About Me

I have something to say... But a blog let's me spew until I figure out what it is.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Amazing Adventure of a Traveling Toddler

It was the night before our departure and my chest was tight with anxiety. My palms were sweating, I couldn't focus, and I was filled with dread. How, in God's name, was Olivia going to handle a 9 day trip to Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania? What about her schedule? What about her naps? What about her whiny-ness?

Well, after nine days, 3 flights (6 hours), a three-hour layover, three states and 12 hours in the car I can tell you that we survived with flying colors. In fact - as stressful as it was (and don't get me wrong there were definately moments), I actually had fun.

So here is what I learned about travelling with a toddler:

1) Buy THIS THING. It may seem a little steep in price, but believe me when I tell you that this thing paid for itself in about 10 minutes. Olivia LOVED it. It also acted as a great toy for her when we were waiting for our flight because she got to push it all over the airport (she would put her pig in it and give him a ride). The best part of about this is I could keep Olivia strapped in, pick it up and carry her on the plane while sitting in the seat - then just buckle her in (with the wheels still on!) and off we go. When we landed, unbuckle the seatbelt, pick her up, get her off the plane, and we we are OFF AND RUNNING. It was truly AWESOME.

Just be prepared to get some looks - both from those who think "wow - that's so simple!" and those who think that you are carting your kid around like a piece of luggage. I have news for you, people - I AM carting her around like a piece of luggage - and she loves it. And I'm happy. And we are having a great time together.

2) Be over prepared. You really can't have enough snacks - for both of you.

3) Invest in a backpack. This was the best thing I could have done OTHER than the Go Go Babyz scooter thing. I put our snacks, a few toys, diapers and wipes, our travel documents and my purse all in the backback and didn't have to constantly worry that I left something behind. Plus, both my hands were free which is pretty invaluable. It wasn't heavy, either. Definately worth the money I spent and I think I will probably use it for everything now.

4) Take the time to enjoy the adventure. I didn't even know that Olivia knew how to say "choo choo train" until she saw the monorail at Tampa Airport. We laughed. We treated ourselves to McDonalds (she LOVES the apples). We learned how to say "plane".

5) Admit to yourself that a vacation is a vacation for the both of you. You can still be the sensible parent you have always been but it will be a lot easier on both of you if you "let up" a little bit. For instance - I am NOT a fan of Olivia watching hours of television - but when I have her buckled into a seat for 3+ hours and then visiting people who may or may not have many toys for her to engage with - I just want her to be happy. Enter - the iPad. Thank you Steve Jobs for keeping my flight and subsequent car rides with my kid more than bearable - they were actually enjoyable. A big shout-out to the creators of the Bubble Guppies as well - the show is killer.

So Olivia watched a lot of tv. She ate a lot more than she normally does. She got off schedule and, on some nights, didn't go to bed until 930. She was also a DREAM to be around. It doesn't mean that I stopped parenting - she heard "no" plenty of times. Climbing on the furniture isn't allowed at home and its not allowed at Grandpa's either, but - well - it's Grandpa's. It's supposed to be about indulgences and staying up late.

So that brings me to number 6...

6) ENJOY YOUR VACATION. If you stay flexible and continue to pay close attention to your kid's mood, you will have a truly amazing time. If Olivia started whining and being destructive, I knew immediately that it was naptime.

The best thing I did on this trip was break my own rules. Olivia, for instance, normally sleeps in her crib all night. On this trip, we shared a room.. so in the wee hours of the morning while she was still very much asleep, I picked her up and put her in bed with me. There was nothing more AMAZING than waking up, first thing in the morning, to my little girl whispering "Hi mommy" very very softly in my face.

Life is good.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Put that kid in TIME OUT

So there I was - standing in the mall, trying to coordinate with Josh when and where we would rendevous when it happened.

Like her own little tsunami, a little girl began screaming in the distance. Her father, tired of her shenanigans, swept her up as she proceeded to scream and kick and fight for her freedom and to, presumably, get what she wanted which she was obviously in the process of NOT getting. The dad carried her - sideways - as she continued to bellow and cry and kick her feet. As they approached her screams became so loud that Josh and I were forced to stop speaking to one another untils he passed so we could continue talking and planning our meetup.

I couldn't help myself. The judgementalness bubbled up and over and I looked at Josh and said: "Really. Seriously? Put her in time out. Give'er to me. I'll do it. Look. There's a bench right there"... but I, of course, did nothing of the sort, finished my conversation and proceed to shop for shoes.

And then... there I was in the courthouse in Tampa. I had a break (one of many) and was admiring the lobby from the second floor of the courthouse when I heard a relentless screaming of a small child - this one a boy - from the floor below.

As I peered over the railing of the second story, I saw a little boy sprawled out on the floor screaming. His mother, oh-so-involved in her parenting as she stood in line, grabbed him by the back of his shirt near his pants and proceeded to hold him by the shirt - high enough, mind you, that all four limbs were off the floor and he looked remarkably like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible - suspended above the floor so he wouldn't trip any laser sensors.

This time, and I wish I was kidding, I took a full step to the left... heading in the direction of the stairwell.

Yes, that's right. It occured to me, for more than a second, to go downstairs and ask the mom if she would like some help. As the whole make-believe scenario played out in my head it looked like this:

"Hello ma'am. I couldn't help but notice that you are having some trouble controlling your son - who is clearly bored out of his mind standing in this line (as I am sure you are as well) - and as a result is screaming and fussing and carrying on - which, as I am sure you know, is more than slightly disruptive to you and the people immediately surrounding you. What you may not know is that your child can be heard quite clearly on the second floor of this fine establishment. May I step in for a moment and quell the embarrassment that you may (or not be) feeling in this situation while simultaneously restoring sanity to everyone within earshot of your less-than-enthused child?"

Now, I would ask that you remember that this is all in my mind and so her response went something like this:

"Go for it. You think you can fix it, knock yourself out"

"Great," I would reply,"what's his name?"

For the purposes of this blog, let's call the 5-year old boy "Gollum" - because everyone, deep down, wishes they could name their kid "Gollum" either legally or, at least, as a nickname but doesn't because of the scrutiny they were recieve by yelling "Gollum! Sit down!" in a busy restaurant. (Sorry to those readers who have no frame of reference for this Lord of the Rings shoutout). Of course, this is an imaginary scenario, so "Gollum" a) works and b) seems appropriate.

"Gollum. *Gollum Stops*. Hi. My name is Jenn. How are you. *Gollum meekly responds "Hi" to the well-dressed stranger who is addressing him*. Now - Screaming inside is not ok. I am going to ask you to stop right now and sit on the floor quietly while mommy waits in line. I know it's hard because grownups are no fun and this place is no fun, but sometimes we have to do things that aren't fun. If you continue to scream, I will put you in time out. Do you understand? *Gollum nods*. Great. I am going to stand here and spend some time with your mommy now."

Gollum would, of course, continue to act up... at which point I would pick him up, get out of line, go to a quiet corner (perhaps outside where his voice doesn't carry quite as much) and put him in time out for five minutes.

At the end of my little dream sequence, of course, mom was amazed and I walked away quite satisfied with myself - cause that's how I roll.

I know that a common point in my blog is the rage against "lazy parenting" but it seems to be epidemic. I cannot imagine that parents do not feel some kind of embarassment when their child starts acting out in public. You want to know what's more embarassing, people? Not doing anything about it. Scooping your child up and leaving the situation (like the guy in the mall) is still better than sitting there, tuning your kid out (which I have realized becomes very easy to do) and doing nothing about it. As if to say: "Ok, kid - go ahead - embarass yourself."... uhmmmmmm they aren't embarrased. Trust me. Kids at that age are concerned with only one thing - themselves. They haven't developed a sense of self-worth and, more importantly, don't really have the skills to evaluate how their behavior is affecting people around them.

So here is First Time Mom's Guide to Temper Tantrums:
1) Prevention: If you go into the situation prepared for your kid to be bored, they won' tbe bored. Over-estimate how long your trip will be and then come prepared. A trick I usally use is finding something Olivia hasn't played with in a while and then bringing it out when she starts getting antsy. I save it till she starts getting restless though. Honestly, I presume one toy for every fifteen minutes. Olivia is only 2 and its rare that she has a huge attention span for things.

2) It's a KID: You can't hand them a toy and expect them (especially under 5 years old) to wholly entertain themselves. Olivia, for instance may play with a toy by herself for 5 minutes - if she plays WITH me, she is enamoured for 10 minutes or more. You had a kid - you will need to interact with it. The wait in line will go a lot faster for both of you if you start to play together. Heck - chances are that the people nearest to you would be a lot more ok with you setting up shop on the floor with your kid (despite how much room you are taking up) so that your kid will stay quiet and happy than the alternative.

3) When possible, bring backup: If you can swing bringing a person to hold your place in line with you, go explore with your kid. Giving the kid the opportunity to look around and see all the "cool" (to him) things that exist in the "boring" (to you) location you are visiting. If you pay attention to how enamoured your kid is, you can walk away with some pretty cute memories to - so now it was totally worth it.

4) USE. TIMEOUTS. Yes, kids cry in time outs - yes, they wail and carry on. But they stop - and the amount of time that they wail is FAR shorter than the battle you will be waging in the public area without it. Find a quite spot, put them in time out, and return to your business.

5) Leave plenty of time. If you aren't rushing to get something done, it won't be such a big deal if you have to deal with a timeout situation. When kids are a little bit older, you can tell a child "If you don't stop (blah blah blah), then you will be getting a time out when we get home" - and they will remember it. The key, there, of course, is to actually remember it and enforce it - idle threats rarely work more than once.

6) Try counting. Olivia was starting to balk at me telling her that I was going to put her in time out because I didn't have a way of warning her the same way every time. If I was flustered, I sounded angry. If I was patient, I didn't sound serious enough. If Josh and I were laughing about something and she did something on the "absolutely not" list, she didn't believe us when we told her to stop. I always give Olivia to the count of three: "Olivia, no banging the walls. One. No banging the walls. Two. Olivia - No. Banging. The walls. Three... Ok time out." The numbers let Olivia know that I am serious and that she is losing her window of opportunity to stop doing whatever she is doing and that she will not like the consequences.

7) Be consistent. Every. Single. Time. If they are banging on the walls at home and that merits a time out - give it to them. If they are banging on the walls in Olive Garden - that STILL merits a time out. Do not threaten a time out and not follow through on it. You are confusing your kid - how would you like if you were playing a game and someone constantly changes the rules and penalties on you? "I don't understand - yesterday I could side swipe this car and I got a lollipop. Today I sideswipe the car and I'm going to federal prison? I don't get it!"

8) Don't cut yourself short. Time out is not playtime. No toys. No tv. No making cute faces. No getting out of time out to give me a hug (even though it's super cute). No trying to get me to laugh. "You are in time out". It's not about them saying "I'm sorry" - its about them doing something that they know they shouldn't have done. They can apologize when the time outs over. Time out is meant to be one minute for every year of life. If you have willfull 2-year old, give them a 2.5 minutes. It's not going to kill them. It's meant to be long enough that they aren't having fun and long enough that they can still remember why they are there.

The fact of the matter is - having kids slows us down (for the better and for the worse). Raising a kid who is respectful and spirited at the same time takes an incredible amount of commitment from us as parents. You are giving your kid the short end of the stick if you don't define boundaries and enforce them every time.

They are going to grow up to resent us REGARDLESS of whether we discipline them or not - at the very minimum, we can have some sanity between now and then... and not risk having well-dressed strangers with great hair approach us in a Courthouse and "offer" advice. (and by offer I mean "insist").

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


So Josh and I were catching up on some of the shows we watch last night and played "Secret Millionaire". Now, for the record, we watched this show when it was on Fox and enjoyed it quite a bit - then it disapeared only to be resurected on ABC.

First and foremost, ABC, you need to change the over-guy. His voiceovers are HORRIBLE.

Since my brother's death, I have view non-profits in a very different way. I am working hard to participate in the Out of the Darkness walk in NYC to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The goal is to raise a thousand dollars and donate it to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - and show solidarity by walking 13miles in the middle of the night through New York City in the middle of June.

Now, I am not the type of person that gives very much of herself. I give to my family and friends that are close to me, but I have never been one for non-profit organizations despite my having worked for one for the last 3 years running.

What amazes me more and more is when I see organizations like the ones on Secret Millionaire where these people come up with this idea - meant to help mankind - and then go do it. Two 80 year olds started a kitchen when they were in their late fifties. A woman created a non-profit to decorate the rooms of children who are suffering life-threatening illnesses. Another organization created itself to teach music to children from low-income families - some of whom have gone on to recieve full scholarships to excellent music programs.

For some reason (and I couldn't tell you why), I had it in my head that the only type of nonprofits out there were ones that didn't speak to me - ones that I couldn't relate to or that didn't speak to my heart.

And I couldn't tell you when it changed - but it has - drastically. There is nothing more that I would rather do than raise money for suicide awareness and prevention (right now)... and in the future, I can see myself getting attached to organizations which help teenagers (or perhaps a group that helps depressed teenagers...)

What are some issues that break your heart? What out there speaks to you? Why have you not taken the time to volunteer? Or throw $10.00 their way. It may not be a lot to you, but it is helpful for a non-profit.

Push-shove, if there is an issue which makes you think "wow - I wish there was a group out there who did x", chances are there is. We are the "adults" now (yes, that's right, I put that in quotation marks") ... its time for us all to start thinking about whether we are good about the level of contribution that we have made to the people we share our lives with and the people around us, don't you think?

I know I do. I may not be able to bring Big Guy back and I may not be able to go back and do it over again to get it "right" this time... but I can do SOMETHING to help an organization whose mission it is to reduce the number of families who have endured the kind of turmoil and tragedy my family has had to face. As far as I am concerned - if they can prevent ONE death they are winning. (And no - that's not a Charlie Sheen quote;))

So, people, keep a look out for my upcoming Facebook blasts about my fundraising efforts - and try not to roll your eyes too much when you see me asking for your support for the 50th time. This is something I feel very strongly about and, more than the money, it's something I REALLY WANT TO DO. I want to be able to say that I walked through the streets of Manhatten in the middle of the night with thousands of others whose lives have been affected by suicide - and I will take that time to reflect on the amazing person that my brother was and how much I miss him and how much he has made me the person that I am today.

I hope, for each of you, that you find in your lifetime, a cause which gets you as geared up as this one does for me. It's pretty awesome.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My "Civic Duty"

So I got a Jury summons in the mail. Josh called me after work one day and proceeded to, for the most part, bust my non-existent balls that I had been summoned while he has yet to be.

What I didn't divulge to him at the time was that there was a part of my that thought to myself: "cool!" I had never been summoned and the whole thing is rather interesting to me. After years of watching a bunch of cop and lawyer dramas, I always wondered what it was like in real life.

And FINALLY - I was going to get my chance - to play a real-life juror (potentially) in a real-life crime drama (albeit potentially boring/benign).

I have heard many rumors that the job is actually rather mundane and can be, at times, mind numbing... but here I was amped and ready to get my chance to be selected. Some sick part of me was probably getting off on the idea of "being selected".

So off I went - masking my enthusiasm - to perform my civic duty at the Tampa Courthouse.

Now what I find particularly compelling about Jury Duty is that seemingly NO ONE wants to participate. How is this possible!??! Why is it such a dreaded event? I happen to think its rather interesting that we have a society that applauds itself on a "jury of your peers". Yes, its inconvenient. Yes, its unpredictable. But its still pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

The Tampa Courthouse is, apparently, a newer building - and if its not new, they certainly take VERY good care of it and have a lot of pride in it. Not to say that I have been in many courthouses - maybe the "pride of ownerships" exists in all such establishments, but I would be hard pressed to believe that every courthouse is so nicely cared for. In fact, I would venture to say its one of the NICEST buildings I have been in since coming to Florida.

They gathered all of us in a "juror auditorium" and were shockingly pleasant. In the small handful of times I have had to communicate with city employees in my lifetime, I have never had such a positive experience. They were courteous, respectful, engaging, and even made jokes with us. The bailiffs were funny and pleasant and treated you with respect and patience.

By 9am, they began to call jurors and they moved swiftly. They had a definite plan, they knew what needed to happen, and they executed it.

I was called with the third group and made my way to the front of the room - excited and ready to go.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," the bailiff began, "we actually don't need you until 12:30. So, you are welcome to leave the building and go take care of local errands if you so choose - just be sure to be right back here, at this spot, at 12:30. We will call you if your case is cancelled and we don't need you to return."

Wow. Alright.

In the back of my mind I knew that they would never go to trial on my case, but I appreciated that they would call me - so off I went to kill some time.

I returned to the courthouse at 11:30 and read a book on my iPad to kill some more time.

At 1pm, I went up to the front desk and was greeted, pleasantly, by a woman behind the desk: "Hello! Do you need something?" I smiled sheepishly (yes, me - sheepishly) and asked her "did I miss something? I noticed that other members of my group were just called into jury selection but I was not. I hope I didn't miss something". She didn't hesitate and responded: "Well, you arrived late, so we skipped you".

I immediately felt sick to my stomach. HOW!? What did I miss!? Can I get in trouble for missing my name being called?

The woman instantly sensed that I was panicking and said "I'm just kidding. That never happened. Your trial was cancelled but I was at lunch when the decision went down. However, we have a few judges that may still need more jurors so we should know shortly if we will still be needing you." We laughed about her joke and i went to sit down with the 30-ish other people in the room which held about 200 earlier.

1 Completed book, 1 newspaper, 200 facebook updates, 4 text messages and 35,000 Jewel Blast points later - it was 4:30 and we were finally dismissed.

So I ran outta there.

But you wanna know what's weird? I would do it again - and I can't say that that would be true of my fellow waiters. It seemed that every single person I was sitting with would RATHER be stuck in that room for 8.5 hours than apparently be selected for a jury before noon. I don't get it. I really don't.

Are people really just that sheep-like that they are raised to hate jury duty and so they won't even give it a chance? Was I surrounded by veteran Jurors who had bad experiences and didn't want to repeat it?

Maybe I am just weird - who knows. What I do know is that the staff treated us with respect and integrity. They treated us like we were important to their process rather than like cattle who were required to be there under penalty of fines. I felt like I was a part of our due process and that I was being asked to play a part in fair and balanced trial.

And I didn't even leave the darn waiting room.