Samara Tilkens Postuma is raising five kids from infant to teen in the St. Michael area with her husband, Jeff. When not found driving kids to and from activities, helping with homework or at the park or pool, you can find her sharing her life online where she does some freelance writing and social media work and also writes at her own blog, www.simplicityinthesuburbs.com.

Posts about Society

Let's Talk About the Facts of Enterovirus D68

Posted by: Samara Postuma Updated: September 18, 2014 - 1:01 PM

As of Wednesday, Minnesota does have a confirmed case of Enterovirus D68 and parents are all wondering what is this "mystery" illness and what should we be watching for. 

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota put together some great info on the facts, even saying, this isn't a mystery illness. We see this every fall, it's just that this year it's causing more wheezing/asthmatic symptoms. It's a common cold like condition but can cause complications for some people.

Here's the rundown:

What is Enterovirus D68?

Enterovirus D68 is one of many enteroviruses. EV-D68 infections are thought to occur less commonly than infections with other enteroviruses. It first was identified in California in 1962. Compared with other enteroviruses, EV-D68 has been rarely reported in the U.S. in the past 40 years. There have been no known deaths due to the 2014 virus.

Is there a vaccine?

NO.

Who is most at risk?

Infants, children and teens.

How can I protect myself and my children?

  • Superb hand hygiene is important. Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Stay home if you’re ill.

When should I bring my child in?

Patsy Stinchfield, Director of Pediatric Infectious Disease for Children's gave this advice:

  1. If symptoms are mild, such as common cold, parents should do what they normally do with a sick child – increase his or her fluids, rest, keep home from school, give fever- and pain-reducing medicines.
  2. If symptoms are moderate, such as cold symptoms worsening or not getting better within a week, or new wheezing begins, take your child to your clinic.
  3. If at any time your child is having difficulty breathing or you are seeing blue lips or they are gasping for air, take him or her to the closest emergency room. 

For more you can check out Children's Mighty Kid Blog.

Happy National Stepfamily Day!

Posted by: Samara Postuma Updated: September 16, 2014 - 8:00 AM

Tuesday is National Stepfamily Day. It's a holiday not many people talk about or acknowledge and I'll be honest, it's typically not even on my radar but this year it is thanks to a new ad Honey Maid came out with and I want to tell you a little bit about MY stepfamily.

This past April, my husband and I celebrated 10 years of mostly wedded bliss. This is a huge accomplishment in any marriage but especially ours. We got married, his second marriage, when I was 22, he was 30 and his children were 5 and 3.

It is absolutely insane to me how much I thought I knew about life and love and parenting and how things were going to go 10 years ago. Naive, much?

I rarely talk about my role as stepmom these days. I think it used to be much more a forefront thought in my mind and now it’s just, “we have five kids.” I’ll elaborate more if people ask, saying names and ages and further explaining that the oldest two are my step kids. I still get the “ahh, I see” reaction from time to time from those who have their own assumptions and beliefs about step moms and step kids and what that role may look like but what’s funny is over time I’ve figured out and decided I don’t really care what other people’s perceptions are. I know what my role is. They know what my role is. Nothing else much matters.

For years I felt judged, especially in Christian circles and here's the deal, I too stood on that judging side once upon a time. I am so thankful that the God I believe in is forgiving and never stops giving second chances and that he prefers to hang out with the imperfect ones like me.

And here's the thing, I think that as negative as society and Hollywood paints the picture of step mothering and ex-wives and divorce there is also something sacred in the beauty of sharing children in this way. I think about this a lot, this sacredness, the gracious way in which their mom treats me in my role.

Last spring I filled out tons of paperwork enrolling and re-enrolling kids in school and general paperwork, I was called and asked about an emergency contact I had listed. I always list my stepkids mom on my kids paperwork as a contact and this person thought it was an error.

“Nope, that’s right,” I said.

“Well that’s generous of you,” she said and we hung up. The words hung in the air afterwards and I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t generous of me at all. If anything, generosity has been extended to me time and time again.

I am often jealous of these tight knit families with family that will swoop in and take care of things in a moment. Families who never have to worry or make a page worth of phone calls or texts to arrange childcare, grandparents who provide after school care and the ability to say, “grandma will be there today for lunch at school.” I’m sure in some twisted way it’s unsettled grief I have from losing my mom almost 7 years ago now. It is always there just below the surface and I’ve probably said it a few hundred times over, I’m the wrong person to complain to about your grandparent issues.

But I take comfort in the family we create. I consider my stepkids mom and her husband a part of my family. We can text back and forth laughing about one of the kids’ inability to ever get their laundry to the laundry room and virtual high five when one accomplishes something seemingly simple but huge to us. If you’ve ever seen my littles around them, you’d notice that my 5 year old gravitates to them, looking for mints and always has to go potty when we arrive at her house if only to pet the dogs and do a quick run through the house.

Do we do things wrong and have misunderstandings? Sure, don’t most families? We will never claim perfection for we are all wobbly knees and stumbling as we go along the path of life.

While Ty and Maddie will remember little of their life before this one, Henry, Evie and now Frannie, will know nothing besides this. Our oldest two come and then they go and when they are gone, my littles will ask each day when they will return, because they know nothing else but to love them and to miss them.

My role as a parent began as a stepmom, a mom to someone else’s children. I’m fairly certain I didn’t understand the complexities of what that meant until I had my own children and once I did I was overwhelmed with gratitude because I’ve been given a lot more grace than I think I’d ever have been able to give.

I will never boast a perfect, easy situation. What I will boast is that we’ve always worked hard.

“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

{This is an adapted version of a post that originally appeared on my personal site. If you are interested, you can follow on Facebook here.}

Are Sleepovers Becoming a Thing of the Past?

Posted by: Samara Postuma Updated: September 10, 2014 - 10:55 PM

My Facebook newsfeed was filled with all sorts of discussion on sleepovers earlier this week. With a news story out on a Minnesota man who has been charged with not only molesting a child spending the night at his home with his daughter but also drugging her with Ambien, it's not surprising that as parents we are alarmed, frightened and frankly, pissed off.

What is wrong with people, seems to be the recurring question. A lot, especially in stories like that. 

So opinions are across the board. No, sleepovers, not ever, say some while others are ok within reason and yet others say we all did it, what's the big deal.

 

I have a love/hate with sleepovers. The love part comes from the fact that I have lots of fun memories of sleep overs and slumber parties throughout my elementary and middle school years. Late nights, lots of laughs and just a few practical jokes. The hate part comes from sending my kids to a sleepover and dealing with them the next day. Exhaustion, crabbiness, if it's hosted at our house, my own irritability the next day is a force to be reckoned with.

I'm cautious on the idea of sleepovers and not because I think people are out to get my kids but more so because I like my kids sleeping at home, in their own beds for the most part. Sure, they'll be invited to sleepovers here and there and my 8 year old even went to overnight camp this past summer but I go a little bit more by way of trusting my gut, getting to know situations and people and going from there. One compromise that has worked in our household when our kids were younger and not necessarily keen on the idea of sleeping over at someones house all night was the idea of a "half-sleepover" meaning they would either have their friend over or go to their friends home for part of the evening, long enough for a movie and a snack and then they would go home about 10 p.m.. Late enough that for a kid, it feels like a late night but early enough for parents that it's better than that middle of the night "come pick me up" phone call.

I asked a couple other Twin Cities bloggers to weigh in with their thoughts and take on sleepovers, here's what they had to say:

Missy Berggren of from Marketing Mama writes-

My kids are 6 and 9 years old and they're getting invited to sleepovers more often. We invited a handful of kids to spend the night for my son's birthday, but sending them to friend's houses gives me pause. There seems to be so much risk - guns, violence, molestation. It's tough because we want our kids to have fun and enjoy their childhood, but we also want to keep them safe.
 
My 9 year old son has had only a few sleepovers at friend's houses. They've been with families I've gotten to know over time through school or daycare and felt comfortable with them. 
 
I've continued to have regular conversations with my kids about safety - that not all adults make good decisions and that it's okay to call or text me (through his iPod) at any time if they are uncomfortable or don't feel well. We've talked about how some adults are "tricky" and try to trick kids into doing things that are inappropriate. Sometimes teachers or babysitters or friend's parents or siblings can be tricky, too. It's okay to say NO to tricky people, try to get away from them and tell a parent or other adult ASAP.
 
Just this week one of my children was invited to spend the night at a classmate's home. I have not met the child or the parents. The answer was no. Meeting them or talking to them once wouldn't be good enough. After hearing the scary story this week in the local news, I'm tightening up my sleepover rules even more.

Jamie Heil from Toys in the Dryer writes-

I don't think sleepovers are bad. In fact, I think they are good for both parents and children. Sleepovers allow children to gain confidence away from their parents. They also allow children to see how other families are run, and therefore gain skills to adapt to other people's lifestyles (such as different foods, routines, pets, and sometimes cultures). For parents, sleepovers force giving up some control over their children. This allows the children to become more independent.

A lot can be said about the dangers of sleepovers. You hear about children getting into trouble on the internet, being bullied, or worst-case, being molested. I'm not denying that those things can and do happen at sleepovers. However, the same things can and do happen during regular play-dates in the middle of the day, during sports, and even at school. The key to healthy sleepovers is knowing what will be going on during it. Who are the children staying over? Will there be older siblings there? Who is supervising and how much supervision will there actually be? Ask what will and will not be allowed (such as internet time, older siblings allowed to play with the group, and bed time). Never be shy about asking too many questions and trust your gut if something doesn't feel right. Lastly, keep the lines of communication open with your children. Talk with them about possible dangers they may face, and how to deal with them. Instill in them that no matter what happens, they can call you anytime during the sleepover. They can also talk to you after the sleepover if they were not comfortable with something.

Sleepovers can be beneficial to both children and parents if done with boundaries and open communication. The confidence, independence, and memories made in children during sleepovers can not be replaced by daytime play-dates.  

Tracy Morrison from Sellabit Mum writes-

So here's the thing - I know that THAT happening at sleepovers is probably not something that happens very often. And I know that statistics show that kids are more likely to be molested by a close family member or friend, than by a stranger. And I know that I cannot protect my kids from all the bad that happens in the world - yet here we are making decisions daily about how free range our kids can be - from walking alone, to biking alone, to staying alone, to now having friends that maybe we just don't know that well. And you know, pretty soon as the teen years come - there's probably going to be a WHOLE lot of my kids lives that I might not be privy to - with whom they hang-out with, where they go every time they leave the house, or what really happens at sleepovers.(Dear God, don't ever find out what I did at sleepovers, my dear children...).
 
But you know what - while I STILL can set some rules and boundaries and give advice and frame-up to my kids WHY I'm maybe not so comfortable with my daughter sleeping at a friend's house when I don't know the family - well I am going to do just that, and this time I'm pulling out my Mom Trump Card and playing that sucker hard.
 
And I am pro-sleepover. Heck - I am pro-sleepaway camp! Sleepovers are great fun! And my kids have been to dozens and have had good friends stay at our home. But you know what - I know their families well. Like we have had coffee together or cocktails together or gone out to dinner as a family and I've been to their homes. These are people I text with and talk with often. Does that "protect" my child from something bad that could happen at a sleepover - sure, no, but at least we are providing the best framework and safety net that we can in any situation as our little kids become big kids and then teens, and they need to know what some comfortable boundaries are.
 
I'm not looking to cover my kids in bubble wrap or not let them have a fair bit of well deserved independence so that they too learn to make good choices. And I don't want them to focus on all the bad things that could happen or question everyone's integrity. I want my kids to know people, to trust people. to know that there are so many beautiful and good things in the world, and I want them to be brilliant and independent and giving and contributing people. But right now, #sorrynotsorry - they're not going to spend the night with a friend that I don't know.
 
So what will I do - I'll pick up the phone or send an email and introduce myself to this friend's mother. I'll invite her to coffee. I'll have the friend over to hang-out and maybe for dinner. {excerpt}
 

What do you think about sleepovers? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Allow 'em? Any rules of thumb that work in your household?

The Homework Debacle

Posted by: Samara Postuma Updated: September 9, 2014 - 8:31 PM

While it's only the second week of school, some kids are already wondering when break is. It's not the early mornings or the long school days, it's the homework.

So far I've found the homework debacle to be a non issue in our household. My kindergartener attends a school that doesn't do homework until older elementary {yay for Montessori} and my third grader has had minimal and very manageable tasks- a math worksheet, reading minutes and some spelling to study. Pretty age & grade level appropriate tasks and I am not complaining.

Yet for some families, homework can be quite the issue. After sitting in school all day, many kids don't have the attention span or the time to devote to doing it. What, with sports and extracurriculars and the like.

Students at a Quebec Elementary School won't have to worry about homework as the school does a pilot project on no homework for one year. A spokesperson from the school said that "the goal is to ease pressure on parents and even improve student performance." {Source: Yahoo!}

Etta Kralovec, a professor at the University of Arizona and the author of The End of Homework, said elementary school students are often so busy with homework they don't have enough time to pursue extra-curricular activities, or simply play.

"The research is very clear that there's no benefit at the elementary school level," she said in the Yahoo! article.

No homework policies are even popping up here in the United States. One school district in Rockville, Maryland hasn't assigned homework since 2012. Principal Stephanie Brant told TODAY that the school simply asks that students read 30 minutes each night. That seems pretty fair to me.

Kralovec said that more schools have looked into no homework policies but it's a hot topic between parents. 

“There’s a huge philosophical divide between parents who want their kids to be very scheduled, very driven, and very ambitiously focused at school -- those parents want their kids to do homework,” she said.

“And then there are the parents who want a more child-centered life with their kids, who want their kids to be able to explore different aspects of themselves, who think their kids should have free time.” {source: TODAY}

What do you think about homework? Is it an issue in your household? How much time is too much for homework and what do you think about these schools choosing to opt out?

Rules for Freelance & Work From Home Parents

Posted by: Samara Postuma Updated: September 4, 2014 - 12:09 PM

Times have changed. Where in the past working parent meant one who went to an office for 8 hours a day away from home, now working parent can mean a myriad of things. From working different schedules, freelancing, working part time and working from home, working parent means more than "going to work" these days.

For our family, my husband goes to work all day and I work from home even though I primarily stay home with my kids. Yes, this means many days are a juggle. Especially in the summer.  But I am so thankful to be able to write and consult from the comfort of my own home, on my own schedule and of my own accord.

Four of the five kids are in school now. All day every day I find that it's my 15 month old and I. And while there will still be days that I'm in a childcare bind to make it to a meeting or event, for the most part right now I'm feeling like I've got this. {It's day three.}

That said, a few weeks before school started I decided I needed to make some rules for myself so that I can truly enjoy this season. I find that without boundaries I am more stressed, less efficient and really never quite finished. If you, too, work from home in any capacity, I'm sure you can relate to the struggle to truly shut down, to not click on the mail icon on your phone and truly, truly have "off" time.

So here's what's my plan this fall to keep myself on track this school year:

-Be on time. When I am late, I am stressed. Sadly, I tend to be late often. This year, I have to drive one of our kids to and from school each day. If I am not intentional with making sure we get out the door on time, it will be a slippery slope. So far, so good.

-Shut off the computer at 2:20 and don't turn it back on until 8. My third grader's bus arrives about 2:30 and so many times last spring once he went back to school I would be trying to "quick finish an email" or things of that nature. I want to deliberately shut down a few minutes before he arrives so I can fully welcome him and enjoy time with just him {as most days my 15 month old will still be napping} to talk about his day, get started on homework etc.

-Same rule for my phone. While I likely won't actually "shut off" my phone during those hours due to sports schedules for my two oldest and other life happenings, I want to mostly not use my phone. Most of my texts aren't urgent, any email can wait and I really don't need to browse social media, do I? I'm sure there will be exceptions to this, sometimes meetings or events pop up that I would attend during these hours or there might be something I'm contracted to do but for the most part, I'd like to really be unplugged those few hours with my kids. 

-Aside from a quick check of the email for any school notices/reminders in the morning, don't check email. For me it comes down to, it's just hard to draw the line here. I read a few on my phone, forget to reply because I already read them or simply become overwhelmed with the things I need to accomplish later. It's not fair to myself or the people I am working for when I am trying to split my time and mind that way. I also added a time frame to my email signature that says when I will reply to emails. 12-2 or after 8pm on weekdays works best for me.

-No phone calls at drop off and pick up. We've all seen the mom or dad walking into their child's school on a phone call and we've all thought, "get off the phone and pick up your kid." Well, what's so different if that parent on the phone is in the carpool line and their excited kindergartener is about to get in the car? For me, not much. So I've decided no phone calls on the way to drop off and I want to finish any phone conversation before I arrive to pick up at 3:20 so I can talk with my five year old and discuss school on the drive home.  

I'm a big believer in teaching kids that they are not the center of the universe and we have made sure that there are times here and there they have to accomodate our schedules and work situations but especially with them being at school all day, I really want to be intentional with the time that they are home and the time we have together as a family.

If you are a work from home parent or have a varied work set up, what sorts of rules and boundaries do you have in place so that you can balance parenting and working from home?

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