Will She Still Call Me Mommy?

Will She Still Call Me Mommy - Under the Monkey Bars blog

When Bean turns 11 tomorrow, will she still call me Mommy?

My baby girl, almost as tall as me now. She barely fits in my lap, and she’s starting to “borrow” my clothes.

Will she call me Mommy for just another year? And then another year more?

I can’t even think about it. I know my time is short but I didn’t realize how quickly this day would come.

We ran into a friend at the grocery store last week. The monkeys were excited to see her and literally took turns hugging her over and over. She practically melted, telling me that her teenage daughter just started hugging her again.

It took my brain a few minutes to register what she said. Wait, she stopped HUGGING YOU? How can that be? I live for the hugs, the kisses, and holding my daughters’ sweet hands.

I can’t live in a world where my monkeys don’t hug me. 

For years, it seemed like all I heard was Mommy, Mommy, Mommy. I couldn’t even use the bathroom without one of them calling me. And I complained about it.

Now here I am thinking about the possibility of NOT hearing her say Mommy…and I’m devastated.

Bean is growing up. It’s happening. She’s turning into a witty, kind, and spirited little lady. I’m so proud of her and can’t wait to see what the world has in store for her. 

But at the same time, I really just want to freeze time. She’s growing up way too fast. And I know it’s inevitable that I’ll start hearing her call me Mom.

I might be okay with it when the time comes, but for now: Will she still call me Mommy?

Playground Crawl

Playground Crawl - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Cashman Park in Newburyport

Playground Crawl - Under the Monkey Bars blog

You’ve done a pub crawl, but have you ever taken the kids for a playground crawl?

There will be no beer on this crawl. Gone are the days of stumbling from one Irish pub to the next. We have kids and jobs and schedules and no time to be *that* hung over.

But we can still experience the fun of going place to place in a crawl style. In fact, there may be some little monkeys crawling.

If a pub crawl is a tour of several pubs or bars, with one or more drinks at each, then a playground crawl must be a tour of several playgrounds, with one or more swings, slides, and monkey bar passes at each! Along with some coffee or tea, of course.

Choose an open Saturday on the calendar or make it a weekend quest. Why not put some friends up to the challenge while you’re at it? Kids of all ages will love a playground crawl. It’s all about creating your own special event and the challenge of a crawl.

Now is the time. Besides the fall, June is our favorite weather for playground time. The air is still crisp in the morning so be sure to get an early start.

If you’re motivated, plan your own workout before the crowds show up. Try this playground work out or check out this one. Be a role model for the kids and they will likely join you for some exercises, counting reps until they move on to something else.

Plot your route in advance. Travel by bicycle or car, spending 15-30 minutes at each playground, depending on how engaged the kids are and the size of the playground.

A playground crawl can be done in any town or city. Here’s an example of a playground crawl for my beloved Newburyport:

  1. Cashman Park (5 Pop Crowley Way)
  2. Ayers Playground at Cushing Park (1 Buck Street)
  3. Fuel up at Plum Island Coffee Roasters (54R Merrimac Street)
  4. Frog Pond Playground at Bartlett Mall (151 High Street)
  5. Bresnahan School Playground (333 High Street)
  6. Moseley Woods (Corner of Merrimac and Spofford Streets)
  7. Lunch at Port City Sandwich (40R Merrimac Street)
  8. Inn Street Playground (Inn Street)
  9. Fuel up at Atomic Cafe (56 State Street)
  10. The Brown School Playground (40 Milk Street)
  11. Perkins Park Playground (15 Beacon Avenue)
  12. Jason Sawyer Memorial Playground (Plum Island Beach, Northern Boulevard)
  13. Celebrate with whoopie pies at Chococoa Baking Company (50 Water Street)

Stretch the crawl into other towns to meet friends in Amesbury (Amesbury Town Park Playground), Ipswich (Pirate Ship Park), or West Newbury (Action Cove). The possibilities are endless!

Be sure to pack plenty of water in refillable bottles, healthy snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and extra clothes in case someone falls in the river trying to feed a duck (learn from the monkeys here guys). Also consider bringing hula hoops, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, jump ropes, and balls.

Kids need time outside more than ever. Get them pumped up about a playground crawl, and exhaust those little monkeys.

Cheers to the parents after bedtime, because you deserve a drink!

What We Really Want For Mother’s Day

What We Really Want For Mothers Day - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Moms melt when our kids give us homemade cards and shower us with hugs and kisses on Mother’s Day. But what do we really want for Mother’s Day?

I’ve been a Mom for ten years now. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t celebrate being a Mom. For me, Mother’s Day is every day. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to hold my daughters hands each and every day, raising them with instinct and love in this crazy world.

To love them and be loved is the greatest gift.

Mother’s Day comes with the pressure of finding that perfect gift for Mom. What can you possibly give to the Mother of your children to show her how thankful you are for everything she does for your family? It’s not easy.

Of course we’ll wear the bracelet you pick out together at the local jewelry store, or the anti-aging cream that you thoughtfully order for us. We’ll always drink out of the mug the kids painted at the local pottery shop. And we’ll save the tiles with their handprints they made at school for years to come.

But what do Moms really want for Mother’s Day? We want a day off to recharge. We want to escape to a place where no one is asking for a snack and no one is calling “Mommy” on repeat like a broken record.  Just a little break really.

Don’t get me wrong. We want to be with our kids on the actual day of Mother’s Day. We live to collect the hugs and kisses we earned the other 364 days of the year.

But the day before, and maybe even the day before that, encourage us to slip away. We may not realize it, but we really need — and deserve — the day off. Moms are notorious for taking care of everyone while putting ourselves last. We need to take better care of ourselves and make time for self care.

Whether or not we have a paying job, we work around the clock to feed, protect, and raise these little ones. Our kids are adorable and we absolutely love them to pieces. But they get up in the middle of the night, throw tantrums, refuse to cooperate, and vomit (I had you at vomit, didn’t I?).

That’s when we realize that we need a day off. But then the Mom guilt sets in. Oh, that Mom guilt. We should be with our family! We might miss something. They need us!

Some of us will just go off happily. 

But the rest of us, we might need a push and a shove. Maybe make an appointment at the spa for a massage and a pedicure? Check the schedule at the gym or yoga studio to for an exercise class. Or suggest some places we could go to recharge.

Attention Dads, partners, and kids: Help Mom. She helps you an awful lot. On Mother’s Day, don’t let us worry about our usual responsibilities around the house. No laundry. No cooking. No cleaning. No picking up. Don’t make a big deal that you’re doing it for us either. We notice.

In fact, let’s just go ahead and call it Mother’s Day weekend. Throw in an extra day or two for your sweet Momma.

And Moms, try not to feel guilty. Relish in your time. Whether you sit on the beach and listen to the waves or head out for a shopping trip with friends, you deserve every single minute of that “me” time. You’ll relax and be a better Mom.

Thank you for being someone’s Mother. Without you, life wouldn’t be nearly as full of love. Enjoy your Mother’s Day weekend. You’ve certainly earned it.

Internet Safety

Internet Safety - Under the Monkey Bars blog

The internet suddenly became scary when we had kids. They can see and read anything with just a few clicks. Once they do, we can’t take it back. Images and words are so powerful. I know I can’t shelter the monkeys from everything, but it’s my job as a parent to help them find their way — safely.

It’s ironic that most of the information I’ve learned about internet safety I’ve read online. It wasn’t until I heard Detective Aaron Wojtkowski and Officer John Lucey III from the Newbury Police Department speak about internet safety that the topic really came to life.

The officers not only educated parents about the risks of social media, but also they shared real stories about local kids getting into trouble online. Big trouble. I got the chills more than once.

I’m quite certain that if I’m not vigilant, one of my monkeys could be their next case story.

It’s a complicated world out there. The internet is far from safe. Many social media applications can be dangerous. But regardless, kids are already using them or will be in the near future.

As parents, how do we keep our kids safe online? With new technology like mobile phones, iPods, laptops, and video games coming into our homes, we as parents need to educate ourselves and set family rules to protect our kids.

Officer Lucey recommends keeping all computers in a common area where an adult can monitor computer use at any time. He said that shared computers are easier to monitor and therefore safer. You’ll be more apt to check browser history on a computer you also use, not to mention how powerful walking by can be!

Well, that was my first mistake. I immediately took the laptop out of Bean’s room after the presentation. She has been respectful of our new “computers on the first floor only” rule but I’d image this will become more difficult as she gets older. Officer Lucey recommends that parents don’t allow kids to bring their phones to bed. We’re planning to have the kids leave their devices on the kitchen counter when we reach that point. This gives kids some healthy insecurity and gives you a chance for random checks.

Limiting the amount of time that kids spend online at night is another great tip. Most predators work during the day, making kids at greatest risk at night. This never would have crossed my mind and I definitely haven’t read about it online. “No computers after dinner” is another new rule at our house.

My monkeys don’t have mobile phones or an iPod touch yet, and I plan to hold out as long as I can despite the constant requests from the 10 year old. Common Sense Media, an online resource that helps kids and parents navigate our technology driven world, suggests that kids are mature enough to manage a phone at age 13 when they have a better sense of what’s happening in the world around them. Read more about their reasoning here

The internet brings cyber-bullying to the forefront 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Once kids are connected, they can’t avoid it. Victims can’t win. Detective Wojtkowski says not to engage bullies over social media and never reply impulsively. Some apps will allow you to access the privacy settings to block an abuser. Make sure to save and print the conversations first. It’s good to know that companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that are based in the U.S. cooperate with law enforcement, but not all apps do.

If you have teenagers, watch the move Cyberbully on Netflix together. I watched it myself last week and can’t believe how much stress social media adds to teenagers’ already complicated lives. There are so many apps out there it’s hard to keep track. Take a look at this guide on Common Sense Media.

Surprisingly, dating sites and apps are really big right now in middle and high school. This was a bit of a shocker for me. Kids can lie about their age to get access to a number of apps. Some are designed for kids over 18 — but some allow access to 13 year olds. Have you heard of MeetMe, Tinder, Hot or Not, Plenty of Fish, Okcupid, and Zoosk? Time to get acquainted. Besides avoiding dating apps, Officers recommend steering clear of the following apps because of cyber bullying and predators: Ask.fm, Chat Roulette, Omegle, Kik, and YikYak.

Have open conversations with your kids about internet safety. Let your kids know that you’re watching. Keep track of their passwords. Set rules. Have clear, set consequences for when they’re broken.

For more information, check out the following websites:
– NetSmartz
– Yoursphere
StopBullying.gov
KidsHealth.org
SafeKids.com
– Facebook’s Family Safety Center
– Instagram Tips for Parents

Locally, the Newbury Police Department will hold another Internet Safety presentation for Triton Middle School parents on January 28, 2016 at 6:30pm in the Triton High School auditorium. Contact your local police department to find out if they host talks on internet safety for parents. 

You can reach Detective Aaron Wojtkowski from the Newbury Police Department at 978-462-4440 ext. 124 or via email at a.wojtkowski@newburypolice.com. Greg Whitney is the School Resource Officer in Newburyport and can be reached at 978-462-4411 or via email at gwhitney@newburyportpolice.com.

A Slow Down Summer

A Slow Down Summer - Under the Monkey Bars

Summer is always a highly anticipated time of year for us New Englanders.

After such harsh winters, we passionately look forward to three months of sun and fun. At times, we put so much energy into making every summer the best summer ever — packing the calendar with places to go and things to do — that sometimes we forget to make time to relax.

Not just a beach day, but time at home to read a book or play a game together as a family. Everyone is so busy that plans and play dates can rarely be made on the fly anymore. Before we know it, September will be here and our precious summer will end.

How did we get so busy? Why do we feel the need to fill every box of our calendar? Why do we schedule every minute of our free time? And, most importantly, how does this affect our children?

As a society, we are so busy and, in my opinion, highly over-scheduled. It seems to create more stress than coping skills for our children. Kids can sense when we’re stressed, and it makes them stress out too. Taking time to recharge and relax makes you more productive and makes the monkeys calmer. Not only does it give kids time to use their imagination, but it gives us as parents time to cross off a few things on our never ending To-Do lists so that we can be calmer and happier…and RELAX too.

I’m a firm believer in a slow down kind of summer. A summer where kids get bored, and then create things to do. A summer where families and friends spend time together. A flexible summer where we feel like we did things we want to do. A few months with lots of open calendar boxes to fill as you go. To me, that means freedom and it helps me enjoy the time more.

But how do we make summer slow down?

I’ll admit that the first few weeks of our summer vacation were rocky. At times, my girls fought like they were in a ring. I questioned myself and the lack of plans and camps on our summer calendar. And even though I felt drawn to it, we really avoided television and electronics.

And then something magical happened. All of the tension started to fade away as I saw more frequent hugs, pretend play, side by side reading with intertwined legs, and little hands helping me in the kitchen. What changed from the beginning of the summer to now? Time.

All it took was time. Time to unwind and just be.

Sometimes it takes us longer to relax, and that’s okay. I’m not saying just sit in the house all day every day. Keep a list of friends to invite over for play dates, as well as museums and places to go for day trips. When you have a free day, take a look at the list together and choose something to do — or choose to stay home and build forts in your pajamas!

So far this summer, the girls have taken one 3-hour yoga class. That’s it. No camps this year. Not only have we saved some money but we’ve also bonded during days at the beach, walks to the Newburyport Public Library, time at the playground, or testing flavor choices at New England Ice Lollies. We’re really looking forward to Yankee Homecoming here in Newburyport this week: sidewalk sales, bed races, and fireworks. Not to mention the waterfront movies and summer concert series.

I know I’m really fortunate to be able to stay home with my girls and be flexible with our time. I truly believe that spending quality time together helps you become closer as a family.

This is what works for us. I’m not an expert, but these little girls I’m raising…I want to be with them. They aren’t doing annoying things to get my attention, because they have it. My girls are funny, sweet, and almost all of the time (nobody’s perfect!) a total joy to be around.

It may not be for everyone, but we’re having a slow down summer, taking time to relax, and enjoying every minute of our Newburyport summer with each other.