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DCUM Weblog

Plugged in/Turned off

by mamamonster last modified Jan 30, 2008 06:18 AM

I'm having second thoughts about my kids' array of electronic toys. They're fun and educational-- but that's just the problem.

The holidays brought us many blessings including a large pile of gifts, many of which are electonic gadgets.  And though, I bought some of them myself,  I'm having second thoughts about my kids' array of electronic toys.

While they have and enjoy plenty of non-electronic/non-high tech play things-- dirt, for example, most of their new, and therefore most exciting toys are electro-gizmos.

We have the remote controlled toys, for example. Some monster trucks and a flying dragon fly. Ok. Those are cool. You can take them outside and drive them around.

There's the mini-game player. There's the talking Solar System board. There's the Smart Cycle which is like a videogame/bicycle. They're all pretty fun and they're supposed to be educational.

Actually, that's where the problem comes in. What are these toys really for? I think parents buy them for two reasons:

1. to occupy their kids
2. to feel like their kids are learning something useful

While I can't argue that kids don't need to be occupied sometimes-- after all, parents can't and shouldn't be 24/7 entertainment machines-- I do wonder if plugging them in is the best way to do that.

And if they're supposed to be learning something, can't they learn things without being plugged in? Really, just learning how to occupy yourself without flashing lights and beeping sounds is one of the most important things a person can learn.

As for academics, while I have heard stories of people who claim that their children learned to read with video games, my kids are getting that elsewhere. I mean, if the only way your kids are interested in reading or numbers is in a video game, go for it. Whatever works. But 100 years ago, 7 year olds were expected to learn Latin and French in addition to English grammar and mathematics with nary a video game in sight, so I feel certain that it's possible.

I'm not going to run out and get my kids a stuffy classical tutor. In fact, rather than all of that fancy Latin or even English grammar, I hope my kids learn creativity and curiosity. I want them to learn to explore the world with wonder and to be excited about what they discover.

That's exactly what the Smartcycle and other electronic toys can't give them.

I'm not going to take their toys away. But I am going to make sure to give them plenty of my attention, play dates and time outside connecting with nature-- which is what they really want anyway.


Medicine in America

by NewMom913 last modified Jan 11, 2008 05:55 PM

Who took the "care" out of health care?

As I sort through the piles of medical bills, insurance forms, and other paperwork related to my recent pregnancy, I'm reminded how complicated the health care system in our country has become.

Up until this past year, my family and I were fortunate not to have to deal much with health care issues – my dear husband (DH) and I were relatively healthy, so doctors' visits were few and far between.  But 2007 brought us our son, and consequently, more contact with the medical community than we'd ever had before.  I'm sorry to report, however, that it was extremely difficult to get the care and personal attention we needed.

From overcrowded doctors' offices with long wait times and rushed visits, to overworked (and sometimes indifferent) medical personnel, to battles with insurance companies over procedures that our physicians ordered but insurance wouldn't cover, we had to fight constantly to get adequate treatment.


New Year's Resolutions

by SarahPekkanen last modified Sep 08, 2018 11:51 AM

New Year’s Resolutions for 2008: Get bathing-suit ready by springtime. Eat less bread and chocolate. When running errands, park minivan at farthest point away in lot and power-walk to door, strengthening biceps by dragging along protesting kids. Practice rhythmically clenching stomach muscles in line at supermarket while reading about Brangelina in tabloids.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2008: Get bathing-suit ready by springtime. Eat less bread and chocolate. When running errands, park minivan at farthest point away in lot and power-walk to door, strengthening biceps by dragging along protesting kids. Practice rhythmically clenching stomach muscles in line at supermarket while reading about Brangelina in tabloids.

Diary entry on 9:01 a.m. on January 1, 2008: Exhausted from long trudge to door of Whole Foods. Buy dark-chocolate bar (organic, though) to revive oneself. Whole Foods has no tabloids! How can this be? Buy dark-chocolate bar to console oneself.

How can it be springtime already?

My bathing suits have somehow all shrunk during their long winter hibernation. Time to whip myself into shape. Time for a diet.


Parenting is a Great Equalizer

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 03, 2021 10:12 PM

Is Lynne Spears a "bad mother" or is her daughter's pregnancy just one more sign that the challenges of parenting do not respect boundaries of race, class, religion, or ethnicity? The DCUM experience shows that parents are often in the same boat despite otherwise significant differences.

One of the things I have learned from my involvement with the DC Urban Moms and Dads Mailing List and website is that parenting is a great equalizer. Individuals of all socioeconomic, racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds deal with similar issues. Loss of sleep, anxiety about a baby's health, uncertainty about parenting choices, and the joy created by a baby's smile are not bound by any of the lines we often draw across our society.

I was reminded of this by reports that Lynne Spears's parenting book has been "delayed indefinitely". Lynne, of course, is the mother of Britney Spears. The book's delay cames amidst the news that Britney's 16-year-old sister, Jamie, is pregnant. The idea that Lynne Spears should have been given the opportunity to author a parenting book was greeted with derision by many. "[J]ust change the title to Raising Skanks the Spears Way" crowed one of my favorite bloggers. "[O]ne can't help wondering who was the genius who contracted the sisters' mother..." opined the Philadelphia Inquirer. My own first reaction — once I figured out who Lynne and Jamie Spears were — was also that Lynne might have been a poor choice for a parenting advice. But then I thought about it further.


Getting organized -ha!

by SarahPekkanen last modified Sep 20, 2017 06:52 PM

Here's a column I originally wrote for Bethesda magazine -- hope it makes you feel better about your organizational skill!

I have a secret fantasy (no, not that one, you perverts). It’s this: Sometimes I dream about being one of those women in a J. Crew catalogue – you know, the kind who glides around with a sleek Golden Retriever at her heels, tossing a football to her sons (who are clad in crisp matching Oxford shirts) before retreating to the serenity of her living room, where glossy magazines arc across a gleaming coffee table.

Here’s the sad truth: My coffee table usually holds a few crumpled newspapers with half-finished Sudokus, a mug of coffee that’s so old even the flies turn up their noses at it, and a random, linty sock. It’s often one of the neater areas of my home.

I put the blame for this, like most things that have gone wrong in my life, squarely on the shoulders of my own parents. Once I helped my mother clear out her bedroom. Halfway through a tower of papers, I discovered a book entitled “Lighten Up! Free Yourself From Clutter.” We laughed merrily – oh, the delicious irony! – until, another foot or so down, when I unearthed the identical book.


'Tis the Season

by NewMom913 last modified Jan 11, 2008 01:42 PM

Why Christmas is so hard for some Jewish people

I'd like to address an issue that was raised last month on the DC Urban Moms forums.  It began with a poster who was upset that her Jewish inlaws would not acknowledge Christmas or answer their grandson's questions about the holiday despite the fact that the poster and her husband had decided to raise their son in the Catholic faith.

As someone who was raised as a relatively religious Jew, my initial instinct was to side with the inlaws.  I posted a response saying that while I was not trying to condone hurtful behavior by the grandparents, some people (like me) feel very left out during the holiday season.  The ensuing dialogue on the forum  made me think more about my feelings on this issue, and led to a conversation with my husband about how to deal with the holidays when our newborn son becomes old enough to know what's going on.


Reminder to Nanny Seekers -- Due Diligence is Essential

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 17, 2022 07:58 PM

As several posts in the DCUM Nanny Forums illustrate, anonymous posting provides many opportunities for chicanery. From ghost-written messages to sock puppets who utilize invented personas to praise themselves, the forums provide a constant reminder that "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

[ Portions of this article have been rewritten based on reader input. ]

It starts with a simple, innocent-sounding post. Someone is available to babysit. "I've heard that you are great," states a response. "I plan to hire you on Friday so my husband and I can go out," follows another. "I hired her and she was great," exclaims an additional accolade. And then, "Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate the great response." Taken nearly word-for-word from a recent thread in the DCUM nanny forums, this is an example of a sock puppet in action. The entire exchange was composed by a single individual hoping to drum up business.

In 1993, the World Wide Web — what many people have wrongly come to consider synonymous with "The Internet" — was launched. That same year, The New Yorker published a cartoon by Peter Steiner showing two dogs sitting in front of a computer with the caption, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog". According to Wikipedia, Steiner didn't attach a "profound" meaning to the cartoon. Nevertheless, he managed to capture an essential truth of the online age and the underlying message — intended or not — is one of which we frequently need to remind ourselves. As a number of anecdotes from my experience with the "nanny ads" on DCUM illustrate, this is especially the case when using the Internet as a means of finding a nanny or other childcare professional. 


Expectant Moms - Things to Consider

by NewMom913 last modified Dec 25, 2007 08:48 PM

As a new mom, the following is what I wish someone had told me while I was pregnant:

(1)   Find an OB that you trust, who delivers at a hospital you like.  Trust your gut – if something doesn’t feel right with your doctor, switch.  It is never too late.

(2)   Bring an advocate with you to the hospital, whether it is your husband, partner, doula, mother, etc.  Even at the best hospitals, nurses are overworked and some, unfortunately, are not what you would hope for in a healthcare setting.

(3)   Read up on C-sections, even if you are convinced you're not going to have one.  Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of C-sections and how s/he decides to recommend a non-emergency section.


Which Computer is Best for Kids?

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 01, 2007 03:34 PM

As any Mac fanboi can tell you, the answer to any question that begins "which computer is best' is always "a Macintosh." Where kids are concerned, this is probably correct.

One question that comes up every so often in the forums and on the mailing list is "which computer is best for a child?" Unlike most parenting questions, this is one I actually feel qualified to answer. As a card-carrying, Steve Jobs-worshipping, certified Apple fanatic, most of what I have to say should be fairly predictable. Yes, moms and dads, I recommend a Macintosh.

Any Mac fanboi worth his salt should be able to argue that the Macintosh is the better choice for anyone — not just children. However, where adults are concerned, two factors often out-weigh the advantages offered by Apple's computers: 1) people who have Windows computers at the office frequently don't want to have a different system at home; and 2) sometimes a much-needed (or much-desired, in the case of games) program is not available for the Mac. However, children have no office computers with which to conform and — given their limited software needs — shouldn't encounter software issues either.


Telling the Truth is Optional

by SarahPekkanen last modified Oct 22, 2007 02:40 PM

Usually I draw stares for all the wrong reasons, like the time in Bethesda Bagels when I thought a guy was checking me out, until a woman whispered, “You have a Cheerio stuck to your behind.”

A group of us moms and dads were sitting in a school bus as it heaved and groaned its way to the Smithsonian Institution for a field trip. I was feeling good, despite the migraine-inducing shrieks of the kids, who’d just spotted the highlight of their trip, one sure to be recounted at dinner tables across Bethesda that night—a homeless man relieving himself on a tree on Wisconsin Avenue.

As we parents frantically redirected the kids’ attention—“Look! A—a—parking meter!”—I suddenly noticed a little girl named Kendall staring at me.

Usually I draw stares for all the wrong reasons, like the time in Bethesda Bagels when I thought a guy was checking me out, until a woman whispered, “You have a Cheerio stuck to your behind.”

But today my jeans were Cheerio-free. I’d even taken a shower and applied mascara. (Preschool field trips are major social outings for me.) Kendall looked at me for a minute, then shouted, “You look just like someone I know. Only he’s a man!”