Archive for July, 2014

Death by Multitasking: Forgotten Baby Syndrome

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Forgotten Baby Syndrome: Excuse or Biology?A Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post article cited something called “forgotten baby syndrome,” which draws collective eye rolls from the Internet anytime someone links to it as another way to excuse parents from taking responsibility for forgetting a baby in a hot  car. But the syndrome label isn’t an excuse: it’s a way to identify a phenomenon. A label was needed because researchers were unable to find a common thread in these hot car deaths.

And that’s when everyone needs to shut up and put away the pitchforks, because the inability to find a common thread in these deaths means that they are not caused by crappy parents, lack of information, or people not loving their kid as much as you love yours. It means that something out of our control is at work.

As parents, there’s no escaping it: you have to multitask. Even if you have one child, there’s no way you can be present and attentive all day long. At some point, every one has to use the bathroom, especially when it takes three cups of coffee to overcome your sleep deficit from the night before. There’s a happy medium, and yours depends on your own mental capacity on a good day, how many responsibilities you have, how many kids you have, and how much stress you are under.

A researcher at the University of South Florida studied what happens in our brains when emotion, stress and memory compete for priority, and the results aren’t good. Have you ever driven to work while thinking about a stressful meeting that day and missed your exit, or realized you had no recollection of the past five minutes? That’s highway hypnosis—when the efficient but unintelligent part of your brain takes over driving while the prefrontal cortex is planning your meeting strategy. That same mechanism is at work when people forget their children in the backseat.

The common theme in all these tragic stories is: stress, a change in routine, and multitasking. Adding an extra errand to a routine trip, talking on your phone while driving, or taking a different car to work can throw our brains off. So how, outside of waiting for someone to invent an app or extra feature on our vehicle, can we keep our brains from forgetting our kids?

In all these cases, the parents forgot the children because they thought they were accounted for, and that idea shut off their mom radar. You know it–it’s that part of your brain that is always aware of what your children are doing at any given moment. Any reminder of the child would have made the mom radar light back up—a diaper bag in the front seat, a backseat mirror, a picture.

I already knew that my brain was very fallible after having three kids, but here’s what I plan to do differently after reading about forgotten baby syndrome. Because I have kids, a job, and my family is drama. So it most certainly could  happen to me.

  • Staying present. I’m working on this in other areas of my life too, but I have decided that multitasking around car trips is especially dangerous based on what I know now. Besides, there are studies that prove that multitasking makes us dumb. Keeping your brain focused on one task at a time is better for memory, critical thinking and–most importantly when you are dealing with children–your emotional intelligence.
  • Always looking in the backseat. I rarely get to go somewhere alone, but even when I am alone, I’m going to make it a habit to check the backseat before locking the car. It takes two seconds.
  • I’m done using my phone in the car, period. The act of answering that call or even checking a text once I have arrived somewhere might draw my memory power elsewhere, especially if there’s drama or stress on the other end. I’m no longer going to touch the phone until I have checked the backseat and locked the car. If you can’t keep your hands off the phone while driving, there’s already several apps for that.
  • Keeping a reminder in the front seat. There are always toys, shoes, or something else kid-related in my car. When I have the kids in the car with me, I can grab one of those items and put it on top of my purse to help me remember to check the backseat.
  • Putting a photo of my kids on the dash. Again, it’s about jogging that memory of having your child with you. Maybe having a photo keychain or photo on my dash might help. I just need an excuse for my brain to check in and ask the question, “Where are the kids?”
  • Be aware that you are more forgetful when you are stressed, emotional, or have a change in routine.  Our brains are smart and efficient, but only under the best of circumstances. Maybe just being aware that we are more likely to forget our children in certain circumstances can help us be more careful.

I’m not saying these are foolproof methods. There are lots of maybes. What they do is add layers of security and give my brain several chances to remember if needed. Maybe if we are aware that we are vulnerable, we can change that.

One thing that doesn’t change anything—not a damn thing—is vilifying parents who have already been through the worst punishment on Earth and thinking you are immune to their mistake.

Erin Burt is a multitasking mother of three girls who just barely manages to keep it all together most days. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York. 

Best Outside Toys for Baby

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Best Outside Toys for BabyWith summer in full swing, it’s time to get outside! My little girl loves to be outside and practically begs to put her shoes on after nap time. Little ones enjoy the fresh air, and it’s a great way to go on new adventures with your baby or toddler. Here are my five favorite outside toys that will excite and engage your little one.

5. Push Toys and Shopping Carts

Any toy that baby can push along the sidewalk or your driveway is a must. My daughter has a Target red shopping cart. We take her Teddy and babies for walks quite frequently. These toys are also great for babies just mastering walking. Have a little one who adores Daddy? Play toys like little lawnmowers and bubble poppers are tons of fun.

4. Balls, Non-Toxic Chalk, and Bubbles

These are the easiest toys. Consider buying some of these cheap amusements and keeping them in a storage container. Then, when you head out to play, just bring the container. Any large ball that baby can throw or roll is easy fun. Bubbles seem to be a hit for all little kids. Purchase individual bubbles or even a bubble machine, if your income allows. Sidewalk chalk is something we have yet to try, but I know lots of little ones who enjoy it. Non-toxic chalk is safe for baby, smells great, and even is edible. (Just in case your little one is teething.)

3. Cozy Coupes

These fun cars are a classic outside toy.  The best thing about them is they are timeless and easy to personalize. I purchased one for my daughter used and not in the best condition. My husband and I have taken on the project of making her a Minnie Mouse cozy coupe.  Her car is now pink and black, complete with polka dots and personalized license plates. These are a fun toy for little ones to play with alone or you can push them along, too.

2. Sand boxes

Many sand boxes come with lids to keep the sand safe from the weather. Consider investing in a bucket and shovel and let your little one explore the sand. They will love the texture and excitement of digging and burying small toys.

1. Water tables

While we don’t have one of these, yet, I know they are a huge hit for many young toddlers and older babies. Water tables provide endless fun with different water activities and are easy for several children to play with at once.

So, mommas, what are your favorite outside toys? It doesn’t matter what you play with, just get outside and enjoy your summer!

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of one and one on the way. She would rather be outside than inside any day!


Staying Out of the Mommy Wars

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

I was in the parking lot of Fry’s after grocery shopping with my daughter, who was somewhere between the ages of 6 and 8 months. She was old enough to sit in the grocery cart with no problem, but small enough not to be able to maneuver to standing in that death-defying move so many moms of toddlers know.

I was unloading the cart myself, trying to keep track of my baby, my purse, the groceries, and allowing the car to cool down enough to stick my baby in her sweltering bucket seat in the hot Arizona summer. A car honked loudly several times as it pulled in beside us. I looked up, startled, to a grandmotherly kind of woman practically leaping out before it was in park. “You shouldn’t leave your baby in the cart like that!” she scolded me. “She could fall out!”

“But I’m right here,” I countered, kind of stunned and unprepared to defend myself at the moment. She proceeded to tell me a story of her nephew/grandson/neighbor’s kid who had, in fact, leapt from the grocery cart and sustained a head injury as a result, but I couldn’t really focus on her message. I didn’t know her, she scared the crap out of me, and now she was standing here judging my parenting when I already felt completely overwhelmed as a first-time mom with my one child. And anyhow, she’s my monkey baby.

Staying out of the mommy wars

Whether you’re in a store, on a play date or on Facebook, you’ve probably seen a parent doing something you felt was unsafe. It might be something that just gave you pause, or it might be something you felt strongly about—a car seat facing forward too early, a baby bucket balanced precariously in the shopping cart basket, a shot of a baby standing in a crib that needs to be lowered, a kid in the car in front of you standing in his seat.

I don’t know the parent or the situation–all I want to do is make sure that baby is safe. I have to trust that it’s mom wants that for her child more than me. But there is part of me that wonders, What if she doesn’t know better? What if she needs someone to say something? Should that person be me?

Online, when these things get pointed out either by stranger or friend, it’s labeled as mommy wars. It’s seen as saying, “I’m a better parent than you because I wouldn’t do that.” I think most of us aren’t trying to come off like that, but we get defensive, we start projecting, and all of a sudden we’re in a Facebook fight with a mom we don’t even know over how to best take care of our own children.

I feel like I’ve learned how to handle this issue with nursing. Rather than preach and prod about the benefits of nursing to pregnant or new moms, I simply text or message them with a congrats and a reminder that I am here if they need me and that I would be happy to help them find any resources they may need to be successful with nursing. I’ve had many friends that I didn’t think would contact me, to ask questions and seek out resources. I have been so happy that they asked and that I could help without any confusion about my intentions.

But when you have that chance encounter with someone in the store or online, there’s no relationship of trust to work from. They don’t know your motivations or your background. I still don’t know whether it’s best to say something because I am sincerely worried about a safety risk, or if I’m being egotistical in thinking I am somehow more informed than any other mom, or that a random brush with me would change anyone’s life.

I still wince when I see car seats on top of grocery carts and babies standing in crib on the highest settings—those  things just worry me. I want to say something on the off chance that it will be heard. But for now, I just say a quick prayer and keep on walking.

Erin Burt is the mother of three daughters and a freelance writer who lives and works in Queensbury, New York. 

Pregnancy Week 36: Making Time for Me Before Baby Arrives

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Pregnancy Week 36: Making Time for Me Before Baby ArrivesWith just four short weeks before my due date, I am trying to check off everything on my many lists. Even though this is my second child, I still feel the need to have a spotless house, clean and shampooed hair, and a nursery ready to go before my little man makes his debut. It’s important, however, to slow down a little bit and take the time for myself before this little miracle is brought into the world.

With a 22 month old in the house, time for myself is limited. Naptime is usually my time. At the beginning of my pregnancy, naptime was a time to nap. As I progressed, it was a time to sneak snacks in that she didn’t need to see me eat. Later, it became a time for me to surf the internet and look for amazing baby things and ideas for the nursery. Now, I use naptime in a variety of ways. I clean. I surf the internet. I sometimes nap.

Here are some tips on how to make time for yourself before welcoming a new member of your family. What worked for you, momma?


This seems easy, but with sleep becoming something that is hard to attain comfortably lately, it is not. A good nap will do any pregnant woman good. Try to make the time to sleep. When I do lay down, I usually aim for a 30 min. – 1 hr. nap. Any more than that, and I am ready to stay in bed for the rest of the day. Find a place that is comfortable and relaxing for you. I prefer to nap in my bed with a fort of pillows surrounding me. Play soothing music, dim the lights, relax.


It seems simple, but make time for your friends before baby arrives. Living in different places has caused me to forge friendships. I cherish the time I get to spend with my few girlfriends. Most of the time, we are chasing our toddlers, but it is a great release to have some adult conversation. Talk to your spouse and schedule a night where you can go to dinner or catch a movie with a girlfriend. Invest in these friendships now, before you are covered in spit-up and much more busy.

Date Night

My husband and I rarely ever go on dates unless we are home visiting our family. I am very excited to say, however, that we have a date planned for next weekend. (Insert loud applause!) Make the time to have some quality time with your spouse. It’s easy to forget that they are about to have their lives changed, as well. Take the time to hold hands, share your fears and dreams, and just enjoy each other. It’s nice to have a date outside of the living room sometimes.

Beautify Yourself

Many women like to get a pre-baby pedicure. While I prefer to tackle my toes myself, I do plan on getting another pregnancy massage before my little man arrives. Schedule a visit to the salon and get a new haircut or update your current one while you have the time. I am looking forward to getting my eyebrows waxed in a few weeks. It’s the little things!

Make Time for Other Children

I made a commitment to myself this summer to do as many fun activities with my 22 month old as I can since it will not be just the two of us much longer. We’ve tackled swim lessons and vacation bible school so far. Make sure your other children know they are loved and give them some extra attention when you can.

So, what did you do for yourself before baby arrived? I sometimes forget that life will still go on as usual once my son arrives. There will be time to paint my toes and take long showers, but I still love making time for me during this season.

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of one and one on the way. She loves having a little “me time.”

When Your Child Needs Minor Surgery

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

In the summer of 2011, I had my second daughter. It was hot in Texas that summer—recording-breaking hot. We lived at the pool. It was one of our many afternoons at the pool that I noticed something odd. When my two-year-old looked into the sun or across the glare of the pool, one of her eyes turned outward. I kind of blew it off, not knowing what to make of it so the observation was stored in my little mom file in the back of my brain. But as the summer progressed, I noticed it happening more often, including indoors, out of bright-light situations, when she was tired.

When Your Child Needs Minor Surgery

One of the clues–closing one eye in bright light situations.

Finally, another child at the pool asked me what was wrong with my daughter’s eye, and I knew at that point it wasn’t just me obsessing. I called the pediatrician. We were referred to a pediatric eye specialist, who recommended eye patching for an hour a day for six months. When that didn’t help, he recommended surgery.

Outpatient surgery is now increasingly used for kids for minor procedures such as tonsillectomy, long dental procedures, and what we had done, which was double-strabismus eye surgery.

The risks for our surgery were minimal: at best, it would correct the lazy-eye problem, and at worst it would do nothing and we would have another go at it when she was older.

When Your Child Needs Minor Surgery

We already know our youngest will have to have the same procedure for her eyes.

The day we went in, we were instructed to bring her in her pajamas and she wasn’t allowed to have any food from midnight on. We were taken back to the waiting area, and they gave her “giggle juice,” which was a syrup that would help her relax and not remember anything while they put her under anesthesia. Our surgeon came over and talked to us about the surgery and what they were going to do. He happened to go to our church, so we prayed together and then they took her back.

The procedure only took about 20 minutes. We met her in the recovery room, where she woke up confused and crying inconsolably. Her eyes were bloodshot at the corners, but other than that you couldn’t tell anything had been done. She wept until a nurse arrived with a popsicle, which she greedily consumed and asked for another. After two popsicles, she was much better and ready to go home. The nurses let her pick out a stuffed animal, and my husband pulled the car around to pick her up. As soon as we buckled her in and began driving, she promptly threw up all over the backseat. After that, she was back to her old self.

For me, this sort of thing was hard because I was making decisions about another person without their input. My daughter didn’t have a say in what happened–she was a toddler and not able to have any part in the decision making. It wasn’t a life-threatening condition, and it didn’t affect her health.

I had an amazing doula through two of my births who gave me the BRAIN acronym to use in making medical decisions, and I love this approach for any medical situation.

B – Benefits. What are the benefits of this procedure?

R – Risks. What are the risks?

A – Alternatives. What are all my options?

I – Intuition. What is my gut feeling? What does my intuition say?

N – Nothing. What happens if we do nothing, either now or in the long term?

Although I was extremely nervous about having such a young child have a surgical procedure, I felt like we made an educated decision and in the end it was the right one for us. Since then, I have observed the same eye problems in my youngest daughter, so I anticipate having to go through the same process again.

The most important thing I learned was to pay attention to your children and observations. If something doesn’t look right to you, take a photo or video and ask your pediatrician, and then research all your options—including what happens if you do nothing—before making a decision. Only you can make the right choice for your family.

Erin Hayes Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.