Don’t Get Burned by the Sunscreen Controversy

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Everyone notices when someone sports that gorgeous sun-bronzed skin from a sunny vacation.  But my family?  The people who get sunburned through car windows?  We return from a week away and people look at a quizzically and say, “Where did you go, again?  Submarine cruise?”

I honestly could kick myself for not buying stock in a sunscreen manufacturer before we had kids…given their genetic legacy I knew they would be more sun-sensitive than a field of solar panels.

Most of us use more sunscreen in the summer than any other time of year.  And most of us don’t think twice about slathering it on our kids or ourselves because the jury has been out on the topic for a long, long time:  sunscreen, when used properly, not only prevents sunburn but reduces the risk of skin aging and skin cancers (notably melanoma).  Despite the difficult-to-pronounce ingredient list few of us give the exposure to such a second thought, especially given the alternatives: painful, blistering, aging skin and possibly the big “C.”  Not to mention no one wants the papier-mâché appearance of titanium or zinc-based (“physical”) sunscreens unless limited to the noses of their children (which is darn cute).

But what about all those chemicals?  Their safety has been a question mark in the back of my brain, and perhaps yours as well.  But given few viable other alternatives, I just keep a-slatherin’.

Until my husband emailed me this link: Continue reading

The State of Disconnect

Goodbye, Cabin #53, thank you for the memories.  And the humidity that fogged my camera lens for one final pic.

Goodbye, Cabin #53, thank you for the memories. And for the humidity that fogged my camera lens for one final pic.

Our family spent a recent vacation at a state park in Nebraska.  Unexpectedly, we found ourselves without wifi and also without cell service.  And in order to get to our destination we made a painful several-hundred-mile drive across the western part of the state.  Feel the obvious joke coming on?

Maybe instead of calling it the Cornhusker State, Nebraska should be called the Disconnected State.

I have heard and made many jokes about Nebraska (having spent lots of time there I can… right?).  But I make this (barely humorous) zinger out of the pleasant inability to reach the outside world from our remote getaway.   Yes, we had to jog up the road to find one bar of service, which was a necessity only to text directions to friends and family coming to the cabin to visit.  I love the irony of this.  We only needed the barest minimum of worldly connection to truly reconnect. Continue reading

Video Games, the Priming Effect, and Kids

A step in the right direction:  they are outside!

A step in the right direction: they are outside!

When my husband told me that video games are good for hand-eye coordination (and therefore improving his career skills), I figured he was just vying for a Wii (or was it an Xbox?  I’m pretty clueless on the difference).  I didn’t buy it, literally or figuratively.  Because I still can’t tie a sailor’s knot despite my hours of playing Pong and Pac Man back in-the-day.  And yet, yet, despite that skepticism on the positive value of playing video games, I allow my kids to have daily access to their iPods.  Is there guilt?  Yes.  Do I allow them more time than I intend?  Oh, yes.  Hypocrisy, which just spawns more guilt.

Great.  I’ve heard too much MInecraft lingo and just used the word spawn. Continue reading

Why We Need to Read

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It’s summer.  The local library has reading programs for toddlers, high schoolers and everyone in between.  We parents know our kids should practice their reading skills for  cognitive development, vocabulary expansion, and fluency .  But the people who, believe it or not, study, the benefits of reading have much more to say about why not just our kids, but also adults, should indulge in a good read.  Real Simple published an article in 2014 about this very topic, just in time for those summer reading programs.  Some of the details may surprise you:

1)  Ahhh, Oohhmm.  Reading for just six minutes a day can be a real stress reliever, according to a study conducted by Mindlab Intelligent Insights.  Have a case of the Mondays (on any day)?  Pick up a page turner. Continue reading

Moms Get Your Mammos (With a Clarification)

A reader brought to my attention an error I made in my post Moms, Get Your Mammograms.  The letter you receive with your mammogram results should come from the imaging center where you had your mammogram done, not from your practitioner (physician, etc.) who ordered it.  That said, you may still receive a phone call or a letter from your physician’s office with the results.

I apologize for the mistake!

Hooray for Summer (Exclamation Point): Steps to a Successful Break (Question Mark)

A year ago, as the school year drew to an end, I wrote a post that received some flak.  In Hooray for Summer? (In retrospect, Horrors, It’s Summer! would have been a fun title…) I described the difficult transition for parents, myself wholeheartedly included, to having the kiddos home for three months.  I outlined my plan to keep us all from going crazy, which, it ends up, was a near-total flop.  Disappointing, to say the least…I needed a solid strategy because I was really not looking forward to the loss of (forgive me) my freedom.

But this year?  I am stoked for summer.  Cannot.  Wait.  We are going to have a blast.  I learned a lot from the failures of last year.  Plus my kids are a year older, with more specific interests.  We have lots to look forward to this summer, but before I get into our new-and-improved plan (hopefully resembling a jewel-encrusted flip-flop instead of a plain old crummy flop), here’s a summary of last year’s plan.  And what happened when we tried it out.  Because as some things work better for some kids than others, you may find our failures to be your successes. Continue reading

Moms, Get Your Mammograms

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Even though it is May, not October, when pink ribbons pervade everything everywhere, the topic of mammograms is still important.  Certainly to me, as May is my mammo month.  But breast cancer awareness should not be reserved for any singular time of year, it should be a regular, habitual occurrence.  (I don’t really think there should be specific cancer-awareness-months; every month should be all-cancers-awareness month, but now I’m off-topic).

It’s easy to think breast cancer affects “older women” and most often it does.  However, younger women are struck with the disease, too.  By younger women I mean mothers of young children…women in their 30’s and 40’s.  And these women aren’t anecdotal, faceless cases…they are friends, colleagues and fellow sorority sisters.  And if I know some of these women, chances are you do, too. Continue reading

Your Child Needs the HPV Vaccine

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A few years back I sat in a church basement with my parenting group and listened to a male OB-GYN describe how he discussed safe sex with his own kids.

Yes, that was a church basement.  Yes, that was a male gynecologist.  And the topic at that moment was, yes, kids and sex.

I hope I got your attention.  Because he sure got mine, especially as this seemed an unlikely and absurd senario.  But still, the topic was pertinent and this doctor’s message clear:  we as parents would be sorely amiss to assume our kids will honor abstinence at our request.   He rationalized that it is not “if” but “when” kids become sexually active (about a third of 16-year-olds are) and believed parents need to educate their children on the use of condoms and birth control pills.

But we as parents need some education as well.  A recent dialogue on Facebook prompted me to learn more about the HPV vaccine, which came into recommendation after I “retired” from medicine.  While some coming-of-age topics are pretty straightforward, such as “When can I get a credit card?” (age 35 seems about right), others…not so easy.  No one wants to consider their little girl (or boy) soon needing “protection.”  However, they likely will.  It is unrealistic to assume the opposite.  Before our kids seek methods of preventing pregnancy and STD’s on their own, we parents need to make an important decision for them in this regard.  And that is to vaccinate our children against HPV.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most common STD in the United States.  With over 40 subtypes, most sexually active persons will contract one or more strains during the course of their lives.  Really.  The good news is that 90 percent of infections resolve on their own, but it is the remaining 10 percent we need to be concerned about.  It is these more aggressive subtypes that can cause genital warts and cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus and penis.

So enter the HPV vaccines:  Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil 9.  And here’s what you need to know about protecting your child:

~Your child needs one of the Gardasil vaccines.  Cervarix only targets cervical cancer but the other two are approved for both girls and boys in the prevention of genital warts and the five cancers listed above.

~Your child should start the vaccine series at age 11 or 12.  This seems young, but there is a rationale.  The series of three shots (given over a period of six months) needs to be completed before your child is exposed to the HPV virus (in other words, before becoming sexually active) so a full immune response is attained.  In other words, the best protection against infections caused by HPV starts with the earliest possible vaccination.  So don’t put off starting the vaccine…studies have shown there is a better immune response in “tweens” than in young adults.  However:

~Your child should still get the HPV vaccine even if they are older than the recommended age.  Yes, the vaccine could be less effective but some protection is better than none at all.  All three HPV vaccines are approved for use in young women up to age 26 and in young men up to age 21 and can (and should) still be given even if your child is already sexually active.  

~The HPV vaccines are considered safe.  While there are possible side effects, such as pain and redness at the injection site, headache and fever, most vaccines can cause the same, temporary effects and these effects are easily remedied.  And a very small price to pay for protection against potentially life-threatening diseases.

~The HPV vaccines are effective.  Studies have shown a remarkable near-100 percent protection rate against precancerous cells and HPV 4 (the subtype that causes genital warts).  In fact, since 2006 there has been a 56 percent decrease in HPV infection in teenage girls.  Considering this in the light of less-than-ideal vaccination rates, this is quite promising.

~Don’t let your child become a statistic:

At any given time, one percent (or one of 100) adults has genital warts.

Each year, 9,300 men and 17,500 women have a cancer related to HPV.

The HPV vaccine has had a tough row to hoe.  No one likes to think about their child becoming sexually active too early, for the wrong reasons and against the values we have worked to help them internalize.  Which means whether or not to have children vaccinated with the HPV vaccination is often couched in a values debate:

“If I accept the series of shots for my child, that gives him or her license to have intercourse before the “right” time.”

The rebuttal is this:  no, protecting our children against serious illness is never the wrong decision.  In fact, providing our children with the HPV vaccine can open the door to further discussion about premarital sex, condoms and birth control pills and our family values and viewpoints on these topics.  These are difficult talks to have with our children, but as the vocal doctor who came to talk with my church-based parenting group said:  an honest, open dialogue is key to our children’s sexual health.  In fact:

It could save their lives.

Why I Won’t Homeschool My Kids

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A year ago, I wrote about whether or not to homeschool my older son and his brother and sister (How About Homeschooling? Part One and How About Homeschooling? Part Two).  In those posts, I described my concerns, thoughts and feelings and was pleased to receive some wonderful feedback from readers.  To all of you who shared your perspectives and positive experiences with educating your children at home, I thank you for providing food for thought.   But I knew my husband and I were going to need more information before making a decision…and that meant sending our kids back to public school the following year.  As school budget cuts would be creating larger fourth grade classes, we needed to find out if being in a  25 percent-larger section would affect our sensitive son’s ability to learn.

Well, that year has nearly passed.  Our question has been answered.  And much more about our school has been realized.  So our decision is this:

We won’t be homeschooling our kids.

It isn’t right for our family.  It works wonderfully for others and my hat goes off to them for making such a huge commitment.  Those families have their reasons and the wiring to make the home a classroom.  But homeschooling is not for us.  And here’s why: Continue reading

One Tough Mother

First Mothers' Day!  Not feeling so much tough as tired but very, very happy!

First Mothers’ Day! Not feeling so much tough as tired but these two little guys are totally worth it!

I didn’t plan it this way.  But two weeks ago I realized this post, which I drafted specifically for Mothers’ Day, would be PulseonParenting.com’s 100th.  Hitting the century mark with an entry honoring moms feels like good karma.  And I want you, all who have been reading PulseonParenting, to be a part of the good vibe.  Moms can handle most anything parenting throws their way…in fact, I’d put money on it that you all are Tough Mothers.  I’ll bet you have posted your most heroic, vulnerable, gross and/or hilarious maternal moments on Facebook or Twitter or your own blog.  But today consider sharing an example here, on PulseonParenting.  Or comment on PulseonParenting’s Facebook page.  Join moms from around the country in compiling “100 Tough Mother Moments” to honor Pulse’s big 1-0-0.  Share the moments that bind us moms together in a sisterhood like no other.  And invite your friends to do the same!

The following are examples of Tough Mother moments…some are my own, others belong to relatives, and perhaps some will resonate with you!  You may be One Tough Mother if: Continue reading