Sunday, November 20, 2011

'I Have to Go...' or Life after Potty Training

When my daughter was small, I wrote articles for the local parenting paper, The Bristol County Baby Journal, and occasional columns for our daily newspaper, The Providence Journal (Providence, RI).  Now that little R is entering his pottying stage, I'm reminded of a column I wrote about life after potty training (circa 1995) that I'd like to share with you:

Whew -- my local tour is complete.  What a whirlwind of activity for four years.  I never thought I would see them all, but I have.

Historical sites?  Ivy League schools?  Plays at Trinity?  No - public restrooms.  I'm the mother of a six-year-old daughter whose hobby is to visit public restrooms.  Why go at home when you can check out strange bathrooms all over the state?

Today we visited three in under three hours.  Must be a world record.

I pretty much expected visiting the restroom at McDonalds, our first stop.  But 10 minutes into our browse through Target, after reaching the opposite side of the store, came that familiar whisper:  "Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom."  Off we trudge and there I wait.  She's getting better at this.  She likes to chat, ask questions and explain her philosophy of life while she sits.  My foot is tapping, eyes rolling, cheeks reddening.

One more quick stop at the drugstore to get toothpaste and toilet paper (how appropriate) before we head home.  Halfway up the toothpaste aisle, I hear it again.  I'm ready to scream.

I tell her they have no bathroom here, she'll need to wait.  We'll be home in minutes.  She threatens to do it anyway unless I find her a bathroom.  I ask a clerk; he points to the other side of the store.  "I told you," she says.

Parents have their patience tested continually, but in this area I have been pushed way beyond my tolerance level.  Bathrooms are pretty boring (not to mention the lack of cleanliness issue) if you're the one designated to hold the other person's coat, hat, assorted long necklaces, and a large stuffed leopard named Jasmine.  Waiting.  And waiting.  I'm concerned that the security cameras watching the sink area of the restrooms we visit will think I've lost my mind.  To pass the time, I roll my eyes toward the ceiling and shake my head in disbelief.

When she was potty training, strange-bathroom visiting became the rule.  I learned about bathrooms in places I never knew had them.  All the store clerks had to do was see a toddler jumping in place or crossing her legs and they'd gladly show us the secret hidden restrooms for Employees Only.

At four she lost interest in the excitement of conquering a new restroom.  Since turning six, however, she's at it again, but with newly acquired skills.

She's now tall enough to turn the sink on and off; adjust the hot and cold to suit her temperature needs; work the various models of soap dispensers, and reach the handle crank for the paper towels.  Or, my personal favorite -- electric hand dryers.  Loud, hot, annoying.  She always dries twice - doesn't like damp hands.

I smile meekly at the women who efficiently come and go through the restroom door.  They think she is so cute, lathering up her hands and gazing into the mirror.

All the while, I'm thinking, "Good, here's her stuff.  You wait while I shop."

This column appeared in The Providence Sunday Journal on September 3, 1995.
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

East Bay RI Groups for Moms

Two years ago I started my blog, hoping to connect with other caregivers or parents who spend their days with young children.  Although I connected with many wonderful and talented moms, most were online only and spread across the country!

Today I found a terrific site, Aquidneck MomsTown, serving the Portsmouth, Middletown, and Newport areas.  What a great resource for parents seeking information about local kid-friendly events, businesses, and other topics of interest to families.  I especially love their monthly event calendar -- tons of local activities! 

 Other nearby RI and Southeastern MA groups online:

Moms Club of East Bay RI  (Bristol, Warren, and Barrington areas) -
they are also on Facebook:  MOMS-Club-of-East-Bay-RI

Somerset Moms Club (Somerset, Swansea, and Fall River areas)

Moms Club of Fairhaven, MA  (Acushnet, Westport, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Mattapoisett, and Fairhaven areas)
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Toddler-Sized Zoo

Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, Massachusetts

Emily - African Elephant at Buttonwood Zoo

Update: 6/2015:  I discovered that due to an incident involving one of the zoos elephants, that Buttonwood Zoo was named one of the "Ten Worst Zoos For Elephants" by the animal rights organization In Defense of Animals.
From Wikipedia:  On January 3, 2014, Asian elephant Ruth was found outside in subzero temperatures during a blizzard.[7] The zoo was cited and fined $777 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act for failure to secure access.[8] Ruth subsequently suffered frostbite of her ears, tail and vulva. Portions of her ears fell off, and on November 5, 2014, approximately 10" of her tail was surgically removed.
This update saddens me, but I am hoping that this has improved conditions for elephants at the zoo, and that the following information is still helpful to parents seeking a small-size zoo for young children.

Here in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Roger Williams Zoo is a popular family destination, but its not always the best option for babies and toddlers for two reasons:

- Roger Williams is a huge zoo with many walking paths in the hot, blazing sun 

- Animals in their natural habitat (ie. Giraffes in an African environment) can be too far away for baby to actually see them.

Here's why Buttonwood Park Zoo is one of my favorite places to take little ones:

-Children under 3 are free!

- Farm Animals!  Pigs, sheep, horses, cows, chickens, roosters, and more are always a big hit with the under three crowd.  At this smaller zoo, the animals are close enough to actually see and possibly touch.

-Less area to cover on the circular walking path, so toddlers can walk part of the way if they choose.  You can visit this zoo for an hour or two in the AM to be home by nap time or in the afternoon to be back for dinner.  You can also make a day out of it and take advantage of the attached park and playground.

-There are many covered areas along the zoo's walking path with park benches to take a break from the sun. Most days there is a beautiful breeze.

-Large indoor eating area with snack bar, plenty of tables, and air conditioning for warmer days.  You are not required to purchase food to sit inside and  eat your snacks.

- Playground just outside the zoo entrance with mature trees for shade and benches

-Very large green park for running, kicking a ball, flying a kite, or having a picnic.

The animal selection at Buttonwood Zoo might not be as exotic and numerous as those found at a larger zoo,  but there are just enough of the right type of animals for this age group in a manageable size. Check out the Buttonwood Zoo website for more about their animals.

Bonus:  Traveling on 195 East to Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford can be a quicker, less stressful ride (especially for Bristol or Newport Country residents) than traveling through busy downtown Providence.

Additional Info:

- Click for Map and Directions

- Rental buggy/carriages available - call for pricing

- The Zoo is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  (Last entry is at 4:30 PM) Ticket Prices:
  • Adults: $6
  • Seniors & Teens: $4.50
  • Child 3-12: $3.00
  • Children under 3: Free
  • Parking: Free
The Zoo accepts MasterCard and Visa at the front gate for ticket purchases and MasterCard, Visa and Discover at the Café and Gift Shop.

Group rates are available for groups of 10 or more with advanced registration.  Call (508) 991-6178, ext. 31 for more information and to register.
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Monday, February 7, 2011

Baby Sign Language Do's and Don'ts

Thanks to Misty Weaver from Baby Sign Language for this guest post.  Her informative site offers free printable flash cards like the ones shown below; a baby sign language dictionary; blog; and more!

Getting Started With Signing And Some Do's And Do Not's

To make a start with baby sign language you need to learn some basic signs. Signs which represent things that are interesting for your baby will be easier for him or her to learn to when you first begin. The sooner you start signing to your baby, the sooner he will begin to communicate back. You can start at any time, even from birth. When you have mastered your first few signs you can build up your repertoire, increasing your signing vocabulary.

Getting Started
To get started you must learn the signs yourself. Four great signs to start with are:

  • MOMMY: To make the sign for Mommy, extend and spread your fingers apart on your right hand. With your little finger facing forwards, tap your thumb on your chin. Mommy.

  • DADDY: To make the sign for Daddy, extend and spread out the fingers on your right hand, then tap your hand on your forehead with your thumb. This is similar to the sign for Mommy but done higher up the head. Daddy.

  • MILK: The sign for Milk is a lot like the action of milking a cow without the up and down motion. Just pretend you are just squeezing the cow’s udder. Make both hands into a fist, relax and repeat. Milk.

  • MORE: To make the sign for More, make an O shape with each hand by meeting your fingers and thumbs. Bring your hands together and separate them a few times. More.

It’s important to say the word that goes with the sign while pointing to the object you are signing. If the item or object is not present you can use Baby Sign Language Flash Cards to help. Say the word and make the sign every time you encounter that object. Keep good eye-contact and a positive tone of voice. Make it fun.

When your baby has mastered her first signs you can begin to introduce new ones. Stick to groups of similar ideas or objects when introducing new signs, for example food, colors, or emotions. Remember: repeat, repeat, repeat. Only introduce a few new signs at a time, and continue with these for around two months.

  • Do sign when your baby is alert, using something which is exciting to her, such as Milk or Mommy.
  • Do practice as often as you can. Once you have learned a sign, you should make this sign every time you say the word or do the action with your baby. It is important to say the word clearly, with good eye contact, while pointing to the thing or person you are describing. Be consistent.
  • Do use Sign Language For Babies when you’re shopping, playing, feeding and reading with your baby. Be creative and make it fun.
  • Do be patient with yourself and with your baby. If you forget to sign for a day it’s fine to start again the next day. Give yourself and baby plenty of time. Signing is worth it.

  • Don’t forget the importance of repetition. It’s important to make the sign and say the word every time you do an action or use an object. Babies learn through repetition and it can take about two months of exposure to a sign for babies over six months to learn the sign and be ready to use it themselves.
  • Don’t be too results-focused.Teaching Baby Sign Language is about having fun and learning about each other. The attention and bonding you share with your baby while you are signing is as important as signing itself.
  • Don’t expect too much too soon. Have fun and enjoy signing, making it a part of your day. Remember, it can take at least two months of exposure to, and repetition of, a sign for a baby to learn it properly.

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