Child safety seat regulation changes

You may want to check these out if you have a child who's three or older.

In 2014, we can expect a change in child safety seat regulations. Parents will be warned to not put kids ages three in a child safety seat attachment system as was previously federally required, as kids and car seats with a weight of 65 pounds or greater have been known to loosen and be unsafe. Why these laws cannot change now to help protect kids already at risk is beyond me.

What’s also beyond me are the way that federal rules for this or that change constantly, with old rules endangering kids and not resulting in any culpability in terms of federal capacity. What I mean is why make these laws when kids get hurt or die from them anyway—and then fine parents for not following the rules? Do the lawmakers who make the rules also get fined or otherwise punished for putting so many children at risk?

Personally, I think we may have too many rules when it comes to safety measures, but mostly because we have stopped promoting the use of common sense in parenting. I hear of toy recalls because it was discovered that a child’s hair could get caught in a rotating tire. Hair! Why is the toy, intended for ages, say, six and up, in the hair to begin with? Of course it could get wrapped up! That’s why you have PARENTS to supervise their own kids and teach them, “Now, Janie, don’t put the tire in your hair.”

Nowadays moms and dads are afraid to burp a baby without “expert” help, when our genes alone pretty much guaranteed the predominance of our species for the past several thousand years. Why do we all of the sudden have to stop trusting our instincts and start turning to doctors, teachers, or anyone labeled as an expert in order to do what our DNA is programmed to do—take care of our families without our instincts?

No wonder we have so many damn problems between parents and children, families and schools. We are clinically raising detached beings from ourselves rather than having our kids at our sides as nature intended, and we don’t even trust our abilities to care for them during the few hours of the day we have them. Sigh.

Anyhow, check the child safety seat laws out and make sure your seat complies—and if you have a kiddo age three and up now, I would go ahead and make the switch.

Parenting is not a side job

Our culture, however, loves to make it sound like one.

While reading Time’s list of 50 Best Websites of 2012, I cringed to find not only no blogs about attachment parenting, peaceful alternatives to discipline, or any kind of connection-building with children in the “Family and Kids” section, but instead a website called “Mommyish,” which features confessional type stories about parents who leave their infants for vacation or refuse to breastfeed just because.

So much for that whole 2012 Mayan enlightenment thing.

I don’t know where this whole idea of parenting as a side gig started, but you might think that people would wise up and realize it’s a helluva lot more important than popping out a kid and handing him or her to a sitter/daycare while you build your career, travel the world, or sit back and whine about how hard it is to be Mom or Dad. I am not saying you cannot have a career or travel if you have kids—and I’m certainly saying you’re not allowed to vent about any challenges you face—but having a child isn’t something you do on the side, like riding a motorcycle on weekends or selling Avon at parties.

Parenting is a full-time job. It always has been and always will be. Hell, we used to have whole freaking tribes raise children, with each member teaching the youngling something he or she knew well. It was considered that important. We are mammals; we are built with instincts, with special features, to custom care for our own children. It’s not a burden, it’s amazing! I’m not dogging on women who choose not to breastfeed (or cannot breastfeed, of course)—but families who plan on putting two careers ahead of a child should probably reconsider their course of action. Either don’t have a child—or take the lighter career option to be there for your son or daughter.

I totally get why we think the way we do. The system is set up to unnaturally separate us from our kids as early as possible, and the media makes us think that our children are mere annoyances in our lives that we need to “get away” from, rather than the most important relationships we have. Our children are quickly made into consumers and given a uniform education to prepare them for controlled, conformed lives where they will buy a lot and be obedient. Our very instincts are questioned, and every parenting magazine tells us to ask a doctor about things that we normally would simply do ourselves as nature intended. Then, when we can’t connect with our kids and teens, we cry foul, blaming them and whining to anyone who will listen about how hard it is to talk to your child, whom you spend less than three hours a day with.

If you are going to have children, be prepared to give up things in your life, at least temporarily, because they come first. Want to have a life centered on yourself? That’s completely fine. There’s no shame in it at all. But don’t have kids.

Wreck It Ralph

Yes, it’s as good as you’ve heard—and much better than it looks.

When my family and I first saw previews to Wreck It Ralph, my husband was excited—but my daughter and I sort of just shrugged. It didn’t look that great, Disney or not, and like Wall-E, the previews just didn’t hook me. Maybe it was targeted at boys—though the girlie previews don’t hook me any better—but it also wasn’t clear about what the plot really was, which always annoys me. Add that to putting the best moments in the trailer and you’ve got a flop on your hands.

But as more trailers were released, it started to look better—and after some friends finally saw it and proclaimed it amazing, we thought we’d give it a try. We were able to watch it during our local canned food film festival, so seeing it free was a bonus.

Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman—these two ladies made Wreck It Ralph worth watching even if it wasn’t a good movie already. Both characters were trope-y, sure, with the bad*** militant leader with a tragic back story and the silly, childish manic pixie girl before her teen stages. We’ve seen these characters before, and I don’t think that they together even help the movie pass the Bechdel Test—it does barely pass the test otherwise—but they are so much fun to watch and simply hilarious, giving a couple of rare memorable sidekick-female performances in a Disney movie, so yay! And both of the females are leaders in their own right, not just sidekicks, which is also quite nice.

Then there’s Ralph. I’m not a huge John C. Reilly fan but man, this may be my favorite of all of his roles. Ralph is such a good guy at heart, even though he’s a bad guy, and it takes him having to save a new friend to really discover that for himself. His quest starts out as a superficial one—trying to get a medal in order to prove he’s worth something more than a bad guy who lives at the dump—but as it evolves, so does he. It’s a real hero’s journey filled with sacrifice and character development, which is exactly the kind of media I love to consume.

My family all loved the movie (though we did enjoy Rise of the Guardians even more), and we can’t wait to own it and see it again. More please, Disney—and how about more female leads next time?

Who does this blog work for?

Writing for me vs. writing for a niche

When I first started my blog, it wasn't in any sort of attempt to become the next big thing in mom blogging. I simply wanted something that was just mom. As a stay at home mom, I felt like I'd somehow lost touch with my individuality and became a breast-pumping, spill-mopping, short-order cook.

I thought blogging would be a great way to be myself and reconnect with those who knew the pre-mama me. And, at first, that's exactly what I did. I wrote about whatever came to mind, which usually had very little to do with my family, but rather centered around some strange idea or stupid human trick I'd pulled that week. My family and friends really dug it, but after a while, I started to get hungry for more exposure to other readers.

That need to get my blog out there eventually lead me down a different path entirely. Being myself was no longer the focus of my content, but rather the need to gain a following, find a niche and attract sponsors and businesses was the driving force behind what I chose to write.

After writing that way for a year, I was successfully working with businesses, but was completely disenchanted with blogging. It lost its flair. It wasn't mine anymore. It was all safe and vanilla so as not to turn anyone off. In short, it was “me” anymore.

It was then that I realized I needed to make a decision about what was important. Did I want to be the next big thing in mom blogging, or was I more interested in connecting with a readership that really gets me? Ultimately, I chose the latter and it's rekindled my romance with the blogging world.

Do you write for yourself or your audience?

Let sleeping blogs lie?

Resurrecting a dead blog.

Most of us that have been in the blog world for any length of time have one sitting in a dark corner of the Internet. A sleeping blog. Unlike sleeping beauty, there is no prince to kiss these blogs awake and thrust them back into the spotlight. Sometimes these were moderately successful endeavors that we pushed aside because life got busy. More often, these sleeping blogs were our first forays into the blog world and we abandoned them once we became more adept at the art.

What happens when you get the itch to wake up an old blog? Well, I have one of these. It started as a personal blog when I was first trying to figure out hosting my own site instead of using a free blogging platform. I abandoned it as my more business type blogs gained success. Lately, though, I've been wanting to wake it up again. I love the domain name and I have a lot going on in my life that I want to blog about that doesn't fit my other blogs.

I've decided to wake it back up, but how? I quick check shows that there are still about 50 people subscribed to my RSS feed, even though it's been over a year since I posted anything. My first step was to rework the layout and template, using the blogging skills I now possess. Then I wrote up a couple week's worth of posts. There is no point waking up a blog if you are just going to ignore it again, so having some posts waiting in the wings will help me get into the routine of writing for this blog.

Today I posted on the blog about the changes and my intentions of making it active again. Anyone still checking the blog or reading their RSS has been notified and hopefully, if they enjoyed the blog previously, will be excited to see that new posts are going to be coming regularly again.


Teachable Moments

Using tutorials to attract readers.

Regardless of the slant of your blog, you need to provide useful content if you want your readers coming back for more. One successful way to do this is to provide tutorials and simple how-tos for your readers. Tutorials improve your ranking and page views, convince other bloggers to link to your post, and provide true value to your dedicated readers as well as to new readers.

But how can you pull off a tutorial successfully? For most topics, photos really matter. You must take detailed pictures of each step, especially any tricky ones. You may need a tripod or second pair of hands to pull this off well.


You must also order the tutorial well. Make sure the instructions follow the order of the steps. Break down complicated tasks into bite-size pieces, making separate sections. I personally prefer tutorials that include the step beneath each photograph. For simplicity, you may also want to include a shorter numbered list of the steps needed to complete the project at the very end for those that want to print it off, sans pictures, to refer to as they complete the task. This is especially true for recipes. The pictures make for a great blog post, but waste ink and get in the way when your reader tries to print it off for kitchen use.


Finally, include one excellent picture of the finished product, both at the beginning and the end of the post. This picture gives others something to feature or link to entice more readers to your blog. With the popularity of Pinterest, you also want a good preview picture for readers to add to pinboards, thus bringing even more readers to your site.

Should You Host a Giveaway?

Attracting Readers

Have you ever wondered about those giveaways sponsored by your favorite mom bloggers? While they may be hosting them out of kindness, that is just one part of the equation. Giveaways are a proven way to build loyal readership while also providing a thank you gift to some of your readers.

New bloggers usually do their own giveaways. These range from contests to give out gently used items and books to actually purchasing prizes for the giveaway. The giveaway only works if you advertise it and keep entries simple. Approach other mom bloggers in your niche to see if they want to link to your giveaway. Getting the word out ensures it's successful with plenty of entries.


As you become more successful with your blog, you may be approached by individuals and companies to review their products. This is a prime time to secure a free-to-you giveaway item from the company in exchange for the review. Just keep your review honest, or you are doing your readers a disservice.


The most popular giveaway format affords readers an entry for their comment. They may be able to buy additional comments by blogging about your giveaway or mentioning it on social media sites. To keep things fair, use one of the many random number generators online to select a winner.


Once a winner is determined, you must email them to get their mailing details. Get the prize in the mail promptly and spring the extra few cents for delivery tracking. Keep in mind you may not be able to mail all prize types to foreign countries, or the shipping charges may be outlandish. Research this before hand so you can close entries to foreign locales if necessary.

Pictures and Online Privacy

Stay Safe Online and Off

Photography-heavy blogs are quite popular, and for good reason. Good photography really is worth a thousand words, and most readers enjoy seeing the world through their favorite blogger's eyes. It can become tempting to share every aspect of your life through photos, but you must still keep safety and privacy in mind.

The first rule is to avoid pictures that give away your address. I can't count the times I have seen someone's address plastered over their blog. A simple search can usually reveal your city and state information, even if you haven't shared that publicly on the blog. When you then show a series of pictures of your front door with your address plaque clearly visible, it wouldn't take much to determine your exact address.


While chances are slim that you will become a target, it's better to be safe. Many fulltime bloggers announce when they are on vacation. A would-be thief could use the picture clues on your blog to find where you live. Since you have likely shared other pictures of your home and belongings, the thief knows just what to target.


Another concern is photos of yourself and children. You must use your best judgment here. I have talked to mom bloggers who have run into “fans” while running errands. Some of these fans just practiced poor judgment, such as greeting the children by name, while others definitely put out a creepy vibe. If you do share pictures of the kids on the blog, you may want to use fake names for the little ones. Another option is to never share a picture that clearly shows their face.


Of course, if you want to share photos of people other than yourself and your children, always ask permission first. Not everyone is comfortable with starring in your online blog.

Spam Attacks

Is your blog safe?

It began one morning when my first blog was still fairly new. I opened up my site's control panel, groggy and still nursing that first cup of tea. My eyes widened in disbelief when I saw the little number next to my comments. I had received over 300 comments overnight! My excitement quickly faded as I began reading through them. All were written in pretty poor English and featured at least one link to a questionable website. I had become a victim of comment spam.

At first I tried to read through them individually and delete only those that were obviously spam, but that quickly became tedious and I just deleted the whole lot, real comments and all. This happened a few more times before I finally wised up and installed some spam filters on my site.


If you use a major blogging platform, like Wordpress or Blogger, there are some spam blockers already in place. You can tweak these to further block spam messages. At the very least you want to block comments that contain multiple links. I also use a Capcha code on my comments. It's a bit of a pain for legitimate commenters, but it does cut down on the spam.


There are more in depth spam blocking add-ons available, some free and some carrying a small fee. Research these and ensure they work well before trying them out. You will still likely lose some genuine comments, and some spam will still work its way through, but it will be much less severe than running your site with no blocking.


Finally, don't publish your email address directly on your site. Spammers regularly crawl sites and collect email addresses so they can attack your inbox. You can prevent this by either using a contact form for readers to email you, or by writing your email address out as “my email [at] provider [dot] com. It isn't perfect but it does cut down on some of the spammage!






Get a Life!

Step away from the computer screen.

I get two main reactions when I tell people that I work from home. The first is usually envy. This is usually quickly followed by the declaration that they couldn't do it, too many interruptions. Sometimes this is true, but I've found that often there aren't enough interruptions. No, I don't mean the kids busting into my office. I mean self-imposed interruptions.

For those who go to an office everyday it's easy to know when quitting time is. Most people leave most of their work at the office and go home around the same time everyday. Even if they do bring work home, it often doesn't have the same sort of urgency as it would at the office.


We mom bloggers are always within a few feet of our office. It's so easy to check an email real quick. But rarely is it quick. We get sucked in to the screen and next thing we know the kids are going to bed and we missed out on spending time with the family.


Why are you working from home? Chances are it has at least a little bit to do with spending time with your loved ones. You aren't doing that if you are working 16 hours a day. If possible, place your work station in a room with a door. Determine your working hours and shut that office door when they are done with. Get out and live a little. I like to schedule the bulk of my working hours early in the morning, because I am a morning person but no one else in my family is. I'm done with most of it by lunchtime each day. I have an hour built into the evening where I can catch up on anything else I need to, but I try to make sure I have nothing to catch up on since its so easy for an hour to turn into three.


The important thing is to get a life. Step away from the computer each day. If you don't you will get burned out and you'll get even less done. You may also miss your children growing up. It really does happen that fast.