Friday, June 27, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More

Are you a twin, the parent of twins, related to twins, acquainted with twins or just simply fascinated with twins? If so, you’re sure to have an inspirational, humorous, or touching story about this relationship! As editor of the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More, I am looking for stories and poems that highlight the special bond that twins share, the joys and challenges of raising twins, the unique circumstances of their arrival, the “double trouble” that twins get into, the “multiple blessings” of being a twin or having them in the family, and much more! I’d love to hear about triplets, quads and more, too. As with all Chicken Soup for the Soul stories, they should be told in the first person, not be previously published, and not exceed 1,200 words. Topics may include but are not limited to:

• The journey through infertility, resulting in twin blessings
• The joys and challenges of pregnancy with multiples
• The perils of prematurity and life in the NICU
• Getting the good news and sharing it with others
• Sleepless nights and endless feedings
• The incidents that make twins “double trouble”
• The pranks and “switcheroos” pulled by identical twins
• Being a singleton in a home with multiples
• The chaos and silliness of everyday life with twins
• The special bond that twins share
• Adventures in double potty-training
• Getting out and about with twins, whether it’s to the store or on vacation
• Grandparenting twins
• Twins who arrive under special circumstances, such as adoption or surrogacy
• Single parenting with multiples
• Raising twins in a gay household
• The loss of a twin sibling
• Tackling the teenage years as a twin
• Twin tales from preschool, elementary school, high school and adult life

. . . and more!

If your story is selected for publication, you will receive $200, ten free copies of the book (worth more than $100) and a 50-word bio in the book. We cannot use previously published stories, but you will retain the rights to sell your story after it is published by Chicken Soup.

Please submit your stories through the Chicken Soup web site (click on “Submit a Story”).


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Sunday, June 22, 2008

When Kids Cut Their Own Hair

In my groggy state this morning, I thought I noticed something strange about four-year-old Austen’s appearance. It seemed to be a little more extreme than “bed head.” As I looked more closely, I realized that he had cut off a big chunk of his bangs! He’d been using his kid scissors yesterday, but I didn’t notice that he’d given himself a haircut! He never said a word.

Now, my husband and I are debating about what to do. Do we wait until Tuesday when the kids’ haircut place is open? (Today is Sunday.) Or does my husband whip out the electric razor and give the kid a buzz cut? And what do we do about his twin brother? Do we leave his hair long, or buzz him, too, so the boys have the same hairstyle? I’ve never been a big fan of the military haircut for kids, but it looks like I may not have a choice!

My mom told me that I cut off my little sister’s bangs when we were kids, so I guess this “talent” for haircutting is an inherited trait. (At least I was smart enough to mutilate her hair instead of mine!) I never thought, however, that I would be experiencing this problem with a boy. Usually, it’s little girls who decide to mess with their hairstyles (and that of their dolls). I looked on the Web for some words of wisdom on how to handle this debacle. The consensus seems to be to cut it short and take comfort in the fact that hair will grow. In the meantime, I think I’ll be confiscating all the scissors in the house!

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Are You an Overprotective Parent . . . Like Me?

I admit that I tend to be a bit on the overprotective side when it comes to my kids. My husband will suggest that my teenage boys ride their bikes to the beach, and I’ll say, “What? All that way? Across two busy streets? No, I’ll drive them!” I’ve seen too many news reports about kids getting hit on their bicycles. When my boys really want to do something and I say it’s too dangerous, they accuse me of not trusting them. “I trust you completely,” I’ll tell them. “It’s other people I don’t trust!” So, you can imagine my shock when I read that Lenore Skenazy, a columnist for the New York Sun, left her nine-year-old son alone at Bloomingdale’s with a subway pass, four quarters for a phone call, a subway map and a $20 bill. Then she told him to get himself home. She’s either the bravest mom I’ve ever known or the stupidest. I haven’t decided which yet. Thankfully, the kid got home safely, proud of his accomplishment.

Skenazy has been nominated by parents around the globe for both “Mom of the Year” and “Worst Mother” after reading her column and seeing her on TV. (Needless to say, her stunt got her a lot of publicity.) So, why did she do it? To make a point, of course. She said that today’s “helicopter parents” hover over their children too much, robbing kids of the ability to make their own decisions and be independent, skills that raise their self-esteem and empower them. By overprotecting them, we’re raising children who are over-reliant on their parents, not learning to be self-sufficient because of their parents’ fears.

Could Skenazy be right? Experts say that crime rates have been going down. And almost all child abductions are done by people known to the children, especially parents involved in child custody cases. And crimes against children tend to get a disproportionate amount of news coverage, making it appear that they are widespread, when they are not. As for me, it’s not so much the crime that I’m worried about, but just their physical safety. What if a driver doesn’t see my kid? What if my son gets hurt? But at the same time, I can see where my own fears have held me back in my life, and I don’t want to do that to my children. I want them to be adventurous and courageous, not fearful and paranoid (like me).

I still think that Skenazy perhaps went a bit too far, but I do appreciate the point she made. We need to let our kids grow up and learn to be responsible for themselves. We need to let them make decisions because that’s a skill they’ll need as adults. And we need to fight our fears so they don’t cause us to overprotect our kids. It’s a lesson I’m trying to learn. I recently let my 15-year-old sign up for Junior Lifeguard classes at the beach. He’s going to ride his bike several miles there (with two friends), three days a week all summer. I’m sure my fist will be in my mouth for the first week or so, but at the same time I’ll know that I’m doing the best thing for him. My decision doesn’t make me feel good yet, but it will. And it will definitely make my son feel good about himself. That’s good parenting.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

My Husband, the Grouchy Genius

Finally, I can shake off this blanket of guilt I’ve been carrying around. It turns out that my husband’s extreme crankiness is not my fault, as I’ve assumed all along, but because he is extremely INTELLIGENT! Whoooo! That takes a load off my mind. All this time, I thought he hated me, and come to find out he’s just a victim of his own genius. Wow, that makes me feel better! Now the next time my husband snaps at me for getting in his way in the kitchen, I can just comfort myself with the knowledge that he’s smarter than me! And the next time that I get a little cranky, rather than pinning it on PMS and wacky hormones, it might just be that my intellect has been getting a workout!

These intriguing findings about the link between grouchiness and brilliance were presented at the 2006 convention of the American Psychological Association by two researchers (one from Penn State and the other from York University). Their study found a direct correlation between disagreeableness and increased intelligence. I’ll be forever grateful to them. I have a great excuse now when I’m not my usual sunny self. “I’m not grouchy, honey. I’m just extremely smart!” Of course, he’ll never buy that when it comes to me, but he’ll insist that it’s absolutely factual when it comes to his own crankiness! Smart people have all the answers.

And further, I’ve just realized, all this time when we thought The Count was the genius on Sesame Street, it turns out it was really Oscar the Grouch who had the high IQ! I always suspected that under that mangy garbage-encrusted green fur was a mind of extreme intelligence. No, he’s not scrounging around in the dirt in that trash can; he’s contemplating the mysteries of the universe and reading scientific tomes. Hey, kids, I want you to be just like Oscar! Go ahead, throw that tantrum! Talk back to me! You’re a little genius in the making! Just like your dear old dad . . .

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Healing Yourself in the 1800s

I’ve always wondered how people cured many common ailments in the 1800s when they didn’t have the cornucopia of medications and physicians that we have today. I got my hands on a copy of The American Frugal Housewife, by Mrs. (Lydia) Child, first published in 1833, and she suggested some interesting remedies for various illnesses and conditions. I can’t guarantee they’ll cure what ails you, but they’ll certainly amuse you!

Bruises: Constant application of warm water is very soothing to bruised flesh, and may serve to prevent bad consequences while other things are in preparation.

Burns: If a person who is burned will patiently hold the injured part in water, it will prevent the formation of a blister. If the water be too cold, it may be slightly warmed, and produce the same effect. People in general are not willing to try it for a sufficiently long time. Chalk and hog’s lard simmered together are said to make a good ointment for a burn.

Cancers: The Indians have great belief in the efficacy of poultices of stewed cranberries, for the relief of cancers. They apply them fresh and warm every ten or fifteen minutes, night and day. Whether this will effect a cure I know not; I simply know that the Indians strongly recommend it. Salts, or some simple physic, is taken every day during the process.

Corns: A corn may be extracted from the foot by binding on half a raw cranberry, with the cut side of the fruit upon the foot. I have known a very old and troublesome corn drawn out in this way, in the course of a few nights.

Headache: Half a spoonful of citric acid (which may always be bought of the apothecaries) stirred in half a tumbler of water, is excellent for the head-ache.

Sore Throat:
Loaf sugar and brandy relieves a sore throat; when very bad, it is good to inhale the steam of scalding hot vinegar through the tube of a tunnel. This should be tried carefully at first, lest the throat be scalded. For children, it should be allowed to cool a little. A stocking bound on warm from the foot, at night, is good for the sore throat.

A raw onion is an excellent remedy for the sting of a wasp.

Stomachache: Whortleberries, commonly called huckleberries, dried, are a useful medicine for children. Made into tea, and sweetened with molasses, they are very beneficial, when the system is in a restricted state, and the digestive powers out of order.

Teeth and Breath: Honey mixed with pure pulverized charcoal is said to be excellent to cleanse the teeth, and make them white. Lime-water with a little Peruvian bark is very good to be occasionally used by those who have defective teeth, or an offensive breath.

Toothache: A poultice made of ginger or of common chickweed, that grows about one’s door in the country, has given great relief to the tooth-ache, when applied frequently to the cheek.

Warts: It is said that if the top of the wart be wet and rubbed two or three times a day with a piece of unslaked lime, it cures the wart soon, and leaves no scar.

Wounds and Cracked Lips:
Nothing is better than ear-wax to prevent the painful effects resulting from a wound by a nail, skewer, &c. It should be put on as soon as possible. Those who are troubled with cracked lips have found this remedy successful when others have failed. It is one of those sorts of cures, which are very likely to be laughed at; but I know of its having produced beneficial results.

Okay, I think I’m going to draw the line on using ear-wax on my lips, but perhaps a little huckleberry tea for my next tummy ache might be worth a try! All I can say is “many thanks” to the person who invented Chap-Stick. (Just don’t tell me what it’s made of!)

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Dogs and Babies

I’m not a dog owner, but I’d always wondered if people with dogs were afraid their pet would attack their newborn baby, especially if they had a large breed of dog. Turns out dog owners do have these fears. An article in the Wall Street Journal by Rachel Zimmerman (June 2, 2008) says that parents are seeking help for this issue in greater numbers by consulting dog trainers, books and DVDs designed to prepare their pooches for the incoming infant. There’s even a course called Dogs & Storks that has 35 trainers located in the U.S. and Canada.

Experts say that part of the blame for our dogs’ adjustment problems lie with us. Because we so often treat our dogs as our first babies—allowing them to sleep with us, go everywhere with us, receive constant attention from us—it’s no wonder that our furry friends object when they’re no longer the center of attention. The article notes that dogs bite about 4.7 million people in the U.S. each year, and most of them are children. Eighty percent of those who are killed by dogs are children. Even if a dog is not aggressive toward a child, the stress of having a new baby in the house might cause bad behavior, such as barking and urinating inside.

So what’s a parent-to-be to do? Some people start treating their dog the way they would when the baby arrives even before the delivery day. For instance, they may take the dog for walks with a stroller (and a doll inside), or they might try ignoring the dog more, not always giving him attention as soon as he demands it. My friend Lisa often took her boxers into the nursery to get them acclimated to the new d├ęcor before her daughter arrived. When baby Kristin was still at the hospital, Lisa’s husband brought home a blanket that the baby had used for the dogs to smell. And Lisa didn’t leave the baby alone with the dogs until she felt confident that they had accepted the baby. Kristin is now over a year old, and one of the dogs lets her pull her ears and take her chew toys. The other dog usually just walks away when the baby gets a little rough with her.

Certainly, some parents find they need to find a new home for Rover once the baby arrives. But in most cases, especially with a little preparation, dog and baby can co-exist just fine.

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