Monday, April 28, 2008

Free Fun

For a toddler, what's better than Disneyland, better than Sea World, better than the state fair?  It's your local home improvement warehouse!  It can be quite an adventure for a toddler.  Find a time when it is not crowded so that you feel comfortable following your child at a discreet distance.  (We're lucky - our small town store was deserted even on a Sunday morning.) 

Think of all the interesting sights, sounds, and even smells in one of these places.  There are bins of screws, chains, and tubing to explore right at a toddler's eye level.  There are aisles of lumber, lights, plants, colorful books, paint chips, and beeping motorized carts.  Plus, for a new walker, it's exciting just to have the miles of aisles to roam around in.  We took a break by riding the electric shopping cart around the store, which was quite a kick for me too.

And it's free.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Local Zoo

I rode an elephant the other day.

We took some out of town friends to our local zoo.  It's a small zoo - the kind where they can't afford to build cages that replicate a "natural environment" so the animals are just in cages or behind fences.  If you've never been to a zoo like this, you need to try it.  You get to see the animals from much more close up.  Even if the big cats are sleeping, they won't be in a cave where you can't see them.  (Tip: If you want to see the big cats in action, call the zoo ahead of time to find out when they are fed.)

You won't miss out if you like all the classic animals - these zoos usually have most of the favorites like giraffes, monkeys, elephants, tigers, zebras, etc.  Since the place is small, you can probably see everything they have in an afternoon, and you'll actually remember most of what you saw. 

Sometimes you'll see something you've never seen before at any zoo.  Our zoo had a couple of cassowary birds.  This bird looks like a prehistoric animal, with its horned beak and strange, intelligent eyes.  I felt like I was looking at a dinosaur.

And sometimes you'll get to do something you've never done before.  Our zoo offers elephant rides and of course we had to do it!

There were quite a few pregnant sheep at our zoo and I swear, one of them was in the process of giving birth as she was walking around.  Either that or she had the worst case of hemorrhoids ever.  I wish we could have stayed to find out.  Llamas and one huge pig strolled around the zoo with us, not caged in any way except by the perimeter fence. 


Best of all, at zoos like this it's ok to feed the animals! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day, My Way

Happy Exploit-the-Earth Day

I'm celebrating by taking note of how beautiful the earth is due to man's influence.  This video of cities from space is spectacular. 

I love art that contrasts the natural with the man-made. Next year, I'll include some great photos and paintings on that theme.  Will that teaser keep you reading for a whole year? 


Kids and Google


Did you know that dandelions are not only edible, but very nutritious?  (You get one guess as to why I Googled “eating dandelions.”)


Thank you, Samantha, for your curiosity about all the things I take for granted, and thank you, Google, for helping me allow her to explore her world without fear.  I’m looking forward to learning a lot from both of you in the coming years!


Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Little Things


“Pick your battles.”


You hear this advice everywhere when you have a toddler.  It’s great advice, don’t get me wrong, but putting it into action takes some skill and practice.  Take diaper changes, for example.  They have to happen.  And at some point, most babies are going to fight them.  Initially, I made the mistake of insisting that diaper changes happen on my terms.  If I thought it was time for a new diaper, then my daughter, Samantha, needed to cooperate.  I used all kinds of games and toys to make it fun and it usually worked.  But sometimes it didn’t.  What was I going to do, strap her down? 


I thought about it and realized that, while the diaper change did have to happen, maybe it didn’t have to happen the instant my nose told me it did.  Maybe I needed to give a little.  If she wasn’t ready, I could deal with leaking-poop-paranoia for a while.  What I wasn’t going to compromise on, though, was getting her cooperation once we started the diaper change.  This is actually pretty easy to accomplish – I just never start a diaper change in combat mode.  If she’s fighting it, we just keep trying different things until I sense she will cooperate.


This morning Samantha did not want her diaper changed.  Our routine is to change the diaper before breakfast since the morning diaper is always in imminent danger of exploding.  However, sometimes she wakes up so hungry she just can’t deal with a delay, and I suspected this was one of those mornings. 


“Samantha: first diaper, second breakfast.”  (This works surprisingly often, but not today).


“How about we change your diaper on the couch?”  

Furious head shaking.  

“Would you like to play with the stickers while I change your diaper?” 


“Would you like a piece of cheese while I change your diaper?”

Yes-no-yes-no-no-no-no-no.  (Hmmm, we’re getting somewhere). 

“I know you’re hungry, so why don’t you try a piece of cheese?” 

And finally, I get a clear nod of the head, yes! 


I get the cheese and ask her to come to the changing pad which is on the living room floor. 

NO-NO-NO-NO-NO! Waaaaaaaaaaaaa!


She is not coming near that changing pad and that’s it.  I tell her to let me know when she is ready and I spend a few minutes ignoring her while I drink some coffee and check my e-mail. 


After a few more tries like this, I’m starting to get worried that she’s going to get so hungry she has a full-blown tantrum.  In desperation, I tell her, “Samantha, I’m going to give you the cheese now because I know you’re very hungry, and then we’ll change your diaper.  First cheese, second diaper.”  I give her the cheese and go back to my e-mail, feeling like a sell-out.  After a minute, I turn around and she is sitting on the changing pad, eating the cheese!  I almost burst with happiness.  This was the first time she had ever sat down on the changing pad on her own.  I hadn’t sold out – I had shown her some respect – and she had shown me some in return.  It was one of those moments you live for as a parent. 


I don’t tell you this story as a lesson about picking your battles, or showing your child respect.  I have something else in mind.  Parenting is a moment-to-moment job.  That doesn’t mean you give up your principles or sacrifice the future for the sake of the present.  All the little things you do each day should add up to a whole that does express your principles.  But you live in those moments.  Those moments are both the method by which you live the kind of life you choose, and the reward for doing so.  This is true in all aspects of life, but parenting really drives the lesson home.  The moment I had with my daughter this morning made me want to yell, “This is what it’s all about!” 


I want to feel this way about all of my moments.  I’m working on it.  Writing about The Little Things is one way I intend to keep learning.