Category Archives: daily life

Through the Eyes of a Toddler

I’ve heard the old cliche, “Kids say the darndest things,” about a million times in my life. And the voice in my head has always responded with, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, so what.” Kids don’t have political, social, moral filters; I get it. They will totally embarrass you at the most inopportune time by blurting out just the wrong thing. But as a trip to the grocery store taught me the other day, the “darndest thing” more often is some surprising shift in perspective that makes a parent stop and rethink for just a second the way s/he views the world.

So my first “darndest thing” moment happened in the grocery store. I was cruising the veggie aisles, looking for some good grilling eats, when I saw some very fresh, local corn. As I started shucking–I love that grocery stores have finally figured out that people want to see what they are buying and put trash cans next to fresh corn so people can remove the husks before they get home–I gave a cob to the crumb cruncher. I took my time explaining that this was maïs and it was yummy, so we were going to take off the husks so we could grill it and then eat it.

He watched me remove the husk off the first corn cob. As I ripped into the second, he looked at me, pointed, and said:

“Banana.”

My first reaction was to correct him. I got about two seconds into explaining once again that I was holding corn not a banana and then I just stopped. I started chuckling to myself. Duh, I must be an idiot to not recognize the similarities:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • They are long and skinny
  • They are eaten with hands
  • They have an inedible skin that must be peeled back
  • They are found at the grocery store
  • They are sweet and tasty
  • They can be made into bread
  • They give the dog the poops

And that is how a toddler’s brain works. It’s the darndest thing, isn’t it?

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Filed under daily life, education, language, toddlers

What a Parent Will Do for a Kid

As the work week is rolling to its close, I’ve been thinking about our plans for the weekend. A hair cut and color are a must. And I might squeeze in my fingers, toes, and eyebrows, if the line isn’t too long. (One of the drawbacks of scheduling maintenance on Saturdays.) The gym is a must; I’ve been way too lazy this week. A birthday party for one of the kids at daycare is a possibility. And then there’s harambe.

I first found out about harambe when a dad posted on the neighborhood new parents list serve, asking if parents would be interested in supporting some music and dance classes for kids at a local, dare I say alternative or independent, performing arts space called Bloombars. Of course parents jumped all over it. In fact, response was so positive that management added a Saturday class (and now possibly two!).

So, my husband and I took the kid to try it out last weekend.

Harambe is a Swahili word that supposedly means come together. And come together did parents and kids of the neighborhood that Saturday. Stroller parking was limited both upstairs and out front. (There’s something cute about watching dads lock up strollers on the bike rack.) Pillow seating on the floor also was scarce, so we picked out spots on the wooden pews that lined opposite sides of the room. It was starting to feel like a very strange episode of Modern Family, only we weren’t family.

Then Baba walked in. A giant black man with dreads past his butt and an island accident, he certainly made an impression. He sat down on the stage, grabbed a couple of bongo-type drums, and distributed a bunch of the other instruments–tambourines, bells, percussion stick things, and even something that looked like a gourd with beads wrapped around it that made a pretty cool sound when you shook it. Oh, and there was an electric keyboard on the stage, which I thought was totally out of place–at first.

As he gathered the “scholars”–that’s what he called the children (love it!)–he told the parents to not worry about their kids doing their own things because it would all work out somehow. This was totally reassuring to me because my kid had made a beeline to the keyboard and was banging–very loudly and sometimes with his foot–on it as Baba was talking. But Baba kept on smiling and got the show on the road.

Turns out harambe is not a spectator sport for parents. Not only is clapping and instrument playing a must, but so is singing. And dancing. And generally circling around the room. If I’m totally honest, I felt awkward because I didn’t know the words to many of the songs. Part of me also was totally on edge, as I was waiting for our kid to smash some other kid with a tambourine or something as I was in a conga line on the opposite side of the room. But I was rolling with it because watching this diverse group of kids get into the music–or not, as was the case for a few–was hilarious.

But it was totally fun and with the $7 donation, which is why I’m so planning on going again this weekend. And our kid loved it. I don’t think there was an instrument he didn’t have his paws on at some point and he only stopped jumping to pound on the keyboard from time to time.

However, I would be kidding myself if I didn’t say that at a certain point as I was walk-walk-jump-jump-running-running around the room with all the other parents that I wondered if any of my long-time friends would even recognize me anymore. I mean, I barely recognized my husband as the group headed into the so-called “welcome song.”

As the title might suggest, it’s a song where everyone is introduced. I can’t exactly remember the words, but I do know that there’s one part of the song where everyone claps and sings, “Welcome, so-and-so, welcome so-and-so,” and then there’s some line about that person becoming a new friend. There must’ve been 15 parents (at least in the room) and we did them all. Just when I thought the pain would stop, we did all the kids’ names, too.

But there was something both hilarious and heartwarming about this whole motley crew of parents, stomping around a room for the pure entertainment of their children. These people were probably lawyers and lobbyists, contractors and managers–true professional types–and yet they could’ve cared less about how cool, smart, or rich they looked at that point in time. Because the truth be told, we all looked like idiots. And it was awesome.

 

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Filed under activities, daily life, family, music

The Cutest Cookie Monster Ever

My kid is picky eater. He has no go-to foods. He won’t eat the same thing for two meals in a row. And he is very adept as saying, or more often screaming, “No!” when you get too close to him with a forkful of food. So, getting him to eat–and I would say eat healthy except that I’ve had to lower my standards–at mealtimes is always an, umm, adventure.

But lately things seem to be getting better. I think that daycare is helping the whole mealtime drama. All the kids have to sit down at their little pint-sized tables for breakfast, lunch, and two snacks, which are given on a precise schedule. So, the routine is definitely helpful, but more than that I think just seeing all the kids enjoying their turkey hot dogs or pasta with red sauce makes him want to do the same.

My husband and I have been trying to make a bigger effort to have us all eat together–versus what we normally do, which is feed the kid, put him to bed, and then figure out what we’re going to eat. We’re hoping that we can model the good eating behavior he seems to be picking up at school.

So far, I’m not sure we’re being successful. Our child has yet to eat any of the same food as we have prepared for ourselves. And he in no way has showed any more interest or patience in sitting in his high chair while we enjoy our meals. In fact, he is increasingly becoming intolerant of sitting in the high chair, which is a Stokke and about the least looking high chair you can possibly get. Basically it’s an retro-styled adjustable chair that you strap your kid into so he can sit at a big person’s table. Instead, he prefers to crouch on one of our dining chairs, fork in hand.

Point in case was the other night. After his fork flew across the table, we decided that it was time to let the kid loose, even if he hadn’t eaten a bite, if we were going to be able to finish our dinner without losing it with all the screaming, crying, and carrying on this kid was doing.

No sooner did his footie pajamas hit the floor than he was pitter-pattering into the kitchen. I hear the cupboard door to our snack stash open.

He came toddling out of the kitchen with one of those 100-calorie packs of Nutter Butter cookies. He gave them to me and said, “Cookie.” Except he says cookie iwith a French accent so it sounds more like “koo-key” rather than “cuh-key.” I took the bag, said mercy, and put it on the table.

Pitter-pat, pitter-pat, pitter-pat back into the kitchen.

He returnd with a package of Oreos. He toddled over to my husband and handed them to him. My husband took them graciously, said thank you, and put them on the table.

Pitter-pat, pitter-pat, pitter-pat back into the kitchen.

This time he returned with the whole box of cookie packs.

Not exactly how I had hoped dinner would turn out, but it was admittedly entertaining. Even if we couldn’t laugh out loud for fear of encouraging him.

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Filed under cooking, daily life, feeding, parenting, toddlers

This Is My Life

The highlight of my last weekend was Sunday brunch with a bunch of friends. These of course were the same group of friends that, back when we were baby free, we used to go and spend nearly every Saturday together at a bar watching college football. Now, we’ve all got kids under three. And those afternoons (and if I’m honest, evenings) spent with pitchers of beers, big screen TVs, and lots of cheering are so far gone.

But mornings with mimosas are still an option. So, we had to get up at 7am on Saturday to get to our friends’ place by 9:30am to start imbibing. But it was worth it.

I’ve never had so much fun before noon–or at least since I’ve been a mom. My friends are amazing cooks–I’m obsessed with these jalepeno-stuffed mushrooms wrapped in bacon that they make–so that was the first plus. And mimosas, at least in my mind, are like sunshine in a glass. But what was the best was watching three toddler boys run around wild on a playground in the backyard until they near collapsed. Oh, wait, mine did. In a shopping cart in the grocery store. Not 20 minutes after we left.

Second best was watching the dads trying to turn a respectable family brunch into a man day. But tried as they did to conjure up their youth with a couple of cocktails, they couldn’t escape the fact that they’d turned into dads. Conversations about sports, new bars, and women–the staples of a single guy’s conversation–were replaced with debates over toddler discipline, language development, and more children.

But as I sat in my friends’ kitchen, gabbing with the girls (and stuffing my face with those yummy mushrooms), I realized just how different all of our lives were. And I couldn’t help but wonder what our single friends were thinking about how much our lives had changed.

I wonder what their tolerance is for all the talk about keeping the remotes out of little boys hands or trying to get the kids to eat something more than chicken nuggets and french fries. Do they feel like they went to another planet when the conversation turns to having another baby? And how interesting to them is all the venting about the annoying things spouses do?

For now, our single friends are very kind and accommodating to just how consuming having kids is. And they genuinely like seeing our kids and playing with them and of course catching up with us, the parents. But I wonder if they feel somewhat alone in a room full of parents. As parents, we can bond over anything kid-related–diapers, tantrums, daycare, sippy cups, kids videos. You name it, we parents can talk about it. But what we can’t talk about are new movies, restaurants, bars, or clubs–pretty much anything you would do after 7pm. So, maybe our friends go home from a morning brunch with us and thank god they are still single and don’t have to worry about any of the things we seem to spend a lot of energy stressing about.

But while I hope our single friends can still see the single people we were in the parents that we are, I’m okay with the fact that I’m a bruncher rather than a bar fly anymore. It’s nice to be home by 4pm after a really nice day.

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Filed under dads, daily life, family, moms

Vive les French Parents!

For me, there are few things not to love about the French. And I’m not talking solely about food or wine. So, I was psyched to read an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the joys of French parenting. The headline says it all: Why French Parents Are Superior.

If you’re not a francophile like myself, an article head like that seems so, well, French. After all, the French are known for their high estimation of their cultural worth and an annoyingly condescending nature. (Part of why I love them, I have to admit.) But having spent a significant amount of time in France, I can say this article is pretty much spot on.

My first real experience as an adult observer of French parenting came when I was living in Paris in my early 20s. I was invited for dinner at a 30-something couple’s apartment. They had a preschooler and an infant. Around 7pm, the mother announced that it was time for the children to eat. The preschooler quietly and politely ate her meal. However, the baby was completely uncooperative. Screaming, fussing, and totally refusing a bottle. After about 15 minutes of futile attempts to quiet and feed the infant, the mother said very matter of factly that she was going to put the baby to bed for the night. I remember thinking, “Without dinner?” And then the French logic kicked in. The mother said, “This is the time we eat. If the baby doesn’t want to eat, fine. She can go to bed. But this is the time we eat.” (Only it was in French.)

At the time, there were so many things that were foreign about that whole scene. At that stage in my life, I couldn’t imagine having kids. In fact, I was ridiculously weirded out by especially tiny babies. And then there was the whole French-ness about it. I mean, I had never heard of an American mother doing such a thing. In fact, all I ever heard about was how new moms were always up at all hours of the night, breastfeeding or fetching bottles.

But there is a simplicity in the French parenting ethic that somehow completely escapes us as American parents. Maybe we just try too hard. The French have that sort of breeziness about them that allows them to do things like wear totally mismatched clothing and still look chic. Maybe it’s the same with parenting.

Unlike the article’s author, I have not spent the last three years studying French parenting principles and techniques. But I do agree with a number of the points that the writer makes about what makes French parenting effective:

  1. Family is about the parents first then the children.
  2. Independence is a virtue in a child.
  3. Structure and routine are paramount.

But I’m not fully subscribed to a couple of the writer’s other theories. First, I whole heartedly believe that discipline is alive and well in French parenting–and I dare say it is dealt much more swiftly and severely than most American parents can imagine. I’m not talking corporal punishment; rather, I’m saying that it seems like most French parents have a much lower tolerance for misbehavior than American parents. Maybe the word I should use is strict. I use a wonderful woman from my French mommy class as an example. At around a year old, she was sending her son to stand in the corner every time he did something she didn’t like. (She was inspiration for starting timeouts at around 16 months with my son.) There’s something that sounds a little horrible to me when I write that, but her kid is a fantastic, super well behaved kid. Obviously no permanent damage done.

I think the writer was also onto something when she talked about the French concept of educating a child. However, I still think she missed the mark a bit. For as much as the French are about education, they are arguably even more obsessed about the idea of formation. Formation is really about a curriculum or training. It’s about mastering a certain topic area or skill. And that’s really the ethic that permeates French parenting. It’s not just about teaching their kid stuff; it’s about training them to behave appropriately in any given situation.

With all that said, I wonder what the real French moms in my French mommy group say about us wanna-be French mamans.

 

 

 

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Filed under daily life, discipline, family, parenting

School Dazed

I don’t know what happened to the month of January, but I blinked and find myself already one week into February–and struggling with yet another new routine. The big change is stemming from the fact that our wonderful nanny is getting to be very pregnant with her third child, due in early April.

I’ve more or less been in denial about the fact that she’s having a baby, although she and I have talked several times about what she wants and needs. Two weeks. That’s the amount of time off she wanted to “rest” after the birth. And then she asked if I wouldn’t mind dropping baby off and picking him up at her house for awhile until she got into a routine with the new baby. Ummm, that’s it? There’s a reason this woman is absolutely amazing.

But my brain can’t totally process this plan. If I remember correctly, it was like a full month before I stopped feeling some uncomfortable pulling and pinching every time I sat down. I started going into contingency planning. What if something happens and she ends up having a preemie? What if she has to have a cesarian? Or worse. What if the baby needs to stay in the hospital for awhile after birth? And then I started to just feel guilty. Do I look like an unreasonable employer for only giving her two weeks off before I dump my kid on her for 10 hours a day, five days a week–even if that’s what she asked for?

I decided I needed to figure something else out. I toyed briefly with the idea of looking for a short-term nanny, but the more I thought about it, the more complicated it seemed. Going through the nanny solicitation/screening process seemed like a nightmare. And I was pretty sure that I’d end up paying even more than the ridiculous sum I spend now every week for full-time child care. But more than anything, it sort of felt like we would be cheating on our nanny in some way, shape, or form. I mean, what if we liked the new person as much as our awesome nanny? I wasn’t ready for this kind of love triangle. So, I decided I’d seek out some day care facilities.

The last time I looked at day care facilities I was eight months pregnant and freaking out over the fact that most places wanted $100 to just turn in an application to maybe get on an 18-month-long wait list. And then if we were lucky enough to get in, we could pretty much kiss $18,000 or more away a year for the privilege.

But I was desperate in a different way now, so I started calling around. I soon found out that my child is at an awkward age–on the older side for toddler care but still too young for pre-school. So, as I was searching for some place to start bringing my kid in March, I was finding that (1) options were limited for the timeframe and (2) I was already running into the application deadlines for the fall preschool season. I found myself rushing to fill out preschool applications before Feb. 1 deadlines and I hadn’t found any place for my child in the much nearer term. Crazy.

Experts suggest that parents look at at least three different facilities before making a decision. Despite all the phone calls and appointments I made, my kid ended up at the one and only place I actually physically looked at. I consider the Petite Academy–which despite its lovely sounding name has no French affiliation, sadly–a hidden gem in this city. I think most parents would hesitate to look at it because they think it’s in a bad neighborhood because it’s on the wrong side of Georgia Avenue. But there’s really no neighborhood to speak of around it. The  facility sits behind the city reservoir on a main corner of a hospital megaplex that includes Children’s National Medical Center and the VA Hospital. For us, the bonus is it’s less than a mile from the house, so traffic isn’t a bear and I can total see myself taking the dog for a walk to pick up baby once the weather gets a little nicer.

To me, the building seems pretty nice; the classrooms are large, and there’s a good amount of fenced-in outdoor space. It also appears very neat and organized, even if some of the furniture is a little worn from enough kids toddler-handling it. Everything is expertly labeled, as well, down to a little red bag with my kid’s name on it that they hand me at the end of the week with all the stuff I need to take home and wash. And I get a progress report every day the details everything from what he enjoyed doing that day down to the number of diaper changes. Plus there are security check in/out codes for parents dropping off/picking up, so it feels like no one is just going to walk out with my kid. Because, let’s be honest, that’s the last thing I need to be worried about while I’m at work.

It would seem that everything should be great. I not only found a place that I find acceptable, affordable, and convenient, but they also had no wait list, so I was able to enroll my kid a month earlier than hoped. While that kind of stinks for my nanny, who just got her hours cut (I’m still feeling guilty about that), I have something lined up for my child whenever her baby decides to make his entrance. But mornings like this morning make me wonder if I’m even doing the right thing.

I can’t explain the mini heartbreak I had when my kid started crying as we turned into the day care parking lot. And then he clung to my leg, crying harder, as I tried to walk inside. There were full on tears as we hung up his jacket. And I could hear his shrieks and screams all the way down the other end of the hallway as I left. I know better than to hang around and try to make him feel better about me leaving, but, if I’m honest, I feel like absolute shit when I finally got back in the car.

I don’t know how long my kid cries for after I leave. His teachers keep telling me he’s doing well. Today’s big accomplishment was that he released his death grip on his sippy cup for half the day, which was a marked improvement. And when I pick him up, he’s usually fine right up until the point where he realizes I’ve come to pick him up. And he starts crying all over again. He’s not even two and he’s clearly making me pay for dumping him off at this place all day.

But what really makes me sad is that this is all because he misses me. Really misses me. I guess I didn’t realize how much time we spent together before. I mean, I still worked and he still spent significant time with his nanny. But with my new job being a more traditional work environment, we have gotten pretty far away from our old routine, which I will admit I totally loved as well. Now, if I take him to the gym daycare for an hour on the weekends, he screams. Six months ago, he was there four or five times a week and loved it every time.

He misses me. And knowing that makes me miss him more than I already do.

I realize that he’ll get used to the new routine and there will be less crying and more fun for him. And I realize that he’s going to be pre-school aged before I know it, so this is good practice. Really he’s only six or eight months away from that, so this is just temporary.

But I still really miss him.

 

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Filed under childcare, daily life, day care, schools, toddlers, working mom

The $40 Beer and Other Tall Tales

After the exciting New Year’s Eve that I had, the thing I was most look forward in 2012 was a first New Year’s brunch at  a relatively nice place. (Cloth napkins, please; that’s all I’m asking.) So, I made plans to meet up with my husband’s cousin, her husband, and their son who is also toddler aged. I figured if I couldn’t enjoy a night on the town, I could at least enjoy a couple of festive mimosa and an overpriced plate of eggs before strollering home for nap time.

New Year’s Day started out just great. Baby and I slept in, then we went to the gym, where he had a great time in the baby-sized ball pit and I had a less-than-great time sweating it out on the treadmill. We had a wonderful walk downtown to the restaurant, and luckily there was no ridiculous wait.

And that’s pretty much where the fun stopped.

I’ve been totally embarrassed by my child before. The incident that first jumps to mind is sitting in a financial planner’s office this fall. As we negotiated what to do with the 401K I needed to do something with following my layoff, my kid turned from a little boy into a goddamn monkey. He was literally climbing all over the guy’s leather chair, pulling documents off his desk, playing with a model car that was clearly not a toy, highlighting the wooden table in his office–you name it, he meddled in it. The crowning moment was when my child discovered the mini golf sculpture, replete with a real sand trap. Before I could sign my life’s savings over, my child had a fist full of sand and had chucked it across the guy’s office. And if I thought it couldn’t get any worse, my kid took a dump in his diaper that stunk up the place to the point where the financial planner had to open the office door and let some fresh air in.

If I thought that experience was humiliating, I had another thing coming at this brunch. We sat down, ordered a drink, and then placed our orders. I went for some mussels steamed in some beer-infused cream sauces with spicy sausage and a cold, crispy beer; I ordered baby some sliders to share with his cousin and fries. After about 15 minutes of playing with cars, whining started. And then I got angry face. And then the crying started.

In the span of the next 20 minutes, I pulled out a light saber (or thats what I call this toy that has a globe on a stick and when you press the button a bunch of lights spin around), fruit snacks, a toy phone, a toy remote, crayons, and raisins. But the crying wouldn’t stop. At this point, the best thing about the restaurant was that it was loud as hell and I don’t think the table next to us could hear my child fussing majorly over the din of other diners conversing and plates being cleared.

So, baby and I went hand in hand to the bathroom to check on the diaper situation. Turns out the diaper was not an issue. But the crying had turned into hysterics and I soon found myself three more times in the bathroom over the next 15 to 20 minutes. (Seriously how slow could this service be!) I tried everything–diaper change, timeout, pleading, and finally begging. I was starting to completely look my grip on the whole situation. I know it’s bad when family follows you into the bathroom to find out if you’re okay. (Ummm, no, but I can’t tell anyone just how close I am to completely losing it.)

After an eternity and a day, the food arrives. My child is absolutely sobbing. In the high chair. In my lap. Standing next to the table. He’s just a blubbering and snotty mess. I pull the plug.

I ask for the check and a couple of doggie bags. I shovel a couple of mussels into my gullet and whole-heartedly try to package up the rest of them with the intent to actually enjoy them when I get home. I get them all in the box and realize (1) the box is cardboard, so I’m going to end up with a soupy mess in my stroller despite the box inside the box packaging and (2) even if I could get a plastic bag to wrap up the box, the box still won’t close. So, I think I pretty much threw my hands in the air and got the funk out of there. My bill (with tip) was close to $40. The only thing I actually ingested was an Amstel Light.

Thank god I had a 45 minute walk home in 35-degree temperatures–after a $40 beer, no way in hell I was paying for a cab–because it took me that long to cool down. Honestly, I was furious. I wasn’t necessarily mad at my kid (although maybe I was a little bit), but I totally felt cheated out of not only $40 but a nice day with family. I mean, how often do I really get out? And it was brunch, for god’s sake!

I’m sure it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was somehow, on that day, at that time, nearly devastating for me. Which is why I felt like not only the world’s worst mother but a total ass the next morning. I retrieve my child from his bed in the next morning to find his entire face crusted in a snot mask. He was clearly sick. And he had clearly been telling me the day before that he didn’t feel well. And I clearly all but cursed him out for acting up.

I can say with certainty that the idea of having to remove not just a but my hysterical child from public was a huge parental fear of mine. And it happened, despite my efforts to the contrary. (I just thank god it was with family and not my husband’s boss.) But I lived to see another day, if not another mussel.

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