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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?

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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!

Dress for Success

12 Nov

How do you dress to take a kid out in a Cliff Mass worthy storm (or even just an average November afternoon)?  Here’s what we’ve found works well, but I’m curious how others manage.

Layers: a young baby needs to wear at least 1 layer more than you. She’s not walking or hauling another person around.

Minimize: toddlers and older children should have the maximum warmth/waterproofing with the minimum possible number of items. Carry extra clothes and expect to lose socks, hats, rain pants, boots, and other items that you don’t expect to but will somehow lose. Better yet, invest in a small sturdy backpack and have them carry these items (along with snacks, toys, etc–another post).

Focus on top and bottom: both the head and feet leak heat and both are easy for baby to uncover. I always stash a hat in my pocket and dress the kid in a jacket with a hood. If she loses two hats, at least we have some protection. Same with socks: a pair on the feet, a pair in my pocket, and footie outerwear. (Our fuzzy pants have puppy faces…aww!)

Use your pockets: you might not even need a diaper bag if you have enough pockets. Inside jacket, vest, raincoat–more than enough space for everything we need. I carry a small collapsible shopping bag for bringing home any purchases.

Product mentions: the Ergo Baby carrier has great pockets and a built in rain hood. You can also buy additional items that attach to the carrier–a diaper bag & a carry pouch.  The Moby is easier to wear when you don’t plan to take the carrier off for a while and it adds a layer of warmth. I found a vest and poncho on Suze’s Kinder , a site that specializes in outerwear for baby wearing. So far, I like the poncho. The vest has arm holes and can be used when carrying baby on the front or back. I like it, but I’m concerned that the zippers might not last long.

Parties, potlucks, and play dates

8 Nov

Stay in touch with your friends.

Invite people over–even when your house is a mess and you have no food. You can always order in. True friends will understand if you ask them to pick up take out or grab a bottle of wine on the way over.   When people ask you to bring the baby over, take them up on it. Always say yes to invitations and don’t worry about being a little late, not having a hostess gift or perhaps having not showered. Friends understand.

People with kids seem like a logical choice for spending time around your little one, but don’t forget those in your life who don’t have kids in the house. Your life has changed, and maybe it seems all you talk/think about is your child, but spending social time with other adults helps you connect with other parts of your identity.

Babies are great ice breakers.

We live in Beacon Hill, an incredibly diverse neighborhood currently experiencing a baby boom. There are 3 babies under one year on our block and at least 20 kids under 5 in a half-mile radius. Since the baby was born, we’ve  met lots of new friends and had the opportunity to pass around baby clothes and gear. We’ve also met baby sitters and learned survival tips from seasoned parenting veterans. When you see someone with a small child in tow, smile and introduce yourself.

It’s not cheating to order online

Would you like to host a play date or holiday party but you’re overwhelmed by the idea of shopping? Place an order with Amazon Fresh while the menu is fresh on your mind (or monitor) and it will be delivered to your door on the day of your choice.  If you plan to be home during the delivery, you can even order beer or wine.  I’ve pre-ordered my Thanksgiving items to be delivered the Monday before Thanksgiving, giving me plenty of time to realize what I’ve forgotten.

Regular scheduled deliveries have been a life saver for essentials like coffee, baby wipes, and other items we can’t go without. Every Wednesday morning, grocery essentials appear like magic on the porch. For the critters, we have a monthly delivery from Smiley Dog , a friendly local business that delivers high quality pet supplies–never run out of cat litter again!

Thinking of holiday gifts? Gift certificates for deliveries make great gifts for new parents and busy people in general.

Highchair Happy Hour

28 Oct

Happy hour is my favorite time to dine out. It’s cheaper and often less crowded than the usual dinner hour. Small plates mean I get to try more items on the menu and dinner at 4pm fits our schedule well (I usually eat another small meal around 8pm). Before baby, we frequently ate an early happy hour dinner downtown.

Where can you take a baby for happy hour? Hotel bars/restaurants are perfect! The women’s restrooms are usually large and comfortable, perfect for changing a wiggly baby and/or nursing in privacy. Spacious lobbies offer a place to walk around with the baby or let your little crawler stretch.

Our favorite hotel happy hour is at  Sazerac in the Hotel Monaco.  Located across the street from the fantastic Central Library, Sazerac serves strong cocktails, thin-crust pizzas, and an amazing selection of small plates. The acoustics are poor, which makes it a little loud for intimate conversation–perfect for those of us with a vocal baby! Sazerac extends the happy hour menu into the regular dining room, and will seat you in a cozy booth if you get there early.

Looking for something smaller in your neighborhood?

Tidbit Bistro on Capitol Hill (corner of Broadway & Union) also has a great happy hour and incredibly tasty food. The owners are friendly and welcoming to babies, too.

Tasha’s Bistro has happy hour Thurs-Sat. Great wines and really tasty food in a family-friendly environment.

Baja Bistro has happy hour specials from 3-7pm.

Island Soul Caribbean Cuisine features fantastic food at a range of spice levels and outstanding cocktails. The bright decor and welcoming smiles make baby and mama stay long enough to enjoy a slice of coconut cake.

Calamity Jane’s in Georgetown has food and drink specials at happy hour. Kids allowed in main dining area.

Not all restaurants extend happy hour into the main dining area. When in doubt, check before you go.

Beer makes us better parents

19 Oct

We live just about a mile from Jefferson Park. Baby fell asleep walking over there yesterday, en route, so we stopped off at Victrola for coffee–yum! When we arrived at the park, she was still asleep, so we strolled around the park and watched the big kids tumble down the slide. Still asleep…what to do?

After a brief debate about why we’ve never gone there, we decided to check out the Jefferson Park Golf Course snack bar. Cue celestial singing–they have NFL Sunday Ticket! And beer! And fried things! Children are allowed! This is exactly what this Beacon Hill family needs. Baby gets to enjoy the park, mom and dad get to unwind with a frosty cold one.

Becoming a parent shouldn’t mean giving up the things you love. I love football and beer. Baby loves happy parents.

  • Location & hours of operation: (206) 763-6412 4101 Beacon Ave S Seattle, WA 98108;
  • Transit access and/or parking: parking available, walking distance from the Light Rail Station or take the #36 bus
  • Accessibility for strollers & little legs: no stairs
  • Cost: reasonable (less than $10)
  • Activities & safety issues: walking distance to Jefferson Park, golf & mini golf on-site, televisions
  • Food/drink (for kids and adults): Beer, wine, cocktails & snack food (cheeseburgers, fries, etc)
  • Restrooms and changing table: table in women’s room, not technically a changing table but it works
  • Overall welcome (or not) towards kids & babies: very family friendly