by Borderstan.com May 13, 2013 at 9:00 am 0

From Allison Acosta. Email her at allison[AT]borderstan.com.

"DCTots"

DCTots app. (Luis Gomez-Photos)

Perhaps you are a new parent trying to find a yoga class to take with your child. Maybe you don’t have kids, but your sister and her toddler are coming to town for the weekend and you’re trying to find the nearest playground.

Now, there’s an app for that. Jeff Ingram has spent the last nine months combing the city for fun activities for children ages zero to five, and recently launched the DCtots, a mobile app for iPhone and Android devices.

What’s in the App?

The DCtots app database includes 100-plus playgrounds, 60-plus locations offering early development classes, 30-plus venues for free story and music times — and dozens of yoga studios, theaters and indoor pools and play spaces with programming for kids under age five in the District. DCtots also has a blog, calendar and directory with helpful information for children’s caregivers.

Ingram got the idea for the project after he and his wife, Audrey, became parents to their first child, Isabel, in 2011. When Isabel was five-months-old, he left his job in marketing to take care of her full time. It was then that Ingram started thinking about creating a resource for DC parents.

Avoiding a Steep Learning Curve

“I didn’t want other new parents to go through the same steep learning curve that my wife and I did,” says Ingram. “There are a lot of resources out there for parents in the suburban areas, but there are so many more young families here now, especially in this downtown area. When I first moved to the Borderstan area in 1999, you definitely didn’t see many strollers. And I’m hoping that five, 10 years from now there will be a lot of adolescents around.”

Jeff will be working on updating the app in the next few weeks with kids’ pools and splash playgrounds, and will spend the summer taking updated photos of playgrounds and making some improvements to the app’s interface. If you have any suggestions or ideas, especially for the family dining section, please send him an email: editor at dctots dot com.

DCtots is a free download, and Jeff hopes the app will be advertising-driven. “I think there are a lot of great service providers out there who have services to offer families who will hopefully see the value in advertising,” he says. “In our first week there were 1,000 downloads, which I think is a good indication that there is a demand for this. But at the end of the day if it is a free project that’s there as a resource for people, it’s something I am proud to have put together.”

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by Borderstan.com January 21, 2013 at 10:30 am 0

"Inauguration"

Inauguration 2009. (Leslie Jones)

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWBP (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

On election night 2008, I danced in the streets with my husband and our friends. Some party pooper yelled out her window that her baby was sleeping and could we take it elsewhere. Didn’t she know what an historic day it was? The baby could sleep tomorrow! We obliged, and the scene on the corner of 13th and U was something I will never forget. I truly felt like I was part of history.

Inauguration weekend 2009 was a blast. We had a fancy dinner out with friends and attended one of the Inaugural Balls, where we heard Bill Clinton give a speech. Inauguration day we watched the parade from the roof of my husband’s office building, and partied with our friends well into the night.

Sunday I was at the grocery store and a clerk I am friendly with asked how I would be celebrating the Inauguration this year. I had to admit that we had no plans and didn’t think we’d be venturing anywhere near downtown, not with a 16-month-old in tow.

Ah, how things have changed! Nothing makes that more clear than comparing moments like Inauguration 2009 with their present day counterparts. I think I was in bed around 9:30pm this New Year’s Eve. Don’t be jealous.

This year I’ll be dining on leftover lasagna and watching the parade from my couch. Maybe things will get crazy and I’ll have a white wine spritzer. And if you are screaming in the street outside my window after Baby’s bedtime, I won’t yell at you to be quiet.  I’ll just call the cops.

Happy Inauguration 2013!

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by Borderstan.com December 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,788 3 Comments

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWBP (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

"shop"

Baby gifts around Borderstan. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Despite the fact that there seem to be more and more children in Borderstan lately, there are few places within walking distance to shop for kids’ clothing and toys. The stores that do have some inventory for baby and kids tend to have smaller selections than you would find at larger chains like Buy Buy Baby.

But, you can find some unique and adorable gifts close by if you look. I like to support our local business, so here is a quick overview of what is available.

Local Shopping Options

  • Pulp (1803 14th Street NW) on 14th Street NW has a small selection of children’s toys and books. You can find classics like The Rainbow Fish, as well as art sticker books and stuffed animals by Manhattan Toy.
  • Whole Foods (1440 P Street NW) has a few shelves of toys, mostly from Melissa & Doug, and some baby accessories like bottles, bibs and stacking cups from Green Sprouts. They have a few giant stuffed animals from Melissa & Doug that Baby is hoping Santa will bring her.
  • Kramerbooks (1517 Connecticut Avenue NW) has a wide variety of children’s books.
  • Books-A-Million (11 Dupont Circle NW) has children’s books, games and a few toys.
  • Proper Topper (1350 Connecticut Avenue NW) has clothing and accessories for babies and kids toward the back of the store. Their selection is very cute, but very expensive. They have things like baby clothing sets from Tea for $66, and beautiful little silver cups for $65 each. Proper Topper also has books, stuffed animals and some fun little novelty toys.
  • The Kid’s Closet (1226 Connecticut Avenue NW) has the largest selection of clothing and toys to be found in or around Borderstan. They have brands ranging from Carter’s and OshKosh to Me Too and Le Top. There were several racks of clothing marked down 30-50 percent, and a nice selection of toys, books, games and a variety of stuffed animals, such as Jellycat. Kid’s Closet offers gift wrapping for $2-10, depending on the size of the item.
  • The store at the National Geographic Museum (1145 17th Street NW) has some books and toys suitable for kids, and you may be able to find some unique gifts not available at other stores.

If I’ve left any stores out, please let me know.  I’m always looking for cute local places to shop for Baby!

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by Borderstan.com November 27, 2012 at 9:21 am 1,237 0

"Girl"

Is your baby growing up to be a beautiful girl? (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWBP (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

During the first trimester of my pregnancy with Baby, I thought I was having a boy. It wasn’t based on anything, of course. When Husband and I found out that we were having a girl, I wasn’t disappointed, I just felt a little nervous. I asked Husband if he was disappointed and he smiled, a little confused, and said “of course not”.

I considered my reaction and I realized I was scared. I thought of all the challenges facing women, especially young girls, and it made me worry that I wouldn’t be able to adequately prepare my daughter for the biases women still face. I haven’t figured out how to deal with all of life’s challenges, how am I going to teach another person to properly cope?

Of course raising a boy isn’t easy, and boys face all kinds of challenges. But I’ve lived through being a girl and a woman, and I know firsthand how difficult it can be.

I’m so happy to have my little girl. I love my snuggly little monkey more than anything in this world, and I wouldn’t change a thing about her.

Gender Stereotypes

Baby is only 14 months old, so most of our challenges are still in the future. But I’ve written about some of the gender stereotypes we’re already facing in my article, I Hate Pink.

I like being a woman. I don’t have anything against make-up and beautiful clothes. I like to look pretty, and I enjoy compliments on my appearance. However, I have had an unhealthy relationship with my appearance at different times in my life. It’s still something that I think about and put importance on more than I wish I did.

In another life I was an actress. I thought a lot about how my appearance was affecting my career. If I were thinner, would I have an easier time getting an agent?  But my body image issues were more complicated and long-standing than those just related to acting. I remember being 15 and completely distraught over the fact that I was 10 lbs. heavier than most of my girlfriends. I didn’t take into account my body type or my overall health; all I saw was the number on the scale. I think I went on my first diet when I was 12. It breaks my heart to think of Baby tormenting herself like that someday.

The Effect of How We View Ourselves

An article on Huffington Post, I Am Beautiful, Girls, by Amanda King, has been popping up all over the web lately. I think it has an important message. Our children learn how to view themselves through how we view ourselves. If we are critical of all our perceived flaws and make criticisms every time we look in the mirror, that is what we will teach our children to do.

Jennifer Livingston, a reporter for WKBT in Wisconsin, responded to a viewer’s criticism of her weight in a video that went viral last month. She points out that if parents make negative comments about other people, their children will learn that behavior, and they may end up bullying other children.

I have decided to model the behavior and self-image I want for Baby to adopt. That means not criticizing my appearance, or the appearance of others. I want for her to be healthy, and understand that a healthy body is beautiful. That’s one of the reasons I have been trying, though not always succeeding, to go running a few times a week. I want for her to see me taking care of myself, and for a healthy lifestyle to be a part of her normal.

But it overwhelms me sometimes when I think about all of the other influences Baby will have in her life.

I studied critical literacy with a wonderful professor, Vivian Vasquez, as part of my master’s degree in education at American University. I learned that while I can’t control all of the images and opinions that Baby will come in contact with, I can help her to frame what she sees in a healthy context. I can teach her to question what she sees and hears, and to form her own opinions.

We live in a complicated time. According to the CDC, “childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years”. A WebMD article entitled “Mom, Dad, Do I Look Fat“, discusses children’s health issues and how younger children are feeling societal pressures to look a certain way. The article cites a KidsHealth poll of 9-13 year olds, of which “more than half said they were stressed about their weight — no matter what their weight was”. So how do we teach our children to be both healthy and happy?

Something needs to change. We need to stress the importance of health, both physically and emotionally. We need to model this behavior, just like all the other values we want for our children to adopt; and it’s never too early to start.

It’s difficult to be a parent, and it sometimes feels like there is always someone ready to criticize your parenting, especially for moms. There is a lot of pressure to be perfect, and of course that’s what every parent wants to be, but none will be. When I’ve expressed concern about my parenting abilities to my mom, she has been fond of telling me, “You won’t make the same mistakes I did; you’ll make all new ones!”

Healthy body image: Tips for guiding girls

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by Borderstan.com November 1, 2012 at 9:00 am 0

"water"

Surviving Sandy in Borderstan. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWBP (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

Sandy reminded me of another reason why I love living in Borderstan.

I keep emergency supplies in our apartment, maybe because I grew up in rural West Virginia and have been snowed in, perhaps because I watch too many zombie movies. I can relate to wanting to be prepared, though the empty Safeway shelves and general run on bottled water and flashlights immediately before a storm do crack me up. I saw one woman on Sunday carting home about six cases of water bottles.

Of course I’m one to talk. I realized that we only had one flashlight in the house, despite preparations for other storms over the last year and a half.  I ended up coming home from Logan Hardware with a ladybug nightlight/flashlight and some flickering battery operated candles on Sunday.

If I had moved out to the suburbs, I couldn’t have run out to the store a block away right before the rain started for some dish detergent and extra wine. And I would be more concerned about getting stuck without power in areas that would be low on the Pepco priority list.  The power lines are mostly underground, so we run less of a risk for lines downed by trees.

I also heard reports from friends that Cork and Fork was open Monday afternoon, as well as Stoney’s and Bar Pilar, and Whole Foods.

Most importantly, if we had moved away from Borderstan, I would have missed out on the impromptu happy hour in the common area of our building on Monday evening. While the storm raged (well, raged-ish) outside, Baby got to run around and expend some pent up energy with other kids from our building, and we got to hang out with some of our wonderful neighbors, all without stepping outside!

Baby has been going a little stir-crazy the last two days, but that would have happened anywhere, and it’s something I’ll have to learn to deal with this winter anyway. But we were able to let her run around in the halls and visit with her baby friends without having to go outside. Suddenly the lack of a yard doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

So Sandy didn’t really affect us too much, but my thoughts are with those who didn’t fare so well. It was a big storm and things could have been much worse here; it’s always good to play it safe and be prepared.

Supplies:

  1. Drinking Water (one gallon per person per day):  We keep one of those 5 gallon water dispenser jugs. You can also fill pitchers and other containers, no need for dozens of individual water bottles.
  2. Hand crank radio.
  3. Food:  Check the use by dates. A number of canned products and packaged meals, like Dinty Moore, are good for several years.
  4. Extra medications/first aide supplies.
  5. Flashlights and batteries.

Preparation tips:

  1. Do the laundry.
  2. Run the dishwasher.
  3. Give everyone a bath.
  4. Take out the trash.
  5. Fill the bathtub with water (to flush the toilet).
  6. Watch The Walking Dead and Revolution.
  7. Sign up for crossbow lessons.

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by Borderstan.com October 9, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWBP (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

"TWBP"

Things don’t always go as planned. (Luis Gomez Photos)

A few weeks ago I wrote about my plans for Baby’s first birthday party. You know how I said I’d been known to freak out and run around like a giant stress ball before parties? Well, that tradition continues.

It wasn’t entirely my fault this time. I baked the cupcakes and assembled the favor bags all in advance. I got my crockpot spinach and artichoke dip simmering and went for a run (And no one was chasing me! I just did it. But don’t expect it to happen again.)

The morning was off to a good start, and I was pretty sure I could get everything done on time. Three hours before the party, I went downstairs to my building’s common room, which I had reserved. It was a mess.

The trashcans were overflowing and there were crumbs and pointy, baby-lacerating kabob sticks on the floor. Did I freak out? Of course not!  I calmly tracked down the weekend cleaning crew and just asked them to do a quick once over. I wasn’t able to start setting up on time, but I didn’t stress, not this mom!

The babysitter was scheduled to come at noon, an hour before the party, to help set up and wrangle Baby. At 12:05, I started to get concerned. It wasn’t freak out time yet, but I still needed to jump in the shower and finish setting up. Husband was on the longest ice/beer run known to man. I texted the babysitter. Nothing. Finally I jumped in the shower, with Baby of course, and the chaos began. Baby didn’t approve of me showering; she showed her frustration by slipping and bumping her head. Then the babysitter called to apologize profusely. She had gotten the day wrong and wasn’t even in town.

Well, you can imagine how it went from there.

I have wonderful friends who didn’t mind decorating upon their arrival at the party. It only took about 15 minutes with everyone pitching in, but I was frazzled. The cupcakes didn’t get iced with my cute Martha Stewart design, there was no relaxing, baby-appropriate music playing in the background and I felt like I was ignoring Baby at her own birthday party. At least we had wine.

A lot of things went right. The baby zone was a good place to let the kids play, and we had toys and beach balls to distract them. The food was simple, but tasty and kid-friendly. The mylar balloons looked cute and all the kids got a little favor bag.

But I felt like I didn’t get to relax and play with Baby and talk to our friends without worrying about how everything was coming together. The pictures are cute and everyone looks like they’re having a good time. But there was no singing of happy birthday to Baby and no pictures of her smashing a cupcake.

Like she cares.

I know it isn’t about me and I shouldn’t worry about silly, unimportant things like cupcake frosting. It’s just that I had tried so hard to plan ahead and make sure it was a stress free event where I could focus on Baby and celebrating with our friends. And I had a very specific picture in my head of how everything should look.

I blame Pinterest.

An article by April Perry, “Your Children Want You”, reminded me of what I already knew. Baby doesn’t care about handmade seasonal centerpieces or sandwiches cut to resemble pirates. She cares about playing with me and Husband at the park, and reading stories before bedtime.

So instead of trying to make Baby’s Halloween costume myself, or making bloodshot eyeball cake pops, and creating spider web designs on the windows with black tape, I ordered baby doctor scrubs and I’ll pick up a bag of candy at Safeway. With the time I save I’ll take Baby to the dog park to watch the “dahs” and give her a bubble bath. It doesn’t take too much time to figure out which she’ll prefer.

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by Borderstan.com September 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm 1,101 0

"TWBP"

TWBP: Baby vs. Cat (Leslie Jones)

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

Before I had Baby, before I even married Husband, there was Cat. She was my fur-baby. After we all moved in together, Husband nicknamed her Angry. Some of our friends didn’t believe we actually had a cat because they’d never seen her; and those that had perhaps wished they hadn’t.  I was enough for her, and the rest of humanity needed to stay at least four feet back. I was a little… concerned about how Cat would deal with the new addition to our family.

Cat mostly hid for the first few days after we brought Baby home from the hospital. She came out for an exploratory sniff or two, but she couldn’t really figure out what was going on. It was too small to be a human, but it definitely wasn’t another cat. Which was good, because she hated both of those things. Confounding.

Cat seemed to decide that whatever it was, it wasn’t big enough to cause too much concern. It just laid there most of the time and made weird sounds. Whatever, back to napping, butt-licking and tolerating Husband.

No, Cat’s Don’t Suck Babies’ Breath

I was worried about the old wives tale of cats sucking baby’s breath. Well, not worried, I knew it wasn’t really true, but I didn’t like the idea of this giant 12-pound cat cuddling up to my tiny six-and-a-half pound baby. I did some research about how to keep a cat out of a crib. There were some good ideas, like putting empty aluminum cans in the crib before the baby arrives so that if the cat jumps in, it will freak her out so much that she doesn’t try it again.

But it was too late for that, Baby was already IN the crib. I found a “crib tent” online that was supposed to cover the crib and be strong enough for a cat to sit on top without falling in. But some reviews were terrifying- stories of babies stuck in the mesh netting and possible strangulation. I decided to just keep Cat out of the nursery.

One night I was sleeping in the reclining rocker in the nursery and I left the door open. I had the rocker pulled right up to the crib so that I could put my hand on Baby’s belly and feel her breathing, of course. At some point I woke up and saw this giant shadow at the other end of the crib.  Cat was just minding her own business, curled up as far away from the weird, smelly creature as she could get. I flipped out and threw Cat on the floor and woke Husband up in a complete frenzy. Cat never got near the crib again, but I decided to keep the nursery door shut at all times, until Baby was older, and bigger.

Now Baby is bigger, much bigger. She’s got a good eight pounds on Cat. And Cat has figured out, much too late, that this is, in fact, another human.

Baby just loves Cat. She enjoys showing this love by “petting” her, which is more like hitting in a swiping motion. And sometimes she enjoys “singing” to Cat, which is more like screaming in her face. Poor Cat. I try to show Baby how to pet gently, and to redirect her attention when it’s just getting to be too much for Cat. But Cat has had to endure quite a lot of Baby love.

Cat has deported herself with remarkable grace. Husband even gave her a new, less “angry” nickname. She tolerates Baby with patience I never knew she had. She gives me weary, old lady looks, but she puts up with being crushed in baby hugs and having her hair pulled out for a surprisingly long time before skulking off.

I feel that on some level she’s experiencing this whole mothering thing right along with me. She has sleepless nights, and hardly a free moment to herself; she can’t eat or use the bathroom without an attentive baby audience. She has her moments of frustration; and Cat has given Baby the occasional bat with her paw. But she has never hurt Baby in any way, and Baby just thinks she’s playing; much like how Baby seems to think it’s really funny when I say “no”.

It makes me feel a little guilty about the times I’ve sacrificed Cat to the whims of Baby in order to get a few minutes’ peace. I find Cat and set Baby down in front of her, and just say “Sorry Cat.” And I really am, but hey, it takes a village.

A Vet’s Advice

I asked my friend, Dr. Jann Elliott of  Palisades Veterinary Clinic, if she had any advice for new parents with pets. She said that you should get ahead of the problem and seek your vet’s help.

“A major life and household change is coming, and your pet may need help adjusting. A consult with a trainer or behavioral veterinarian may be the next step, and your vet can guide you through that process. Most people expecting a baby already have a hunch that their pet has an anxiety issue, and that issue may be exacerbated by a newborn.

They may also have concerns about territorial, aggressive, or child-specific behavioral problems. Talk to your vet about troubleshooting specific issues you anticipate, or should look out for, given your pet’s personality. It is important to get a desensitization or training program going in advance, or even find a medication that helps your pet cope with household change, since you do not want to wait until the baby arrives home to tackle behavioral issues your pet may have with your child.”

If you are looking to add a furry friend to your household, Dr. Jann recommends Lucky Dog Animal Rescue and Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. Palisades Veterinary Clinic partners with both, and offers discounted medical and surgical care for the rescued pets. For a physical shelter, Dr. Jann loves Washington Animal Rescue League. “They also offer training classes and pre-screen the pets, classifying them into personality types to make it easier to pick an ideal match for each household.”

The smallish apartments we share with other humans and our furry friends in our beloved Borderstan often make space negotiations complicated. But furry family is worth the trouble. You do not have to find another home for your pet when baby comes. Baby safety is priority number one, but be smart and you can make it work.

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by Borderstan.com September 11, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

"party"

Celebrate or not to celebrate. (Leslie Jones)

To have a party or not to have a party. I know it’s more for me than Baby, and that she doesn’t know a present from an empty box, but I feel like this is a special milestone that should be celebrated with our friends. The last year has been amazing and exhausting, and I want cake and pictures to prove it. Ok, the cake doesn’t “prove” it in any way, but I want it.

My Guidellines

I had no idea where to start as far as planning this whole fiasco — I mean extravaganza. After a bit of internet research and talking to friends, here are some guidelines I’ll be following:

  1. Choose mylar balloons. Latex rubber balloons can pose a very serious choking risk.
  2. Make sure the food is baby friendly. I was thinking of serving little “bites” on toothpicks, but I realized they might get dropped on the floor. All the food I’m serving is baby friendly: grilled chicken fingers, cupcakes, cheese, and veggies and dip. These foods don’t require utensils, so there is no danger of forks getting into the wrong hands.
  3. Have a babysitter there to help out. This may not be an option for everyone, but I decided that the extra pair of hands is worth the expense for a few hours. Our sitter isn’t there to babysit everyone’s kids, but she will be around to keep an extra eye on things, and help me set up beforehand.
  4. Have a baby zone. We are having the party in a common room in my apartment building; and I can use our expandable baby gate to wall off a small area. Everyone will be responsible for keeping an eye on their own kids, but having a contained zone will allow parents to put their babies down to play without worrying that they will get stepped on.
  5. Supply baby “diversions.” I’m going to have some beach balls to kick around, as well as a few of Baby’s toys: a drum, music cube, blocks, stacking cups, rattles. All things that can be easily sanitized before and after the party. And I’ll have our sitter do “story time”, reading from Baby’s favorite books.
  6. Diaper changing station. There isn’t a changing station in the bathrooms, so I’m going to borrow a friend’s pack n’ play. It has a small changing table attachment. I’ll put it in the hall near the bathrooms and provide some wipes and a diaper pail.
  7.  Keep favor bags baby friendly. Or just skip them. Candy and small toys don’t really work for babies, though older kids may enjoy them. I’m going to have some colorful plastic sippy cups for all the babies.
  8. Try to schedule around naps. Baby can be a little inconsistent about naps these days; I’m afraid she’s trying to drop down from two naps a day to one. But hopefully a mid afternoon party for an hour and a half or so won’t disrupt things too much.

Cupcake and Frosting Recipe

I’m also a little concerned about Baby overloading on sugar, so I’ve been doing some experimental baking. The plan is to make the cupcakes the day before the party and decorate them the morning of. I took a recipe from AllRecipes.com and made a few changes.

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼  teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter (I melted it instead of softened)
  • 3/4 cup granulated Truvia (instead of 1 1/2 cups of white sugar)
  • 3 eggs (instead of two, initially a mistake, but it worked, so I’m sticking with it)
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk (I used organic 2%)
  • 4 teaspoons orange zest (my addition, spices things up and masks aftertaste from the Truvia)

Frosting Ingredients

The frosting also comes from AllRecipes.com, again with modifications.

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
  • ½ cup butter, softened (I used Smart Balance Light)
  • 2 cups of sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I went with real sugar this time. This recipe makes A LOT of frosting, so I’ll probably halve the recipe and use it sparingly on the cupcakes. A ½ cup of sifted powdered sugar has 195 calories, as opposed to 234 unsifted, and 387 in ½ cup of granulated sugar. Since I’m substituting Truvia in the cupcakes, I didn’t think it was necessary to go overboard and make the cupcakes and frosting completely sugar free. I’m just trying to cut down on sugar-induced-baby-mania, so I figure a little won’t hurt.

I’m taking an idea from Martha Stewart and decorating the cupcakes to spell out:  HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY.

My primary goal is to just relax and have fun. I have been known to stress out before parties and run around like a maniac cleaning and staging before the guests arrive. I’m just trying to keep things simple this time and remember that Baby won’t care if the beverage napkins are perfectly fanned out or we run out of cheese.

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by Borderstan.com August 28, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

A guide to dining out and conflict resolution.

"Baby"

Baby dinning. (Leslie Jones)

I love going to restaurants. I like to try new places and I keep a close eye on the Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants. I also worked as a sever in a busy upscale restaurant in NYC, in another life when I was pursing an acting career. And now I’m a mom.

I dealt with some unbelievable people and situations working in the restaurant industry. People, with and without children, feel free to really let their crazy hang out when dealing with waiters. I’ve also been surprised, since becoming a mom, how much unsolicited parenting advice comes my way; and I’ve even written about it!  A recent discussion thread on DC Urban Moms and Dads made me think that perhaps some guidelines for dining out were in order.

Guide to Dining Out with Baby

1. Don’t leave a mess.

Kids are messy and Baby loves to throw food on the floor. So I do something really novel. I pick it up. I’m not suggesting that you crawl under the table and make a scene, but you can give your child foods less likely to cause a mess and pick up what you can. When I was a server, it used to drive me crazy when families would create a disaster zone around their tables and just pretend it wasn’t there. If you’ve got your hands full with your child and you can’t address the mess, at least apologize for it and leave a big tip.

2. If your child is being disruptive, do something about it.

Please don’t just continue your conversation as if nothing is happening. You may have developed a super human ability to ignore the noise, but other restaurant patrons have not. It doesn’t matter where you are, the Diner or Cork, a screaming kid in a restaurant is not appropriate. Do what you have to do*, bribe her with food and toys, and when all else fails, take the child outside until he calms down, or get the check and leave. Any noise above the volume of a normal conversational tone isn’t appropriate. If it’s a loud family restaurant, the acceptable volume will be a little higher; if it’s an upscale restaurant, it will be a little lower.

*Banging silverware on the table is not an appropriate distraction activity

3. Choose an appropriate destination and/or time. 

We took Baby to Bourbon Steak for my mom’s birthday back in March. However, we went at 5:30pm, right when they started serving dinner, when we knew the restaurant would be pretty empty and the “serious” diners wouldn’t have arrived yet. I knew that Baby could stay calm and quiet for about an hour, and Husband and I were both prepared to leave when necessary. Baby was very accommodating, but she started getting restless after the second course. We skipped dessert.

I met a friend for lunch at Commissary earlier this summer. Baby has become less cool with dining out as she’s gotten older. I brought lots of snacks and toys, and it was a quick lunch. I wasn’t as concerned about baby chatter because it was lunchtime at a casual restaurant, but I handed the waitress my credit card at the first sign of trouble.

Choose a casual restaurant and/or an early dinnertime, or go for brunch or lunch. Be realistic about your child’s ability to sit still and eat quietly. Bring lots of supplies. And just accept the fact that you may have to leave abruptly. If you can’t resign yourself to a doggy bag, get a sitter.

4. Teach older children to say please and thank you.

“I wanna ‘nother coke!” is not the appropriate way to make a request to your server, no matter your age.

Guide to Dining Out Near Baby

1. You are not the parenting/etiquette police.

The discussion thread on the DC Urban Moms and Dads forum addressed the issue of dining out with kids. The original poster described being verbally assaulted by another patron while having breakfast with her self-described “spirited” toddler who she said was being relatively well behaved, but somewhat vocal. Confronting another diner is NEVER appropriate. I don’t care if the child is screaming, while banging silverware on the table, and throwing food on the floor. If you have a problem, appeal to the management. And maybe give the offending party the “stink-eye” as one forum poster mentioned.

Most parents are pretty horrified that their child is acting up. And just because I’m bribing my kid with food to stay quiet at the moment a) doesn’t mean that’s my standard practice, I’m just trying to make it through this meal, and b) doesn’t mean you have any right to critique my parenting. If someone is abusing a child, call CFSA; otherwise, feel free to think all kinds of snarky thoughts, but keep your mouth shut.

Another poster on the same forum thread recommended the McSweeny’s article, “Hello Stranger on the Street”, by Wendy Molyneux. Super funny and perhaps helps people put their parenting advice in perspective. It made me giggle.

When you head out to dinner with your little one, just be realistic about the situation and acknowledge the fact that not everyone finds your baby as adorable as you do when she shrieks with delight. And if you’re on the receiving end of baby noise in a restaurant, try to remember or imagine what it’s like to be a parent and cut the offending parties a little slack. I’ve been on all three sides of the dining out experience, childless patron, server, and patron with child. And these are the rules according to… well, me.

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by Borderstan.com August 22, 2012 at 11:32 am 0

"Pink"

Should pink be more of a gender neutral color? (Luis Gomez Photos)

Last week Borderstan’s urban parenting columnist Leslie Jones (Heister) wrote “TWBP: I Hate Park” as part of her bikweekly column, TWBP (There Will Be Poo, follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.). Jones writes about living in Borderstan and raising a baby here with her husband — instead of moving to an outer DC neighborhood or the suburbs. The story in question focused on the fact that it is difficult to buy clothing for her little girl in any color other than pink.

“I Hate Pink”  caught the attention of the producers of HuffPost Live, a regular series of online live panel discussions. Tuesday evening, Jones was one of four panelists who discussed, “Toymakers Should Create Gender-Neutral Toys.”

As Jones wrote in her Borderstan column, “Actually, I don’t really hate pink, but I’m in active rebellion against the stereotype of little girls in pink. Sometimes people think Baby is a boy. I don’t really care; she’s dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and she doesn’t have much hair. Babies often look pretty androgenous at this age, and I don’t see being mistaken for a boy as some sort of slight.”

Regarding toys and gender, Jones wrote, “An article about gender-neutral toys on Today.com got me started on this rant. It asks if they are “much ado about nothing,” and I don’t think they are. I think it’s important to consider the choices you are making as a parent. That doesn’t mean you have to stress about every toy, every outfit; just that you should be aware that your choices, in general, are sending your kids a message.” And, “So the color pink isn’t responsible for the historical inequity of women; but for me it’s a representation. I don’t think everyone needs to follow my pink boycott. I don’t look at little girls dressed in pink and shake my head. Well, maybe I do a little, but I shouldn’t. Equality and empowerment are about being able to be whoever you want to be, and no one should be stereotyped based upon their appearances.”

What do you think? Do you agree with Jones? Do makers of baby clothing, toys and other products produce too many items that play to traditional gender stereotypes? Should more of the choices be gender neutral? One of the most common is blue is for boys, pink is for girls, for example. What about toys? Should you automatically buy your small son a truck and your girl a frilly doll?

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by Borderstan.com August 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm 1,435 2 Comments

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

"Pink"

Not so much in pink. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Not the singer; I like her. And I suppose “hate” is a strong term for the color, too. Actually, I don’t really hate pink, but I’m in active rebellion against the stereotype of little girls in pink.

Sometimes people think Baby is a boy. I don’t really care; she’s dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and she doesn’t have much hair. Babies often look pretty androgenous at this age, and I don’t see being mistaken for a boy as some sort of slight. (Though it did amuse me when someone once mistook her for a boy when she was in a blue dress.) It’s like if she isn’t in pink, she must be a boy.

Do little boys get all the other colors, relegating girls to pink? Girls should be able to wear whatever color they (or their parents) want, and so should boys. Husband looks really cute in a pink gingham shirt I got him and, if I ever have a boy, I’ll get him one, too.

Baby has a few pink items of clothing, but I try to avoid it because it makes me think of unpleasant stereotypes – of little girls dressed up like dolls and taught that their self-worth is tied up in their appearances. I’ve found it incredibly hard to find a bathing suit and pajamas that aren’t pink. I realize that pink isn’t a problem in and of itself.

I want to teach Baby that she is capable of accomplishing many amazing things, to have confidence in her intelligence and abilities, to value her mind and not put too much importance on her appearance. I don’t want for her to be plagued by body image issues or feel like she is limited by her gender. I think women still aren’t truly equal in our society, and that isn’t really so surprising when you think about the fact that women have only had the right to vote in our country for 92 years, this August 26.

So the color pink isn’t responsible for the historical inequity of women; but for me it’s a representation. I don’t think everyone needs to follow my pink boycott. I don’t look at little girls dressed in pink and shake my head. Well, maybe I do a little, but I shouldn’t. Equality and empowerment are about being able to be whoever you want to be, and no one should be stereotyped based upon their appearances.

I just want to be conscious of the messages Husband and I are sending Baby. I want to teach her to think critically about the messages that society is sending, inherent in every advertisement and children’s book, and pretty much every interaction she has with the world around her.  Husband and I like to gush over her incredible amazingness, and we try to use adjectives like “clever” and “strong” instead of “beautiful” and “pretty.”

Of course I’m terrible about slipping and telling her she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen; it’s funny how ingrained certain things are. Those of you with boys, question: Do you say “beautiful” too? Or do you find yourselves saying things like “strong” and “smart?” And to those readers with girls: What do you say?  I’m really curious on both accounts.

An article about gender-neutral toys on Today.com got me started on this rant. It asks if they are “much ado about nothing,” and I don’t think they are. I think it’s important to consider the choices you are making as a parent. That doesn’t mean you have to stress about every toy, every outfit; just that you should be aware that your choices, in general, are sending your kids a message.

Baby has a doll and some stuffed animals, but I’ll admit that it makes me happy when she plays with her car. And if she asks for a toy kitchen set someday, I’ll get her one; just like I would if I had a son and he asked for one. I’ll paint her toenails and play dress up with her, too. But some of the fairytales I read to her may be edited a bit and she will be required to play in the dirt at least once a day. After all, it’s all about balance.

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by Borderstan.com July 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm 0

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com.

"Borderstan Stay at Home Moms"

Baby dinning as moms and dads clean. (Leslie Jones)

I’m having trouble writing this week. I’m tired and Baby is teething. And the cat threw up three times last night and woke Baby up each time. I was supposed to take the cat to the vet today, but I was exhausted and getting Baby’s passport this morning messed up her morning nap — and pretty much just ruined the rest of the day.

I’ve had people tell me that being a stay-at home-mom “is the hardest job in the world.” I wouldn’t go that far. I imagine that digging ditches in sweltering heat all day is hard, being a pediatric oncologist has got to be pretty darn difficult and working overtime to meet unrealistic deadlines for a difficult boss is not fun, either.

I don’t feel the need to compete for the title. Maybe some moms (and dads) find being a stay-at-home parent easy and not like a “job” at all (though I have yet to actually meet one), but I feel like I work my butt off most days, and nights for that matter.

There have been several articles in the news in recent months that have gotten people talking, and taking sides, about motherhood and work. Is being a stay at home mom, or SAHM, a job?  And let’s not forget about those SAHDs out there.

How Do You Define a Job?

So define “job.” According to Dictionary.com a job is:

  1. a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price
  2. anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility.

Raising my daughter is a piece of work, it is a specific task that I do as part of my routine and occupation. It is something I am expected and obliged to do. It is my duty and responsibility. I don’t get a paycheck, but my family saves the cost of having to pay a babysitter or for daycare, which in the District of Columbia can run about $22,000 a year.

I’m glad to have the option to stay home with Baby (some days more than others), but it’s not just the financially well off who decide to have a parent stay at home with the kids. It can cost more for childcare than one parent would make going back to work, especially if you have more than one child. And again, it isn’t always the moms; there are such things as stay at home dads.

I resent the insinuation that I sit at home and relax all day. Do I sometimes what tv during the day? Sure. Do people sometimes make personal phone calls or watch youtube at the office? But most jobs allow employees to pee pretty much whenever they need to, and they don’t have to keep someone from dumpster diving in the bathroom trashcan while they do it.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but try doing it EVERY TIME YOU HAVE TO PEE for a year and get back to me. It takes its toll, and sometimes that toll is the Today Show.

According to my very scientific calculations, it takes approximately three times as long to do the dishes while caring for an infant, five times as long to do the laundry, and eight times as long to take a shower. But I don’t have eight times longer, so I often just skip the whole thing. Kidding! I mean, I totally shower every day. Absolutely.

The Laughing Stork blog recently posted a list of the ten things never to say to a stay at home mom. It makes me giggle; here are some highlights:

  • Oh, so you don’t work?
  • Since you have extra time on your hands, could you whip up a few dozen brownies for the bake sale tomorrow?
  • Weird. I assumed your house would be super clean.

I don’t want or need anyone to pat me on the back for staying at home with my daughter. I just don’t want to be held responsible for the current backlash against women and women’s rights, or to be called anti-feminist, as one recent article basically did. I know I’m fortunate to have the choice to stay at home with my daughter. I also respect parents who work outside the home, and I know they have a tough job too. The only thing I ask is that society not stereotype me.

Related Reading

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by Borderstan.com July 17, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com

"Nursing"

Nursing. (Luis Gomez Photos)

To nurse or not to nurse in public. Last week I was flying with Baby and I nursed her during the flight. A mother across the aisle leaned over and told me that she thought it was fantastic that I was nursing.

I appreciated the compliment, though I am still sort of surprised that breastfeeding is such an ongoing issue in our society, that what I was doing seemed somehow unique and in need of reinforcement.

ABC reported that on July 8, a breastfeeding mom at a Colorado water park was asked to cover up. A group of 12 moms staged a nurse-in on July 13, and the park manager later apologized. It seems like these kinds of incidents keep popping up in the news every few months.

Moms staged a nurse-in at Target stores across the country last December, after one breastfeeding mother was asked to move to a dressing room. An article in Time magazine described how this mother was treated by Target’s corporate headquarters when she contacted them about the incident. She was told that “just because it’s a woman’s legal right to nurse a baby in public doesn’t mean she should walk around the store flaunting it.”

On August 4 between 9 am and 4 pm on the West Lawn of the National Mall, I plan on joining other moms for The Great Nurse-In, which was first reported by Janice D’Arcy at The Washington Post. If you’d like to join me, email me and we can meet up somewhere in Borderstan and walk down to the Mall together. Just another reason why where we live rocks.

Apparently, the mother had been nursing her child in the women’s department and was using a blanket to cover-up. Target’s official line on the issue is different, and they say they support breastfeeding in their stores. That seems to be a common response from these companies. So why don’t their employees know about it?

Breasts are for feeding children. If breasts are viewed as sexual, it is a construction of society and doesn’t have anything to do with the breasts themselves. One argument that really drives me crazy is that breastfeeding shouldn’t be done in front of children because it is somehow indecent. Um, if you don’t teach children that there is something wrong with breastfeeding, they aren’t going to just naturally come to the conclusion themselves. And maybe if society didn’t teach children that breasts are sexualized objects, we might have less trouble with the objectification of women.

Almost Every State Allows Public Breastfeeding

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website:

  • Forty-five states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

It should be all 50 states. Come on Idaho, Michigan, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia!

According to the website, Nursing Freedom, West Virginia is the only state that doesn’t have any laws related to breastfeeding (such as exemptions from public indecency laws). BreastfeedingLaw.com reports that most states’ laws are not enforceable, which “means that although you may have a ‘right’ to do anything not otherwise forbidden by law, if you do not also have a legal protection against someone interfering with that right, your ability to exercise it may be limited.”

So, on August 4 between 9 am and 4 pm on the West Lawn of the National Mall, I plan on joining other moms for The Great Nurse-In, which was first reported by Janice D’Arcy at The Washington Post. If you’d like to join me, email me and we can meet up somewhere in Borderstan and walk down to the Mall together. Just another reason why where we live rocks.

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by Borderstan.com July 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm 0

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com

"Borderstan""Baby Hand"

What you need, don’t need and simply may want for your baby’s nursery. (Luis Gomez Photos)

One of my biggest concerns with staying in this neighborhood after Baby arrived was how we would fit her and all of the baby accoutrements into our small second bedroom.

While most days there is baby stuff scattered around the house, I have managed to create a place for everything in the nursery and I can tuck all baby-related items away if we’re having guests over.

You don’t need many of the things people will try to convince you that you have to have; here are some guidelines.

Things You Need for Baby’s Nursery

  • An Amazon Prime membership. For $79 a year you get free two-day shipping on tons of great items. Amazing for ordering must haves at your 3 am feeding.
  • Dr. Brown’s bottles.  For formula or breast milk, these bottles are the crowd favorite among my friends.  They purportedly cut down on gas and make baby suck a little harder, more like on the breast.
  • A Boppy lounger. It’s a pillow with a baby-sized cut out that you can plop your baby in and hopefully get a few minutes of freedom. Baby has grown out of it now, but I used to put it on the bathroom floor so I could keep her close when I tried to take a shower. Don’t ever put it on a raised surface because baby can roll out of it and hurt himself.
Basically you need a place for your baby to sleep, clothes to put her in, and something to feed her. Everything else is gravy. Don’t overthink it. My great-grandmother was premature and they kept her in a wood-burning stove warming oven for the first few weeks. Seriously.  You’ll be okay just trust your instincts.

Things You Don’t Need

  • A bottle steamer.  It takes up a lot of room and we never used it. I wash bottles in hot water with fragrance free dish soap and dry them on a bottle rack made by Skip Hop.
  • Dozens of onsies and outfits in every size. We don’t change for spit up or drool; it’s only going to happen again 5 minutes later. Just about every parent I know says that they have tons of clothes that their babies never wear. Get a couple of things and then see what you like, and what you need after the baby arrives.
  • Tons of toys, a bouncer, a swing, etc. Be strategic in your choices, and take larger items for a test drive before you purchase them. Baby hated the vibrating bouncer chair, and we did just fine without a swing. I did break down and buy a jumperoo after Baby had a blast in a similar model at her cousin’s house. It’s bulky, but it can be folded up and stored in the closet.
  • Crib bedding sets. According to new guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, you shouldn’t use bumper pads.  I like the clean lines of my crib and opted out of the crib skirt as well. I just got two crib sheets in cute patterns. If you really want a bumper, look into breathable bumpers. They allow air to circulate, but help to prevent little arms and legs from sticking through the crib rails.

Things You Don’t Need, But May Want

  • A wipes warmer. My husband thinks this is crazy, but it only takes up as much space as a large box of tissues and I like the idea of putting a nice warm wipe on Baby’s bottom at 3 am. I keep reusable washcloths in here as well as disposable wipes, and I use the washcloths for little touch ups between baths.
  • Muslin swaddle blankets from Aden + Anais. They come in super cute patterns, big enough to swaddle, and make nice lightweight blankets.
  • A rocker/recliner. Aesthetically, I don’t love wooden rockers. I splurged on an upholstered rocker/recliner and it has been one of my best buys. Baby has been in the nursery since the first night we brought her home; and for the first two weeks, so was I. So, I ended up sleeping in the chair because I needed to make sure she was breathing, obviously. I was able to recline to an almost flat position, and it was actually more comfortable than sleeping completely flat after my C-Section.
  • A cute diaper bag that looks like a purse!  There’s no need to sacrifice style in order to carry around everything baby needs for excursions and adventures.  I LOVE my diaper bag from timi & leslie.

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by Borderstan.com June 19, 2012 at 10:00 am 1 Comment

"Screaming Baby"

It is not a howler monkey. It is a baby finding her voice. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com

You’re standing in the hall, waiting for the elevator, and you hear someone screaming bloody murder.  Should you call the police?  If the sound is accompanied by shouts for help, please do.  Otherwise, it’s just my baby saying “good morning”!

At first I thought that I’d just ignore it. Maybe if I didn’t react, she would just stop? No such luck.  How about firmly telling her to please be quiet? Nope. She finds my admonishments amusing.

What is it about the sound of her own high-pitched squeals that she finds so entertaining? I know, I know, she’s finding her voice and it is an exciting thing. But can we just take it down a notch, especially before I’ve had my morning coffee? Any wisdom you more experienced moms and dads can impart would be much appreciated.

And to my neighbors, thank you for your patience — I promise that I’m not intentionally doing anything to encourage it.

Maybe if we lived on a farm, it wouldn’t bother me so much.  But we live so close to our neighbors, no yards separating the sounds of our lives, just some drywall.  It’s part of urban life that we all have to accept; we’ve sacrificed space for convenience.  After 12 years of living on top of my neighbors, I thought I’d gotten used to it, but having a baby has made me more aware of the soundtrack of city life.

Every time Baby has a screaming fit, I think of my neighbors and try to telepathically send them my apologies. The Friday night revelers waiting for the elevator seem like they’re in my living room. Fire trucks and government motorcades during nap-time have me leaning out the window shaking my fist.

Of course, I wouldn’t trade it.  The occasionally disrupted nap is just the price I pay for being able to walk out my front door and take Baby on a walk through one of the most beautiful cities in the country.

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