It started with the menu. It was waved around, used as a hat and, finally, after refusing to surrender it to the waiter, it was thrown on the floor. Then came the wiggling, occasional shouts of boredom and lunges for silverware.
As the noise level increased, so did my furtive looks at our fellow diners. Were they paying attention to our table? When my husband and I walked into the restaurant with our 19-month-old son, did they inwardly cringe at the possibility of having their meal disrupted?
Generally, my son is pretty well-behaved at restaurants. He’s been eating out with us since he was a few weeks old. He knows the routine and usually enjoys watching waiters bustle and diners come and go. Sometimes, not so much.
Over the last year and a half, we’ve learned a few things that work for us to help make the meal more enjoyable. Most of the time these work, but as any caregiver knows, there’s no guarantees with children.
1.) Be prepared. If we’re going to eat somewhere that I don’t think has food my son will eat, I bring a few little snacks or a drink, or feed him at home before we go. Also, bring a favorite toy. We try to keep a toy in the diaper bag that he only gets when we’re out, so it’s more interesting. And it probably goes without saying, but we bring extra diapers and wipes. Your child probably isn’t going to be the best meal companion if they need to be changed.
2.) Keep a wide berth on the table. One of the first things we do when we are seated is to rearrange the items on the table so they are at least an arm’s length away from our son. At his age, he’s like an octopus — there are what seem like 20 arms waving about, grabbing at anything. The more inappropriate the better. A steak knife or hot plate? Perfect!
3.) Know your restaurants. One of our favorite restaurants to take our son to is the Jimmy’s Egg by our house. The waitresses are in constant motion, which is fun for him to watch. They also all know him and make a point to stop by the table and talk to him throughout the meal. Our little flirt loves the attention. Another upside is that we know there are lots of families there, which means lots of noise. If our son yells, it’s not going to be as big a deal as it would in a fancy dining establishment. We know sitting still and quiet for an hour or two is a lot to ask of a toddler, so we get a babysitter if that’s going to be the case.
4.) Know your child. If my son is sleepy, feeling bad or just not in the mood, I can tell he’s not going to do well eating out, so we make other arrangements. If we’re in the middle of a meal and I see my son start to rub his eyes, I know we need to ask for the check, because a full-blown tired tantrum may make an appearance. Knowing what signs to look for can help head off a bad ending to an otherwise pleasant meal.
A book making the rounds in parenting circles, “Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” by Pamela Druckerman, has been touted as must-read observations on the difference between French and American parenting. Evidently the French parenting philosophy results in well-behaved children who sleep through the night and eat well-rounded meals. Reviews say Druckerman observes French parents eating out and having conversations while their children entertain themselves quietly. I haven’t read it yet, but am looking forward to getting a copy to see if there’s anything I can apply to our forays.
Until then, I’ll probably continue to let my son play with menus.
It’s time for me to declare war … on grime.
And, I’d like your help.
I’ve let the house get away from me! It’s running off down the street now, flailing it’s dusty window shades and leaving a trail of broken pretzels, scraps of paper and hairy fuzz balls behind.
The shiny luster of my kitchen floor has become, well, lackluster. Trampled by dirty shoe soles, little bare feet, and muddy dog paws, and paired with countless spills of milk, juice and pop, my beautiful porcelain tiles have surrendered and succumbed to a dingy coating that will take some real scrubbing to remove. And let’s not even discuss the grout! Yikes!
When my husband and I first moved into our home, the baseboards, sinks and floors received a cleaning every week. It was a Saturday morning task that took just that — a Saturday morning.
Now, three children and a golden labrador later, our house is asking for an intervention.
There’s not piles of trash and it’s not ready to be condemned. But it needs attention.
So, what are your quickest, most effective tips you can share with me?
What’s your “I-have-to-have-this-cleaning-device” special weapon? What’s your favorite cleaner? Or maybe you’ve gone green and discovered vinegar.
Although I’ve gotten used to the crunch of popcorn and broken chips beneath my feet, I’m listening … with rubber gloves on.
But a few reminders could never hurt.
Here’s some tips from Safe Kids USA (which includes Safe Kids Oklahoma):
- Encourage children not to trick-or-treat alone. They should go in groups or with a trusted adult.
- Place reflective tape on their costumes or on their treat bags so they are visible to drivers.
- Examine all candy thoroughly. Check for any signs of tampering.
- All children should have their own flashlight so they can see and be seen.
- Emphasize to your children the importance of looking both ways when crossing a street. Tell them to use crosswalks, if possible.
- Be sure costumes fit well, to prevent trips and falls.
- Let children know they are NEVER to enter a person’s home unless they are with a trusted adult.
- Try to purchase flame-retardant costumes and keep away from open flames.
Have a very SAFE and HAPPY Halloween!
Thomas the Tank Engine is chugging into Oklahoma City and tickets are on sale for this very fun event. According to the event website, Day Out with Thomas is in its 15th year, and as always, the Oklahoma Railway Museum will be hosting Thomas’ arrival.
Besides getting a train ride with Thomas, children can enjoy other activities such as arts and crafts, storytelling, playing with toy trains, meeting characters and getting a look at the history of Thomas, who is turning 65 this year.
Get tickets soon, as this tends to sell out. Dates of the event are Sept. 24-26 and Oct. 1-3. Tickets cost $14 to $18 each. When you order tickets online, you can choose which train you’d like to sit in. Pay extra attention to which train car you choose. Some are air conditioned, some only have sliding windows, and others are completely open. Also, I suggest picking an early morning ride to avoid high temperatures.
Two years ago, I mistakenly chose the 2 p.m. time slot and the car with only the sliding windows. Since some of the cars are so old, some windows won’t open. That was our window. September was especially hot that year, and my then-2-year-old son was completely decked out in his Thomas overalls, Thomas polo shirt, Thomas conductor hat, socks and shoes. We couldn’t bring our drinks on board, but it’s a 30-minute ride. No big deal.
About two minutes after we pull out of the station, my son starts screaming and crying. He’s sweating, he’s red in the face, he’s hot as can be. I didn’t know what to do and we couldn’t get off the train. We were starting to get some mean looks from other paying passengers. He cried the entire ride. People were upset with us, asking employees for their money back and just generally being more than annoyed.
About a year later, I was talking to some parents at my son’s day care about how Thomas the Train was back in town. All of a sudden, one parent starts talking about this screaming child on her train car last year … decked out in Thomas overalls, polo and conductor cap. She described my son to a T - an entire year later. She was on that car. She was one of the parents demanding a refund. Yikes.
Me: ”Oh, we didn’t get to go last year … how awful … why would his mom dress him in such hot clothes in the middle of summer? … “
So please take my advice. Choose the air conditioned car. Get an early time and don’t dress your child like a conductor. After all, it’s September in Oklahoma.
For a schedule and tickets, click here.
A couple of weekends ago, I had the great opportunity to attend a conference focused solely on single moms. One of our speakers really gave great advice on how to save money, especially in the expensive world of grocery shopping.
She is based in Oklahoma and her name is Sarah Roe, aka the “Money Saving Queen.” And she deserves every bit of that royal title.
She is an expert on all things coupons, deals, freebies and how to get groceries at a fraction of their listed price. Have you heard those stories about moms going to the grocery store and buying $400 worth of food for $30? Those stories are true, and Sarah tells you how to do it.
There’s a definite method to the madness of couponing, price matching, store deals and much more. Here are just a few of the many tips she shared with the conference attendees:
1. Clip coupons - manufacturer’s coupons, store coupons, and get coupons off the Internet. Find coupons in Sunday’s Oklahoman, manufacturer’s websites, store websites and even eBay. You can use manufacturer’s coupons in conjunction with store coupons for extra savings.
2. Keep track of prices. Take the 20 most expensive items you use regularly in your household. Go to the one store you shop at most often and track their prices for 6-8 weeks. You’ll notice a “sale cycle” when prices are at their highest and lowest and you’ll know when to stock up. Use your coupons on the rock bottom price. Stock up while you can, or wait until you can get it at that lowest price.
3. Shop around. Start planning your menus at home based on sale cycles and when stores are having the best weekly deals.
4. Know store policies. Many big drug store chains offer rewards for simply shopping there. Same is true for grocery store chains. Find out what they can offer you. It may not be something they advertise, but chances are there’s something.
I get a “Daily Deals” e-mail from the Money Saving Queen. And they really are filled with terrific discounts, free items and store sales. She even has links to coupons you can print off and store circulars for your area. I highly recommend signing up for these free e-mails and also joining the website forums. It’s all free and well worth it.
Go to www.moneysavingqueen.com and learn all you can on how to save the most you can at your next grocery store trip. I know I will!
For all workshops, pre-register by calling 425-4412.
Unless otherwise noted, all sessions are for parents and caregivers of young children.
Here’s what’s in store for this summer:
Terrific Two’s: Learn about your 2-year-old. Focus is on their developmental milestones. All are 6 to 7:30 p.m.
June 1, Choctaw Library
June 16, Midwest City Library
June 22, Southern Oaks Library
June 19, The Village Library
Sibling Struggles: Learn methods to prepare children for the arrival of a new sibling and how to deal with sibling squabbles. Find out about sibling rivalry and what normal behavior is. Both are 6 to 7:30 p.m.
June 2, Midwest City
June 30, The Village
Just for Fun: Games People Play(for children ages 8-12): Includes active games, quiet games and brain teasers. Kids will play games from the past and games from other cultures. Both are 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
June 14, Southern Oaks
June 21, The Village
Toileting Triumph: Toileting doesn’t have to be a major challenge. Focus is on signs of readiness, why it can be frustrating and much more. All are from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
June 16, Edmond Library
June 29, Warr Acres Library
July 20, Ralph Ellison Library
Making Your Morning Manageable: Time to eliminate chaos and come up with a routine. Focus is what parents can do to make this part of the day more calm and enjoyable.
June 25, 10:30 a.m. to noon, Warr Acres
Lullaby & Goodnight: Find a routine that includes reading to your child, to ease bedtime and naptime challenges. Sleep challenges will also be discussed. Both are 3:30 to 5 p.m.
June 30, Edmond
August 17, Ralph Ellison
Look Out, I’m Three!: Learn more about your 3-year-old. Focus is on developmental milestones. All are from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
July 7, Southern Oaks
July 8, Midwest City
July 13, The Village
July 20, Choctaw
Toddlers at the Table: Turn common concerns about toddler’s eating habits into opportunities to teach healthy habits. Both are 6 to 7:30 p.m.
July 12, Midwest City
July 21, The Village
Those Playful Preschoolers:Focus is behavioral characteristics and developmental milestones of 3- and 4-year-olds. Activity ideas will be shared to keep little ones busy. Learn it’s OK for your preschooler to be “out of bounds.” Both are 3:30 to 5 p.m.
July 27, Warr Acres
Aug. 25, Edmond
Baby Basics: Main focus is typical concerns of parents. Colic/crying, separation anxiety, sleeping through the night and other issues will be discussed.
July 28, 3:30 to 5 p.m., Edmond
Reading Readiness: Workshop will explore the necessary reading readiness building blocks and parents’ roles in helping children become readers. Both are 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 4, Midwest City
Aug. 9, The Village
Fun to be Four: Learn about your fascinating 4-year-old. Workshop focuses on developmental milestones. All are 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 3, Southern Oaks
Aug. 4, Midwest City
Aug. 10, The Village
Aug. 12, Choctaw
School Readiness: Facilitators will talk about support, encouragement and opportunity all children need for school success.
Aug. 10, 3:30 to 5 p.m., Warr Acres
Tripping Through Toddlerhood: Topics include, tantrums, biting, sharing and other common toddler challenges. Parents will learn how to minimize frustrations.
Aug. 11, 3:30 to 5 p.m., Edmond
Teaching Children to be More Cooperative: Focus is on when to discipline or ignore unwanted behaviors. Learn guidance techniques used by experts.
Aug. 27, 10:30 a.m. to noon, Warr Acres
To see the Oklahoma City-County Health Departments newsletters, including schedules for upcoming play groups, workshops, and health and child guidance screenings, click here .
I fretted over how to have everything “just right” – SpongeBob cake, pineapple decoration, SpongeBob balloon, yellow utensils, SpongeBob napkins & tablecloth, “Crabby patties” (mini hamburgers) … my family would have enjoyed the visiting time without any frills.
Birthday parties can be so stressful if you take them too seriously.
I don’t remember EVER having a kid birthday with friends when I was growing up. Although, I did attend two: One was a sleepover (I had to sleep with the light on), and the other had the most magnificent cake: a doll cake draped in green and white icing. All the little girls took turns passing the cake around and taking a bite from the hem of the dress. … Can you say GERMS?
When my oldest daughter turned 5, I joined the birthday parade. It was that “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. And, I continued this insanity when my second daughter turned 5. Here is a sampling of the birthday parties we’ve had:
- At home with treasure hunt, silly string and cake … fairly inexpensive
- Sleepover (with 12 girls!) … exhausting …. juice and drinks spilled all over carpet, door knob broken off of bathroom door, fights among girls, crying birthday girl.
- Mall shopping … this would have been fairly inexpensive, but I had the bright idea of giving each child $10 … and then they needed more … and then they were hungry.
- Gymnastics … a little pricey, but it was “handled” by the instructors, and we had a cake and gift room, so this was a hit.
- Neighborhood park … who would have thought all 30 of the daycare classmates would have attended? Overall, a great success, but the number of presents were obscene. Looking back, we should have donated or said no presents. But my daughter was in heaven. There was an expense to reserve the pavilion, but it was such a beautiful day that all the kids had a great time. (We did this twice. The second time, hardly anyone showed, so you never know. That’s why RSVPs are so important to parents!)
- Overnight stay at a downtown hotel (Do you really want to take out a second mortgage on your home for a party?) This was a big hit with the girls … TV all night, dogpile on the couch and chairs for sleeping, swimming pool, water taxi ride through Bricktown. All of this would have been perfect, except for the chin injury in the hotel exercise room. Note to parents: Don’t let three 11-year-olds get on a treadmill, even if they say they’ll be fine.)
Looking back, our parties weren’t much different from other parties my kids’ friends had. And I’m glad my kids enjoyed the fun and time with friends and family.
But I still remember the simply iced white cake decorated with animal crackers that my mom made for me. The gift also was very modest. No ponies or jumping castles or skating rink or hotel rooms.
And I loved every birthday.
– Linda Lynn
Last weekend, I took my son (he’s almost 4) to see “The Blind Side.” Given the rating and subject matter (football), I thought it would be OK to take my boy to see it. And it didn’t disappoint. It was a fabulous movie and really tugged at the heartstrings. My son wasn’t wrapped up so much in the storyline, but he was definitely into the football scenes. And of course, he loved “Big Mike.”
When we got home, he says, very matter-of-fact, “Mommy, Big Mike is brown. What color am I? Am I brown?”
OK, so I really wasn’t expecting that. I was a bit tongue-tied, I must admit. I don’t want him to think he’s different than someone else based on skin color. But I didn’t want to lie to him either. What’s a mom to do?
Call her mom. That’s what.
My mom had some great advice and told me exactly what to say.
“Hunter, God made us all different shades, like paint on a palette. Like snowflakes, no two are alike, and that makes each of us very special.” Then she suggested I show him how my skin tone is even a little darker than his. He seemed very satisfied with that and went on with his day.
Whew! Good answer, Mom. She really does know best.
Ever been asked a difficult question by your toddler? How did you handle it? Let me know by commenting here or by e-mail. I’d love to hear your stories.
Are you one to share pictures of your children online or do you shy away from posting photos on the Web?
Recently, The New York Times had an article about the surge in sharing kids’ photos online. Many parents use sites such as Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and other social networking sites to share countless moments of their kiddos – whether they’re in a Halloween costume, at Grandma’s house or (gasp!) playing in the tub. But in some cases, photos have ended up used in ways not intended by the parent.
Some examples include photos of baby being passed off as someone else’s who is faking a pregnancy; use of children’s head shots on profiles on a social networking site in Brazil, even getting “sexy” ratings. And of course, parents are concerned about pedophiles singling out their children and in turn finding out where they live.
But some parents say this is the age of the Internet. No longer are moms and dads sending pictures of their children through the mail to the grandparents in another state. These days, grandma and grandpa are hooked to the Web to see instant pictures.
So is it exploitation or unsafe to post pictures? Or are the fears irrational and this is just how the 21st century is? It’s a decision only parents can make. But if you do post pics, be sure to use password-protected Web sites and always check your privacy settings on these sites.
And when given the choice of “Share with the world” or “Private” … don’t always go with what the site “recommends.” Go with your gut instinct instead.
We hear about it too much, it seems. A baby or toddler drowning. Many times in the care of responsible parents. It’s the leading cause of unintentional death for children.
I’ve written posts for Hiccups before on the importance of water safety, but in light of another recent drowning, I’d like to share my personal experience with a program my 3-year-old son is in.
Infant Swimming Resource is a program I found after a user on NewsOK.com posted a comment on a story about a baby drowning a couple of months ago. Her comment was, “If the family only knew about ISR.” That comment prompted me to look into this program.
I went to their Web site, www.infantswim.com, and watched the videos and read about parents’ experiences with the program. I have to say, I was instantly impressed. (Click below to see the video.)
These babies and toddlers weren’t just swimming, they were performing self-rescue skills. I found an instructor in the Oklahoma City-area using the online locator and got him started in the lessons.
I’ve had my son in swimming lessons before, but have been very disappointed with the results. He was only swimming with a floatie on or by using a noodle and these give children, and their parents, a false sense of security. Children don’t fall into pools with floaties on. If they did, no child would drown.
What ISR does is look at all aspects of a child. The program uses many fields of study in their approach – psychology, biology, physiology and anatomy. And most children go through the program and are skilled in self-rescue swimming in only 4-6 weeks.
When my son started, he had never even been put underwater. He never floated on his own. He was terrified of going underwater. Now he is in his last week in the program. He can swim underwater, turn to float to get his breath then continue swimming to the side of the pool. Without the aid of any flotation device. If you knew my son, you would know this is truly impressive.
The lessons are one-on-one with a highly trained instructor. Because repetition is key, they are every weekday for the full 4-6 weeks. To prevent water fatigue, the lessons are only 10 minutes long.
I urge every parent to check out this program. I am truly impressed with what my son has learned and with the professionalism and knowledge of the instructors. It’s a small price to pay and small amount of time to spend on preventing the senseless tragedy of losing a child to drowning.