Author Archives: Shannon McRae

Shannon McRae

About Shannon McRae

Shannon McRae is a work-at-home mom of three young children whose days are spent wiping mouths, playing Candyland, planning dinners and stealing time in between at the computer for her freelance writing. She's a stickler for healthy eating, with a slight exception for Oreos. She lives in Alabama with her precious children, loving husband and 13-year-old Australian Shepherd named Ricky Martin.

iPhone 4s publicity photo from Apple

5 Reasons Every New Parent Needs an iPhone

iPhone Life magazine's November-December 2011 issue

iPhone Life magazine can help iPhone owners--parents or not--get the most out of their device.

Shannon McRae has parented with and without the iPhone. But now that she has the useful device by her side, she’s never going back.

Wipes warmers, video monitors, and $800 strollers. Regardless of what you’ve been told, it’s completely possible to raise children without these items.

But three babies later, I’m here to tell you that every new parent needs an iPhone.

My first two kids were born during the flip-phone stage of my life. The last one arrived to a family whose parents had been addicted to their iPhones for several years. And even though everyone jokes about how the smart phones changed their lives, it’s the truth for new parents. Here’s why I’m always within arm’s reach of mine.

  1. It helps me remember stuff. During the first few weeks of a newborn’s life, parents are advised to keep a log of baby’s wet and dirty diapers to make sure he’s getting enough to eat. For my first child, I kept copious feeding/pooping logs for weeks in a notebook. I was more comfortable with my second and jotted it down for a few weeks on random scraps of paper throughout my house. A few nights before my third child was born, I was on iTunes and downloaded the Baby Brain app. Created originally for parents of multiples, it’s a very easy-to-use way to keep track of sleeping, feeding, diaper changing and which side to feed on (if you’re nursing). It was such a great way to keep everything straight during those first few sleep-deprived weeks–and I never had to remember where I’d written it down last.
  2. It keeps track of time. Though the clock is likely the most low-tech aspect to the iPhone, I use it all day long. During our first few nights at home, I set multiple timers on my phone to wake every two hours to feed our tiny newborn. With my first two children, I spent many nights sprawled in the glider in the nursery because I’d fall asleep mid-feed. But now I turn on my 20-minute timer and once I’ve fed my infant, I return to my much more comfortable bed.
  3. It entertains my toddlers. “I want your phone” is a common request in our house. Normally we limit the amount of time our two toddlers spend playing with our phones. But with a newborn in the house, I’ve never been happier to have something to hand my 3-year-old when she’s bored from being stuck at home all day. She plays her favorite games beside me on the couch when I’m feeding the baby. And I’ve even lured them out of the nursery when trying to calm a fussy baby by telling them they can watch Kideos on my phone–if they’ll take it to the den.
  4. It lights my way. Do you know how dark a room can be at 3 a.m.? I do. The flashlight app provides just enough light to change a diaper without having to flip on an overhead light.
  5. It captures the random moments. I pull out my camera to snap pics of my kids in the big moments–when the baby came home from the hospital, her first bath, wearing the outfit Grandma sent. But for everyday life–like the time when my 3-year-old decorated her little sister with star stickers–I usually grab my phone to snap a pic. The other day I realized that the pics on my phone are a much more accurate representation of our lives than the carefully posed camera shots.
Parenting Early Years magazine December 2011-January 2012

5 Steps to the Perfect Photo With Santa

Parenting Early Years magazine December 2011-January 2012Photos with the big guy are a holiday ritual for most families. Use these tips to get the best shot when your kids visit Santa.

Santa is an interesting character at our house. My preschoolers want to like him–after all, he brings cool gifts, doesn’t he? But the idea of a strange man shimmying down the chimney into their house while they’re asleep at night is worrisome. Last year, my oldest wanted to leave Santa a note on our front door asking him to leave the gifts on the porch rather than under the tree so that he wouldn’t come inside.

With my youngsters having all these reservations, you can see why photo ops with jolly old St. Nick are difficult. It took three separate trips to the mall last year before they worked up the courage to sit on his lap, and even then they weren’t quite sure.

I’m sort of on the fence about Santa myself. He’s certainly a magical part of my childhood memories, but as a parent, I don’t like using him as a disciplinary tool. Regardless of my feelings, I still feel obligated to participate in the ritual of snapping a pic of my precious peeps visiting him each Christmas.

There was a great article in the the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Parenting Early Years magazine about taking your child to meet the big guy for the first time. Try some of their tips (along with ones I’ve picked up from friends with older kids) to snap a memorable pic of your kids this year.

  1. Don’t paint a scary picture of Santa Claus. Standing in line to meet him last year, my then 2-year-old asked me countless times if Santa was “nice.” The article warns not to paint a scary picture of St. Nick by saying things to your kids like, “Don’t be afraid, Santa won’t hurt you.” “You’ve just introduced a possibility that may never have occurred to him,” says Jonathan Pochyly, Ph.D., of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Instead, talk about how fun it will be to visit Santa and show your child pictures of older kids they know sitting with him.
  2. Use the wait to your advantage. If there’s a line to see Santa, consider standing in it rather than wandering the mall until the crowd shrinks. If your child can watch other kids sitting with Santa, it may help her get over her own anxiety.
  3. Say cheese yourself. Instead of handing your kids off to the “elves” working the camera, walk with your kids to meet Santa. And even be prepared to smile for the camera yourself. Younger one might feel a little safer with Mom or Dad nearby.
  4. Take a lovey. If your child has a special blanket or stuffed animal, bring it along for the big visit. You’ll cherish the photo years later even more if your little guy is clinging to his brown bear.
  5. Give up. If your kid is the one arching his back and screaming to avoid sitting with Santa, who cares? Don’t force your child into a situation that is overly scary for him. Assure him that Santa will still come on Christmas Eve–and then drop it. It will be a funny story to tell later on.
Joe Paterno at a Penn State press conference

Joe Paterno and the Penn State Scandal: Do Any Parents Still Support JoePa?

Joe Paterno at a Penn State press conference

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was fired late Wednesday amid a school scandal. (Photo credit: Melanie DiCarlo,

I’m a huge college football fan. I live in the Deep South where team allegiances are a part of family’s bloodlines, and where recruiting and schedules and records are discussed 365 days a year. I understand people who love their team. What I don’t get is how so many people are supporting Joe Paterno.

I was horrified at the details about the Penn State scandal when they first broke last weekend. And when the school announced Wednesday night that the university president and its legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, would both be fired, I agreed completely. Then my husband and I watched in stunned silence as Penn State students took to the streets and Paterno’s front lawn protesting about the firing of the man known as JoePa. No matter how many football games he won or how much he helped improve the school’s academics, the man made a serious error of judgment when he did little more than report accusations of child sodomy in 2002.

As I listened to students tip over a media van and beg for their coach to be allowed “one more game,” I wondered what the parents of the victims were feeling. Can you imagine watching people–journalists included–staunchly defending someone who did almost nothing to stop a man from committing such nightmarish acts on your child? Where are the people to protest those protesting?

I loved this New York Times blog piece about the issue. The writer, KJ Dellantonia, shares my feelings of disgust and sadness at those who idolize a football coach so much that they fail to see his grave moral mistake.

News stories affect me differently now that I’m a mom, and I imagine many other parents have had similar experiences. You can’t help but absorb news through a filter of overwhelming love for the little people in your life. The writer not only thought about the parents of the victims; she wondered what the moms and dads of the protesting college kids must be thinking.

“But if I were a college parent, and I could see one of my kids chanting for ‘JoePa,’ I’d get out my cell phone,” Dellantonia writes. “There is a time for recognizing achievements, and there is a time to acknowledge that horrible things have happened, that children have been hurt, and that there are some mistakes that no amount of success can absolve.”

What do you think? If you’re a parent, is there any way you could support the coach or his actions now?

Closeup of Get Smart About Antibiotics Week promo ad

Are You Using Antibiotics Correctly?

Get Smart About Antibiotics Week promo ad

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention hopes Get Smart About Antibiotics Week (Nov. 14-20, 2011) will help educate the public about the importance of appropriate antibiotic use.

I come from a long line of medicine lovers. When I was growing up, my mom took us to the doctor at the earliest signs of sore throats or stuffed noses. If the visit resulted in an antibiotic prescription, then Mom would make sure we took every last drop of the medicine. She never questioned a doctor’s orders; it was well before the scares about superbugs and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

I’m different with my kids today. I can count on one hand the number of times any of my kids have taken an antibiotic. It’s like a bad word in our house.

But for many Americans, a trip to the doctor’s office–especially the pediatrician’s–isn’t complete without an antibiotic prescription. Researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call the rates of antibiotic prescriptions “inappropriately high” in a report released in early September. The good news is that the study found rates had declined. The bad news? They haven’t declined enough.

From 1993-’94 until 2007-’08, prescribing rates for kids ages 14 and under dropped 24 percent. Rates declined for kids with sore throats and colds. But rates remained unchanged for patients with ear infections, bronchitis and sinusitis–all illnesses that the report’s authors said did not require antibiotic treatment.

Patient expectations and physician behavior (it’s a habit) are cited as the reasons the use is so high, and I can believe it. So many moms I know feel relieved to leave the pediatrician’s office with a prescription in hand. We feel better when there’s a “fix” to our children’s symptoms. It’s hard to be told to go home and watch it.

In an attempt to change the public’s perspective, the CDC is holding its annual Get Smart About Antibiotics Week from Nov. 14-20, 2011. The purpose is to educate the public that antibiotics cure bacterial infections, but not viral ones.

KIWI magazine October-November 2011 cover detail

How to Get Rid of Your Kids’ Halloween Candy

KIWI magazine October-November 2011 issue

KIWI magazine, October/November 2011

It taunts me most at night. The candy from my kids’ plastic orange pumpkins calls to me. “They’ll never miss just one piece,” or “A little fun size Kit-Kat bar won’t hurt your post-baby diet too much.” The sugar obsession is addictive, and apparently contagious because my kids worry all day long about when they’ll be allowed to chose another piece. Dumping it in the trash would be the best thing for us all, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

If you’re like me and need the candy gone now, try some of these great ideas from the October/November 2011 issue of KIWI magazine:

  1. Candy Fairy: Your kids already believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Why not add another imaginary character to the list? Let your child select a few favorite pieces of candy and then leave the rest in a bag next to his or her pillow for the Candy Fairy. The magazine suggested that this fairy could be introduced as the Tooth Fairy’s cousin. In the candy’s place, leave a small toy, new book or even a batch of your kid’s favorite homemade cookies.
  2. Haunted House: You could wait until December to make a gingerbread house, but why? Start unwrapping pieces and built the biggest haunted Halloween house ever. You can slather an old milk carton with frosting as the base so the decorations will stick.
  3. Candy Toys: Use pieces to play tic-tac-toe or checkers. Or if you need to be on your feet to work off all the candy you’ve already consumed, then try the magazine’s idea of a candy toss. Have family members toss pieces into your kids’ candy pails. Smaller pieces get more points. Winner gets to pick a piece of candy to keep.

What about you? Do you have tips or tricks for getting the candy out of the house before you eat it all?

Halloween Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins

Green Halloween: How to Host a Costume Swap

National Costume Swap Day logo

KIWI magazine is among a collective that has organized a National Costume Swap Day to keep used costumes out of landfills.

My 4-year-old has been debating his options for Halloween costumes since the end of August. As soon as the candy and decorations hit the shelves at stores, he began discussing his options. He waffled between a construction worker, a pilot and a giant Lego. Even though I’ve never been a big fan of costumes myself, I love dressing up my kids for Halloween. We usually opt for the do-it-yourself costumes rather than the off-the-rack versions, because they’re more fun to create and much less expensive.

But I’ve read several times this season about an idea that’s even easier and cheaper than DIY: costume swaps. A recent issue of KIWI magazine gave some good tips on putting one together among your friends. The magazine said that swapping half the costumes kids wear at Halloween would reduce annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons–about the weight of 2,500 midsize cars! In fact, KIWI designated Saturday, Oct. 8, as National Costume Swap Day. Unless you live in a neighborhood of procrastinators, it’s likely a bit late to organize one for this season. If you’re considering a swap in your community for next year, though, here are some tips to keep it from getting scary.

  • Keep it organized. Group costumes together by sizes, and if it’s possible, keep them hanging, so that everyone isn’t rummaging through costumes strewn on a table.
  • Designate a changing area. Have a space where parents can take children to try on costumes. Another great idea I read was to remind kids to dress in pajamas or swimsuits to reduce the need for a private space for changing clothes.
  • Plan activities. If you make it more like a party, your chances for better attendance are boosted. Have simple appetizers and drinks and plan a few games or crafts for the kids.
  • Have a costume parade. After it’s all over, let the kids model their new costumes by putting on a parade.