Toddler Birthday Grab Bag Irritation

So we have a toddler birthday coming up in a few days and while we’re in pretty good shape at this point I’m trying to steel myself against the irritation that’s starting to creep up on me.

Why?

No good reason probably, but I’ve always thought that the huge theme birthdays or massive bouncy castle rentals are overkill for very young kids. I’d rather put the money towards an education fund or daycare or something than toward trying to out do the last birthday. So far so good. No toddler birthday themes for us this time around. No bouncy castles or ball pits scheduled to arrive hours before. In fact I think we’re doing pretty well.

– Renting a local ‘neighbourhood house’ to host the event. The cost is extremely reasonable and the place is fully equipped with a kitchen for food prep, downstairs full of toys and a gated, fenced yard with climbers, sand box and various other toys.
– Providing food ourselves. From drinks to fruit, to finger foods to cupcakes etc it looks like we’ll be able to do this on our own, though we haven’t settled on the cake.
– Toys and entertainment – see above as the location we’ve rented is stocked with a massive number of toys for boys and girls of various ages.
– Schedule. Keeping it brief. Two hours with an expectation that folks will trickle in and out over time. No expectations.
– Grab bags. Gah! This is where I get irritated.

When I was a kid you could go into a convenience store and they would sell ‘grab bags’ or ‘loot bags’ or whatever you choose to call them. Now I couldn’t even find the bags for sale at the local toy stores. I went into a drug store across the road and they’re charging $4 for the bags alone… EACH! As for the contents, dinosaur or smurf action figures apparently cost $9.99 each!?!? A single Thomas train costs $18.99?!?! A small book of stickers costs $5.99!??! Across 16-20 kids I’m now expecting it to be $100-$150 for grab bags full of crap. Tiny Play-Doh containers, cheap sheets of stickers, tiny containers of bubble soap, rubber bouncy balls etc. Few items that will be used, most will end up polluting landfills.

It would be awesome if someone would revisit the ‘grab bag’ idea and provide recyclable, compostable, safe, useful, enjoyable items at a reasonable price. Even if that last requirement couldn’t be met I’d much rather spend MORE for something that wouldn’t go to waste and not have to hunt and search myself. Colour me lazy. Meh. Irritated by toddler birthday grab bags.

Dogs, Dogs, Dogs!! How Do I Keep My Toddler Safe Around Dogs?

We live in an area populated by university students, young couples and an incredible number of dogs. I have to admit that the owners are very consistent in their use of leashes and it is a VERY rare thing to see a dog off leash. For this I’m thankful. Owners are slightly less consistent in their cleanup and this seems to be getting worse. A year ago you’d almost never see dog doo on a lawn, but yesterday I counted 5 deposits during a 4 block walk. Not good.

While the above is somewhat concerning to me I think we can quickly teach our little guy to avoid dog doo and to leave it alone whenever he encounters it. If, in the event he doesn’t listen or forgets, the implications of this are relatively minor.

What really concerns me is how to teach a baby / toddler / child to behave around the dogs themselves. My inlaws have a medium sized dog that isn’t super familar with children. While she’s generally pretty good with kids, there comes a point when the growling starts and I’m concerned that a snap will soon follow. Of course, or little boy finds the front end of the dog to be the most interesting and starts off at a slow jog directly at those teeth when he sees her. We’ve tried to reinforce with him that a) you shouldn’t run at a dog, but rather approach her only with mom or dad, b) you should only touch a dog gently once mom or dad have said its ok and c) if mom or dad aren’t there, or haven’t said its ok, you should just leave an animal alone.

Any hints? If not I think I’ll be buying some books pretty quickly. Most of the books I’ve found so far focus on introducing kids to a family dog, or introducing a new dog to the existing children. What I’m looking for would address not just those items (I’m sure they’re good for all interactions) but also cover teaching children how to behave around dogs whether they’re familiar or not.

For example:
Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind
Raising Puppies & Kids Together: A Guide for Parents
Kids and Dogs: A Professional’s Guide to Helping Families
Family Friendly Dog Training: A Six Week Program for You and Your Dog
Happy Kids, Happy Dogs
The Puppy Primer

Teaching Our Children Where Their Food Comes From.

When I grew up my grandparents, aunts and uncles lived on a dairy farm not far (5 hour drive) from where we grew up. As a result we would spend stretches of our summer holidays, and Christmas at ‘The Farm’ visiting with family and assuming some measure of chores. There was never any question of where fruits and vegetables came from, how and when to harvest them or how to prepare them. Similarly we would help to prepare chickens after they were killed, we knew that pork came from the pigs, and milk and beef from the cows in the barn.

An exchange I had with a friend recently reminded me that not everyone had this exposure as a child. My friend asked me where peanut trees grew. Weird.

That was when I decided that despite living in a reasonably large city, and in an apartment we had to make sure our little one knew where his food came from, how to grow his own and how much better fresh is vs shipped.

To kick this off we’ve done the following this year (remember, our son isn’t quite 2 yet):
1. Regularly visit a local hobby farm. While butchering the animals isn’t part of the program, he gets to see and interact directly with a large number of animals, many species of which might find their way to a table one day. We explain to him that you eat cow, pig, goat etc and when we do eat meat, we link it back to the animal so he can build the association.
2. Plant vegetables on our balcony. We’ve got a few different types of vegetables on our balconies, though this year’s weather is not cooperating nearly as well as last. We’ve got carrots as an example of a root vegetable that grows in the ground, lettuce so we can harvest and bring it to the table often. We’ve got tomatillos, peppers and gooseberries as examples of fruits and vegetables that grow above ground. Finally we’re trying cantaloupe (yes, I know its a long shot). While the plants are off to a slow and late start I’m hopefull that this will work.
3. We’re planning trips to local vegetable farms, either pick-your-own or farms associated with farmers markets so he can see the scale and variety available.

I’m sure it will be a while before he really appreciates what he’s seeing… but maybe that’s the point. I would consider it a win if he grows up unsurprised when he sees plants growing across acres of field, or is surprised by a question from a friend who clearly lacks awareness of where their food comes from.

Two Baby Birthday Parties in One Day

I’m still struggling to understand how this happened. Our son is 13 months old, doesn’t know what a birthday is and quite frankly isn’t interested in playing with other kids. Despite this we have somehow signed up to spend our Saturday at 2 separate baby birthday parties. Two. On the last moderately sunny day for the next four. The break between them will of course be consumed by naptime and they will be bounded on the outside by naps and feeding.

I would like to propose that it be made acceptable, no, expected that in the event a baby is invited to more than one baby-related event in a given day, that the earlier of those events will be given precidence and those that follow should not anticipate attendance. Further, no guilt shall be felt by, or laid by any party involved. All those in favor press your Escape key repeatedly in support.

UPDATE: survived them… And holy crap does fondant ever send kids through the roof.

Is he as frustrated with me as I am with him?

Absolutely. There is no question.

What frustrates me?

  • Lack of sleep
  • Kicking when I’m trying to wipe poo from his butt
  • Peeing on me in the middle of the night when I’m fumbling for a clean diaper or the wipes bucket, or the trash.
  • Not using his words (I mean come on, he’s almost 2.5 months
  • Screaming when there’s no obvious reason for screaming
  • Taking a dump in the bath when we’re seconds away from finishing
  • Possibility that he’ll be accepted by Harvard for undergrad and post grad studies but not qualify for a scholarship.

What frustrates him?

  • The fact that I’m an idiot and can’t get it through my thick head what he needs

I would give almost anything to understand clearly what he’s trying to tell me. There’s nothing worse than a baby screaming a scream that’s different than you’ve heard before. Screaming so loud and hard that he almost drives himself to choke. Screaming so hard that he can’t focus on your face, or anything for that matter and darts his gaze from point to point in panic. A baby screaming to the point that he’s sweating. A baby screaming so that you see tears for the first time.

What frustrates me? Nothing of importance… other than the fact that I can’t always understand what frustrates him.