Tracking Never Felt So Good

I want to tell you about a mom who has 50 kids. Her name is Maggie Doyne, she’s only 28 years old, and she’s changing the world through her foundation: BlinkNow.

After her senior year in high school, Maggie found herself backpacking along the dirt roads of Nepal’s poverty-stricken villages where she met women and children struggling to survive the aftermath of a decade-long civil war. She called her parents and asked them to send her the $5,000 she had earned babysitting.

Over the next two years, Maggie and her team built Kopila Valley Children’s Home, which is now home to a family of over 50 beautiful children from infants to teenagers.

We are so inspired by Maggie’s mission that we are donating a portion of every Munchkin Report subscription to BlinkNow. Together we can change the world in the blink of an eye!

Maggie is one of just 10 finalists for CNN Heroes award! Vote for her here.

The Quantified Parent

Everything in moderation. This is sound advice for most things and it is the adage that ran through my mind while reading The Quantified Baby by Anna Prushinskaya.

There is no doubt that in today’s society there are a number of distractions. The Quantified Baby describes the potential distractions of tracking your baby, but for me tracking has provided freedom. Tracking has not only given me the information needed to understand my child’s sleep habits and establish healthy routines, it has also helped me promote healthy eating and optimize play schedules.

The article suggests that tracking may take the human element out of understanding your child’s day. I feel quite the opposite. Because everything is tracked I can let our nanny go more quickly in the evening and get right to spending time with my children. In my pre-tracking days, I spent a lot of time asking questions about the day. Now I check Munchkin Report before I leave the office and know when I get home who has napped, who has eaten, and can even begin to engage right away with “Tell me about going on the swings that looked like so much fun!”

There is no doubt that technology can be a distraction. I know many parents who, in my opinion, spend too much time editing their online lives on Facebook and Instagram rather than focussing on the real life happening in front of them. They are the same people who might say that the 30 seconds it takes to write down the length of a nap is distracting, then provide their children with 2 hours of screen time while they read magazines.

I’ve even used tracking to help teach my 4 year-old things like organization, scheduling, time and numbers. She loves to help me log her little brother’s activities. We talk about the length of his nap (how many hours was that), food intake (how many ounces) and (her favorite) his moods (why was he so cranky!). And of course she loves to see her own tracking (both then and now).

Tracking is a “distraction” that yields positive benefits while so many other distractions (like TV or video games) have virtually no upside. For me, it’s all about incorporating tracking into my routine–like making my weekly shopping list because without I know my Sunday trip to the food store will be less efficient.

Happy Tracking!

Letters to My Daughter

There are many things I worry my daughter will miss out on as a result of technology — holding a book, flipping through a magazine, rushing to see her favorite show on a particular day at a particular time. But perhaps the one that saddens me the most is writing and reading letters.

My husband will tell you this is because I’m obsessed with stationary, which I cannot deny, but there is much more to writing real, physical letters than quality stock paper with pretty patterns. It is the personal touch of seeing someone’s handwriting, the excitement when it arrives in the mail among its sad counterparts like bills and circulars.

My high school sweetheart used to go away to summer camp and we spent three long months with no way to correspond but through letters. It was perhaps the greatest thing that defined our young romance — these long love letters which still sit in a shoebox tucked away in my closet. They remind me of who I was before life got too busy to sit and describe not only scenery and activities but the depth of feelings captured at a moment in time.

I’ve been determined to give this gift to my daughter and so I write letters to her a few times a year. I write them on her birthday or at particular milestones (like her first day of school). I keep them stored away for her to read someday. She is too young yet for me to know how she’ll feel about them, and I realize she may not become a lover of letters or be inclined to write ones of her own, but I do hope it will connect us in a way that helps her understand how profoundly she has changed my life and how deeply I love her. Tonight’s homework, write a love letter to your child.

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Unpopular Parenting

Unpopular Parenting

There are a few things as a parent I’m sure of: 1) I love my children beyond all measure, 2) I would do anything to keep them safe and 3) many days my children do not like me.

I am what many would call a strict parent. My husband and I are sticklers for certain house rules like a consistent bedtime, trying all foods a few times before deciding you don’t like it, cleaning up after yourself and having good manners. When rules are broken, we employ time outs or take away favorite toys. We’ve walked out of parties or stores when tantrums have ensued and we don’t give in to whining.

I don’t do these things to be mean, and many days I know my life would be easier if I just agreed to more TV time or picked up the Legos myself (both would certainly save me a lot of time!). But my husband and I subscribe to being unpopular parents because we want our kids to have boundaries, to be appreciative and ultimately to be independent from us (though some nights when I am in their good graces, snuggling them tight I wonder if it would be so bad if they wanted to live at home with me forever).

In the midst of a recent disagreement with my daughter she said “You’re mean and I just don’t like you.” Hard to hear and definitely made me take pause to wonder if being the “strict” parents is a mistake. Would she really grow up not liking me, mad about the lost hours of her childhood spent cleaning up her toys? Then I read 5 Reasons Modern Parenting is in Crisis, which describes the potential problems with being afraid of your children. I felt somewhat vindicated in my approach and while I know being called mean won’t be the worst thing my daughter says to me I do hope she grows up to be respectful and responsible and maybe just maybe likes me a little.

Catalogue stack

A Case For Catalogues

I am very fortunate that my father has been part of our caregiving team since Emma was born. Their bond is unbreakable, their love for each other incomparable and their daily activities…unorthodox.

I was an English major in college and I love books. Our house is littered with them. Nothing excites me more than knowing that Emma has inherited that love, so when my dad began reading her catalogues I was appalled. “Here Dad, read Goodnight Moon!” I urged as he flipped through the Frontgate catalogue. “Dad, look how much she loves Dr. Seuss books” I begged as they eagerly poured through the pages of Pottery Barn Kids.

In the never ending war with myself, I let this battle with my dad go unwaged. I was going to lose and I simply couldn’t compete with their enthusiasm for something so silly.

One weekend, as I pleaded with Emma to read “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket” in lieu of Crate and Barrel, I once again relented. And then something happened. As we turned the pages she started to name things, lots of things: blue chair, flowers, lots of grass, that’s a table, a crib, a window. The colors, the objects, how alive each page was in an attempt to sell you things.

Maybe I was sold? In the grand scheme of things, it certainly seems more practical for Emma to know about real objects instead of Wockets.

Maybe my dad was onto something. I will likely never admit that to him, and I will certainly never give up my books, but right next to them we now embrace a pile of “catalogue books” as Emma calls them.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

The Break Up

I’m 37 years old, standing in my kitchen being dumped and I’m just as emotional now as I was at 16. I feel a wave of heat come over me almost like I might pass out. I can’t believe this is happening even though I feared it was coming for months.

I immediately become the victim. “I’ll be fine” I say, knowing it’s not true. “It’s for the best” I lie, deep down wanting to scream “But I love you, you can’t go!”

Our nanny just broke up with us.

I can’t get back out there. The thought of searching the web, awkward first meetings, and the careful dance of letting them go if it doesn’t work out — it’s all so dreadful to me.

Who ever thought our nanny’s resignation would hurt more than a high school breakup? Finding a new nanny is far worse than any dating scene I’ve ever been a part of. Yet here I am, after a year of the most wonderful courtship that caused me, my husband and our two year-old daughter to fall head over heels in love, is over.

Our amazing nanny was unattainable from the start. She let us know from the beginning that she always wanted to be a teacher. And, like any unattainable love, we were lucky to have what we did for one amazing year.

My daughter will be heartbroken, which is without a doubt the saddest part to me. Cupcakes for birthdays, crafts each week, she even made a mother’s day gift for my mother-in-law. No one can top that — not even the most elite preschool!

There will be tears and heartache and a mad frenzy to replace her (three weeks and three days to be exact). Can I start a new relationship that fast? I guess am going to find out.

We’ve consistently used or, but I’m wondering if there are any other hidden gems out there I’m missing. Thanks for your advice and support!

Desperately Seeking Super Nanny.

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Minimalist Parenting

Help Minimalist Parenting #HelpWomenAtRisk

We absolutely love what Asha and Christine are doing at ParentHacks–they are donating October royalties of their book Minimalist Parenting sold through a special link to benefit women in Ethiopia. As a mother to a two year old daughter, this touches me on so many levels. We are blessed to have the opportunities we have here, and this is a harsh reminder of the realities that exist elsewhere.

It is wonderful to see ParentHacks using their blog to get the message out there. Thanks ladies! Oh and if you haven’t read their book, we are big fans 🙂

Get a great book (we’re big fans) and help women in Ethiopia at the same time by using this special fundraising link:

Little Miss Chatterbox


In school you’re always being measured: report cards, mid-terms, finals. You always know where you stand. The feedback system is clear, concise, and sometimes cruel.

I remember the day vividly. I was 5 years old, leaving George Washington school, my mom’s hand in mine walking toward our ’75 blue Volvo. She said to me: “Mrs. Falace loves having you in Kindergarten. She says you are smart and nice and social. Maybe too social sometimes. She says you just love to talk to the other kids.”

It seemed like a compliment. But was it a compliment? Wait…maybe it was criticism? I’m 5. I’m fun. I’m perfect….no? I took that feedback very much to heart. So much, in fact, that I went from super-friendly to somewhat shy to totally unsure. And now, at 36, I’m here to tell you that chit chat is not cheap.

From the time my daughter Emma was born, I talked to her, sang to her, and read to her. This little peanut who could only respond with a coo here an there was a captive audience. Not critical of my talk, she was entertained by it. I went on and on, about the weather (“So sunny today!”), about what I was doing (“Mama’s washing the dishes. Mama wishes daddy would do them!”), about everything around us because, let’s face it, Emma needed me to tell her what everything was. Finally my gift of gab became the lesson plan for Emma’s life.

By the time Emma was one-and-a-half she was narrating our lives. She could tell us what color things are, what books she wanted, commented on the weather, and of course knew mama does not like doing the dishes.

So for all you chatterboxes who were told in class to keep it down, today’s lesson is to keep on talking. You will inspire milestones upon milestones of cuteness. Just last night after I hugged Emma she looked me in the eye and said ‘I’m so happy’. Now that’s a passing grade.