Archive | October, 2010

Organize your life

24 Oct
I spent the past couple weeks juggling some new elements into my rather busy schedule—Hannah’s 3rd birthday, which was this weekend, and preparing for Halloween. Hannah’s last two birthdays (and last two Halloweens) were a little easier to plan because taking care of her was my primary responsibility. I didn’t have anything else going on (i.e. school), so party planning fit into my schedule. Now I’ve been trying to figure out how to justify the fact that I spent many hours looking for Halloween costumes and planning a birthday party when I needed to be using that time to do homework. I love doing all this stuff, but it’s not as much fun when I’m rushing around to get it done. Oh, for a few extra hours in each day…

Although the planning part was stressful, Hannah’s 3rd birthday turned out quite well.
I also managed to work on an assignment for my broadcast class the day before and the day after the party.  Wondering how I did it all? I am, too! Honestly, it’s all about time management and organization.

Here are a few ideas about how to make this time of year (holidays, final projects, etc.) a little easier on those who may have too many irons in the fire.

  1. Use a planner. No really, you NEED it! I don’t think I could function without mine! I may be a little old-school because I actually use a paper planner, but using the calendar function on your phone or computer will work, too. Knowing what you have going on each day will hopefully help relieve the burden a little.

  2. Make a list—either on paper or, again, on your phone/computer. Knowing what you need before you go to the store is easier than trying to figure it out once you get there. Believe me, I know this from experience! Also, allotting time to certain activities (shopping, meetings, assignments, doctor appointments, etc.) will be much easier if you know how many activities you actually have!

  3. Kill two birds with one stone, if possible. By that, I mean plan out what you need do/buy (the internet is great for this), and try to do as much of it as possible in one place or one area of town. It will cut down on wasted time and gas. I attempted to do this at Party City yet again this year. I love that place! All of Hannah’s party themes/decorations have come from Party City. Not only that, but they have Halloween stuff, too! I was hoping it would be my one-stop shop this year, but I ended up driving all over town looking at other Halloween costumes because Sean and I couldn’t decide on a theme. And here you go—wasted time and gas! Utilize your resources as much as you can, and know your destination before you leave the house.

  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I assigned a couple food-related tasks to family members to help me with the party, and my husband took on the responsibility of cleaning the house (oh, how I love him!). I was able to focus on decorating, ordering and picking up the balloons and cake, keeping track of the number of attendees and ensuring that Hannah took a bath and a nap before guests arrived. I often decline help from others, but I knew how much I could handle, and the extra help was certainly appreciated.

    I’ll leave you with just one last tip for today, but it should go without saying:

  5. Take every opportunity to enjoy the time you spend with your children. Even if Hannah’s party hadn’t turned out as I had planned, or if we stay home together and do nothing on Halloween, at least I’ll know that I was there, soaking up every minute with Hannah I possibly could.


A little food for thought

19 Oct

Even when you’re busy trying to be a student and a parent, it’s nice to take a break and get out of the house for a few hours. This weekend Sean and I took Hannah to P.F. Chang’s to have lunch with our family, and even though I couldn’t help but think of all the homework I had waiting for me when I got home, I still managed to enjoy my time out.

Hannah also found ways of enjoying herself, including trying to learn how to use chopsticks. We all found this quite amusing (hence the picture below) until she used them as drumsticks and began banging them on the table. This is where my opinion about taking your children out to restaurants comes in: If your experience becomes less than pleasurable because your child is bored or doesn’t want to be there, it’s probably time to leave. Why stay if you can’t even enjoy it?

Now in this case, Sean and I were able to easily take the chopsticks away from Hannah to keep her from disturbing other patrons (once I took a quick picture), but we have been in other situations where we decided to leave a restaurant earlier than planned because we just could not get Hannah to settle down. We’re now quite familiar with the game plan, too: One of us will take her to the car while the other one gets the check as quickly as possible. It’s certainly NOT how we like to do things, but it has been known to happen. We give ourselves credit, though, for knowing when it’s time to go. I have seen many parents let their children run amok in restaurants, and before I became a parent, I could not understand this. And now, as a parent, I still do not understand this.

One particular example stands out in my mind. I used to be a server (or waitress—whatever you want to call it) at a restaurant in Albuquerque, and we had a guest who would come in with her child fairly often. The child was probably about six or seven, and to my knowledge, he had some developmental challenges. I remember feeling terrible for this little boy because his mom would sit at the table nonchalantly sipping on a glass (or two or three) of wine while he yelled and smashed macaroni and cheese into the carpet. Why? Probably because he was bored, and he wasn’t receiving attention from his mom.

On one of their visits, the boy knocked an unopened bottle of wine off the shelf behind their table and hit the guest sitting at the next table. The mom didn’t seem too terribly concerned about the incident. To be fair, I’m sure it can be exceedingly difficult/stressful to raise a child with developmental delays, and I’m sure she just wanted to get out of the house and relax. That being said, I could never understand why this woman would take her son out for what I would have considered an opportunity to bond, and then completely ignore him. Not only did she ignore him, but she ignored his behavior, which caused many a scene in the restaurant. I remember having to walk up to that guest who was hit with the wine bottle and ask him if he was ok. It was mortifying, and I wasn’t even the one who had done it!

My point is, I really don’t see anything wrong with taking your children out to eat, as long as you ensure that they are enjoying the experience as much as you are. It can be a great opportunity to get out of the house and forget about all the other stuff you have to do, if only for an hour or two.

Here’s a little info about two of our favorite “family-friendly” restaurants:

Paradise Bakery: Their food is fresh and healthy. I love that they serve fruit or yogurt as a side item for the kids’ meal instead of chips or fries.

Cheesecake Factory: They provide toddlers with a complimentary plate of fruit and bread upon arrival.

Both restaurants have consistently amazing food and amazing service. They also have several items for children to choose from and are willing to make adjustments to the order (P.F. Chang’s did that for us this weekend, too, which was great). Plus, they don’t treat you poorly because you dared to bring children into their restaurant!

Breaking the Rules–Part 2

11 Oct

As promised, this week I am discussing another rule-breaking topic: television. Before I go there, though, I want to talk about reading.

Karen Elliott, mother to 30-year-old Kenton and grandmother to his two young sons, Shawn and Wayne, has a strong opinion about reading. “One thing I think is CRITICAL, I have to say it twice, CRITICAL, is read to your children every darn day. I mean it. My grand[children] get books every day. There are loads of teaching opportunities for busy parents – road signs, labels, game boxes. And colors and shapes are everywhere,” Karen said.

I think these are fantastic ideas, and as I have learned with Hannah, it’s pretty easy to make a boring car ride educational by talking about colors and shapes we see out the windows.

When it comes to reading, Sarah Ledgerwood thinks her young daughter, Amelia, is definitely benefitting. “I believe that reading to her and explaining daily routines has contributed to her language explosion!” she said.

Reading is certainly a great tool for language development, and the proof can be found in spending just a few minutes talking to a child who reads (or is read to) on a regular basis.

Tiah Vagnoni, mother to 2-year-old Ricky, agrees. “It always puts a smile on my face when I see him flipping through the pages, ‘reading’ the book out loud,” she said.

While most parents would agree that reading is a terrific activity, there is also some value to television. I don’t think allowing your child to sit in front of it all day is a good idea, but Hannah watches Nick Jr. and PBS, and she has learned so much! She constantly surprises me! Lately she has taken up singing, so she is learning the words to many of the songs she hears on her favorite shows, such as Yo Gabba Gabba, The Backyardigans and Olivia.

Hannah also loves movies, but we watch them less often than TV shows, making them more of a “treat” for her. A few days ago, my husband, Sean, recorded Hannah while she was watching Shrek. Check out the video below. (By the way, that tattoo on her arm is temporary, I swear!)

Although I know Hannah enjoys watching TV, I would like her to watch it less often. This is something Sean and I need to work on together. But realistically, how can we expect her to stay away from the TV entirely when we watch it? That’s just not going to happen. In all honesty, though, I have found some great shows for children that have excellent educational value.

Many of my friends understand what I’m going through. “I swore he’d never watch TV – we even got rid of cable! Now movies are the only reason I get a break. Thank goodness for Dora,” Tiah said. I have to agree with Tiah. I’m often thankful for Dora, too!

Sarah faces a similar situation. “I swore she would never watch TV… now she is obsessed with Mickey Mouse clubhouse,” she said.

I know some parents are more strict about TV watching than I am, but I’m working on it!

“We all have the best of intentions for our children, but when it comes down to it… they are kids. The little things we let go of just don’t matter. That’s why we break the ‘rules,’” said Brittany Bruch Gould, mother to Jake.

“I think becoming a parent teaches us that it’s ok to break the rules,” Brittany added. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Brittany.

Breaking the Rules

5 Oct

One of the biggest issues parents face is how to raise their children the “right” way. In fact, I’m not sure there is anything bigger than this when it comes to parenting (and I’m not exactly sure what “right” means, but I’m trying to grasp the general idea). I recently started reading a great blog called 4 Mothers, and the title of one of the posts was, “I was a better mom before I had kids.” It discusses many of the rules parents make and break. Before having children, it seems that most people have some guidelines they intend to follow, anticipating that all will go as planned. As many of us have learned, parenting is not that straightforward. We have also learned that these rules we created before having kids were not as realistic as we thought.

I asked a couple of my friends, who are multitasking mamas, if they have ever broken any parenting rules, and I received some great feedback. It made me realize that I am not the only mom who had to make some adjustments.

I obtained quite a bit of information on various topics, so for this week, I just want to look at two: pacifiers (for the younger kiddos) and eating habits (for all ages).

“I swore my child would never have a pacifier… He used it till after his first birthday,” said Brittany Bruch Gould, a college student and mother to two-year-old Jake.

I faced the anti-pacifier issue, too, and I remember being upset when one of the nurses in the hospital urged Hannah to take one a day or two after she was born. Although Hannah had extenuating health-related circumstances (and the pacifier helped soothe her), I still was infuriated because I hadn’t initially intended for her to use it. Why? Because I read in a book that it wasn’t a good idea. Do you know how hard it is NOT to give your child a pacifier at some point, though? I’m not saying all parents give in, but I know I’m not alone. Hannah continued to use a pacifier until a few months before her second birthday, and then my husband and I decided it was time to get rid of it. The pacifier-weaning process took about a week, but it wasn’t as horrible as we had expected. My point is, giving your children a pacifier is not the worst thing in the world. Just make sure you get rid of it before they start high school.

Another issue involves what to feed your children, especially if you are trying to juggle more than just parenting.

“I swore I would make all of my own pureed baby food and only did it once!” said Sarah Ledgerwood, who is also a college student and mother to 21-month-old Amelia.

Brittany can relate to that food struggle. “I said I would only feed him healthy, well-rounded meals, but he often eats chicken nuggets and French fries (usually just eats the fries).”

Providing food that is as healthy as possible can often be easier said than done, especially when a parent is trying to balance family with school, work, etc. I definitely struggle with this. I try not to give Hannah fast food too often, but every once in a while she’ll have chicken nuggets (I remove the breading, but still…), and she, like Jake, loves fries. Does this make me feel guilty? Yes! But I realize these types of meals are the exception, not the rule, and she generally eats really well.

Perhaps making your own baby food won’t fit into your busy schedule, but making healthy choices for your children as often as possible is a great way to instill good eating habits later.

As Brittany said, “Given the choice between broccoli and French fries, he chooses broccoli.” I’m not sure what this says about me as a parent, but I know for a fact Hannah would choose the fries…

Next week: Too much TV and not enough reading!