. Virtual school is lonely, they miss each other. While I don’t love literally attending kindergarten all day there are moments like just now as I type this where I over hear her say “I love my mommy so much I drew all these hearts for her” so that was cute. Then she knocked all the books off the desk trying to make space for the handwriting project. Not so cute. Grrrr, school issued Chromebook just died, now I have to give her my lap top and pause on writing this, when I finally started writing again! Onward we forge.

As I was charging her computer I realized how many auto log ins were already in place on the school issued Chromebooks when I had to manually enter every single do-hingey they use. Let me tell you there are a lot of case sensitive, actually let’s just say this, these passwords seem very secure. 16 digit sons of …

If you’re a non parent there are ways you can help. Acts of service go a long way for moms who are just getting hit from all sides. Someone sending some takeout so that you don’t have to rush around preparing lunch in the allotted break time before rushing back onto Zoom, or finishing that work assignment, goes a long way. And, dads, it’s your wives in my DM’s in tears it’s not randoms, and we need help. Everyone always says it takes a village, well village we need you! We’re not waiving the white flag, we’re already 25 feet below the surface and sinking. Y’hear that village? WE NEED YOU. That means wearing a mask in public and not having large gatherings, that means staying home from bars and indoor dining. We can’t safely open schools if you’re out there living your best life. It means be flexible with your coworkers who are parents, we are getting help from nowhere.

And moms, I’m proud of us. We are stepping up and doing whatever it takes for our families and frankly that level of sacrifice, planning, effort and execution makes all of us war time generals and we should be looked upon as such. The future of our nation depends on how we raise these children even in these dire circumstances. We’re doing the best we can and we’re doing it ourselves. When we reflect on this period in history years down the road we’re going to be seeing super heroes.

THE CALCULUS OF KINDERGARTEN IN 2020

THE CALCULUS OF KINDERGARTEN IN 2020

($$+ / $$ -) + (#of children x their ages)2 x (what the district is doing / your family limitations) lim  (childcare availability) – Professional obligations + at risk family members x R0 5.7 = 6H solve for H, the risk your family is comfortable taking.

Actual way my brain processed how we chose our path through the pandemic. And once we solved for H, so began the epic cross country saga ending in kindergarten in the suburbs of Chicago.

Since March we’ve been largely confined to our homes in the Los Angeles area. With one of the largest outbreaks in the country LA and adjacent counties have remained on strict lock downs for over six months. During this time, #TheHandful and I took walks, went on local adventures and generally tried to make the best of our time together. Week by week the schools kept promising to open and then each week we’d be met with “oh it’ll be another week” and those weeks turned into 6 months. Parents have been left scrambling, do we form a pod, do we hope the schools open? Can we afford to have one parent stay home to help with the virtual schooling? The issues plagued us. Then the first of the fires hit and the air in LA smelled of ash and soot and burnt homes. Our sky became gray and our sun became a hazy orange color, like a weird dystopian movie. Our backyard games came to a halt, our swimming was no more, opening a window came with risk and the heat was oppressive. 

Virtual Kinder was a non-starter; she could neither master the basics of the technology (nor should she be expected to) without my constant aid and she HATED getting on zoom calls with kids she never met and a teacher she never met. A few days into our toxic air quarantine I finally snapped and said to #BabyDaddy “Why are we here?” We aren’t in school. We can’t go outside. We’re trapped and sweating and there is absolutely nothing holding us here. In that moment we decided to flee to Chicago and hope for cleaner air and the companionship of family.

That decision was easy, the next one was harder: how do we plan on getting there during a global pandemic with a child who has specific immune system considerations. I had to weigh where I was comfortable taking risk and where I wasn’t and arrived on traveling by train to Chicago as it gave us a private train car and bathroom and allowed us to take our meals away from other travelers. The parenting mantra “We’re all doing the best we can” echoing in my thoughts as I am making LIFE altering decisions in real time. So we pack what we can manage and schlep to the train station to begin our cross country adventure together, me and #TheHandful on a girls trip! #BabyDaddy had to stay behind for work for now so he dropped us off at the station and gave us a last squeeze before heading back to the toxic air.

Woooooooo let me pause here and tell you, the train is an ENTIRE experience. AN.EXPERIENCE. I’ll summarize it to say, we liked it until we didn’t and when we were ready to get off, it was SUPER annoying to be plodding along making what felt like 100 more stops. On the positive, we had our own train car with beds, a “shower” and a private bathroom and sink. I liked that we could keep completely to ourselves and we had amazing views of the country. That was awesome. I did not know that the train would pitch back and forth worse than a boat and was extremely motion sick the ENTIRE train ride which went from Tuesday night in LA, landing Thursday night in Chicago. We met and made friends with an Amish family traveling back to NY from visiting their mom who was in SoCal for breast cancer treatment. If there wasn’t a pandemic I think the kids would have definitely played more but we had to kinda keep them apart. That was a bummer because if they could’ve played I think the trip would have been MUCH more fun for #TheHandful. Anyway I puked my way through the trip and was beyond happy for the clean air of Chicago when we arrived. 

When we got to Chicago I started GULPING the air like President Skroob. I’ll describe it like this, pretend you’ve been drinking gross water for a while and then get a sip of purified, cold, crisp water … that is what the clean air felt like but for my nose. My nose throbbing was gone finally. 

Masked up, windows down, Gaga arrived to squire us to the hotel to begin our quarantine. She explained that the local elementary was happy to accept #TheHandful into kindergarten and informed us that she set a meeting for us at the school the following morning. 

The next morning the school blew me away. They are leasing a rec center with a ton of outdoor space for kinder and first grade. Each class has a one way external entrance and a sep exit so they only walk one way down the corridor. Each child is temperature scanned at the door, hands sanitized and then escorted by staff (no parents allowed in the building at all) to their class room. During class there are outdoor mask breaks every 45 minutes, with extra PE and extra outdoor time built into the day. Each child has to bring a water bottle with a straw so they can sip under the mask and not take the entire mask off. Every kid has to have their own personal bag of toys for recess so they don’t share toys. When they walk around they have to use “airplane arms” basically their arms out to the side and front to make sure they’re staying away from each other. Then the admins met with Mickey and turned to me and said she could start Monday. To remind you this is Friday, fresh off the train Friday, got in last night Friday. I’m sorry we got here yesterday she starts MONDAY?! We went from warped speed, skipped ludicrous speed and went straight to plaid!

MONDAY. KINDER?! I’M NOT READY!!!!!!!!!!! 

“Oh I can’t wait!” Came a tiny mask-muffled voice with big brown eyes. And as I follow her gaze towards where the other kids are playing I can see she’s glowing. Ok, Monday it is. Monday my baby flies the coop. Monday. Monday …

Thankfully it was Rosh Hashanah so we had a full family packed outdoor agenda because Monday, Monday, Monday kept haunting me … Monday she’s in kinder. We just spent the last 6 months together, going on adventures, making jokes together, getting that last special time together and now it’s here and it’s MONDAY. The last five years it was just us on our daily adventures, going to classes, going to the zoo, driving to the beach doing what we wanted when we wanted. If it sounded cool we went and did it when we wanted to. We had our own language for silly morning games we played every morning as we took our time getting out of bed. Monday Monday Monday …

The night before kinder masks up windows down, Gaga drove us around town getting supplies. We laid out her outfit, packed her backpack, put her lunch in the fridge and for the first time in five years I set an alarm for the morning. 

What felt like five minutes later said alarm was going off and she was bounding out of bed shouting “I START SCHOOL TODAY!” We ate some breakfast, got dressed, took some first day pictures and that was it. We got to the school, they came out to get her for her temperature scan and she never looked back just shouted over her shoulder “I love you!” That’s it. The door closed and I was on the outside, she was disappearing from sight through the narrow window and I was outside frozen. That’s it, that’s all, no kiss, no big hug just a waive and a door slam. 

It’s very weird to drop your child off to school having never met the teacher. Our cousin had her a few years ago and loved her so that was reassuring but it’s weird to be like have fun with teacher stranger lady. I trudged off to Gaga, grateful she had a brunch for us to go to to escape my thoughts.

I was going to end this post after drop off because I thought that was it, but then there was pick up. My zombified exhausted child emerged from the building barely able to keep her eyes open. She said she had a great day and that she made three new friends, including playing with the girl who invited us to her birthday party coming up. Then she dropped into tears about having to leave her Barbie in the classroom. Exhaustion gives everyone a short fuse. This is going to be one big adjustment that’s clear. We stop for a snack in Gaga’s backyard and I rifle through her backpack and learn she has HOMEWORK. Oh wow we definitely went to plaid. She told me her teacher is amazing and that she can’t wait to go back tomorrow. I can feel my shoulders relaxing, I think we made the right move after all. Family, stability, fresh air and a happy kid.

I know I speak for everyone when I say 2020 has been crazy but for once in our 2020 things seem to be looking up for now …

Hey You! You’re Doing Amazing!

Phewwwww, pandemic, amirite?! First post of 2020 because pandemic depression got me all paralyzed from productivity. Muscling through the day and keeping the energy at a Disney Cruise level leaves me with an empty tank at the end of the day. Being a cruise director is exhausting! Anyway, I was beating myself up like I always do at the end of the day running through all the things I should’ve done better when #TheHandful interrupted my toxic thought pattern with a life lesson, as 5 year olds do.

This is a picture of me, hours before giving birth. I was terrified. I was utterly terrified at the prospect of being a mom. I felt unqualified, I felt like I was an idiot to think I could be a mom, to think I could properly care for a child. A few pukes later, they handed her to me and the terror set in, I was absolutely convinced I was the last person in the world who deserved to be her mother. But this face right here, that is the face of a very scared person.

And then as life does, it took off at warp speed and here I am with a very funny five year old navigating a pandemic. As all of us parents are doing, we’re giving the kids way more screen time than we are comfortable with – I alternate between giving her my phone to call people and giving her an iPad for games.

She loves to scroll through my phone and go through pictures and ask about the stories behind them, or tell me about a memory she has from that particular day. This time, she stopped scrolling at that picture and asked me what was going on. I told her that was right before I gave birth and I was very scared that I wasn’t going to be a good mom. She legit laughs at this and says “That’s silly you’re an amazing mommy!” as if it was absurd to her that I would think I’d be anything less.

And I thought y’know what, she’s right. Here I have this happy kid who’s running around doing voices and characters and I’m over here beating myself up about the laundry or the fact that we didn’t do any school work today? I was so caught up in the grind I forgot to step back and really look at the situation. If she’s ok, if she’s more than ok she’s genuinely happy, then does anything else really matter? If she says I’m an amazing mom, then I’m going to try to believe her. Ask your kids how you’re doing, you’re doing better than you think!

My Friend Just Told Me They Have a Mental Health Condition, Now What?

Baby Daddy just crushed it on a podcast talking about living with OCD and getting the proper treatment. Per usual when one of us posts about mental health we get a torrent of follow up questions from people experiencing any range of unique situations. However, many people who do not struggle personally with their mental health reach out each time asking one of us how to support their relative or friend who recently shared with them their mental health challenges. The answer is both simple and nuanced. Quite frankly the best reaction looks more or less like a non reaction. Your friend or relative is likely terrified of what you’re going to say in response so neutral to grateful is right initial response. However that is a gross oversimplification to a multilayered situation. Here is a good five step action plan for how to be a good friend to someone living with a mental health condition.

Five Step Plan to Reacting to Your Friend’s Mental Health Diagnosis:

5)  The first words out of your mouth should be: “Thank you for feeling like you could share that with me, I am so flattered you feel safe sharing that with me. What are some key things you’d like me to know about what you’re living with?” In the immediate moment your friend is sharing the information with you, the only acceptable thing to do is listen supportively. This goes triple, quadruple if it’s a mother sharing that her child is living with a condition. Unless you live with the condition yourself do not start talking about remedies you’ve heard of, stories about your cousins who have issues etc. Your friend sharing this information with you likely feels extremely vulnerable, the last thing you want to do is make them regret telling you. And, Karen, now is not the time to push your essential oils or WebMD links.

4) Get curious. If this is a tier 1 friend or a relative, become the expert. Learn everything you can about the condition both academically and by asking thoughtful questions. Learn to spot when they’re experiencing a trigger or need support. Learn how to support them in their challenges. If the person sharing this with you is not a family member or tier 1 friend I still suggest learning what you can about the condition but not necessarily expert status. For example, if your friend discloses that they live with Schizoaffective Disorder, it’s helpful to understand the types of hallucinations they experience and what the best way to support them is if they’re experiencing a hallucination.

3) Collaborate. Is your friend telling you about their condition because they need your support? Most likely yes. Does your friend experience panic attacks? Collaborate in a non stressful time for a helpful action plan on what he needs when he’s experiencing an attack. Does your friend’s child have Tourettes Syndrome and the mom is clueing you in so you can ignore the tics? Follow suit.  Come up with ways to help the new mom like dropping off food or offer to watch the baby so mom can nap (or just collab on her rap video with her).

2) Don’t disappear. Many people get uncomfortable about their friend’s mental health conditions (due to unfair stigma) and abandon them. If Jeff went away for chemo or was in the hospital for open heart surgery people would’ve come from far and wide to offer to babysit or cook us a meal. Instead when we told people he was away receiving mental health treatment people scattered. My basketball team and a mom I hosted a podcast with are the ONLY people who stepped up to check on me during the entire time he was gone. People treated us like we were contagious when we needed community the most.

1) Understand appropriate boundaries. This goes both ways for the person living with a mental health challenge and for you the friend. It’s natural to want to rush in and play hero – which at times can look like doing a load of laundry for your friend with depression – but can get unhealthy and turn codependent if you’re not aware of your ego projection. A good bet is doing random acts of service when you know their struggles are flaring. Taking over all functions of a friend’s life is codependent.

Obviously this is not a catch all, but I did want to put a sort of stop gap out there for all you folks who are confused on what the right things to say are when a friend or family member discloses their mental health diagnosis. If you have a condition yourself I’d LOVE to hear what works for you when you tell someone about your condition. Or we can swap “can you believe what this fool said” stories, I have tons of those!

Race is Not a Four Letter Word

We have to talk to our children about race, discrimination and racism. Like gender, sexuality and other big topics getting started can be intimidating. Here are Cool Mom Jamie tips for talking about race.

After a recent awkward situation that left me stumped, I reached out to my favorite website’s Facebook group, Offspring: A Lifehacker Parenting Group for some help!

Auditions are held in casting offices. These offices usually share one common waiting room with several smaller rooms for each separate project. At this audition there were mostly adult actors in the waiting room so I was getting out my toy bag knowing we’d have to be quiet. The door bursts open with a loud gust of wind. In walks a very tall, bald black man. As he makes his way to the sign in sheet #TheHandful turns to me and says loudly:

“Ooooohhh he is tall and CHOCOLATE”.

I hold my breath. Oh God he’s going to think I’m some crunchy Wannabe-Woke Wendy who in the absence of a brain refers to races as chocolate and vanilla in her house because she doesn’t want to have the tough talks about race that the rest of the world has to have. They’re going to think we call black people chocolate!!!!!

He laughs loudly. The room laughs. My relief is exhaled. I couldn’t escape the feeling that while I had good intentions about talking to her about race, I didn’t have much of a plan. I knew that I wanted her to understand that everyone is created equally but that they are not always treated equally.

And I went deep into my brain trying to figure out HOW to have an actual conversation about race. My kid described an individual as chocolate do I start there? When we get in the car I still have no plan so I table it for the drive home. I later make the genius decision to reach out to the Facebook group Offspring: A Lifehacker Parenting Group and got some GREAT tips from parents, professionals and people of color about how to facilitate ongoing discussions around race.

actual post

I connected with writer Jareesa Tucker McClure (whose website JTM Writes is fantastic btw, go check it out) and she guided me through a better way to bring race into the conversation.

“So the first thing to address is actually your reaction – your child didn’t do anything wrong which is why the man just laughed.

A lot of white parents freeze up or feel embarrassed when their child comments on someone skin color and really there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, we all have skin color!

What you should avoid is teaching anything about being colorblind/not seeing color/race because that’s not the world we live in.”

Ahhhh. That is painfully obvious after she says it.

She continues:

“Trust me, that man has heard worse. I seriously doubt that he thought you refer to people as chocolate. And for the record, lots of Black people actually refer to themselves as “chocolate.”

Before taking the time to send me some awesome links (that I’ll share below) she concluded:

“This isn’t a “one and done” situation, more non-POC families need to make conversations about race part of their normal routines.”

A few commenters suggested pointing out the beauty in peoples different features if/when #TheHandful notices someone different than her next time. Many suggested making sure that books and tv shows she watches have lead characters who are of color – same with her toys. And, another commenter {who is also a woman of color} confirmed that “chocolate” is actually a compliment!

Meghan Moravcik Walbert, an editor at Lifehacker.com sent me ALL the Lifehacker pieces on race to help facilitate better discussions about race in our house. I’ll include those below as well as the links some helpful Lifehacker followers shared with me. They are great examples for how to keep the conversation going.

The main takeaway for me was don’t avoid the conversation. Avoiding the conversation is the equivalent of saying “I don’t see color” which is harmful and passes the buck back to people of color to deal with racism on their own. White parents benefit from privilege and that needs to be part of the conversation in addition to showing your child (via media, toys, relationships) that everyone has similar goals, fears and loves. And lastly the conversation isn’t just one time, it’s ongoing and evolving.

LINKS:

Jareesa’s suggestions:

Talking Race With Young Children

“This is a good 20min segment from NPR with additional resources” – https://www.npr.org/…/talking-race-with-young-children

“There’s also a group that holds workshops/webinars and has a great website with book recommendations, talking points, etc.”
Raising Race Conscious Children – http://www.raceconscious.org/

Lifehacker:

How To Talk To Kids About Race

What To Do When Your Child Uses The N Word

Talk To Your Kids About Racist Stereotypes in Disney+ Movies

How To Talk To Young Kids About Race

Links other posters shared:

Newsweek: Nurtureshock

Mighty Girl – books for kids about racism & discrimination

#TheHandful Got Lost and Rescued Herself

The importance of having family emergency plans.

We all got separated recently at a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. It can happen to any parent, you turn your head for one second and then you turn back and can’t see your kid. It’s terrifying. In this case, thankfully we had a family action plan and everyone stuck to it with precision execution. I love a danger plan, everyone knows what to do in a given emergency and a plan increases the chances of a safe outcome. 

When I was 12 my grandmother (who needed full time care due to Alzheimer’s disease) was living with us. One day all the fire alarms in our house went off. While my mother raced to grab my brother I ran to my grandmother and began the slow process of getting her out of the house. She was unstable on her feet and required support walking from the den to the front door to our family meeting place outside. 

Once everyone was safely outside, the fire trucks arrived and they began to search our house. Turns out there was no fire, rather the alarms were malfunctioning. I remember the fireman turning to me and telling me I did a great job “rescuing” my grandmother. And all I could think was, mom and I stuck to the plan. And plan making had me hooked. I loved that a danger plan was a weapon against danger.

It was the fist time I had to execute one of our plans and I was very relieved that it worked. Mom and I had this plan from the day Nana moved in: one would go for Nana and the other would go for #LittleBrother (age 7 at the time). I knew in advance that our danger plan was going to be me on Nana this time because I was already in the room with her when the alarms went off – trusting my mom to go for #LittleBrother. Despite Nana’s physical condition we were out of the house in minutes. It was then I truly appreciated the danger plan. 

Later, in my 20’s an intruder broke into our apartment while my sister and I were sleeping. We stuck to the plan there and he was apprehended when the police finally showed up (thirty minutes after more than a few 911 calls btw). After the fact we acknowledged that it was sticking to the plan that kept us safe. Now as a mom I have to have danger plans for my own family. This means fires, earthquakes … and getting lost at amusement parks.

#TheHandful has become a very strong swimmer. She is confident in the water and enjoys big slides at waterparks. As such we hit up Great Wolf Lodge (GWL) a lot. I knew it was a matter of time before we had a separation at the park because she is fiercely independent and very water safe. It could be her going down one slide while one of us is still in line and then she gets to the bottom and can’t find us etc etc etc the scenarios danced an Abby Lee solo in my brain. Before our last GWL jaunt, I reviewed our danger plan for getting lost a few times to make sure she was lock step on the program. I drill her: locate an employee, which we know is an employee because their shirt will have a GWL wolf paw on it and will probably be red. Tell the employee you’re looking for Jamie Lardner and Jeff Goldman and then give them daddy’s phone number (which is the one she has memorized). She repeated the plan back to me and told me to stop asking her what the plan is. What can I say, I’m extra.

Well good thing I’m extra. EXTRA CAUTIOUS.  At GWL they do out of water activities too. The nighttime activity that night was a story reading and it was very popular. So popular that the staff asked the parents to move to the back of the room so all the kids could see at the front. 

Boom.Separated.

In the seconds it took for #BabyDaddy to walk to the back, #TheHandful decided the story was boring and that she didn’t want to stay for it. She looked around and couldn’t see her dad to ask him if they could leave. She told us she looked around again to make sure and then concluded that she lost her dad. She told us she immediately started the plan. She walked all the way from the activity area to the main lobby and from there went behind the hotel desk. She said she looked at the people behind the desk and chose one of ladies in a paw print shirt. “I liked her face so I asked her to help find my daddy” #TheHandful explained. And then #TheHandful told us she gave the woman all her information and then pointed to the story area where she last saw her dad. Later she explained that she chose the lobby because she could see the most GWL shirts over there – my baby had a plan of her own all along.

All this time #BabyDaddy thinks she’s at the front still listening to the story. “Jeff Goldman please come to the lobby”. He looks around, looks up at the hotel lobby and sees #TheHandful standing at check-in waiving and smiling. Plan.Executed. I gotta be honest, part of me was actually proud. My little four year old kept her cool. But oh boy did I squish her extra extra extra after that.

The reason I had her find a staff member instead of “a mom with kids” which I’ve seen posted on a few mommy boards is this: I know the staff member has the resources and ability to locate our family whereas sending her to locate random mom with kids is now telling my kid to approach strangers for help and relying on her to identify which strangers can help. Nerrrr. Just nerrrr. Staff members meanwhile are visible and vetted by their employers therefore less likely to abduct her or make questionable decisions. I also like the clear direction of find an employee in a staff shirt because it gives kids a visual instead of having to interpret who among strangers is a good safe bet. 

A family meeting place is great for older children who are less at risk for immediate danger when they are separated. I like meeting places for kids 10 and up because of that. Under ten and there are elevated safety concerns from abduction to serious injury at water parks and theme parks when they are separated from a caregiver. A good family meeting place is easy for all family members to navigate back to and is specific enough that you’re not all in the same place and still can’t see each other. In our case having a family meeting spot would not have been effective as #BabyDaddy and I didn’t know she was “missing” in the first place so our strategy of finding an employee worked.

Another important aspect of having plans for when situations go awry is it empowers your kid to be their own hero and gives them action steps to take. In this instance she wasn’t even worried or scared that she couldn’t find us because she was busy executing her plan. And because our plan worked she now has more faith in the system because she can trust we will follow our part of the plan too.

What are some safety plans your family has? Drop me a comment or an email with some good ones!

7 LIFEGUARD APPROVED RULES FOR WATER SAFETY 2019

COOL POOL RULES, VETTED BY LIFEGUARDS

With summer well underway I want to take a moment to highlight best practices for water safety. In the last few weeks I’ve seen some unsafe choices around the water and I have to remind myself not everyone is trained in water safety.  As you may remember I worked on the waterfront staff at Camp Pontiac – what you probably don’t know is that we had an EXCELLENT water safety protocol. After my interview on Lifehacker about being a former camp counselor, I was inspired to reach out to my former bosses to pick their brains about what we can do as parents to be safe this summer, inspired by their vast experiences at Camp Pontiac and in their hometowns where they also work in the water. 

I wanted to know as parents what their specific pool rules were – for example in our house the rule is #TheHandful is not allowed in the water unless me or Baby Daddy have two feet in the pool. Let’s see what the masters of the waterfront have to say about best pool practices this summer. Here are some lifeguard approved rules for water safety for your family this summer.

Panel of Experts:

Steve Fein Camp Pontiac Waterfront Director for 10 summers. Trails End Camp- one summer as lake director, Certified Lifeguard 

Jill Christiansen Lifeguard for 15+ years (pool and lakefront); 3 year head coach of high school boys and girls swimming. Teacher for 17 years, Masters in Special Education

Joan Warner Lifeguard and WSI at Camp Pontiac from 2002-2006, then WSI through 2008 from infancy through adults. 

7 LIFEGUARD APPROVED RULES FOR WATER SAFETY 2019:

1) DO NOT OVER ESTIMATE YOUR SWIMMER’S ABILITIES AND DO NOT PUSH SWIMMERS FURTHER THAN THEIR LIMITS– unanimously agreed upon by my experts.There was a reason we swim tested EVERY person at camp at the beginning of the summer, regardless of how great they did last summer: kids forget during the school year. Do not assume your 7 year old who can swim is water safe enough for you to be on your phone or otherwise distracted. Advanced swimmers can drown too. Per Jo: “Adults get comfortable and comfort leads to laxed watches. Drowning can happen in as little as 30 seconds, which is less time than it takes for you to grab your cell phone, open Instagram, and scroll through a few stories.”

2) “NO HORSEPLAY” akaDO NOT PUSH PEOPLE IN THE POOLthis one came from Steve our head of Waterfront. This sounds like common sense, however it bears repeating as every year someone thinks it’s funny to push a person in the pool. They can hit their head, they can break their necks, they can lose their expensive iPhones … the list goes on. NO PUSHING PEOPLE IN THE POOL, it’s never funny and often times has serious consequences. 

3) DO NOT ALLOW CHILDREN UNDER AGE 16 INSIDE THE POOL GATE UNLESS AN ADULT IS THERE TO SUPERVISE. Why 16? At age 16 many can drive and therefore transport a friend to the hospital. Under age 16 they would have to find an adult, which wastes rescue time. I recently saw a 7 year old open a pool gate and allow three children under age 5 into the pool and all the adults were inside. I was hobbling behind on my boot screaming NO ADULTS ARE IN THE POOL and the parents all looked at me like I was crazy because they rationalized that the 7 year old can swim. COOL, what about the other three and what happens if he slips and hits his head? If he hits his head and slips into the pool, can 4 year old #TheHandful even reach the gate to open it to call for help?  I just felt my adrenaline pump recounting that.

4) SURVEY THE POOL PRIOR TO ENTRY – per Jill.  “ I always look at the water before entering. If I can’t see the bottom of the pool, neither can the lifeguard. The chemicals are off and I don’t get in, period! When visiting a pool with or without a lifeguard, I always look for lifesaving equipment (shepherds crook, tubes, and a phone), I also look to see who is swimming and who is not. I always go into lifeguard mode no matter where I am at or whom I am with” says Christiansen.

5) ADULTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO GET COMPLACENT NEAR THE WATER. When we are at the pool, we are all engaged (no phones, no magazines) and paying attention to what’s happening in the water – Warner advises. And our boss, Steve reminded us how he kept us vigilant at the waterfront “if all else fails, spray them with a hose” to keep their attention sharp. Fein says “constant scanning is a must”. (For the record neither Jo, Jill or I ever got sprayed for failing to pay attention.)

6) DISCUSS WATER SAFETY RULES AHEAD OF TIME: Jill and Jo both said this. Tell your kids what the rules are, tell your guests what the rules are and manage everyone’s expectations ahead of time. 

7) — — USE SUNSCREEN: all three stressed this. In the word’s of Steve Fein “you don’t want your kid to become a s’more”. 

We had amazing, safe summers at camp thanks to these rules. One rule I left out because it really pertained to a camp setting, but is still worth mentioning is the constant buddy-checks we did at camp. Every so often Steve would blow his whistle and everyone had to exit the pool and sound off on a buddy check. This was done to ensure all children were accounted for. Steve did this as often as he felt necessary to keep us all vigilant. At home, perhaps during a pool party, consider emptying the pool every 30 minutes to give swimmers a break and water watchers a chance to refresh themselves to stay vigilant.

What are some water safety tips you live by?