We Shopped Through These 9 Mom-Targeted Facebook Ads So You Didn’t Have To

We clicked and shopped through nine Facebook ads and are fully prepared to separate the wheat from the chaff.

As parents, we are always looking for that perfect product that’s going to make our lives easier. But, ironically – because we’re parents – we have zero time to search for said perfect product.
What we apparently do seem to have time to spend hours on a day? Facebook. Smart companies know this and are happy to target the hell out of us while we’re reposting memes and liking baby pictures. From tampons and bras to kid’s clothes and superior socks, these Facebook ads claim they offer a one-click solution to life’s little problems. But which products are winners and which are snake-oil? We clicked and shopped through nine Facebook ads and are fully prepared to separate the wheat from the chaff. Get ready to spend some money! (Or in a few cases, not…)

Company: LOLA

The Pitch: “100% organic cotton tampons delivered directly to your door.”
Who Shopped: Apryl, writer & mom
What She Bought: Tampon and pad subscription, $27 every two months
Why She Clicked & What She Thought: “I had just recently broken up with my Diva cup and was back to using tampons. The ad made me really need to have them. I didn’t realize all the chemicals I was putting up there. Who knew? I mostly love that you can design your own box with whatever absorbency you will need. It delivers every two months. I never have to run out to the CVS at 9 p.m. in my pajamas for tampons again. It’s nice that they are chemical free, too.”
Recommended? Yes! “To anyone who menstruates. But parents especially, since some days are so hard and busy that we can’t even make sure we have tampons, let alone a moment to ourselves in the bathroom to insert it.”

Company: Glossier

The Pitch: “We’re creating the new essentials: easy-to-use skincare and makeup that form the backbone to your unique beauty routine.”
Who Shopped: Elizabeth, Freelance writer (and self-described “sucker” for Facebook ads.)
What She Bought: “Boy Brow” brow gel, $16
Why She Clicked & How it Went: “I was not looking for brow gel, but I was drawn in by the ads. They were video ads of different women applying the product. It seemed so easy. A few swipes of a mascara wand and your eyebrows stay put all day. I really liked the product. It’s as easy as it seemed and has staying power. I’ve purchased it a second time in fact.”
Recommended? Yes! “I’ve definitely recommended the product to my friends. It was not a disappointment.”

Company: ThirdLove

The Pitch: “The best bra is one you never think about. Available in cup sizes AA through G (DDDD), including our signature half cup sizes.”
Who Shopped: Me! Phaea, writer & mom
What I bought: Tee-Shirt Bra, $68
Why I Clicked & How it Went: After five years of nursing two separate children, I had no idea what size bra I wore. I’d wanted to duck into a store and get measured, but there never seems to be anytime. ThirdLove features an online quiz to help you figure out your size as well as a 30-day free trial period to test out their product. This was a total win-win for me. I took the quiz (32 C ½!) and ordered the recommended Tee-Shirt Bra in Naked-2. When the bra arrived a few days later, I was skeptical because it looked awfully small. But low and behold, it fit me perfectly!
Recommended? Yes! I’m not sure what kind of witchcraft ThirdLove employs to figure out my size without measurements, but I’m a big fan and will absolutely be going back for more.

Company: THINX

The Pitch: “Period Panties for Modern Women.”
Who Shopped: Mary, writer
What She Bought: One pair of Hiphugger panties, $34 & one pair of Boyshort panties, $39
Why She Clicked & How it Went: I had read about THINX in a blog article … but seeing the ad acted as a reminder. I will say though that the ads themselves were a big turnoff. It felt like they were trying really hard to be edgy – lots of raw egg yolks dripping all over. Because of these ads, I actually first went to a competitor period underwear company … but was disappointed. So, I eventually went back to the THINX site, held my tongue, and opened my wallet. I like [the underwear] a lot. I know that I’m a really heavy bleeder in general, so was always planning to use these as a backup in conjunction with tampons or pads. For that, it’s been amazing. No more stained clothes or sheets, and no more mid-day underwear changes. If I’d tried to use them INSTEAD of pads or tampons, I would have been disappointed.”
Recommended? Yes! “I encourage folks to try THINX in spite of the ad campaigns. Since the product works so darn well, THINX can try a bit less with their marketing. Right now it’s a lot of slick hipster lifestyle stuff that just misdirects from the fact this sh*t actually works!”

Company: PatPat

The Pitch: “Good Quality Deals for Babies, Toddlers, Kids & Moms.”
Who Shopped: Emily, writer & stay-at-home mom
What She Bought: Matching family Christmas PJs: $16.99 set of four.
Why She Clicked & How it Went: “I clicked on an ad for family Christmas PJs. We have been wanting to get all matching ones for a Christmas card. I thought ordering them on sale in August would be great so they would be ready to do for the holidays. After a couple weeks, I received an email saying it would take longer than expected and they gave me $5 off my next order. I emailed daily asking for an update. After 2 months, I said I wanted a refund (my card was charged immediately) and the order canceled. I had to send several emails asking this. I finally got an email saying they had canceled it because they didn’t have the items in stock.
Recommended? No! “I can advise against ordering from this company. I was so disappointed not to get what we ordered, and to have to deal with the company.”

Company: Bombas

The Pitch: “Bombas are game-changing socks that have to be felt to be believed.”
Who Shopped: Elizabeth, freelance writer
What She Bought: Woman’s Solids Calf Four-Pack, $45.60
Why She Clicked & How it Went: “I was sick and tired of my darn socks falling down all the time. Especially when wearing short boots. I searched and searched for socks that stayed up but nothing worked. Then I saw the ad for Bombas on Facebook, which claimed to be the world’s best socks or something. They were expensive. I think $45 for a four-pack. But I thought what the heck, let’s see if they live up to their claims. And they totally do!”
Recommended? Yes! “They don’t fall down at all.”

Company: Primary

The Pitch: “Kids Clothes Start Here. Brilliant Basics Under $25”
Who Shopped: Stacey, stay-at-home mom
What She Bought: Baby PJ set, $20 & Kid PJ set, $24
Why She Clicked & What She Thought: “I saw the Facebook ad for Primary quite a few times before I ever bought from them. Fast forward to Halloween. The four of us wanted to be characters from Winnie the Pooh, but there was not a single character costume still in stock on the entire internet. So, we decided to DIY. I remembered the Primary pajamas. We got Simon a set of orange pajamas that Patrick then sewed stripes and a belly panel onto. We bought a set of Tigger ears and a tail from amazon, and voila, Simon was Tigger. For Baxter, we bought him a set of the baby pink pajamas and a raspberry-colored tunic. We drew stripes on the tunic with a sharpie and bought a set of Piglet ears from Amazon. Voila, Piglet.”
Recommended? Yes! “I sing the praises of Primary as a Halloween base layer every year. Additionally, the PJs were really well made.”

Company: DressLily

Who Shopped: Elizabeth, freelance writer
The Pitch: “…the latest casual style wear for women and men, comfortable and suitable for everyday wear.”
What She Bought: Halloween Lace Panel Plus Size Dress, $18
Why She Clicked & How it Went: “I loved the look of the dress because I loved the haunted houses and it was only $18 so I figured I’d try it. [I] got the dress yesterday and I love it! I mean, it’s not the best quality but again, it was only $18, and I’m only going to be wearing it once a year. Oh, and the shipping times were long – I think it took a month?”
Recommended? Yes, with exceptions. “I would recommend it though for fun, cheap, special event clothes.

Company: Keen & Social

The Pitch: “…modern and unique products for Men and Women looking for something exciting.”
Who Shopped: Meredith, Project Manager & Mom
What She Bought: Londoner Long Tail Hoodie, $40
Why She Clicked & How it Went: “When I saw the ad, I thought it would be a cool look. I have black “skinny” jeans and some boots and the sweater would cover my personal trouble zones yet looked really cute and what I thought to be fashion forward. Plus, it was 70 percent off.  It took about six to eight weeks to arrive. It looks nothing like the picture. My son called me “Lord of the Rings” when I tried it on. I bought it to try to look kind of hip and cool and instead I looked like I belong on the Shire.”
Recommended? “Nope! [And] I will never order clothes from an ad from Facebook again unless it is a company I know and trust – like Lands’ End, etc.”
While shopping online is always a gamble — and clicking on Facebook ads doubly so — there are certainly a few companies out there that are worth your attention and well-earned cash. Are there any products or online stores you’re crazy about (or crazy-disappointed with?) Share all about it in the comments!

The Case for Boredom to Ignite Our Minds

We may assume that curing boredom is a good thing for all of us. But researchers fear that not being bored is the problem.

The demands of careers and parenting mean we’ve lost time to let our minds wander. There are always tasks that need to be handled.
Then there’s the other obvious way we cure boredom should it have a chance to strike: technology. Smartphones give us the opportunity to constantly engage with social media, games, news, or countless text threads. All of these serve as distractions that keep our minds from dealing with boredom for even a minute.
We may assume that curing boredom is a good thing for all of us. We’re not bored, the kids aren’t bored, we don’t have to listen to the kids complain about being bored, and everyone can grab their smartphones or tablets should boredom arise.
But researchers fear that not being bored is the problem.

Why we need boredom

Research shows that people will go to extremes to avoid sitting alone with their thoughts. Studies found that boredom can cause excessive drinking, gambling, and eating when we’re not hungry.
Fortunately, most of us don’t have to engage in these harmful activities to stave off boredom. Unfortunately, we turn to smartphones as a safe option when they are not.
According to studies used in author Manoush Zomorodi’s TED Talk, we now shift our attention every 45 seconds while working because technology makes it easy to do so. We also spend time checking our phones when we don’t even know what we’re looking for. Notifications constantly pop up, and we become Pavlovian in our responses to them, searching for them when they’re not even there just because we can see the phone.
A recent study showed that even having our smartphones in the room with us lowers our cognitive function.
Smartphones and the way we use them keep us from allowing ourselves to get bored, and that means we’re missing out. When bored, the brain goes into default mode. It’s in this mindset that we can reflect on our past and problem solve for our future.
When bored, we daydream, we create ideas, and we stick with a train of thought that can lead us to create. A study even found that participants asked to perform a boring task before solving a problem using creativity did a better job than those whose brains weren’t first prepared by boredom.

How to be bored in the technology age

Journalist Manoush Zomorodi launched a podcast in 2015 that challenged listeners to engage with technology responsibly and put some boredom back in their lives. It wasn’t a cold-turkey technology detox. Most of us have to use some form of technology for jobs or communication with others. Zomorodi launched her challenge to help people learn to do it responsibly.  She wanted participants to give themselves time during the day to free their minds from simply staring at a screen for no reason.
Her challenge led to a book that came out this year titled “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self”.  It details how to engage responsibly with our phones while giving our brains the sacred time they need to be utterly bored.
Challenges include deleting our favorite apps from our phones or walking without a phone in our hands for an entire day. None of these challenges seem that hard until participants are forced to perform them.
That’s when many who signed up for the challenge on Manoush’s podcast realized they were addicted, though some had inklings of that before. It’s why they signed up in the first place. Most of us know we are missing time we used to have, time where our minds roamed and we used wonder and curiosity to cure our boredom. Our brains had room and time to develop ideas.
Children born into the smartphone age need to be trained to use technology responsibly because they will not remember having all that tech-free time. That longing we have to unplug will be foreign to kids who live electronically plugged in at all times.
Parents can set the example by using self-control and making technology work for their lives, but not take them over. In the process, they teach their kids the sacred practice of boredom.
These simple guidelines are a good start:

Keep the phone out of the bedroom

Let those boring moments before sleep get the creative juices flowing and preserve rest. Phones in the bedroom can cause sleep problems.

Go hands-free

When walking or driving, don’t hold a phone like it’s an extension of the body. Instead of focusing brain power on looking at the phone or wondering when it’s going to offer a notification, go hands-free and let the brain go into default mode.

Set times for engagement

Those in the technology development industry have no problem admitting they are creating a product, and they want it to be as addictive as possible. Manoush believes that it’s so hard to be bored because our technology is designed to draw us in.
To combat this, set up rules and times for engagement. Don’t let tech designers decide how and when you use technology.

The long-term payoff

Creativity was identified as a leadership competency that CEOs look for in employees. Creative people may be hard to find if we now live in a society that doesn’t value boredom. We are also living in a society full of people who feel guilty about the unhealthy relationships they have with their phones.
We can change the course, though, and raise a generation that benefits from technology while still using their minds to create and problem solve without distractions. We can have the conveniences that smartphones offer without the addiction or the brain drain they cause.
It’s as simple, and as difficult, as embracing boredom.

Does Giving Your 10-Year-Old a Cell Phone Increase the Risk of Bullying?

In a recent study, kids who owned a cell phone were significantly more likely to be a victim of cyberbullying, especially in third and fourth grade.

Do your kids have cell phones yet? This is a hot topic and can be a point of debate among parents depending on their views. I dread the moment when I have no other choice but to give in and let my kids get their own cell phones. I am holding off as long as possible because of the many concerns I have for electronic distraction and addiction to cyberbullying.
My son is currently in fourth grade and I am no way near being ready for him to have a cell phone, even if some of his classmates are starting to get them. On average, kids in the U.S. receive their first smartphone just a few months after their 10th birthday. Time is ticking for me, as my son turns 10 at the end of the school year. This is certain to become a tense issue in my home soon enough.
However, I know I am on the right track with my cautious approach because a new study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition indicates how third and fourth graders who own cell phones are more likely to be cyberbullied.
Researchers collected survey data from 4,584 students in third, fourth, and fifth grades between 2014 and 2016. Across all three grades, 49.6 of students reported owning a cell phone. The older the student, the more likely they owned a cell phone: 59.8 percent of fifth graders, 50.6 percent of fourth graders, and 39.5 percent of third graders. Of the entire group of children assessed, 9.5 percent acknowledged that they had been a victim of cyberbullying in the past. Yet, the children who owned a cell phone were significantly more likely to be a victim of cyberbullying, especially in third and fourth grade.
The researchers concluded that the heightened risk of cyberbullying related to having a cell phone may be linked to increased opportunity and vulnerability from having the technology in their hand 24/7. The spread of technology has made bullying so much easier because it has removed the traditional barriers of time and space between bullies and their victims. Constant access to social media and texting increases the number of online interactions that children have with their peers, which makes them vulnerable to hate-filled behavior, negative comments and images, or hurtful and abusive messages.
Cyberbullying is a troubling phenomenon and not something to be taken lightly. Nearly 43 percent of kids have been bullied online, according to PACER, the organization that developed National Bullying Prevention Month. Cyberbullying is now the single largest type of bullying, and 25 percent of kids who have been bullied say they have experienced it more than once.
Why are kids being bullied? According to TeenSafe data, 72 percent of children are cyberbullied because of their looks, 26 percent of victims are chosen due to their race or religion, and 22 percent of harassed children feel that their sexuality was the cause of the bullying. Other reasons include weak athletic ability, intelligence level, strong artistic skills, strong morals, refusal to join the crowd, or having a small build (i.e., too short or too thin).
The more we can eliminate the chances of our children being exposed to nasty comments online, the safer and happier they will be – even if that means they do not get to sport the latest and greatest cell phone. Wait Until 8th is a campaign set up to encourage parents to delay giving their children a cell phone until at least eighth grade. The more parents who take the pledge to wait until at least eighth grade, the easier it will be for all children so they will feel less peer pressure to have their own phone. According to the campaign’s website:

“Smartphones are distracting and potentially dangerous for children yet are widespread in elementary and middle school because of unrealistic social pressure and expectations to have one. These devices are quickly changing childhood for children. Playing outdoors, spending time with friends, reading books and hanging out with family is happening a lot less to make room for hours of snap chatting, instagramming, and catching up on You Tube.”

I know I will be taking the pledge!

I Survived Four Days Without the Internet and so Can You

No WIFI for four days? No checking in on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter? No posting! And I lived to tell about it.

“Hey! Check out this cottage we’re going to in August! Do you guys think you can come meet us for a few days?”
That was the Facebook message we received from our friends. One family was coming from BC and the other, while living not too far away, we don’t get to see much. So we decided the idea was perfect. We told them we were in.
They had found a wonderful cottage, quietly tucked away on the lake. It was fully equipped with a badminton net, boats, a fishing dock, and a small beach big enough for our little people to play. The place seemed idyllic.
As we got closer to the cottage, we noticed that we no longer had cell phone or internet service. No big deal, right? I was sure WIFI would be waiting for me with open arms once we arrived. I lived a life before cell phones were a thing, so I wasn’t too worried about not having service.
I was soon, however, faced with the reality of the situation. Instead of open arms from said advanced technology, I got a middle finger and a “deal with it.” The cottage had a nearly-extinct landline and contained shelves packed with VHS tapes. Once upon a time – before smart phones – I would have considered this a jackpot. But this felt prehistoric.
I’ll admit I panicked. No WIFI for four days? No checking in on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter? No posting!
“Hey, guys! Look at me being all chilled out and relaxed,” I said, as I tried to keep my twitches from view.
They could clearly see my anxiety rising as I tapped my phone on the table. My friends didn’t seem troubled at all though. Even my husband, who constantly reads the news on his phone, wasn’t as anxious as I was.
“Oh no, Karen, what are you going to do!?” my husband joked. “How about you accept it for what it is and try to relax.”
Clearly, my state of panic points in one direction: I am addicted to the internet and, by relation, my cell phone, which allows me mobile access no matter where I go. I never thought I’d feel so down on my luck about something so trivial. But here I was, in a beautiful cottage surrounded by nature, and I was complaining that I had no WIFI.
I’ve never had to face this kind of situation head on, but now that I faced it, I realized my addiction. I’m so used to having my phone strapped to me like a bra, so it was understandable that I felt a bit naked without it.
The first morning I woke up and grabbed myself a cup of coffee and my phone off the mantel. As I held it up to unlock it, I frowned.
I could only look at the people sitting around the table and laugh nervously. “I was checking my phone.” With that, I placed my phone down and joined in the conversation with great friends I don’t get to see very often.
Imagine that: face-to-face conversations with people in your vicinity. The horror!
Slowly, I started realizing that being without the option to disappear into my phone felt relaxing. I was free from the beeps and buzzes that would pull me back into the real world of obligations. It was as though the cage had been lifted, and I was able to enjoy my freedom.
My head was up and my back straight. I looked up, not down. I engaged in conversations that I could hear instead of read. I didn’t feel the need to run and check my phone just in case someone commented on a post I put up or sent me a message. What a welcome change.
I went four days and three nights with no access to the World Wide Web and survived it. The only reason I had to pick up my phone was to take a picture.
Technology can be frightening. This was a huge wake-up call for me. I need to put my phone down. I need to stop recording every aspect of my life and start living my life. Sure, the memories are great to look back on, but what about being there, in the moment? Is it not enough to just be in the company of your people?
Since then, I’ve gotten better at disconnecting. I want to take in what’s around me and, yes, take a picture of it. I’m working on finding a good balance that allows me to look up for a change.
I’ll be honest, though: I was pretty happy to see those bars come back to life on my phone as we drove home.

One of the Easiest Ways to Teach Forgiveness

Here is the thing I have learned about forgiveness. It isn’t a behavior, it is a feeling.

If you were to reflect back on your childhood, I bet you could think of someone you never gave yourself the chance to forgive. I can think of a few times someone hurt or scared the pants off of me, yet until this day, I am not sure if I really ever forgave them.
There is one moment, however, when I do remember talking about someone behind their back. I still feel bad about doing that. Could it be because I haven’t forgiven myself?
Recently, one of my daughters had a slew of social media posts (untruths) stated about her. It took months for her to tell her father and I. Just as we were gathering the evidence, the person spreading the rumors sent a text to my daughter apologizing for her actions.
“What do I do, Mom?” my daughter asked.
“You accept her apology, let her know this is never to happen again, wish her a good year, and forgive her,” I said.
And that is exactly what she did.
My daughter has seemed to move on unscathed. Could it be the forgiveness that set her free?
Me on the other hand – I still have my mother bear guard up, keeping a keen eye out for my daughter. Perhaps, I should take my own advice and give myself a little of this forgiveness medicine, not just for the other person, but as a way to free up any residue of guilt for not standing up for my girl in the first place.
Here is the thing I have learned about forgiveness. It isn’t a behavior, it is a feeling. Sure you could encourage your child to say I forgive you, but until they feel it, it may not make much of a difference. That said, forgiveness is a personal and powerful decision to surrender and let go. The question becomes how do you teach it?
One of the simplest ways to teach forgiveness is to tell stories. Stories about situations and feelings you have experienced. When you tell a story, you share a part of yourself that is vulnerable, real, and normal. You share moments when you, too, succumbed to peer pressure as a way to cope with the fear, rejection, or sadness.
My husband has a wonderful story about the day he hugged the woman who struck him with her car and nearly took his life. We laugh as he explains how he had to yell loudly to the woman because she is so hard of hearing. I am not sure if the actual words “I forgive you” came out of his mouth. But in many ways, letting someone know you are okay is no different than giving them permission to go about living their life.
It is through stories that we can illustrate what forgiveness looks like in motion. Forgiveness is a movement from your heart. While your head might say, you really hurt me, your heart says, I am okay, and so are you.

How to Get Your Old iPhone Kid-Ready

Before you hand that old iPhone over to your kid (Woot, woot! UPGRADE!) get it set just right.

With the release of Apple’s new iPhone on the horizon, million of parents are faced with the dilemma of “What to I do with my old iPhone?”
While some will decide to sell them or trade them in, others will hand over their precious electronic companions to their children. But first, you need to get it ready.

The service question

The first thing you need to do is decide if you are going to keep the phone on network and have cell service on the phone.
Staying on network is necessary if you want to make calls. But this can be expensive, and your kids may not be ready for the responsibility of a cell phone contract and bill.
Off network, the iPhone can still run most apps, texting, email, FaceTime, watch movies, or listen to music with only a wifi connection, making it an ideal starter gadget for a child who isn’t quite ready for the responsibility of having a cell phone contract.
The best part is it’s free. There is no cost to sign up for free wifi at many business, schools, or homes. But if your kids are in an area with out free wifi, they will be unreachable. This includes many parks and restaurants where kids spend time.

Getting it ready

Despite whether you choose to keep your phone on cellular or go wifi only, you are going want to be sure to reset the phone. This will erase all your passwords, pictures, and apps. This would be a good time to update the phone as well if you are not running the most recent version of IOS.
After the phone reboots, you will have to go through the initial set up. Be sure to give the phone a password that you know, or even add your thumb print to the Touch ID. You don’t want to snoop on your kids, but make sure you have access to the phone.
Give your child their own Apple ID. You can still use the Family Sharing for things like apps and music, but you won’t have to share contact lists or bookmarks.

Family Sharing

Family Sharing is Apple’s way of not making every member of a household pay for everything. You can share your content (e.g. apps) and services (e.g. Apple Music) with up to six people in your household.
Since Family Sharing links accounts though your credit card, you control what your kids download. Whenever they want an app or a song, it will notify you and ask you to confirm that it’s okay for them to purchase.
Finally, if you have items in your house that are HomeKit enabled, this will allow your children or spouses to control them as well.

Restrictions

So far, I have been talking about everything the phone can do, but there may be a few things you don’t want your kids’ phones doing. Apple thought of that, too, which is why they added in Restrictions under the General menu in Settings.
Many of the stock apps you might not want your child to have access to can be disabled or retried here. This includes apps like Face time, the camera, Air Drop, and installing or deleting apps.
You can also set rating restrictions on content to be sure they don’t download anything inappropriate from iTunes. My girls are school age, so I went with PG.
The first thing I did with my kids’ phones was to turn off their ability to buy anything in an app. I have heard too many horror stories of kids spending thousands of dollars trying to win some free-to-play game. I didn’t even risk it and blocked their ability to buy anything.

Safety

The last thing you need to be sure to do before you set your kids free with an iPhone is enable a few safety features.
Find My Friends is my personal favorite. It gives me a good idea where my kids are and can even notify me when they leave one location for another.
You should also be sure to enable Find My Phone. If your child ever loses the phone, you will be able to track it, have it make a sound, or lock it making it almost worthless to the person who finds it.
After you complete the list above, it is now time for the fun part: putting your child’s favorite apps, movies, and music on the device. It will take a bit of time to download, but it will be worth it when you hand them their “new” iPhone and hopefully distract them long enough for you to be able to play with your new iPhone.

Hold the Cheese: How to Photograph Your Kids as You Actually See Them

As parents, we want to remember everything. But how do you capture the essence of childhood. The images that truly tell the whole story?

Feature image: Tim Topple Photography. All rights reserved.

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap] have a wild child. She’s a free spirit, a free thinker, often pants-free, and she never sits still for more than 30 seconds at a time, max. She has long golden curls that hang to just above her bottom but you wouldn’t know it if you saw her in action because they are always flowing out horizontal behind her as she runs here, ducks there, or scoots away from me when I try to scoop her up and back into her bedtime routine.
I could say part of the reason we don’t have as many pictures of her hanging on the walls as we do of her older brother and sister is because she’s the third baby, doomed from the start to a lifetime of missed opportunities for the careful chronicling of firsts, lasts, and major milestones. But that’s only half of the truth. The other half is this: When she sits quietly for a second or two with her hands in her lap and smiles a gap-toothed, head-cocked smile at me, the result might be a gorgeous photograph, but it’s not her. It’s not who she is at heart, deep in that space where she’s always a little bit on fire and molten and always, always moving.
We cleaned out the attic the other day, me and her, and she helped me sort through a box of the kinds of things attics are made for: old pictures and odd mementos, baby clothes I can’t part with, and the rare cast off jeans that might once again fit someday. Stuck to the bottom of the box was a picture of a girl, caught mid-stride in a run, her curls straight out horizontal behind her and her head thrown back, laughing.
“Is that me?” She asked, holding it up to the light. It was starting to curl up at the edges and yellowed in a spot at the corner with age.
“It’s me,” I said, and watched her face as she tried to make sense of that.
“I knew it,” she said, setting the picture down carefully in my hand and bolting suddenly out of the room at full speed for an undetermined destination. “Just who exactly do you think I got it from?” she called back over her shoulder.
So how do you capture that? The essence of these small but mighty spirits roaring into the world?
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We asked Tim Topple, whose portrait of his daughter has been shortlisted in Sony’s World Photography Awards for insight.

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As parents, we want to remember everything. The dimples on the backs of their hands, the T-shirt they wore every other day until they couldn’t squeeze into it anymore. But how can you photograph the aspects of their personality that aren’t physical?

I often focus on the imprints children leave on the things around them and their environment, rather than the children themselves. These things can reveal so much about their personalities; the particular way they left toy animals lined up, the items they deemed worthy of stuffing into one of my pockets before I left for work, other people’s reactions to their behaviors, and so on.
It’s also good to use your parental instinct – if, say, you took several shots of your child playing or dancing, there may be one that looks perfect, but another that talks to you. It could be something intangible, an expression that to you is just so them, something that radiates their essence. This is the picture I’d choose over the perhaps more visually perfect one. It’s these little pieces of magic that make family photographs special.
 

Tim Topple photography
Tim Topple Photography. All rights reserved

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kickee pants kid jumping into bed

Parent Co. partnered with Kickee Pants because we know the most precious memories are fleeting.

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How do you best capture a moment without ruining it?

Because of the nature of my work I’ve always used small, inconspicuous cameras. It also helps to get to know your camera extremely well so you can use it without too much fuss. Nothing stops people acting naturally more than when you leave the moment to fiddle with settings, point a big camera in their face, or stare at the screen to review the photos. Learn to take pictures without drawing attention. Also, kids soon get used to being photographed if it’s not a big, distracting event!
 

Tim Topple Photography
Tim Topple Photography. All rights reserved

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What are 3 simple tips for non-photographers to help them take better photographs?

1 | Stick with one camera and one (non zoom) lens – this way you get to truly know your camera and using it becomes second nature. And sticking with one focal length/lens helps you learn how to predict how a picture will look without using the viewfinder or the screen – great for candid shots.
2 | Applying filters or heavy processing won’t make a bad photograph into good one. If the picture has nothing interesting about it to begin with, no amount of processing or filters will change that. Keep it simple.
And, I know it’s often repeated, but what I consider the most important tip is:
3 | Spend money on photography books instead of equipment. The best way to improve is to look at others’ work, think about what you like about it and why it grabs your attention or makes you think. Spending on new cameras because you think it will somehow make you a better photographer is perhaps the biggest mistake. Image quality, sharpness, megapixels – none of these have any bearing on what makes a great photograph!
 
Tim Topple Photography
Tim Topple Photography. All rights reserved

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Given that we’re living in the age of the iPhone and most people are never farther than arm’s length from a camera, how do you suggest we resist the urge to photograph EVERYTHING?

To spend all your time taking pics leaves no room for considered reflection. Think about what you want to photograph – what gaps in the story of your family need filling – and work towards capturing those moments. By all means, be prepared and ready to photograph at all times, but do so with a purpose. If you do find yourself with hundreds or thousands of pictures at the end of a month, then I recommend spending time editing, deleting, cutting down to a manageable number. And then repeat! No one will bother looking back through folders on a computer with thousands of images in them, but to edit down to a few dozen or less a month and spend a few pennies on getting prints will pay huge rewards in the future.
And although it may seem some people DO photograph everything, it’s mostly the pretty, positive, and Instagram-friendly aspects of life. In this age of social media, it’s become a sad norm to curate our own lives and put a dishonest spin on how we live, but to look back on a lifetime of fake or overwhelmingly positive images would be a hollow experience, in my view. Don’t shy away from capturing the less happy aspects of family life!
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 photography tips from Parent Co.

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Pick a focus. Get specific with tight shots or depth of field. 

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Consider composition and be deliberate about when you click the shutter. 

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Try a different perspective.

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Chase the good light and something interesting will often happen. 

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Childhood is in the mundane and the candid moments too. 

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Parent Co. partnered with Kickee Pants because we know the most precious memories are fleeting.

Spiraling Out of Control and Toward Infidelity

I want to tell him about how my marriage is broken and how numb and disconnected I feel. I wonder how I let it get so far.

5:05 a.m. My eyes open. A faint pearly blade of light squeezing past the blind. The distant metallic scrape of a moving tram.
I lie here in the dawn’s dimness, my dreams still lingering.
“I am a happily married man, and I am not looking for any other arrangement. I would ask that you please do not contact me again.”
I reach for my phone.
The last words of his last message haunt me. It seems impossible that it is “over,” even if our relationship was only ever a virtual one.
“What time is it?” my husband murmurs beside me.
“Early,” I say.
He reaches for my phone.
“I’m in the middle of an email!”
He reaches for me instead.
With a grunt of frustration, I fling his arm off me and get out of bed.
6:14 a.m. I am preparing lunch for my three-year-old daughter – marmalade sandwich, sliced banana – when I hear the soft ping of an incoming email. I pick up my phone. Feel the familiar sting when I see that it’s not from him.
I stand, staring out the kitchen window at the long shadow of the neighboring apartment stretching across the river’s waters. I wonder how I let it get so far. How it became all consuming. I think of the hours spent scrolling through his messages, especially the ones where he said he understood me.
“I get you,” he would say. “We’re on the same page.”
He was a marketing executive for an agency I write copy for, or at least I used to, and our contact, at first, was purely professional. But I quickly became drawn to him – and I thought we shared a connection.
“Mummy.”
My daughter is standing at the kitchen entrance. Tousled blonde hair, unicorn PJs, her stuffed monkey doll dangling from her hand. Swamped in my thoughts, I hadn’t heard her coming down the hallway.
7:04 a.m. My husband is running late. And he has to drop off our daughter at kindergarten on his way to work. I sit down to try and help put on her sandals.
“I’ll do it!” she says defiantly.
She fumbles with the sandal strap. I reach over and raise the prongless buckle. She realizes I am trying to help and squeals with rage, yanking her sandal off with both hands.
“For God’s sake!” my husband says impatiently. “Why didn’t you just let her do it?”
I flip him the bird behind her back.
7:10 a.m. My daughter’s pouting face is the last thing I see as the lift doors seal.
7:11 a.m. I turn on my laptop. Elsa from “Frozen” is my user icon – something I set up to make my daughter happy. What would it be like to have Elsa’s power? How long would it take before I turned my husband into ice?
I scan The New York Times, The Australian, The Guardian. My pulse begins to slow. I am breathing calmly again.
8:03 a.m. I get in the shower and stand there, feeling the cold needles of water hitting my breasts, causing my nipples to harden. I vaguely consider directing the nozzle between my legs, but the indeterminable time of concentration required, face grimacing, desperately trying to break through the barrier just feels like too much to bear.
8:21 a.m. After I get dressed, I check my emails again. There’s nothing. Apart from two that require follow-up: chasing up photos, editorial change requests.
I’m researching something on my laptop when I get distracted by a piece of clickbait in the right-hand column: “Toxic Liver – 30-second quiz”.
It takes six minutes.
8:53 a.m. I am finally ready to start on my article. As I go to open Word, my cursor hovers over the YouTube icon.
I used to watch the marketing executive on YouTube. The same clip. Over and over again. He was part of a discussion panel on the future of advertising. I’d watch with the volume down, admiring his profile, his jawline, the way he made slightly unshaven seem so neat and tidy.
I would touch the screen and watch the rise and fall of his chest. I would imagine I could feel his heartbeat beneath my fingertips.
I check my emails once more. Feel ground down by his absence.
11:15 a.m. I have a phone interview with a psychiatrist. It’s not the one I used to see. I need quotes for the article I am writing. It’s about how our modern addiction to smartphones and social media can be a social barrier for many.
“There’s no doubt that devices have been a wonderful aid to society,” the psychiatrist says to me. He is a professor. He specializes in obsessive behavior. I love the drift of his voice, the deep thoughtfulness in each pause. “But for some people, they have become an overly important part of their lives.”
Listening to him triggers a need inside me to unburden myself. While he talks, I want to tell him about how my marriage is broken and how numb and disconnected I feel.
“What would you say to someone who can’t get to sleep because they keep compulsively checking their phone?” I ask.
“It’s likely to have a cost in terms of your normal circadian rhythm,” the psychiatrist replies. “And it’s likely to have a cost the next day, because you’re going to be less efficient. When you look at those costs, the benefit of knowing you’ve got a message at eleven o’clock at night doesn’t really look very beneficial, does it?”
2:12 p.m. I finish another page of my first draft. I reward myself by checking the marketing executive’s LinkedIn profile. I pay for a premium membership so he won’t know each time I look at it.
It hasn’t changed from yesterday.
3:42 p.m. “You need glasses.”
I nod. It’s true. But I really came here to take my mind off the marketing executive.
“You can’t focus,” the optometrist says.
He points to a large poster on the wall. It’s a drawing of a detached eyeball, sliced-in-half. “The human lens continues to grow throughout your lifetime,” he says. He traces the eyeball with his finger. “As the lens gets bigger, the ciliary muscle, which wraps itself around the lens, has more difficulty changing the lens’s shape.”
“Is that why I’m finding it hard to read at night?” I say.
“Yes,” he says.
He puts a heavy, black trial lens frame on my face. He pops two lenses in and stands back, looking at me.
“Better?” he says.
4:07 p.m. I take the long way home. I walk past two souvenir shops, a pub, a real estate agent. There’s a tall model in the window of a new high-rise being built. I continue on past the supermarket, the bottle shop, past Condom Kingdom, Cold Rock.
I think about how, even during the strongest grips of my infatuation, I knew, deep down, how stupid I was being. It was like my mind had flipped back to my adolescence, swept up in a high school-like crush, as if the marketing executive was a movie star or rock idol or something.
I feel ashamed now as I remember the way I would pore over his press releases, searching for any secret messages he might have embedded in them for me. How I’d seize on code words like “open communication” and “rapport” as evidence that he was interested.
At the time, I thought he was just being discreet. Which was very gentlemanly of him. He had the interests of the company to think about after all. And I knew he’d need to break it gently to his wife, to let her down easy.
But when he put out a special release for a startup company called Firmest Bond, I knew that he was ready.
I dashed off an email to him. Aware only of my words, my quickened breath, the click of chewed nails on plastic keys. I gushed out my feelings. “I haven’t felt this way toward another human being,” I wrote.
“Ever,” I wrote.
The following morning he broke it off with me.
I hear the squeal and clank of an approaching tram. The low west sun searing brightly off the sloping window. The thick metal fender.
I have a sudden impulse to step out in front of it.
4:43 p.m. I am standing on the balcony, looking at my phone. As a breeze blows in from the river, I check Facebook again, even though I know he’s defriended me.
6:23 p.m. A sludge of mushed peas. A soggy crust, black with Vegemite. Corn kernels floating in the dregs of the milk cup.
I plunge the dishes into the suds. Scrub them vigorously with the blue brush with the flattened white bristles.
As my gloveless hands chaff in the almost scalding water, I glance over the kitchen half-wall at the blue Lawson-style sofa. The back of my husband’s thinning black hair. My daughter’s little blonde pigtails.
Sitting side by side. His arm around her shoulders. Watching “Ben and Holly”.
Happy.
Oblivious.
8:58 p.m. After cleaning up, bathing my daughter, dressing my daughter, and reading her bedtime story after bedtime story until my voice is hoarse and she has fallen asleep, I am feverish with a desperate compulsion to claw back my self-esteem. I am not revolting. There are other men who would have me.
I go into the bedroom.
My husband is lying there in his chequered boxers and faded T-shirt, reading an old copy of The New Yorker.
I slip off my underpants.
“Hey – ”
I start kissing him. Roughly.
I feel him between my legs. I reach down. I arch back.
He lasts 30 seconds.
“No!”
My hair is dangling into his eyes. I won’t let him get away with it.
I keep going. Furiously.
I’m almost there…almost…no…yes…no…
I imagine the marketing executive beneath me.
I’m there.
Merciful. Sweet. Oblivion.
When my breathing slows, I sense my husband waiting.
I can feel his heartbeat tremor against my breasts.

No Rules, No Manual, and No Right Way

I know I’m still the same person with the same views and values, it’s just that my circumstances have changed. They’ll continue to change.

When I was younger, I never wished that either myself or my situation were different. I accepted who I was, how I looked, and how I acted. I laughed a lot. Most importantly I liked the person I was.

Becoming a mum has changed my view of myself a little. I struggle to switch off and relax, I suppose because as a parent, you rarely get time to yourself. Even a shower or toilet trip usually involves a little person interrupting. The stresses and strains of the various stages of parenthood kick in from day one and affect not just you individually, but your relationship with your partner. There are days I’ve hated the sound of my own voice repeating things or the odd snappy comments as tiredness has taken over.

As a new parent (especially a mum), you can find yourself obsessing over everything, trying to see patterns and creating some form of routine. It can be tricky as things change all the time. As time goes on, different challenges can still crop up: sleep, potty training, and illnesses to name just a few. It’s hard not to let things get to you sometimes and have a good old grumble or a cry.

For me as a parent, the second time around I’m more relaxed about some things. I’ve learned from the first time that you just have to stop obsessing about the things you can’t change and handle the things you can. Even so, I still find things get to me. Having two has been quite tough, particularly in the first few months as lack of sleep builds up and affects my mood, making me feel down and struggling to cope. I’ve hated feeling this way, I just want the fun, happy me back.

I started to compare my situation with other mums’, wishing I could have more sleep or a baby without colic, or wishing I could lose baby weight quickly like other mums had. When I had a miscarriage, I found it really difficult to hear about other friends who were pregnant, especially the ones who were due when I would’ve been.

On that basis, however, I realize that others may look at me or my family and wish for their situation to be more like ours. From the outside looking in, things can seem perfect, but in reality, we all have our ups and downs.

Generally, we tend to try and promote the happy, harmonious, fun side of being a parent (especially on social media) and don’t really admit any struggles. Why would we? You don’t really want people to read about the tough bits. I would never know if a mum-friend was really down unless she told me. I’ve had to openly say in the past, “I feel down” or “I’m struggling,” to get the support I need. I can’t expect others to guess, especially when everything appears to be rosy.

I’ll admit I’ve questioned my ability as a parent in the past. I’m guilty of going for easy food options, for example. I’m guilty of giving them the iPad instead of playing with them. Guilty of bribing to get them out the door (or back in!). Guilty for spending more time with my younger daughter as she needs me more at the moment. Guilty that I wanted to start introducing the bottle to make it easier rather than solely breastfeeding. Guilty of thinking others might be doing it better.

Why should I feel this way? What is making me feel this way? Why am I comparing my situation with others, the media, and other pressures? I’m ultimately doing it to myself. It’s down to me and the way I view things. My kids are wonderful, bright, kind, and full of life. I should be happy and accept I’m doing a good job!

There are so many circumstances I can’t change in life. One of my favorite quotes is, “You can’t change the direction of the wind but you can adjust the sails.” We will face tough times, but rather than let them take over, we can adjust things to make it that bit easier. For example, I have to accept that my husband and I can’t go out on many dates anymore, but we are in the house together after the kids go to bed. We need to make the most of that time, switch off from being parents (and our phones), and focus on us for a bit.

I know I’m still the same person with the same views and values, it’s just that my circumstances have changed. They’ll continue to change. I’ll adapt again, try to stop thinking about it so much, and be happy with everything I have.

Behind closed doors, every parent has something they struggle with. Few people admit how tough things can be, but with the rise of bloggers like “Hurrah for Gin” and “Part-Time Working Mummy,” the struggles and strains are out there for mums to identify with.

In reality, every mum has a different birth experience (no two are ever exactly the same), a different child with a different personality and needs, different husband, job, and family circumstances. Why spend precious time trying to compare? The one thing we all have in common is that at some point, every parent (and not just parent but person), will find things tricky or difficult. After all, there are no rules and no manual.

That’s when you need to speak up. Never be afraid to admit what’s going on or how you feel. It doesn’t make you weak or inadequate. It actually takes some balls to do it. People will always assume things are okay until you talk about it. We can help each other.

Remember, every mum has walked where you have and every mum has stepped beyond it.

4 Tips for Healthier Communication on Social Media During Politically Polarizing Times

Next time you’re upset by something political (or not) posted by a friend or family member you care about, remember these things.

We’ve all been shocked by the Facebook posts of friends and family members since last November. Many of us are confused about the political opinions of those we love, and we’re doing our best to keep on loving them regardless of our differences. It’s the perfect time to set an example for kids who have today’s peculiar pressures of life broadcasting.
Unfollowing and unfriending is the easy way out of relationships with people we fear are so different than us that we needn’t humor their words anymore.
While unfriending is sometimes our quickest path to peace, we all know it’s not a permanent solution. We don’t stop loving people just because we disagree with them. Considering all of these nuances, I sought out to become a better communicator, particularly online, with friends and family members I don’t agree with, may it be political or in general.
To identify some tactics for the next time I want to debate facts or comment on an eccentric social media post, I interviewed Dr. Rebecca Branstetter, a psychologist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Here are a few steps to take the next time you’re upset by something political (or not) posted by a friend or family member you care about.

Reflect on why the article or post was a trigger for you

By identifying the underlying emotion and acknowledging it to be true, you can begin to work through it. Is it anger, disappointment, fear, or disgust?
“Don’t judge your emotion as good or bad,” says Branstetter. “Just make note of it. Labeling emotions can have a diffusing effect on their power to overwhelm you.”

Consider the source if an article upsets you

Was the article published by a reputable source, such as a leading news publication that’s known for reporting unbiased facts, or a lesser known online magazine that tends to skew in a certain political direction? Many articles draw attention with headlines that are purposefully provocative (clickbait), while other articles are fake news altogether.
Today’s media landscape is difficult to navigate with all these complexities, but checking the source before reacting can save you from unnecessary emotional distress. If you discover that a source is false or unreliable, politely inquire about it, suggests Branstetter. Comment with “I had a tough time finding the original source of this article.”
If you have also mistakenly shared news that wasn’t from a reputable source in the past, try mentioning it so the person who shared the false article can relate and is less likely to become defensive. Establishing a baseline understanding of the facts before discussing an issue can help get the two of you to a place where you can look for solutions together, or at least discuss your differences in opinion more objectively.

If you need to respond, do so with empathy

Empathy is the process of trying to take on another’s perspective. “It’s crucial for connection and communication,” says Branstetter. “Consider starting your reply to the post that upset you with something that shows empathy.” Examples of this include “I see you’re passionate about this issue. Here’s my perspective on it,” or “I understand this topic is important to you. It’s important to me, too. Care to take it offline?”
Then, provide your opinion using the same kind of respectful language you would hope to read if someone commented on your posts. Rarely will hearts and minds be changed by responding with polarizing or demeaning comments.
Furthermore, mind your emoticons. A study published by “The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology” found that wink faces 😉 used in “computer-mediated communication” (emails, posts, texting, etc.) imply sarcasm. This was the case 85 percent of the time, according to the study.
That comment of yours when paired with a wink or smiley face could have greater implications than you think. Be weary of replying with what could come across as sarcastic and therefore belittling or passive aggressive.

Avoid broad labeling

When people are polarized in their beliefs, it can be difficult to see one another’s perspectives. This is compounded when we assign broad labels to people, e.g., Conservatives or Liberals.
“When we reduce people to ‘us’ versus ‘them’ it shuts the door on empathy,” says Branstetter. “If you feel comfortable, personalize your answer about why the issue is important to you, so you are not viewed as just a ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican’ but an actual person.”
Despite your best efforts to show empathy and respond in a respectful way, there will always be others who do not follow suit. But if you speak your truth in a controlled, respectful way, you’ll feel heard and will have demonstrated to others how to exchange in a healthy way.