Parenting Archive

The Things They Don’t Teach You…


With Liam turning 5 in July, I’ve been paying attention to things I’ve never had to before, such as school. It never really occurred to me that things have changed at all since I’ve been in elementary/middle school, but apparently they have. Some people argue that it’s for the better, and others argue that it’s all going straight down in the metaphorical handbasket.

Personally, I don’t think I have enough experience with school age kids just yet to be able to voice my opinion on what works and what doesn’t, but I do know that one thing seems to be blatantly and obviously missing:

Life skills.

I’m not talking about skills such as interacting with others, sharing, whatever. I mean like, “adulting”. Apparently these things started disappearing when I was in school because I was fairly clueless on a lot upon graduating, but now they are all but extinct. I’m talking things like how to balance a check book, how to budget appropriately, how to perform basic maintenance work on your car, cooking/shopping/nutrition, building things, how certain tools work, gardening, etc etc. I’m sure there are programs at schools out there that exist but it’s definitely not the norm. I do agree that these are things that could definitely be taught at home by parents…but when is that going to happen? School lasts longer and longer these days, then kids come home with hours of homework. Combine that with parents who work full time and when is this teaching going to happen? No, it’s not the job of schools to teach your kids how to change the oil in their cars but really, aren’t basic life skills just as important as knowing how to solve an equation or edit a sentence? All the mathematical knowledge in the world isn’t going to save you when you burn your spam because you’re broke from not budgeting and getting ripped off from paying someone to do something you could have easily done yourself.


I don’t want this to be a touchy subject because heck, not all of us have time to instill this vast HOW TO BE AN ADULT knowledge upon our kids. I barely do and to be honest, I can’t do it anyway because no one taught me. But because I know what it’s like to feel an inch tall when buying a house or going to Home Depot, it’s important to me that my kids don’t. I want them to excel in academics, yes, but I also want them to be able to take care of themselves and not rely on others. I feel like as a society, we are becoming so technology dependent that we are forgetting how to manually do things for ourselves.

Surely I’m not the only one that’s thought of this, and I definitely don’t have a plan other than just involving my kids in every daily activity instead of sending them off to watch TV when I’m changing the oil in my car. How do we raise capable kids? Is there a secret?


New Jersey Updated Child Restraint Law Goes into Effect September 1, 2015


NJ county mapOn September 1, 2015, New Jersey put into effect its new child restraint laws. These laws apply to everyone driving through the state, not just to motorists who live in NJ. Even if your vehicle is registered in Toronto, you are expected to comply with the vehicle & traffic laws of each state you are driving in. And that includes their child restraint laws.

We know that legal jargon can be very confusing and many parents who live in New Jersey (or who drive through the state) still have questions so here is a breakdown of the the new NJ carseat and booster seat law in plain English:

Children under the age of 8 (through age 7) are legally required to ride in the back seat* as follows:

  • Under age 2 (0-23 months) and weighing less than 30 pounds are required to use a rear-facing carseat with a 5-point harness. This means a convertible used in the rear-facing position or an infant seat. (Note: Most babies will outgrow an infant carrier before their 2nd birthday and will need to transition to a convertible seat used in the rear-facing position. Unless you start off with a convertible seat from birth and then there is no need to transition to a bigger rear-facing seat.)

Rear-facing only (infant) carseat convertible seat installed reat-facing

  •  Age 2 through age 3 (24-47 months) secured in a carseat with 5-point harness either rear-facing (until reaching the weight or height limit) or forward-facing. Having a 3-year-old in just a booster seat is not legal unless they weigh more than 40 lbs.

Diono-Rainier-Clara  Nautilus2

  • Age 4 through age 7 (48 months until 8th birthday) and less than 57 inches tall (4’9″) secured in a forward-facing carseat with 5-point harness or a booster seat. There is no weight requirement in this updated law – only age and height requirements. (Note: If you have an older child who weighs more than 80 lbs. and you’re having a hard time finding a booster seat that they actually still fit in – consider a Safety 1st Incognito Kid Positioner. It’s specifically designed for bigger, older kids.)

Evenflo SK Platinum - harness Jon Turtle Booster Evenflo Amp

  • Age 8 through 17 shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened seat belt

Passing the 5 Step Test

*Exemptions: If there are no rear seats (e.g., standard cab pickup truck), the child shall be secured in a carseat or booster in the front passenger seat except that no child shall be secured in a rear-facing carseat in the front seat of any motor vehicle which is equipped with a passenger-side airbag that is not disabled or turned off.

Full text of the new law can be found here:

NJ Updated Law

The Universal Battle of Motherhood.


Okay, so I know it’s pretty much a joke to have the word battle in singular form up there in the title. As if there is only one battle to motherhood. Or parenthood. Hahahahahahahahahahaha.

I wish.


For real though, there are many battles, most of them individual and situation specific. Or not. The Battle of Taking Off Shoes in the Car. The Battle of Eat Your Friggen Dinner. The Battle of Stop Spitting on the Cat. The Battle of Keeping the Bathwater in the Bath. The Battle of Don’t Drink the Bathwater, Your Brother Probably Peed in it!

I’m not talking about those. Because we all know those are hopeless and we might as well not even call them battles because they will never be won. We should just call them  Losses You Need to Accept. The cat is just destined to be damp and stiff. Whatever, they’re covered in their own spit anyway so who cares.

I’m talking about the Battle of Alone Time. It’s a universal dilemma among moms. At least among the moms I associate with. All day long you are tired. You can’t wait till you can crawl back in your bed. You also can’t wait for silence. For time to chill on the couch. To internet surf without someone asking you questions, climbing on you, or getting into something. So bedtime comes, you breathe the sigh of relief as you close the last kid’s door…then what do you do?

Behind door number one you have sleep. You can go to bed early, and enjoy the extra sleep we all crave so you can feel refreshed in the morning. If you have a baby that wakes multiple times a night, at least you can feel less zombie like. But here’s the thing: the sooner you go to sleep, the sooner the morning comes. Scary isn’t it?


Behind door number two, you have alone time. You can grab snacks, your iPad, the remote, whatever, and camp out the couch to do whatever your heart desires. Without interruptions. Herein lies the problem of alone time: it’s addictive. I always laugh when someone says if you get a few hours alone a week it helps tremendously. For me it’s like mama crack. You give me a few hours alone and I will go to desperate lengths to find a way to get it again. So when I’m camped out on the couch at 7:30pm, that quickly transpires to me at midnight surrounded by 3495872347 chocolate bar wrappers, eyes dry and huge, ten tabs open to different websites reading about stuff I will realize I do not need by the time daylight rolls around. But at midnight? Oh I totally need that.

So which is it? What is a mama to do? Get restful sleep so you only want to sell your children for half the day the next day? Or get some alone time but feel like a cracked out zombie the next day? Personally I like to rotate the two options; keeps me balanced. Until someone comes up with a door number three….


Bicycle Helmet Ratings: Giro, Bell, Schwinn and Scott


Comparison of Safe Bike Helmets for Older Kids and Adults: Bell Piston Review, Giro Revel Review, Schwinn Merge Review, Scott ARX Plus Review

In our previous blog on bicycle helmets, we covered some of the statistics involving brain injuries to cyclists.  While serious injuries are not uncommon for adults or kids, fatal injuries tend to be much more likely with increasing age.  That’s not only a big deal for tweens and teens, but especially for parents!  But how do you pick a helmet?  Here are a few tips:

  • Select one with a CPSC certified label.  This means it passed basic requirements and testing.
  • Make sure it fits correctly.  If it is too hard to adjust or doesn’t stay in place correctly, it may not be in the right spot to protect well after shifting around during a long ride.  Most helmets should fit snugly and should not move much front-to-back, side-to-side or twisting.  Have a question?  Try shopping at a local bike store and have an expert help you!
  • Select one for comfort.  If it is too hot, or pokes you or gives you a headache, you won’t wear it and it won’t protect you.  Ventilation and padding differ greatly and it’s not always the priciest models that are the best ones for you, because everyone has a different head and preference.
  • Choose a helmet for cycling or one labeled for dual or multi-sport use. Models specifically for other sports like skateboarding may not be as suitable for cycling use.
  • Select one you like.  Fashion may seem irrelevant for safety, but if you aren’t going to wear it, it won’t protect you.  Styles vary a lot, from motorcycle style with drab colors  to ultralight racing models with fancy designs.

Much like carseats, independent testing is difficult to find.  To my knowledge, only Consumer Reports® has done additional safety testing of select models in the USA.  Their ratings of 22 models are available to subscribers online and can be found in the June, 2015 issue of the magazine.  I don’t know if their testing is consistent with industry expert analysis, but much like carseats, it appears to be the only independent testing out there.

Consumer Reports also tested youth helmets.  Their top choice was the Bontrager Solstice Youth at $40, available online and at local bike stores and Trek stores.  For tweens, teens and adults, you probably need an adult sized helmet. Below, I have quick reviews on a few budget models that were recommended in CR’s ratings.  In addition to being best buys, all three received very good impact absorption scores.  All three have dial adjustments that ratchet to tighten and loosen the helmet.

Quick Reviews:

Giro Revel (Left), Schwinn Merge (Center) and Bell Piston (Right):

HelmetComparsionSide HelmetComparisonBack HelmetComparisonInside

I recently tested four helmets, ranging from $15 to $150.  Do you need to spend a fortune to protect your head, or does a bargain model work just as well?