Mom of Teen Daughter Seeks Advice

This week I am preparing to go to 3 Open Houses next week. 1 at the elementary school where BC II is entering the 3rd grade, or as any of you who are in the know would say, Big Kid Elementary School (Caps denote the somberness that must be applied to this statement-just ask him). No more recess 3 days a week, it’ll be 2 days but I promise that makes a difference, and honestly I wish they had recess 5 days a week all through elementary school, but no one asked me for a vote. We will go to Open House all bright eyed with the thrill of being a “big kid” firmly implanted in our brains. 1 Open House will be at the middle school as BC I is starting the 6th grade. (Have I mentioned how terrified I am of this?) I have the packets of information regarding what SPD is, reference book lists (with the mention that I own several of them and would loan them to any teacher would wanted to borrow them), his IEP, his medication list with side effects to watch for, and contact info for therapists, psychiatrists, and last year’s school councilor ready to print out. This year I am making 8 copies, since he will have 6 instead of 2 or 3 teachers. We will go to that one with me still faking enthusiasm and confidence, still building up how cool it will be to have lots of teachers, make lots of friends, and have your very own locker (he is most excited about having a place to put his stuff that no one else can even look at, much less touch), and BC I with sparkles in his eyes over finally not being in elementary school where everyone is “so immature”. See why I’m scared? On the same night I go to the Open House for the elementary school I will somehow also go to the one at the high school. (You see, the public school system, having absolute faith in my abilities as a superhero who can time travel, has double booked me that night) I hate it when this happens, and it happens all the time. Just another thing about this time of year, right? I mean, if I were planning an open house at any school in a public school system, I would make sure that the night I picked wasn’t already picked by any feeder schools nor any school that my school was a feeder school to. I mean, there are 3 high schools, for our part of the district, 4 middle schools, and about 7 elementary schools. Wouldn’t it make since to have say Monday and Tuesday nights are all elementary school open houses, Wednesday night be middle school open houses and Thursday night for the high schools? In my area, at least, you can’t have 2 kids at 2 different elem/middle/high schools in the same family, so wouldn’t this solve the issue? But I digress, that wasn’t even what I wanted to write about (sorry I did warn everyone I hate this time of year, I promise to return to sunny optimism and the like soon).

My question is, when I go to the high school Open House (time machine or no) my daughter, who is 14 will cling to my side, insisting that I stay within her sights (while she talks with her friends) and continue to call me Mommy. Right in front of anyone who happens to be around. Now, it’s not that I can’t be called Mommy ( I’m pretty well acquainted with the title at this point), my concern is that when I was going into high school as a freshman I would have actually died before I called my mom Mommy. Anywhere, in private or in public. Now, I’m from the south, we call our dads Daddy for way longer than is normal anywhere else in the country it seems (guys too, it’s not a girl thing). But Mommy? No most of us have been calling her Mom, Mama, or Mother since about the 2nd grade. In fact GC is the only one of my kids still calling me Mommy. This probably sounds like the most insane thing to be worried about, but well, I’m a Mom, I’m supposed to be worried about insane things right? And I am concerned about a pattern I am seeing.

In addition to calling me Mommy, my child (whose first phrase at the age of 1 1/2 was “get offa me” when I tried to hug her goodbye at daycare drop off, I was interfering with her getting to her friends to play with them) constantly wants to sit right next to me (you know in that share your skin way that they usually do at about age 2 to say 5ish?) something she wasn’t interested in prior to this year. She constantly wants to “hang out” with me, if I have a friend around she wants to hang out with us, getting upset when I nudge her off to do her own thing. This all seems so strange to me. When I was 14 I would have counted the ridges in the popcorn ceiling in my bedroom before I voluntarily “hung out” with my mother. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that we spend time together, I encourage it. But it’s as though she has decided we should be friends. I am not sure where she got this idea. We do have fun together, but I have never (at least intentionally) given the impression that I was her friend. Mom, nurse, chaperone, chauffeur, costume/wardrobe designer, chef, groundskeeper, disciplinarian, teacher, yes to all of those; but friend? No. I actually went so far as to tell her a few weeks ago, that while I look forward to being friends with her when she is in her twenties, I am not desirous to be friends with any 14-year-old, no matter how much I love said 14-year-old. She acted as though I had kicked her puppy (or maybe her). I know that it’s a thing now, parents who befriend their children, but I don’t think it’s right. She should have friends her age, I should be her mom, that’s how I have always believed. I have been raising this once independent girl for 14 years, I don’t consider myself done, and suddenly she has changed (in addition to the crazy hormonal changes that I had at least steeled myself for), she still seems very sure of herself and confident, but at the same time constantly wants Mommy around, like physically right there. I wonder is this a normal part of adolescence, that I myself skipped?

 I do want her to talk to me, to continue to tell be about her friends, her day, boys she likes, things she is considering doing with those boys. Maybe I would feel more normal if she didn’t volunteer all of those things, if I had to ask in that pulling teeth way I have to get information from BC I. I just don’t want to be her friend; I want to listen, help her learn to make good choices, guide her when she needs it(you know, be the Mom of the teenager). What should I do to encourage the continued sharing without encouraging this my mom is my friend thing? I would welcome any advice any of you have. Thanks & I hope you are all enjoying the last few weeks of summer.


An Island Cake (part 1)

This was definitely la pièce de résistance of the Luau Party. It was super easy to make, but still really delicious and cool looking. The original plan I had come up with called for a fondant-wrapped Tiki statue on this cake island, however when I reevaluated the physics of fondant in a hotel room kitchen I decided there wasn’t enough rum to attempt it. (to calm my nerves after trying, of course)

This is a cake mix recipe, I do these a lot if there are going to be lots of time-consuming or complicated things for me to do for a party to help save time. If you have a really great Lemon or Orange cake recipe, by all means use your recipe, for the rest of us mortals this is how I put it all together.

You Will Need:

2 boxes Lemon cake mix (and all the ingredients on the boxes)

1 box Orange cake mix (ditto on the ingredients)

Cream cheese frosting

2 cans Lemon frosting

1 can chocolate frosting

3 small boxes instant vanilla pudding

3 cups milk (whatever milk you use at home- I use 2% for cooking)

The rest of the bag of coconut

1/2 box Nilla Wafers (or any vanilla off/store brand cookie like it)

2 ziplock baggies

Cornflower Blue paste food coloring (Again free product endorsement– I like Wilton’s & you can find this in any craft store)

Wooden skewers (like you would use to grill with)

Green liquid food color

About 20 Triscuts

1 full (no nibbles, sorry) container Pirouette Chocolate Hazelnut Cookie Wafers

1 Extra Large rectangle cake pan ( I used 17 x 14 inch, whatever you use you need to adjust the proportions of the cake batter and all the pans)

2 small (I used 6 x 2 inch) round cake pans

1 muffin pan

1 can non-stick cooking spray for baking (the kind with the flour in the spray)

1 or 2 paper drink umbrellas

Mix each type of cake as directed on the package with the following tweaks:

In bowl mix with hand mixer on medium speed all “wet” ingredients plus pudding and milk (2 boxes and 2 cups for lemon cake, 1 box and 1 cup for orange cake). After well blended ( will have a slightly  soupy pudding consistency) add cake mix powder, mixing until just blended.

DO NOT over mix, this will cause peaks, cracking, etc in your cake! It is better to leave a few small unmixed bits, those will cook out.

Preheat oven as directed.  Spray all the bake wear.

Pour Lemon cake mix into rectangle pan. Bake in oven as directed on package. (will take longer because this cake is bigger and thicker than anything on the package, but use those directions as a base line. When this large cake is done, set aside to cool over night.

 Pour Orange cake mix first into round cake pans, then the remainder into the muffin pan. Do not overfill the round pans, they should be about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake all of this according to the directions for cupcakes on the package. Keep in mind the cupcakes will be done about 10 minutes before the round pans, but you will want to keep a close eye on them once the cupcakes are done. When these are all done, set aside to cool overnight.

Go have a drink and read a book or something, relax because tomorrow there’s lots more to do!

Visit the Luau party page for all the recipes and posts involved in this party!

Luau Party Foods

My goodness! Epic blog fail. I realized today when I was cleaning up my OneNote Unfiled Notes folder that I hadn’t posted the rest of GirlChild’s birthday luau food! Sorry all! Below you will find the meal-type food from the party. Enjoy 🙂

Kid-Friendly “SPAM” & Pineapple Skewers:

You may not be aware, but SPAM is hugely popular in Hawaii, Ham is hugely popular in many tropical cultures so a lot of dishes recommended for luaus contain at least one or the other. However, I am against SPAM, I’m not judging you if you are, but canned “meat” that requires quotation marks? *shudder* I’m just too picky for that. I also am not roasting a ham to make skewers for a child’s birthday party, that would be crossing the proverbial line from fun and eccentric, straight into Crazy town. (And I prefer to only visit Crazy town for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas) So these skewers are much more kiddie (or picky adult) friendly and well, easier.

Cut 1 to 2 packages worth of turkey hot dogs (they are about the same to slightly more than regular hot dogs) into 1 1/2 inch to 2 inch slices. Place them in large sauce pot.

Add your kid’s favorite BBQ sauce. Go with a sweet one, not a spicy one for more universal crowd appeal. (if you are using bottled you will need 1 16oz bottle) You want your bite-sized dogs just coated, not swimming. Turn on stove and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes, some caramelization should be happening and everything will be heated through. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Open 2 large cans of pineapple chunks canned in their own juice, drain into Tupperware. (save juice in fridge, you will need it later)

Now bring in a minion child to help. They’ve been clamoring to help all week and now they can. This is about patterns. Show them how to make one them let ’em go! (Please make sure the hot dogs are cooled and everyone washes hands first)

Taking a regular cooking skewer, alternate hot dog bite and pineapple chunk until there are 3 of each on your skewer. Then place it on the platter. Done! Next!

*You can prepare the hotdogs up to a week before if you refrigerate them, but let them get about room temp before trying to handle them, cold hurts almost as bad as hot does to little fingers. Also, don’t try to assemble skewers before the day of your party, BBQ bleeds into pineapple in the fridge, and trying to fit them all in a Tupperware will kinda drive you nuts. *


For littler kids I have done this with no BBQ and by putting 3 of hot dog & 2 of pineapple on cut in half standard skewers. They are less likely to become weapons this way. (not my first beachy themed party)

Mini Sandwiches:

This recipe uses deli meat ham, use whatever you prefer to serve. I used an oven roasted ham. I alternated between 2 cheeses Munster and Cheddar thinly sliced. Both of those are pretty kid friendly, but if you prefer something else, make it yours. I also alternated between Honey-mustard and Dijon-mustard. Just “flag” the Dijon ones with umbrellas so everyone knows which is which.

Gather about 2 packages King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls. Cut eat in 1/2 like buns.

Layer ham, cheese and mustard into “buns”.

Arrange on platter and serve!

*These will keep about 12 to 24 hours in the fridge before drying out.*

Pineapple Fruit Salad:

This is a great mini fruit salad. Serving it in the pineapple, instead of a traditional watermelon keeps leftovers to a minimum. After you assemble this and place it with your other party food, store the extra fruit salad in a Tupperware in the fridge for refilling during the party.

Cut open a pineapple about 1 inch to the side of the fronds straight across, this will create a large oval above the fronds when you lay the pineapple on its side. Using a knife (carefully) remove the pineapple from its exterior, leaving a bowl to serve your fruit salad in. Set “bowl” on serving platter and to the side for now. Throw away core.

Cut pineapple into bite sized bits and place in large bowl.

Now the fun part. Pick what fruits (that are tropical) and cut them into similar sized pieces, add them to the bowl and stir. Citrus juice (like pineapple, oranges, etc) help keep fruit from oxidizing (turning brown in the open air). I used cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, mandarin oranges, kiwi, grapes, and strawberries. Yum!

This will keep about a week in your fridge as leftovers.


*when you serve this place a few whole strawberries, a slice of kiwi, and a small bunch of grapes on the plate, suddenly it looks really professionally done.*

Visit the Luau party page for all the recipes and posts involved in this party!

Hydration Information Part 2: (the how)

As promised earlier, this is the how of hydration, it was all too much for one post. (I’m really trying to cut back on epic informative posts…) Since we all know about water (or think we do) we will start there.  So heard the whole 8 glasses a day thing? Yeah right, since I can’t actually work in the potty I can’t do it. But Wait! It’s not 8 glasses of water! It’s fluid. Yeah, you know, the liquid in almost everything you consume during the day, that’s what keeps you hydrated, under normal circumstances. I found this really cool water needs calculator. I tried it and these are my results:

My regular day answer:

73 ounces of water today, or 2.2 liters.

If you eat a healthy diet, about 20 percent of your water may come from the foods you eat.

If you divide it up, I need about 7 glasses of water (or fluids) per day. Guess what? Coffee counts! (Score) Now, not as good as say water, or milk, or juice, but it totally counts! That’s right, it’s not a type-o, milk is a great rehydrater!

*Keep in mind that we are talking kids and adults here, for babies it depends on age and what your doctor says*

Those folks at the Mayo clinic have this to say regarding milk:

Milk offers both carbohydrate (lactose) and protein (whey and casein). When compared to sports drinks, low-fat milk, plain or chocolate, was equivalent or better for fueling, repairing and building muscle. The results were especially impressive when milk was used as a recovery or post-exercise beverage.

Brace yourself, I have to say it… Yup Milk totally does a body good! Ok, I’ll move on now. They also have recommendation for a homemade sports drink here.


Water is an obvious source for your daily fluid needs. Other good beverages include milk, herbal teas, low-sodium broth, 100-percent fruit and vegetable juices. Soft drinks will also count toward your daily total of fluid, just remember that sugar sweetened soft drinks and fruit juices add extra calories to you daily diet that you don’t need.

The familyfitness site adds:

You’ve probably heard the oft-repeated advice that you should drink 8 cups of water every day. Does the same rule apply to children? Yes and no. According to the Institute of Medicine (a division of the National Academy of Sciences, charged with advising the nation on health topics), most adults get all the liquids they need every day just by eating and drinking normally—with meals, and when they are thirsty. Any beverages, including caffeinated ones, count toward the daily fluid intake your body needs (which is closer to 10 cups than 8, by the way). Food, especially fruits and vegetables, contains water too.

Kids under 8 years old need a little less fluid than adults, but the advice is the same—they should drink healthy beverages with meals, plus sip water any time they are thirsty. Of course, if they are playing or exercising vigorously, or if it’s very hot outside, they’ll need more liquids to make up for what their bodies are losing to perspiration.

There we go with those electrolytes again, that the more than fluids that we need when we are in the hot, humid summer sun. This was a great chart (yay chart) for what foods have electrolytes in them naturally (aka the best way to get anything).

So if water is best, why not just guzzle the stuff, right? I like water, my kids like water, it is the best tasting thing in the world at times. Well there are a few things to keep in mind:

There are some times when drinking too much water can be a problem:

    1. If  you have any kidney or adrenal problems, or your doctor has you taking diuretics, you need to consult with your doctor about how much water to drink each day
    2. Don’t drink all the water you need per day all at once. Divide the amount you need and drink several glasses of water throughout the day. This is especially important if you engage in lots of heavy exercise.
    3. Infants should be given only formula or breast milk unless your pediatrician tells you otherwise.
    4. Too much water, without also replacing your electrolytes, (balance people) will not keep you from being dehydrated, or save you from symptoms such as      headaches, nausea, dizziness, and exhaustion.

Aargh! Something else to keep up with! No, calm down, it’s not as hard as it sounds. Now for some ideas! (yay solutions)

    1. Water with a snack (try bananas, think potassium) is perfect for the afternoon in the park.
    2. Milk, nice cold milk, has electrolytes in it already!
    3. Flavored water. (try glass of water & 1 squirt of lemon juice-like RealLemon,you’ve seen it)
    4. Any snack that combines salt, fluid, sugar and protein is pretty much golden. (think apples and peanut butter)

Now we all know there are other solutions, the first one that comes to mind for most people is Sports Drinks. Keep this from familyfitness in mind:

Sports drinks: Generally, avoid these since they add calories and sugar, but few nutrients, to your child’s diet. But if he’s exercising vigorously and prefers sports drinks to water, let him drink up—it’s more important that he stays hydrated. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 4 to 6 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes for a 90-pound child while he’s exercising. The AAP also suggests weighing your child before and after he exercises so you can see how much fluid he lost—then you’ll know how much he needs to replace during future workouts.

Now, that’s vigorous exercise. That is not regular play in the backyard. (Even down here on the 98 degree 98% humidity day) For those days, the best thing you can do is provide fun, in their face hydration. Wait, what? I heard you, I have a giant spouted cooler that comes out in about May and lives on the kitchen counter (where any child over the age of one can get to-I know I’m a brave lady) until about September. In their face, means they don’t get so distracted they are dropping like flies out there. I keep it full (and clean) of liquid that won’t spoil before my kids drink it (about 3 to 4 days). Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? Who remembers this guy?

Now before someone takes away my Mom card, I don’t follow the package directions, I use waaay more water and 3/4 cup instead of 1 cup per packet for an entire 2 gallon container. (If they’ve never had Kool-aid made “the right way” they don’t know wahahaha-sorry, evil mommy got out for a sec…) I have caught these kids sitting in the floor with mouths open while another sibling flips the spout. (It’s all about team work) Sometimes I get all fancy and make Country Time in it (my personal fav-if you add actual lemon juice to it it’ll taste less like candy and more like the real thing, but will still keep on that counter).  Why the hell do I need to keep it on my counter? #1 there isn’t room in my fridge for a one gallon container, much less this behemoth; #2 on the counter they can drink all day long, without the refrigerator constantly being open (a habit I discourage) #3 It’s a novel, fun, summer-only thing for my kids, getting out that damn container is the equivalent of kick starting summer as far as they are concerned.

*Now here’s a little disclaimer: I do NOT care if you don’t follow my “beverage rules”, please do not misunderstand what I’m about to say, I said it before, in my house I make my rules, you get to for your house & God Bless, cause I only want to be in charge of this zoo, Thankyouverymuch! 😉 *

These kids don’t drink soda (including the 14-year-old) other than the occasional sip of Gingerale when someone has been vomiting for awhile. They don’t drink “juice beverages”, only 100% here, and not tons of that. They do not drink any caffeinated beverages (unless there is extreme cold and I’m serving hot cocoa)at all. We drink water, herbal teas, milk, and occasional 100% juice year round. Which is why the Kool-aid/Country Time container is so popular around here. It does have rules, there is no meal-appropriate beverage in there, but the kids seem to accept that, and they know if you guzzle that all day Mom will cut you off and you will have to wait till your siblings (with tortuous slowness) finish the container and Mom washes and then refills before you are off of water only.

Other cool ways to incorporate hydration into your summer:

    1. Get cool bottles (your kids can pick them out, I promise, if you are reading this you aren’t cool enough to do it, it’s totally ok, me neither) to put water,  juice, whatever the hell in.
    2. Freeze juice boxes/pouches before you leave. Shlushies!!
    3. Make “popsicles” from juice
    4. Splash any fruit juice into your regular bottle for a special treat.
    5. Frozen bananas,  get crazy & dip them in chocolate…
    6. Frozen watermelon.
    7. Make Yogurt  Smoothies to go!

What other ideas do you have? What is your summer hydration plan like? Let me know. Stay Safe & have fun! 🙂

Mama’s Doctorate in Sunscreen

Our first installment of Fun in the Southern Summer Sun:

Obviously, I don’t actually have a doctorate, I just figure if Jenny McCarthy can give herself one in “Google Research”, well I can promise you I’ve looked into sunscreen just as much. The next thing you are wondering, I’m sure, is “Why the hell would you spend as much time as you say you have learning about sunscreen?!” Simple answer, I have a child that was born so fair-skinned we used to joke that she was see-through. As you know I’m the proud mommy of 3 kids, what you may not have noticed is that between myself and my kids we have such ranging degrees of “white” skin color that I have made the joke that I am raising a Caucasian UN. I am dark  for being Caucasian, I haven’t had a sunburn, until I was in my mid 20s it never occurred to me that I should even wear sunscreen anyway, despite the no burning. BoyChild II, is similarly colored, he uses a light brown crayon to draw pictures of himself. He once was describing appearance to me due to somebody telling him at school he was white (they were making charts) and said, “I can’t be white, I’m tan, not as tan as Joel (whose mother is originally from Ivory Coast, and is slightly lighter than her) but I am more tan than Jorge (who is a lighter skinned Mexican American boy who lived next door to us at the time). Now {GirlChild}, she’s white!”He was about 6 at the time. That leads me to GirlChild, at birth she was very pale, black curls, but that pearl white skin. Other than adding a few freckles over her 14 years, she hasn’t darkened at all. BoyChild I is in between the other two, not dark enough to be questioning ethnicity, but I’m pretty sure his butt would reflect light. (I’m also pretty sure I should never let him read that I wrote that last part)

As a new mother of my porcelain looking baby, who was born in May, I was petrified of her getting in the sun, pretty much ever. I had no idea what to do with skin that fair to protect it, visions of a toddler with skin cancer due to her negligent mother danced through my head. It was obvious she should always wear sunscreen, I wasn’t completely clueless, but past that I really didn’t know anything about the stuff. I also knew that she had the most sensitive skin I’d ever seen, that child could get a rash  from certain brand’s dye free/scent free baby wipes, so I was petrified of rubbing ANY chemicals into her skin. My younger sister was fair and blonde and I totally remembered her getting sunburned and how miserable she was, I considered it to be a huge mommy fail if I couldn’t keep my little girl burn free. (Ahh the sleep-depravation inspired idealism of early parenthood…)What was a new mommy to do? I asked. I asked the pediatrician, I asked my mother, I asked strangers in the park, I read articles in parenting magazines, I went to the library and researched the hell out of it. (this was 1998, we had internet, but not like we have internet now, at least we didn’t at my house) What I’m about to share with you is what I learned then, and what I have learned since then about sunscreen. Some of this is based on various doctor’s advise, some on current health articles (which I have tried to source as many of as possible), and some of this is my own experiment with my mini UN.

Side note: the first sunburn GirlChild had been at daycare when she was 2 because they wouldn’t let her have sunscreen reapplied there during the day, in June, what with it being a “topical medication” and all,  I pulled her out of that daycare after that. She didn’t get another sunburn until she was 5, in my defense it was a sunny day (but only 55 degrees) in early March, who gets sun burnt in March?! Lesson learned. She has never had a severe burn, but I’m still kinda afraid of her being outside of my supervision (that’s when she usually ends up burnt, although 2 years ago she did get a sunburn on her legs riding inside our SUV with me, so stones/glass houses/etc), and by my supervision I mean out with her friends, at school, or with grandparents who forget (ahem). 

If after you read through this you have a correction to make or something to add from your own wealth of knowledge, please share! I am always learning new things.The questions I asked:

First: What does sunscreen do?

Sunscreen boosts your skin’s ability to protect your body from UVA & UVB radiation. Oh, well that’s clear… no, not really. Simply put UVA=wrinkles and most skin cancers, UVB=most sunburns. Sunscreen can help protect you from one or both of these, you want both. Look for phrases like “broad spectrum protection” and “multispectrum”, these will help shield from both. Melanin, the stuff that gives your skin color, is your natural SPF, the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) in sunscreen helps boost your melanin’s abilities (think of it like Spinach for Popeye). SPF measures how must boost at a time you are getting. SPF measures the boost it gives your melanin to protect you from the UVB rays, all the sunscreens are about the same if they are protecting you at all from the UVA rays. You can find SPF anywhere from 2 to 100 (new this summer). The chemicals that are in sunscreen are more concentrated the higher the number, this is not necessarily a good thing. These are strong chemicals, they do powerful things, they can therefore irritate the hell out of a baby’s (or anyone else’s) skin if they are overly concentrated. I made a snide comment about a daycare not allowing sunscreen, but in truth, it is a topical medication, treat it that way. (think of it like this; my kid takes a multivitamin every morning after breakfast, good idea; vitamins are good so I will give my 4 year-old 5 multivitamins every morning after breakfast, iron poisoning/vitamin OD, bad idea) Any time I have asked a doctor, pediatrician, etc about a recommended SPF I have gotten the same answer, for the last 14 years, so I’m going to stick with it. SPF’s actual help increases at a reasonable rate for SPF 4 through 30; however, after that there isn’t truly much difference (even with 100-I checked yesterday with the Pediatrician). But the increase of rash and other skin irritating chemicals continues to increase at the same rate all the way through from 4 to 100. As the parent of a very sensitive skinned child I learned early on dye-free/scent-free was the way to go, and so she still uses SPF 30 “kid/baby” sunscreen to this day. As it says in a NYTimes article I found:

The Truth: The bump in protection offered by higher SPFs is minimal. For example, SPF 15 sunblock screens 93 percent of the sun’s UVB rays, while SPF 30 protects against 97 percent and SPF 50 against 98 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Now you are probably wondering, so why have anything other than 30? Well, just like the kid taking 5 vitamins, too much is not better. I told you I put 30 on GirlChild, but BoyChild I uses 15 and BoyChild II uses 8. (The boys have never had any sunburns while with me, BoyChild I got one once at his grandma’s house, but he told me that he wasn’t wearing sunscreen until he was outside for “a while already”-which could mean an hour or two to an 11-year-old)

Second: Does this stuff go “bad”?

Everything goes bad eventually. Sunscreen is like a Disney Child/Tween Star; more exposure it gets,  the more harsh/less effective/less likely you want it on/around your kids. Humidity (hello, welcome to the south, where it can be 98 degrees, 100% humidity, and it NOT be raining, for a week or two-but it is hard to breathe then), direct sunshine, and heat all work to break down sunscreen. (I’m talking about in the bottle, I will get to on your skin in a minute) The more times sunscreen gets broken down, the more quickly it has to go into rehab, sorry still on that metaphor, the more quickly it will expire. With normal use (trying to eliminate these factors & mostly succeeding), 1 bottle of sunscreen will keep for about 1 summer, maybe slightly into fall. (this is why it can be silly to buy those industrial sized bottles, especially if each family member has their own SPF needs. It’s only a better deal in bulk if you can use it before it goes bad, like that 10lb tub of peanut butter…) Expired sunscreen can cause irritation and rashes that look worse than a sunburn (I have actually seen this). Always check the date on a tube you are about to purchase, if you are in doubt, get the tube in the back of the shelf & ask someone. (I once picked up a tube that said exp 2006 in April of 2009!) The folks at Good Health advise:

 Most sunscreens, however, have a date of expiration stamped onto the label. There is usually a string of letters and numbers. If the string ends in a number, that is the year the sunscreen will expire (ex: 2004 = 4) Please see the attached link for further details

What about that bottle at home? Pour some into your hand when it is room temperature. Did it pour (loose, very liquidy)? Then trash it. It should come out like body lotion or body butter. (this is why I hat the spray ones, it’s impossible to tell if it is less viscous)  Now, look at what is in your hand, has it changed (in any way) in color or smell?  Then trash it, color & smell are caused by chemicals, would you give your kid expired antibiotics or vitamins? Exactly. Like with food, when in doubt, throw it out!

Third: How can I make sunscreen work the best?

So we know that heat/sunlight makes the stuff expire more quickly, but how do we keep it out of the sun & heat but still, well, use it? Actually it’s simple and helps with how to make it most effective for your body as well. Sunscreen take about 30 minutes to reach it’s labeled SPF potential. That’s right, you put on sunscreen when you got outside, were out there for an hour & got burned? It didn’t wear off, you didn’t have any SPF protection the first 1/2 hour you were out there! A good rule of thumb, experiment and see what works best for you, is apply 30 minutes before you go outside, reapply every 2 hours.

*I actually found a quote from a doctor after I typed the first draft of this that backs me up (having a smart day :)*

Use enough sunscreen, and use it correctly, experts say. “Make sure you are applying at least an ounce to all sun-exposed areas,” says Badreshia-Bansal. She recommends reapplying every two hours.

Sunscreen works for about an hour and a half to 2 before it starts to deteriorate if you are, well, experiencing summer AT ALL. Things that speed up your sunscreen’s loss of ability to protect you: Sweat (duh, it’s summer), water (pool, sprinkler, water balloons, ocean…), heat (if it breaks down in the closed  bottle think about what it’s going through on your skin), humidity (you know the combo of heat and water).  The (much smarter than me) folks at WebMD had this to add:

Mexoryl (ecamsule), a UVA blocker approved in 2006 by the FDA, was judged as effective in a report on the sunscreen ingredient in a study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in 2007.

But the EWG found in its literature search that as much as 40% of Mexoryl can degrade within two hours, Sutton says.

 If you were wearing sunscreen indoors it could protect you for longer, but even then it’s still only a couple of hours, which is why putting sunscreen on you kid before school to protect them at recess (unless recess is at about 9:30 am) is pretty pointless. You can ask you pediatrician top write your child a prescription for sunscreen wearing, this is what I did so that GirlChild was allowed to have such a dangerous drug in school. (Make sure your Pediatrician is specific; use this SPF, apply to this much these areas, this many times per day; just like any prescription) My favorite line regarding this is:

You can’t just slather yourself with sunscreen in the morning, head out for a long day at the beach and expect to come home sunburn-free.

Learn it, live it. I will make one note regarding that bottle you are going to reapply the sunscreen with, ideally you are toting it in the cooler along with your water bottles. If you forgot about hydrating (shame on you), put it in your purse, diaper bag, kid’s book bag/gym bag, beach bag, under the towel, somewhere out of the direct sunlight.

Fourth: What else can help with sun protection?

Some things are obvious, stay inside during peak sun hours, wear a hat (of course, don’t forget water acts like snow and reflects light up, sun burnt chins are lame), wear light weight protective clothing… There is something you can do to help your clothing’s UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor- how they measure an article of clothing’s ability to keep the UVA & UVB rays off of you skin), wash summer wear in Sun Guard, there are other brands, but this is the one that I like. 1 “dose” lasts through about 20 washings and adds about 30 UPF into clothes. UPF can be figured using this example in order to apply it to practical purposes: 50=1/50th of UV light can get to skin. I will warn you their website claims the following (which is in part slightly inflated if you use the above formula):

Blocks more than 96% of the sun’s harmful rays.

Another thing to keep in mind, dry skin is more likely to become irritated in the summer sun, even when the humidity is 80+%. Use after sun lotion, even if there is no irritation or burn, that dry, tight feeling after your shower is from damaged skin, help it. I like this one:

I have noticed, as the kiddos have gotten older, they abjectly refuse to rub any lotion into their faces (preteens & teens & their acne problems… yay). The fact that burnt skin is more prone to acne does not spur them on to use sunscreen. But I have found an oil-free sunscreen for faces that *gasp* doesn’t even irritate GirlChild’s skin! I buy them in the small book bag/purse sized tubes & both of the older two use that stuff religiously when they are both at home and away.

Fifth: What about if I mess it up?

So you thought you got it right, or you did and life happened. Your kid is pink/lobsterish/whatever undesirable shade they are, now what? After you stop beating yourself up (been there) you have to treat the burn. DO NOT use after sun lotion on a burn! That’s like the whole butter on a burn thing, it’s a MYTH, it causes more harm than good. Use an Aloe based gel. It will help better than anything else I’ve seen. You can go with traditional like this:

Or you can get the REALLY good stuff that’s slightly numbing (it numbs with menthol) like this:

Or this one works great too:

Feeling ready to spend the weekend outdoors? I know I do. Bring on the Banana Boat!

*I am recommending products in this article I buy and use. I have not been paid for any recommendations, nor did I receive any free products. (Although I would welcome any free sun care, that stuff gets expensive!)*