Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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Those Were the Days...But These Are the Days, Too

This post is sponsored by the Center for Parent and Teen Communication. All opinions (and memories!) are my own.

Born three months early, he fought with incredible strength in the NICU to get healthy enough to come home. He’d spend hours meticulously lining up Matchbox cars on the dining room floor, and wore Batman or Jedi costumes everywhere we went. I remember how she cried the day he left for kindergarten, missing her best friend and favorite playmate—then laughed with her head thrown back when the bus brought him home every day. She could make a game or silly story out of even the most mundane trip to the grocery store, and cared for the roly poly bugs in the garden like cherished pets.

That same inner strength took him out of his comfort zone to join clubs and sports in high school to find friends who shared his interests. He spends hours meticulously studying online tutorials to teach himself guitar, piano, and vocals, and asks to shop at thrift stores because he wants to wear clothes that don’t look like everyone else’s. And she, faced with her best friend moving to another school, laughs with her head thrown back as they talk on the phone, their friendship unchanged by distance. She keeps us entertained on long car trips and family dinners with wild, inventive “what if” scenarios and amazes me with her limitless recollection of marine biology facts.

Some days I feel like I'm reaching out blindly for the next steps on my parenting journey, but underneath it all my 16-year-old is still the same level-headed, free thinking fighter he was starting as a 2lb 10oz preemie, and my 13-year old is still the same fun, animal-loving problem solver she’s always been.

This video got me in the feels—if you have teens (or, if your kids are preschoolers but you’re gearing up for teenagerhood a little early), it’ll probably have the same effect on you:

It’s all explained so well in this piece from Dr. Ken Ginsburg at the Center for Parent and Teen Communication. As tough as parenting teens can seem, it all feels a little simpler when you think about who they were as wee ones—and realize that deep down they’re still the same people today.

Check out (and share!) their resources on navigating the teen years, and let me know—what are some of your favorite memories of your kiddo as a baby, and what incredible things are they up to now?

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

A Simple Way To Keep Your Kids Safe (and Make Parenting Easier)

I'm writing in partnership with Clean Air Moms Action (but of course all thoughts and opinions are my own) to talk with you a little bit about rules, even though I'm not usually a huge fan of rules.

Especially the ones I have to make and then enforce in my own house because, ugh, that's a lot of work.

But I DO like the rules that make parenting easier, and life easier in general. Because, as I mentioned, I'm not the hugest fan of work, and anything that does some of the heavy lifting for me, I'm all for.

When I'm too tired to make dinner and decide to slip through the drive-through instead, I'm glad there are rules in place about how long that food was allowed to sit around before I showed up to buy it and chuck it unceremoniously into the backseat for my hungry kids to eat.

When I rush through the store to get a present for the classmate's birthday party my kid forgot to tell me about until the last minute, I'm glad I don't have to worry too much about whether or not the toy I grab off the shelf is safe to play with because there are rules in place about not using lead paint, and rules that require the manufacturer to let me know whether or not it has tiny parts their little sister is gonna try to eat.

I like being told in BOLD, EASY TO READ NOTICES on the packaging when the class snack I accidentally almost picked up contains allergens. I like being able to assume my kids' schools don't have asbestos in them, because the EPA requires them to pass inspections. I appreciate the fact that there are safety measures in place that let me serve tap water to my kids with dinner when I totally space out and forget to get milk (okay fine, fruit punch, whatever).

(credit: Moms Clean Air Force)

You get what I'm saying. Rules can be good—and the fewer things I have to worry about or spend my time feverishly Googling, the better.

Which brings me to my point (I know, you're a little surprised I have a point, but I do)—Congress is looking at a few pieces of legislation right now that could eliminate some of these rules and regulations, plus make it harder to pass new ones. They're the REINS Act and the RAA. Please don't glaze over yet, though! This is so important, and there's a really easy way we can help.

Now, at first they might seem like a pretty good idea. The REINS Act says if an agency proposes a regulation that has a $100 million or more annual effect on the economy, it can't take effect without a congressional vote. Sounds like checks and balances, right? Sounds like they're trying to save money, right? But consider this (or, skip to the video below where I'll give you the super duper abbreviated version):

Agencies like the FDA, EPA, and OSHA are filled with experts. Those experts, who are given the power to make health and safety regulations by Congress in the first place, do years of research, review, months of public comment, and more review before putting a regulation in place. They aren't just making this stuff up on a whim.

Congress, however, by design is filled with politicians. They're not experts on any of this stuff. That's the whole point of having these agencies in the first place.

Also consider that most of these regulations impact big corporations, requiring them to pay more attention, money, and vigilance to what they're doing. Corporations generally don't like that.

Under the REINS Act, Congress could just sit on a proposed regulation for 70 days and not vote, which renders it null and void. And let's face it, members of Congress can and have been influenced by lobbyists from these big corporations before, so how hard would it be to convince them to just sit there and do nothing? I LOVE sitting there doing nothing, and I'm not even getting campaign contributions for it!

Plus, even if you're not worried about greed or corruption in Congress, the REINS Act will slow the whole process wayyyyyyyy down. I don't know about you, but I don't really want to wait an extra million years to get regulations in place that keep the environment clean and my family safe.

Even worse, the REINS Act would also prevent Congress from considering more than one rule relating to the same subject in a single Congress. So, if they debated a regulation to, say, keep a river clean, and they didn't pass it, they wouldn't be able to consider a new regulation regarding keeping that river clean until the next Congress in a year or two, even if they agreed on what compromises were needed that day. Sorry, but from a common sense standpoint that's just utterly stupid.

The other piece of legislation they're looking at, the RAA - Regulatory Accountability Act - would compel agencies to adopt the cheapest rules, rather than those deemed most effective or those likely to do the most good. Again, not super logical. I like saving money, but if I'm thirsty there's no point in me buying a cup with a hole in the bottom just because I have a coupon for it. *insert eye roll*

I was so surprised by the info my research dug up, I Facebooked Live about it.



Email your members of Congress by clicking here. It only takes a minute and is super painless, I promise.

With that click, you'll be helping to keep all of us safe at home, school, and the fast food drive-thru line—no word yet on a one-click way to help us remember to get milk at the store, though.

This is a sponsored post for CAMA. All opinions are my own, after doing a ridiculous amount of research to make sure my opinion was right. ;)

For more information on how you can help protect your kiddos, you can visit the Clean Air Moms website, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

Polka-Dotted Children, Rattlesnakes, and Vaccines OH MY

When I was pregnant with my first baby, the doctor noted (with some alarm) that, for some reason, I wasn't vaccinated for rubella.

Getting the shot while you're pregnant can carry risks, so he marked my chart with all sorts of red pen arrow scribbles and neon yellow highlighter to GET VACCINATED IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING BIRTH.

"Until then," he advised, only half joking, "steer clear of any polka-dotted children."

As if you need another thing to worry about when you're carrying your first baby, right?

Note: This is a photo of me during my third pregnancy. There are exactly zero photos of me during my first two pregnancies, because this is what I look like when I'm pregnant and I was obviously far too large and tired to go find a camera until my third try.

I can't remember for sure, but I bet I had nightmares at least once a week about being surrounded by sick, bumpy kids, floating on a giant raft of NOPE through a sea of rubella germs. Of course, outside my weird pregnancy dreams, the odds were low I'd really come in contact with someone who was infected...but the price to pay if you are exposed to the disease while incubating your baby (birth defects, miscarriage, brain damage, etc.) are enough to keep you up at night, anyway.

You'd do anything to keep your kids safe, and that starts before they're born.

I didn't end up having to avoid any "polka-dotted children" during that pregnancy, but make no mistake — I would have skipped a birthday party for the Queen herself in a heartbeat if she'd so much as had the sniffles.

Because hey, you just don't take a chance on your baby's health. If there's something you can actively do to reduce the risk of them getting sick, you do it. Plus, frankly, I don't want to catch the sniffles either, even if they're some kind of fancy royal variety.

So when my son was born, tiny and vulnerable and thirteen weeks premature, I did everything in my power to protect him. I enforced hand washing rules until most of my family members barely had any skin left up to their elbows. For the first few months, I didn't take him out to the mall or a kindergarten classroom or anyplace else that tends to be filled with people who might carelessly cough in his general direction. And yup, I made sure he got every vaccine under the sun as soon as he was medically able to get them.

Here he is at 2 1/2 weeks old; he'd graduated from wearing surgical masks on his buns to actual preemie diapers, but his arm was still about the size of my thumb. Of course now he's fifteen and taller than me, but that's a different sad story!

For me, vaccinations are just another way to protect my kids' health and safety, the same way I protect them from germs by teaching them proper bathroom hand-washing hygiene, or protect them from danger by telling them they can't have a rattlesnake as a pet.

I mean, is there a chance they could have a pet rattlesnake and never get bitten? Sure.

But parenting is all about weighing risk versus benefit—and preventable disease, like a venomous rattler bite, is something I'm not willing to risk my kids going through. Not if I can help it. Luckily vaccines are basically 100% benefit with none of the risk, because they're safe...safer even, I'd wager, than the surface of my kids' (probably unwashed) bathroom hands.

This post was written in partnership with I Vaccinate, but all belief in medical science and junk is my own. I don't write about stuff like this very often, but when I found out that my state has one of the worst childhood and overall vaccination rates in the nation (only 54% of toddlers here are up to date on their shots, believe it or not) I wanted to speak up about how important I believe it is. Check out I Vaccinate for more details and facts, and then make sure your kids are covered (not to mention yourselves, parents—that rubella is no joke).

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

I'll Take a Side of Athletics With My Kids' Academics, Please

The other day my mom referred to me as the “athletic one” in our family, which made me laugh so hard I almost pulled a muscle (something, incidentally, that probably wouldn’t happen to someone who was actually athletic).

As I tried to catch my breath, my mom had to agree that the standards for athleticism were pretty low at my house when I was growing up. “Well,” she explained, “my parents always emphasized academics over sports. Heck, my sister was considered the athletic one when we were kids, and that’s just because she liked horses! She didn’t even ride them, she just liked them!”

So, that’s how she raised us too, which meant that I was considered “sporty” based on the fact that I was slender and took an elective gym class once (which I dropped on the second day of the semester, by the way). My parents didn’t seem to care too much about what happened in gym; they did, however, have an elaborate cash-based reward system for classroom grades that ensured I always made the honor roll.

We had a good laugh, but I had to wonder: How many other households out there, either through example, their family reward system, or just with passing comments, tend to support academic fitness over physical fitness?

Well, this year I’ve spent a lot of time volunteering in my youngest kid’s kindergarten classroom, and let me tell you, it’s been a real eye-opener—and not just because of the shocking amount of nose picking that goes on.

Her teacher has the class do fifteen minutes of aerobics and stretches to prep their minds for learning at the start of each day. At the beginning of the year, I have to sheepishly admit I kind of saw that as a waste of valuable learning time (please don’t tell Mrs. Rose I said that, though). After all, they have gym class, don’t they? But I changed my tune in a hurry when I saw the difference in the kids on days when they didn’t have time to get their blood flowing—lethargic and distracted, to say the least. The same thing happens when bad weather keeps recess confined to the classroom, too.

And as for my question, “They have gym class, don’t they?” Yes, they have gym.

One day a week. For forty minutes.

When you add in twenty minutes for daily recess (or less, if they sit there and pick at their lunch instead of eating it, which OF COURSE THEY DO, because they’re kids), you’re looking at around two hours of PE-related activity total per week. And we aren’t alone at our school; only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year.

Many people, myself included (until this year), are unaware of how little physical activity today's learners are afforded.

Let’s face it, though we know that children need sixty minutes of physical activity a day, we mostly just tell ourselves that our kids go to the playground and chase the dog around the house plenty. But is it adding up to an hour of active play? What about when it’s rainy? What about all those months when it’s ALREADY DARK by the time you get home? What about kids who don’t have a safe place to play, or sixty minutes of outdoor supervision at home when their parents aren’t busy making dinner, helping with homework, or giving baths?

PE programs can help fill that gap.

Plus, PE class builds confidence and skills they can’t get in other learning environments. Seeing my own daughter's face light up in gym class when she finally managed to dribble a basketball properly was a game changer for me. It was the same look of pride and accomplishment that she gets when she finishes another sight word book, or gets a question right in class.

We can’t deprive our kids of these moments.

We have to show them that we value PE programs, or else our kids will grow up believing that it’s unimportant, compounding the problem for future generations. Now that I understand the connection, I’m stopping the “academics over athletics” mindset in my house.

Because PE doesn’t just help our kids feel better, it also helps our kids learn better.

Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, aims to foster a national conversation about the need to ensure quality PE as a part of every child’s education, because they understand that there’s a strong connection between physical education and academic performance. PE and classroom learning go hand in hand to address the whole child, mind and body.

The good news is that the federal education law, ESSA, now includes PE and health as part of what they describe as a “well-rounded curriculum,” meaning that these programs are eligible for federal funding. However, each state has to develop their own plan, and if PE isn’t included in a state’s plan, it won’t have access to that funding!

Do you know if your kids are getting enough PE? Join the PE Action Team at Voices For Healthy Kids to protect physical education. Then stop here to learn more about how you can work to increase PE in your community!

This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

Can you survive cold season with kids?

Cough and cold season is here, and I'm teaming up with Boogie Wipes and Saline Soothers to help you and your family feel better faster with a Cough & Cold Giveaway.

When Kids Get Sick

From the first sniffle to feeling downright sick, Boogie Wipes has tips, tricks and hacks to guide you through the entire cough and cold season (including great information on how to keep germs from spreading between siblings!)

Click here to read through their cough and cold survival guide and be prepared for the season.


When YOU Get Sick

It's bad enough when your kids aren't feeling well, but when you aren't feeling well, it's downright miserable. While there's no cure for the common cold, Saline Soothers Nose Wipes provide soothing comfort for sore noses with Natural Saline, Vitamin E, Aloe and Chamomile.

Click here to learn more about Saline Soothers and grab a coupon.


It All Comes Down to Saline

Whether you reach for Saline Soothers or grab your kids' Boogie Wipes, it all comes down to Natural Saline. The Natural Saline in both products dissolves mucus, while the Vitamin E, Aloe and Chamomile soothe and comfort even the most sensitive skin. Click here to learn more about the benefits of all-natural saline.

Enter to Win!

Stock up on your cough and cold supplies so you're ready when sickness strikes this season. Complete the form below to enter to win! (Click here to enter if you do not see the form.)

One winner will be randomly chosen to receive Boogie Wipes, Saline Soothers, Burt's Bees cough drops, Purell hand sanitizer, DavidsTea Cold 911 tea and color-changing mug, plus a $100 Target gift card.

Giveaway ends on Monday, November 21, 2016 at 11:59 pm ET. Giveaway is open to residents in US and Canada over the age of 18. If winner lives in Canada, alternate gift card will be provided of same value.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!