Friday, 27 February 2015

Go for a (Sara)Soda

A while back, another parent told me about how they had painstakingly planned an elaborate trip to Disney with their three year old daughter.  There were character breakfasts, souvenirs and great memories for the family to cherish forever.  About two months after they returned from their holiday their daughter was watching TV and an ad came on for Disney World and her daughter asked, "Mommy can we go there some time?" The mother was, understandably, disappointed and frustrated. This story is one of the many reasons why we made a conscious decision to skip the whole Disney experience when we went to Florida to visit the grandparents last week and save it for a few years down the road.

Instead we stayed about two hours south of Orlando spending time at the pool in Grandma and Grandpa's condo and some time on the beach collecting shells and enjoying the ocean. The rest of the vacation we day tripped to various places that were researched before we left Toronto, most of which were in the Sarasota area.

Here are the three child focused activities we found in Sarasota that Molly and Jack loved and had absolutely nothing to do with a certain mouse.

Sarasota Children's Garden - Basically, it's a fairy land where children can dress up, visit the seven dwarves house and run around like maniacs.  Cost is $5 for kids 3 and over,  Adults are $10 each. The kids spent over 2 hours running around and playing. Molly was intent on playing with a group of older princesses and witches who were in disguise because they didn't want their mother to recognize them and take their pictures. Thankfully they included Molly when she was able to keep up.  Both kids and all adults were happily exhausted by the end of the trip.

tire tower, childrens garden sarasota
Molly and Jack conquer the tire tower.

Before I talk about the next two places we visited I feel a need to quote my thoughts on animal attractions.  This is a repeat of something I wrote a while back when I wrote about our experiences at African Lion Safari: I often find myself with mixed feelings surrounding animal amusement facilities.  I have seen movies like Blackfish and know that many of the attractions that feature wild animals provide spaces that are too confined for the way that nature intended animals to live.  I know that there are many animals whose population is threatened because of man, industry, nature and all the environmental themes that Tolkien so eloquently wrote into his books.  I am also a realist, an omnivore, a supporter of farms and scientific research.  One of the best excursions Chris and I have ever been on was a whale watching tour in the Bay of Fundy with marine biologists who fund their research by giving tours.  It was amazing.  I know that technology is there to help a number of species procreate (humans included) and I'm thankful for that.

Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary - The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is where wild animals are surrendered and cared for in a safe environment, a lot of which are Hollywood and circus animals.  This place is the ideal size for toddlers and pre-schoolers.  They can easily walk to see each animal and I have never personally been closer to wild animals.  Highlights for me were the bears, ligers (yeah they actually exists), watching two teenaged tigers wrestle and Molly's comment as we walked through the big cat section, "Shere Khan is going to eat me".  Tickets were $18 for adults and $7 for children.

MOTE - Marine Laboratory and Aquarium - Mote Aquarium boasts over 24 diverse research programs surrounding the ocean and it's residents since it opened in 1955.  This small sized aquarium allowed the kids to explore easily.  Cost is $19.75 per adult (although we were able to find some coupons).  Kids under 4 are free.  Children aged 4-12 are $14.75.  Molly and Jack had a chance to pet a baby shark and a sting ray, I'm surprised to report that Molly was the only one brave enough to pet either (although she shuddered from head to foot after she pet the baby shark).

girl high-fiving a turtle, Mote Aquarium
That's right, Molly's high fiving a turtle.

On the way back from MOTE Chris asked Jack what his favourite part of our visit had been.  He replied, "the sink" referring to the hand washing station at the aquarium.  We both breathed a sigh of relief.  Our kids were not Disney ready this trip.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Difficult Kind

Making friends as an adult is hard, particularly when you move on from one on one friendship to couples trying to ensure that everyone involved has a solid time when you get together.  This becomes especially challenging once additional child personalities are added to the equation.  Now that there are so many friends and families whose babies have grown into toddlers and pre-schoolers, there is a lot of personality going around.  This makes it even more difficult to find the perfect blend of personalities for a harmonious and enjoyable get together.  It's like arranging three, or in my case four "like" connections and recognizing that sometimes a good first play-date, second play date or third doesn't necessarily mean a "like" connection has been made.

Most adults are no strangers to the fact that once you're out of school that it's harder to make friends than it once was with a, "Hey aren't you in my Geography class?".  This paired with life changes including partnerships, work commitments and parenthood, it's really no surprise that a social research study revealed that, "when it comes to your close friends, you lose about half and replace them with new ones after about seven years."

toddlers in party hats
This is where the party ends

With the constant shedding and gaining of close social networks, it's no surprise the increase in the number of friend matching site Groupons and Living Social Deals (like but for making friends) that keep flowing in and out of my email inbox, much like email conversations from close friends, apparently.  I  pontificate that children may experience the seven year friendship itch in a frequency akin to dog years as they grow, change and develop at such an incredible rate each and every day.

If you are close enough friends or family you can work through the foibles and scrapes that your respective kids get into together, but other times things can get a little bit awkward.

I have a strong personality and my daughter Molly is also a force to be reckoned with.  She has strong opinions and a phenomenal memory. A girl at daycare pulled her hair, over a year ago and the child's name cannot be mentioned without a comment from Molly about the hair pulling incident.  At a birthday party an older kid snatched a play tea set off a then two year old Miss Molly, she still mentions that she does not like this child.  At a family Christmas party my daughter encountered another little girl her age who also has a take-charge personality.  For Jack it was love at first sight as he followed after this other little girl who promptly bossed him around, much like his sister.  Molly was unimpressed and was not afraid to be vocal about her feelings.

A number of weeks ago I arranged for a play date for Molly and a friend of hers.  She had begged for it and talked about it for days before, insisting that her brother was not allowed to attend.  Molly and I arrived, the girls said hello, and promptly took turns ignoring each other for over an hour.  It was incredibly awkward as both myself and the other mother, an aquaintence, tried to coax the girls to play together.  Apparently the "like" connection was gone.  On the way home I was furious with Molly, weekend mornings are precious and I'd wasted one making small talk and pretending not to notice passive aggressive three year old behaviour.  Eventually I calmed down and recognized that she's allowed to change her mind and I shouldn't chastize her for "not feeling it any more".  We talked a little and she was also disappointed.

As we begin exploring childhood friendships I need to recognize that my daughter, much like her mother, is kinda a pain in the butt.  As a child I remember often silently going through the motions with "friendships" that I didn't want.  That being said, the childhood friends who are still in my life are freaking amazing people.  I am going to try hard not to force friends on either child, that being said Jack has only ever complained about one kid on a regular basis - his sister, but will make them try to be kind.

So attention current and future friends and family, I'm sorry if my kid is being a d-bag to your kid, acting aloof or punishing them for hair pulling crimes that happened a third of their lives ago.  We can work it out, I swear!

Does anyone else have any advice for managing kid and adult friendships?

To read about my childhood frenemy click here.

To read what it's like to be the first in your friend group to have kids click here.

To read about having toddlers, surrounded by friends with babies click here.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015


One of our warm weather go-tos is hiking with the children.  Since we were on vacation in Florida last week we decided that it was a great chance to stretch their billy goat legs.  After all, if Major League Baseball players were called for spring training last week, why shouldn't we?

Here are some photos, thoughts and memories I wanted to share from our hike in Myakka River State Park, in Sarasota Florida. I hope you enjoy the pics and can use some of the ideas to inspire and explore in your own city or Myakka River State Park if you ever find yourself in Sarasota.

We chose a fairly short, easy, looped trail that featured a tree-top canopy walkway that overlooks the park.  The hike total is only 1.28KMS (or .80 of a mile for the non-metric folks).  The cost to get into the park was $6 US per carload and well worth it.

hiking in Myakka River State Park
Miss Molly enjoys hiking the path.

hiking in Myakka River State Park, lookout view Myakka River State Park
When we finally made it to the top of the look-out, Jack got really angry because he wanted to do the Hot Dog Dance from Mickey Mouse Club House (an ongoing theme in his toddler hood) and lay down on the wooded platform.  Other hikers giggled as Chris commented that no one was stopping him from dancing and this may in fact be the most random tantrum that the boy has ever pitched.  Jackie was strapped into the hiking carrier moments later.

hiking in Myakka River State Park
 The way down from the lookout.

hiking in Myakka River State Park, Canopy bridge Myakka River State Park
Jack and Grandpa on the canopy bridge.

hiking in Myakka River State Park
Molly by the pond where there were gators.  No gators were enticed while we were at the park (to my knowledge).

The park also has a picnic area, gift shop and food available for purchase.  My suggestion is to pack your own lunch as the food is at a premium price.  The park also has boat tours for those who are interested.  After Jack's "performance" on the bus at African Lion Safari last summer we thought we'd skip it.

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Last week we ventured out and took the kids on their second trip via airplane, south to Florida to visit their snow bird grandparents.  It was great to get away and get outside every single day for a week, but more on that later.

This was our first time taking to the sky with two toddler/pre-schooler forces of nature and I thought I'd share our air travel successes (and failures) with the minions to help anyone planning a holiday with their little ones.

toddler in a car seat, travel with little kids
Try carting two of these beasts of seats all over an airport.  I dare you!

7 Do's and 7 Don'ts of Air Travel with Little Kids:

DO: Pack your children their own little backpacks including favourite small toys, soft cover books and anything else that will help keep them entertained on the plane or when there are delays (because there will be delays).

DON'T: Expect that they will want to carry these backpacks when you need them to most.  This will usually be your responsibility, until they urgently need an item at the bottom of the knapsack at the worst possible moment

DO: Book your seats in advance.  We ended up booking the day before both times and ended up at the back of the plane, which added in time boarding and exiting the plane.  Although the back of the plane is closer to the washroom for little ones, the choice is yours.

DON'T: Rely on the airline to feed your children.  Because of timing issues we ended up rushing onto the plane very quickly, without having a chance to grab some breakfast that morning (beyond two baggies full of Cheerios). We decided that we would purchase the minions a fruit tray and some hummus and crackers, unfortunately by the time the flight attendants got to us, at the back of the plane, all they had left was Pringles.

DO: Consider putting newly toilet trained children in pull up diapers "just in case".  Long lines and obligated seat time can be a recipe for disaster, even for the best trained newbies.  Also be wary of the call button in the plane's washroom, I had to physically restrain Molly from pressing it on more than one occasion.

DON'T: Be surprised when your daughter refuses to go in her diaper anyway and insists on visiting the facilities 30 seconds after you've been called for boarding.

DO: Look into what entertainment is going to be available on the flight ahead of time.  Air Canada Rouge doesn't offer any in flight entertainment unless you bring your own, or want to pay $10 US to rent a tablet. We had one portable DVD player on loan from Nana and Papa that could only be used one child at a time and bought both Chris and I separately 22 minutes of peace and quiet.

DON'T: Purchase your child an over sized packaged milk, unless you're okay with them spilling it all over the airport floor and then again later all over you within the first twenty minutes of your flight.

DO: Figure out what counts towards your checked baggage before you pack for your trip.  We opted to bring our gigantic car seats because rental costs were $20 per day, per seat and I knew that we could check them for free.

DON'T: Leave the house without figuring out a way to secure these monstrosities of seats to your luggage.  You may end up carrying them around the airport for two and a half hours often with a tired and cranky child sitting inside them.  Note: after two and a half hours dragging the car seats around Pearson airport I would have paid the $240USD we saved to set them on fire and NEVER HAVE TO SEE THEM AGAIN.  I assume this would have resulted in my being placed on some sort of no fly list.

DO: Consider bringing a hiking carrier. Ours came in very handy for Jack at the airport and during some of our travels.  We knew exactly where he was (and that he wasn't trying to climb on top of the luggage carousel) which was a huge relief.

DON'T: Count on any time to get any reading of your own done, unless you're really curious about Clifford the Big Red Dog. Any reading you manage of your own should be considered a HUGE bonus.

DO: Bring your patience.  Airports can be stressful when only travelling with adults.  Adding kids into the mix requires infinite zen.

DON'T: Worry when your daughter tells the customs agent that her name is Cinderella (Molly), they're trained to handle elusive toddlers.

To read about our travels to Vancouver and Seattle with the minions when they were 10 months old click here.

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Marry Me Archie

This weekend my brother got married to the love of his life. I got a new sister and the minions officially got a new aunt (even though Aunt K. has been a part of our family since long before the minions even existed).

As we sat waiting for the ceremony to begin, Chris and I both realized that we were both nervous for the minions.  This was the very first time that our little flower girl and ring bear(er) "ROAR" had people depending on them and as parents it felt surreal.

I am happy to report that they were both amazing and fulfilled all of their wedding duties with flair and grace.
tuxedo t-shirt ring bearer

Here are some of my favourite minion memories from the wedding that I wanted to share:

  1. When Molly saw the bride and yelled, "Look it's Cinderella"  because she was so excited to see a "real princess" in her aunt K.
  2. That the bride and groom let Jackie wear a tuxedo t-shirt after we all realized that a regular suit wasn't going to fly.
  3. How excited Molly was when my sister put baby's breath and "brains" (braids) in her hair.
  4. After seeing how much fun all the flower girls had delicately tossing their rose petals down their aisle, Jackie decided that he'd participate by bowling his bear down the aisle.
  5. That Jackie clapped the loudest during the ceremony, gave a running commentary and encouragement to all participants and kept instructing my brother to, "open his eyes" during the service.
  6. How by some sort of miracle, all five kids in the wedding party managed to eat gooey cupcakes before the photos and remain picture perfect.
  7. That this is a memory that Molly and Jack will have for the rest of their lives.
flower girl dancing

To read about Jack and the struggle with getting him a suit click here.

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Thursday, 12 February 2015

My Paper Heart

Growing up, as Valentine's Day approached, our class would complete crafts.  Usually they involved folding a piece of pink or red construction paper in half, cutting it into the shape of a heart and then gluing some sort of doily on the back of it.  This is something that I never mastered as a child and as an adult I am incapable of successfully completing the fold and cut heart technique.  I would usually end up with something that looked like a cross between a tear drop and a giant red turd.  I'd often ask the child beside me to complete the paper heart for me. Today, unfortunately, I have two children whose fine motor skills surrounding safety scissors "need improvement" and I have a progress report to prove it, so I'm not getting any help there.

baby in heart jumper
Festive "Valentine" Baby Molly.

The first year that Molly and Jack were in daycare I was taken aback by all of the Valentine's that they received from their classmates.  I was unaware that children who could barely walk were exchanging greeting cards.

Last year I had a plan for V-Day.  I creeped on Pinterest and I was going to "bring it on".  But, life happened and I ended up rushing out to the drug store in the basement of my office building on February 13th securing a set of Dinosaur themed Valentines that I signed for both of the minions and dropped off at the daycare the morning of the 14th.  On the subway that morning I saw another mother frantically filling out drug store cards for her child while they were on their way to kindergarten.  I commiserated with her, I had to restrain myself from hugging a stranger on the subway.

That night when we picked up the kids from daycare, I discovered that the other parents had upped their games.  Suddenly there weren't just cards.  There were hand made crafts, glittered pencils and sparkled play dough.  I swore under my breath at these thoughtful parents who "Valentold" me that I wasn't killing it as a parent like I thought I was.

My competitive side set in.  I vowed, yet again that 2015 would be different!  I saw a mold for Lego men on Amazon that I was going to buy and use to melt crayons into, making home made Lego crayons and hand made cards for Molly and Jack to excitedly distribute on Valentine's.  I never ordered the tray, I never peeled the crayons or melted them into molds.  Last weekend I worked on my speech for my brother's wedding.  This week we made cupcakes for papa for his birthday and celebrated with him, I picked up my dress for the wedding from the tailor and last night Chris and I both stood strong and implemented our very first no TV punishment for Molly for sulking - this didn't leave much time for crafting.

Yesterday afternoon I sent Chris, our resident origami expert, this cute paper heart pattern from a blog I follow and I suggested that he make hearts for the kids to colour in tonight for their classmates. When he asked how many kids were in the class (over 20) I reminded him that I would need double that number as we have two distinctly separate children who each need to distribute cards.  He sighed, assured me there was no way this was happening, and asked me which of us was going to the drug store today on our lunch to pick up more than 40 Valentine cards.

Tomorrow none of the parents at daycare are going to curse me for my mad Martha Stewart Valentine skills.  Chris and I will try to remember to dress our children in pink and red and pick up the spoils from another Valentine's at daycare...and I'm going to vow that next year, in kindergarten that it's going to be different, but let's face it, it's not.

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Cruel to Be Kind

A number of months ago when Molly asked Chris if he thought she was pretty he responded,"Yes I think you are pretty Molly, but it's much more important to be kind and happy than it is to be pretty." She giggled and said, "You're so silly daddy."

This got both Chris and I thinking about our children, the messages that we teach them paired with what they are learning from their friends and teachers at pre-school and through books, TV and movies.

This past summer I read a great article in The Washington Post on raising nice kids and both Chris and I have tried to incorporate some of the messaging on raising nice, kind and happy children into our parenting toolkit. During a meeting at daycare the other week we were told that both of our kids are two of the most polite kids in the entire school.  I guess this means that Chris and my active roles of the Please and Thank you division of the "Polite Police" is paying off.  I am very proud of this, but am also keenly aware that being a polite person is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to becoming a kind person.  At the same meeting, I was told that Jack's extreme empathy continues to stand out above and beyond his peers.  This is something that both Chris and I have noticed about Jack for a long time, and both speculate that he is going to grow up to be a caregiver of some kind (like a nurse), but at this age it's not really something we could have taught him.  It's simply the way he is.

petting zoo, baby goats and baby boy
Jackie and the baby goats, my little animal whisperer, even at a year.

Molly, while polite, doesn't have the same (ahem) natural affinity towards empathy, despite knowing all of her pleases, thank yous and you're welcomes .

How can we teach our children or encourage the development of empathy in our kids?

For infants and toddlers Children Zero to Three suggests verbally empathizing with your children, talking about your feelings and the feelings of others and modelling how to show empathy to others (for example: let's go give Bobby a hug and a band aid to make him feel better) to nurture the beginning of empathy.

Psych Central suggests that at three years old you are able to begin to comprehend conversations about other people's feelings and some of the impact/consequence surrounding making others feel bad. By around five years old you can begin to discuss hypothetical problems or scenarios to your child by asking questions like, "How would you feel if..."  At eight years old they will begin to differentiate point of views and that the perspectives and feelings of those around them may differ from their own.

Sesame Street talks about helping your children develop their own emotional repertoire by giving them the emotional language they need as well as positive reinforcement.  I particularly liked their positive reinforcement commentary on encouraging empathetic actions, "One child's red crayon breaks and she bursts into tears of anger. The other sees what has happened, empathizes with the anger, and offers her his crayon. The first child quickly accepts and both children resume their colouring. What's a good strategy for a parent observing this interaction? You can reinforce a child's helpful behaviour by saying something like this: 'I noticed how you offered your crayon to your friend. It must have made you feel good to help her. It made me feel good to watch you.'"

We've been taking positive reinforcement seriously around our house.  The other day when I shared some of my dinner that I couldn't finish with Chris, Molly turned to me and said, "I'm so proud of you mommy."  It's a little out of context, but I'll take it as a win.

To learn about asserting positive discipline click here

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Monday, 9 February 2015

Big League

When the minions were little we'd often strap them to our chests in a carrier and take them out to sporting events with us.  Since they were babies, they'd fall asleep when they were tired and for the most part were very well behaved.  I even wrote a post highlighting a list of seven tips to make sporting events with infants easier.

Once the minions became mobile toddlers, sporting events, or any activities where they were "contained" in a crowded arena became significantly less appealing to us. We usually hired a sitter for most sporting events between the age of 18 months and beyond, until this past weekend.  Chris decided that it was time for us to bring them out to an AHL hockey game and see if they were ready.

safeco sign
With the minions BW (Before Walking) at Safeco Field in Seattle

Here are our 10 Tips to Survive a Sporting Event with Pre-schoolers and not lose your mind.

  1. Talk the event up ahead of time.  Give a summary of what your kids should expect at the game and talk about how awesome it will be for them to have their own seats and be a part of the crowd.
  2. Forget any chances of arriving early to get that free promotional swag they're offering up to the first 1,000 attendees. Every extra minute that you're at the stadium before the game is a minute sooner that your children will get bored.  No matter how cool that bobble head is, I can assure you that it's just not worth it. 
  3. Consider at least a two adults for every child, if you can.  This makes everything easier and provides for an extra set of helping hands and distraction. 
  4. Pick your seats wisely.  I would suggest aisle seats that are reasonably close to both the bathroom and the snack vendors. 
  5. Try securing two rows of seats if there is a decent sized group of you.  This allows your children to sit behind friends and family, so you don't need to constantly apologize to strangers when they get a case of "the Jimmy Legs" and kick people repeatedly throughout the game.
  6. Ply them with snacks.  A treat to eat during the game is a good way to encourage best behaviour.  We are not above bribing the minions.
  7. Cheer loudly, clap your hands, start chants.  Give them a chance to experience the beauty of fandom, and yell at the top of their lungs when their team scores a "GOOOOAALL".
  8. At breaks in play or period breaks, let them run.  We spent each intermission between periods letting the kids run around the open space on the upper bowl and up and down the bleacher stairs to burn off some energy. 
  9. Try visiting the mascot.  This can be really exciting to wee ones. Sometimes venues will run Family Day games where there are extra mascots, prizes and activities geared for children - consider going to one of these games.
  10. Resign yourself to the fact you are going to miss some of the game and it's usually easier to leave for home a few minutes early so you aren't trying to navigate through huge crowd.  

After the game on the way home I mentioned to Chris that I'd done the math and that the cost of the extra tickets and snacks was comparable, or maybe even more expensive than hiring a babysitter and attending the game by ourselves. Chris smiled and said, "But they had soooo much fun".  I looked back at the sugar crashed minions fast asleep in the back of the car and had to agree.  It was worth it, just not for EVERY game.  I think Chris may be ordering an extra ticket or two for some baseball games this summer to go to a game with dad, Grandma and Grandpa.  

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Friday, 6 February 2015

Family Tree

Parenthood is about a lot of things: love, frustration and exhaustion.  It's also filled with a lot more paperwork then I ever expected.  Every time we register a child for anything (next week it's kindergarten gulp) there is something on all forms that I've overlooked. Recently a friend suggested I write about parental forms after having read a Facebook message from her frustrated acquaintance that was imploring parents to take action.  There is a ton of outdated language on forms for education, medical treatment and even registration into extracurricular activities for our children.

Many of the forms we are asked to fill out ask for the name and contact information of the child's "mother" and "father".  These forms are only defining old school, nuclear family titles.  Family isn't just a mom and a dad and it hasn't been for a long time.  In addition to same sex couples and single parents, children are raised by a variety of caregivers including grandparents, step-parents or other family members who are all forced to try to check a box on a form in a category where they aren't represented. A simple change to the form to say something like"Parent/Guardian 1, Parent/Guardian 2, Parent Guardian 3 etc." instead would be more inclusive.

I often find myself frustrated by the lack of diversity modelled in books, television and other media geared at children and worry about the rarity for representation of the diverse backgrounds of family and friends the minions are exposed to everyday. 

princess cowgirl
Princess Cowgirl

It's no surprise to many people that Molly is really into princesses right now and as a progressive parent the princess obsession has always worried me a little, until this happened the other day:

Molly "I'm going to be Cinderella, Mommy you be Belle and Daddy you're Prince Eric."

Dad "Can I be someone else?  Prince Eric is kinda boring?" (In Chris' defence this is a valid argument,  Prince Eric kinda sucks.)

Molly "No, you're Prince Eric daddy."

Dad "Can I be someone else?"

Molly "No, you're Prince Eric and there's going to be a wedding."

Dad "Can I be a dragon? ROAR!"

Molly "No you're Prince Eric.  And Belle and Cinderella are getting married.  Prince Eric is bugging me."

So, if my three and a half year old "gets" that there are all sorts of different families and definitions as to what constitutes a family unit (princess families included), why are so many organizations using exclusionary language?  The next time you fill out a form and notice outdated language consider saying something about it to someone.  Write an email or a letter to the organization explaining your preference for changed language.  If your kids are old enough, encourage them to do the same.  If you're presented with an unchanged form the next year, and this bothers you enough, maybe you want to consider a new softball league for your kid.  Be sure to tell the company and your child why.

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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Sad Beautiful Tragic

When I was a kid and I pouted, which wasn't very often, my mom would tell me, "If you keep sticking out your lip like that a bird is going to poop on it."  This usually made me smile, or at least confused me, particularly when we were indoors.

Miss Molly is a pouter.  She inherits it from her dad's side.  As I've mentioned before my family trends towards the epic meltdowns, whereas Chris fancies himself a brooder (like Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Recently, and unfortunately on a daily basis, when presented with whatever disappoints her majesty we're faced with what I like to call the pouting cycle.  First comes the death glare where she tries to break you with her mind, next the lip pout and a bit of a cry, once that doesn't work, if she decides she wants to escalate the matter further she'll engage in an Arrested Development/Peanuts inspired sulk walk, to her room or a nearby couch until she gets over it or is distracted by something that means more to her then the argument at hand.

baby death stare
Even at six months Molly had her glare down pat.  

As this undesirable phase continues I've found myself wondering if we're doing the right thing.  We never give in, but are we teaching her the skills she needs to be a functioning and non-annoying adult?  Chris and I are both beginning to understand what people are talking about when parents talk about the 3teens (heck there's even a Twitter hashtag dedicated to #3teens)

I've researched some of the best ways to address pouting in pre-schoolers that I thought I'd share:

1) Ignore them.  If they don't get what they want and you don't engage in negative attention they'll be less likely to repeat the behaviour - unless they are incredibly stubborn (AKA Molly).

2) Send them for a time out.  Molly tends to send herself for these "timeouts" on her own and eventually comes back on her own.  This becomes challenging when you're trying to get out the door and she's convinced that she should be allowed gumdrops for breakfast.

3) Employ natural consequences parenting and let them know what they'll be missing out on by withdrawing into the sulk.  Sometimes when Molly gives me the "I'm sooooo tired." excuse for her pouting I tell her about what she's going to miss for withdrawing, whether it's a game, a snack, a favourite show or storybook.  Just the possibility of missing out on something usually snaps her out of most moods.

4) Practice reflective listening.  Show them that you are empathetic to what they're feeling by narrating what they might be feeling.  This helps give them the language and coping skills they can use when dealing with disappointment, allowing them to focus on expressing themselves in healthy ways.

5) Take pride in the fact that you have a strong willed child who knows what they want, even if that is wearing their housecoat instead of a winter jacket or eating a dinner of ketchup and goldfish crackers.

What worked to prevent pouting with your family?

To read about asserting positive discipline in two minutes or less click here.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Gates to the Garden

It snowed a lot the other day and even though the snow is beautiful and Jack keeps offering, "To eat all the snow, nom nom nom" so we don't have to shovel it, the throes of winter are getting to all of us. Inspired by our trip to Allen Gardens, we packed up the kids on Sunday and let them run around Centennial Park's Conservatory.  The Greenhouse is open 365 days a year from 10am-5pm.  There is no cost to visit, but they have a donation box if you feel inclined.  This is a great meeting place to grab a coffee (bring your own coffee), relax with a small snack or enjoy while your little ones run off some energy.

The conservatory is located in west Etobicoke, has free parking or is a short walk away from the Elmcrest Stop on the 48 Rathburn Bus.

centennial park greenhouse toronto
 Tropical Paradise.  

centennial park greenhouse toronto
Fortunately there were less debates over not touching or picking the flowers this time.

centennial park greenhouse toronto
 Checking out the fish.

centennial park greenhouse toronto
 Angel the white parrot was Jack and Molly's favourite part of the visit.  They particularly liked it when he bobbed up and down and did the "hot dog dance". 

centennial park greenhouse toronto

centennial park greenhouse toronto
Donkey Planter.

centennial park greenhouse toronto
 Some sizable carp in the fish pond.

The visit entertained the minions for about 45 minutes and made us forget, for a little while, that the Groundhog still says there's going to be six more weeks of winter.

To view our photos and "review" of Allen Gardens click here.

For 9 tobogganning tips with toddlers click here.

What do you do to beat the winter blues?

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