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Booze Bombs

6 Jul

I’m behind on all my favorite blogs, so I missed this post from Mighty Girl. Since Seattle is just starting to enjoy summer this is actually perfect timing.

I’ll bet this would work well with Apriums, small plums, or large strawberries. I’ll try and report back next week.

Shots in ‘Cots:

They’re easy to make. Three steps:

1. Test your apricots to make sure they’ll stand up on their bums.
2. While your apricot is standing on a flat surface, take a metal cap (I used one from a booze bottle), and press it into the stem end.
3. Use a knife or small spoon to pull out the top and the pit beneath.

Thanks, Maggie!


Healthy Happy Hour

25 Jun

When my toddler helps empty the recycling and holds up a bottle saying “Mama beer?” I feel a motherly pang. However, when I search my conscience I realize that I’d rather my child find beer bottles than pop cans. She sees the adults around her cook and eat healthy foods and enjoy snacks in moderation. She watches us drink water and coffee and beer/wine (and occasionally cocktails, which is her only reference point for juice). We’re healthy, loving, responsible grownups who actively engage with smart, physically active kids. Even digging deep into my mom psyche, I can’t feel guilty about alcohol being part of our lifestyle.

I didn’t drink while I was pregnant. I intended to, but as it happened I had a huge aversion to alcohol–that’s actually how I realized I was pregnant. My pregnancy nausea was moderate but persistent and pretty much everything except really spicy teriyaki set me off for a very long time. After the nausea was (mostly) resolved, even smelling alcohol made me queasy. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to enjoy a glass of wine with my sweetie and a little relieved I didn’t have to deal with people giving me dirty looks while I drank it. Both scientific evidence and several thousands of generations of humans (including our own) show that it’s safe for the average pregnant woman to consume some amount of alcohol without causing serious harm to her fetus. There are always exceptions and I’m not here to debate the issue–though you’re free to do so.

This post in The Awl is a lovely summary of how morally/emotionally fuzzy the issue of drinking while pregnant can be: “Moderation has served me well in life up to this point and I’d like to think that I have good instincts. What are instincts in a pregnancy, though? We’re told to listen to the voice inside of us that says when it’s time to relax and take it easy, when it’s time to call the doctor. But my instincts also led me to think I know my body well enough to know how to treat it when I’m pregnant which includes drinking. Which is or isn’t wrong. So should I not have listened to myself? Or listen at some times and not others?”

The science on drinking while nursing is much more clear and the evidence is overwhelming that moderate alcohol consumption does not harm a breastfed infant.. Alcohol content in breast milk is the same as alcohol blood volume (ABV). Even if your ABV is high enough to impair your ability to drive a car, your breastmilk will not significantly harm your baby. Alcohol inhibits production and some studies show that babies will refuse the breast if significant amounts of alcohol are present in the milk. If you’re pumping and storing milk, there’s a chance you’ll expose the baby to more total alcohol than if you’re nursing directly. There is no need to or benefit from pumping milk & disposing of it. “Pump & dump” does not clear your system of alcohol.

Here’s the bigger picture: if you’re drunk enough that you’re seriously worried about alcohol content of your milk, you’re probably too drunk to safely & responsibly parent. Forget about nursing–you probably shouldn’t be holding an infant or caring for a young child alone. If you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption (amount and/or frequency) talk to your health care provider–not your pediatrician.

I’m not joking when I say beer makes me a better parent. When I’ve had a beer, I’m more relaxed and find it easier to let the little things (messy play, a little whining) go. When I’ve had a beer, I can laugh more freely and forget how irritated I was about the kid not napping or the rice burning.  Continue reading

Parenting while distracted

14 Jun

The Prime Minister of England forgot his kid in a pub. It’s international news.  Because the location happened to be a pub instead of a tea shop, tongues are wagging doubletime. I highly doubt this incident had anything to do with alcohol consumption–both parents were probably sober enough.When you think about it, it’s surprising this doesn’t happen more often. 3 kids in 2 cars with lots of extra adults milling about is a setup for forgetting someone.

Let’s focus on how Cameron’s policies affect all kids in England, not on how his 8 year old daughter spent 15 minutes waiting for her parents to collect her from a pub.

Seattle Center Next 50

14 Jun

People often forget that much of Seattle Center is public space. There are some fantastic activities within the Center grounds that require a fee for entry, but there are also tons of ways to enjoy yourself for free. There are also two businesses as of June 2012 that sell beer–Pie and the burger joint. Many events feature beer gardens, which will not allow your kid but can be navigated if you plan your visit with extra adults. Lots of  potential happiness!

We almost always take the Monorail, because it’s cool. It’s cash only, so be prepared. Get a round trip ticket only if you can remember where you left your ticket stub… Kids under 4 are free.

These are 50 ideas I came up with off the top of my head/with a little digging on the Seattle Center website. What will your next 50 visits to Seattle Center be like?

    1. Learn more about the history & current activities at the Seattle Center via a self-guided tour
    2. Watch people wander the grounds
    3. Picnic in the grassy areas (or inside on one of the adorable toddler tables)
    4. Run in the grass
    5. Watch a free outdoor movie 
    6. Winterfest trains and more
    7. Watch skaters do tricks at the skate park
    8. Enjoy a great workout as part of the Seattle Center Fitness Programs
    9. Build a tower or slide down a slide in the family room upstairs in the Armory (formerly known as the Center House)
    10. Attend a Concert at the Mural–FREE live music brought to you by KEXP!
    11. Play in/around the International Fountain (big fountain with great music)
    12. Check out some art 
    13. Splash in the Fountain of Creation near the Vera Project
    14. Watch the elevator go up and down the Space Needle
    15. Climb on/jump off rocks
    16. Watch buskers perform all year round
    17. Bite of Seattle (free admission)
    18. Seafair Torchlight Parade 7/28
    19. Indigenous Cultures Day 8/18
    20. Seattle Symphony Community Celebration 10/21
    21. Community Created Events:
    22. June 2nd – Robothon
    23. June 21st – Go Skateboarding Day
    24. June 24th – Seattle Bot Battles 10
    25. July 14th – Spirit Walk
    26. July 19th – 31st – Seattle League of Arts – Art Show & Sale
    27. July 29th – Hispanic Seafair
    28. July 29th – Shakespeare in the Park
    29. Sept. 23rd – Arts Crush Kick-Off
    30. Oct. 7th – Buddy Walk
    31. Northwest Folklife Festival + 19 other FREE festivals throughout the year as part of Festal

Folklife 2012

Bubbles and wine

14 Jun
high chair happy hour by melissajonas
high chair happy hour, a photo by melissajonas on Flickr.

Sometimes High Chair Happy Hour is sitting by the tub with a glass of wine while the 2 year old plays.

Packing Light

30 May
Untitled by melissajonas
Untitled, a photo by melissajonas on Flickr.

I’m not generally a competitive parent, but I’ll admit I’m pretty darn proud of my ability to carry a small bag with great toys.

I’ve always been highly motivated to bring as little as possible when traveling. Now that I have a kid, traveling can mean a plane ride cross country or a light rail hop downtown. Either way, I bring as little as possible while still trying to make sure we have what we truly need. (Most of the same principals apply for flying with a kid–but that’s another post.)

The basics for all ages:

  • parent essentials: wallet, keys, phone. I wear these in a small string bag that never leaves my body.
  • diapers (and/or undies) & wipes–enough for at least 2 changes
  • change of clothes and a bag to carry wet things home
  • snacks (for parent and/or kid)
  • weather gear–sunscreen, extra hat, etc. to ensure that you can comfortably play outside
  • toys/books (for parent and/or kid)

If you haven’t spent much time around kids, you might not realize that the toys & books are probably the most important thing on this list. Pull out toys when you’re on the train, waiting for your order, or waiting for the check. I rely heavily on environmental distractions (dogs in the lobby, bus out the window, etc) but good purse toys are key. You need something portable and fun, but not precious enough that if it gets lost or dropped on a public bathroom floor the kid will freak out.

Some of our favorites have been: finger puppets, plastic eggs with surprises inside, a mini slinky, stickers, small cars, small dolls, etc. She loves the tiny clay I packed, but I’m reluctant to pull it out unless we’re going to be somewhere for a long time. It can be messy and it’s oil based, so we need to at least wipe hands if we’re going to eat. Sometimes I bring a couple of crayons, often I just let her scribble with the pen I keep in my purse. I sometimes carry small board books. This Richard Scarry is one of our mutual favorites–it’s a great size and has a lot going on. I try to avoid relying on gadgets, but a few good apps on your phone can keep an older toddler or preschooler happy. We like simple puzzles and have found some good coloring and bubble apps.

Snacks are also key to keeping your monkey happy. Pack portable, interesting snacks like: cucumbers with salt (vinegar if you really trust your container), carrot sticks, hummus, raisins, apple slices, olives, cheese & turkey cubes, etc. I found some great reusable cloth bags that help cut down our plastic consumption a lot. We’ve never been big on sippy cups, but I shared my travel mug with the kid until we finally lost it.  I generally only bring her water bottle when we’re using the stroller or driving–it’s heavy and we’d both be sad when it got lost. Try to pack things your kid will eat this trip. No one wants week old raisins or the same stale pretzels. If you pack food you (the parent) will eat, it won’t go bad.

Pack as little as you need in the smallest bag you can find. Bonus points if you bring a string bag inside your regular bag for shopping trips, etc. Not only is this environmentally responsible, it means you’re less likely to leave purchases somewhere–you’ll notice that string bag on the playground, but you might walk away from a plastic bag.

Remember to check your bag when you get home from an outing. Toss or launder anything you used and replace as needed. If you haven’t used any clothes lately, make sure they still fit and are the correct season.

Don’t be afraid to borrow or buy something you forgot. If you live in a city, you’re probably never far from somewhere that will sell you wipes or snacks. When out with friends, pay it forward by offering a diaper–you’ll need one someday. You can also improvise–paper towels doused in the sink work well if you forgot wipes, for example. When all else fails, head home.

I pack light so I can chase my toddler without abandoning my stuff. I like to be able to take the escalator or stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. Mostly, I prefer to know where everything is at all times–including the kid. If I’m rummaging through 3 pairs of pants to find the raisins I’m positive I threw in the diaper bag, I may not notice when my daughter hides under the table at the library.

Parenting is a job

25 May

I may not get benefits or L&I protection, but at least OSHA can’t keep me from drinking at my job site-. Unlike these guys, who are are going to have a rough time. Sounds like they’ll at least remain employed. I’m only slightly concerned their alcohol consumption may create a safety hazard, though it sounds like they’re not the most discreet consumers of alcohol on the market. They might be less than responsible in other aspects of their job. Who knows? It’s not as interesting a story to investigate if they’re actually doing a good job and may have been celebrating at work. Maybe there’s real news here, maybe it’s just a chance for reporters to collect comments on a story. Let’s all hope that the 520 bridge will be okay.

I often joke that beer makes us better parents, and I believe this can be true. Moderate alcohol consumption is a part of our culture, and social drinking is an opportunity to relax and connect. Booze can help us unwind and give us a little perspective on how important the kid’s undesirable behavior really is. It tastes good. I like it.

All jokes aside, drink responsibly. Model the kind of behavior you hope to see when your kid (almost inevitably) explores alcohol. Buy good beer. Recycle your bottles & cans. Don’t drive or parent drunk. Engage your friends if you’re concerned about their habits–ask directly how they are and tell them if you think you see a problem. Be responsive and thoughtful if someone engages you. If it’s a matter of a teetotaler judging your beer-a-night habit, feel free to let them know you appreciate their concern but you respectfully disagree. (Or tell them to go to hell–your call.) If it’s a matter of a close friend sharing their concern that you always have a drink in your hand…well, pay attention.

Alcohol addiction and outright inebriation are unsafe and unhealthy for the individual, their family and friends, and the greater community. Please, drink responsibly. Be happy, not stupid.

Save the sitter for banjo lessons

24 May

I love going out without my kid sometimes. We all need a break, and couples definitely benefit from time to connect without distraction. That said, families don’t have to live on boxed pasta or fast food while kids are young.

Seattle Times food writer Rebekeh Denn misses the point in her list of 10 restaurants to not bring your kid. Denn’s recent article “Get a sitter — please — for these 10 great date-night restaurants” suggests that parents can’t enjoy good food (much less good wine) with their kids around.

The chefs of at least a couple of the eateries disagree. I don’t have much to add to Jason Wilson’s (chef at Crush) comment:

“I think that adults can often be as mis-behaved as some children in restaurants, but a family enjoying dinner together trumps any assumption of formality, its a very important part of our culture,” he said.

There’s a “should” missing from that statement. Family enjoying dinner together should be an important part of our culture. Unfortunately, as Denn’s article makes clear, it’s not. Kids should be included at the family table and should be able to enjoy a variety of foods. When we exclude them and limit their diet, how will that ever happen?

Pit of despair

23 May

While Vios on Capitol Hill is often quite delightful and the public space in Lake Forest Park Third Place has many charms, most of the time I avoid eateries that cater to parents by creating an area dedicated to small children (aka kid pits). I hate kid pits. Not because they’re germy. Not because the toys are often broken. Not even because every single place I’ve ever visited that has a kid pit is usually crazy loud and staffed by martyrs who may have once enjoyed children but now can barely make eye contact with a parent. (Though all these things are, sadly, true.)

I hate kid pits because there is a subset of parents who use their existence as an opportunity to avoid parenting. Parents who bring their children out to eat and expect to be able to ignore them. Parents who allow their children to shout, destroy things, beat on other kids and create a moving obstacle course for servers and other parents to avoid. People who bring special food into a restaurant and do not order or tip accordingly. Sure, sometimes you need to bust out the raisin stash to keep a child happy while you’re waiting for the appetizer. However, if your child can’t/won’t eat anything sold at the establishment, maybe you shouldn’t bring her there. At the very least, ask your server if outside food is permitted.  Also, please consider ordering something extra for takeout.  (Obvious exception for babies not yet on solids.)

If you want your child to enjoy dining out and to be enjoyable companions, it takes effort. Going out with kids under 10 means compromise: eating earlier (and faster), leaving before you’re really ready, bringing toys, cleaning up your mess. It means tipping better and encouraging your children to say hello, thank you, and goodbye. Parenting in public is hard, and sometimes unrewarding. It’s also critical in helping your kid become a functional member of society–totally worth the effort. I avoid kid pits because they give my kid a chance to observe (and, god forbid, practice) exactly the opposite of how we want her to behave.

High Chair Happy Hour

17 May

Why High Chair Happy Hour? Because parents deserve to be happy, too.

Happy Hour can be the perfect meal to dine out with kids. Portions are small (and often cheap), the menu is limited, service is fast. What more could a parent want? (Besides a sitter, which is a whole other post.) Most places host HH somewhere between 3pm-7pm. It’s that time of day when many businesses are slow, offering specials to get early diners in the door. We sometimes call it “cheap early dinner”.  Then there are those challenging days when it’s “close enough to 3, dear God open a beer”.  At home it’s “first dinner”. If you’re enjoying Happy Hour at home, make the most of it: invite friends, make fancy drinks, eat good food. If all else fails, text someone “cheers” and pour yourself something special while you eat the stale Pirate’s Booty from lunch.

If you’re going out for Happy Hour with a kid, here are some strategies for success:

  • Know in advance if the venue allows kids in the area that has Happy Hour prices. Some places only serve HH in the bar and charge full menu prices in the main dining area. Call if it’s not clear on their website.
  • Have a backup plan in case the information you get is wrong (hours have changed, business is closed on that day, etc).
  • Check out the menu online (or in the window) to be sure there’s something your kid will eat, and so you can order immediately.
  • Enjoy your meal (and your beverage!) but eat quickly.
  • Treat your kid(s) like dining companion(s). Engage them–at whatever age. Don’t expect to ignore them and talk to a grownup. If I were parked to the side while my friends chatted, I’d be more than “fussy”.
  • Bring small, fantastic toys that no one will mind losing. (Look for a post on this soon.)
  • Ditch the stroller/car seat. Bring a baby carrier or carry the kid in your arms. If you’re already out with a stroller & having a spontaneous HH (good for you!), ask if you can leave the stroller with the hostess or if there’s somewhere specific they’d like you to park.
  • Ask for the check as soon as your food arrives. You can still linger over your meal/drink, but it’s easier to leave when you need to if you’ve already paid.
  • Have an exit strategy in case your kid is struggling. If you’re hoping to meet friends, make it clear you may have to leave early. Be at peace with leaving half your beer.
  • Be friendly to your server, clean up after your kid, and tip well–at least 20%,  up to 30% if you’re leaving a mess and/or one of your party had a meltdown. 

My kid just turned 2. We’ve been taking her out since a few days after birth and still enjoy Happy Hour regularly–at home and out.  We should all be happy as often as possible. Whether you’re grabbing a handful of raisins at the kitchen counter, sipping a fancy cocktail in a swanky lounge or enjoying a beer in your travel mug while you push the stroller–get happy!