Posts Tagged ‘tots’

Can a Stay-at-Home-Mom Really Play Hooky?

I’m playing hooky today.  Sorta. 

Today’s one of the days my tot and I go to “gym class,” AKA “R-U-N like mad and kick balls around!!”  Usually I’m gun-ho about going as I too get to run–I mean, chase–around the gym.  It’s good exercise, if not a little frustrating when your tot is the one who insists on doing things “her way.”  Anyway, I do get to hang out with some neat people for an hour that are over the age of 2.  Not all bad, considering.

 Alas, playing hooky isn’t what it used to be, as in the days when I’d call in “sick” to work or skip a class at college.  Back then, I would have had the whole day to myself, to take a long and lengthy bubble bath while reading the morning paper, then sit immersed in some horrible guck on TV while chomping on chips and wearing my comfy robe all day.  Bliss, especially considering the work world I exited a few years ago.

But as a SAHM and writer, the traditional concept of playing hooky is well…just a concept now.  Because I’m still at home, which is my place of work.  I’m just choosing not to write today, but then again, here I am blogging!  And if I’m at home, there’s always something around the house I can be doing, such as painting that master bath, laundry, cleaning–you get the gist.  Not exactly the mental/physical break that playing hooky used to promise.

But I’m not giving up on it!  Instead, to honor the truant in my who once was, I hereby vow not to do any chores today and to indulge in some sophomoric television whilst the tot naps.  Otherwise, I will exchange my PJs for sweat pants and a t-shirt and play on the floor with my girl all morning, indulging my inner child.

Hrmm…not so bad, come to think of it!  And it won’t count as an absence or spent vacation day, either ;>

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Lessons I Learned at Toddler Swim Classes

Yang Mommy

This is my second tour of duty at toddler swim classes.  During my time, I’ve learned some invaluable nuggets of wisdom that I’d like to share with all you brave parents and care-givers, who are willing to get kicked, splashed and mauled in the water with a toddler.  (Please note that if I haven’t experienced the below scenarios, I’ve assuredly witnessed them!)

Ten Things I’ve Learned at Aquatots

  • Arrive early to class.  Putting a swimsuit on an excited 2 yr old is like trying to catch fish with your bare hands.  It takes patience!
  • Establish your pool rules.  Do it before leaving the comfort of your home, again in the ride over, again in the locker room and again on the pool deck.  repetition, repetition!  Else wise, you may end up with the dreaded “time-out.”
  • Don’t be afraid/hesitant/embarrassed to issue a “time-out” while in the pool.  You may need to sit them on steps or on the side of the pool, but discipline is discipline, no matter the locale.  Don’t worry, only the teenage lifeguards will give you strange looks if your child is howling in protest; the rest of the parents will be eyeing you with sympathy as they think, “Oh, glad it’s  not my child.”
  • Bring extra swim diapers.  Even if your tot is pretty good at using the toilet at home, there’s something about the pool that decreases inhibitions about peeing in it.  And, you never know what harried parent may  have forgotten their own supply of “swimmies!”  (And don’t forget the wipes, too!)
  • Bring two towels.  Yes, sounds like a “duh” but I’ve seen several parents shivering on the pool deck after class because they only brought one towel with them for their kid.
  • Bring a snack.  It’s simple enough to bring in a granola bar or piece of fruit and some juice for the after-swim time.  Kids get really hungry after all that water play.  So either tote it along in your bag or keep it in the car, but please, feed those hungry kiddies!
  • Wear water-proof mascara, ladies.  If you’re going to wear any at all, make sure it’s water-proof.  Nothing scarier than seeing a woman enthusiastically tell her child to “Jump in, honey!”  while tears of black run down her face like a crazed clown.
  • Wear appropriate swimsuits.  Toddler swim classes are not the place to flaunt your sexy new string bikini and flash your mammories (or Speedos, men).   Unless you want the lifeguard to ogle you as your top inevitably falls off because your child just saw a crazed clown and is clinging to you like a rabid monkey.
  • Follow your instincts in the water.  Most aquatot classes are designed for 1-3 year olds.  They’re not going to graduate the class knowing the butterfly stroke!  The intention with most of these classes is simply to get your child used to the water, having their ears and head under the water, and knowing to kick up if they are indeed,  under water.  So even if the instructor is bellowing out orders to “Float on your stomachs!” and your tot doesn’t want to, OK.  Don’t force them, just encourage them.  And if they really don’t want to, then at least you’re having fun with them in the water.
  • Leave the cameras at home.  I understand you want pics of your kids swimming and jumping, but if you are the only parent at the pool, there is absolutely no place for a camera.  All your attention must be focused on your child at all times.  Instead, leave the shutterbugging to a friend or spouse.
  • Have fun!  Most of all, enjoy your time in the water with your tot.  Even if the diaper’s leaking and they’re sitting on the steps screaming about not wanting to be in time-out because they pulled your swimsuit straps down for the third time.  Even then…

YIN:

My daughter started taking swim lessons around the age of 8 months because we live in Florida and there are numerous accidents and deaths every year in the state when kids fall in pools/lakes/canals and don’t know what to do. I was determined to get her in some sort of class early on so that a fear of water would not overcome her and she could have a healthy respect for it. 

My daughter took a very different swim class than the one Yang describes above.  And to that I say “thank goodness!”  I don’t think I could handle a swimming class with multitudes of children of different levels splashing around while I’m in the pool with them.   It’s just not my thing.  My daughter had individualized instruction and the term “swimming lessons” is really a misnomer.  It was more of a learning how to turn over and stay afloat if the baby falls in the water – the very basics for a tiny child. 

This was perfect for us.  I got to stay on the sidelines (and take the pictures) while my daughter and her instructor had their 20 minute lesson three times a week. At first the thought of going that often was daunting but the lessons were in the morning so she just went before going to daycare and I went to work a little late those days.  She didn’t like it getting in the pool at the start but eventually she warmed up to her teacher and the pool. 

Unfortunately due to some health issues my daughter hasn’t been able to continue her swimming lessons.  The group that certified her teacher, Infant Swimming Resource, is very strict and if the child has had certain illnesses in a restricted time period they can’t continue the lessons.  While this is a little challenging, I appreciate their concern and anticipate my daughter taking lessons again soon.  When she does start up again she’ll still be in individual classes as she progresses and I think I’ll keep it that way for a while so she can get personalized attention. 

My best tip to anyone, no matter where they live, to get your child swimming lessons as soon as possible.  Not only is swimming great exercise and a perfect way to cool down on a hot day, but according to the Center for Disease Control “fatal drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in children ages 1 to 14”.  If you’re not sure where to get swimming lessons from check out ISR or your local YMCA. Or ask a friend who has a child who takes lessons.  No matter the type of swimming class you choose for your child, it could be something that eventually saves their life.

Playground Etiquette?

Yang Mommy

I’m actually laughing at myself as I write this; I mean really, is there such a thing as “playground etiquette?” Sure there are rules, like don’t run in front of the swings, but etiquette? I’m not sure.

See, here’s the thing. The other day we were at the playground. It was a gloriously sunny day and the place was busy, but not packed. I was helping my little girl navigate the stairs up to the slide and there were several older kids around us. I’d say they were about 7 yrs old or so.  Anyway, we were next in queue when one of these other kids moved in front of us. Her mom, who was down below and in full sight of what was going on, said, “Wait your turn.” But the child ignored her mom and proceeded to move past us and went down the slide along with her 2 friends/siblings.

For once, I was at a lost for words. I was amazed, actually. I think the mom did the right thing by saying something, but still, her child didn’t listen and cut in front of us. I suppose it’s one thing for a kid to cut in front of a younger child, but an adult too? And once the kids got down, their mom didn’t say  boo about what they’d done (and yes readers, she saw).

So what should I have done? Should I have reinforced their mom’s call and said “Yes, please wait your turn?” Should I have stepped up and pushed them aside so my tot could go? Should I have said, “You may go ahead of us this one time but next time, wait your turn?” Should I have said anything to the mother, or have thrown her “the look?”

Because this was the first time this has happened to us, I did nothing. Again, I was rather amazed. Perhaps it’s because this is my first child and I’m learning the playground ropes myself. But I’m curious, dear readers, what have you encountered on the playground and how have you handled it?

A Nod to Mommy Groups

A few years ago, in another lifetime and lifestyle, I guffawed at the idea of “mommy groups.” I mean, really, the label doesn’t even sound very exciting, does it? Who would want to sit around with a bunch of moms?  What, would they swap formula stories and talk about diaper rash? How boring (and gross)! You’d never find me at one unless I was dragged tooth and nail.

My, my, how things have changed. Why, as soon as I could escape the confines of my house for longer than one hour, I swaddled up my baby and went to various Mommy Meet-Ups. (www.meetup.com is a great site to find all kinds of clubs in your area, not just for parents).

I admit, at first I was rather desperate to meet other moms with children of the same age and to have actual conversations elevated above “goo goo, ga ga.” And yes, the conversations tended to revolve around whose baby ate what, how long they slept and what milestones they’ve hit.  Frankly, it was great to meet and talk with other moms going through the same trials and tribulations that I was. What a relief to know I wasn’t all alone! And once we got through the introductions and baby stats, it was actually quite interesting from a social-experiment-kind-of-way to watch moms try to out-do each other in relating their baby’s latest achievements. Creepy too, but to compare is part of the female nature.

Now that my girl’s a toddler, I’ve enrolled her in various “mommy and me” classes like art and dancing. Both to learn new things and to play with other little people.  She’s got to learn to share somewhere, right? But to be honest, the classes aren’t all just for her. They’re for me too. Rather like the majority of the toys I buy her are because I want to play with them.

The topics of conversation between toddler parents have changed somewhat ( from what vaccinations you have to who knows their ABCs and can count to 3).  There’s still the one-uptoddlership going on, as moms either glow with pride on their tot conquering the toilet to those who turn away because they haven’t treaded those dangerous waters yet. Fascinating to watch parents preen themselves with toddler milestones.  The whole potty-training thing often leads into mom cliques, just like in high school–the cans, the cants but trying and the haven’t even tried yets. But I digress.

What I really enjoy now is that since the kids are that bit older, we parents can actually converse about non-child-centric issues. Once we’ve strutted their stats first, of course. (I swear it would be easier if I just created a card ala a baseball card, with all my girl’s achievements, including age, likes and dislikes and her nap schedule. ) I mean, where else can you treat yourself to ice cream and pseudo-intellectual conversation while your child engages in fun activities under the tutelage of someone else?  Or dish about celebs & politics while spending quality time with your wee one? Mommy groups and classes rule.

So while non-parents may boo-hoo mommy groups and think they are duller than a grain of sand, to moms and dads alike, they are a lifeline.  There a place where people of like-lifestyles can get together and  just hang out, knowing everyone else is in the same boat. And they can be quite fun, too!

Besides, what new parent would want to sit in a room with a bunch of singles talking about the latest dance club and how many shots they downed Friday night?  How passe.

Table Tricks for Picky Eaters

YANG MOMMY

I’ve yet to meet a young child who ate everything on their plate with gusto all the time, and without making a mess. In fact, I could apply this to men too, but I’ll stay within the realm of young children for this post. Young kids are notoriously picky eaters. “You’ll have to introduce the same food at least 10 times before a child will eat it,” say the doctors and pedia books. This doesn’t seem to apply to cookies or chocolate, does it, just the nutritious foods they need to eat! What they really mean to say is, “Keep giving them the same food until you wear them down.”

And just think of all the money we’d save if we didn’t need to buy bibs or floor mats to catch all that food that we keep re-introducing. Of course, if you have a dog, you may be less likely to need a floor mat or Dust Buster to pick up the scraps. But I’d rather not change my child’s clothes after every meal, so a catchy-bib is de rigueur wardrobe for dining.

Nevertheless, I’ve come up with some “table tricks” that not only save me from having to reintroduce every food item my daughter doesn’t instantly like, but also saves on the clean-up factors, ultimately leading to the manna of every mom, More Me Time!

  • “The No Pile”:  Before every meal I indicate a space on my daughter’s plate or the table where the food she doesn’t like will go.  I encourage her to taste new things first, but instead of throwing any “yucky” food on the floor, she now pointedly puts it in her “no pile.” (This works only after the “testing gravity” stage of older babies.)
  • Food Games: In our house, we now have Jumping Green Beans (beans that make her jump when she eats them), Laughing Beans, Disappearing Carrots (they make her invisible whilst chewing) and Makes-You-Fast Asparagus (as if she needed any more speed!). All of these culinary techniques tend to result in little girly giggles as she jumps/laughs/hides/runs in place from Mom and giggles from Mom at having outwitted her little girl.
  • “Mine!”: Playing upon the toddler motto of “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine,” I tell her that Daddy will eat her unwanted food. Quickly, she’ll reach for it and eat it because there’s no way Daddy, or anyone else, is going to eat her food! Note that this is not a failsafe method especially if she actually wants to share. (And she tends to share only what she doesn’t love, LOL!)
  • Creative Cooking: There are lots of ways to hide food within food, but some kids just don’t go for it; their taste buds are too clever. But funnily enough, I’ve found different preparations of the same food item can work. For instance, steamed broccoli ends up in the no pile, but a bowl of broccoli cheese soup is licked clean. Spinach on its own is a highly developed taste, but diced spinach mixed with mac and cheese (or hidden in chili–in fact, lots of veggies can be hidden in chili) is rarely  noticed. And one friend labels her food differently, too, such as fish sticks become “ocean fries.” Mmm!
  • Bribery: The old stand-by, coercion.  When all else fails, I urge my daughter to eat her food by promising some of her favorites for dessert, like various fruits or yogurt.
  • Dips and Sauces: Toddlers love to explore new things, so why not introduce some healthy sauces to the old-standbys? Like yogurt w/ a touch of cucumber to dip in, or homemade BBQ sauce. At my table, ketchup is making everything taste better lately.

Ah, the tricks we parents resort to in order to get our kids to eat healthy! Tell us if you have any tips, too; we’d love to hear from you!

October is Over, Thanksgiving is Here…

Yang Mommy

…I can smell turkey and stuffing so near!

Growing up in a small family, with both parents from Europe, we didn’t really “celebrate” Thanksgiving like most American families. Sure, we watched Santa arrive in the parade and had some turkey for dinner but that was about it for the traditional activities. No large feasts, no touch football in the back yard, no days spent in the kitchen in preparation. Some of my friends thought I was missing out on the big day and I agreed with them. I wanted the big family table, full of laughter and good cheer, with plates piled high with good food–I wanted the quintessential Hallmark holiday.

Yet looking back on my childhood, I realize that although we didn’t have the Hallmark holiday, we really did have a great day, year after year. Because my parents didn’t stress out in the kitchen and because we took the day easily, we spent the day as tight knit close family. Some years we’d all take long walks in the woods, looking for animal tracks. Other years we’d simply go feed the ducks at the local pond, or if we had a white Thanksgiving, we’d definitely go sledding. Those were wonderful Thanksgiving days.

Nowadays, since marrying  into a larger family & having my own little one, our Thanksgivings have become much larger and grander, and more Norman Rockwellish. Add to the fact that we invite family friends over to dinner too and we end up with a 25 lb+ organic turkey on the table with slim chances of leftovers for the weekend! (I admit, my husband and I have on occasion bought our own little turkey breast to have “leftovers” with–I have to have my turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich on Black Friday!) This week is being spent in preparation for Thursday’s big day, with home-made food being whipped up hither and yon. Stress in the kitchen? You bet ya. Fun in the kitchen? Absolutely! Trying to make it all work whilst a toddler runs around pretending to be a turkey–hilarious!

So as I march forth into the kitchen today and well on into the night, and after I’ve trudged through the supermarket crowds, I’ll be reminiscing about my childhood Thanksgivings and looking forward to my grown-up day of feasting (and in the back of my mind, making sure I also have food my tot will eat, LOL!). And I’ll definitely make sure to create  my own special family memories with my little girl and husband on this day of thanks.

…And when it is over and grace has been said, it won’t be the turkey but me stuffed instead!

YIN:

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I’m not quite sure why. I’m not a really big eater. And although I like to cook (when I have time) and read magazines such as Saveur, I’m not a gourmand. I think I really like Thanksgiving because it’s the time of year when you can feel like a kid again and there’s a change in the weather that says “It’s that’s time of year!!”.

Working in retail for the past several years has really changed my Thanksgiving. No more relaxing and do a few things a few days ahead. No completely cleaning out the fridge and scrubbing down the kitchen. No prepping the night before and leisurely going into the day. I’m too busy making sure everyone else has what they need for the holidays.

But even though I’m bone tired after working close to 35 hours in a 3 day span before Thanksgiving, I cooked a full meal this year. The only thing I didn’t make were the mashed potatoes which were pre-made. I brined and cooked a turkey, made some honey carrots, made easy yeast rolls, and for the first time even made a gravy that was tasty and not lumpy (finally!). I did forget the stuffing, but no worries.

So if I was so tired why do all that? Because I wanted my daughter to experience Thanksgiving with her parents. She was only 5 months old last Thanksgiving and we went to my brother’s to eat. This year I made the decision early that we weren’t going to family’s house to have dinner. Not because we don’t like our family – but because my work life was so crazy in the days prior and my husband had to work Thanksgiving morning. So rather than rush around and be cranky and not enjoy the day we had dinner at home and then afterwards went to see my family and had drinks and dessert with them.

I felt guilty at first because my parents were down for the week. However I realized that this was the best thing for my “new” family and my “old” family would enjoy me more if I was relaxed. After yesterday I no longer feel guilty but I feel good because we had the best of both worlds. I got to wake up, have a mimosa and watch the Macy’s parade with my daughter. Then I started cooking, my husband came home and we ate around 3:30pm. After my daughter’s bath (have you seen a 17 month old go at the cranberry sauce?) we headed over and hung out for a few hours with my family. My husband even went to the bar at the timeshare with my dad and they had a couple of beers and some quality time.

So this holiday season, don’t feel pressured to do whatever you don’t want to. You’ll get resentful and it won’t be any fun. Do what is best for your family and if it’s a little different, so what? The idea isn’t to be like Norman Rockwell’s vision. That’s no offense to Yang Mommy and her family – they’re not trying to be like Norman Rockwell’s vision. I think they ARE Rockwell’s vision. They’re a big, close family who loves spending a lot of time together. That’s who they are and they don’t try to be different. But if your family isn’t like that don’t try to fit into a mold that you’re not. Being yourself will make everyone more comfortable and you’ll have a much better holiday season. Enjoy!

Are Kids Menus Really Kid Friendly?

Yang Mommy

Over this past summer, my daughter and I ate out quite a lot. We were either on the go hither and yon, or on vacation, or simply wanted to get out and enjoy a beautiful afternoon outdoors. So our adventures took us to various eateries, from sandwich shops to nice restaurants. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Well for the most part it was, and is, fun to eat out with her. But as a toddler, she still has those pesky, picky, toddler taste buds.

Experience has now taught me to always, always bring some food I know my daughter will like and that’s good for her. Regardless of the stares and looks the restaurant staff may give me, I will continue to whip out a banana or mini-sandwich for her while kindly asking the wait staff for extra napkins.  The  number one reason I bring food along is not because she’s such a picky eater, which she isn’t really (although she has her moments), but because I’m a picky mom.

It seems the standards on kids menus in America today are: Mac n’ Cheese, Chicken Fingers, Sliders or Hot Dog and fatty sides like fries or chips. In and of themselves, these menu items are not all that bad for occasional treats; my girl loves her homemade mac n’ cheese.  And I’m all for letting her try items off my plate. But what gets me is that the flavoring of these items is often cooked to adult taste bud standards, not little children. Yes, trying new flavors is important, and fun. But if it burns my epicurean tongue, well then…

Take for instance the time we ordered off the kids menu some mashed potatoes. Well the potatoes were the same potatoes they serve to adults, including the garlicky seasoning which was even strong for me, who loves garlic, let alone a 1 1/2 yr old. Then there was the time we ordered her chicken fingers from another establishment and the batter was spiced, greasy and hardly any chicken underneath.  And lest I forget, on vacation we ordered her scrambled eggs for breakfast, another dish she loves at home. I had to protest when it came to our table, not only for the plate being too hot to touch, but also with a dollop of butter still melting on them! Belly ache, anyone?

These days, we still bring food she’ll like with us, but we tend to avoid the so-called kids menu. Rather, we’ll order her a side of fruit or some salad, or even let her pig-out on some fresh bread. From our encounters, we’ve found on average that the general seasoning is just not made in mind for tender palates, nor are the portions, let alone the nutritional value in most menu items.  I guess the same can be said for many adult menu items, can’t they!

So with that in mind, I’ll have to make sure that at this year’s Thanksgiving table, there’s some tot-friendly food items to go  along with the beloved standards.