Mama Advice, My Mama Blogs

Raising Kids in the Digital Age

First of all, I want to take a moment and thank you so much for joining the Band of Mamas through this journey. This blog continues to grow and morph into this amazing place where we are able to share and connect on so many new experiences. I began this journey of #BlogLife last May on Mother’s Day and am loving every second of writing and getting to know so many of you on a personal level. Getting to be a part of this has brought me incredible joy!

Many of you know (but my new readers may not!) that aside from keeping up with my family and this blog I am also a seventh grade Language Arts teacher. So, day in and day out, not only am I raising two kids of my own, I’m also helping shape and mold 100 teenagers each school year as well. It’s crazy the similarities some days, between toddlers and teenagers, am I right?

I am writing today because we recently began our Media Literacy Unit. We began as we do every year, with a survey about media use in the home. And I don’t know if it’s because I now have two small children at home, but I will tell you… the results were astounding. Some of my seventh graders reported that they are up all night long… playing video games, hanging out on snap chat, or messaging friends. Some of them receiving and sending in the upwards of 50-100 messages a night. This is extremely concerning–both from a teacher and parent perspective. I sent this exact message to the parents of my students, and it was so well-received by the overwhelming majority, that I felt compelled to share on this platform as well. My message today is an important one:

I am recommending that you monitor, watch, and restrict your teenager’s cell phone usage and set gaming limits. If you already are, please share your thoughts below or provide suggestions. If you’re not, it’s not too late to start now!

Here are a few of the thoughts I have after my findings this week:

An overwhelming majority of students said they are on their phone in the middle of the night responding to snaps, texts, watching YouTube, and so on. Not only am I concerned about their sleep, I’m also concerned about what they are doing at those hours. Did you know you can set limits to how much time they can use certain apps? Did you know that you can shut off their apps, messaging, wifi, and so on, after a certain time? You CAN, and to be honest, I think every one of you should. The top apps I have heard of from staff and other parents at this school (for monitoring smart phone usage) are Family Time, Norton, & Qustodio. If you’d like to read more about Parental Control Apps and others available, please use this link: Best Parental Control Apps

Some of my students reported staying up until 3:00 on social media or gaming. Many of these kids said that the comments other players make through their headsets are things they would and should not repeat. They hear young kids and grown adults swearing, using vulgar language, and saying hateful things. Aside from this negativity, they are unable to focus when they come to school because they are exhausted. They actually tell me that they know they don’t sleep enough. This is a cry for help and they need it from you! If you’d like to read more about sleep for teenagers, please use this link: Sleep in Adolescents

Finally, many of my students stated talking about, discussing, or seeing things online (whether it be texts, social media, YouTube) that they know are not appropriate, are wrong, or that their parents would not approve of. Whether it be sites like Urban Dictionary, gossiping about students, or watching videos that are not appropriate for teenagers to see and hear, they openly admit to this. This is scary. I promise you that I do my best to encourage positive, safe, and healthy choices online while they are in my classroom and to steer clear of — Oh, be careful little eyes what you see… hear… etc. But when we aren’t watching, what are they doing?

Additionally, many students responded with the following uplifting information:

-My parents take my cell phone at 7:00 PM and I am not allowed to get it until I leave for school the next day. They keep it in their room.

-My parents keep all laptops, computers, and gaming systems in a common room and I am not able to use them after a certain hour.

-If my grades are not As and Bs, my phone or gaming privileges are taken away.

-My parents monitor apps I want to purchase and it sends them a notification before I am able to purchase it.

-My parents do not allow video games during the week, only on weekends. I have to have all my chores and homework done before I can play.

We are all parenting in an age that was different than when we grew up–myself included. We did not have the Internet (Hello, AOL in 2001, finally!) until I was in high school, I didn’t have any devices, televisions, or gaming systems in my room, and we were lucky if we got to use the home phone to call a friend at night. It is important to open up the lines of communication with your child about what they are seeing and how they are responding. Many of the kids said to me, But Mrs. Murray, that’s invading my privacy! I kindly reminded them that if they aren’t doing anything on there they aren’t ashamed of, it really shouldn’t matter. I’m not your friend, I’m your teacher. And your parents are not your friend yet, either. Someday they will be! And it will be a lovely new adventure to go on together. I know this because it’s a great feeling to be friends with my Mom and Dad. But until then–until that moment you know your kids are grown enough to live their life and make their own, mature decisions…  Invade your kids’ phones. Read their messages. You need their logins, passwords, and the apps they’re using. Check their browsing history. Many of you might be thinking this sounds like a lot and like a full time job, and you’re right. It is a lot to manage. But imagine what your kids have at their fingertips: a lot to manage and sift through as mere teenagers. We, as a team, need to continue to share information and help each other raise these children in the Digital Age.

If you’ve got a handle on this, please… share your secrets! I need all the help I can get before my kids get to this age 🙂

I would also love if you would join the Band of Mamas page on Facebook! It’s a great place to make comments, share ideas, and give feedback after blogs and stories. And of course, follow the Band of Mamas on Instagram!



Mama Advice

Car Seats, Car Seats! Which One do I choose?

The Car Seat debate! There are so many options out there. Brands galore, how should I choose? I don’t have the perfect answer, only what’s been great for us. However, I do have a VERY helpful tip for new Mamas. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE a handful of baby shower gift cards. Put them in an envelope labeled, CAR SEATS ONLY and tuck the envelope away for a later date–like when you have to buy a new Car Seat (or two in our case, since I do drop off and Ross does pick up!). I also used my Target Cartwheel to get 20% off our convertible seats on top of the gift cards. Wait for those sales… they happen!

I know several Mamas who are in this transition phase of moving from infant to convertible or from convertible to… what should I get? 🧐 Many Mamas have asked which Car Seats we’re using.

From newborn to toddler to eventually the school-age, I am a huge fan of the ones we’ve used. 🙋‍♀️ Although I did a [teeny] bit of reading/research, I reached out to all the Mamas I know before I made my purchases. 

We used the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat: for both Julia & Brooks and LOVED it. It also snaps into the Chicco Double Stroller: and is so great because while Brooks was snugged into his carseat and snapped in facing me, Julia could use the front seat like a BIG girl! My cousin & his wife were kind enough to pass this along to us and we have gotten such good use out of it! We purchased an extra Chicco KeyFit 30 extra Car Seat base: so both Ross and I had one in our vehicles.

**Right now Chicco has a special advertised on their website: $50 off if you sign up for emails & a free KeyFit caddy with the purchase of a KeyFit! You can find this deal on their website.


When it was just the two of us and Julia, we did get the Chicco Bravo Travel System: as one of our registry items. I loved it as well!

Then it was time to start considering a Convertible Car Seat that could transition Julia from rear to front facing. I did some reading but ultimately went with the majority of recommendations I got from Mamas I know. I knew I wanted to purchase something that would last, was easy to install, and easy to transition to the different stages. This one, Graco 4Ever– convertible to highback booster to backless booster: does ALL that and more! Cupholders, easy to clean, great transitions, and easy directions. Yes please! I wouldn’t buy anything else!

This one has been sturdy through both kids and everyday use. Anyone else see the stark difference between cleanliness in Car Seats between Mamas car and Daddy’s truck? Ross doesn’t allow the kids to eat snacks in his vehicle… Lame-o! My kids could eat Cheerios for years with all the snacks that are leftover in my car everyday on the way to daycare! Whatever keeps them quiet while I trudge and drive through the snow-filled roads this year.

When Brooks was ready to move to the Convertible Seat, HANDS DOWN, the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat: was the most highly recommended seat by Band of Mamas followers. Now that we have it, I can see why! It’s light yet sturdy, easy to secure into the brackets of your backseat, and it will transition Julia from now until school-aged. If we have another kid, I will absolutely buy this one for Brooks!

There are so many options to choose from, which is why I love to turn to the Mamas I know for advice. It’s so much easier than trying to sift through countless brands, reviews, pricing, you name it! If you have any questions about any of these, please let me know!



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Mama Advice

Kids & Surgery: A Simple Checklist

Today marks Brooks’ induction into the Ear Tube club. He’s had countless ear infections in the last several months and has been battling fluid that won’t drain. Aside from a string of antibiotics of different kinds and dosages since September, the poor little dude has managed to keep smiling and growing. But it was time.

Ross and I have done this a couple times before with Julia. The surgery thing, that is. If you missed that post you can read about our journey with her ears here.  I will say though, that even though this wasn’t our first time, my nerves were getting the best of me last night. I had a fitful night sleep and so did Ross. We knew everything would be fine, but you know… there’s always that looming thought about anesthesia. Brooks is just a little dude and even though it’s light, it’s still scary. You still have to check in to the hospital where the procedures are strict. You still have to have discussions about side effects and decide if you want to let them take your child or go with to watch them go under. Ross and I, on all three occasions, just let the nurse take our babies to the surgery room. I just didn’t feel it was necessary for me to watch that. To all the parents who do go with, your courage is amazing!

Having done this a few times, I wanted to create a little checklist for myself so if we have to do this again (which sounds likely because poor Brooks’ ears were super sick) I can look back here and remember some of these things that are nice to know.

  1. Before surgery, you’ll need to do a pre-op physical with your child’s pediatrician. Doctors are usually really nice and if you have a well-check scheduled you can ask them to do it at that time. Try and double-up and maximize your time!
  2. They will tell you they are going to fax a copy of the signed and filled out pre-op form to the hospital where you’re having surgery, and they’ll give you a paper copy. Keep the paper copy and don’t forget to bring it with you on the day of surgery. It’s a nice backup copy in case something gets lost on their end.
  3. I know hospitals have different ways of scheduling surgery, but our experiences are that they schedule the surgery and then they don’t call you with the exact time until the week of (2-3 days before surgery). I called to pre-register our kids at the start of that week and asked them to pinpoint a time then. They did this for us, which is nice! I’m a planner 🙂
  4. If you have any other children, it’s a good idea to find care for them. One, it allows you to be hands free and tend to the child being cared for while you’re at the hospital. Two, most kids under 5 are not allowed in many of these hospitals due to flu restrictions in the cold winter months.
  5. Bring a few of your child’s favorite toys. For us, check-in was at 6:00 AM and surgery wasn’t until 7:30. Surgery rules are that no food or drink are allowed within (x) hours of surgery. Your kid will be hungry and potentially fussy! Bring something to occupy the time. I’m thankful I packed two of Brooks’ favorite balls today. We played catch between climbing the crib and trying to escape our room.
  6. You’ll have to bathe kids and wash hair the night before, as well as wash all their blankies and security toys. Bring those things with, your child will want it when they wake up from anesthesia. Brooks has a blanket he loves and a little elephant security blanket. He sucks on the tag, of all things. It’s weird!
  7. Speaking of anesthesia. It’s no fun watching your kid wake up from it. Be prepared for crying and potential out of the ordinary behaviors. Julia just cried and whimpered in my arms and squirmed. Brooks, on the other hand, not only cried and screamed but he also got a little violent! Again, all totally normal behavior, just hard to see.
  8. If you’re like me, it’s important to let it out if you’re feeling anxious. Even when it’s a simple ear tube surgery, it’s relative to what you know and can be scary. Text a friend and share your thoughts, write down a favorite verse, find some calming music, and share your anxieties in a prayer! All helpful ideas.
  9. Be SURE to ask questions if you know of any other Mamas who have been through it before. It’s super helpful to hear from people who have done it and can share experiences. Same thing goes for finding specialists in your area. Reach out to the Band of Mamas: chances are, someone has a great reference for you.
  10. Be ready to change sheets, clothes, or wash blankies often. With ear tubes, particularly, the kids’ ears drain out this bloody ick. It stains, so have extra sets to change out after a day of naps and nighttime sleep.

I hope you found this checklist helpful! If you’re reading and your child has had surgery, please feel free to comment below with anything else I may have missed!

Cheers to happy ears in 2019!



This post contains advertisements and by clicking the link, I may receive a commission but at no cost to you. See my full disclosure form HERE