November 24, 2015

Celebrating HolidaysI used to love holidays. Growing up there were big family gatherings and community celebrations. I looked forward to helping my grandma cook and set the table. There was lots of laughter and joy and happiness. Celebrating holidays was important to my family.

When I went off to college I would go home for some of the holidays. And for those I couldn’t there was always an invitation to a friend’s house or an event for college students. Laughter and joy and happiness even though I wasn’t with my family.

CycleGuy’s family is small but there are lots of aunts and uncles and cousins who get together for holidays. One Thanksgiving we went to Denver to be with his family. I think there were over 50 people who came through. There was more food than needed, lots of laughter, joy, and happiness. It reminded me of home.

But after my grandpa died and my family was much smaller, it was never the same. I tried to recreate the house full of people and all the joy that came with it. But people move away, lives get busy, and things change.

It’s not that I don’t like celebrating holidays. Although, some people like to say I do. It’s just different now. Even though I try to make the holidays special so BabyGirl can create great childhood memories, without my mom and grandma and grandpa it’s kind of weird. When I was in my 20s and 30s it didn’t seem unusual on holidays not to be with the family I grew up with. Now that I’m in my 40s, though, holidays are a very strong reminder that all my family is gone.

Sure, I have CycleGuy and BabyGirl and Aunt Zoni and Grandpa Tommy. But as much as I try it seems like each year I miss my mom and grandpa and grandma more. I write this as Thanksgiving is upon us, but it’s the same sentiment for Hanukkah, Passover, and Rosh Hashana. As much as I want the laughter, joy, and happiness to be there I feel like I work so hard for it. I should come easy. Like when I was a kid.

Holidays bring the gamut of emotions. We remember those who has passed while we forge ahead to make new memories. It’s not that I don’t like holidays. It’s that I want them to be the same idyllic celebrations they once were. And because they’re not, I struggle with different being OK.

I’m writing this for those who are like me and find the holidays somewhat difficult. Difficult in the sense that we love them and the memories and the family and the getting together. Even the cleaning and cooking and more cleaning. And the leftovers. But it’s not the same because there are people we’re missing so much that they’ve left a hole in our heart that just hasn’t closed yet.

My mother loved every holiday and despite often not feeling well, she would make it a priority to be around friends and family. I feel like times are different now, though. That being in the presence of others doesn’t mean they’re present. It’s like a disconnected connectedness. And I have a hard time with that.

Times are changing and I need to change with them. At the same time I’m responsible for helping to create the foundation of how BabyGirl will look back on the holidays of her childhood. I don’t have many left with her, and that makes it even more difficult for me.

So this year I’ll try something new and channel my mom and do for others. Because it’s hard to feel sad or alone when you’re surrounded by others who are so glad you’re there. People who are present and appreciate that you gave up part of your day for them. And I’ll do it with my family and I’ll go in feeling the happiness and joy that I once felt. Just knowing it’s still there means there’s a likelihood I can rekindle it.

How do you spend the holidays? Not just Thanksgiving, but all the holidays? Do you have family you miss that keeps you from doing things? Or do you make sure to do things to keep their memory alive?



November 12, 2015

Tips for Kids First Phone

FTC Disclosure

As we approach the gift-giving season, I’m seeing many parents asking about “the best” smartphone for their child’s first phone. Most teens who’ve had a smartphone are very clear on which new device they want. When it comes to getting a first device for a child, or for the kids to share, there are many different opinions. And sometimes they have exactly what they have in mind.

While you may be decidedly in the iOS or Android camp, there is so much more to giving a child their first smartphone than picking out which device. While I do believe that there is such a thing as ‘too much phone’, the fact is you should choose a device that can grow with your child so you’re not needing to upgrade too soon. But there’s so much more to think about beyond which device to get. Sometimes I think picking out the device is the easiest part. Currently, I’m splitting my time between an iPhone 6 Plus and the new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Verizon just sent me. I love them both, for different reasons. But my almost teen daughter isn’t a fan of either of them.

5 Helpful Tips For Parents Getting Their Child Their First Smartphone

Talk About Expectations Before You Give Them A Phone – This is not the time to treat the kids like the crazy animals they sometimes are. Don’t throw the phone at them and run for your life like you’re feeding a wild lion. I fully realize they may not hear but a fraction of the words you’re saying., but take a deep breath and set expectations. Even better, consider a written agreement so the expectations are very clear.

Teach Them About The Importance of Using WiFi When Possible – Certainly you’ve heard stories of parents getting huge cell phone bills because the kids have been using data 24/7. Not only is wifi often faster than the data service, it also keeps data usage in check. Even if you have ‘unlimited’ data, you’ll quickly see that it’s not as unlimited as you think it is. Of course, not all wifi is secure so that should be discussed as well.

Require Their Login Information – This isn’t about snooping, it’s about parenting. If you ever believe your child is in danger, at risk, or doing stupid stuff you should be able to access their accounts from anywhere. You should have the ability to shut down your child’s access by logging in from your device and changing the password. They may not like it, but when used correctly this is to protect them from themselves and others.

Explain Social Media Etiquette and Reality – Kids use social media differently than we do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules, both universal as well as age-appropriate. Be very clear on the rules for using the device at school, taking photos of other people, sharing their location, giving out personal information, and other things that are of concern to you. In addition, make sure they understand that not everything they see on social media is reality. This last one is so important since they may not be aware that their favorite celebrities and Youtube or Instagram stars are posting photos that do not include any disclosure about being paid to post, it being staged, or that it’s really an ad.

Trust Them – I know this isn’t really a tip. And I know there are times when we need our kids to check in with us. Remember back when there was a time when we’d go to the movies, the mall, the beach, or just hanging out with our friends and our parents couldn’t get in touch with us. Yes, times have changed. But if you’ve laid the foundation and set the groundwork trust that they’ll do the right thing. Of course, you reserve the right to check in and to go all forensic scientist on their device while they’re asleep. So give them some freedom to grow and learn. And remember that talking about phone etiquette, the realities of social media, the risk of online predators, and other things about the online world will happen with or without our input. This is the time to make sure those lines of communication are open and free of judgement.

Bonus tip don’t surprise the kids with a phone you would want, get something they want. Sure, they’ll use it because the option of being without a phone isn’t really an option but their hands are smaller, they don’t usually carry a purse or bag to put it in, and wanting to be cool among their friends is important to them. You’d think BabyGirl would have the latest and greatest, but she doesn’t. She still has the Droid Ultra she got 2 years ago and she loves it. For her, it’s the perfect phone because it’s slim, lightweight, and very durable. It does everything she needs and she never worries about damaging it. And, ironically, it doesn’t have a case. Just a screen protector. There weren’t many cases made for it and she has chosen to be careful rather than have an ugly phone cover. Hard to argue with that, really.

If you’re thinking of passing on your phone to your child and upgrading, my newest obsession is the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. It’s beautiful, lightweight, has a sleek design, and a totally drool-worthy camera. And those Edge features? Super efficient and functional. Samsung has so many helpful features like Samsung Pay, wireless charging, reducing window size, opening multiple windows, and so much more. Whether it’s because you want a beautiful phone or need one to help keep your busy life organized, definitely take a look at the S6 Edge Plus.

And now that you’re likely getting a device for your child, or maybe you already have and just stopped by, what other tips do you recommend before getting the kids their first smartphone?



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