Life with Toddlers: A Field Guide to the Terrible

10156955_553914221374611_1934771881_nSometime between babyhood and school age your child will go through a period sometimes known as the “terrible twos”, sometimes the “terrible threes”, sometimes the “God help me this child is going to push me over the edge mentally” ones through fours. A fierce, unquenchable desire for independence combined with new found mobility makes this a powerful force to reckon with, and you might find yourself questioning what happened to your sweet little baby. Have no fear, because even though they might seem like unmanageable monsters who are determined to mash goldfish crumbs into every crevice of your house and send you to the brink of insanity with the number of times they can watch the same episode of Thomas the Tank Engine, eventually they will go to school full time (oh and they are cute, and you love them, that too).

The Runner: Remember those first sweet little steps your child took? You probably grabbed your phone to record them and told relatives how exciting it was to see them walking for the very first time. That was me, I did that. What a thrill it was to see Jack take those first steps, growing up before my very eyes. Cut to me enjoying brunch with some friends a few weekends ago with Jack, who was perhaps enjoying brunch slightly less than everyone else. He had exhausted my supply of cars, toys, crayons, etc. and was quickly moving through the more impromptu distractions like our straws, some sugar packets, stacking the creamers…he wanted out of that high chair. So I let him get down, thinking that maybe if he got to slightly stretch his little legs he might stop providing a shrieking toddler background soundtrack to everyone else’s eggs benedict.

All was going well until he took off. His first few steps were innocent enough, until he tasted freedom, slipped around the patio gate and was bee-lining for the street, MUCH faster than I assumed he could go. I dropped my silverware, almost knocking over my iced tea as I sprang from the table mid-conversation and as hugely pregnant as I am ran after him down the sidewalk. After body checking an innocent stranger out of the way I finally caught up to Jack and grabbed him by the back of his shirt before he fully ran into the usually somewhat busy street. I picked him up, tucked him under my arm like a screaming, kicking football, and huffed and puffed my way back to brunch, sweating and shaken that I had just barely caught him.

Welcome to toddlerhood.

The Thrower: I have to admit, I’m very lucky to have fairly well behaved kids. Sure, they have thrown the odd temper tantrum in the middle of the mall and maybe take inconvenient opportunities to test out their sprinting abilities, but for the most part they are pretty mellow kids. Which is why the throwing stuff part usually takes me by surprise. Maybe we’ll be at the bookstore, somewhere innocuous, the train table is usually a trigger. All is good, the toddler is happily playing with the choo choos or cars or whatever, and then you decide after half an hour of wandering around the children’s section that maybe you’d like to go. WHAT? Excuse ME? This is when the choo choos become airborne as he throws them in protest, countdown to meltdown commences and you need to get out of that play area PRONTO. You are mortified that your child is actually throwing toys around in public, and you want to avoid anyone either taking a choo choo to the face or damaging anything in the store. Do you a) Try to reason with the train throwing maniac that was just two minutes before a mild mannered well-playing child? Or do you b) Give up all pretense of negotiating with this madman and just grab him, pry the choo choos from his hands and hightail it out of the store hoping the other parents will silently commiserate rather than silently judge you? There is an option c), of course, where you decide to spend even MORE time prolonging the inevitable, thinking that more time at the train table will make it easier to leave. I feel for you, I really do.

The Interrupter: Mommy, mommy, mommy, MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY. Sound familiar? Let’s do another flashback, shall we? Take yourselves back to the first time your beloved child spoke that very word. The first time they said Mommy. It’s an indescribable moment, hearing their little voice say your new “name”. It brought tears to my eyes to hear my children first call me mommy, and I would spend hours trying to get them to do it again, “Finn, say Mommy! Say Mommy Finn, Finn say Mommy!” just trying to get a fix, needing to hear it again and again and get that maternal rush when he finally did. Until he wouldn’t stop. And he figured hey, if she doesn’t pay attention the first time, maybe I should just keep saying it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until she DOES finally have a moment to look over. This happens usually while a mom is changing another child’s disgusting diaper, or when you get on the phone for forty five seconds after not taking a call for two hours. If you want to test out this phenomenon try to play with your toddler, when they ignore you/shoo you away because they want to do it by themselves, walk into the bathroom. Guaranteed they will seek you out almost immediately, plaintively calling you over and over until you finally make it back to the other side of the bathroom door.

1079425_449717245127643_738428197_nThe Stonewaller: The most effective tactic of the stonewaller is their ability to just stop moving, in any situation, choosing either to go completely limp, or, conversely, completely rigid, in order to prevent you from getting anywhere or doing anything. Or they stonewall for no apparent reason, either way. You may have encountered the stonewaller in your car, trying to get them into their carseat. All of a sudden this slightly pudgy, soft toddler becomes Iron Man and is stiff as a board as you gently try to fold them into a seated position. How did they get so strong, you wonder, at the same time as you worry if you are actually injuring them internally trying to just. Get. Them. INTO. THE SEAT. They are now a solid brick of steel and unwavering determination and all you want to do is get to Target so you can pick up some toilet paper and milk and the battle of wills begins. If you need to perform this toddler carseat folding procedure in public you will have to put on a semblance of a smile and shrug your shoulders as if to say, “Oh this crazy guy, doing it again!” as you push on their belly to leg crease in hopes of just getting even the slightest of a bend.

The stonewall also happens quite frequently in stores, usually after a refusal has been given in the request of a toy or some sort of food product. This is when they usually go limp, lying on the floor, and you try to pick them up but they are suddenly like a 100 pound bag of indignant sand lying motionless on the floor of the grocery store. Should you drag them, you wonder? Maybe pull them behind you by the leg till you get to the door? Usually you just stand there, once again with the weak smile on your face as if to say “He’s two, please don’t judge me”. Maybe you do the pretend “goodbye” where you wave and say BYE, I’M LEAVING NOW thinking they will panic once you are a few feet away or seemingly are out of sight but no. Now they are just lying there alone. They called your bluff.

The Hunger Striker: Feeding your child. Sounds pretty basic, right? And it is, for the most part. You plan it out, start introducing new foods to the baby, maybe even try your hand at blending up a few varieties of your own smooth healthy baby food goodness. Sure, they might not like everything, but for the most part it goes pretty well. Until that comes to a screeching halt, and all of a sudden they don’t want to eat anything that isn’t cheese and isn’t cut into the absolute perfect sized trapezoid at precisely the right temperature and with the planets aligned just so in order for the smallest of hunger pangs to grace their thoughts. And just when you get that meal down pat and you stocked up on that particular brand of cheese because it was on sale and at least they are eating SOMETHING they will then declare it to also be on the DO NOT EAT list and will move on to something new, perhaps a food as yet undiscovered to be palatable by humans. You will wonder how they are actually surviving given the fact that they have only consumed three segments of a banana in the past 48 hours, but rest assured they will eat, eventually.

Of course, if you are in the presence of anyone else, they will all of a sudden be an enthusiastic gourmand, trying shrimp and mussels and bean dip and things you would NEVER get them to try all the while explaining that at home they are so picky and you can’t believe they are trying new things while everyone else thinks you are crazy. Which you are. But that’s only because you are under the control of a tyrannical toddler.

The Independent: This one has one main defining quality, the absolute need for “I DO IT MYSELF” with pretty much anything, and if you try to help them out even a little bit you will experience the wrath of the Independent toddler. This might mean that you need to add on an extra half hour or so onto ANY time you plan on leaving your house because THEY will tie their OWN SHOES thank you very much. And you have no choice but to sit and watch as they doggedly attempt to get both shoes on in the record time of under an hour. Brushing their teeth? No no no. Take a back seat, sister, and watch as they manage to get toothpaste in their hair, on the mirror, the other toothbrushes you have, their pajamas, the stool they are standing on and even the outside of the bathroom door somehow before getting the smallest smear of it on their toothbrush.

1472885_506685142764186_62103279_nMy recommendations for dealing with The Toddler? Coffee and wine do help, or you could just go to the bookstore, close your eyes and randomly choose a toddler parenting book, buy it, read it, and hope for the best. But most of all patience, plenty of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, a dust buster, and a good sense of humor will get you through it. Good luck! xoxo

 

 

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What are Your New Baby Must Haves (for mom too)?

photoBaby #4 will be here in just a few weeks, and although my youngest is only 2, I feel like I have baby amnesia when it comes to the stuff I need. I’m taking a basic approach this time around, pretty much just onesies and diapers (how cute are these new cherry print ones from the Honest Company at Target?!).

I have a bunch of Levy’s old baby clothes and Jack’s baby gear so I think we are good to go for the most part, but I wanted to know, what are your must haves when it comes to getting ready for a new baby? I’m talking about those lesser known essentials, maybe it was a favorite nursing tea or a sweet swaddle blanket. What about some essentials for mom too? Was there anything special that helped you get into the new motherhood groove? Below are a few of my favorites for new mommyhood, I LOVE the Natural Calm powder, it really helped me smooth out any of the slightly more jagged edges of hormonal change craziness paired with sleep deprivation (find it at Healthy Living Market and Cafe, they also have little sample packets for under a buck so you can try it before you buy a big container of it). A cute nursing bra also helps boost your new mom spirits, and this one by Boob (great name, right?) is so comfortable and also so cute. Finally, a little bronzer can go a long way when you’re feeling more zombie milkmaid and less bright eyed and bushy tailed. This Shimmer Brick by Bobbi Brown is sort of miraculous.

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***the photo at the top is of our family’s little Petit Bateau onesie, a gift from my mother, that all three kids have come home from the hospital in so far, and I can’t wait to bring #4 home in it too! It has a sweet little cloud print and says “Head in the clouds” in French across the front…***

 

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The Fear of Other Moms

3557813915_0a36126a2dThe other day I was at the grocery store with all three kids (so fun!) just picking up a few things for dinner that night. Coming out of the store after our shopping was done, my youngest was in the front seat of the cart, the older two were walking, and I loaded them all in the car, then loaded the groceries in the car, then was stuck with this cart. Oh and it was pouring rain.

I usually make a point to park close to the cart corral thing, but this time the store was busy and I realized I wasn’t anywhere near it. There were cars in all the spots close to me, and I didn’t want to leave it in the lot so other cars might get dinged by it, and the store was too far away to just run it back inside, so I quickly ran it over to the closest cart corral while the kids were in the car. But I was nervous, glancing around the whole time, hoping no one was watching.

Who was I afraid was watching? Not a stranger looking to abduct my kids, the doors were locked, the windows were down enough for them to have air for the 15-30 seconds it took me to dash to the cart corrall and back, no…I wasn’t worried about them getting snatched. I was worried about another parent, another mom, judging me for “leaving” the kids in the car while I turned my back for a few seconds. I was worried someone would call the cops, saying I left my kids in the car unattended, something that is illegal. I was worried, and unsure, if I was actually breaking the law. It sounds crazy, but it isn’t. And the thought that stuck out most in my mind was, when did we turn on each other as parents?

The other day I was reading this article by the mom behind the Honest Toddler, . In it, Laditan mourns the loss of the “village” style of parenting, a style she has never known.

I miss that village of mothers that I’ve never had. The one we traded for homes that, despite being a stone’s throw, feel miles apart from each other. The one we traded for locked front doors, blinking devices and afternoons alone on the floor playing one-on-one with our little ones.

It stuck with me, because I miss it too. When I first became a parent nearly 8 years ago now, I expected it to be like getting admission into this new sisterhood, one full of support and commiseration, one where people would swap stories and tips, would watch your kid while you ran to the store, one where you could trust the other moms to look out for them, to look out for you. And in a lot of ways, that has happened for me. I have a great group of friends that are non-judgmental and supportive even though we have differing parenting styles. We all know that we have our children’s best interests at heart. I have some great neighbors where our kids can meet anywhere in between our two adjoining yards and play until they are called in for dinner with minimal supervision. I can make a rushed phone call to that same neighbor to ask if she can get my kids off the bus because I’m a few minutes behind, and vice versa. We watch each other’s children as if they were our own, making sure they aren’t running into the street, or helping them get back on their feet if they fall. And that is how it should be. But it isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t always the case. I’ve had other moms judge me for what I feed my kids, judge me for working outside the home. Sometimes I wonder if the overwhelming sentiment about being a mom hasn’t been about sisterhood, but about judgment.

The problem is, with parenting, a lot of it is winging it, and with very few basic exceptions, there is really no “right” way to do it. On top of that, instead of one manual on “how to parent”, there are a thousand. Go to any bookstore and check out the parenting section. There amongst the baby name books and baby food cookbooks you’ll find dozens of books telling you how to raise kids, how to discipline them, how to potty train them, how to sleep train them, how to make them the “happiest kid on the block”. Search the internet even for the briefest moments and you’ll find sites (like mine) giving you tips and hints on how to do it all. How to eat, how to play, how to learn, how to do everything. And that’s great, I love that advice is given and shared, but we need to also bolster up the idea that parents, and kids, need to find their own way to (safely, of course) do things, and they need the freedom to do so. And we also need to point out, again and again, just because someone is doing it differently, doesn’t mean they are doing it wrong, and it especially doesn’t mean that it gives you the right to pass judgment on them.

The bottom line is, it comes down to your comfort level, and it comes down to what you feel is right. I have friends who can’t believe I never used a baby monitor with my youngest, even though I obsessively checked the video monitor like a madwoman with my first. I have friends who are sit and chat moms at the playground, leaving kids to their own devices, and friends who like to hover, making sure no one is cutting in line and no one is about to fall off the jungle gym. Maybe I’m comfortable with my kids potentially falling off the monkey bars and not being there to catch them, maybe you’re not, but either way, don’t pass judgment on my parenting skills or how much I take care of my kids based on that.

When should you get involved? When my child is in REAL danger. Choking, running into the street, about to fall off something tall. That’s danger. Not falling off the end of the slide onto their butt, not being left in the locked car for 15 seconds while I push a cart back to where it belongs, not when I let my totally competent child ride their bike down the block.

I worry about a lot of things, trust me. I worry about what I feed my kids and what kind of sunscreen to use. I worry about whether they are reading enough or playing X-Box too much. Parents worry, parents are concerned. What I don’t need to worry about, however, is whether or not someone is going to report me because I let my child play in the backyard alone, or let them go into the post office by themselves at age 7 to buy me a stamp, or because I left them in the car while I put my shopping cart back.

The fact is, the danger that we all perceive, specifically that our children will be abducted by a stranger, is overblown, to say the least. As I said in a recent facebook discussion about the mom who was arrested for letting her child go to the park alone while she had to work, of the roughly 69,000 kidnappings that occurred in 1999, only 115 of them were abductions by strangers (aka “Stereotypical Kidnappings”), and in 2000, 255 children died of the flu or pnuemonia. A child is 2 and a half times more likely to get hit by lightening than to get taken by a stranger. Two and a half times MORE LIKELY to get hit by lightning than to be abducted. Let that sink in.

Real abuse, real neglect, is horrible, and should not be tolerated by any means. But this perceived “neglect” like letting your kids go to the park when they are old enough, is robbing us of our common sense as parents. It is robbing our kids of independence, and it is robbing us of our village. The one that is supposed to look out for the kids, to look out for the families, to look out for each other. This grey area of “Is it actual abuse?” is causing us to retreat, to rethink what we would normally feel confident doing, it’s causing us to keep our kids from forging out on their own, not because we think they can’t, but because we feel like we will be judged if we let them.

If you don’t feel comfortable letting your 9 year old ride their bike alone on a quiet street? That’s fine. But maybe I do feel comfortable. Maybe I am okay with it, maybe my 9 year old is learning how to be independent and capable. Things they NEED to learn. There is so much to consider on a case by case basis per child, maybe the 9 year old in question is super independent and super confident and can handle situations well, maybe I’m not far away and you don’t see me, maybe I am okay with them taking whatever “risks” you perceive to be present. Calling the cops for neglect, that would NOT be appropriate, but that’s what it’s coming to lately. Are we going to call the cops for “neglect” now if we see a mom giving an infant a bottle of baby formula because you think they should be feeding them breastmilk? Are we going to call the cops if our kids are waiting at the bus stop out of our line of vision? Where does it stop?

I guess what I really want to say is, be part of the village. Help out. If you see a child that is in danger, by all means, help them, help keep them safe. But if you see a child in a situation that is NOT dangerous, it just might not be the way YOU would handle it, then don’t pass judgment right away that they are being neglected by their parents or caregivers. Don’t pass judgment that they aren’t being parented the “right” way. Parents need to be empowered, kids need to be empowered, and we all need to support each other, especially in tough times, like the mom who let her 9 year old go to the park alone while she worked. Instead of a compassionate mom or dad reaching out to her to offer help, she was arrested, her child was taken away, and she was fired. Is that better? I don’t think I even need to answer that.

I don’t want to add fear of other moms to my list of things I’m worried about already as a parent. I don’t want to worry that my age appropriate lessons in independence will be misjudged as neglect. I don’t want to worry that my kids will grow up in an environment where I don’t feel comfortable letting them go out on their own because of how I will be judged. Instead I will attempt to build a community, a village, by way of my own actions, and will strive toward being supportive, understanding, and open minded of all moms, and all parenting styles, and appreciative and encouraging of that same kind of support.

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Mamatoga Loves: Saratoga Baby Bumps

10348283_596734890425877_362842301919437681_nA couple weeks ago the whole family arrived at Baby Bumps in Saratoga Springs to try out their elective 3D/4D ultrasound, and it was such a comfortable experience right from the start. First, their ultrasound room makes you feel like you’re at a luxe spa with the lights dimmed, soft music playing, some gorgeous draped fabrics and a sweet little crystal chandelier hanging. Couches are on one side of the room to accommodate family members, and they also have some kids books on hand to distract the little ones. The ultrasound is displayed on a big screen TV right in front of you so everyone gets a great view.

Baby-Bumps-room-view-1I went in pretty much expecting something similar to a regular ultrasound, only with a little more detail, but what we saw was a LOT more detail, and it was actually pretty breathtaking. We got to see the baby’s little face, and to see what she actually looks like, and co-owner Vanessa took her time to get the best views possible. The kids were so excited to “see” the baby, and they loved trying to figure out who she looked like or what we should name her based on seeing her face and her features. I have to admit, even though I had seen tons of photos of 3D ultrasounds before, I was completely taken aback at how detailed the ultrasound really was and how much we could see what she looked like.

It’s so satisfying to see the looks on peoples faces of pure joy and amazement when they see their baby for the first time in 3-D and see how they are going to look, watch their movements and actions in the womb. It really is just amazing to watch and it never ever gets old! I feel so fortunate to be able to experience these moments with our clients. I feel so very lucky to have chosen such a wonderful career! I can honestly say that I love what I do. -Vanessa

The staff at Baby Bumps consists of ONLY registered sonographers with multiple years of experience, and Vanessa explained everything and talked us through the entire thing. I was around 7 months when we went, and had already had a bunch of ultrasounds at the doctor’s office to make sure everything was going smoothly with the pregnancy. The Baby Bumps ultrasound was a great addition to those ultrasounds (rather than a replacement for any of them), and it was nice to be able to take a little more time with it as well.

I really found the experience to be so overwhelmingly positive. Being pregnant with my fourth, this hasn’t been the easiest pregnancy I’ve had so far. At 7 months I felt like the pregnancy had been going on for so long but I still had so far to go, and seeing her little face was exactly the boost I needed. We got a bunch of great photos, and took turns looking them all over and watching the DVDs for what seemed like hours. Seeing our favorite photo of her on the fridge every day has helped me get through these hot, muggy summer days (and I think has actually helped with our as yet fruitless search for a baby name, hopefully).

As I said, co-owner Vanessa was just so super nice, and did such a great job, even with my whole brood there (Jack knocked over the diffuser and she was completely unfazed). Having the whole experience together as a family helped get all of us even more excited for her arrival, even Finn, who was initially not super enthused about the baby not being another brother. I highly recommend Baby Bumps, they are so super professional and it was such a pleasant experience that has really helped me get through this home stretch of pregnancy.

For more information on their packages and when to book an appointment, click here. I’m telling you, even if you go in with high expectations, if your experience is anything like ours they will be totally exceeded. Many thanks to Baby Bumps and to Vanessa for making it such a great experience for our family. xoxo

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my (opening) weekend in photos…

indexOpening Day of the Saratoga Race Course kicks off a VERY busy time in our house, mainly because my job as a social reporter (as part of the Toga Tattlers with my good friend Robin) clicks into high gear and we have multiple events every week. It works out pretty well actually, as most of the events are at night and I can have dinner with the family, put the kids to bed, throw a dress on and rush off to cover the event. Opening Day usually turns out to be a family affair though, and Sean and I tag team the day with me attending the annual Whitney Luncheon at the track while he takes the kids around to see the horses, then I meet up with them and we walk around and say hi to friends, get cotton candy, make a few bets and then hit the pool at McGregor. We always try to snap a photo of all of us, and above is a little sampling of our family photos at the track, from left to right: pregnant with Jack, not pregnant, pregnant with #4 (five weeks left, COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS).

The Whitney Luncheon is always such a treat to be able to attend, and Marylou is the most elegant and gracious host. Each year the little sign displayed on the table means another exciting summer in our city and also reminds me how much tradition and history we have here, and I absolutely love that.

The rest of our weekend was pretty low key, we pulled the tipi outside and spent our night (until bedtime at least, that tipi is NOT bug proof) outside roasting marshmallows, looking up at the clouds, catching the teeny tiniest frogs I have ever seen, and pretty much just sitting around, relaxing, because this week is going to be a packed one again. I’ll be one of the “Finest Fillies” at the 3rd Annual Saratoga’s Finest Fillies event to help raise money for Jake’s Help From Heaven this Thursday, and YOU can place a bet on me to win! Just $10 will get you a bet on me and my trainer Robin, and all proceeds will go to this incredible local organization that assists individuals and families within 100 miles of Saratoga Springs with medical travel and treatment, items of medical necessity or medical convenience and adaptive equipment.

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Top Preggo Picks from Healthy Living Market & Cafe

Healthy Living Market is like a Shangri-La for pregnant and new moms, and if you look around you’ll find stuff all over the store perfect for those nine months (and beyond). From nursing tea to the wellness department goodies, their homemade pot pies (OMG) to everything in their bakery section, they have what you need to make your pregnancy healthy and comfortable (and delicious). hlmpreggos1Sometimes food isn’t always your friend during the first trimester (even though you really REALLY want to be friends). I have found that sipping on something ginger can help tame the OMG I’M GOING TO PUKE feeling that can wash over you in waves in places like the preschool drop off line and the shower (always in the shower for me, why??). These all natural ginger drinks are full of good stuff so you can feel good about drinking them, plus they’re a little gentler on the old taste buds than some of the more potent ginger chews.

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hlmpreggos4hlmpreggos5Yay! Food is back! The best thing about HLM is that you can trust what you’re buying, even if it’s “junk” food. You know that it has all natural ingredients in it and you don’t have to worry about any scary additives. Their prepared section is second to none, and usually my biggest problem is choosing which chips and dip I want to eat in the car on the way take home (okay it’s always the cilantro hummus but I try to branch out).

hlmpreggos8When you’re in that home stretch and feeling kind of, ahem, large…one of the best things to do is indulge yourself in some great products like creamy body butters and body oils, things that make you feel good (and can help with any of that tight, itchy skin feeling too). HLM has a wide selection of products to choose from, like this shea butter (shea butter is know to help prevent and minimize stretch marks) from Alaffia, a company with the mission to advance gender equality and alleviate poverty through the fair trade of handcrafted shea butter.

hlmpreggosBreastfeeding, not always easy for everyone, am I right? There are products out there to help, and I did find that the More Milk Plus supplement from Motherlove helped me when I was struggling. HLM also carries nursing tea, which has a double whammy of helping deliver some milk stimulating herbs and also hydrating you, which is super important when you’re nursing.

hlmpreggos6YAY WINE! xoxo

To find out more about Healthy Living Market and Cafe visit their site here, and check out their Best All Month deals here (they are so good). They also have a great Learning Center with classes for preschoolers on up to families and adults, click here to learn more.

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Mamatoga’s Guide to the Saratoga Race Course

racecourseThe Saratoga Race Course is one of the world’s finest sports venues, and it is a fantastic day out for families as well right here in our very own city. There are many different ways to do the track as a family, and I’ve got the definitive Saratoga Guide for taking the family to a day at the races!

The track is open every day except for Tuesdays and there are a few different ways to “do” the track. Admission to Saratoga Race Course is free for children under 12 when accompanied by an adult any day of the meet throughout the season. You can sit in the clubhouse or sit in the backyard and both are great for kids. At the clubhouse you can reserve a table and have lunch, which is how we usually do the track. Either on The Porch (ground level in the clubhouse with a great view of the track) or up in Turf Terrace (also with a fabulous view), it’s out of the sun with a nice breeze coming through and you can have a yummy lunch and a comfortable spot to sit for the entire day. We usually pop in and out, checking out the horses getting ready in the paddock, the playgrounds and watching some races from the rail. There is a dress code for dining in the clubhouse, ranging from the more casual Porch to the more dressed up Turf Terrace. You can find more about how to reserve a table in the clubhouse and what to wear here.

breakfastBreakfast at the track is always a hit with the kids. You can get in there nice and early (gates open at 6:45am) before it gets too hot and crowded and have a sneak peek while the horses warm up for the races. Every racing day from 7 to 9:30am a buffet breakfast is served on The Porch of the Clubhouse while the thoroughbreds get ready. You don’t have to dine at the track to enjoy “breakfast at the track” though, you can bring your own or eat beforehand too. Mary Ryan, a lifelong horsewoman, provides expert commentary for the workouts. Entrance is free for Breakfast at the track, and the buffet is $17.00 per person, $9.00 for children ages 3-12 years, plus tax & gratuity. (There is no breakfast at the track on Travers Day, August 23rd). Make sure to take advantage of the free walking tour of the stable area while you’re there for breakfast (weather permitting). The first tram that takes you to the stable area leaves the main Clubhouse entrance at 7:30am with additional trams leaving approximately every 15 minutes. The last tour departs at around 9am. (The Tour is available every race day except Travers Day and Labor Day) Get on the trams the earlier the better since trams are often full to capacity way before departure time, there are no reservations for the trams, and it is first come first served. The tram tour is roughly 45 minutes long, so take a bathroom break beforehand if you have little ones!

bringingpicnicIn the backyard you can bring folding lawn chairs and a picnic blanket and stake out a spot (picnic tables are first come first served). You can bring coolers with food and drinks (glass bottles and containers not permitted) and there are tons of great food vendors there as well. Make sure to check out “Taste New York” held each Sunday of the racing season at the track from 10:30am to 5pm. Located inside the entrance to the Reserved Seats Box Office near the Carousel, the market will feature 13 vendors and artisans. And vendors won’t just be from the Capital Region, vendors from the Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley and Western New York will all be featured.

You can also grab a burger and fries at Shake Shack, get your Hattie’s fix and have some Grasso’s Italian Ice, there are a TON of great vendors to try out that are there every day.

picnicAlso new this year is the all-new Berkshire Bank Family Mondays, weekly family festivals which will be held each Monday of the meet at the Saratoga Pavilion, located inside the entrance to the Reserved Seats Office near the Carousel, from noon to 4 p.m. Admission to Saratoga Race Course is free for children 12 and under when accompanied by an adult any day of the meet throughout the season.

Each day-long event will include free face painting, arts and crafts, mascot appearances and bounce inflatables. Additional activities will supplement these weekly staples, as outlined in the following lineup (subject to change, current at time of release):

Monday, July 21: The first Berkshire Bank Family Monday will invite attendees to participate in a puppet building workshop with The Puppet People.

Monday, July 28: Families will get a glimpse at what life was like for children at the end of the 19th century with a mobile version of the “Days Gone By” exhibit from the Scotia-Glenville Children’s Museum. The exhibit will feature various toys, game, appliances and horse-related items from the 19th century.

Monday, August 4: Kids and families will enjoy the Mad Science interactive exhibit with putty, slime, dry ice, and other hands-on activities.

Monday, August 11: The Children’s Museum of Science and Technology will present its educational and explorative Leaping Lizards and Rocking Reptiles exhibit. Kids will have a chance to meet the cold-blooded creatures, while learning about their behaviors, habitats and lifestyles.

Monday, August 18: Families will once again enjoy the “Days Gone By” exhibit from the Scotia-Glenville Children’s Museum.

Monday, August 25: Saratoga Race Course will take a look to the future with a hands-on robotics demonstration from students at Shenendehowa High School.

Monday, September 1: On closing day of the 2014 meet, families will enjoy a special magic show and learn simple tricks from magician John Green.

For a complete and up to date listing of all special events at Saratoga Race Course, click here.

the track even has a playground, find it using the map above!

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Bring Back the Classics (Family Films for the Summer)

national-velvet-movie-poster-1944-1020427506This summer I have been trying to make a little more “free” time for everyone in the family. While we have tennis lessons and riding lessons and a week of camp for each of the older two kids, the rest of the time is pretty much open, W I D E open. At first, this seemed really liberating, no getting up early for school, no morning rush or breakfastgetdressedfindinghomeworkdontmissthebus craziness that leaves me feeling exhausted before I even start my own work day.

I wanted to leave time for swimming and playing “Fisherman” with friends at the pool (apparently the best game there is right now), hanging out for hours if we wanted to, time to explore the backyard and the neighborhood on our bikes, time to catch bugs and draw on the sidewalk with chalk and climb trees. That being said, I still have to work, and fitting work into a day also full of three kids 7 and under who want to go do stuff NOW isn’t the easiest thing in the world. That’s why I started Summer Family Movie Time (aka Mommy Works While You Watch Time).

Summer Family Movie Time also goes hand in hand with me attempting to ever so slightly unplug the kids from electronics this summer (yes I realize this involves TV, just stay with me here) which hasn’t exactly been the easiest thing to do either. As much as I want them to play less video games and watch less TV, I need to get stuff done, and they need downtime, and I like to have that downtime be pretty low maintenance for myself so I can get down to work. We set aside time to read, time to do stuff on their own, but I have to admit I can’t fully unplug. I need a little time where I can have them sit and watch. Make some popcorn, pour some iced tea, and watch. That’s it. I also get to sit and watch as well, so even though I’m working we are still, technically, doing something as a family, I guess.

So rather than put on a seemingly endless stream of SpongeBob we are trying a movie every other day or so, and I am trying to make them all some decent classics, movies from my childhood that I remember loving as a kid, movies from before there were cellphones, iPads, or any of the modern day distractions my kids seem fixated on usually. Just some good, old fashioned, wholesome family films.

Part of me wants, no, NEEDS my kids to actually see that people did in fact exist before cellphones and the internet and Minecraft, and that when they were “bored” they read a book, or went for a walk, or wrote a letter. As cool as I think a lot of the modern movies are, I want them to try to get into a movie based on the story, not based on what is exploding and how awesome the explosion is. My kids also have a hard time wrapping their heads around a world with no electronics, and Finn insisted the teacher in Lassie had a cellphone (it was a clock). As much as I love that they have this knowledge of how to use technology at an early age, it also frightens me in a weird way that they literally don’t know what a rotary phone is or how to use it. Do they love every movie so far? No. But they don’t love every single modern movie either, and at the very least I’ve found that these old movies spark conversation and questions more than some of the more recent movies do (the first being about a black and white movie we watched, and why it was black and white, and how they add color to the movies, and sound, etc…)

Here is my partial list of movies that we have either already watched or are on our list (limited to what we can find on iTunes or Netflix since we don’t have cable). All of the movies mentioned are the ORIGINAL versions only, no remakes for us just yet. I’m trying to be a purist on that one since the original is usually better anyway. Keep in mind that not ALL of these movies are appropriate for all ages, my oldest is going into third grade so there is a little bit of a range here, but overall these are all movies I have no problem showing my 7 and 6 year olds (and my 2 year old if he sits still long enough to watch a whole movie, which hasn’t happened yet).

Leave your own old fashioned family favorite films in the comment section below! xoxo

  • Lassie
  • Sound of Music
  • Karate Kid (doesn’t feel like that much of a classic, but this kid had no cellphone, beeper, nothing. All landlines all the time for him and Mr. Miyagi)
  • all of the Muppet Movies (this includes the modern ones, because man those movies are just the best for kids)
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Annie
  • The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking
  • The Parent Trap
  • The Princess Bride
  • Goonies
  • Bad News Bears
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Dumbo
  • Dr. Doolittle (again, talking about the original version here)
  • Swiss Family Robinson
  • National Velvet
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  • Old Yeller (I may be too pregnant and emotional to handle this one for now actually as I almost teared up thinking about it)
  • Harry Potter (all of them)
  • E.T.

 

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Crescent Moon Children Trunk Show Preview

trunksshowupdatedOur fabulous Trunk Show is just around the corner, happening at Saratoga Paint and Sip Studio on July 30th, and today I have a little sneak peek of what we will have to offer from the show’s featured brand, Crescent Moon Children!

After Catherine from Saratoga Paint and Sip and I commiserated on the fact that there just isn’t enough good quality children’s clothing with a classic style in our area, we decided to bring it here for everyone. Crescent Moon Children offers traditional hand smocked children’s clothing for boys and girls with hand smocked bishop dresses (gowns), smocked bubbles, smocked jon jons for boys (I’m obsessed with the jon jons), longalls and shortalls. Their fine collection of kids clothes also features boutique applique dresses, reversible applique dresses and boys applique shirts and shorts, and you can add a monogram to many of their styles as well.

In addition to the fall shopping you’ll find from Crescent Moon, we’ll also have some summer stock on hand (and fall samples to order) from Saratoga Bow Company, free samples for Mom and daughter and sheets to buy from Lisa Juliano from Jamberry Nails, the great girls line from Local Independent Stella & Dot Stylist Chelsea Baratto and more! Mark your calendars and don’t miss this exclusive shopping event, you’ll be able to see some gorgeous samples and place orders (even adding monogramming) right there at the show.

10522161_914314599572_45150327_n Fall Holiday '14 Dock Dogs Collection Fall Holiday '14 Fall Collection Fall Holiday '14, Christmas Collection Fall Holiday '14, Happy Whale Collection Fall Holiday '14, Pink Collection

 

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my weekend in photos

This weekend I turned 36, and we celebrated in a number of low-key ways, with pancakes, a walk downtown, the circus, watching Germany win the World Cup (big cheers from this half-German girl), attending the Ballet Gala and “British Invasion” themed Lawn Party at SPAC (one of my favorites, where friends of mine took home the best tent award with a hand painted tapestry by the talented Gretchen at Saratoga Paint and Sip Studio) and lots of ice cream.

A special thanks to all of you for the kind birthday wishes. All day whenever I checked my phone I saw more pop up and I read each one of them, and each one of them was so important to me and very much appreciated. I also want to say a special thanks to the cast of Circus Smirkus who made a special birthday card for me, it was such a sweet gesture and really topped off the whole day.

I have to add, the Circus Smirkus performance was really top notch. These kids put their all into the performance, and it is hard to believe they put it together in three weeks. The atmosphere is just so positive and upbeat, and everyone really gets into it. I love how old fashioned the experience is too, just the big top, the performers, some cotton candy and you and your kids. It was so fun I can’t even blame them for my kids tumbling all over our couches during the World Cup Final saying they want to be in the performance next year. If you missed it this time around, don’t miss it next year, and I hope the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs keeps bringing this great family experience back to our area for years to come.

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