Traveling without kids when you have kids

I am in Prague for work this week.  I traveled all the way here by way of a connection in Amsterdam, all by myself.  It was weird.

Before Ike, and even before Isaac, I traveled alone all the time.  I loved it.  I traveled for work and for fun.  I met friends here and there, I went home a lot, I did a job for three years where I traveled 40% of the time.  Air travel is kind of my comfort zone.

But when Ike came along, travel became something so different from what I was used to.  There was no more grab a backpack and slip through security.  There was no squeeze on the last standby seat on a flight.  There was no staring at the departure board and choosing “ummm there, let’s go there today”.  Now travel involves: one checked suitcase, one checked carseat, a stroller, a pile of diapers, a bagful of snack, milk in sippy cups, and so much planning!

This time, here I am, all alone, with my lone carry-on suitcase and my laptop, checking around for a toddler using the airport as his personal jungle gym, but he is not here.  There is no one to chase or feed or entertain, just me and my earbuds.  Ha! I could never listen to music or even thing about watching TV with Ike, but I breezed through my layover with a Ed Sheran and Sam Smith heavy playlist and an episode of Justified with my feet up and a Starbucks I drank while it’s still hot.

Admittedly I was kind of guiltily looking forward to traveling on my own.  I can sit in Business Class, I can sleep on the plane, I can have wine without grubby little fingers spilling it on my neighbor.  But in reality, it was super lonely and a bit boring.  And plus there’s no stroller for me to put my laptop bag in so I had to lug it around on my shoulder.

Traveling with kids is hard but now so is traveling without them.

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Cooking with your Kids

Articles upon articles and books upon books say that cooking with your children is a wonderful opportunity to teach and bond with them.   Including children in the meal preparation process gives them a sense of accomplishment. They can take pride in assisting to prepare a family dinner. They are more likely to be adventurous eaters.

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In fact, meal prep is a large part of the “care for the environment” principal of Montessori education. The children at Ike’s school from the toddler communities and up take an active role in preparing the snacks and lunches eaten at school. Children are given real cooking utensils and real jobs to help in the cooking process, including tiny little toddler-sized knives to cut vegetables with.

This independence that Montessori principals are rooted in are what attracted me to the eductation style. I do believe that children learn more by doing actual work rather than simulated play or observing someone else work.

The experts claim that you can begin to include your kids in the kitchen at any age. So, Ike at 17 months does help me with the food management at home.   Ike usually accompanies me to the grocery store. He always has. When he was very young, he taste-tested the veggies that got too close to his face as he rode along in the Mei Tai tied to my hip.   When he was a little older he helped by hanging on to products from the front of the shopping cart. He seemed to have an affinity for carby type things now instead of the vegetables he adored in the carrier. Now he is happy to help me push the shopping cart, although he cannot see to steer, he’s fine with just plugging away and barreling through any obstacles that may be in his way…people, other carts, products, shelves.

In the kitchen, Ike typically prefers to stand just between me and the food I am preparing. He can be entertained in the kitchen though. He likes to spread things on toast and crackers with his little toddler butter knife, which is more like a tiny spatula but don’t tell him. He also loves to close the refrigerator and reorganize the pantry for me. He’s very interested in what is bubbling or sizzling away on the stove, so I try to give him a peak as often as he likes. He checks out the various pots and pans and I tell him what everything is and that he cannot touch it because it’s hot. “Hot” he repeats and proceeds to lean his face into the steam.

So come on over to our house for supper, Ike’s cooking. What’s on the menu?

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Cheerios delicately sautéed with a potato masher!

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Yum!

Maternity Leave in America

Did you know, that in Sweden, Mothers AND Fathers are guaranteed paid family leave when a child is born or adopted?  Do you know how much?

SIXTEEN MONTHS!  That is 64 weeks.  That is 448 days!  That is time that the mother and the father can share to be with their baby (or child since they are entitled to use this time any way they wish for 8 years!).

Do you know what we are guaranteed here in America?

ZERO months, ZERO weeks, and ZERO days of paid leave.

As Americans, we tend to consider ourselves innovators, leaders, and generally superior beings.  We taught progressive thinking, freedom of speech, education, and the American Dream.  As a woman, and now a mother, my version of the American Dream has a few holes.

One hundred and seventy eight countries around the world guarantee paid leave for women to care for their newborn children.  Nearly 200 countries, surely our progressive nation is one of them right?  No.  We are not.  Women are guaranteed a job when they return from maternity leave, a time of 12 weeks.  But compensation is not required by law.  In fact, if you are a women in the workforce and you happen to work for a company with less than 50 employees (which accounts for about half of the companies in America), the company does not even have to retain your position if you take leave to have a child.

The “America Dream” is the idea that anyone, anyone, can achieve prosperity and success through hard work.  Should that include a caveat that you have to chose hard work at home or at a career?  Should it be a forced decision?  As women, don’t we have enough “glass ceilings” to shatter?

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How did it happen that law makers argue year over year about a woman’s right to choose, but not a woman’s right to chose both a career and a family?

Women make up just 14.6% of the executive leadership position for private industries, although they makeup 52% of the professional workforce.   Women in STEM fields see an even larger gender gap.  Is there a connection?  How many of us are feeling pressure to choose career over family?  How many of us leave the working world to care for our families  because there isn’t a good support system?  What are we losing as a country when women, successful contributors to our industry, part from their careers to care for their children?

I’m a little late for myself, since I didn’t do this research before or even during my own pregnancy. Maybe it was better, not knowing, because leave in the US is horrifically disparaging in comparison with developed countries around the world.

My specific company has no paid leave, but they have a leave package and short term disability options.  All of which is kept buried under a sea of HR documentation, none of which is readily available to employees or their supervisors.  I’ve been through the process now, and I am still not really sure how it all works.  At my particular building there is a parents’ network (as of 2015) and there is a mother’s room that is available should women return to work and wish to continue breastfeeding.  There is one room…ONE…in a building that employees about 8,000 people.  That room?  Has two chairs.  Two stations for TWO women to pump milk at once.  This is considered a nice benefit and a step towards supporting families and mothers and breastfeeding.  This is considered a luxury.

But it’s not all bad here in the good old US of A.  There are some important private sector companies who recognize the value of having women returning to the workforce after starting a family.  There are some shining beacons leading us in the right direction.

Google pays maternity leave for 4 months.  Now that’s not over a year like in Sweden, but it’s enough time for a mother and baby to get aquatinted and settle on some things like feeding and childcare.   Google recorded 50% fewer women leaving the company after they had children when they increased the paid time off.  So what could we gain if everyone had access to some kind of paid maternity leave?

Tech companies are actually at the forefront of this change in culture, offering more paid time off for families. Since those are our most “innovative” and “leading” companies, maybe we should all take note.

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Lou Lou Girls Fabulous Link Party

Spring Bucket List

Spring is definately in the air.  So is pollen, but we can overlook that.  The weather is beautiful here in Georgia and the flowers are in full bloom.  My very outdoorsy child is in heaven.  The only time he cares to go inside is to eat, which these days is occurring more and more frequently.  Otherwise it’s outside for “wah wahs”.

Since Ike is in a pretty major exploring phase, this spring is an opportunity for us to get in some good development and fun activities before the unbearable heat of summer begins.  We need a bucket list!  A Tot-sized bucket list.

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1.  Go to the playgrounds.  Go to ALL the playgrounds.  Play on slides and hone those climbing skills!

2.  Pick some strawberries.  We heart all things berries in my house.  Strawberries are grown locally here in Georgia at a variety of farms around the metro Atlanta area.  We are planning to go to Cottle Farms just south of the city to try our hand at some picking.  I see lots of strawberry shortcake and strawberry milkshakes in our spring future!

3.  Visit the Zoo. Technically, we can check this one off, Ike and Ivanal and I hurried off to the zoo the first weekend it was sunny out and monkeyed around the bird habitat for a few hours.

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But we will keep this one the list since my mother’s annual pass is still good through the summer.

4.  Go to the Dogwood Festival. The dogwood festival is one of Atlanta’s most popular spring festivals.  I’m embarrassed to admit in my 8 years of living in this city I have yet to attend.  We have already made plans to meet up with Ike’s buddy Jacob on Sunday.

5.  Play in the rain. April showers are prevalent in the southeast.  Being a normal girly-type I am prone to sitting on the couch and watching chick-flicks during this rainy time, but my mud-loving toddler must get some good splish-splashing in.  He’s got a cool new raincoat in preparation for it.

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6.  Have a picnic. We do own a very nice, vintage picnic basket after all.  That has been used exactly once.  This will totally justify it’s retention. Plus this activity combines Ike’s two most favorite things; eating and outside.

7. Eat. Pick some flowers. The dog and Ike are pretty impressed with the wild flowers (weeds) around our house.  They are also impressed with the grass and it’s assorted flavors.  I think we’ll go and check out some real flowers though too.

8.  Get wet. Cousin Mei’s favorite park the “yellow park” also known as Old Fourth Ward Park, has a pretty cool water feature.  So does Olympic Centinneal Park.  I think these would help Ike’s new aversion to bath time.

9.  Drink some smoothies. Made with our fresh picked strawberries of course!

10.  Take lots of walks. When all else fails, or mommy just runs out of time, Ike’s always down for a stroll around the neighborhood.

Easter 2015

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Happy Easter from Ike.

I made a very real attempt to corral his hair on Sunday.  I think it went pretty well.

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Less bird’s nest-like.

Our Easter was pretty simple.  We did small Easter baskets at home in the morning.  Then off to church.  Mass was at Atlanta Symphony Hall, because our regular church is not big enough to handle the holiday crowd.  Isaac and I are both Catholic, and ALL Catholics go to mass on Easter.  Even if they don’t go on Christmas, they are there on Easter.

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Isaac and I made the decision to change church homes about a year ago.  Nothing about the old church, but when my mom moved here she found a little church only about a mile away from our church that was just a better fit.  There was singing and relatable homilies and friendly ushers who played with Ike every week.  It just felt like a place we needed to be.  I’m very happy there, although I am also very grateful for all of the years I spent at the old church making my way there as well.

The service was very lively and colorful.  Even more so than usual.  Naturally Ike fell asleep about 10 minutes in.

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Since he learned to walk, we’ve been spending a great part of mass each Sunday in the back of church or out in the parking lot.  I’m quite thankful that he was so well behaved this weekend.

After church we made a very simple Easter dinner at home and Ike played outside for most of the afternoon.

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More Birthdays

We went back to New Orleans a few weeks ago to celebrate Miss Savanna’s SIXTH birthday!  My oldest niece is now SIX YEARS OLD!  She’s quite a sassy young lady too!  I haven’t seen my nieces and nephews in way too long.  It was good to hang out with them.

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Baby Selena was not super happy to meet her cousin Ike.

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She wasn’t super happy to meet anyone that wasn’t her mommy or daddy though.

We left early Saturday morning.  This fly guy here…

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Is becoming a very experienced traveler.

My dad put out a huge spread for us Saturday night after the birthday party.

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My uncles and cousins came over, we opened some wine (a lot of wine) and we had a great time.

Are these not two peas in a pod?

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While we were there Ike’s god-family visited on their spring break.  I’m not sure who was happiest to see who.  All of us, to see all of us, I think.  But especially these two.

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We went to the aquarium.

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We took a ride on the St. Charles Streetcar.

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Then we walked about 12 blocks looking for change so we could ride back.

I always miss the city when we have to leave.  All the pretty colors, the homes and buildings all have such unique personalities.

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Of course we had to stop for beignets while we were there.

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Obsessed with Outside

“Wah Wah?”

“Wah wah” is Ike’s way of asking to go for a walk.  Outside.  Which is not so much a walk as it is just take him outside please, right now, thanks.  Sometimes he is happy to sit on the porch in his little blue lounge chair and feel the breeze through his bird’s nest hair.

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“Wah wah?” Is the first thing I hear when I go to Ike’s room in the morning.  Or when I walk through the door after work.   Tiny, little, bright brown eyes staring up at me from knee-hieght.

“Wah wah?”  he asks again.  If I ignore the request or tell him that I need to do something else first (like oh I don’t know go pee or something) he goes and gets a shoe.  Only one shoe, usually his, sometimes mine, or the closest one he can find.  And he asks a little louder this time “Wah wah?”

If the response is still unfavorable, or if I make an unreasonable request like “go get your other shoe”, he contorts his face into a sour expression, throws the shoe on the floor, stomps his chubby little foot and shouts “WAH WAA-AAH! MAAA!”, then grabs my hand and drags me to the nearest door.

Does this only happen to me? Is he satisfied after going outside for a walk (wah wah)?  Um no.  We go outside, we walk, we blow bubbles, we play on his Little Tykes slide.

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Eventually I coax him back inside to start dinner, and as soon as his sister walks in the door it starts all over again.

“Wah wah?”

Then his Dad gets home.  “Daddie-O! Wah wah?”

This weekend we were pretty much outside all day, both days, until dark.  When we came in for dinner what did he ask?  “Wah wah?” Of course.

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What a lovely morning.

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Think I’ll take my coffee and go for a wah wah.

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Oh, this your coffee mom-mom?

And at night, after we’ve been outside at the house, outside at the playground, and outside at the zoo, he asks once more after dinner.

Ike. “Wah wah?”
Me. “No wah wah it’s dark outside.”
Ike. Thinks for a moment.  “Bah?” Which is bottle.  Because if we aren’t walking we must be going to bed.